The epic showdown known as the Monday Night War has been covered ad nauseum over the years by multiple documentaries all produced by WWE. According to WWE revisionist history Vince McMahon was the pioneer and ruler of pro wrestling on cable television until Ted Turner knocked him off the throne by using underhanded tactics including stealing WWE talent. As they say, “history is written by the victors” but if you’re like me and actually lived through the war you might remember things a little differently. Today I hope to shine a light on some forgotten facts that WWE likes to ignore about pro wrestling’s highest peak, the Monday Night War!
According to wwe.com, Vince McMahon is credited as “bringing wrestling into the mainstream and pioneering the use of pay-per-views in the process.”. The truth of the matter is that Ted Turner actually has the honor of bringing pro wrestling to a national cable audience all the way back in 1976 when he chose to air NWA’s Georgia Championship Wrestlingon his WTCG station. The program was widely successful and turned out to be the highest rated show on the channel. It wasn’t until 1983 that Vince McMahon was inspired to start his own cable show,All American Wrestling, which aired on the USA Network. WWE likes to point out that Ted Turner copied Vince’s primetime cable strategy in the mid 90’s but fails to mention that Vince had already copied Ted’s strategy a full decade before Nitro’s debut. Likewise the first major closed circuit wrestling event (the era’s equivalent to Pay-Per-View) was NWA’s Starrcade back in 1983 a year before WWF’s first Wrestlemania.
One of the hugest pieces of forgotten/revised history that WWE either fails to mention or glosses over with rose colored glasses just so happens to be the event that started the entire war to begin with, Black Saturday. In 1984, Ted Turner had already been airing his Georgia Championship Wrestling program nationally (and successfully) on TBS for nearly a decade when Vince McMahon came knocking at his door. You see, Vince Saw the success thatGeorgia Championship Wrestling had received over the years and figured he’d just buy out their timeslot and replace the show with his own WWF programming. The only problem was that Ted Turner was loyal to the Georgia Championship Wrestling promotion and didn’t feel like screwing them over for a little extra money so he declined Vince McMahon’s offer. Never the one to be told “no”, Vince decided that if Turner didn’t want to sell him the time slot he would simply purchase the company that aired on the time slot,Georgia Championship Wrestling, shut it down and use the time slot to air WWF programming instead. This underhanded tactic took one of Ted Turner’s most popular programs and put it in immediate jeopardy. If Vince’s programming didn’t garner the same ratings as GCW then Turner stood to lose a lot of revenue and boy did he!
Vince’s bold move to buyout GCW and replace it with WWF programming wasn’t uncharted territory for him. You see, a year earlier Vince had his eyes on Southwest Championship Wrestling’s timeslot on the USA Network. The show was one of the highest rated on the channel so Vince just outbid the company for the timeslot, slipped in his WWF programming in place of the SCW show and achieved a moderate level of success. When Vince saw Georgia Championship Wrestling (now known as World Championship Wrestling) he figured he’d just use the same tactic for the same result. Vince was very, very wrong. Right from the start Vince’s World Championship Wrestling program was a complete ratings disaster. Both Vince McMahon and Ted Turner lost loads of money from the whole debacle forcing Vince to sell the World Championship Wrestling time slot as well as the Georgia Championship Wrestling name to Jim Crocket Promotions just one year later. Revisionist WWE history refers to this period of time (and I am not kidding) as a “partnership” with Ted Turner that went sour for no discernable reason. Vince even goes so far as to say he has no idea why the program didn’t work out: “I don’t know what political strings were pulled but over a short period of time, Ted wanted out of our contract”. Well, I don’t know, Vince… maybe because your show was tanking?
One of the revolving themes of the WWE’s Monday Night War narrative is that the WWE has always been the innocent victim and that Ted Turner (and WCW) has always played dirty. One of the biggest examples that WWE uses to propel this narrative is the fact that Ted Turner decided to air his company’s flagship wrestling program, Monday Nitro, directly against WWE’s flagship program, Monday Night Raw. Vince explains: “Going head to head like that, there’s no question that his attempt to do that was to simply hurt us”. What Vince and the WWE often forget is that WWE started the practice of double booking timeslots years before Nitro ever debuted. Once Jim Crockett purchased theWorld Championship Wrestling show from Vince McMahon he handed its programming back to the National Wrestling Alliance where it had been prior to Vince’s ownership. Crockett’s promotion and the NWA continued to grow at the same level as the WWF when all of a sudden Vince McMahon decided to air his 1987 Survivor Series Pay-Per-View at the same exact time and day as the NWA’s largest Pay-Per-View, Starrcade. Since this was back in 1987 most cable companies did not have the technology to broadcast both shows, they had to choose between one show or the other. On top of this, Vince threatened to no longer offer his company’s Pay-Per-Views to cable providers that chose to air Starrcade, so most did not. Vince repeated this tactic again in 1988 when he aired his Royal Rumble event on the USA Network for free directly against the NWA’s Bunkhouse Stampede Pay-Per-View.
Five years before Hall and Nash jumped ship to WCW Vince McMahon signed then-current NWA (WCW) world champion Ric Flair to the WWF and booked him as being the “real world’s champion”. This is one fact that is never, ever mentioned when WWE speaks about the Monday Night War but it is a glaring strike against the WWE when they complain about WCW’s use of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as outsiders from another company. Regardless of the fact that Hall and Nash didn’t use their WWF ring names or gimmicks and claimed live on the air that they had nothing to do with the WWF, the company still to this day proclaims that “fan’s recognition of WWE as a superior brand propelled The Outsiders’ success” and that “WCW was prospering from Vince McMahon’s creations”. I guess that means that in 1991 the NWA was a superior brand because Vince sure was prospering off of their creation…Not only did the WWF book Flair as a current employee (and world champion) of the NWA but they even had him carry around and shoot production photos with the NWA world championship belt! When WWF’s women’s champion Alundra Blayze brought her belt to Nitro Vince said it was a “kick to the groin” but when Vince did it back in 91 it was apparently fair game. Vince even went so far as to file a lawsuit against WCW for copyright infringement, a bold move for someone who cared nothing about infringing on WCW intellectual property just five years prior.