Subscribe to the podcast via: iTunes | Spotify | Google | Youtube
As we dig further into this project we'll explore the infancy and development of the Monday Night War, but history will have us believe that before that WCW and WWF TV were sat on two very different paths - WCW tucked away in a sound-stage in Florida, and the WWF housed permanently at the Manhattan Center. While partly true, we'll find that the sniping between companies was far from restricted from 1996 onwards.
It is certainly true that the TV landscape in those years was very different to what followed a few years later. While both companies were capable of drawing bigger crowds they located to smaller, cheaper areas for TV tapings. The WWF did start in the Manhatten Center - but by mid 1994 they were pretty much out of there, finding it quite difficult to fill the building on a bi or tri weekly basis.
WCW relocated to Disney MGM as part of cost cutting measures. They had no problems drawing a crowd as holiday makers provided a fluid and extensive audience to pick from. So much so the company screened who came in to ensure that no hardcore fans could make it in. Who were left were treated like an old-school TV audience, told when to cheer and when to boo. While it was great for the bottom line it made WCW television very sterile. Crowd reactions might as well have been added in during post-production, and it made a stark contrast to pay per views and Clash Of The Champions TV specials.
While both companies listed a long way behind ECW for innovative television (certainly once ECW got really good at the end of the 1994 summer), both recognised the need to evolve, even slightly, from the usual format. 1995 bought an onset of a reduction in squash matches (Raw moved away from one "major" match to two) and WCW turned Saturday Night from a show full of squashes and promos into (slightly) more of a magazine show with angles. Both companies still struggled to put on recognised matches without ruining the finishes, but you can't win them all.
What is quite interesting at this time is seemingly how much of a non-factor TV ratings were in the whole discussion. While they were likely important for people making television deals - and the WWF did take a hit on syndicated TV deals at the end of 1994, that saw them lose spots and have other shows shunted into inferior time slots - it seems like ratings were just something that were noted down, very little was gleamed from them.
But being on different nights didn't stop the companies from taking shots at each other where they felt necessary. On an episode of the Wrestlemania XI report, Todd Pettengil told viewers to "specifically ask for Wrestlemania" when calling their cable company (asking for "the wrestling" could've meant an unfortunate sole buying WCW Uncensored instead). On PPV, also, Vince McMahon outlandishly claimed "you won't see that anywhere else" when calling a Bam Bam Bigelow moonsault (I very much doubt he called the move by name). You won't see it anywhere else, assuming you hadn't watched Vader do it a few weeks earlier.
But WCW, in comparison, were ramping things up. Be it Mean Gene Okerlund regularly making reference to talent from WCW (absolutely not the most abhorrent thing he'd do with his hotline) or Eric Bischoff describing both Jean-Paul Levesque and Maxx Payne as men who “couldn't cut it” in WCW – both having recently departed for the WWE.
Both programs would bare little resemblance to what they would become famous for (or, in WCW's case, Nitro), but each had its own merit. Both still featured regular squash matches – something today's wrestling could probably do with bringing back – and probably made better use with their time than the WWE does currently. Raw being an hour, and Saturday Night being two were also significant – even two hours felt like 30 minutes too long on Saturday Night.
There were still some very watchable angles at this stage. Bob Backlund's run in with WWF Magazine writer Lou Gianfriddo was a fantastic segment in September of 1994, and the angles with Ric Flair and Vader that built towards the WCW Uncensored was also great. The Monday Night Wars this was not, but on their day both companys were capable of producing some very watchable stuff.