WWE Raw: The 5 Most Important Wrestlers of the Monday Night Wars Era
Lasting from Nitro's debut on September 4, 1995 until March 26, 2001 (when WCW aired its last episode of its flagship show) the Monday Night Wars were a thrilling, booming period for the pro wrestling industry, its performers and the fans.
Wrestlers were jumping ship back and forth (including WWF Women's Champion Madusa, who famously dumped her title in a trash can on a live episode of Nitro). Scathing comments bounced back and forth on TV as warring owners Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon vented genuine anger. Heck, DX even staged their own invasion of WCW once!
It was also the time in which the then-WWF roster, filled with charismatic and big-drawing superstars, shined. While a great deal of credit for the Stamford company catching up with—and ultimately defeating—their competitor undoubtedly has to go to the business savvy of Vince McMahon, these batch of performers also helped turn the tide, and make Raw the must-see wrestling programme.
With this in mind, here are the five most important WWE wrestlers of the Monday Night Wars.
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With his wacky and weird array of characters (Cactus Jack, Dude Love, Mankind) and endearing, affable personality, Mick Foley was one of the most beloved babyfaces of the Monday Night Wars. He was never as hugely over as Steve Austin was, but he was firmly a cornerstone of television throughout this time.
The peak of his career may have been when he defeated frequent foe, The Rock, for the WWF Championship in 1998, leading head WCW announcer Tony Schiavone to make a snide remark on Nitro about the victory—leading to a significant number of viewers switching the channel to Raw. It's an event Foley himself considers his best Raw memory, something he has recounted on TV recently.
While he's had his ups and downs with the company in the years since—even joining rival company TNA for a period—Foley was surely one of the most important wrestlers of this era and instrumental in helping the then-WWF trounce all over WCW.
photo from wikipedia.com
The feisty, scantily-clad Sable was one of the most important acts of the entire Attitude Era—and one of the most memorable divas the company has ever had.
Sure, she was no great in-ring technician or charismatic talker, but in 1998 and 1999 her raunchy image greatly helped the company in gaining the edge over WCW when it came to appealing to male fans.
Sadly, Sable, who is married to current WWE star Brock Lesnar, doesn't really get the credit from WWE that she deserves for her role in helping turn things around for the company in the late 90s. Wrestlers like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and The Rock are continually mentioned and fondly remembered on television, while Sable's legacy goes largely ignored.
But we reckon she deserves a mention here.
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You simply cannot think of the Attitude Era—or the Monday Night Wars—without thinking of DX.
In its various incarnations (the line-up was originally Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Chyna, then later Shawn left and X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws joined), DX embodied almost every aspect of the Attitude Era: They were loudmouths, they courted controversy and they pushed the envelope at every chance they could get.
Indeed, DX was a large part of why the more family-friendly Nitro looked so dull and watered down compared to its more edgier foe, and simply didn't have the same appeal to many younger male fans, who lapped up WWF's salacious product in droves.
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Whether he was playing a slimy corporate heel or a brash, bold babyface, the charismatic Rock was a fixture of WWF television in the late 90s.
With his unrivalled verbal ability and strong work ethic, Rock was a part of numerous classic moments during the Monday Night Wars—his grudge-feud with Austin, his comedy tag team with Mick Foley, his battles with the McMahon-Helmsley faction—and surely helped the company ultimately defeat and trounce all over WCW.
photo from wwe.com
Let's be clear about one thing: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was undoubtedly the most important wrestler of the Monday Night Wars.
In fact, it was his explosive feud with company owner Vince McMahon that helped bring about the hugely successful Attitude Era and turn around stagnant WWF ratings. Viewers, thrilled as the beer-drinking, blue-collar Austin regularly beat up and humiliated his snobbish, power-mad boss, flocked from the increasingly confusing and convoluted WCW product to WWF in millions.
Even putting aside the McMahon feud, Austin was simply one of the great all-time babyface characters: Bold, unapologetic and often rude to everyone he encountered, he was a million miles away from the bland, goody-two-shoes John Cena character that has arguably served to water down the current WWE product.