This week in history was the first statistical battle won for WCW in a war that would forever change professional wrestling.
It was on June 17, 1996. WCW Monday Nitro for the first time won the battle of the Monday night ratings against WWE.
It would go on to do so for the next 84 weeks in a row.
WCW beat WWE to the punch on knowing what the audience wanted to see. And what the audience wanted to see was something that felt real.
Up until that point, professional wrestling had spent much of the late '80s and early '90s in a comfortable zone of family-friendly programming that had a certain stench of cheesiness to it.
Cartoon-like characters, over-the-top acting and repeated enhancement matches featuring the big star versus the no-name...these were traits of WWE wrestling during that era. The big star would perform his signature moves and continue refining them for months until a big television special or pay-per-view event allowed you to see them used against another established star.
WCW changed much of this.
It was a month prior to WCW's ratings win that Scott Hall—who weeks earlier was seen on WWE programming as Razor Ramon—walked through the crowd and into the ring. In a performance that felt as real and unscripted as anything that had come before, Hall, in his Razor Ramon accent, told the world that he had come from WWE to answer the challenge posed by WCW (eight months earlier WCW began Monday Nitro, going head-to-head with WWE Raw).
Hall's declaration of a war was followed by the appearance of Kevin Nash, another talent last seen as a WWE Superstar. After that, the duo continued with gang-like interruptions to WCW's programming, claiming more troops were on the way, most notably a “third man.”
This captured the attention of an audience that seemed tired of wrestling characters who were clowns or plumbers.
The biggest star WWE ever created up until that point was Hulk Hogan, who was revealed as the third man and who, along with Hall and Nash, officially started the New World Order.
WWE was forced to answer back.
In time, WWE began developing characters such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, D-Generation X, Val Venis and a more demonic Undertaker, to name a few.
These characters, along with edgier storylines, ushered in a new era for WWE—one in which professional wrestling began to market its product around a greater sense of realism.
84 weeks would go by and WCW had WWE in its rear-view. Fans have been treated to what is considered the Golden Era of professional wrestling—both from a performance and a financial standpoint.
In the end, organization and acumen allowed Vince McMahon and WWE to win the Monday Night ratings war and, ultimately, to purchase its competition.
It was an historic Monday in March of 2001 when Vince McMahon bought WCW. Fantasy matchups swirled in the heads of fans and recaps of the past five years were viewed with nostalgia.
That Monday proved to be one of the most exciting days ever for wrestling fans.
It was a main event-like finish to a classic match. It marked the death of WCW, and in due time, that Monday would be viewed as the beginning of the end of a memorable era in professional wrestling.