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Cageside Countdown: Top 20 Moments of the Monday Night War (Part 1)

Yes, a countdown so big, it needs two parts.

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So... the Monday Night Wars, you guys. Books have been written about itdocumentaries have been made about it, and more than a decade after it ended, we still continue to analyze it. And enjoy the many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many moments (seriously, click on the manys there. Those are some of the moments that didn't make the countdown and you should probably look.) that came from the era.

Many. Many, many segments.

Let's be honest, there will never be another period like that in the wrestling business ever again. Ever. You know I'm right on this, don't fight me.

But what was the greatest moment Monday Night War moment ever?

Earlier this week, we asked you the Cagesiders, and as always, you answered the call with a list that will surely be argued with. But remember, you'll be pretty much arguing with yourselves since you made the list. So yeah, feel free to disagree. But also remember this is your doing. That said, here they are...

The 20 greatest moments of the Monday Night War.

(as chosen by Cagesiders everywhere)

Wait... don't you mean ten? No. I meant twenty. In case you missed the nomination thread (and the TDIPWH post from September 4), the Monday Night War began 20 years ago (I know, hard to believe, right? Seems like only yesterday). So milestone moment deserves milestone countdown. 20 it is. GO!

20. TYSON AND AUSTIN! TYSON AND AUSTIN

Let's be honest: entering 1998, the WWF was in a bad place. Sure they'd just gotten Steve Austin back from a career-threatening neck injury, but the company lost another big piece in Bret Hart to WCW, which was kicking their ass in the ratings, revenue, and attendance.  But WCW may have given the WWF a life raft by butchering their biggest show ever, Starrcade. And by butcher it, I mean here's a fully powered chainsaw, here's a forest full of trees, have at it.

And Vince McMahon of course was gonna take advantage of it. See, around that time, he was working on a deal to bring in controversial boxer Mike Tyson—yeah, THAT Mike Tyson—the guy who now talks to pigeons once bit the ear of boxer Evander Holyfield and got himself virtually banned from the sport.  Tyson was set to have his role announced for Wrestlemania XIV when Stone Cold Steve Austin interrupted the proceedings because reasons (and probably because they exceeded the BMF to ring ratio or something). Austin trash talks for a bit, flips him off, and it's a Jerry Springer Show­-throwdown in Fresno. Both men had to be physically restrained as McMahon lost his shit at Austin, telling him he ruined it, he ruined it.

As it turned out, he didn't ruin it, he got the WWF in the international spotlight, something that it hadn't had since the steroid trial. So maybe thank Steve with a few extra zeros in the check or something. The Tyson-Austin confrontation was the kickstart the WWF needed to eventually overtake WCW after Wrestlemania XIV.

19. The Rock and Chris Jericho's dueling promos.

So The Rock and Chris Jericho are like really, really, really, really, really good promos, and here's some breaking news: the two have really, really, really, really, really good chemistry together. The two were set to face off for a shot at Kurt Angle's WWF Championship on the October 30, 2000 RAW is WAR, but first, the obligatory pre-match promo.

Which, by the way, was ridiculously awesome. So here's a transcript of it.

Chris Jericho: "Hold on one second, Mitchell Cole, this is not an interesting situation, this is RAW is JERICHO, and what that means is..."

The Rock: "Finally, the Rock HAS COME BACK to Boston! You know the Rock says that tonight's the night..."

Chris Jericho: "I don't give a Brahma Bull's ASS what the Rock has to say. You with your unibrow and your 'justbringit...' Bring what? A vomit bag? A Fig Newton? Or how about a Y2J telling you to SHUT THE HELL UP! Because all that matters is tonight, Y2J WILL become the #1 contender for the WWF..."

The Rock: "So let the Rock understand this. Y2J, tonight you actually think that you're gonna become the #1 Contender for the WWF title?"

Chris Jericho: "Nonono, not just think, I KN—"

The Rock: "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK! The only thing that matters, is tonight—"

Chris Jericho: "Nononononono, Rock, you're wrong. The only thing that matters is that I've tasted WWF Championship, and I know what it tastes like, and I love it, and I want it again. And the only thing that matters is that the coffee-fearing Kane is not in this arena to spoil my chance, and the only thing that matters more than anything else is the fact that every single Jerichoholic in this arena and watching at home wants to see the WWF Championship around my waist again. If ya smelllllllllllllllllllllalalalalalalalalalowww what Y2J... is cookin'."

The Rock: "Smell what Y2J is cooking? You ask the Rock to smell what you're cooking? Well, let's just say for argument's sake that the Rock does indeed smell what you're cooking, 'cause the Rock will smell anything one time. So here goes.

Ahh yes, there it is. Indeed, the Rock does smell what you're cooking, and quite frankly, Chris Jericho, what you're cooking smells like 100% Grade-A, money back guarantee, one big bucket of Canadian moose PISS!

You see, Chris Jericho, you come out here and you run your mouth about how you've tasted WWF gold, but the fact of the matter is this: is that the Rock has LIVED WWF gold, and the Rock'll be puttin' it down on anybody who stands in his way, so whether it's you, Chris Jericho, Chris Jericho's daddy, Chris Jericho's momma, Uncle Joe Jericho with the glass eye, or maybe it's Grandpa Jimmy Jack Jericho with the iron lung, or hell, if might be even Grandma Jezebel Jericho with the double axe dirty panties - the only thing that matters, Chris Jericho, is we have one big family reunion, you bring 'em all so the Rock can take his hand and layeth the smack down on aaaaaaaaaaall their candy asses!

And what you fail to realize is this, Chris Jericho: when it's all said and done, all the dust has settled, all the smoke...has cleared...and the Rock is done whipping that candy ass, and the Rock goes on to become #1 Contender for the WWF title, and the Rock goes on to become WWF Champion, you, Y2J and the entire Y2J family, will never, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVER be the same again."

SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADE.

18. Vince McMahon is the higher power.

I touched on this moment in a past Countdown, but what the hell, I'll do it again. In early 1999, The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness and Mr. McMahon's Corporation had a similar goal: complete control of the WWF. I thought the goal was the WWF Championship, but whateves. By the spring, neither side had it; instead, it was in the hands of Steve Austin, but that's not really that important here.

In the early spring, Undertaker stepped up his hostile takeover bid by stalking, then eventually kidnapping and damn near marrying and/or sacrificing Stephanie McMahon. You know, Vince's daughter and youngest child. Because the Undertaker basically said a higher power made him do it. That got a little too real for Vince, who said, screw this, I'm outta here. That opened the door for Vince's son Shane to take over said Corporation and merge it with the Ministry of Darkness, seeing as they had common enemies in Steve Austin and Corporate outcast The Rock.

Fast forward to June 7, 1999, when the higher power, the man who brought the Corporation and Ministry together, the man behind the abduction of Stephanie McMahon is revealed. It wasn't Shane McMahon as many had thought.

That never gets old.

It was Papa Vince himself. Because he wanted to fuck with Austin. No, that's pretty much the reason he gave. Wait... so he masterminded the abduction, near forced wedding, and near sacrifice of his own daughter? Yeah. That's pretty much what happened. That's some straight up anime plot shit.

17. The Fingerpoke of Doom.

January 4, 1999. Covered this pretty extensively too. But I'll do you the solid anyway because I love all of you. It was a week and a day after Starrcade where for the third straight year, they blew the main event by beating a white-hot Goldberg (it was booker Kevin Nash thanks to Scott Hall and a cattle prod). This Nitro was to feature the rematch...which happened to coincide with the surprise return of Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Because reasons.

As for the former champion, Goldberg, he gets arrested for aggravated stalking and is stuck in the police station...which is right across the street from the Georgia Dome (don't blame me, they mentioned this)...for the majority of the show. Since Goldberg couldn't make it, Nash decided he'll take the next best thing: the leader of the other nWo faction, former presidential candidate Hollywood Hogan.

Shortly after 11, the leaders of the nWo factions meet, and after a shove and some taunting, Hogan rears back, pokes Nash in the chest, and Kevin takes the hardest bump of his professional life. Hogan covers, and he's your new world champion. The whole thing turns out to be a farce, as the warring nWo factions reunite. Goldberg gets back from the police station, only to get beaten down in his hometown. And cattle prodded. Again.

For a lot of longtime WCW fans, this was the point of no return. Back with the nWo bullshit, back with Hogan on top, and Goldberg, the best homegrown talent they've ever built, got buried. And to kick some more dirt in the face, this live Nitro was beaten by a taped episode of RAW that (1) was six days old, and (2) had its finish spoiled on the WWF website the night it originally went down. Obviously, we're going to revisit this later.

16. Pillman's got a gun.

Once upon a time, Steve Austin and Brian Pillman were friends. Best friends. Best friends forever. They were jerked around by WCW, fired by WCW, had a stopover in ECW, and landed in the WWF. In late 1996, Steve Austin was at war with Bret Hart. Of course, Steve expected his BFF Brian to have his back, except he kinda didn't have his back, so Steve crippled him and promised the next time he saw Brian, he was gonna finish the job, even if he had to go to his house to do it.

Well, Brian wasn't going to let this act of aggression stand, by God. In Brian's eyes, if Steve was gonna come, let him come, because he was ready. Not to throw hands, but to shoot him where he stood. Brian, who was always cray-cray to begin with, was gonna shoot his ex-BFF if he trespassed on his property. Not even Brian's neighbors could stop the inevitable from happening. Eventually, Austin broke in, and all hell broke loose. Thankfully, no shots were fired, but the moment got a little too real for USA, who forced the WWF to issue an apology the next week.

15. Vince McMahon introduces the Attitude Era.

On December 15, 1997, Vince McMahon delivers a short two-minute commentary on the direction of their programming. The commentary, officially entitled "The Cure for the Common Show" in reference to USA Network's tagline at the time, basically introduces the viewing audience to the Attitude Era:

"It has been said that anything can happen here in the World Wrestling Federation, but now more than ever truer words have never been spoken. This is a conscious effort on our part to open the creative envelope, so to speak, in order to entertain you in a more contemporary manner. Even though we call ourselves "Sports Entertainment" because of the athleticism involved, the keyword in that phrase is "Entertainment". The WWF extends far beyond the strict confines of sports presentation into the wide open environment of broad based entertainment. We borrow from such programs niches like soap-operas like "The Days Of Our Lives" or music videos such as those on MTV, Daytime talk-shows like "Jerry Springer" and others, cartoons like "The King Of The Hill" on FOX, Sitcoms like "Seinfeld" and other widely accepted forms of television entertainment.

We in the WWF think that you, the audience, are quite frankly tired of having your intelligence insulted. We also think that you're tired of the same old simplistic theory of "Good Guys vs. Bad Guys". Surely the era of the super-hero urge you to say your prayers and take your vitamins is definitely passé. Therefore, we've embarked on a far more innovative and contemporary creative campaign, that is far more invigorating and extemporaneous than ever before. However, due to the live nature of "RAW" and the "War Zone", we encourage some degree of parental discretion, as relates to the younger audience allowed to stay up late. Other WWF programs on USA, such as the "Saturday Morning Live Wire" and "Sunday Morning Superstars", where there's a 40% increase in the younger audience obviously, however, need no such discretion.

We are responsible television producers who work hard to bring you this outrageous, wacky, wonderful world known as the WWF. Through some 50 years the World Wrestling Federation has been an entertainment main-stay here in North America and all over the world. One of the reasons for that longevity is: As the times have changed, so have we. I'm happy to say that this new vibrate, creative direction has resulted in a huge increase in television viewership, for which we thank the USA Network and TSN for allowing us to have the creative freedom. But most especially, we would like to thank you for watching. RAW and the War Zone are definitely the cure for the common show."

Much has been and continues to be said about the Attitude Era, but without the change in creative direction for that brief period, WWE probably isn't around right now.

14. Shane McMahon buys WCW.

The Monday Night War was practically over by the turn of the century, but it wasn't made official until 2001 when the unthinkable happened: WWF bought WCW. And for pretty cheap. It's more than a decade later, and I still can't wrap my head around it: WCW, a company which once upon a time made more money than any other in the history of wrestling, got bought out by the WWF for pennies on the dollar. Like couch change. But of course, the WWF must make a storyline out of it. It just so happened to be the one we've pretty much all waited for: WWF vs. WCW.

Prologue: Vince McMahon announces that he had bought WCW (which really happened), and he's gonna bury it (which pretty much really happened, but that's another story). And he's gonna sign the papers at Wrestlemania. Enter Shane McMahon, who is at Nitro for some reason. Shane announces that, yeah, about that... papers been signed already. And Shane beat him to the punch. Shane McMahon announces he owns WCW to the delight of wrestling fans everywhere. Shit done just got real. Really, really, really real. While it served as the beginning of the biggest missed opportunity in wrestling history,  it served as a hell of a final page to the Monday Night War.

13. Rick Rude appears on RAW and Nitro in the same night.

Dateline: November 17, 1997. Rick Rude opens up Monday Night RAW introducing D-Generation X and the WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. Fast forward a bit, and Rick Rude's on Nitro shooting on the very man he'd introduced not that long ago. Wait... what?

How the hell did it happen, you ask? Did Rude clone himself or something? Well, not exactly. Here's the magic trick explained: Rude appeared on a taped episode of RAW without a contract, basically making him a free agent. The RAW he appeared on was in the can for six days, during which time, the WWF tried to work out a deal with him. Ultimately, the deal fell through in part due to the Montreal Screwjob, and Rude appeared on a live Nitro the same night that RAW aired. And if you think that blows your mind, consider this: the previous weekend, he also appeared on ECW's syndicated show, Hardcore TV, which was also in the can for some time. So in the same week, he appeared on the top three promotions in the United States' television shows. I know. Mental, right?

12. Madusa throws away the WWF Womens Championship.

The women's division in the WWE has always operated to some degree of failure. The 1980s boom died at the hands of the Fabulous Moolah (because MOOLAHWINSLOL—what really I wanted to say I will not because I don't wanna offend the fairer gender here—seriously, you should read why the division bombed in the 80s). In the early 1990s, it bombed because, well, what didn't bomb in the early 1990s? With WWF losing money left, right, and center, the entire women's division was let go near the end of 1995. Most went back to Japan, where women's wrestling was WHITE HOT, dude. But Debbie Miceli chose to stay home in the States when WCW came calling.

And in one of her first acts, on orders of Eric Bischoff, she junked the WWF Womens Championship. Just... here's the belt. Here's what it looks like. Here's a trash can, plop. Down it goes. The women's division is dead. But hey, RATINGS! WCW tried to build a women's division of their own, but it too bombed. Terribly. Which is how Madusa felt in the years following the incident, and rightfully so. She knew what it meant: it meant she had no chance in hell of walking back in WWE's door. Ever.

Or not.

She eventually left the wrestling business in 2001 because she didn't like the direction the business was going. Maybe she was on to something. As it turned out, she did walk back in WWE's door nearly 20 years later when she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Oh, and she picked up her belt from the garbage. These days, she's driving monster trucks, which I guess is about as far away as you can get from taking bumps in a ring. Seems all is forgiven, except about the part that Madusa has made exactly zero appearances for the company since her Hall of Fame induction. Not saying, just saying.

11. Goldberg wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Speaking of RATINGS, the chase for winning the quarter-hour was the theme for much of the Monday Night Wars. Long-term plans and common sense be damned, gotta get them eyeballs to the TV and keep them there, and that meant giving away main-event matches for free. Case in point, the July 6, 1998 Nitro where Hollywood Hogan took on Goldberg for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The bout, originally the post-show dark match, was moved up to the main show because RATINGS, Y'ALL! No, really, that's pretty much why they did it.

And it would be Goldberg's second match of the night because HOGAN AND HIS CREATIVE CONTROL CARD, BROTHER. Anyways, Goldberg goes through Scott Hall, then in the show's main event, in front of nearly 40,000 Georgians pushing him on, DA MAN spears and jackhammers Hollywood en route to WCW's top prize.

And then it hits you: man, if they saved this for PPV, they would have made ALL the money. Like ALL THE MONEY. ALL. THE MONEY. WCW traded hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe even millions of dollars, just for the right to say they won the night.

And you wonder why this company is out of business.

So if these aren't the top ten moments in the history of the Monday Night War, what made it? You'll have to wait a couple days to find out.  Stay tuned.

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While you wait around for the second half of the countdown, check out these past countdowns we did, see?

  • Best of Wrestlemania 31
  • Best PPV Themes
  • Worst Acts In Kayfabe
  • Most Extreme Moments
  • Best Wrestling Cities
  • Best Rock Moments
  • Things Missing on WWE Network
  • Why You Hate Vince McMahon
  • Best Things In Wrestling Right Now
  • Most Disappointing Storylines
  • Most Iconic Wrestling Photos
  • Best RAW Guest Stars
  • Best Wrestling T-Shirts
  • Best TNA Moments
  • Worst PPVs Ever
  • Things We Miss Most in Wrestling (part 1) (part 2)
  • Best Roddy Piper Moments
  • Best of Summerslam 2015
  • Best Shawn Michaels Moments
  • Best Smackdown Moments