I've been extremely excited about Monday Night War since the first WWE Network advertisement. Initially, I was afraid it might be a rehash of the DVD release of many years ago that I've seen a thousand times but after hearing it would be a series, I began to dream of much more.
However, as the Network has trudged along and we've just now gotten a glimpse of the product, plenty of questions are left to answer. Much of the first episode is indeed from the DVD, with plenty more Ted Turner and added clips and interviews. Nothing at all wrong with that, but if WWE got this thing truly right, it could be enormous and could actually aid in renewals.
RAW and Nitro overlapped for over five years. While plenty of those weeks weren't anything to celebrate, it feels like immaterial. What WWE needs to do is cater Monday Night War to its hardest core fan base, those that don't buy Cena merchandise and still say "For Life" or "Vader Time" when they're in the appropriate company. It can't just be basic highlight reels and a few soundbites. I want more than that. You want more than that.
What if Monday Night War became a 52-week annual project? What if we got a flashback hour every week that mirrored that same calendar week back in 1995-2000, omitting preemptions. The show would move chronologically, showing what happened in WWE and what happened in WCW and maybe even a little of the ECW Friday stuff. Yes I realize it's Monday Night War, but just an aside to show what Paul and his crew were up to on Friday nights on TNN when they were being treated like garbage.
This fantasy version of Monday Night War would utilize split-screen technology and graphical overlays to show the high points of both shows and what the other guy was airing during those exact sequences. We'd see what WWE ran the night Scott Hall showed up on Nitro. We'd see what WCW offered up as Steve Austin confronted Mike Tyson. How did WWE do against Ric Flair's Greenville return in 1998 and the reformation of the Four Horsemen? Just think of all the examples of the biggest moments, defections, and returns for both shows and consider watching the competition simultaneously when the heaviest shots were fired. Now the audience would get a sense and a representation of the struggle from both perspectives as it actually happened.
Because WWE won in the end, Vince McMahon should have no issue with including some type of ratings comparison on each episode. It would look ugly for him for a while, but WWE has admitted WCW dominated the fight during the prime years of the nWo and the rise of the Cruiserweights. I would love to see quarterly breakdown numbers with brief explanation voice overs, showcasing what the top segments were on both shows each week and how many folks actually tuned into those moments. Past that, not just who watched, but how much those moments took from the other guy's numbers.
The unopposed hour of Nitro could be a feature as well, showing what WCW gave the audience when they had all the marks' eyes on them and them alone. In addition, they could shoot interviews with key participants from that week's programs featured on the show. These are but a few of many concepts that WWE could develop to make this entity a signature product and something extremely special.
Do it this way, the show becomes appointment viewing and can help to establish what WWE Network doesn't have, a true 24-hour programming cycle. The company can serve up its PPV events all day long, but if it's available on demand, that stuff is useless and in many ways showcases how little original content the service currently offers. When I see TLC 2012 on the schedule, it underscores the problem.
Monday Night War, however, would have a five or six year life cycle before ever having to repeat itself. At worst WWE could use the three big years and still get over 150 hours of captivating material. It could be offered on demand after airing or could be pulled and actually released quarterly or yearly on physical media. I'd buy it.
One of the greatest shows of all time, Sports Night, comes to mind. Jeremy Goodwin (Joshua Malina) put together an obscenely long highlight package for a regular season baseball game and had to cut over seven minutes of it out. He was heartbroken and argued for each shot and each cut, saying "But that's part of the battle, you'll miss the battle." It can't work in that format on a highlight show, but it can in WWE for Monday Night War, and I so badly want to see all of that battle.
Yes the budget, both financially and respective to production time, probably make this idea a pipe dream and a non-starter, but it feels like this is the kind of thing WWE Network should strive to provide. WWE dealt with the US Open and the Westminster Dog Show, so of course some weeks would have to be altered. Maybe do a gradual roll out or attempt a broader time frame, monthly rather than weekly of the more specific chronologically reflective material.
I'm not sure how WWE can do it. I just want WWE to do it.