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Yesterday's Titans, Part I: A brief history of WCW's glory days
Heated rivalries are an integral part of WWE. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, for example, had many memorable adversaries during the 1990s, specifically being at odds with Mr. McMahon, The Undertaker and The Rock on various occasions. John Cena’s three greatest opponents include Batista, Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. Sometimes these conflicts also spill outside of the ring, the intense rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart during the mid-90s is very well-documented and culminated at Survivor Series 1997 with the infamous “Montreal Screwjob.”
However, bitter rivalries and disputes in sports-entertainment aren’t limited to the Superstars doing battle inside the ring. Throughout the 1990s, and even through the 1980s, WWE’s greatest adversary came in the form of World Championship Wrestling.
Once affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and Jim Crockett Promotions, media mogul Ted Turner brought WCW into the national spotlight in 1988. Although WCW remained affiliated with NWA until 1991, the brand now had two new advantages — a seemingly unlimited budget and continued national television exposure on Turner’s popular networks. The “NWA: World Championship Wrestling” program would eventually become the weekly program WCW Saturday Night. Turner would also begin to air Clash of the Champions, an annual pay-per-view-esque event offered on Turner’s cable station, TBS.
The organization grew with stars such as Ric Flair, Sting, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, The Steiner Brothers, Vader and Ron Simmons. Each competitor brought their own exciting style and level of competitiveness to the ring. Some of the rivalries, such as Sting and The Nature Boy would become synonymous with WCW following many of their classic battles. The Steiner Brothers also became one of the top tag teams in sports-entertainment throughout the early 1990s.
But even with a talented group of competitors, the rivalry between WCW and WWE did not reach a fever pitch until 1994 when Hulk Hogan make his debut in the Georgia-based company. In Hogan's very first WCW match, he defeated Ric Flair for the WCW Championship and began to skyrocket the company to the top of sports-entertainment.
In 1995, under the guidance of Eric Bischoff, WCW Monday Nitro debuted to compete with Monday Night Raw. Originally an hour-long program, Nitro would soon evolve into three action-packed hours of entertainment with a wide array of performers and styles. Some of the most exciting matches in WCW featured future WWE Superstars such as Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho.
For a time, WWE remained the dominant brand. However, in 1996, former WWE Superstars Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) began appearing on WCW programming as The Outsiders. The pair terrorized the WCW locker room on numerous occasions and hinted that there was a mysterious third individual. Finally at Bash at the Beach 1996, the duo battled Sting, Lex Luger and “Macho Man” Randy Savage with the speculation that the mysterious “third man” may come to the aid of The Outsiders.
As Nash & Hall nefariously gained the upper hand in the match, Hogan, who had been absent for a few months, made his return. It seemed the Hulkster was coming to help his WCW colleagues, but one of the most shocking moments in sports-entertainment history would occur as Hogan revealed himself to be in cahoots with The Outsiders. He was the third man. Suddenly, Hogan turned his back on millions of fans and the landscape of WCW forever changed with the birth of the New World Order.