The true story behind the debut of WCW Monday Nitro

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September 03, 2013

“Uh, Eric, what do we need to do to become competitive with Vince?”

According to former WCW president Eric Bischoff in his book “Controversy Creates Cash,” those words spoken by Ted Turner were what led to the infamous Monday Night War, the battle between WCW’s Monday Nitro and WWE’s Raw for sports-entertainment supremacy.

What was supposed to be a meeting to pitch Turner on licensing WCW programming to a Chinese broadcasting company owned by foe Rupert Murdoch ended up changing the mat industry forever. The billionaire mogul interrupted Bischoff’s presentation to pose that question. Thinking on his feet, the young executive threw out the idea that WCW needed a prime time television slot.

No one expected Turner to immediately turn to the president of TNT and tell him to give WCW two hours on the network every Monday night. But that’s exactly what happened. Bischoff and his crew rushed the program that would become WCW Monday Nitro into production, hoping to get it on the air by August, 1995.

In the locker room, WCW’s stars were thrilled at the prospect of going head-to-head with WWE. 

“There was a lot of excitement,” Jimmy Hart told WWEClassics.com. “A lot of us had already been [with WWE], like Arn Anderson, Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan and I. We knew what it was like to be on that kind of stage.”

See photos of the first Nitro | Watch highlights

Despite feelings of anticipation among the veteran wrestlers, there was still a prevailing outlook that this was too big a step for the Atlanta-based company.

“Going head-to-head with WWE would mean one of two things,” Bischoff wrote in his book. “We’d either rise to the occasion and be successful, or our failures and weaknesses would be obvious and we’d never get a chance at it again.”

There were also feelings that WCW’s production was not on the level of WWE, which would make them look inferior.

“Vince McMahon and WWE had put out such a good product for such a long time,” explained Kevin Sullivan, one of WCW’s top producers at the time. “They were the top of the wrestling business.”

That meant that WCW had to do everything it could to establish itself as being different from WWE in every way possible, otherwise it would be looked at as a copycat.

“That was the most important thing,” Hart explained. “Otherwise, you were just going to see Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Randy Savage, but on a smaller scale than WWE.”

“I realized WWE was selling a Mercedes Benz,” Sullivan added. “I couldn’t go and sell a Ford against it, but I could sell a Harley Davidson. They’re two vehicles with completely different niches. I believed there was a niche for [WCW].”

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