March 26th, 2001, will always be an important day in pro wrestling history. This date marks the end of what was arguably the greatest time to be a wrestling fan, aka The Monday Night Wars. In 1995 World Championship Wrestling started going head to head with The World Wrestling Federation. Until that year, WWF had been synonymous with pro wrestling. WCW existed, but it was never truly a threat. Now with a time slot opposing WWF Raw, WCW became its rival competitor. They gained a lot of steam by acquiring the contracts of several WWF stars. This signaled the end of the Monday Night Wars.
WCW signed several big WWE names like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Bret “Hitman” Hart, Lex Luger, and The Outsiders Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. All these names were big-money players. WCW was where the big boys played with guaranteed contracts and an easier schedule. WCW also started a vigilante group known as the New World Order that featured mostly former WWF stars hell-bent on the destruction of WCW. This was the brainchild of WCW Executive producer Eric Bischoff. A new star named Goldberg also caught the attention of many fans. Eric Bischoff was a thorn in Vince McMahon’s side. That is until WWF bought their A-game. The letter A stood for attitude, more specifically the attitude era.
The End of the Monday Night Wars
Knowing that WWF Raw was losing the ratings battle, Vince Mcmahon bought out a new, edgier WWF. Led by stars such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, HHH, The Rock, and DX, WWF started presenting more violent and sex-based storylines. It wasn’t long before WWF once again became the leader in sports entertainment. Due to several WCW storylines that fans rejected, WCW began losing the ratings war. Added to that, the company was losing money due to the guaranteed contracts they promised their talent.
WCW could have fixed those two problems, but TBS and TNT, who owned the network that Nitro was broadcasted on, decided their viewers were not into wrestling and canceled the show. This truly was the final nail in WCW’s coffin. Rumors of a buyout of the company began to circulate. However, without a tv product, many investors were not interested. WCW star Diamond Dallas Page summed up the feeling in WCW,
“We were expecting a new owner or new company to save us. Let me tell you this-Vince McMahon would not have won if we had a new owner .”
Vince McMahon ended up purchasing WCW for 4.2 million dollars. This included all the tape library and likenesses. He had essentially bought his competition. WWF and WCW kept this a secret from most of the talent until the final episode of WCW Nitro in Panama City, Florida. As WCW fans turned into Nitro unknowingly for the last time, they were greeted by Mr. McMahon informing them that he had bought WCW. He also stated that tonight will be the first night Raw and Nitro would be simulcast. WWF had won the war. Mr. Mcmahon also said that he would be carefully watching all the matches tonight to see who goes and who stays.
The Final Card had Several Notable Matches.
The first match that comes to mind was for the WCW Championship. WCW Champion Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner defended his championship against the WCW United States Champion Booker T. Booker T ended up winning the WCW Championship. He defeated Steiner to a standing ovation. Booker T was now both the United States Champion and WCW Champion. Booker also became the man that bought the WCW to WWE. Years later, he said that winning the WCW Championship was not on his mind that night; he was more worried about his future.
“I thought I’d retire in WCW. I never imagined that it would end up with me going into WWE as WCW Champion.”
The final WCW match ever on Monday Nitro belonged to two WCW Icons, Ric Flair and Sting. How fitting was it that the two franchise players were featured in the sendoff match? Flair bought everything he had to the match, but Sting was victorious with the scorpion deathlock. After the match, the two stars hugged each other. They were there since the beginning; they were there at the end. Their legacy was WCW. It was revealed that, ironically enough, it was Vince McMahon that requested that match. Flair has said that he was approached and by WWE and told that it would mean a lot to Vince, the fans, and the legacy of WCW. Vince McMahon is a businessman, but he also respected a good competition.
As said above, Nitro’s last episode was also simulcast on the first hour of WWE Raw. WWF superstars knew just as little as WCW superstars did. Everyone knew something was happening; they just didn’t know what. According to Matt Hardy backstage at Raw, several monitors were tuned to WCW Nitro. He noted how this was out of the ordinary. Matt said he had mixed reactions about the buyout,
“What would our lives be like without competition. Now we have no choice. We are going to lose our bargaining power. It was unique to be a performer at that time. As a fan, it was insane.”
Live on Monday Night Raw Vince McMahon had entered the ring. In full Mr. McMahon’s villain persona, he gloated about how he gobbled up his competition and spat them out. He declared that at WrestleMania 17, he will finalize the takeover of WCW. In true Mr. McMahon’s form, he said he wanted to look at each and every WCW star in the face and say you’re fired. He further stated that WCW is buried.
In Panama City, a McMahon was headed to the ring to confront WCW, but it wasn’t Vince McMahon; it was Shane Mcmahon. Vince looked confused as Shane stood in a WCW ring. Shane picked up the microphone and said that he took his opportunity since his dad hadn’t finalized the deal. He stated the contract does read McMahon, but it says Shane McMahon. As per the storyline, Shane McMahon now owned WCW. This was all done to add fuel to their rivalry at WrestleMania. In reality, WWF really did have all intentions of starting up a second league under the WCW banner.
Booker T even began to defend the WCW Championship on Raw.
Several factors stopped that from happening. WCW stars like Sting, Goldberg, and The Outsiders were under multi-billion dollar contracts. WWF refused to bring anyone in the fold that was under those contracts until they expired. They did bring in WCW like Booker T, Lance Storm, DDP, and Billy Kidman, along with several others to start an invasion angle, but without the big WCW names, it fell flat. Chavo Guerrero summed up what the purchase of WCW did for the business in an interview with Bleacherreport.com,
“The competitiveness of wrestling died with the end of Nitro. The Monday Night Wars pushed WWE to do its best. The fans were winning too. In fact, they were winning the most.”