Luke Owen reviews the third episode of The Monday Night War on the WWE Network…
Read the previous episode review here.
The second episode of The Monday Night War, which looked at the rise of the nWo, was a step in the right direction after the mishmash of previous DVDs that was the first episode. This third episode, which looks at the invention of The Attitude Era, follows on the style of the second episode and it’s all the better for it. This is very much the same content as the Attitude Era DVD they released a few years ago, but it’s more involved and more detailed with the perspective given from both companies. And as such, it’s a lot more interesting.
This story thread of WWF falling behind WCW’s vastly better ratings that was set up at the tail end of the previous episode and they pick up from there. We have footage of WWF’s “cartoony” characters like The Goon and how it was pushing their 18-35 male demographic to switch the channel to WCW’s Nitro. There are some great comments from people in the company at the time who then expand on how Vince McMahon made the bold decision to move the company in a new edgy direction dubbed, The Attitude Era. They talk about the Brian Pillman home invasion angle that angered parents around the country, the rise of more sexually explicit content, Steve Austin vs. McMahon and the shenanigans of D-Generation X and it’s great to see all this old footage again. Of course it’s all the same clips you’ve seen before, but there are some great comments about how people feared it would backfire on them and anger the sponsors and networks.
Perhaps the most interesting thing with this episode of The Monday Night War is looking back at what WWF did from the years of 1997-2001 with the eyes of someone in 2014. Even as someone growing up watching this television, it’s almost shocking to see what they tried and succeeded in getting away with. This kind of TV would never fly into today’s society and is further proof that WWE could never “bring back the Attitude Era” that the Internet Wrestling Community so often craves. Not only were the shows demeaning to women, the matches put on placed their performers in seriously dangerous situations on a nightly basis just because two billionaires wanted to be the number one show that week. Sadly the episode does gloss over (for obvious reasons) the amount of damage this style of wrestling has caused “attitude era” stars and how matches like WCW’s Junkyard Invitational put more wrestlers on the injured list than it did make money. Furthermore, the Attitude Era worked because soceity at the time was in an era of attitude that no longer exists. The IWC may hate this PG-era of pro-wrestling, but at least everyone is safe and the industry doesn’t look so misogynistic.
But for all the good, the episode does suffer from two issues.
The first is a problem that we have to face with all WWE made programs about history and that is their revisionist version of events. According to The Monday Night War, WWF chose to adopt a more hardcore style of wrestling to appease the counter-culture crowd and that smaller based companies like ECW just so happened to be doing the same thing. WWF didn’t move into this Attitude Era until 1997 and ECW had been providing hardcore wrestling for a year and change prior to that. In reality WWF saw what ECW was doing in front of 2, 000 people, adapted and improved it and put it in front of 20, 000 people. The funny thing is, there is nothing wrong with telling that version of events – considering they already did on the Rise of Fall of ECW DVD released back in 2005.
The second problem again ties into a similar theme as the episode claims that The Attitude Era was the sole reason the ratings war tide was turned and why WWF eventually won the war. While their edgier style was a huge influence, it glosses over the even bigger factor which was WCW’s unwillingness to change and adapt. They do make brief mention of this so perhaps this will be covered in a future episode, but they more or less explicitly say that this was the only factor for winning the war.
Overall, this is probably the best episode of the series so far, but it’s odd that it doesn’t set up any new episodes as it comes to a close. If anything, this feels like the end of the series as narrator Keith David uses the phrase, “and that’s how WWE won the war”. Looking at the upcoming schedule, there are no more episodes listed, which hopefully isn’t the case (Wikipedia claim there are 37 more to come). There is so much more to this piece of wrestling history than just the nWo and the creation of the Attitude Era, so one only hopes we get a few more episodes down the line.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.