Pro wrestling’s “Monday Night Wars” didn’t officially end until WWE (then-WWF) purchased WCW in March 2001.
Bet for all intents and purposes, the years-long weekly ratings battle between professional wrestling’s top promotions came to an end 25 years ago.
It was January 4, 1999, that WWF’s Raw is War and WCW Monday Night Nitro each aired highly anticipated episodes to kick off the new year. And thanks to Raw being pre-taped, word had already spread that the show’s main event featured Mick “Mankind” Foley beating The Rock for the WWF Heavyweight Championship.
As he had done on multiple occasions, WCW honcho Eric Bischoff attempted to use Raw being pre-taped against WWF by reading spoilers of the show on Nitro, which was live. Acting on orders from Bischoff, WCW play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone revealed the result of Raw‘s main event.
“Fans, as Hollywood Hogan walks away and you look at this 40,000 plus on hand, if you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not,” Schiavone said. “Because we understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title. Ha! That’s gonna put some butts in the seats.”
#OnThisDayInWWE 25yrs ago on Nitro:
"If you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition,fans do not
"Because we understand Mick Foley, who wrestled here one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their world title
"Huh,that's gonna put some butts in the seats" pic.twitter.com/m8UU1pv42S
— On This Day in WWE (@OTD_in_WWE) January 4, 2024
Only rather than discouraging viewers from changing the channel, Schiavone’s spoiler had the opposite effect. As legend has it, more than half-a-million viewers switched over from Nitro on TNT to Raw on the USA Network to witness the fan favorite Foley’s title victory.
Following the conclusion of Raw, many viewers changed the channel back to Nitro, which featured a historic main event in its own right.
Just weeks after ending Goldberg’s title reign and undefeated streak, Kevin Nash defended the WCW World Heavyweight Championship against a returning “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan. But rather than having a traditional bout, Hogan pinned Nash following a mere finger poke, capping off a show-long storyline in which the two combined forces to form a new version of the New World Order (nWo).
The show went off the air with the heel (bad guy) group beating down Goldberg, who (in storyline) had been robbed of his title rematch after being falsely accused of sexual harassment by Miss Elizabeth. Both the angle and match were panned by fans and critics alike, having since become known as the “Finger Poke of Doom.”
While Raw and Nitro had remained competitive in the ratings throughout 1998, Jan. 4, 1999 proved to be a pivotal date for the rivalry. Raw‘s 5.7 rating beat Nitro‘s 5.0 rating on that night and the gap would continue to grow from there, with WWF routinely doubling WCW’s ratings by the summer of 1999.
Two years later, Vince McMahon bought his competition and WWE would remain largely unchallenged until the emergence of AEW nearly two decades later. While the “Monday Night Wars’ officially lasted from Sept. 1995-March 2001, if there was ever one night that explains why WWE was victorious, it came 25 years ago.