Monday, December 10, 2007

Revisited: A Nitro Gaffe Helps Raw

No matter if it is news, sports, politics, or anyplace else, commentators make mistakes. It happens all the time; sadly they can be intentional and other times not so. But then you have something that wasn’t a mistake, per se, it just backfired miserably.

The W.W.F. (which later became the W.W.E.) had Monday Night Raw; Ted Turner-owned W.C.W. (World Championship Wrestling) started Monday Nitro in response, the two eventually would battle one on one at the exact same time: 9-11 p.m. every Monday night in what created a golden age in wrestling that was known as “The Monday Night Wars.”

Nitro was live; Raw was live half the time back in those days. Raw being taped led to some very awkward moments, such as the late “Ravishing” Rick Rude appearing on both shows, because he did a taping for Raw on a Tuesday and then signed a deal with W.C.W. which enabled him to show up the following Monday night. Lex Lugar had been working with the W.W.F. without a contract but would appear on Nitro after getting a low-ball deal from World Championship Wrestling’s Eric Bischoff. “He doesn’t even wrestle here,” feigned some stunned announcers. Yeah right!

Today, there are less than a handful of Raw episodes per year that are taped. Shrewdly, Nitro took advantage of the times Raw was taped by starting the show a few minutes before the top of the hour at which time they would actually give out the results of Raw. On this night, broadcaster Tony Schiavone announced on Nitro that The Rock would be defending the W.W.F. World Title against Mankind (also known as Mick Foley) and that Mankind would become the new champ. Oh yeah, for kickers he added this classically, sarcastic line, “That'll put a lot of butts in the seats."

According to Nielsen’s Ratings, nearly 600,000 people changed channels from Raw to Nitro at that precise moment. Hey, and Nitro had a pretty good scheduled main event themselves that night, Hulk Hogan vs. Kevin Nash. Quite naturally, of course, signs at W.W.F. events sprung up in the weeks and months afterward saying, “Mick Foley put my ass in this seat.”

From 1996 until 1998, some 84 consecutive weeks, Nitro had beaten Raw in the ratings. The Foley championship victory came at the beginning of 1999 and sadly W.C.W. would be bought by Vince McMahon in 2001. Ironically enough, E.C.W. (the original E.C.W.) would be purchased by Mr. McMahon that same year, thus McMahon pulled a Michael Corleone and took out all of his enemies. With E.C.W., not so much, but the rivalry with W.C.W. and Ted Turner extended back to the early ‘80s when Turner forced McMahon to sell his stake in Georgia Championship Wrestling back to the governing body, the N.W.A. Big deal? Yes, except McMahon had to give up the 6:05-8:05 time slot, on Saturday nights on T.B.S. as part of the agreement.

Foley, for all intents and purposes is today retired, and went on to become a New York Times’ bestselling author. He wrote about how he was very hurt that Tony Schiavone had belittled his title victory, although they would amicably settle their differences at one point. Many believe that what Schiavone foolishly said played a strong roll in the demise of W.C.W., although it was not entirely his fault because the commentators were ordered to take Raw apart at any opportunity.

Schiavone, who is a pretty good announcer, now hosts a sports radio show down south, as his contract was not picked up by the W.W.F. when they purchased W.C.W. I wonder if there’s any chance that Tony Schiavone would be invited tonight to the Raw 15th Anniversary Show. In an unintended way he had a great influence on Raw and its success.

Oh yeah, so how did that Hogan-Nash matchup go? Well, that became infamous too, on what was a completely disastrous edition of Monday Nitro. Nash, who had recently won the W.C.W World Championship from Goldberg, blatantly laid down for Hogan after a finger poke. The two announced after the bout that they were reforming the N.W.O. (New World Order) and subsequently the match became known as the “Finger Poke of Doom.” The angle hurt W.C.W and the World Title which had lineage back to the storied N.W.A. World Championship.

Mick Foley will be among the luminaries in Bridgeport, Connecticut, tonight for the big show. As will, Trish Stratus (pictured above), a former seven-time ladies champ.

Triple H has been rumored to be making fun of Chris Jericho behind his back, by mocking the whole “save us” angle.

T.N.A. went head to head with E.C.W on Thursday night, and won soundly. T.N.A.’s Impact show drew a 1.1, while E.C.W (which normally does a 1.1 in its usual Tuesday night slot) did only a 0.6 rating. I’ve read conflicting reports as to why exactly E.C.W.’s broadcast was moved to Thursday last week, but thankfully for all involved it returns to its usual Tuesday night spot tomorrow night.

Rey Mysterio will challenge M.V.P. on Sunday night at Armageddon for the United States Heavyweight Championship. That one has got four or five star potential!

As if you could forget, tonight at 8 p.m (Eastern Standard) begins the Raw 15th Anniversary Show on the USA Network.

That'll put a lot of butts in the seats!

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