BILLIONAIRE TED 15 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK - VINCE MCMAHON TAKES SHOTS AT SURGING WCW NITRO
BY WADE KELLER
My cover story for the PWTorch Newsletter 15 years ago this week headlined with "WWF continues attacks at Turner, WCW." As we have looked back at the short lived mini-battle between Impact and Raw that began the first week of 2010 a year ago, it's amazing to see how massively differently the real Monday Night War was 15 years ago and now nasty it got. (PWTorch VIP members have access to the entire set of all 1996 back issues online as part of their membership. http://www.pwtorch.com/govip.)
WWF was on its heels at this point and Vince McMahon, as much as he disliked Ted Turner, couldn't stand the thought of losing a battle to mere Eric Bischoff. So he framed the war as a battle between his family company and Billionaire Ted. He hoped the digs at WCW would rally the WWF troops (sound familiar?), although part of it was just sour grapes over his pride and joy, Monday Night Raw, falling behind Nitro early in the Monday Night War in which no one gave WCW a chance.
Note that at the end of the article I note how the ratings seems to be increasing for both shows, so it was quite early in the battle that the pie began to expand with added interest in this fascinating head-to-head battle. (Did you know WCW considered naming Nitro "WCW Head-to-Head?")
PWTORCH NEWSLETTER #370
COVER STORY BY WADE KELLER
COVER-DATED JAN. 20, 1996
In the last four weeks, the roles for Monday Nitro and Monday Night Raw have each made a jarring 180 degree turn. The WWF has taken over the role as the aggressor who points out their competition's weaknesses while WCW has now taken an "above the fray" approach.
Meanwhile, the viewership for the programs are at all-time highs. After a combined rating of 6.9 for both broadcasts of Nitro and the one airing of Raw on Jan. 8, the shots both promotions are taking at each other are being seen each Monday by nearly as many fans as used to watch wrestling during entire weekends a year ago.
While the WWF continues to air its biting Billionaire Ted skits, WCW seems to have retreated. For two weeks now, ever since Raw mocked the term, no one has uttered the phrase, "This is where the big boys play." That term, thanks to the WWF's skit, may forever be associated with implications of steroid use.
This Monday, WCW said nothing. They stopped fighting. Except for Steve McMichael telling viewers to throw their remote controls away, there were none of the familiar shots taken. Has WCW decided they've won the war by lulling the WWF into taking potshots, so now they can take over the WWF's former position as the mature, top dog? Or has WCW realized they have too much to lose to stay in a war of words, that the WWF is winning the potshot battle, thus they are going to try to quell the battle by dropping their fists
If WCW is dropping their fists, the WWF isn't ready to walk away from the fight just yet. The third installment of "Billionaire Ted's Warroom" aired on the Jan. 15 edition of Raw. The following is a transcript:
Billionaire Ted: "I bought myself a TV network. I bought myself a World Series. I bought myself a library of classic movies. Heck, I even colorized a few of them. Why can't I buy the WWF."
Executive #1: "We've been trying, Ted."
Billionaire Ted: "How come their rasslin' is still better than ours."
Executive #1: "They've got better athletes. All we've got are disloyal (Nacho Man shown biting a beef jerky), greedy (Scheme Gene shown), has-beens (Huckster shown) from the '80s."
Huckster: "Who you callin' a has-been, brother."
Scheme Gene: "You can't blame a guy for tryin' to con, ah, I mean make a buck."
Nacho Man: "Who you callin' disloyal. Besides, I started in the '70s, not the '80s."
Billionaire Ted: "Well, go out there and buy me some of those WWF generation superstars."
WWF Narrator: "The New WWF Generation, it's not for sale."
Back to Ted: "Hey, Huckster, what if we called you the Boy Toy? Yeah. That's good, I like it."
As they returned to the arena, Jerry Lawler commented: "I wonder what's gonna happen when Billionaire Ted gets his hands on Time-Warner. I'm glad I don't have any Time-Warner stock right now."
WCW and Ted Turner weren't entirely silent, as they apparently tried to acknowledge the skits and make light of them. The Jan. 15 New York Daily News "Hot Copy" gossip column reported: "Ted Turner's getting ready to get into the ring with World Wrestling Federation honcho Vince McMahon, say sources. We hear Turner, the owner of the rival World Championship Wrestling, CNN, and the Atlanta Braves, wants to scalp McMahon because the WWF has parodied him in sketches using a tall, thin, mustached man with a silly-sounding southern drawl named Billionaire Ted."
The article, while minimizing Turner's need for a wrestling outfit, said Turner wasn't mad even though one WWF skit implied his wrestlers use steroids. "Rather, say sources, he was angered because he was portrayed as a hillbilly with a bad suit, and Ted's a little sensitive. Says the source, "Billionaire Ted doesn't like Billionaire Ted and wants the feud to end.'"
Perhaps Turner has told WCW to end the war of words and that explains Eric Bischoff's silence.
Although the bad weather increased overall television viewership and although Monday Night Football's absence contributed to the upturn in the Jan. 8 ratings, the war of words seems to have increased overall interest in the Big Two - at least in TV ratings.
But underneath all of this battling is a desperation, more so on the part of the WWF than WCW, to turn the viewers into paying customers.
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