A Decade of Wrestling: 2001

As we prepare for 2010, the 1/8th Nelson takes a look back at the past decade in the world of sports entertainment.  Every day until the New Year, we will present a blast from the past, one year at a time.

The Final Monday Nitro
March 26, 2001

Three days earlier, Vince McMahon had purchased World Championship Wrestling for $3 million, including its trademarks, video archive and several wrestler contracts.  The Monday Night Wars were over, and the World Wrestling Federation had won.  Now, the very last episode of Monday Nitro, which had set a new standard for wrestling programming, was set to air on TNT.

WCW had fallen a long way since its dominance in 1997.  The key to their success, the New world Order, had long since worn out its welcome, and WCW could never come up with a recipe for new success, leaving the company floundering with no direction for over a year.  Former WWF writer Vince Russo was brought in to try to turn things around, but what resulted was a flurry of quickly abandoned story ideas, childish gags and an onslaught of in-jokes that drove fans away at alarming rates.  When a change of upper management came in due to the AOL/Time Warner merger, WCW’s days were numbered.  Both Nitro and Thunder were cancelled, and only Vince McMahon would be willing to pick up the pieces.

Fans were shocked.  Despite how awful WCW had become, it had always been the competition to the WWF.  The Monday night ratings war (long since won by Raw) was the feud of wrestling.  And just like that – poof! – no more WCW.  It was the end of a very long era, and the end of what some would say was quality programming (I disagree).

So Vince McMahon, standing before a Raw is War set, opened Nitro and promised to give a message live on both Raw and Nitro.  The broadcast opened a new storyline for the WWF in which Shane McMahon had actually purchased WCW, setting the stage for the Invasion which would run through the summer, ending at November’s Survivor Series.  Of course, that in itself was a pretty big mess, but at this point, it was a huge deal.

So on this final episode, held in the Spring Break set used many years before, WCW wrapped up its run.  Booker T defeated Scott Steiner for the WCW Championship (as Booker would be going to the WWF and Steiner wouldn’t).  And in the final match, Ric Flair and Sting, the longtime faces of WCW, competed with one another one last time.  Even though Sting was noticably hobbled by injury and Flair was so incumbered with self doubt that he wore a t-shirt with his tights, the moment was electric and closed the company with what had made it great so long ago.

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