Monday 10 August 2015

WWE The Monday Night Wars 'Shots Fired' Disc 1 DVD Review By Dave Adamson

 Monday Night War - Shots Fired covers the first ten episodes of the WWE Network series, with additional analysis provided by Renee Young, Triple H and Sting.

Told by many of the key players, current WWE roster and featuring archive interviews from some of those involved, it’s entertaining and informative to watch, giving some insight into the behind-the-scenes world of both WWE and WCW and the journey they all took through the era.

Monday Night War, alongside previous WWE documentaries covering the subject, is as close as WWE will probably get to telling the complete truth about what went on, albeit occasionally casting WWE in the dual role of unfortunate victim and all-powerful monolith, with WCW occupying the position of upstart and loudmouth agitator.  For fans of the various autobiographies (WWE published and otherwise), books on the topic (including RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez’s The Death of WCW) and the many other sources, Monday Night War is a fine addition to the narrative of the period and, quite rightly, became one of the most popular and talked about original products from the WWE Network.

With disc one presenting the first two episodes, we see the story from the evolution of WWE, the creation of Ted Turner’s WCW and the moment that would define a generation - the birth of the nWo.

Episode One plays out, for the most part, as a history of the immense success of WWF into the 90s, highlighting the distance between it and its nearest competitor, before Ted Turner acquired it.

With Turner talking about the struggles of running a successful wrestling promotion and various commentators talking about the decline of WWE - formulaic and tired, it was clear that evolution was needed, leading to the birth of Monday Night Raw - a live television programme that would change the industry forever.

With the focus on younger, technically gifted wrestlers, Hogan and McMahon would part ways and WWE would be without its biggest star, driving forward with fresher ideas and growing popularity, spiralling costs and new challenges.

WCW, on the other hand, would find itself in the hands of Eric Bischoff, moving from announcer to Executive Producer, amongst his many roles.  He would turn it from a “Southern promotion” to a contender, with focus on improving its quality at all levels, bringing on board recognised WWF names, from commentators to stars.  It was inevitable that going head-to-head would happen, and WWE Nitro would eventually be born, dirty tactics would come into play and the unthinkable, in the televised wrestling business, would happen… but, it sure made good television!

Episode One’s post episode analysis features Renee Young talking to Triple H and Sting.  Giving Sting a chance to talk about his experience of the time and hearing Triple H offer a remarkably candid insight into the business during the Monday Night Wars makes for compelling viewing and, with each episode of the series offering the same post-episode panel, it’s certainly worth watching these to see how their respective recollections develop, though they do feel a bit short - perhaps there’ll be an uncut series of these discussions released in the future..

Episode Two recaps the origins of the nWo as WCW’s ratings starting to improve and the acquisition of the biggest names in WWF continued.  

Still spoken about with reverence today, the original incarnation of the nWo, from The Outsiders, to the introduction of “the third man” and beyond was the period that transformed WCW’s fortunes and catapulted it securely ahead of WWF.

WWF and WCW were both suffering, with WWF presenting its cartoon wrestling in with the mix of captivating performers, whilst WCW, though successful, was seen as the home of the old guys.  To hear Kevin Nash and Scott Hall talk with humour and razor-sharp insight into what drove them from the comforts of WWF to the competition shows two men who are all business - as is often said, “you can make friends or you can make money.”

With Bischoff moving towards a less-cartoony approach to wrestling storylines and the fans perceiving this as an invasion, McMahon would move the fight into the courts and WWF would itself falling behind WCW week after week.

With Nitro being broadcast live, it was a perfect opportunity for Bischoff to create an element of surprise.  The biggest of these surprises was, clearly, Hulk Hogan becoming a member of the nWo after years of preaching prayers and vitamins.  Three guys, made huge by WWF would make WCW even bigger.

In response, WWF would fire back with some… interesting ideas, but be unable to unseat the nWo rollercoaster, but it would be WCW and its inner workings that would lead to its own derailment.

As WCW Nitro gave wrestling an edge that, at this level, hadn’t been seen before, WWF was continuing its stale, family friendly product.  Appealing to a much older audience, WCW found itself, thanks to the nWo, as the cool alternative.

With success, however, came a desire to be even bigger and the risks that Bischoff took paid off, whilst others led to overexpansion and dilution of the concept that had made them a success, though this wouldn’t, initially, alter the course that WCW was upon.

WWF, however, was far from dead and buried, with the birth of the Attitude Era, and this was where the fight turned into a war.

With the post-episode panel, Sting reflects on whether he was really supposed to be the third man, whilst Triple H looks at Sting’s position in WCW.  Sting gets time to talk about the Bash on the Beach and the famous Hogan moment and both men talk about the difficulties of staying popular as a character.

It’s easy to look upon the Monday Night War as two moments - the origin of the nWo and the Attitude Era.  Whilst elements of the relevant stories were definitely era-defining, it’s worth taking time to reflect on a lot of the product outside of this and seeing the ebbs and tides that they would still suffer.

The first two episodes of Monday Night War - Shots Fired set up a groundbreaking series that reveals a lot of what, to many casual fans, wasn’t commonly known, with those involved and the members of the current WWF roster, offering their insights.  Involving behind-the-scenes personnel - Michael Hayes and Jim Ross amongst them - along with the key players is a masterstroke, though it would have been good to hear from Bischoff and others in something other than archive footage.

Though the post-episode panels are interesting, they are do feel about short with their runtime of around seven minutes.  That said, with twenty episodes to cover, this would provide nearly two hours of additional insight.

Disc One of Monday Night War - Shots Fired sets up an era in wrestling that many consider pivotal and divisive.  Providing viewers with a look behind the business thinking from both companies and attitudes towards what was transpiring from employees, it’s a must see for any serious wrestling fan.

There are reviews to come of the other discs of this series but you can order this DVD (or Blu Ray set) NOW by clicking THIS link

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