In 1999, the WWF (now known as WWE) was in a fierce ratings battle war with WCW(the now defunct World Championship Wrestling) that WWE purchased in the spring of 2001. The war started all the way back in the 1980’s when Ted Turner and Vince Mcmahon threw jabs at each other trying to become the kingpin of the sports entertainment world.
The rivalry went to the next level in the 1990’s when Ted Turner went toe to toe with Vince Mcmahon on Monday nights as WWE’s RAW battled WCW’s Nitro for the eyeballs of mainstream sports entertainment viewers and hardcore pro wrestling fans.
What made that era so compelling was Ted Turner took a page out of Vince Mcmahon’s 1980’s playbook by purchasing the rights to the biggest names in the game such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ultimate Warrior. Not only did WCW acquire the in ring talent that made the WWE a household name in the 1980’s, but Turner’s team also received the services of the men who were the voices who told the action in and outside the ring such as future Minnesota governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura and the recently passed “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
The WWE had failed to adapt when Nitro turned the wrestling business upside down when the aging Hulk Hogan repackaged himself into a heel persona that was an answer to the fans who were turning on him due to his ring work declining and also “selling out” to Turner Enterprises.
The added touch was the head of WCW daily operations, Eric Bischoff, pulled off the coup of getting Kevin Nash and Scott Hall who were portrayed as Diesel and Razor Ramone in the WWE as “The New Generation” that was suppose to replace the 1980’s superstars. It turned out that the two men would become bigger stars in WCW aligning themselves with the household names of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage which the audience viewed as WWE bred talents.
It wouldn’t be until Steve Austin and Bret Hart’s tussle that the WWE would gain attention after the initial spark that the NWO (with the aforementioned former WWE stars) brought back onto the business. Steve Austin would ironically become the real heir apparent WWE had been looking for since Hogan exited the organization in 1993. The new modern day WWE owes it’s foundations to the rebirth with the Attitude Era led by Austin and The Rock after the two men heralded in new fans for RAW and Smackdown respectively. Their prominence in the late 90’s assisted the WWE into overthrowing the WCW renegade movement.
Here we are today, October 4th, and WWE is going to celebrate 20 years of Smackdown being on the air with the return of The Rock who was in the main event of the first ever episode back in 1999.
Smackdown was the WWE’s counter programming to WCW’s Thursday B show entitled “Thunder”. The Rock and HHH along with Shawn Michaels was used to promote the first episode and it drew massive attention.
The WWE 20 years later brings back The Rock to help get viewers to pay attention to Smackdown moving to Fox Sports. A couple of days ago, new upstart company AEW went head to head with WWE’s version of their farm league in NXT. It brought back memories for fans who were watching during the notorious “Monday Night War” era when WCW and WWF pulled out all the stops to win the ratings battle.
AEW just like WCW in the 90’s have a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion carrying its top prize in Chris Jericho. With the AEW World Title around the waist of a known WWE top star it helps give the company some recognition to new onlookers.
The WWE will have more than enough star recognition as Dwayne Johnson will bring all of his Hollywood clout tonight for the Fox Sports special.
WWE with The Rock’s return have jacked up the prices for tonight’s event which is sold out. Floor seats were purchased for $1000 for fans to see The Rock up close and in rare pro wrestling form although he is not being advertised in an actual bout.
The prices are considerably higher for this event than the regular Smackdown affairs in previous weeks that ranged from $210 – $238. With the addition of legends such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and Ric Flair in attendance it is to be expected.
The WWE after purchasing WCW and later ECW in 2001 had a bloated roster of stars and came up with concept to give everyone exposure. Vince Mcmahon put his rival companies out to pasture after a few months of exploiting their followings and decided to do a “brand extension” which made the television shows RAW and Smackdown into their own entities. Over the years there have been cross promotions, but Fox Sports have made it clear to WWE executives that they want their deal with the sports-entertainment company to be serious about only having Smackdown stars on their stations.
Fox Sports also wants WWE to present WWE more as sports more than sports entertainment. Stephanie Mcmahon who is the daughter of the owner spoke with First Take about the major shift.
FOX has officially announced a WWE SmackDown Kickoff pre-show for tonight’s big FOX premiere that will emanate from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Start time is 7:30pm ET on FOX.
It will be a 30 minute pre-show and will be hosted by Renee Young and WWE Hall of Famer Booker T. The two personalities are also the hosts of the upcoming WWE Backstage studio show on FS1 that will be magazine style.
Kayla Braxton will provide behind-the-scenes coverage while Charissa Thompson of FOX Sports will cover Superstars and celebrities arriving on the blue carpet outside of the Staples Center.