411’s WWE Ruthless Aggression Report: Episode 1
– Original air date: 02/16/20
– Run Time: 41:25
– When the Network first launched one of the selling points was a series on The Monday Night War. Thankfully, the WWE has moved on and today they dropped Episode 1 of their new series focusing on the Era following the end of the Monday Night War. This should be fantastic as this era brought out Main Event stars that are still playing a huge role in the company nearly 20 years later. Overall this is a 5 part series with an episode being dropped once a week on Monday until all are out. Let’s get to it!
– Michael Rapaport is the narrator for this series and opens up with a teaser of the series. It was an era defined by two words: Ruthless Aggression
– The Monday Night War: Our talking heads discuss the Monday Night Wars. Prichard puts over RAW being the dominant wrestling show and Ted Turner bought a wrestling show and wanted to compete. He talks about the great competition between RAW and Nitro and mentions Nitro kicked their ass for 83 weeks. The WWE had to dig deeper and get more creative to counter. They reinvented themselves with an edgy attitude and the Monday Night War was officially on (funny, I would think the WAR started with Nitro launching). They put over the Tyson/Austin confrontation as the moment that shifted the balance of power. Here, I thought it was the DX “tank.”
– Hogan pops up to talk about the end of the war and Pritchard talks about the joy turning into asking what’s next. Brian Gerwitz shows up as a talking head which is crazy to see and he also discusses how they were searching to find a buzz that was missing when WCW left. They couldn’t replace the competition from WCW and they weren’t sure if the audience would stay or leave.
– RAW and Nitro have a simulcast where Shane shows up on Nitro to let us know he bought WCW. This should have been a slam dunk storyline, but man did they kind of screw the pooch with it. The plan we are told was for Shane to lead an Invasion of WCW stars. We see various WCW stars invading including Booker T at King of the Ring to take out Austin, DDP being The Stalker, and Mike Awesome winning the Hardcore Title.
– Gerwitz talks about how the audience had expectations of Goldberg vs Austin, The Outsiders vs Brothers of Destruction. That didn’t happen though as the big name talent had contracts with Time Warner and the WWF wasn’t going to spend absurd amounts of money to buy those out and the talent weren’t going to throw away massive amounts of free money to get paid less to go back to work. They talk about the young WCW guys (Mark Jindrak shows up) and how thy were still a few years away. Jindrak says they weren’t ready and didn’t know the culture of the WWE. They only knew WCW and obviously what they did there didn’t work in the WWE. Prichard buries the roster by saying they didn’t pose any threat to the WWE roster and the audience didn’t know who they were and didn’t care.
– Christian talks about the hostility from the WWE guys who had to be pushed back down to make time for the influx of WCW talent. Prichard talks about the idea of doing a WCW show and they bring up WCW is RAW with Booker T and Buff getting booed out of the building. Gerwitz talks about the crowd crapping on the match and how the Invasion was flawed from the start. WCW was laid to rest in November for the last time.
– Jim Cornette is here and he talks about how the WWE had to find a new way to groom talent. That is where the idea came for a developmental territory and that was OVW. They had an influx of young talent: Cena, Orton, Lesnar, Batista, Shelton Benjamin. Batista talks about the stud athletes that were there and they knew they were going to be the new era of the WWE.
– Back in the WWE as the big time WCW stars were finally free agents and Ric Flair was the first to show up. In storyline terms he bought the stock from Shane and Steph so they could buy WCW and ECW. With all that stock, Flair was now partners with Vince. Three months later the nWo showed up in the WWE and we finally got dream matches a year later. Hogan vs Rock was set for Mania X8 and it was amazing, but we are told that it was really the stalwarts of the WWE that carried the torch. In this case they reference HHH and him winning the WWE Title at Mania X8.
– Foley talks about how they relied on bedrock stars like HHH and The Undertaker. They were given the burden of carrying things when business started to drop from The Attitude Era. Angle calls Taker the leader of the group and he deserves that role. Foley puts over Angle stepping up and becoming one of the greatest stars of all time.
– The edginess of the Attitude Era was starting to feel out of place and forced. They show some of the crap they tried to do and I guess the crap here can be dumped on while the crap from the Attitude Era is still awesome. Hogan talks about how Vince was still looking for that shock factor. Prichard says that force feeding a lot of that stuff led to a decline in the audience.
– The other problem was they had a large assembly of talent and not enough TV time for them to get better. That is where the idea came from to split the roster. The Miz mentions that as a fan he was excited by the idea of a brand split. To him it was perfect in an era where the WWE had no competition. Gerwitz says they knew the rating were going to drop, but it was necessary for survival. The mindset was that they were rebuilding and would have to take 2-3 steps back to move ahead 4-5 steps down the road.
– Draft Night: The talent had no clue where they were going outside of maybe the top 1-3 guys in the company. They make it a point to show the Dudley Boyz being split up. Bubba talks about how nobody wanted to see them wrestle by themselves. They took the team away from the WWE fans because Vince wanted to shake things up. Gerwitz says he knows a lot of the talent was pissed off by the choices. Matt talks about how being split from people sucked as you saw them more than your own family. Kevin Owens says as a fan he was curios to see where it would go, but was skeptical about the competition aspect as it was still the same company.
– At the same time this was all going down The Rock went and became the biggest star in the world. Adam Cole was worried as a fan as he knew The Rock wasn’t going to be around as much anymore. Losing The Rock was a big hit to the WWE and then right after they lost Stone Cold Steve Austin. They show video from Byte This with Austin laying it out that he is unhappy with his direction and the piss poor creative in the company. The talking heads put over the greatness of Austin and how he saved the company. Vince always asked every week: How is Steve going to raise hell this week. Well, they started running out of ideas and Steve started hating what they were pitching him.
– Brock Lesnar: The Next Big Things gets the first call up of the talented class in OVW and it was a smart choice. The writers came up with the idea to do Austin vs Brock on RAW in a King of the Ring qualifying match. Vince’s thoughts were that when they would do Austin/Brock in 3 Years at Mania for all the money, nobody would remember this match on RAW. Damn! So he made the call to go ahead with the match. The idea was for Brock to go over Steve clean and Vince liked it. Austin says he got the call from JR who went over the idea with him. He was rather annoyed as it didn’t make business sense to him. He says he will do business with anyone if it makes sense and that didn’t. He told JR he wasn’t coming to TV and took a plane back home. He no showed Atlanta that night and for him it was “fuck you. I am taking my shit and going home.” Prichard says that Vince was hurt and wishes that Austin had just shown up to the building so they could work things out. Instead, Vince went on the air and buries Austin in front of the crowd (kind of in a way Paul Heyman once did to Sabu, but with less anger and cursing).
– More Byte This video and this time with Vince. He mentions everything is in a state of flux and they bring up that business is down. Vince is asked where the next trend will be and what will bring the casual fans back. Vince thinks there will be a tidal wave coming that will wash away their ills. He can’t put his finger on it, but something is coming.
– The company was soon branded as the WWE (no mention of losing the lawsuit to the Panda people) and we had the ad campaign of “Get The F Out.” It was a way to keep some of old attitude, but find a new direction to take the company. Gerwitz with the best line of the series as he says Vince didn’t want a wrestling company, but always wanted an entertainment company.
– We are told everything was picking up now as the brand split was working and fresh stars were showing up on TV. Christian talks about SmackDown getting a bigger rating than RAW for the first time and how great it felt as they were seen as the B show for so long. There really was a competition between the talent bases of the two shows. Mark Henry calls the brand split the best thing since sliced bread as it gave guys TV time that never got it before. It gave time to guys like Eddie, RVD, Jeff Hardy, and Rey Mysterio.
– June 2002: Things were going well, but there was still something missing. They didn’t have a number one guy yet and they were looking for someone to say he was the top guy instead of saying it should be someone else. Eric Bischoff talks about how everything is driven by energy and passion and you have to rally your team. On this night Vince rallied the talent and first uttered: Ruthless Aggression. He wanted to know who had that quality to be top guy and do anything it took to get there. It was the idea of who was going to separate from the pack and lead.
– We jump to SmackDown and John Cena debuts to answer an open challenge from Kurt Angle. Cena famously utters “Ruthless Agression,” and that ends episode one.
– This was great as it is refreshing to get some insight on a different era. You can only hear Monday Night War stories for so long. It’s been nearly 20 years since this era started, so it’s as good as time as any to discuss it. It is kind of prophetic that Cena was given the “ruthless aggression” line and ended up becoming the biggest star of the era and one of the biggest in company history. I like the fact they acknowledged things weren’t good after the botched Invasion angle and that they were searching for something to carry them out of the post war funk they had. There was the expected glossing over some things and slight changes to history in other spots, but it was still a good opening to this series. Episode 2 drops tomorrow morning and I’ll be back with that one then. Thanks for reading!Ads Links by Easy Branches