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HEADLINE: Monday War turned up a notch leading to WM – Tuesday Raw’s 4.4 mega rating prompts everyone to turn it up a notch on the Monday before Wrestlemania
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
With Wrestlemania just days ahead, WCW held nothing back on the Mar. 23 three hour live Nitro from Louisville, Ky., hyping in the opening five minutes of the show that Nitro would be a PPV caliber show. The three main events announced were Roddy Piper vs. Randy Savage, Kevin Nash vs. The Giant, and Dallas Page challenging Sting for the WCW Title.
There were several motivating factors for WCW turning things up a notch. For one, they wanted to build on the record rating they set the week before when Nitro went unopposed and drew a 5.6 rating. Also, they wanted to stop any Raw momentum since the next day the special Tuesday night edition of Raw drew a truly remarkable 4.4 rating. For the week of Mar. 15-21, Nitro, Raw, and Thunder will likely translate into seven of the top 10 or 15 hours of cable television that week. WCW’s third motivation for loading the show was to retain viewers once Raw began so fewer viewers would be tuned in to the last Raw that hypes Wrestlemania and thus the buyrate would be lower.
The WWF didn’t hold back on Raw, featuring Mike Tyson’s first in-ring interview since joining Degeneration X, Steve Austin’s rebuttal to Vince McMahon’s diatribe the previous week, and a main event of Austin vs. Rocky Maivia. As it turned out, though, the WWF didn’t lead into Wrestlemania with any hot angle to get a buzz going. The last Raw before Wrestlemania was used more so to put into perspective the storylines that had already been established. The key storyline built around the Austin vs. Shawn Michaels title match at Wrestlemania is that the odds have been staked against Austin. McMahon didn’t appear on the show, though, but they played into the idea that he will do whatever it takes to keep Austin from winning the title. Michaels ripped on both McMahon and Austin for having a “pinch fight” and wished they’d just shut up. Michaels’s interview was a bit uninspired, almost as if it was sinking in that he was giving his last interview as WWF Champion. As of late word from the WWF, Michaels is going to be able to wrestle at Wrestlemania despite his back pain, although he’s said to be taking the pending loss of the title pretty hard. Mike Tyson showed good enthusiasm during the DX interview, but was only fed a few one-liners.
The surprise of the show was Austin wrestling a ten minute singles match on Raw. After both Nitro and Raw had built up a tradition of promising marquee TV main events and delivering only one or two minutes matches, now both shows have begun to deliver on their promises recently. Austin’s relatively long TV match may have been a way for Austin and the WWF to show skeptics that Austin can wrestle a full-fledged singles match. He took some heavy flat-back bumps and, outside of seeming more easily winded than before his injury, didn’t show any overt signs of being cautious in his style. With diminished expectations within the industry due to Michaels and Austin having injury problems, both wrestlers are determined to surprise people with the quality of their match.
The last angle for Wrestlemania will take place at a public workout in Boston, Mass. on Thursday. Footage from the workout will air on the WWF’s weekend programs.
No major surprises are expected to take place at the pay-per-view, although most of the intrigue is how Tyson’s angle will play out. Will Tyson turn on Michaels and cost him the title? Will Austin win the belt and then confront Tyson after the match, thus setting up a future battle between those two? Or will Tyson just play a bit part and then disappear, much like Dennis Rodman did last year when he joined the NWO, but then disappeared from the storyline as soon as his match was over.
WCW combated the Austin interview that opened Raw with Sting pinning Dallas Page in a WCW Title match. WCW put Hulk Hogan & Kevin Nash vs. The Giant in a two-on-one match up against the DX/Tyson interview that opened the second hour of Raw. And WCW put Roddy Piper vs. Randy Savage up against Raw’s TV main event of Austin vs. Rocky. Nevertheless, with wrestling in a boom period and the name value of Tyson, industry predictions are that Wrestlemania may reach a buyrate that would rival the Starrcade buyrate in the 1.9 percent rage.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS 20 YEARS AGO FLASHBACK: 20 YRS AGO: Keller sounds alarm on growing prescription pill addiction in pro wrestling the week of Louie Spicolli’s death