Monday Night War(s) is the common term describing the period of mainstream televised American professional wrestling from September 4, 1995, to March 26, 2001. During this time, the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF, now WWE) Monday Night Raw went head-to-head with World Championship Wrestling's (WCW) Monday Nitro in a battle for Nielsen ratings each week.
The ratings war was part of a larger overall struggle between the two companies, originating in personal animosity between WWF owner Vince McMahon and then-owner of the WCW, Ted Turner. The rivalry between the companies steadily escalated throughout the 1990s to include the use of cutthroat tactics and the defections of employees between the two companies. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), while not a party to the ratings battle, was also involved as a tertiary player: Throughout the wars, WWF and WCW would both adopt different concepts and narrative techniques innovated by ECW; meanwhile, both companies would establish both formal and informal partnerships with the company, with ECW performers either appearing on WWF and WCW shows while still under contract, or outright leaving ECW to work for one of the other two federations.
While WCW was the dominant federation for much of the early and mid-1990s, a variety of factors coalesced to turn the tide in the WWF's favor at the end of the decade, including a radical rebranding of their formerly family friendly product to highly sexualized and violent shows geared towards older teens and adults. WCW ultimately ran into financial difficulties as a result of the amount of money they had promised wreslters during a hiring binge in the early and middle part of the decade, which had been aimed at acquiring large portions of the WWF's talent roster. Despite efforts to salvage the federation, it was ultimately sold to Vince McMahon, ending the Monday Night Wars.
In retrospect, wrestling commentators have come to see the era of the Monday Night Wars as a golden age of wrestling, with the feud between the two companies bringing out their best quality product both in terms of creativity and the performances of their wrestlers. Many have come to regard the end of the wars—and, in particular, the subsequent WWE storyline regarding the acquisition of the WCW—as marking a severe decline in the quality of modern wrestling programming. Notably, as of 2016, no other company has ever emerged as a viable competitor to the WWE since the acquisition of the WCW, and the WWE itself has never again enjoyed the same level of mainstream success that it did during the Wars.
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