In September 1995, Lex Luger set the tone for the Monday Night Wars by wrestling for the WWF on Sunday night in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before appearing on the debut episode of WCW Monday Nitro, unbeknownst to Vince McMahon and most of the wrestling world. At the time, both RAW and Nitro garnered ratings around the 2.5-range.
From there, the tactics became very warlike as Nitro started its show prior to RAW's start time to announce the results of the WWF's prerecorded shows. "The more they complained, the more I did it. Like 'okay, that's working'," said Bischoff. Additionally, Medusa (aka Alundra Blayze in WWE) joined WCW in December 1995 while still holding the WWF Women's championship, which she deposited into a garbage can on a live episode of Nitro.
In January 1996, the WWF debuted a series of amusing "Wrasslin' Warroom" skits which portrayed Ted Turner, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Mean Gene Okerlund in a negative light to put over the New Generation of the WWF, including Diesel, Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Undertaker. Unfortunately, both Diesel and Razor gave their notice to the WWF within a couple months to join WCW. They came into WCW to create the New World Order, which set the stage for WCW's most successful angle when Kevin Nash & Scott Hall became The Outsiders looking to do a hostile takeover of WCW. Around this time, the ratings for WCW increased significantly.
WCW beat the WWF in the Monday Night Wars for more than 84 weeks, starting on June 17, 1996 largely, thanks to the nWo angle (weekly winners were determined solely by the higher Nielsen TV broadcast rating). Eric Bischoff's stated goal was to put the WWF out of business, which almost became a reality as the WWF was forced to scale back its expenses, starting inside the office and then stretching towards the talent. WCW Monday Nitro then expended into two hours per week in May of 1996 and three hours a week in January 1998.
In November 4, 1996 episode of Monday Night RAW, the WWF aired an infamous angle called "Pillman's got a gun" which featured Stone Cold Steve Austin stalking Brian Pillman's house in Newport, Kentucky. In a series of vignettes broadcast from Pillman's real-life home in Newport, Kentucky, Pillman – supposedly debilitated following an attack by Austin – vowed to protect himself and his wife with the help of a group of friends should Austin appear. At the end of the evening, the final vignette depicted Austin breaking into Pillman's home, prompting Pillman to pull a 9mm Glock on Austin, and the feed being "interrupted" in the ensuing chaos, with Vince McMahon (serving as a commentator) stating that he had been informed of "a couple explosions." When the feed resumed, Austin was shown being dragged out of Pillman's house as Pillman screamed, "That son of a bitch has got this coming! Let him go! I'm going to kill that son of a bitch! Get out of the fucking way!" None of the profanity was censored.
The angle polarized fans and shocked the USA Network, which was not accustomed to airing a program with the profanity and level of violence presented in the vignettes. Although the WWF (and Pillman himself) were forced to issue apologies to avoid Raw being canceled for breach of contract, the ensuing discussion of the incident in the fan community generated the most attention the WWF had received since the beginning of the Monday Night Wars. This prompted the WWF creative team to begin looking into the idea of more adult-oriented storylines and characters and mimicking WCW's metafiction elements.
The WWF expanded Monday Night RAW from one hour to two hours per week in February 3, 1997, and on March 10, 1997, due to it's competition with WCW in the TV ratings, Monday Night RAW was renamed RAW IS WAR. Throughtout 1997, controversial elements began to arose in WWF's programming. Storyline elements included racist graffiti targeted at the Nation of Domination (a stable loosely based on the Nation of Islam) and emphasizing the sexuality of valets Sunny, Sable, and Marlena. These women began appearing on-camera in increasingly revealing clothing and in swimsuit and lingerie-oriented spreads in WWF's Raw magazine, a lad mag designed as an alternative to the family-friendly WWF Magazine and a competitor to the likewise family-friendly WCW Magazine. Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna then formed D-Generation X (DX), a rule-breaking, frat boythemed stable of wrestlers who laced their vignettes with sexual innuendo and lewd gestures.
While fortunes in WCW continued to rise, the opposite was true up north in the WWF. The two biggest stars (Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart) could not get along well enough for everyone to concentrate in putting forth the best angle for them. This disharmony turned the corner for the WWF as Shawn Michaels began to behave increasingly more poorly on-screen, i.e. pushing the envelop, without the WWF's consent.
Fearing of being put out of business by already-leading WCW and due to it's financial turmoils that the WWF was facing, McMahon along with WWF writer Vince Russo then launched the "Crash TV" style of broadcasting that would eventually returned the WWF into pronimence that would put WCW out for good. Sensing a public shift towards a more hardened and cynical fan base, McMahon redirected storylines towards a more adult-oriented model. The concept became known as "WWF Attitude", and McMahon personally commenced the new era when he manipulated the WWF Championship away from Bret Hart at Survivor Series in what is now known as the "Montreal Screwjob." The family-friendly and clear cut good guys vs bad guys concept was replaced with disaffected anti-heros based on reality-based product and family-friendly storylines were replaced with stories based by shock values, similar to the "Trash TV" popularized in the 1990s. The era then started when Stone Cold Steve Austin won the WWF Championship from Shawn Micheals at Wrestlemania 14. Michaels was forced to drop the belt to Austin that night in order get a back surgery he received during a Casket Match with the Undertaker at Royal Rumble 1998. Although an injury would cause Michaels to take a four-year hiatus from wrestling, the stable soared in popularity under the leadership of Triple H, who added the New Age Outlaws and Sean Waltman to the group's ranks. Waltman had recently left the WCW after wrestling there for several years as Syxx, and his return to the WWF (after having wrestled there in the early 90s as "The 1-2-3 Kid") signaled that the WCW's allure had begun to fade. Now thanks to Austin's title won, the only available angle for the WWF to pursue was Stone Cold versus Vince McMahon, which began in April 1998 with a scheduled match between the two that was disrupted by Dude Love. That night, RAW IS WAR beat Nitro in the ratings for the first time in 20 months. The competition between WCW and the WWF picked up, and for the next several months, the ratings shifted between each program (although the general consensus favored the WWF as a whole).
The harder WCW tried to catch up with the WWF, the further behind they fell. In what was could have been a coup de grace in the Monday Night Wars, WCW worked a deal with NBC to air Sunday night broadcasts once a month on prime time television to coincide with the WWF's pay-per-view schedule. In preparation, WCW took its World title off the extremely popular Goldberg and put it back on Hulk Hogan with the reunited NWO. However, the deal with NBC fell through and WCW was at a loss creatively on how to work its storylines to put Goldberg back on top.
While RAW IS WAR was taking it's approach with it's newer creative, hip, and edgy "WWF Attitude" concept, Nitro started to produce a lackluster programming with the same storylines all over again. Almost all of nWo were entirely filled with mostly mid-carder and jobbers and older wrestlers like Hogan and Nash never lost in the main events. Meanwhile, WCW younger stars was constantly buried from the main events talents due to Hogan and Nash refusing to to pass the torch to other talents. This cause WCW wrestlers like Big Show, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko to jumpship to the WWF where they stated in both programming that they were unhappy with the backstage politics in WCW and happy wnth it's structural running in the WWF. In addition, Bischoff was ordered by it's parent company Time Warner to alter it's mature content in WCW into it's more family-friendly format. Bischoff then was forced to maintain them in order to keep WCW going.
In January 4, 1999, it was the night that changed the Monday Night Wars forever. On WCW Monday Nitro on Live, Bischoff learned the WWF RAW IS WAR taped results(This RAW was taped 12/29/98 for six days advance programming on that very same date that Nitro was airing since the WWF pravtice was to have RAW live then taped the next day) that Mick Foley won the WWF Championship from The Rock. Feeling that it would prevent viewers from changing into another competition, Bischoff then ordered WCW announcer Tony Schiavone revealed that WWF RAW IS WAR taped results to their viewers that Mick Foley won the WWF Championship that night and then added, "That's going to put some butts in the seats, heh!". Almost immediately after Schiavone make those remarks, Nielson ratings showed that over 600,000 viewers switched from WCW Monday Nitro on TNT to WWF RAW IS WAR on USA Network to see Foley's title change. After Foley won the title and RAW IS WAR goes off the air at 11:00 pm, many switched back to it's hype up main event WCW was putting out (since Nitro ran more minutes longer).
At that night, this Nitro's main event was originally scheduled to be Goldberg vs. Kevin Nash for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and was going to be their anticipated rematch from Starrcade 1998. Goldberg was arrested (kayfabe) mid-show, however, and accused of "aggravated stalking" by Miss Elizabeth. He was released when Elizabeth couldn't keep her story straight. Meanwhile, Hollywood Hogan returned to WCW after a hiatus and challenged Nash to a match, which Nash accepted. This led to the infamous "Fingerpoke of Doom" which saw Hogan merely poking Nash in the chest with his finger, causing Nash to lie down for Hogan to win the belt. It led to another heel turn for Hogan and the reformation of the nWo. The credibility of the company, which did not present the match that had been advertised, was damaged severely (a Goldberg vs. Nash rematch from Starrcade 1998), as well as what was perceived to be an underhanded way of selling out the arena for that night's telecast. Despite the incident, WCW would continue this bait and switch tactic of booking until their demise in 2001. This "match" may very well have started the permanent ratings slide that was to follow for WCW, as Nitro only got a 5.0 rating twice afterwards; its 5.8 rating on February 8 (on a night when Raw was pre-empted by the Westminster Dog Show) was the last time it would get such a number. By this point largely due to the "Fingerpoke of Doom", the WWF fanbase had grown so strong enough that WCW was a solid second-place. While WCW made were numerous attempts to rejuvenate Nitro including hiring Vince Russo as a head writer, the company was owned by a corporate conglomerate in which WCW was a very low priority (and an eyesore according to many executives).
Finally, Jamie Kellner, the new Chief Executive Officer of Turner Broadcasting Systems, pulled all WCW broadcasts from the weekly schedules on both TBS and TNT, effectively ending the Monday Night Wars on March 26, 2001, with the sale of WCW to the WWF. On the last broadcast of WCW Monday Nitro, dubbed "The Night of Champions," WWF executives oversaw the broadcast, featuring a special simulcast in which the same segment aired on both RAW and Nitro in which Shane McMahon purchased WCW from underneath his father's nose, leading to the WCW Invasion angle.
Between October 1997 and April 2000, Kay wrote "Morning After Reports," reviewing each broadcast. These reports were for the Muse Awakening Newletter, but they were also printed on The Sports Network in Canada, which aired WWF Monday Night Raw.