The Monday Night Wars were a time where wrestling was at its peak. The rivalries were fresh, kayfabe and reality were blurred, and wrestlers pushed to be their absolute best. It was also a very competitive time. Fans will often remember the emphasis put on ratings by WCW and WWE during the time. After a couple of years of WCW having a stranglehold on the ratings, the WWE eventually took over and never looked back. It was also during this time that because of the level of expectations put on the talent, they were a bit on edge. That need to be the absolute best week in and week out, and to continue to entice viewers had to be a huge expectation. Between huge egos and huge time devoted to character development, a number of wrestlers didn’t always see eye to eye.
That lack of trust amongst talent also led to them not only failing to get along, but flat out challenge each other in one way, shape, or form. In these particular instances, some have taken place not only backstage, but during Christmas parties, at an airport baggage claim and in the locker room. What we find interesting is that while some sleeping dogs are left to lie, these particular ones are left to stew until the right time to exact revenge comes about. While in some instances cooler heads prevailed, that wasn’t always the case. Here are the 10 real backstage fights that happened during the Monday Night Wars.
10. Vince McMahon vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
It isn’t a new story, but it is among the most popular ones. It ends with the Montreal Screwjob back in 1997. As so many have seen, while Bret Hart was tied up in a Sharpshooter at the hands of Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon ordered for the bell to be rung. While instructions could have been sent through a headset, McMahon was right there calling for the ref to ring the bell. Hart told McMahon that if he was still around after Bret showered and dressed, he was going to get punched out. Hart proudly has shared the story about how he connected with McMahon’s jaw, knocking him out while breaking his own right hand in the process. Hart was cheated out, but he was the one able to leave with his head held high.
9. Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff
The issues between these have never been hidden. During a locker room meeting in WCW, Eric Bischoff reportedly stated that it was his goal for Ric Flair to go bankrupt. When the two crossed paths in WWE, Bischoff wasn’t management – he was a performer much like Flair, so the two were on a level playing field. Flair stated in his book that he had left Bischoff alone for far too long, and that he had to put Bischoff in his place. Flair asked Arn Anderson to watch the door to catering, then he approached Bischoff, telling him he needed to talk to him. Bischoff told him to wait as he was on the phone, but Flair wasn’t prepared to wait any longer. He slapped Bischoff, then mounted him and pressed his finger near Bischoff’s eye threatening to gouge it out. Eventually Sgt. Slaughter intervened and the altercation came to an end.
8. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Shawn Michaels
Life imitated art, and the very real rivalry between them came to a head a few months before the Montreal Screwjob in November 1997. The issue arose after a segment where Bret gave a promo and didn’t allow for Shawn to retort. Bret has stated that when he approached Shawn backstage, Michaels responded that he hadn’t spoken to him for weeks, so why did he want to do so now? This comment apparently led to an altercation where Bret ended up with a chunk of Shawn’s hair. It was reported that Shawn almost quit after the incident, stating that it was an unsafe workplace. Had this incident not happened, and the long standing hostility not existed, the Montreal Screwjob may have played put differently. The tension between these two went on for years after Bret left the promotion.
7. Arn Anderson vs. Disco Inferno
One of the least talked about incidents involved the enforcer Arn Anderson. Arn has always been known as a no-nonsense guy that leads by example, and expects to receive respect. The amusing part of this altercation is the person most affected by it wasn’t directly involved with it. While in WCW, during a flight, former wrestler Mike Enos was on a phone call. Anderson asked him to hang up, perhaps because Arn was not able to hear what the captain of the plane was saying, or perhaps he thought the phone interfered with communications. Regardless, Anderson just wanted him to adhere to the rules. However, Enos didn’t respect the request, so Anderson told Enos to hang up or face a beating. It was at this point that Disco Inferno jumped out his seat, held up four fingers and shouted for Anderson to handle him ‘horsemen style.’ Anderson slapped Inferno across the face, causing him to fall back and onto the ground.
6. William Regal vs. Van Hammer
One of the most notorious backstage stories didn’t take place in an arena. Diamond Dallas Page held a Christmas party that a number of wrestlers attended. Whether it was due to being inebriated or not, an incident took place involving former WCW talent Van Hammer. For those unfamiliar with Van Hammer, he had a heavy metal look that resembled a member of the rock band Twister Sister. During the event, he made a number of inappropriate comments about wrestlers of both Mexican and English descent. The comments rubbed one particular wrestler the wrong way and he responded. William Regal, being of proudly English descent, lashed out at Van Hammer and beat on him with repeated head butts. The incident, while being somewhat comical, shows that Regal was not going to allow someone to disrespect him or others in the sport.
5. Buff Bagwell vs. Ernest “The Cat” Miller
During his time in WCW, Buff Bagwell’s character onscreen crept into his persona behind the scenes. During the lead up to the WCW Road Wild pay per view, Bagwell did an in-ring parody of Ernest “The Cat” Miller. Keep in mind that wrestlers are usually given a heads up on things that will be said about them prior to it taking place, and are usually okay with it; they may even have input. In this instance that wasn‘t the case. Bagwell’s parody didn’t go over very well, and right before the live pay per view took place, Miller approached Bagwell. Bagwell responded by slapping him. Miller, who would not let anyone get the better of him, quickly responded with a couple of punches, and Bagwell fell back and cut himself. He then backed off before anything else could happen and the match went on as planned.
4. Bill Goldberg vs. Evan Karagias
One of the least talked about incidents that took place during the Monday Night Wars involved Bill Goldberg and Evan Karagias, prior to the September 5th 2000 edition of Monday Night Nitro. The story begins with Goldberg and Kevin Nash engaging in a conversation backstage when Evan Karagias approached. For those unfamiliar, Karagias was a member of the group 3 Count alongside Shane Helms and Shannon Moore. When Karagias approached Goldberg to shake his hand, Bill was apparently slow to acknowledge it. This offended Evan, who said something. In response, Goldberg became infuriated and grabbed Karagias by the throat, pinning him to the wall and choking him. Later, Goldberg attempted to apologize, but Evan wasn’t receptive, which further bothered Bill. This was during a time when Goldberg was facing heat with booker Vince Russo and had a difficult time keeping his emotions in check.
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Raven
One of the biggest names in wrestling was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. He was also very protective of those close to him. During one particular incident he was very protective of something involving his now ex-wife, Debra. They were both on-screen characters, but their characters rarely crossed paths. This made sense as it didn’t fit Austin’s character to have romantic ties on-screen. During one incident Austin had an altercation with former WWE superstar Raven. As the story has been told, Debra was going through a promo near the showers backstage, when Raven came out wearing only a towel. After word of this got back to Austin, Stone Cold confronted and grabbed him and began to yell at him, believing that Raven was attempting to harass his wife. Raven claimed that he had no idea Debra was there. Cooler heads prevailed as Austin later apologized.
2. The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Michaels’ personality was often questioned during his rise to prominence. One case proved that Michaels’ actions weren’t always full thought out, and had consequences. During this incident, Austin, Vince McMahon, The Undertaker and Michaels were all in a meeting with other WWE officials during the lead up to WrestleMania XIV, discussing what they would be doing moving forward. As the story goes, the idea was tossed out that Shawn would drop the title to Austin, and he rejected it. While this was taking place, The Undertaker was taping his fists up. Undertaker told Michaels that he better reconsider his decision by the time Taker was done taping his fists, or he would make him change him mind. Needless to say, Michaels dropped the title to Austin and the rest, as they say, is history. Clearly, The Undertaker’s presence alone was enough to persuade others to do what they were asked.
1. JBL vs. Steve Blackman
During his time as an active wrestler, JBL was considered one of the biggest jerks in the WWE. His altercation with former ECW and WWE wrestler The Blue Meanie has been well documented. However, that wasn’t the only time he did something uncalled for. Sometime around 1999 and 2000, WWE was in between shows and the performers were at a local airport waiting for their baggage. One of those wrestlers was former WWE superstar Steve Blackman. Apparently JBL called Blackman a number of different names, and Blackman was attempting to ignore him, but JBL pushed Blackman onto a moving luggage belt. When Blackman got up he appeared unfazed, but then he struck JBL in the face and body about a dozen times. He attempted to kick him, but his foot got stuck in his luggage bag. After the incident, JBL apologized, but it was unnecessary horseplay that upset a peer and could have had huge consequences.