We’re barely two weeks into 2016, and like clockwork, I have already seen numerous reminders that all sorts of things from 1996 will be turning 20 years old this week.
It likely won’t come as a shock to regular readers (I did after all, devote an entire column to Clueless last summer) that ‘The Craft’ a movie about a high school coven of witches, is a favourite of mine. It will be turning 20 this year. As will the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes ‘Romeo+Juliet’, ‘Twister’ and ‘The Rock’.
However, it was another Rock that had me feeling especially nostalgic this week, when it dawned on me that 2016 will also mark the 20th anniversary of Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock debuting in WWF.
Endlessly hyped by the promotion, The Rock made his debut in the ring at Survivor Series 1996 as Rocky Maivia, a third generation superstar poised for greatness. There was one small problem however, most people thought he sucked.
Through much of his early run, fans would regularly voice their displeasure with his immediate rise to stardom. But, wrestling 20 years ago was a very different product, and was evolving seemingly by the week in the midst of what’s become known as ‘The Monday Night Wars’ WWF’s flagship show ‘Monday Night Raw’ would square off with the billionaire Ted Turner-backed WCW and their own ‘Monday Night Nitro’ for cable ratings supremacy.
It was a war WWF was losing badly 20 years ago, with former stars from the company bolting for more money with WCW.
With their backs against the wall against a sea of black and white nWo t-shirts, the WWF abandoned its cartoonish gimmicks and allowed its stable of wrestlers to turn their characters into exaggerated versions of their own personalities. This led to the meteoric rise of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, DeGeneration X with Shawn Michaels and Triple H and most importantly, turned Rocky Maivia into The Rock.
It was must-see TV at the time, with new twists and turns every week as the companies continually raided each other’s rosters, with competition bringing out the best in both companies for a brief period of time two decades ago. Eventually, a seemingly endless list of bad decisions made by WCW would lead to the company being bought by WWF to create a wrestling monopoly that’s remained mostly untouched since 2001.
With no real competition in the years since ‘The Monday Night Wars’ wrestling has suffered. WWF needed WCW to drive it to reach for new heights of creativity, and it was there willingness to take chances that allowed them to win against a corporate behemoth. In business, we might not always like competition, but it does make things better for everyone else involved.