One of the landmark episodes of Raw during the Monday Night Wars came in early 1999 when Mick Foley won the WWE Championship as Mankind. That title changed helped Raw get its highest rating in nearly a year and WWE would never look back as the gap in ratings between Raw and Nitro would continue to grow from there.
WWE was still taping some of its shows in advance at that point and that Raw aired on tape delay instead of being live. Bruce Prichard discussed why WWE had Foley winning the title on a taped Raw instead of on pay-per-view.
"I think it worked, first of all," Prichard said on Something to Wrestle. "We were looking at being as competitive as we could. We were in a war [with WCW Nitro], so everything that we did I would dare say that Vince McMahon looked at every single show and wanted to pull out all of the stops. This was an opportunity to do just that. Whether it was this week, next week or the week after, Vince McMahon looked at it as an opportunity to do everything we can every week and whatever we do this week we have to top it next week."
The Attitude Era was dominated by the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Degeneration-X, so Foley winning the World Title may have come as a surprise to many. Prichard admits that Vince McMahon also needed some convincing in order to put the title around Foley's waist.
"First of all, the [Mankind] mask thing was a combination of Jim Ross and myself to soften that pitch to Vince McMahon a little bit since he didn't like Mick Foley's face," revealed Prichard. "So, we thought, okay, we can cover up the face, that's easy to do, but the bell rang and you saw every single night Mankind was going out there and stealing the show no matter the opponent. Vince McMahon had seen how Mick worked with The Undertaker and how he worked with Shawn Michaels, and no matter what situation you put him in he would excel.
"So, it was, again, here was Mankind, and having that s**t about Dad with Steve Austin prior to this, the audience loved him and fell in love with him. They kind of felt that he is not the stereotypical guy, it was perfect. If you were to ask in a poll with everybody in the locker room who did you think was more deserving to have that championship, I think everybody in that locker room would say that Mick Foley was, and the audience felt the same way."
Shortly before Foley won the title, WCW announcer Tony Schiavone spoiled the title change on a live Nitro. That actually spurred many wrestling fans to flip from Nitro over to Raw to see Foley become champion and Prichard was asked if that was the beginning of the end for WCW.
"I believe it was," replied Prichard. "The end was coming anyway. It was all a downhill slope regardless at that time. They just weren't doing anything to get the momentum back any other way. When you look at all those decisions at the time, Eric Bischoff has to take it all. If he was the one who was making the decisions, and was the one who was making the final approval for whatever matches were going on, and if he was the one making the decision to have Tony Schiavone spoil the finish, it was a note sent by Eric Bischoff and it was said by Tony. If Tony had the leeway with how he was going to deliver it, then maybe it wasn't the best decision of how he delivered it."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.