WCW Monday Nitro
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|WCW Monday Nitro|
|Starring||See World Championship Wrestling alumni|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||288|
|Production location||Various locations in North America|
|Camera setup||Multi-camera setup|
|Original release||September 4, 1995 –|
March 26, 2001
|Related shows||WCW Thunder|
WCW Monday Nitro, also known as WCW Nitro or simply Nitro, is a professional wrestling television program that was produced by World Championship Wrestling and broadcast weekly every Monday night on TNT from September 4, 1995 to March 26, 2001. For its entirety, the program went head-to-head with the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF, now WWE) Monday Night Raw.
Created by Eric Bischoff and Ted Turner, the debut of Nitro began the Monday Night Wars, a television ratings battle between the WWF and WCW that saw each company resort to cutthroat tactics. Although comparable to Raw in popularity from the beginning, Nitro began to dominate its rival in television ratings, based largely on the strength of the New World Order (nWo), a rebellious group of wrestlers that wanted to take over WCW. Beginning in June 1996, Nitro beat Raw in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks, forcing WWF owner Vince McMahon to usher in the more adult-oriented "Attitude Era".
As the nWo storyline grew stale and boring, fan interest went down and Raw began to close the ratings gap. In April 1998, a few weeks after Stone Cold Steve Austin won his first WWF Championship, Raw beat Nitro in the ratings for the first time in almost two years. The shows would continue to trade ratings wins back and forth until November 1998 when Raw pulled ahead of Nitro for good.
Besides broadcasting from various arenas and locations across the United States and Canada such as Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota from which the very first episode was broadcast, Nitro also organized special broadcasts from the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando in 1996, aired annual Spring Break-Out episodes from Panama City Beach, Florida or South Padre Island, Texas starting in March 1997, and filmed some episodes in Australia and the United Kingdom during the fall of 2000. On March 23, 2001, Vince McMahon bought WCW including its show Nitro, thus winning and ending the Monday Night Wars.
The first episode of Nitro was broadcast from the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 4, 1995. The featured matches on the one-hour broadcast were Brian Pillman versus Jushin Thunder Liger, Ric Flair versus WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Sting, and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan taking on Big Bubba Rogers. The show was also highlighted by the return of Lex Luger to WCW after having spent the previous two plus years wrestling for the WWF, where he had been one of the promotion's top stars. Luger's appearance was particularly jarring because he had just wrestled a match for the WWF the previous evening; the match was his final contractual obligation with the company, and Luger signed with WCW the morning of his appearance. The event set the tone for Nitro's "anything can happen" atmosphere, and prefigured the similar defections of WWF wrestlers Scott Hall and Kevin Nash the following year.
The title video for the debut episode of Nitro featured multiple shots of Big Van Vader (one of four wrestlers featured, along with Hulk Hogan, Sting and Randy Savage), who parted ways with WCW following a backstage altercation with Paul Orndorff. Absent from the first episode, he had been scheduled to face Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on the September 11 edition, but was replaced by Lex Luger, who issued a challenge to Hogan on the debut show. Vader would never perform on Nitro, and embarked on a WWF career in January 1996.
Monday Night Wars
The advent of Monday Nitro brought with it an intense rivalry between that show and the WWF's Monday Night Raw program. This rivalry is known to wrestling fans as the "Monday Night Wars". Throughout the Monday Night Wars between Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, Nitro was gaining on its WWF counterpart popularity-wise. Soon Nitro would surpass Raw in the TV ratings. Nitro beat Raw in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks until Raw finally regained ground in the ratings war. At its peak, the rivalry resulted in performers on either show trading verbal insults and challenges. At one point, Eric Bischoff challenged Vince McMahon to face him in a match to be held at Slamboree 1998. McMahon never formally recognized the challenge and did not appear.
Initially, Nitro became popular as result of WCW's extensive roster of stars. Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were some of the major stars signed with WCW and appearing on the Nitro program at this time. WCW's lineup of cruiserweights – smaller wrestlers known for their crowd-pleasing high-flying wrestling maneuvers – provided a strong set of setup matches for their main events. With the introduction of the New World Order, Nitro started its unprecedented run of ratings domination. With former WWF wrestlers Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hogan (who was now calling himself Hollywood Hogan) as rebellious heels, the company seemed to have a winning story and a great future. Since Nitro was live and Raw was often taped, Nitro was seen as far less predictable and thus more entertaining than its WWF counterpart. Initially only sixty minutes in length (as was Raw at the time), Nitro was expanded to two hours following the 1996 NBA Playoffs while Raw waited until February 1997 to expand to a second hour. Nitro remained a two-hour program from May 27, 1996 until January 1998, when WCW and TNT agreed to a third hour for the still-#1 wrestling program in the country.
Eric Bischoff soon became the voice of Nitro and began to air Nitro a couple of minutes before Raw so he could give away the results of the WWF program so fans had no reason to switch over to the competition provided that week's Raw was taped.
Raw gains ground
While Raw was taking a new approach to programming with its "WWF Attitude Era", Nitro would start producing lackluster shows with the same storylines. Hogan and the rest of the nWo almost never lost and the once elite group was now bloated in size and recruiting midcard wrestlers. According to WWE, the only wrestlers elevated to main-event status at this time were Booker T, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page. Goldberg's main event match with Hogan on the July 6, 1998 episode of Nitro from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta won the ratings battle from the WWF for the week, but some observers (including Vince McMahon) felt that WCW could have made millions if they saved the Goldberg/Hogan match for an eventual pay-per-view event. Despite Goldberg's title win and Page's rapid ascent into the main event picture, they remained neutral, whilst the nWo, which by this point had split into two warring factions, would be a major focus of a lot of attention and see long time nemeses of the group Lex Luger and Sting join the hugely popular nWo Wolfpac.
Meanwhile, on Raw, fans were immersed in the feud between WWF owner Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Talent such as Triple H and his D-Generation X faction, and later Mankind and The Rock were elevated to main event status on WWF's program. Things got so heated between the two programs that DX was sent to Atlanta, Georgia to film a segment near Turner's headquarters for a "war" storyline that was done when both shows were in nearby areas on the same night (Raw in Hampton, Virginia and Nitro in nearby Norfolk), sending DX to the Norfolk Scope arena which Nitro was broadcasting from and interacting with WCW fans. This eventually led to a lawsuit filed by WCW against the WWF, who had claimed that in order to fill the Norfolk Scope for Nitro, WCW had given away free tickets on the day of the program to help fill the arena for the show.
With Raw starting to beat Nitro in the ratings on a consistent basis, Bischoff and WCW officials attempted to use a series of "quick fixes" to regain ground in the ratings war. All these attempts would win them short-term ratings victories, but the WWF continued its steady climb to ratings dominance. In some people's opinion, Nitro's inability to create new stars was its ultimate undoing, while the WWF had invested in younger talent like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley, The Rock, Triple H, the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian and Kurt Angle. WCW continued to rely on established stars like Hollywood Hogan, Ric Flair, Sting, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and The Outsiders to support ratings, causing much unease among the younger and less well known members of the roster. This was illustrated most clearly in 1999, when former WCW mid-carder Chris Jericho signed with the WWF and immediately started a feud with The Rock, when months earlier he had been told he was too small to sell tickets in WCW.
Bischoff's "tried and true" tactic of giving away the results from taped WWF shows backfired on January 4, 1999. Mick Foley, who had wrestled for WCW during the early 1990s as Cactus Jack, won the WWF Championship as Mankind on Raw. Nitro announcer Tony Schiavone sarcastically mentioned "that's gonna put some butts in the seats." The comment, however, resulted in Nitro losing the ratings battle that night. Nielsen ratings showed that several hundred thousand viewers switched channels from Nitro on TNT to Raw on the USA Network to see the title change. After Mankind won the title, many fans then switched back to Nitro, which still had five minutes of air time left. The final ratings for the night were 5.7 for Raw and 5.0 for Nitro. The next week, and for months after, many fans in the Raw audience brought signs which read, "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat!". To make matters worse for WCW, a convoluted storyline was played out over the course of the evening that eventually resulted in Hollywood Hogan returning, winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and reforming the nWo.
Former WWF writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara were also hired to fix the company. They attempted to make Nitro more like Raw with edgier storylines, lengthier non-wrestling segments and an increased amount of sexuality on the show. Nitro's third hour was jettisoned in January 2000; the program returned to an 8-10 PM timeslot, with the first hour running unopposed and the second hour competing with the first hour of Raw. Although Russo's change made Nitro more of a streamlined program (WCW had been criticized for not featuring much wrestling in the first third of Nitro since its expansion), the loss of an entire hour of advertising revenue offset whatever benefits the change may have produced.
Bischoff would be brought back to WCW and attempted to team with Russo to fix the ills of Nitro and WCW. Part of this involved Nitro being taken off the air to reboot the program, but all this was to no avail. The once highly rated Nitro became deprived of wrestlers, with its most capable young stars signing with the WWF and its current roster of talent being constantly misused. To top it all off, Bischoff and Russo did not work well together at all, with the two constantly at each other's throats over differences in booking philosophy. Nitro's ratings were continuing to lose ground to Raw's and Bischoff eventually left the company in July 2000 after an incident involving Hogan and Russo. Bischoff's departure left Russo in control of everything production-related in WCW. That month, Vince Russo suffered a severe concussion after being speared through a cage by Goldberg. He left WCW on extended leave to recover, but ultimately never returned. The ratings momentum was not maintained after this and Raw once again began to distance itself from Nitro. At that point, it only seemed like a matter of time before Time Warner would give up on WCW, and 2001 saw the company begin searching for a buyer.
|WCW Monday Nitro||September 4, 1995||Minneapolis, Minnesota||2.5||First episode of Nitro. See above for more information.|
|Tuesday Nitro||July 22, 1997||Jacksonville, Florida||4.1|
|nWo Monday Nitro||December 22, 1997||Macon, Georgia||3.5||The nWo take over the last 2 hours of Nitro.|
|Spring Break||March 16, 1998||Panama City Beach, Florida||5.6|
|WCW Monday Nitro||August 31, 1998||Miami, Florida||6.0||Nitro reaches its highest rated episode. The Wolfpac's Lex Luger and Sting battled nWo Hollywood's Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart in the main event.|
|"Fingerpoke of Doom"||January 4, 1999||Atlanta, Georgia||5.0||Goldberg was arrested before his title match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Later, Tony Schiavone, on orders from Eric Bischoff, gave away Mankind's pre-taped WWF title victory on Raw, which resulted in over 600,000 viewers switching to Raw.|
|New Year's Evil||December 27, 1999||Houston, Texas||2.8||Special New Year's edition of Nitro. The name was later revived in 2021 for a special episode of WWE NXT.|
|WCW Monday Nitro||April 3, 2000||N/A||1.8||Before the official "reboot", the most memorable moments of Nitro are revisited.|
|WCW Monday Nitro||April 10, 2000||Denver, Colorado||3.1||WCW is "rebooted" by Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo and all WCW titles are vacated.|
|WarGames 2000||September 4, 2000||Dallas, Texas||3.6||On the fifth anniversary of the premiere, a WarGames match took place in a three-tiered cage between two teams for the world championship. Kevin Nash retained the title.|
|The Night of Champions||March 26, 2001||Panama City Beach, Florida||3.0||Final episode of Nitro. WCW is purchased by the WWF. See below for more information.|
The Night of Champions – Final broadcast
In an attempt to save WCW and Nitro, Bischoff attempted to purchase the company with a group of investors. However, although Bischoff's offer had been accepted, recently appointed Turner Broadcasting executive Jamie Kellner announced shortly after his arrival that Nitro and all WCW programming was immediately canceled on both TNT and TBS. Bischoff's group then withdrew their deal, as it was contingent on keeping WCW programming on some outlet. Instead, WCW's trademarks and certain assets (such as its video library and the contracts of 24 wrestlers), though not the company itself (which existed as a Time Warner-owned legal entity under the name Universal Wrestling Corporation until late 2017), were bought by Vince McMahon's WWF (now WWE), its long-time competitor.
Around the time of the cancellation, WCW was preparing to make its yearly trip to Panama City, Florida for spring break. Since the premiere of Nitro, WCW had gone to Club La Vela or South Padre Island every March to try to gain favor with adolescent and young adult viewers who might not otherwise be tuning into the program. It was announced that the upcoming March 26, 2001 episode of Nitro from Panama City (which was actually held at the nearby Boardwalk Beach Resort) was to be the finale and the show was dubbed "The Night of Champions." The show began with McMahon appearing via satellite from Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, the site of that Monday's RAW is WAR broadcast on TNN. McMahon announced his purchase of WCW to the crowd and appeared in vignettes throughout the show, including one where he terminated WCW's Jeff Jarrett on air due to bad blood the two had in the past.
The show was unique in that all five of WCW's major championships (excluding the WCW Hardcore Championship) were defended that night and in six of the seven matches contested on the show, the faces won. (Traditionally WCW was seen as the promotion where heels were often the top stars as opposed to the WWF, where faces were often the top stars. Shawn Stasiak was the only heel to emerge victorious on the final episode of Nitro.) In addition, various WCW wrestlers were interviewed giving their honest, out-of-character responses to the selling of WCW. The co-main event of the evening was WCW World Heavyweight Champion Scott Steiner taking on WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Booker T in a match with both belts on the line; Booker defeated Steiner for his fourth WCW World Championship while retaining the U.S. Championship.
Just as it had been on the initial Nitro, the final match of the final Nitro and the final match in WCW as a whole was between long-time WCW rivals Ric Flair and Sting, a match that was more informal than their usual encounters (Sting and Flair were seen smiling and nodding respectfully towards each other throughout the match). Sting won using his finishing move, the Scorpion Deathlock. After the match, the two competitors stood in the middle of the ring and embraced to show respect for one another.
In a closing segment, simulcast between both Nitro and Raw, Vince addressed the audience in Cleveland and gloated about the purchase, stating that he wanted Turner to personally deliver the sale contract to him so he could sign it at WrestleMania X-Seven that weekend. However, the speech was interrupted by Vince's son Shane McMahon, who announced (in kayfabe) from Nitro that he had already signed the sale contract himself, and that the WCW would continue to compete against the WWF. The twist came as part of the set up of their match at WrestleMania X-Seven, and of what would later become WWF's "Invasion" storyline.
In addition to the tape library and other intellectual properties, WWF also purchased several contracts of WCW talent, keeping many of the younger stars. Four of WCW's championships found their way into the WWF; in addition to Booker T carrying both the WCW Championship (as it was renamed) and United States Championship with him into the WWF, McMahon also signed then-WCW Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms and then-WCW Tag Team Champions Chuck Palumbo and Sean O'Haire to contracts. Palumbo and O'Haire would defeat Team Canada (Mike Awesome and Lance Storm) on the final episode of Nitro. (The WWF scrapped the WCW Hardcore Championship, as it was officially retired immediately following the final Nitro despite no one holding it since Meng departed for the WWF in early 2001, and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship for undisclosed reasons; Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio were the last champions and McMahon was only able to sign Kidman to a contract at the time.)
"The Night of Champions" was the penultimate WCW broadcast, prior to the final Worldwide on March 31, 2001. WCW Monday Nitro is the last professional wrestling program to air on TNT until the first episode of AEW Dynamite on October 2, 2019.
|1||Booker T (U.S. Champion) defeated Scott Steiner (WCW Champion) (with Midajah)||Winner takes all singles match for the WCW World and United States Heavyweight Championships||5:08|
|2||The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Billy Kidman) defeated 3 Count (Evan Karagias and Shannon Moore) and The Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi and Yun Yang)||Triple threat tag team match to determine the number-one contender to the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship||3:37|
|3||Shane Helms (c) defeated Chavo Guerrero, Jr.||Singles match for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship||4:38|
|4||The Natural Born Thrillers (Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo) (c) defeated Team Canada (Mike Awesome and Lance Storm)||Tag team match for the WCW World Tag Team Championship||3:20|
|5||Shawn Stasiak (with Stacy Keibler) defeated Bam Bam Bigelow||Singles match||1:24|
|6||The Filthy Animals (Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Billy Kidman) defeated Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo (c)||Tag team match for the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship||4:43|
|7||Sting defeated Ric Flair by submission||Singles match||7:19|
Other notable moments
When then-WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blayze signed with WCW in 1995 (going back to her old name of "Madusa"), she brought the WWF Women's title belt with her and threw it in a trash can on the December 18, 1995 episode of Nitro (the third week that Nitro started before the top of the hour), and the title itself would become inactive for the next three years. Many cite this incident as one of the causes of the infamous Montreal Screwjob. This infamous event would be parodied by WCW on a 2000 episode of Nitro, when Scott Hall threw the WCW World Television Championship in the trash and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan found and claimed the belt weeks later on an episode of Saturday Night.
The only wrestler to appear on both Nitro and Raw on the same night was Rick Rude. Rude was able to appear on both shows because he was not under contract with the WWF at the time, appearing on a handshake deal with McMahon on Raw – which was still pre-recorded at the time while Nitro was broadcast live.
The January 13, 1997 episode of Nitro ended with the first two minutes of the Hollywood Hogan vs. The Giant main event. Before the show went off the air, commentator Tony Schiavone announced the match was to continue during the commercial breaks of The New Adventures of Robin Hood, which premiered that night after Nitro. This resulted in the premiere episode of Robin Hood receiving high ratings due to WCW fans being lured in to watch the show for the Hogan/Giant match.
On the May 24, 1999 broadcast Bret Hart eulogizes his brother Owen who was killed in an in-ring accident at the WWF pay-per-view event Over the Edge the night before.
Throughout the late summer and early fall of 1999, in an attempt to boost the show's declining ratings, WCW organized a competition to find a new member of the Nitro Girls. Over the course of eight weeks, 300 women took part in the competition; two women who successfully passed the regional auditions were subject to Internet voting by home viewers. Eight women were selected to participate in the final round of the competition, which was held on the November 8, 1999 episode of Nitro. Stacy Keibler was declared the winner of the competition after receiving the most internet votes among the eight finalists, and received a spot on the dance troupe along with a cash prize of $10,000.
WWE home media and streaming
Since buying the WCW video library, WWE Home Video has included many Nitro matches and segments on some of their Superstar biography DVD sets. Episodes were also streamed on WWE Classics on Demand, as part of The Monday Night Wars feature.
While the service did show episodes of Nitro, they are often edited. Some WCW entrance theme music tracks are replaced with stock WWE music. A lot of the crowd noise is also removed on most episodes and pay-per-views. Beginning in July 2007, WWE Classics on Demand began deleting content from episodes of Nitro, as matches and some references to Chris Benoit are removed. Benoit is sometimes shown in segments where he is not the main issue of the segment. This was in light of the controversy surrounding the deaths of Benoit and his family on June 24 of that year.
In April 2009, WWE Classics went back to the first episodes that aired in September 1995. These shows alternate with the current Nitro airings (December 1997 and onwards).
A 3-disc DVD entitled The Very Best of WCW Monday Nitro was produced and released by WWE on June 7, 2011. The set is narrated by former three time WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page and highlights some of the biggest matches and moments in the history of WCW Monday Nitro. The sequel, The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Vol. 2 was released on DVD and Blu-ray February 12, 2013. Followed by the final set titled, The Very best of WCW Monday Nitro Vol. 3, which was released on August 11, 2015.
|Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Steve McMichael||September 4, 1995 – May 13, 1996|
|Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko*||May 27, 1996 – July 29, 1996 (1st hour)|
August 5, 1996 – April 21, 1997 (1st hour)
|Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Larry Zbyszko||April 28, 1997 – May 19, 1997 (1st hour)|
|Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan*||May 20, 1996 – June 10, 1996 (1st hour/2nd hour)|
July 1, 1996 – July 22, 1996 (2nd hour)
August 5, 1996 – August 26, 1996 (2nd hour)
|Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko and Eric Bischoff||July 29, 1996 (2nd hour)|
|Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay*||September 2, 1996 – October 28, 1996 (2nd hour)|
November 11, 1996 – November 18, 1996 (2nd hour)
|Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Larry Zbyszko*||May 26, 1997 – July 28, 1997 (1st hour)|
August 11, 1997 – March 29, 1999 (1st hour/1st-2nd hour)
|Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay**||November 4, 1996 (2nd hour)|
November 25, 1996 – March 29, 1999 (2nd hour/3rd hour)
August 4, 1997 (2nd hour-3rd hour)
December 20, 1999 – January 24, 2000 (1st/2nd hour-3rd hour)
|Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan||June 17, 1996 – June 24, 1996 (2nd hour)|
April 5, 1999 – July 12, 1999
August 9, 1999 – December 13, 1999
|Scott Hudson and Bobby Heenan||July 19, 1999 – August 2, 1999|
|Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Mark Madden||January 31, 2000|
|Tony Schiavone and Mark Madden||February 7, 2000 – March 27, 2000 |
August 28, 2000
|Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Mark Madden||April 10, 2000 – July 10, 2000|
July 24, 2000 – August 21, 2000
September 18, 2000 – October 2, 2000
October 30, 2000 – November 6, 2000
November 20, 2000 – December 4, 2000
December 18, 2000
|Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden and Stevie Ray||July 18, 2000 |
October 9, 2000 – October 23, 2000
|Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden and Jeremy Borash||September 4, 2000 – September 11, 2000|
|Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Stevie Ray||November 13, 2000|
|Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Stevie Ray||December 12, 2000|
|Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Disqo||January 8, 2001|
|Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson||January 15, 2001 – March 26, 2001|
(*) – Starting with the May 27, 1996 episode of Nitro, which came after a week off due to the NBA Playoffs on TNT, Nitro started using two broadcast teams for the show. Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko would call the first hour of Nitro from ringside, and Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan would take over from their booth near the set at the top of the second hour. Starting in September 1996, Mike Tenay became a color commentator for both hours of Nitro, calling the first hour with Schiavone and Zbyszko and the second hour with Bischoff and Heenan. Usually Tenay would call the first hour from the broadcast booth separate from Schiavone and Zbyzsko's table at ringside, while he called the second hour with Bischoff and Heenan in the booth.
(**) – After Eric Bischoff joined the nWo and took on a more prominent on-screen authority figure role, Schiavone replaced Bischoff in the second hour of Nitro, thus making him the lone play-by-play commentator for the show. Unlike Tenay, Schiavone called the first hour from ringside and would call the second hour in the booth alongside Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay. Schiavone did that until the broadcast table at ringside was done away with on the December 9, 1996 edition of Nitro. WCW, though, would eventually move the announcers back to ringside when the new Nitro set was debuted on April 5, 1999.
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- Michael Buffer (select main events only, May 12, 1997 – March 26, 2001)
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