WCW Executive Vice-President Eric Bischoff was originally reluctant to produce another two-hour weekly television show for a variety of reasons. First, Time Warner (WCW's parent company) was under a hiring freeze which prevented Bischoff from bringing in additional production people to run the show. Second, he felt WCW did not have enough talent to produce another show and risked overexposing them and making storylines less significant. Third, according to Bischoff, TBS refused to pay the cost of producing Thunder which was between $12 million and $15 million per year.
Bischoff eventually decided that he could make the new show work and help pay for it by expanding revenue from increased house show business. Bischoff was also given permission to sign Bret Hart, specifically as a high-profile talent to perform on Thunder.
The first match to take place on Thunder featured former World Class Championship Wrestling star Chris Adams against Randy Savage. Adams pinned Savage after a chairshot from Lex Luger. The match decision was reversed by WCW Comissioner James J. Dillon.
In 2000, Thunder switched from Thursday evenings to Wednesday evenings on January 12, 2000. Since WWF SmackDown! debuted on UPN in the same timeslot as Thunder, The WWF had a major advantage as SmackDown! was available over broadcast signals and cable was not needed to view the program. Little was accomplished by the move to Wednesday nights. On October 9, 2000, WCW moved the Thunder tapings to Monday nights, the same night as Nitro. After the live Nitro broadcast ended, the Thunder taping would commence. This practice continued until March 19, 2001, when Thunder taped its last episode. It was said that the reasoning behind the tapings was that attendance at Thunder tapings had dropped considerably over the previous twenty-one months.
In an attempt to save WCW and Thunder, 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 Thunder and all WCW programming was immediately canceled on TBS. Bischoff's group then withdrew their deal, as it was contingent on keeping WCW programming on some outlet, and WCW's trademarks and certain assets (such as its video library and the contracts of 24 wrestlers), though not the company itself (which still exists as a Time Warner-owned legal entity under the name Universal Wrestling Corporation), were bought by Vince McMahon - the owner of the WWF, its long-time competitor.
Thunder utilized a primarily blue color scheme for its production graphics and ring designs, a design which was later emulated by SmackDown! and Impact Wrestling, as compared to the primarily red designs of the Monday Night shows, Raw and Nitro.