I was 11. I’d been a wrestling fan for about 5 months at this time, but I was die-hard and completely obsessed. Every Monday night I’d be out in the living room, laying on the sofa, armed with my wrestling action figures & magazines. Well, this one particular Monday there was no Raw. It was probably the West Minstrel Dog Show, which was the bane of my existence for years, consistently pre-empting Raw. Well, this time around I get the wild idea to just flip around the channels, and hope against hope that wrestling would be on. Sure enough, a few channels later I came across the first episode of WCW Monday Nitro. Now, at the time I despised WCW. I thought they were massively inferior and couldn’t hold a candle to the best wrestling on the planet, WWE. It’s insane what ridiculously bad taste you have as a kid.
At this time, I thought wrestling was as real as real could get. The thought of contracts and what have you never entered my mind. So when I saw Luger show up on WCW Monday Nitro, I thought it was because The Bulldog had turned on him. See, back in WWE land, Luger & Bulldog were a tag-team. On the last episode of Raw the Bulldog had turned on Luger in favor of Camp Cornette. Well, I figured since his best friend had turned on him, he’d go hang out in WCW. This was also when I realized the coolest fucking thing about wrestling; when a guy jumps ship. There was nothing more exciting than that, and it was reason enough for me to tune into Nitro.
I could talk about my other favorite WCW Monday Nitro moments for days, but I’ll save’em for future articles. As for now, let’s head to the Mall of America with Mongo.
Announce Team: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
We open up in the Mall of America. Some people thought it was stupid, but I thought it was pretty smart. Right off the bat, it looks absolutely nothing like Raw.
Jushin Liger vs Brian Pillman
In reference to Jushin, Mongo says “I hope he didn’t bring his Ginzu knives! That’d be illegal!” and Bischoff responds seriously “That sure would be illegal!”. Yes, Eric, it would. They are not allowed to cut or stab each other here in the WCW. They’re kind of off to a rough start. Jushin attempts a moonsault, and lands a little low, as he eats Brian’s knee. Later, Pillman attempts a rana, wanting to send Liger to the left, but his body twists to the right, which had to hurt like hell in his neck. He soon attempts a surfboard on Pillman, and man, I always hated that submission. It’s beyond ridiculous because if you wanted to attempt that on some one in real life they’d have to be out cold for at least 3 hours so you could set it up properly. Soon after the match really ramps up, as Liger does his best to put Pillman down with everything from powerbombs to top-rope ranas. However, Brian refuses and answers back with mid-air drop kicks, and hurricane DDTs. It’s a damn fine opener, and a fantastic choice for WCW to immediately show a different product than what WWE was doing. I would have really liked to see this go longer. Good stuff.
Pillman gets the win after a roll-up on Liger at 7:02 | ***
During the match, after Pillman eats a top-rope rana, the announcers talk about how hard-hitting it was, and Bobby says “and that’s without pads or a helmet, McMichael!”, to which Mongo says “You’d know a lot about that, wouldn’t you, Bobby?”. What in the sweet land of milk and honey is that suppose to mean? Ah-ha! Take that, Brain! You know a lot about hard-hitting wrestling! Yeah! Stick that in your pipe and take it to the bank, Mr!
Ric Flair vs Sting [C] – US Title
Ric Flair & Sting fighting for the US title, and neither are lesser for it. See, Triple H, the belt doesn’t make the man, it’s the other way around. Oh snaps! It’s Sexy Flexy Lexy! He’s wearing a shirt that’s buttoned up to his eyes, it seems.
Sting & Flair get into it, with Stinger getting the first run of momentum with gorilla press slams and hip-tosses. Eventually Ric turns the tide with an eye poke, which is something you no longer see, and is a damn shame. Ric is able to keep the tide in his favor for a little while before Sting turns it back. Nature Boy gets flashes of momentum but Sting keeps crushing it, and it’s always with a gorilla press slam. Things really get going near the end, but since this is a condensed version of their longer matches, it gets cut short. Ric slaps Sting in the figure-4 and grabs the ropes, refusing to break, which draws the DQ.
DQ is drawn on Ric at 9:24 | ***
Arn gets in the ring afterward, at which point he and Ric go at it.
Afterward, Scott Norton shows up, saying he wants a match. Macho Man answers the call, but Bischoff isn’t having it.
We get a Sabu promo video. Man, who the HELL thought that would be a good idea? Whoever it was, I assume they were promoted quite a few times and paid very well.
Now we get a promo video for Michael Wallstreet. Wrestling was f’ning weird in the mid-90′s. I mean, this guy was a HUGE deal in WCW just a few years prior, as Mike Rutondo. Then, he went to WWE and became IRS. Hell, he even mentions that “the IRS is gonna be watching me”. So, now he’s in WCW, and he’s a DiBiase rip-off, who happened to be his tag partner. I mean, were they trying to make a statement here?
Hulk Hogan [C] vs Big Bubba – WCW Heavyweight Championship
Will Hogan go to Hot Topic after the match? Call Caliber’s hotline to find out.
Damned if I didn’t actually enjoy this one a little bit. It’s not a classic, but for a TV main event? Served it’s purpose just fine, and Boss Man is EASILY the best choice out of the Dungeon of Doom. These two always worked well together, and it’s a shame Boss Man didn’t get another run with Hogan in WCW. They trade punches, big boots & power moves until Bubba makes the fatal mistake of hitting Hogan with his finisher and going for the pin. Hogan then Hulks up, and finishes him off, Pastamania style.
Hogan pins Big Bubba with the leg drop at 7:02 | **
Afterwards, the Dungeon come down to put the hurt on Hogan. This is like the 78th time they’ve tried this, so it has to work. However, they weren’t counting on Lex Luger and the dress shirt he has practically buttoned up over his head. He helps Hogan clear house, and then they have words. Hogan wants to know what Lex is doing here. He says that he’s here to take the WCW title, and doesn’t care how long it takes. Hogan tells him he ain’t afraid. He says Luger doesn’t have to wait until next week, or next month, he’ll give him a title shot next week.
Overall: No joke, I thought this was a pretty great show. It flew by, the matches were entertaining, and except for the Hogan match, really offered up an alternative to WWE at the time. Add the Luger surprise, and this makes for one of the best efforts at a premier show. I think the WWE could learn from something like this, as sometimes less is more. When you’ve got a show that’s an hour long, there’s very little filler. But like hell they’ll ever go backwards. Either way, I think this is a show worth tracking down. Good stuff.
I’d like to start a mail-bag portion of the Nitro reviews, so if you guys have any questions/comments, any wrestling related question is fine, no need for just WCW ones, send’em to firstname.lastname@example.org, and they’ll be featured in next week’s article. You can also reach me @CaliberWinfield if that’s your preferred method.
Till next week, keep your shirts buttoned high…