(All screen captures are the property of World Wrestling Entertainment)
Monday Nitro #1
September 4, 1995
Mall of America
News & Notes: Eric Bischoff was attempting to broker a TV deal for WCW in China. Rupert Murdoch owned the TV network they would use. Ted Turner hated Rupert, so Eric was anxious about pitching the idea. He felt he prepared a good argument. What he wasn’t ready for was a random question from Ted that would change WCW’s fate. In the middle of the meeting, Ted asked, “What do we have to do to compete with Vince?” Eric thought on his feet and answered, “We need prime time.” Ted agreed and gave Eric a time slot on Monday nights. This meant WCW would go head-to-head with the WWF’s Monday Night RAW. Many people thought it would split the wrestling audience. They underestimated the fact WCW and the WWF had separate and loyal fan bases. The move started what we call the Monday Night Wars. However, there was no opposition to the first episode of Nitro. The US Open preempted RAW that week. It was the perfect time to debut WCW’s new show.
This debut took place in the middle of the build to Fall Brawl. A War Games Match headlined that PPV. Hulk Hogan’s team faced the Dungeon of Doom. Hogan’s team was Hulk, Savage, Sting, & Vader, but that will change before the event. However, The Dungeon of Doom was complete. They added three new members. First, the former Avalanche became The Shark. The gimmick change included biting his opponents because he’s now a man-eater. Then, Meng left Col. Parker and joined the Dungeon. The bonus package included a cool mask and a golden spike he used on his opponents. Finally, the giant man we previously saw joined the group. He confronted Hogan and threw a frilly white shirt at him. The Giant asked Hogan if he recognized it. Hogan did, despite it being a plain white shirt. It belonged to Andre the Giant. WCW portrayed The Giant as Andre’s son. Hogan then took a trip to the Dungeon’s cave and confronted The Taskmaster. The Giant burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and choked out the Hulkster. He called himself the one true immortal. When you consider how long Big Show/Giant’s career has been, he might be correct.
The show opens in a Hollywood backlot. They project footage of WCW wrestlers onto the sides of buildings. Fire fills the streets. There are enough explosions to make Michael Bay proud! A line of fire reaches a large Monday Nitro sign and it bursts into flames. Then, we see a shot of the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Eric Bischoff welcomes everyone to the first episode of Nitro. He’s with former NFL player, Steve Mongo McMichael. Eric must have enjoyed Steve’s performance as part of L.T.’s All-Pro Team. He hired Mongo to be a commentator. Mongo says the Mall of America is apropos. He explains that doesn’t mean you’re digging in the dirt with farm implements. I have no clue what he’s rambling about. McMichael is already venturing into Rob Bartlett territory. Bobby Heenan then joins them. I see they didn’t lock him out of the building. I guess we won’t see Bobby pretending to be Mongo’s Great Aunt. Heenan shakes McMichael’s hand, but Mongo has a joke buzzer. It shocks Bobby. Steve tells him not to underestimate Mongo. Heenan also shows how little he knows about Steve. He gets his NFL team wrong.
Flyin’ Brian vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
Notes: Mongo immediately makes questionable jokes. He hopes Liger didn’t bring any Ginsu knives. The Bartlett parallels are strong. Bischoff is quick to sing Liger’s praises. He mentions Liger recently returned from a bad leg injury. Also, Penzer mentions Liger represents NJPW. There is a storyline brewing between the two companies. I will discuss it in a later review.
The Match: Both men trade holds and reversals until Liger nails a rolling kick. He also lands a moonsault. Pillman responds with a flying head scissors and a boot. Then, they attempt a diving hurricanrana, but it’s botched. The men return to mat holds and Liger locks Brian in a surfboard. Brian breaks free, but Liger sends him to the floor and hits a cannonball off the apron. Brian answers by suplexing Liger from off the ring. He then performs a flying cross body. They head inside and Liger gives Brian a superplex. However, Brian recovers and dropkicks Liger out of the air. Pillman makes the mistake of ducking. Liger capitalizes with a powerbomb and a top-rope hurricanrana. Pillman rallies with a tornado DDT. Liger then attempts a German suplex, but Brian counters into a Victory Roll for the win.
Thoughts: This was a fun opener. It wasn’t as good as their SuperBrawl II match, but that’s expected. This was a shorter TV bout. They packed enough good action into it to keep the crowd hot. This is a good way to showcase what sets WCW apart from the WWF.
Winner: Flyin’ Brian
Pillman and Liger shake hands and hug. Heenan and Mongo argue about sportsmanship. Then, we get an inset promo from Sting before the commercial. He says no one walks the aisle and gets in Flair’s face like him. He also claims no one can lock in the Scorpion Deathlock like him. Somewhere, both Riki Choshu and Bret Hart take offense.
They come back from break and Bischoff introduces some footage from earlier in the day. Hulk Hogan is signing autographs in the food court. But, he’s not standing in front of any old restaurant. Eric says Michael Jordan and Don Shula have restaurants. Hogan has Pastamania in the Mall of America! Bischoff asks Hulk about his match with Big Bubba. Hulk would rather ask the fans who is the greatest wrestler ever. They answer Hogan. He probably bribed them with pasta. Hulk then claims he ate so many Hulk-a-Roos and Hulky-Oos, he feels sorry for Big Bubba. Why? Did it give him bad gas? Hogan also says Pastamania is running through his brain. Then, he threatens to drag Bubba around the mall and force-feed him pasta. Hogan attempts convincing everyone he’s slim and trim thanks to the food. I somehow doubt that. He finishes the promo by asking Bubba what he will do when Pastamania runs wild on him. I’m going to guess he’ll run to the bathroom.
U.S. Title Match: Sting (c) vs. Ric Flair
Notes: Ric Flair had a falling out with Arn Anderson. They lost a handicap match to Vader at Clash of the Champions and Flair went mad. Arn said Hogan got under Ric’s skin and drove him crazy. Arn wanted his old friend back, but doing that meant teaching Ric a lesson. They booked a match between the two for Fall Brawl.
Mongo sings the praises of Flair and Sting. He says if you’re not watching this, you might as well watch—he doesn’t say. Bischoff stops him from saying the WWF. Then, Steve compares the mall to Thunderdome. Can’t he get beyond that!? Both men enter the ring, but then someone appears in the aisle.
It’s Lex Luger! You can hear him muttering, “Has anyone seen Mo? I chased him all the way from Pittsburgh.” (I’m kidding, of course.) Bischoff demands they get the camera off of him. Heenan says Luger has a right to be in a public mall. Mongo barely knows who it is. Luger stares at the men in the ring and Sting acknowledges him. Doug Dillinger makes Luger leave, so the match begins.
The Match: Sting keeps press slamming Flair. He also absorbs Ric’s chops. Ric regroups and tries going to the eyes. It doesn’t work. Flair then takes himself and Sting over the ropes with a cross body. They brawl on the floor until Sting presses Ric into the ring. Sting then catches himself on a missed Stinger Splash. He surprises Ric with a facebuster. But, Flair answers with a back elbow before they go to commercial. When they return, Ric loses control of the match. Sting slams Flair off the top rope. Arn Anderson then appears. Sting no-sells a suplex and nails some clotheslines. They fight back and forth on the top rope and the mat. Both men trade near-falls. Sting then lands a superplex, but Arn distracts him. Flair uses the opening to nail a chop block. He follows that with a Figure Four, but Sting flexes and reverses the hold. Flair grabs the ropes. Anderson has enough and attacks Sting to cause a DQ.
Thoughts: This was a truncated version of their usual match. It still had good action, but it was a backdrop for storylines. It felt like they were rushing through their routine, but that’s understandable. It served its purpose fine. It’s also another good snapshot of WCW for new fans watching the show. They picked good matches for this episode.
Winner: Sting (by DQ)
After the bell, Arn attacks Flair and the two brawl to the floor. The fight continues down the aisle until Dillinger and Randy Anderson stop them. Flair uses the opening to leave.
Then, Scott Norton interrupts the broadcast. He yells at Bischoff. Norton says he signed a contract. He’s mad he’s not on the show. Scott stuffs the contract into Eric’s pocket. Mongo gets in Norton’s face, so Scott dares him to fight. However, Randy Savage arrives and challenges Norton. Savage says if Norton wants a reputation, he should face him. Norton and Savage both agree they want the match now. Bischoff says they can’t. He threatens to ban Scott if he enters the ring.
Security prevents Savage and Norton from fighting, so Eric introduces a vignette for Sabu. He says he’s coming to WCW. All the footage is of Sabu wrestling on Saturday Night. It seems he’s already arrived. It’s stylized footage set to funky music. It depicts Sabu doing dives and hurricanranas while looking crazy. It does a good job of showing Sabu’s chaotic nature.
They return from commercial to Mean Gene in the ring. He laments not buying land where the mall is located. Then, he announces Mike Hill from Cullman, Alabama won a Harley Davidson soft-tail. WCW sure loved giving away motorcycles. Next, Eric plugs Saturday Night. Johnny B. Badd will face Dick Slater. Sting & Savage will face the Blue Bloods. Also, they will give Fall Brawl updates.
The former IRS is back in WCW. He reverted to his Michael Wallstreet gimmick. Within a week, they change his name to V.K. Wallstreet. The name is a reference to Vincent Kennedy McMahon. He mocks the new generation for being the few generation. Then, he says it’s all about money. He came to WCW because the biggest names are there. Michael also jokes the IRS will watch him closely. I see what he did there. He calls himself a real player as the promo ends.
WCW Title Match: Hulk Hogan (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Big Bubba Rogers
Notes: I understand why Hogan would want Bubba as his first opponent on Nitro. He reportedly always loved working with him. Bubba enters before the commercial. Mongo doesn’t know where he’s from. Way to do your homework, Steve. Hogan enters after the break. Mongo tells Heenan he has to be impressed. Bobby disagrees. During the introductions, Bischoff confirms Norton will face Savage next week.
The Match: Hogan shoves Bubba and flexes his muscles. Then, they trade holds and shoulder blocks. They also try a test of strength. Bubba uses a cheap shot and attacks Hogan in the corner. Hogan blocks and reverses getting rammed into the turnbuckles. But, Bubba responds with an eye-poke and a backbreaker. Hogan rallies with some boots that stagger Rogers. Hogan shoves him to the mat. He then punches Bubba, but the ref pulls him by the hair. Rogers uses the opening to retake control. He nails a Boss Man Attack. He also chases Jimmy Hart, so Hogan stops him. Hogan then chokes Bubba with Jimmy’s jacket while Hart distracts the ref. Hogan follows that with corner clotheslines and a slam. Bubba counters with palm strikes, but he misses a corner charge. Hogan tries capitalizing only to fall to a Bubba Slam. However, he hulks-up. Hogan then nails the big boot and leg drop for the win.
Thoughts: It was a basic Hogan match, but there were some entertaining spots. Bubba was quite amusing with his selling. They kept it short enough to be decent. I’m sure Bubba was happy to main event the first Nitro. It was nice to see him get the opportunity.
Winner: Hulk Hogan
After the match, the Dungeon of Doom rushes the ring. Hogan fends off everyone with Lex Luger’s help. When Hulk sees him, he looks shocked. Hogan gets in Lex’s face and demands to know why he’s there. He tells Luger to go back to where he came from. Then, they go to a commercial for Fall Brawl. Proceeds from the PPV will go to an MDA charity.
They return to Mean Gene in the ring with Luger, Hogan, Jimmy Hart, Savage, and Sting. Hogan says Luger doesn’t belong in his backyard. Lex responds he’s there because everyone calls Hogan the best wrestler in the world. He’s the WCW champion. Luger says he’s there to take that belt. Hogan tries responding, but Luger interrupts. He says he’s been down the same roads and beaten the same people as Hogan. He’s sick of playing with kids. He’s there to play with the big boys. Luger wants a title match. Hogan sings Luger’s praises, but he says the Hulkamaniacs are behind him. Hogan tells Lex he doesn’t have to wait until next week. If he sticks out his stinky palm, he’ll shake hands and give him a match—next week. Did Hogan hear himself? They shake hands and then shove each other. This was easily Luger’s best promo ever. I wonder how often he practiced it.
Bischoff hypes next week’s episode. Mongo says you have a screw loose if you don’t watch. We see that Mongo is holding a small chihuahua in a devil costume. It’s Pepe the dog. He’s Mongo’s pet. He brings him to all the Nitro episodes. The dog wears a different costume each week.
I had to wait until the end of the review to speak about Luger. I didn’t want to spoil it. His contract with the WWF lapsed. The rumor is they didn’t realize he hadn’t signed a new one. Luger wrestled on a WWF house show before this event. He surprised everyone with his appearance. Bruce Prichard tells an amusing story on his podcast about this moment. When Pat Patterson saw Luger on Nitro, he called Bruce and left a message. He said Luger is on WCW TV. He then proclaimed, “He’s their problem now!”
Pillman/Liger was fun
Sting/Flair was good.
The Luger surprise was a nice touch.
They did a good job hyping the next episode.
Mongo was kind of annoying
Performer of the Night:
I’m giving it to both Pillman and Liger. They had a really good match. It was a taste of the high-flying action WCW would soon get from the cruiserweights.
This was a great way to debut a show. They showcased what made WCW unique. It had good surprises. New characters were introduced. They also did a great job hyping the next episode. Plus, I liked the venue. It gave it a different feel. The episode accomplished everything it needed. Even Vince McMahon said he knew they had real competition when he watched it. Plus, it’s refreshing seeing a 45-minute (without commercials) show instead of three hours like modern RAW.
Thank you for reading. My next review is ECW’s Gangsta’s Paradise ’95. Look for it this Sunday!