*Hears the Nitro theme with that guitar riff*
Man, does that feel great to hear again.
We’re back with the Nitro reviews and I’m ready after hundreds upon hundreds of hours of therapy after sitting through a quadruple bill of Ready to Rumble, No Holds Barred, Uncensored 1996 and Halloween Havoc. After getting a clean bill of mental health from Dr. Sigmund Ziff, I’m ready to tackle the initial run of hour-long episodes of Nitro. The batch of episodes from September of 1995 to May of 1996 see the absolute worst of the Hogan Era to Hogan’s annual departure to the birth of the nWo angle. I’m going to start with a refresher course on what was going on in World Championship Wrestling in 1995.
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hulk Hogan (Omnipotent and god like being with total control of the booking of WCW. Won the title at Bash at the Beach 1994, proceeded to kill the credibility of Vader by no-selling the power bomb. Beat him at four PPVs. Pinned and buried Ric Flair every possible chance he could as thanks for Flair booking himself to have Hogan beat him. Very Paranoid human being.)
WCW United States Champion: Sting (Won at Great American Bash 1995, hopefully a thank you gift for stepping aside for the Renegade and Evad Sullivan. The number three face behind Randy Savage and that’s alight in my book. Kind of doing nothing right now, except for trusting Ric Flair again. Will not end well.)
WCW World Television: Champion: Diamond Dallas Page (Won at Fall Brawl 1995, has a hot manager. Showing potential after being a manager turned wrestler.)
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The American Males (Won on the September 18th, 1995 edition on Nitro. They’re males. From America. Blander than the Young Stallions even though that was considered mathematically impossible at one point.)
Now, a quick glance at the major storylines going on in World Championship Wrestling and yes, I’m ready for this. Deep breaths, deep breaths Robert.
Hulk Hogan vs The Dungeon of Doom: Featuring the fake son of Andre the Giant, neck snaps from No Holds Barred, motorcycle destruction, poorly acted and scripted sketched and a collection of Hulk’s former WWF opponents and for some reason Brutus Beefcake. Its Kevin Sullinvan’s gallery of monsters all trying to destroy the rare white Bengal tiger whose fate has been etched in stone. It gets worse from here. Wanting to decapitate Meng, Yeti’s, even more Hogan enemies, and 50 year old British wrestlers and burning a copy of the Observer.
Randy Savage vs Lex Luger: Randy was paranoid (When isn’t he?) about Luger’s arrival in WCW after spending years in the WWF. Savage believed that either Luger or Sting was in-cahoots with the Dungeon of Doom and I almost thought Randy was actually in-cahoots with the Dungeon of Doom. It made sense considering he was accusing everybody else of being in-cahoots with Sullivan, leading to the shocking moment of Savage being the real traitor in the group. This Nitro will feature the first ever Luger/Savage match and if Luger loses, he leaves WCW. After that, the feud will be more about finding out who the greatest wrestler in WCW is.
Ric Flair and Sting vs Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman: A decade of friendship is destroyed after Arn Anderson is tired of being Flair’s lackey. The concept is great, the two constants of the Four Horsemen finally fighting, but the execution is lacking something. The matches lacked chemistry and while both men delivered strong promos, the presence of Brian Pillman kept the feud going. Pillman received a much-needed shot in the arm from joining up with Arn, showing glimpses of the loose cannon character that would dominate 1996. With Flair outnumbered, Sick Ric turned to one man to help him against his new rivals. Longtime enemy and bitter rival, Sting. Sting was of course apprehensive about teaming with a man who had turned on him before and spent all of the summer and winter of 1990 psychologically tormenting him. At this point, Sting is on the fence about teaming with Naitch….and you know how this ends.
Johnny B. Badd vs DDP: Badd won a US title shot at Fall Brawl but missed the match when somebody slashed his tires. When he explained what happened, DDP inadvertently revealed that he was the one behind it. This lead to a feud that had some of Badd’s better matches and showed that DDP had some potential. The feud sadly went on past its expiration point and Badd left before the Uncensored 1996 blow off.
WCW vs NJPW: If you watched Nitro, you didn’t know this angle existed. Sonny Onoo wanted to buy WCW and Bobby Heenan was more than happy to help out. Onoo brought in a bevy of top-flight NJPW talent to invade the company but these stars never saw TV time on Nitro despite a one-off Jushin Liger appearance. This storyline took place on the B-Show’s WCW produced but the company thought high enough of it to promote an entire Starrcade around it. With fans knowing very little about, no wonder if drew 75,000 buys on PPV. It’s a great Hogan-less show though!
Onto the review!
October 2nd, 1995 emanating from the Denver Coliseum in beautiful Denver, Colorado.
I will always say this, the television production of Nitro ranging from the sets to the way everything was laid out blew Raw away. Raw was being taped in smaller arenas with production values that seemed below par for the company and made the arenas look small. Of course, the arenas were small but the lack of production values did little to help their cause. The small set that Nitro had made the arenas seem gigantic in scope compare to the sets of today. I went to a Smackdown taping recently and the gigantic set made the inside of the Bradley Center seem small. We are of course welcomed by Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and sadly, Steve McMichael. Screw your dog. Screw you McMichael, and screw the 1985 Bears. Screw the Super Bowl Shuffle, you make me yearn for JBL. You weren’t even apart of the Super Bowl Shuffle. Let’s break down McMichael’s commentary stylings:
90% unintelligible gibberish stemming from years of head trauma
4% talking About Football
4% attempting and failing to create “witty” banter with Bobby Heenan
1.99% potshots at the WWF
.1% something intelligent.
The math may be off, but I’m not professor Steiner.
Seriously, any halfway competent lawyer should have one episode of Nitro, listen to Mongo’s commentary and realized that the NFL was lacking something in-terms of concussion awareness. Reminder, WCW paid this man a quarter of a million dollars for him to commentate and eventually stink up the joint in the ring. Yes, they paid upwards to $350k for Jesse Ventura in 1992, but Ventura had parts in two Arnold films and was well known for his role in the Rock n Wrestling era. Nobody gave a rat’s patootie about Mongo after he retired except for people who lived in Chicago. WCW had a special version of WCW Pro produced just for the Chicago market, just stick him on commentary there. Bischoff was an alright straight man to Heenan, not on the level of Vince or Gorilla but much better than Tony. No wonder the man’s bloodstream was 50% vodka by the time the nWo angle began.
Onto the review!
October 2nd 1995
We’re live from beautiful Denver, Colorado at the Denver Coliseum for the five episode of Monday Nitro. We start off with Bischoff hyping the two double main events: Ric Flair vs Arn Anderson and Lex Luger vs Randy Savage. Bischoff sells that if Luger loses, he would be forced to leave WCW. Flair interrupts and rants that tonight him and Arn are going mile high tonight. That’s the one thing I miss about the set-up for Nitro, wrestlers crashing the announce booth to cut promos. We get a recap of the fantastic Luger/Savage confrontation and The Giant going on a rampage taking out Savage, Luger and Alex Wright among others. Segments like this make The Giant look like an absolute killer and that falling chokeslam is fantastic.
Randy Savage vs Lex Luger
Bischoff tells the fans to call the hotline if they want to hear Raw results and Mongo refers to the WWF as that other league that throws raw eggs around and that’s all they do. The match is put together in a weird way at first, but it works in my book. It’s pretty much a straight babyface vs babyface match that starts off with an extended lock-up that goes to the outside. It actually goes to commercial with the lock-up and it unfolds from there. At times both Luger and Savage are aggressive and show a somewhat heel side, keeping up with the intrigue as to which one of them is turning heel. There’s an awkward attempt at both men trying to counter a suplex to the floor, Savage drops Luger throat first on the railing and Luger rams Savage into the ring post. We get the obvious ref bump, The Giant runs him and hits a chokeslam on Savage and Savage passes out in the torture rack. It’s nothing fancy, but they keep the crowd interested and it pushes the idea that Luger is with the dungeon.
This Saturday night on TBS: Pillman and Anderson vs Slater and Buck, Johnny B. Badd will explain why he missed his US Title match and Duggan vs Big Bubba. 6:05 eastern time on the mothership if you will!
The announcers recap The Giant taking out Savage and Heenan puts The Giant over strong. Bischoff questions why Giant didn’t go after Luger and we hear….DISCO MUSIC! The greatest gimmick of all time and the man you never want booking your company, the Disco Inferno is out boogying the night away. Eddie Guerrero runs Disco off and we get a recap of Eddie beating Liger with “the jackknife” as Tony called it.
Eddie Guerrero vs Dean Malenko
This is a fantastic little match starting off with some crisp technical wrestling and Heenan puts over the similarities of both men. Mongo tries to interact with Heenan and Bischoff begins to talk about Hogan. While this may not be on the level of their ECW matches, it’s still a fantastic match but with one problem. The problem is they cut away to Hogan arriving ruining the flow of the match, but Hogan at least says shenanigans. If they had a small box showing Hogan arriving it wouldn’t be that bad, but it kills the flow of the match. Mongo says the first intelligent thing of the night and puts over how this is a match for wrestling purists. Eddie hits a beautiful cross body to the outside and counters an ankle pick with a roll-up for the win. Heenan automatically returns to being a heel announcer after and you still see that The Brain has some life in him. We get a handshake and Malenko demands a rematch.
Mean Gene is in the ring and he welcomes Hogan to the ring and the reaction is rather positive, but it’s not at the level of his pops he got in New York. Hogan refers to The Giant as a “nasty giant” and name drops a kid that is getting a double lung transplant to get sympathy from the crowd. Awful, just awful. I’m not big on wrestling using make-a-wish and sick kids to help their image, but did you ever hear Daniel Bryan say that’s he going to win the WWE Championship for Connor? No. He then calls The Giant a “stinky giant” and cuts a short promo. It’s not great, but it has some intensity. Of course, this is the infamous angle when Sullivan dressed as an old lady and attacked Hogan. Sullivan lays into Hogan with the cane, Giant comes out and does the neck snap. Out comes the razor and they shave off the legendary mustache. The American Males and Nasty Boys try to save the day but get chokeslams for their trouble. Sullivan demands that Zodiac cuts the hair of Hogan but Zodiac screams “NO”. It’s over the top, but it continues to establish The Giant as a legitimate threat to Hogan.
Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair
Anderson gets a jobber entrance, which is surprising at Bischoff questions where Luger was in that last segment. I know a lot of people say this match is a repeat of Fall Brawl, but I liked this match. It’s nothing fancy, but they work hard and they have better chemistry here. My big problem is they spend so little time actually talking about the match. They start off putting the match over strong, but they start talking about Hogan. They resume talking about the match but they start talk about baseball for some dang reason. Resume talking about the match and then they talk about the OJ verdict, followed by more Hogan talk. It kills the flow of the match and it makes it seem like the company actually doesn’t care about this match. I know Hulk had the book at the time, but this doesn’t have to be the Hulk Hogan. They manage to keep the crowd going and most of the Hogan merchandise from the previous segment is magically gone. Flair wins the figure four, Pillman runs in and the duo attacks Flair after the match.
After the commercial break, we go back to the announcers and they hype next week’s Nitro from Chicago. They announce Flair vs Anderson in a cage, Sting vs Shark for the US Title, Sabu vs Mr. JL, and Big Bubba vs Hawk.
Overall, a rather solid Nitro.
Raw: 2.5 Rating (Razor vs 123 Kid, Bret Hart vs Jean Pierre Lafitte)
Nitro: 2.5 Rating