Prologue: The Battle for Chicago
This is an important Nitro in my opinion. It’s the first Nitro from one of the major markets that WCW was battling Vince for. The WWF (Yes, I’ll be calling it that for the duration of the reviews) and WCW has always battled for the Chicago market since 1987 when Crockett ran its debut card there. Crockett had some success in his first eight shows at the UIC Pavillion, selling out four of eight cards including the Starrcade 1987 debacle. While the bad booking of the show did burn the Chicago crowd, numbers for return cards remained stable for the rest of the eighties. They didn’t sell out any cards like the four sell outs in 1987, but Chicago became a reliable market.
The first show in Chicago drew a solid 6,500 fans (The company was expecting Flair to drop the belt to Luger and had a full production crew there) and things got ugly after that. Attendance dipped into the 2,000-3,000 number with exception of Halloween Havoc which drew a sell-out of 8,000 fans. It’s an impressive number considering Vince ran the Rosemont Horizon on the same night with the first Warrior/Savage match. In the next few years, shows at the UIC Pavilion drew numbers in the 1,000s-2.000 even for shows on the Great American Bash Tour. In 1994, WCW moved to the Rosemont Horizon for the inaugural Spring Stampede and drew a surprising 12,200 fans paying over $100,000 for a pretty good card. Once Hogan arrived, WCW thought they had their ace in the hole and promoted the first Hogan headlined cared at the end of 1994. A main event of Hogan and Sting teaming up should draw a number on the level of Spring Stampede, right?
Hogan and Sting vs Avalanche and The Butcher drew a dismal 4,440 fans.
I know WCW wanted to keep their word on keeping Flair retired, but why not bring Flair out of retirement for one match, team him up with Vader to face Hogan and Sting? Or book Hogan and Savage to face Flair and Anderson with Vader vs Sting for the US belt as the main event? Or just Hogan vs Flair? And why the heck did they not book Savage? Those matches always drew well despite Vince being disappointed by the initial run of matches. Two of the three Rosemont Horizon cards the WWF ran that year drew 6,000+ fans plus Summerslam that year (The first major event at the arena) drew 23,000 fans (19,500 paid). In January of 1995, the company ran the Rosemont once again and this time they came with a dream match: Hogan vs Vader. This was a rematch of their Superbrawl match and this would be the only house show match they’d have. They booked Savage to team up with Sting to take on Big Bubba and The Avalanche. The card drew 7,900 fans which is a respectable number till you realize that only 5,082 fans paid to see the card. The company had to give out 2,818 tickets just to draw a respectable number. Remember, Hogan and Vader had headlined Superbrawl six days earlier and drew 13,390 fans (over 10,000 fans actually paid to see it) drawing a respectable $165,000 gate and it was the highest amount they’d make for a PPV that year.
When WCW ran their first Nitro in Chicago, they again loaded up the card with all the big names. Hogan, Flair, Luger, Sting and Savage all make appearances and they even booked a steel cage match in the main event. Mongo was probably doing his best to drum up interest in the card and how many fans showed up?
8,000 frigging fans!
Oh, and they only had to give away 4,042 tickets. With a card advertising appearances from Hogan, Savage, Sting and Flair. They drew numbers that were even with a depleted WWF roster in their worst year ever.
October 9th, 1995
We are live from the Windy City! The Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, Illinois is playing host to Monday Nitro this week.
We start off with a recap of Hogan getting attacked by Sullivan and The Giant followed by having his moustache shaved off. Eric, Mongo and Heenan are wearing Bears jersey (With the team and NFL logo taken off). Eric has one on his jersey, Mongo has 76 and Heenan has a question mark. After the talking heads get their points in, Sting crashes the booth and rants that he’s going to fix the problems with Luger and Savage. Heenan sells being afraid of the ranting man in face paint.
WCW United States Championship Match: Sting (c) vs The Shark
This is one quick and painless as Shark attacks Sting right off the bat with clubbing blows and a powerslam. Shark hits a leg drop and elbow drop but misses a splash in the corner. Sting hits the Stinger Splash and a flying cross body for the victory. I actually feel bad for Tenta watching this match. A year ago he was the new big monster heel and working the co-main event of Starrcade with the same wrestler and now he’s cannon fodder for the Stinger. Tenta wasn’t a bad worker by any means, he may not be the greatest but he plays his rather of monster heel rather well. Plus, the guy’s a team player to the end and this is what happens. Shark doesn’t even get a Havoc spot and that spot went to Kamala even though the guy flaked but Hulk’s barber deserved the spot more. Give him a Hall of Fame spot next year, he deserves it.
We get a recap of the Hogan attack from last week, something we just saw six minutes ago. We then get an awful commercial for Halloween Havoc. Our next match this even is Sabu vs Mr. JL.
Sabu vs Mr. JL
Holy crap Sabu is over with the crowd and we get a pre-shoot interview cutting Justin Roberts cameo as the most normal looking WCW fan ever. Heenan puts over Sabu hard talking up what he went through in his deathmatch days, and Mongo follows suit. The Sabu chants are interrupted by a rather vocal “HOGAN SUCKS” chant. At that moment, Hogan is rampaging through the back and hijacks the headset connected to Bischoff and demands that he drops the leg on Sabu. This is another showcase for Sabu who runs through his ECW spots and JL is game to take the beating. JL does hit a nice DDT off the top turnbuckle and that’s the high point for our masked jobber. Sabu reverses a dropkick with a powerbomb and takes the victory with the camel clutch. Sabu continues attacking JL after the match but we cut back to the announcers.
After the talking heads are done, we have Mean Gene with Sting and Luger. Sting is looking to play peacemaker with Savage and Luger and calls Macho to ringside. Savage tries to get at Luger but Sting manages to get between the two. Sting talks up how The Giant is winning since he’s taken out Luger, Hogan and Savage which leads to Randy going crazier than usual. Savage wonders why The Giant has yet to lay a hand on Sting yet. I’m still saying they were looking to turn Savage at Havoc, Luger wanted to take part in the Four Horsemen reformation. Sting tries making a point about how everybody wants the belt and Savage gets in his face. They tease Sting and Savage going at it and I admit that was a dream match of mine back in the early 1990’s. Sting pitches the idea that if Luger beats Men and Savage beats Kamala that the two men should go at it that night. Luger tries to wuss out but Sting finally shows some backbone and chews out Luger over the way he’s acting. Luger agrees to the match and this was a pretty good segment.
Hawk vs Big Bubba Rogers
We go back to the talking heads and it’s DISCO TIME BABY! God, I love this gimmick. Disco keeps dancing till his music is cut off by Bubba’s and HE BRINGS OUT A BOOMBOX AND PLAYS HIS THEME! I’m laughing as Bubba takes one look at the dancing fool and walks off. Hawk gets a good pop as he scare off Disco but Disco decides to follow Hawk and places a fan’s hat on Hawk’s spike. This match isn’t much to watch but Bubba can still throw a wicked right hands and moves pretty well for his age. Disco gets on the apron and dances which leads to Hawk chasing him outside. Rogers gets the count out victory and I kind of wished this had led to Bubba and Disco being together. Would have been fun to watch.
Mean Gene is in the middle of the ring and calls Hulk Hogan out to ringside. The crowd responds to Hogan’s name with boos as he comes out in all black. It’s a mixed reaction at this point as boos are outweighing the cheers. Hogan demands that The Giant comes out and face him but The Giant is barred from the building. Hogan compares the shaving of his mustache to spray painting The Washington Monument and talks up how Vince is dying. From there, it’s more of referencing Giant as a “stinky, nasty giant”, referencing Andre and the usual Hogan drivel we’ve heard thus far. We hear sirens and cut to The Giant riding his monster truck with Sullivan and Zodiac in tow. Hulk leaves but not before saying the last things he’ll do with his immortality is go up to heaven and beat up Gorgeous George. It should be noted that Gorgeous George had been for 32 years at this point. Just awful. There needs to be a ticker at the bottom of the scream every time Hulk cuts a promo like that stating “This is What Terry Bollea Actually Believes”.
Steel Cage Match: Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair
I will say this, the cage is poorly put together, but I wonder if Hogan went over his allotted promo time. I’m not surprised he didn’t rebook the show to end with some hokey parking lot battle between him and The Giant. After two matches the ranged that were just alright, these two finally found their groove. This is just a brawl between the two of them with both men throwing punches and doing very little wrestling. The crowd is hot and Anderson takes the traditional crotch bump and reacts perfectly. Pillman tries to interfere but Flair knocks him off the cage and takes a pretty good bump. They only have four or so minutes to work, but it’s a helluva fun match. Flair actually hits the double axe handle but Anderson gets the victory with a brass knuckles assisted punch. It could have used some blood, hardway or by the almighty blade. After the match, Flair storms the booth and cuts an intense promo challenging the two of them to a match next week. Flair breaks Bischoff’s headset in a funny moment. They didn’t have much time but they got a lot done despite that.
This is a mixed bag of a Nitro in my opinion. The cage match, the Savage/Luger/Sting interview, JL vs Sabu, Disco and even Mongo were really good. The bad thing is the stuff that’s bad is really bad. Hogan’s promo is just awful, showing a recap of the segment last week twice in six minutes, Shark getting squashed and Hawk/Bubba is nothing to write home about. If they had cut the Hawk and Bubba match, cut the second showing of Hulk getting attack and give that time to the cage match, this would have been the first great Nitro.
Raw: 2.6 (Owen, Yoko, and Bulldog vs Diesel, HBK and Undertaker)
Next week we have Duggan vs Meng, Eddie vs Benoit, DDP vs Badd and Arn/Pillman vs Flair.