Unfortunately, my hype was not felt by most of the wrestling world. Most people in the industry expected this to be a slaughter; WCW was completely overmatched against the fading juggernaut known as the WWE. Paul Heyman, in a video that would make the rounds over the last few years claimed that it was going to be a massacre and that WCW wouldn’t take the measures it needed to be competitive. They wouldn’t change their product completely with a new booking philosophy or up their production values. They would fail, and Turner would return the company back to its Georgia Championship Wrestling roots.
Would that happen? Well, you obviously know the answer, but hey stay for the ride. Plus, the free cheese at the end of it all, and it’s the good type of cheese.
First, I know that I skewered WCW for holding a PPV at a beach giving away a large gate for the Vader/Hogan blow-off. I will say that holding the premiere episode at The Mall of America was a good idea. Yes, I am prepping to run away from the rotten produce, but it set Nitro apart from what the WWE was presenting with Raw. Raw as emanating from smaller arenas with a minimal production and Nitro comes out from the Mall of America. I know it was rumored that they did it because Hulk had his PastaMania abomination, but I like the move. I’d love a story on the WWE site or any site actually about the production of the first Nitro.
The Major Rivalries in WCW:
-Hulk Hogan and His Amazing Friends (Savage, Sting, Vader) vs The Dungeon of Doom: Hulk Hogan is waging his own personal war against The Dungeon of Doom. The Dungeon of Doom consists of Kevin Sullivan and all the guys that Hogan beat on while he was working for Vince. The only interesting aspect is The Giant and that’s held down by a tasteless exploitation of Andre the Giant. Things will get much, much, much, much, much worse in the next few months or so.
-Ric Flair vs Arn Anderson: A friendship that had been forged almost a decade ago was on the fritz. Arn was tired of doing Flair’s dirty work and it lead to a feud between the two. The promos are great, but the matches themselves never lived up to expectations. Things get really interesting in the next few weeks.
WCW also came out swinging for the first Nitro, knowing that they were running unopposed to Raw. Brian Pillman vs Jushin Liger in a rematch of their SuperBrawl ’92 classic, Sting vs Ric Flair in a continuation of the greatest rivalries in WCW history and Hulk Hogan in the main event against Big Bubba Rogers. Yeah, the main event doesn’t sound great but Hogan and Bubba had a lucrative feud in the WWE and the awesome cage-match blow-off on SNME.
Here comes the first big problem, Mongo. It should be pointed out that Mongo was a part of Lawrence Taylor’s entourage for WrestleMania XI and even commentated on Raw. It could be seen as Eric wanting to mooch off his WWE exposure, but apparently Eric stole Mongo away from Vince. The story has it that Vince wanted to sign him, but WCW came up with a better offer. Apparently, we were going to see Mongo and William Perry vs The Heavenly Bodies at Summerslam and the company was seriously considering signing both men. Perry wanted a guaranteed deal and the WWE didn’t want to do that. Perry never panned out and WCW came to Mongo promising a primo commentary gig while training him for an in-ring debut.
The big problem: He stinks.
Stinks isn’t the accurate description, he’s awful. The big problem is that they tried to create the dynamic that Heenan had with Monsoon and it just doesn’t work. This makes watching the first year or so of Nitro a complete hassle to watch and Eric having to play the ref between the two doesn’t help.
So, were off with the first match of the evening, this is less of an “I’m going over the holds and more of my general thoughts on the match” review.
Brian Pillman vs Jushin Thuder Liger
-Pillman was at a crossroads at this point of his career. The Blondes break-up angle never had a chance and he was floating around the midcard at this point. They tried to give him a California dude gimmick but it wasn’t connecting. Luckily, fate would intervene in a few weeks and he’d go under a career renaissance. Bischoff brings up the past history these two men have and Heenan puts over Liger coming back from a major injury and his overall versatility as a worker. Mongo tries to banter with Heenan. It’s a good match, not the best match between the two and it’s kind of sloppy at times. Pillman botches a head scissors take over twice and an apron suplex to the outside that looked ugly. Overall, it’s probably the best match of the night, not on the same level as the SuperBrawl classic but worth a watch. Pillman wins with a roll-up after Liger attempts a German Suplex.
-We get a Sting promo putting over his match with Flair and saying that he’ll get him with The Scorpion Deathlock.
-We then get the infamous PastaMania promo, which is pretty much cringe worthy when Eric brings up Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse and how he doesn’t have one at the Mall of America. I might buy into the theory that this was a vanity show for PastaMania and that most of the kids were plants. Just a bad, bad, bad promo all around.
Ric Flair vs United States Champion Sting
-Mongo still sucks. Figured I would give everybody an update and HOLY CRAP LEX LUGER IS HERE. HE’S JUST STANDING BY THE ENTRACE WHILE EVERYBODY IS SPAZZING OUT, BUT WHAT IS HE DOING HERE? This is pointed as the moment that set Nitro apart from Raw, it was live and you never know what would happen. The announcers sell it well, acting equal parts befuddled and angry at the presence of Luger. This is the basic Flair vs Sting formula, albeit with Sting spamming gorilla presses, and Flair busted out a crossbody that sent both men to the outside. Windbreaker wearing Arn Anderson is out after Luger leaves and manages to still look like a bad ass wearing one. It’s not on the same level as some of their classic matches, but it’s not that bad of a watch. They have their routine, and it ends with Arn attacking Flair when he starts to cheat. Arn comes back for his windbreaker because he is one bad mofo.
-Right after that, Scott F’n Norton shows up and starts to berate the announcers. He signed a contract and wants to know why he isn’t on the first episode of Nitro. Mongo gets in his face and it’s actually a cool visual before Savage appears and holy crap this is awesome. Both men are in each-other’s faces and it’s intense as Savage challenges Norton to meet him in the ring…NEXT WEEK! This establishes Norton as a bad-ass and hopefully WCW pushes him a top hoss in the company. I know that the exact opposite happens, but I have hope dammit.
-We get a Sabu hype promo and while it is a very 90’s video, but it establishes that Sabu is one crazy guy. We see him do a few table spots and generally wrecking people on the syndicated shows. I believe one of them is Chris Kanyon. Sabu is one of those weird WCW signings, and just an odd pairing overall. It made sense when they tried to get him in 2000 since they were starting with the hardcore stuff. Sabu…WILL BE HERE NEXT WEEK!
-Screw you Mike Hill of Alabama for winning a 1995 Harley Davidson.
-We see some hype for WCW Saturday Night with Johnny B. Badd vs Dick Slater and The Amazing Friends against The Blue Bloods. WWE Network, you made good on Nitro but what about WCW Saturday Night? I want to relive when Jimmy Hart had the book and Jim Duggan defends his TV Title against all comers including Robert Gibson. Plus, insane Dusty commentary.
-So far, WCW has introduced new talent in a good way. Sabu got a hype video, Scott Norton crashed the show….but then Michael Wallstreet shows up. I’m a Mike Routunda fan, he had a great run with The Varsity Club, but he had been stinking up WWE television for years at this point. He cuts a basic promo taking some shots at the New Generation before telling the world that he is showing up next week.
WCW World Champion Hulk Hogan w/Jimmy Hart vs Big Bubba Rogers
-Big Bubba and Hogan had quite the feud back in New York, making some good money and good matches too. Apparently, Hogan handpicked Bubba for the match and Bischoff even acknowledges the past these two men had. Mongo still sucks, film at eleven. Mongo has two nick names for Heenan: The Stain and The Hernia. The good news is that the crowd is hot for the match and I have to give credit to Big Bubba. He is still a good seller and moves well, his first year or so in WCW was pretty good. The Vader matches were great HOSS FIGHTS and the Sting matches were alright. This however, isn’t that good since it’s standard Hogan fare, the best part is two fans in the front row with “Hogan Sucks” and “Hogan is a wimp” signs that get confiscated. Hulk makes his comeback, hits the boot and drops the leg for the win.
-Hulk celebrates as Kevin Sullivan and The Hulk Hogan Punching Bags arrive. Hulk proceeds to turret punch them until Luger runs out and runs the Dungeon out of the ring. Hulk and Luger almost come to blows until the Amazing Friends arrive to break up the fight. The crowd chants Luger as we go to break.
-Fall Brawl 1995 apparently benefited MDA, classy move. Still advertising Vader and I had such high hopes for a Vader/Giant match as a kid.
-Hulk asks what Luger is doing in his backyard and I guarantee Flair is weeping as Double A tries to console him. Luger makes the challenge to Hulk for his belt, another pot-shot at WWE. Hulk actually puts over Luger’s accomplishment and says he’ll give him a title shot NEXT WEEK.
So, next week from Miami, we get:
-Scott F’n Norton vs Randy Savage
-Michael Wallstreet (Crap)
-Hulk Hogan vs Lex Luger
Raw would counter with Sid/Michaels and Bulldog/Razor and this would be the start of the dirty tactics that Bischoff would employ. Raw is taped, mind you.
Figured I would bring that up.
Overall, this was a good way to premiere Nitro. You catered to the hardcore WCW fans that were turned off by Hogan with Sting/Flair and Liger/Pillman and brought in the WWE fans with Hogan. Running unopposed also helped. I also have to credit that they dedicated a good amount of the show towards establishing new talent such as Norton, Sabu, and Wallstreet. Commentary still sucks, though.
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