WCW Monday Nitro (September 4, 1995)

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This is the very first episode of Monday Nitro and the opening salvo of what would become the “Monday Night Wars.” We are at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota for some reason and our hosts for the evening are apparently Eric Bischoff and Steve “Mongo” McMichael.

This is Mongo’s first show with WCW and Bischoff tells him, “You made it to the big leagues, buddy,” which is a reference to Mongo’s brief stint in the WWF during the feud between Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow. I guess, then, that this is the first shot Bischoff would take at the WWF during an episode of Nitro.

They bring out Bobby “The Brain” Heenan in an effort to make the commentary team not completely awful. Heenan offers Mongo a handshake and then yells out in pain because Mongo has a joy buzzer or something.

With all that out of the way we head down to the ring (which appears to have been set up in the middle of the food court) for action!

Match 1: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Brian Pillman

Liger hits Pillman with a koppo kick in the corner early on and then gets a two count off a moonsault press. The commentary is pretty bad here. Mongo is just randomly yelling groanworthy names for Heenan (“Bobby Hernia,” “Bobby the Stain,” etc.) and Bischoff just sucks as a play by play guy. Luckily the in ring stuff is engaging enough that it’s easy to tune them out.

Pillman takes Liger down with a botched looking flying headscissors off the middle rope for two and then rolls him up for another near fall. Liger fights back to his feet and gets Pillman in the surfboard. Pillman escapes and hits another headscissors but after missing a charge ends up out on the floor.

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Liger goes out after him and nails him with a senton off the apron. Pillman gets back to his feet and a heads up to the top rope. He nails Liger with a cross body block and we get some “USA! USA!” chants from the audience.

Back in the ring they fight up top. Liger hits the superplex and then heads back up top for some sort of top rope maneuver but Pillman dropkicks him out of the air. Pillman ducks low on a whip for a powerbomb that’s good for two.

Liger hits a hurracanrana out of the corner for another near fall and then sets up Pillman in the corner for something, but Pillman fights back, laying in some heavy punches. He hits Liger with a tornado DDT and goes for the pin but Liger kicks out. Liger gets Pillman in a waistlock and seems to be going for a suplex, but Pillman manages to counter out of it into a victory roll to pick up the, uh…victory.

After the match Pillman shakes hands with Liger in a show of sportsmanship and raises his hand to applause.

Winner: Brian Pillman

For all the things WCW did wrong over the course of the Monday Night Wars, kicking off their first episode of Nitro with this match was a fantastic decision. This wasn’t either man’s best outing. Hell, it wasn’t even their best match against each other, but it was fast paced and high flying, and a far cry from your average WWF match at the time. To put this match in perspective, the first match of Monday Night Raw the previous week (they were preempted this week because of the Westminster Dog Show or something) was Men On a Mission squashing some random job guys. So on a night where they were running uncontested, WCW decided to showcase the stuff that made them different from WWF. It was probably one of the smartest things they ever did during the Monday Night Wars. [**½]

Earlier Today…

Sting cut a promo on Ric Flair. He didn’t really say anything important, but after years and years of Crow Sting and it’s variants it’s weird to see brush cut, drum major jacket, fiery babyface Sting cheerfully yelling shit.

Earlier Today at Pastamania…

In 1995, Hulk Hogan had a restaurant in the Mall of America called Pastamania. Eric Bischoff interviews Hulk Hogan there about his upcoming match against Big Bubba Rogers (Big Bossman/Ray Traylor/The Guardian Angel). Hogan is goddamn insane here talking about how he ate a shit ton of Hulk-a-Roos and Hulk-a-Yous and is going to bodyslam the fuck out of Big Bubba and then force feed him the aforementioned Hulk-a-Roos and Hulk-a-Yous.

Hogan ends the interview by inquiring what Big Bubba’s going to do when Hulk Hogan, The Mall of America, Pastamania, and one million screamin’ Hulkamaniacs run wild on him.

Match 2: Ric Flair vs. Sting

 

Sting’s the United States Champion and this match is apparently for the title. He comes out to “The Man Called Sting,” which is probably my favorite horrible wrestling theme music.

The match gets underway with Lex Luger appearing in the aisleway sporting a blouse and a tremendous mullet. He stares at the ring while Bischoff screams, “What’s he doing here?! Get security to get him out of here!” since Luger had competed at SummerSlam like a week earlier and was (kayfabe) still an employee of the WWF. Heenan says something along the lines of “Maybe he’s just here to shop,” as security escorts Luger away and the match can begin in earnest.

The match gets underway with Flair running the ropes while Sting does a bunch of leapfrogs before hurking Flair up in a military press slam. Sting gives him another press slam that he follows up with a hiptoss and a dropkick that sends Flair out to the floor.

Flair takes a breather out of the floor before heading back in and poking Sting’s eyes. He then throws some chops. Sting no sells the chops and chucks Flair with another press slam. Sting goes for a cross body block, but Flair ducks it and goes out to the floor. Flair follows him out and pokes him in the eye again and charges at Sting only to be caught and hurked up for military press slam number four.

Sting sends him back into the ring where Ric Flair begs off. Sting gives zero fucks and goes for the Stinger Splash but Flair manages to avoid it. Sting, luckily, took no damage from colliding with the turnbuckles and follows up with a bulldog. Sting then runs into an elbow that drops him as we go to commercial. TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!

We return to find Flair still in control. He goes up top, but this allows Sting to get back in control and slam Flair off the top. Military press slam number five follows, but Sting misses a flying splash as Arn Anderson shows up in an amazing windbreaker and makes his way down to ringside.

Flair hits Sting with a delayed suplex, but Sting no-sells it and whips Flair into the corner for the Flair Flip that sets up a clothesline on the apron. Sting then does the ten-count corner punch deal and then battle up top in the corner but nothing really comes of it.

They take it back to the mat for a headscissors-backslide-pin attempt sequence that’s good for two as Arn continues to lurk ringside in the sweetest windbreak 1995 ever produced. Sting puts Flair up top and delivers a superplex but seemingly notices Arn Anderson for the first to, so instead of covering Flair, elects to jaw with Double A.

 

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While Sting is distracted Flair chopblocks him and slaps on the Figure Four. Flair grabs the ropes and refuses to let go at the five count so this is going to be a DQ.

Arn Anderson has seen enough so he heads in and breaks the hold. He then takes off his windbreaker and goes at it with Flair who bails to the back. Arn rolls out and heads to the back, but then turns around and goes back to the ring. Bischoff is all like, “Oh fug! Sting’s in trouble!” but Arn just grabs his sweet ass windbreaker and heads back up the ramp.

Winner: Sting

This was a pretty good TV match between two of WCW’s best. Again, this was a solid match to have on the debut episode of Nitro since few wrestlers better embodied WCW than Sting and Flair. That being said, this match was more or less a greatest hits collection of better matches these two have had. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it was short and seemed like an abridged version of the more epic battles these two have had.

As for the stuff with Arn Anderson, I’m pretty sure that this feud of his with Flair is just to set up the Horsemen reuniting to screw Sting over yet again in a month or two…because Sting’s dumb. [**¾]

Meanwhile at the Announce Table…

Scott Norton shows up and shoves Bischoff around demanding a match. Is Norton also supposed to be some outsider who showed up for the first episode of Nitro like Luger or is he just a guy from the back trying to make a name for himself? I kind of think it’s the former and this is his WCW debut/return.

Mongo gets up in Norton’s grill and they are grumbling at one another, but the mics suck so I have no idea what they really say. Before they can come to blows Macho Man Randy Savage (and a working microphone) show up and challenges Norton to a match.

Savage says he’ll fight Norton right here and now and gets into the ring, but Bischoff has a fit and tells Norton that if he gets in that ring tonight he’ll never wrestle in WCW. Savage does mocking poses in the center of the ring and on the ropes as Norton scowls.

Video Package!

Sabu is debuting on WCW Monday Nitro next week so we get a hype package showing him beating up jobbers (including one that I’m pretty sure was a pre-Mortis Chris Kanyon). I don’t think he lasted very long in WCW.

To Mean Gene!

Gene’s in the ring. He gets on the mic and announces that Mike Hill has won a Harley Davidson motorcycle that WCW was giving away. Gene then leaves. That was the entire segment.

 

This Week on WCW Saturday Night!

Bischoff talks up the huge “double main event,” which will see Sting & Savage take on The Blue Bloods and Johnny B. Badd challenge Dick Slater. 6:05 Eastern on the Superstation, TBS!

Meanwhile Backstage…

Mike Rotunda is back in WCW. He’s Michael Wallstreet now. He talks about how everyone talks about the “New Generation when really it’s the Few Generation.” Sick burn brah. He’s back in WCW now and is sure that “the IRS will be watching me really closely, but that’s fine.”

I don’t know if this was something that happened when they transferred stuff from tapes to the WWE Network or if it always existed but during the entire duration of his promo there was a sliver on the right hand side of the screen that seemed to be a camera panning around inside the arena rather than the backstage locker room set where Wallstreet was cutting his promo. It was bizarre.

Match 3: Big Bubba Rogers vs. Hulk Hogan (w/ Jimmy Hart)

This is for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. As the competitors make their way out Bischoff announces that Norton vs. Savage has been made official and will take place next week on Nitro.

Bubba starts by getting Hogan in a headlock, but Hogan fights out with a shoulderblock. The Mall of America crowd is thoroughly behind Hogan in the early going as Bubba cheapshots Hogan in the corner and nails him with an avalanche. Bubba proceeds to choke Hogan out, but Hogan makes a comeback and rams Bubba into the turnbuckle.

Meanwhile on commentary Mongo refers to Hulk Hogan as a “technician.” Mongo is so bad at commentary.

Bubba cuts the technical wizard, Hulk Hogan, off by thumbing him in the eye and then hitting him with a backbreaker. Bubba works over the ribs but runs into a big boot in the corner. He doesn’t go down though so Hogan just pushes him over in the most ridiculous wrestling spot I’ve seen in awhile.

 

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Hogan starts pounding him on the mat, but Bubba nails Hulk with and uppercut and a running choke. He then slides under Hogan and nails him with an uppercut from the floor before going after Jimmy Hart.

Bubba pulls Hart out of his suit and goes to nail him, but Hogan blocks Bubba’s punch and fires back with a punch of his own. Hogan then wraps Hart’s suit jacket around Bubba’s head and delivers ten punches to his head in the corner. He follows up with a clothesline and a slam that sets up for a series of elbow drops.

Bubba knees Hogan in the midsection, but misses with corner splash. Hogan, however, runs right into a  Bossman Slam that’s good for two. After kicking out Hogan proceeds to hulk up. He points and then nails Bubba with the Big Boot and the legdrop to pick up the win and retain the belt.

Hogan’s celebration is short lived though since the Dungeon of Doom hits the ring and attacks the champ. This causes Luger to run out to make the save. He and Hogan clear the ring and then bump into each other and wheel around with their fists up ready to fight. They go nose to nose until Sting and Savage show up to separate the two men.

Okerlund shows up with a mic and let’s Hogan and Luger hash things out. Luger says that he was tired of playing with kids and wanted to get it on with the big boys so he came to WCW. He’s got one goal and that’s to take the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Hogan. He doesn’t care if it happens today or next week or next month or even next year, but he wants a shot at the belt.

Hogan shockingly kind of puts over Luger. Saying he knows what Luger’s done and who Luger’s beaten so if Luger wants a shot at the title, Hogan will give him a shot next week. The two men then shake hands and it seems like we’re going to get a “I respect you but want the belt match,” next week until Luger and Hogan start bumping shoulders again.

Winner: Hulk Hogan

This was a short, cartoony Hulk Hogan match. It was not any better or any worse than the hundreds of other Hulk Hogan matches I’ve seen in my life. The post-match stuff with Luger was really well done and has me looking forward to the next episode of Nitro. At least in the early going Nitro was good about making sure to book something that would entice viewers to tune in the following week. [*½]

Meanwhile at the Announce Table…

Bischoff confirms that it will be Luger vs. Hogan next week for the title and then Mongo yells at his dog, Pepe, for being a fan of the dastardly Dungeon of Doom (as is evident by the fact that the dog is wearing a devil costume). Bischoff and Heenan cannot believe this shit as the show goes off the air…

Final Thoughts

This was a really good debut episode on a wrestling show. There was good in ring action, some big matches, a few surprise returns and enough stuff announced for the following week to get me excited about tuning in again.

Was it perfect? No, I though the Sting vs. Flair segment was a little too busy what with three different guys coming out for unrelated stuff over the course of the match and a couple of the matches (Pillman vs. Liger and Flair vs. Sting) seemed a little pressed for time. I mean, it makes sense since the show’s only like 40 something minutes after commercials, but if we’re picking nits this was a thing that bothered me slightly.

That being said, these are very minor complaints and based on the strength of this show I’d be more than willing to tune in to the next episode and see what happens. Thumbs up.

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