(I have the first three weeks of this show done from the 24/7 days, so we’ll repost those and then start plowing through WCW’s side of the Monday Night Wars.) The SmarK 24/7 Rant for Monday Nitro #1 (September 4 1995) – Live from the Mall of America – Your hosts are Eric Bischoff & Steve McMichael & Bobby Heenan. Brian Pillman v. Jushin Liger. Liger catches a kick in the corner and a moonsault press gets two. Pillman takes him down with a headscissors for two. Rollup gets two. Liger comes back with a bow-and-arrow, but Pillman gets another headscissors before missing a charge and landing on the floor. Liger follows with a senton off the apron, but Pillman suplexes him off the apron and follows with a cross body to the floor. Back in, they fight on top and Liger superplexes him for two. Back up, but Pillman dropkicks him for two. Pillman comes back with a swinging DDT for two and reverses a suplex attempt into a victory roll for the, well, victory, at 6:42. Too short to be worth much, but it really kicked off the new era of cruiserweights on Monday nights. **1/2 – Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan shills Pastamania, as he proves that yes, marking up a can of Spaghettios to $6 CAN be a losing proposition. (Maybe Hulk was the business advisor for the Network launch?) Whatcha gonna do when Chapter 11 runs wild on YOU, brother? Sting v. Ric Flair. It is of course fitting that this match bookended the history Monday Nitro, but this match is also historic for being the atomic bomb that launched the Monday Night Wars. Namely, Lex Luger, who walks down to ringside while supposedly being a part of the WWF at the time. I think that later he may have regretted that move. (Boy, that’s a tough tradeoff, though, because he was rocketing to the bottom in the WWF at the time and at least made some huge money for a few years with WCW. In the long term, though, he probably would have been better off staying loyal.) Lockup to start and Flair grabs the headlock, but Sting escapes and gets the military press. Another one for fun and he follows with the hiptoss and dropkick to put Flair on the floor. Back in, Flair goes for the eyes and throws the first chops of the Monday Night Wars, but Sting no-sells as we’re apparently doing the abbreviated version of their matches. Another press slam, but Flair goes low and takes Sting to the floor with a bodypress. Flair takes a run at him on the floor, but Sting catches him in another press and dumps Flair back into the ring. Stinger splash misses, but Sting no-sells that too and keeps coming with a bulldog instead. Finally he runs into an elbow, and we have to take a break. Back with Flair going up, and Sting slamming him off for the first time on Nitro. Not the last. Yet another press slam (OK, you’re strong, we get it), but he misses a flying splash while Arn Anderson wanders out. Flair with the delayed suplex, but Sting no-sells and comes back and sets up the Flair Flip before pounding away in the corner. They do a low-grade version of the pinfall reversal sequence and Sting puts Flair on the top for a superplex, but doesn’t cover. Flair clips him while he’s jawing at AA and gets the figure-four, but he uses the ropes and gets caught. Arn simply walks in and it’s a DQ at 9:20. Arn attacks Flair to build towards the Horsemen reunion at Halloween Havoc, showing that Sting, as usual, is a moron for buying any of it. This was the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of their usual match, but it’s Flair v. Sting, so it’s pretty much an automatic thumbs up. ***1/4 – And now, another huge shock, as Scott Norton invades WCW! Oddly, people don’t still talk about that one today like they do with Luger. Randy Savage gets in his face to set up a feud that no one cared about anyway. – Sabu: Coming soon to a do a quick job and then leave. – Meanwhile, Michael Wallstreet returns to WCW. (So how did he get around the standard 90 day no-compete, I wonder? Unless he was working without a contract at the end of his WWF run in 95, but all that Meltzer said at the time was that he was retiring and working as a road agent after In Your House 2.) Don’t know how they managed to screw up that gimmick. Take Ted Dibiase’s just-as-talented former partner, give him Dibiase’s gimmick, and then give him no more promo time and do nothing with him. OK, I guess I do know how they screwed it up. WCW World title: Hulk Hogan v. Big Bubba Rogers. Bischoff announces that Norton v. Savage will be next week’s main event. Whew, glad I don’t have to sit through it. Bubba grabs the headlock to start, but Hogan shoulderblocks him down. Bubba slugs away in the corner and follows with an avalanche, then chokes him out in the corner. Hulk comes back and rams Bubba into the turnbuckle, but gets poked in the eye. Bubba pounds on the ribs in the corner, but walks into a boot, and Hogan pounds away on the mat. Bubba comes back with the running choke, but goes after Jimmy Hart and gets attacked by Hogan again as a result. Hulk throws punches in the corner and follows with the corner clothesline, and slams him to set up the elbow drops. It’s interesting that after the initial star pop that Hogan got, the crowd is no longer interested in his act and really dies off, foreshadowing Hogan’s future problems in that regard. Bossman Slam gets two, but it’s time to hulk up. Big boot, legdrop, goodbye at 7:04. Short and pretty painless, although it felt like a Saturday morning cartoon at times. ** And speaking of cartoons, the Dungeon of Doom attacks Hulk afterwards, but Luger saves and teases a confrontation with Hulk. Sting and Randy Savage intercede to calm things down, and I’ll say what I’ve said before again: Whoever couldn’t put 2 and 2 together and book Sting & Lex Luger v. The Megapowers on PPV is a giant idiot and should be beaten with a large piece of wood. If they done a passing the torch deal with those guys at Starrcade 95 it would have drawn HUGE money. – Next week: Hulk Hogan v. Lex Luger for the World title! Well, this was pretty close to a perfect debut for Nitro, as they led off with a pair of good matches and dropped a huge surprise on the fans, then headlined with two of the bigger stars of the WWF’s biggest era and set up a match for the next week that people wanted to see. Hell, I’d watch again. Thumbs way up for this show.