Back on September 4, 1995, WCW began what became a five and one-half year trek into weekly prime time television that would significantly impact the competition between them and the WWF. While I won’t detail the entire history of the series, I present to you the pilot episode of WCW Monday Nitro.
From my review:
Live from Minneapolis, MN
Airdate: September 4, 1995
Hosted by Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Steve “Mongo” McMichael
Welcome to the Mall of America! Considering that I’ve actually been there, I can honestly say that it is NOT a one-day shopping spree type of place. Pack a few meals, rather than a lunch, and shop ‘til you drop!
Regardless, WCW wanted to create a NEW and atypical initial setting that made it stand out completely differently than the WWF Monday Night RAW tapings. Why not broadcast in a mall?
In related WCW news, a backstage brawl between Vader and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff transpired at Center Stage in Atlanta. Orndorff had undertaken agent responsibilities; therefore, he kept his job with WCW. However, Vader was suspended and ultimately FIRED which threw a wrench into the Fall Brawl (WarGames) main event. I wonder if anyone new shows up on this show.
Great introductory video segment (including Vader) opens the show.
Match 1: “Flyin’” Brian Pillman versus Jushin “Thunder” Liger
- If this match is anything like their match at SuperBrawl II, then we’re in for a whopper.
- Cartwheel kick in the corner by Liger was followed by a moonsault.
- After a flying headscissors, Pillman delivered another although awkward flying headscissors from the middle turnbuckle.
- He then applied a seated abdominal stretch.
- Liger escaped and applied a bow and arrow.
- On the other hand, Pillman gave him another flying headscissors.
- He then attempted a cross-body, but Luger ducked sending Pillman to the floor.
- Liger then hit a senton from the apron to the floor.
- Upon trying to suplex Pillman back into the ring, Liger was suplexed to the floor.
- From the top rope, Pillman delivered a high cross-body to Liger on the floor.
- He then attempted to mount the top turnbuckle but got caught.
- Liger then joined him and delivered a top rope superplex.
- Next, he mounted the top turnbuckle but ate a dropkick on the way down.
- After delivering a powerbomb, Liger gave Pillman a huracanrana from the top rope. Wow!
- Conversely, Pillman came back with a tornado DDT.
- He then converted a standing switch into a victory roll and got the pin. Incredible!
Summary: Holy solid openers, Batman! This match was exactly what WCW needed to show an unopposed wrestling audience with its high-flying and (almost) perfect execution of intricate maneuvers.
After the match, both men embrace in a show of good sportsmanship.
Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan cuts a promo at his restaurant Pastamania located within the Mall of America.
Match 2 (non-title): WCW US Champion Sting versus “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
- Before the match began, “Made in the USA” Lex Luger came down the aisle.
- Wait a minute! He worked for the WWF in 1995, right? A quick check of the house show schedule showed that Luger wrestled in St. Johns, NB the previous night in the main event alongside “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. This was a MAJOR grab for WCW as Luger was working on a verbal contract after his written contract had expired. Additionally, ZERO word of this leaked as even the wrestlers in both WCW and WWF were shocked by Luger’s appearance here.
- The Minneapolis faithful chanted “Luger!”
- As the match began, Sting gave Flair a pair of gorilla press slams.
- After a dropkick by Sting, he gave Flair a third press slam.
- Next, a cross body block by Flair sent both men over the top rope to the floor.
- Flair then ran at Sting on the floor only to be vaulted back into the ring.
- Stinger splash missed, but Sting caught himself.
- Flair then mounted the top turnbuckle only to come down the hard way.
- Sting then gave Flair a fourth press slam.
- “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson made his way to the ring.
- Nevertheless, Sting mounted the top turnbuckle but missed a splash.
- Flair then gave him a delayed vertical suplex by Flair, but Sting no-sold it.
- He then delivered a pair of clotheslines.
- Upon giving Flair a cross-corner whip, a Flair flip resulted with Flair landing on the apron.
- However, Sting then clotheslined him down.
- He then gave Flair a backslide for 2.
- Afterward, Sting delivered a superplex.
- While Sting was distracted by Arn, Flair clipped the knee. Personal foul. #0 Defense. 15 yards. First down.
- Like a shark smelling blood in the water, Flair applied the figure-four leg lock.
- As Flair grabbed the ropes for leverage, referee Randy Anderson caught him.
- Ultimately, Flair wouldn’t release the hold, so Sting won by disqualification.
Summary: With the exception of four press slams, this match was the usual chocolatey-goodness these guys made legendary.
After the match, Arn enters the ring and gets in Flair’s face. They go toe-to-toe until Flair hightails it to the back.
Making his WCW debut, Scott (Don’t call me “Flapjack“) Norton interrupts the broadcast team and gets in McMichael’s face. In response, “Macho Man” Randy Savage gets in his face and challenges him.
Video package on the soon-to-be arriving Sabu.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund is in the ring and announces the winner of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a trip to Halloween Havoc.
Bischoff shills WCW Saturday Night.
Michael Wallstreet returns to WCW, cuts a promo from the locker room, and then makes “New Generation” and IRS references. His last TV appearance was at WWF: In Your House 2 on 7/23.
Prior to the next match, Bischoff mentions that Savage will face Norton next week in Miami on Nitro.
Match 3 for the WCW World title: Hulk Hogan (champion w/ Jimmy Hart) versus Big Bubba Rogers
- After a cross-corner whip, Rogers successfully hit an avalanche on Hogan. Obviously he hadn’t been copying Shark’s homework lately.
- He then gave Hogan a backbreaker.
- Meanwhile, Heenan touted the members of the Dungeon of Doom.
- Also, some anti-Hogan signs were shown on the hard camera side. Where’s Doug Dillinger?
- After a running guillotine by Rogers, he slid out of the ring and stole Hart’s jacket from him.
- Hogan followed and taught the bully a lesson.
- After a cross-corner whip, Hogan delivered a clothesline then slammed Rogers.
- On the other hand, Rogers returned the favor, but avalanche #2 missed.
- He then delivered the Boss Man Slam, but can you guess what time it is?
- Hulk-up time!
- After Hogan delivered the big boot, he gave Rogers the leg drop.
- Hogan won.
Summary: If you’ve seen one Hogan main event then you’ve seen this one.
After the match, the members of the Dungeon of Doom storm the ring, but Luger comes to Hogan’s aid to thwart the attack. Shockingly, Hogan and Luger stand face-to-face but don’t exchange blows. Before anything regretful transpires, Sting and Savage arrive to cool down the situation.
Fall Brawl will take place on September 17. Vader was mentioned in the pre-recorded ad.
Okerlund interviews both Hogan and Luger in the ring. Luger wants to challenge Hogan for the World title and stated that he’s beaten the same competitors that Hogan has (insinuating Yokozuna). Finally, they agree to a match next week on Nitro. Shoving ensues but peace is achieved as the show goes off the air.
Conclusion: What an excellent debut for WCW! This show certainly had the moxy to stand toe-to-toe next to WWF Monday Night RAW. With matches such as the opener as well as Sting-Flair, wrestling fans received PPV-quality entertainment at zero cost.
I wonder what else next week’s show entails in addition to the Luger-Hogan match. According to Meltzer, Vader was supposed to face (and beat) Hogan in Miami. Instead, Luger will take Vader’s place. I wonder if the title changes hands.
I would be remiss if I did not note Mongo’s WCW debut here. Let’s just say I hope he either improves or becomes a full-time wrestler because his announcing skills were not great.
See you for the next episode!
TV Rating: 2.90
So where did it lead:
What do you think of the first Nitro?
Please be sure to check out all of my reflections at rockstargary.com.