Monday, September 4, 2017

WCW Monday Nitro #1: WCW Erupts, Launching the Monday Night Wars

September 4th 1995

The Mortal Kombat movie was on the top of the Box Offices.

People were still waiting for the verdict on the OJ Simpson case.

In less than a week, the Sony Playstation would be released.

And Monday Nitro aired for the first time.

I was one and a half years old when Monday Nitro debuted on TNT. I've been watching professional wrestling now for over a decade, and I think it's time to find out what I didn't get a chance to watch. WWE would have you believe that their rival was fucked up from the first day, only giving grudging respect. But I want to find out for myself. So I'm going to watch Nitro every Monday night, for at least a year, and see just how good, or bad, Monday Nitro was.

Monday Nitro emanated from the Mall of Goddamn America, which is definitely an unconventional venue, but it certainly helped make the product seem different. And it's only an hour long, which was the standard set by RAW at the same time. The commentary team is Eric Bischoff (Okay), Bobby Heenan (Always a Plus),and the infamous, the wonderful, Steve "Mongo" McMichael. I only know the man by reputation, and if you follow along with me, we'll find out if the stories I've heard are true. But, never mind that shit, because we have our first match.

Flyin' Brian vs Jushin "Thunder" Liger
This is a famous match that a lot of people call out as one of the best of the early Nitro days. Compared to today's material it isn't a rave worthy match. However, you have to remember the context that this match was broadcasted in. This was 1995, where TV was jobs and promos. Even on PPV, we didn't see fast paced action like this often. The WCW Light Heavyweight championship was dead and buried three years ago, and the Cruiserweight title was a year from birth. So this fast, hard worked match must have been a marvel of it's time. Liger hasn't changed in the 22 years since this broadcast, and the pace he kept here matches the pace he had during the Best of The Super Juniors this past spring. Brian himself was an excellent worker and managed to set a very good pace for the match. One of the reasons I wanted to go back and watch these Nitros was to find gems I've missed, and Brian will be one of them, while he's in the company. This match would have fit comfortably, with a few extra minutes, right in with the lower tier bouts of the Super Juniors, with Brian coming out on top with a Victory Roll on Liger. (6:52)

Hulk Hogan was outside his Pastamania restaurant, hyping up his main event match on later tonight.

The mere idea of Pastamania exists still boggles my mind.

WCW United States Heavyweight Championship
Sting(c) vs Ric Flair

This is the match where Lex Luger came out before it to be recognized. For those not in the know, Lex was the first talent grab from WWF of the War. He was on Raw this night as well, so his appearance here was something of a shock and a talking point. Anyway, he came out for all of a minute and walked away.
Anyway, this match fucking ruled. Every Sting/Flair match was supposedly the same match, but that doesn't mean this wasn't a good match for what it was. I've only ever seen Sting in TNA, and to compare the 50 year old man in TNA with the Sting in his prime here is a travesty. Sting here was awesome, and played a great foil for Ric Flair. Ric, who has the worst hair of all time here, worked a really good, fool proof match. As much a cartoon character as people call Hulk Hogan, Flair himself was one of the most animated, caricatures of a wrestler at this point on his own. There was a lot of press slamming, and a lot of shouting from Sting. Flair begged off when he wasn't fucking up by chopping Sting.
And, as a first of many fuck finishes in WCW, Flair puts on the Figure Four and refuses to...break at five? Gets caught holding the ropes for leverage? It's not quite clear. But then my Father-in-Law Arn Anderson comes in to beat up Ric Flair and threaten Sting. But, while all that's happening, Scott Norton the Living Brick Shithouse comes out to complain about wanting a match. And THEN Randy Savage comes out and accepts the open challenge. So we're getting Randy and Scott next week. Which is great. Oh yeah, the match ended before most of this, (8:43)

There's a hype video for SABU DEBUTING NEXT WEEK. I had actually no idea that Sabu worked for WCW. The video consisted of SAbu doing a variety of flippy shit with the worst blur filter ever over all of it.

All this footage came from WCW Saturday Night, which sounds like an awesome show I can't recap...yet.

Mr. Wall Street is coming to Monday Nitro next week. I mean, it's Mike Rotunda being Ted Dibiase, so really nothing to be super excited about. But at least there's planning going into next week's show.

Hulk Hogan vs Big Bubba Rogers

Hulk Hogan is kind of a dick. Closed fists, eye and back rakes, raking Bubba's eyes with his boot like a heel. Was he always like this? Did he do this in the 80s and I just don't remember seeing it in old videos? Anyway, it was a Hogan match. He took like 85% of the match and there was barely any time Bubba was taking over. He sold over the top to the moon for Hulk, and was an absolute clown when he was selling. This whole match really doesn't matter in the grand scheme, because War Games are coming up this month and I'm going to watch the shit out of it. Hogan won with the boot and the Leg Drop (7:08)

The Dungeon of Doom, the biggest cavalcade of goofs seen anywhere in 1995, ran out to attack Hogan. For reference, this is Kevin Sullivan, Kamala, Brutus Beefcake pretending to be a zebra, and Earthquake pretending to be a Shark. They start beating down Hogan when Lex Luger and his pirate shirt come out to help clear house. The two masses of meat then have a staredown, and agree to have a title match next week, on TV, with one week's build.

So for reference, next week, we are guarenteed.
-A World Title match
-Randy Savage vs Scott Norton
-Sabu debuting
- Michael Wall Street debuting

So, should you watch the first episode of Monday Nitro? Fuck yeah you should! This was wacky fun. With a good first match, Sting and Flair being baseline Sing and Flair, and an awesome lead in for next week's show, watch this hour of wrestling goodness. I'm more excited for a 22 year old episode of Nitro than I've been for Raw in years.

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