– This is actually the second episode of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on September 11, 1995, but it’s the first one uploaded to WWE Network. You can watch it here. They’re supposed to be adding “more than 100 hours” of Nitro to the network next week, so when they add episode 1, I’ll pop back and just do them out of order. What you need to know about episode 1: Lex Luger showed up when he wasn’t supposed to, and they convinced Jushin Liger to wrestle in a mall.
– A brief note about WCW and Monday Nitro: They are my jam.
A slightly longer note about WCW and Monday Nitro: As the Best and Worst of Raw guy, it’s sometimes assumed that I’m a “WWE guy.” I only like what WWE does, am a WWE apologist and hate other, competing companies. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I grew up in southern Virginia, aka “Horsemen Country,” and was raised on a steady diet of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, the NWA, WCW and basically TBS’s entire daily lineup. I only got to watch WWF when Saturday Night’s Main-Event was on. I wasn’t a Hulkamaniac or a Little Warrior or whatever … I was a Little Stinger, and whatever you’d call the child fans of Steiner Brothers. Minor Brothers?
Anyway, what I’m getting at is that WCW is my true wheelhouse, and I’ll do my best to write objectively about Nitro while remembering what it was like to be an awkward 15-year old boy watching Nitro by himself and getting into arguments with my friends about which Nitro Girl was best. No, it wasn’t Spice. Shut up, it wasn’t Spice.
– One final, important note: It’s WCW “Monday Nitro.” Monday night + nitro = Monday Nitro. That’s the joke. If you call it “Monday Night Nitro,” I hate your guts and will fight you in real life.
Please click through for the very first retro Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro. Episode 2, 9/11/95.
Worst: Hey Look, It’s The Raw Announce Team
Here are your guides for the early days of Nitro:
Eric Bischoff – Ignoring who he was in the front office, Announce Team Eric Bischoff had no idea what the f*ck he was talking about ever, but was very good at taking direction and making things sound exciting. If a guy moved his leg during a match, Bischoff (who was super into martial arts at the time) would call it a “jump spinning back kick.” He is Michael Cole, only instead of Vince McMahon yelling in his ear about what to say, it’s a second Michael Cole.
Bobby Heenan – A legendary heel who is tired of this shit. Jerry Lawler. The only difference is that Lawler’s version of giving up is “mailing it in,” and Bobby’s is “get as drunk as possible and complain.”
Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael – Tell me you can’t hear Mongo calling Eric Bischoff “Maggle.”
Read this sentence and commit it to memory: “I’m upset that the announce team is talking about Hulk Hogan and what’s supposed to happen in the main event instead of calling the match.” There, I just saved you seven years of commentary about the Nitro announce team.
Best: Alex Wright Vs. Sabu
The first match of the vintage Best and Worst of Nitro report and it’s one I’ve never forgotten: the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal Sabu against a man the Internet once knew affectionately as “Das Wunder-package,” Alex Wright. Hey man, here’s Alex Wright, the German.
One of the underrated reasons why WCW succeeded in the mid-90s is because it created a “world” of wrestling. Modern WWE likes to hire people from different countries and sorta homogenize them into a “WWE Style” … so you’ll have Sheamus from Ireland, Alberto Del Rio from Mexico, Yoshi Tatsu from Japan, Cesaro from Switzerland, and they’re all basically the same. They have signature moves or whatever and one might kick more than the others (the Japanese guy), but they’re all wrestling the same style. WCW brought in EVERY kind of wrestling from EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE. You’d have a pack of luchadors doing crazy flips to the outside followed by Fit Finlay and Lord Steven Regal tearing it up with a stiff, catch-as-catch-can style. You’d have Kensuke Sasaki chopping and suplexing people followed by guys like Liger or Lionheart Chris Jericho wrestling a junior heavyweight style. People from different places felt different, and that’s one of the things I miss most about this whole affair.
So yeah, the first match of this episode is ECW Prime Sabu against a tall, lanky German guy who was kinda brought in to be the new Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Alex Wright was always an underrated worker, but he was also mayo on f*cking whitebread. He could jump, lord could he jump, but he never really developed a personality beyond one really easy-to-do club dance. He’d do a German suplex because he’s German. He would’ve fit in brilliantly with WWE in the mid-2000s when they were focusing on tall, hairless, muscular guys who didn’t do anything more dangerous than a clothesline. And here he is taking on GODDAMN SABU, who is already springboarding backwards into a FLYING NOTHING 40 seconds in.
Sabu wins the match but decides to put Alex Wright through a table for no reason, causing the referee to reverse his decision. This has always been super hilarious to me, because it’s right before the whole ECW “hardcore” vibe caught on nationally, and poor Alex Wright must’ve been like OH GOD WHAT’S HE DOING TO ME WHY AM I LYING ON FURNITURE. Sabu’s in a throwaway match at the beginning of a Nitro with no feud to speak of, and is just F*CK IT, GERMAN’S DYING. Love it.
Best: Ric Flair
Flair is feuding with Arn Anderson here because Arn would rather call his wife and child than hang out with Ric Flair. Note: Flair is 100% in the right. “The Total Package” Lex Luger shows up, and Flair keeps calling him “Package.” I’m assuming that’s on purpose. I wish they would’ve made Luger’s nickname “Dick Bulge.” “Dick Bulge” Lex Luger. TELL ‘EM HOW YOU’RE FEELIN’, DICK BULGE.
A supplementary worst for Bobby Heenan not maintaining his intense gay obsession with Luger.
Worst: VK Wallstreet
One of the big “gets” for the first episode of Nitro was Mike Rotunda, aka WWF’s Irwin R. Schyster. He announced on episode 1 that he wanted to be “where the big boys play.” I wish episode two had featured a vignette of Rotunda on a swingset. “Big boys take turns!”
Anyway, Rotunda’s new name is V.K. WALLSTREET, because Vincent Kennedy McMahon’s first two initials are V and K and wrestling promotions in the 90s were all about the snide in-jokes. Virgil was named “Virgil” because that was Dusty Rhodes’ shoot name, and when Virgil landed in WCW he became “Vincent.” Get it? Bischoff beats us over the head with it by saying, “what’s with this V.K. stuff, huh?” for the guy’s entire entrance. V.K. Wallstreet is the most low-rent Million Dollar Man of all time, and I’ll let this exchange from the announce team put it into perspective:
Heenan: “I wonder how things are going today at the market!”
Mongo: “What market? THE SUPERMARKET??”
Best: The Final Days Of Surfer Sting
One of the interesting things about going back and revisiting these early Nitros is that they mark the final days of Surfer Sting, my favorite wrestler from the late-80s through the mid-90s. The announce team insists that Sting is a “man on a mission,” but as the episodes drag on he gets more and more detached, growing out his hair, losing the bleach-job and, eventually, becoming the Crow. He got so popular in that persona that it’s the only one he’s carried with him, and now if we get a big nostalgia Sting run in WWE, he’ll have black and white face paint. His entire TNA run was in monochrome, even if he tried working in splashes of color. Surfer Sting will not and cannot come back, and there’s beauty to that, sad as it is. When he changed he really changed, and no amount of fiction can undo it.
Best: This Weekend, DISCO INFERNO Debuts
Crap, how long do I have to wait before they start adding episodes of WCW Saturday Night?
Best: Scott Norton Loses Because Of Another Man’s Fatness
Scott Norton is AWESOME. Capital letters. In a profession where a lot of guys work out for vanity muscles, Scott Norton is a literal barrel of a man who has eaten and gained the powers like five weightlifters and is ready to SQUEEZE YOU TO HELL. He destroys Macho Man here, catching him, snapping him like he’s Bane and basically no-selling everything but Macho’s most enthusiastic bursts of offense. It’s exactly the kind of match these two should be having … Macho is a wily veteran who excels in gathering up his guts and fighting from underneath, and Norton just spent a few years hanging out in Japan and is not f*cking around.
The finish is equally enjoyable: before the nWo was around, WCW’s evil heel faction was the DUNGEON OF DOOM, a bunch of comically-dressed He-Man villains who couldn’t really accomplish much, even if they attacked 10-on-1. Their squad included a giant mummy, a fat guy who thought he was a shark, Kevin Sullivan with a spear (!!), Brutus Beefcake in zebra cosplay and KAMALA THE UGANDAN GIANT, who was great but also kinda out of place as a “mindless black savage” on national TV in 1995. They’ve got a War Games match against Savage coming up in a week, so they send Kamala and The Shark out to rough him up. Savage tosses Norton into Shark, which knocks Shark out and knocks Kamala off the apron. Shark then FALLS ACROSS THE LEGS OF NORTON, holding him down with 500 pounds of fatness long enough for Savage to drop an elbow from the top and get the win. Referee Randy Anderson is totally fine with this for some reason, and Savage flees when Goldar and Lord Zedd and the rest of these idiots show up.
I would pay good money to see Scott Norton in a fight to the death against the entire Dungeon Of Doom. Maybe give them all spears so they have a fighting chance.
Worst: Stupid Hulk Hogan
These are the final days of Surfer Sting, but they’re also the final days of classic red and yellow Hulkamania. If you’re frustrated with John Cena in modern WWE, magnify it by about a hundred and you’ve got 1994-95 Hogan. He could not take ANY DAMAGE. He was the most invulnerable, least believable wrestler in history, with most of his matches starting with him just manhandling whoever until whoops, he accidentally gets cheapshotted or hurt in some way. Maybe he breaks his leg, gets taken to a local hospital and then WALKS BACK TO THE ARENA ON A BROKEN LEG. This is a thing that happened.
Here, Hogan is squaring off against Lex Luger, the multiple time heavyweight champion WCW just got back from the WWF. Luger has been here for exactly one week and is being portrayed as Hogan’s equal … a sort of “chaotic neutral” Hogan nobody’s sure if they can trust. How does Hogan react to Luger’s appearance? By facing him in a one-on-one match IMMEDIATELY, no-selling all of his offense and having him cleanly beaten before the Dungeon of Doom runs in and breaks it up. Seriously, they pretend like it’s an equal match, but Hogan no-sells the Torture Rack, big boots him and basically has him down for an 11 count before the fat cosplay guys pop in. Infuriating.
After the match, Hogan has a stern talking-to with Sting and Macho Man about whether or not Luger should be allowed to join TEAM HOGAN at War Games. Everyone kinda stands around in a semi-circle and waits for Hogan to make his decision. Keep in mind that Hogan could go into War Games by himself and beat these dudes. Which, uh, he does in a few months at Uncensored 96. At this point you could’ve put the entire Dungeon of Doom on a team WITH Sting and Macho and Luger and Hogan would’ve found a way to strap bombs to his boots and leg drop them all at once.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Mexican Guy
Look at their faces.