-After doing the 1995 season of Monday Night Raw, it’s appropriate that we also go through the 1995 season of WCW Monday Nitro. This is the episode that started it all, from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. However, this isnâ€™t the first clash in the Monday Night Wars because Monday Night Raw was preempted by the U.S. Open since this was back when USA Network was in the tennis business.
-Eric Bischoff, Steve â€œMongoâ€ McMichael, and Bobby â€œthe Brainâ€ Heenan are in the booth and they are live from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.
-Opening Contest: Jushin â€œThunderâ€ Liger vs. â€œFlyinâ€™â€ Brian Pillman:
Liger flips out of Pillmanâ€™s wristlock and hits a spinning heel kick. Liger chops away as McMichael takes jabs at the WWF. Liger gets a moonsault for two and its chinlock time. Pillman takes down Liger with a headscissors after a blind charge and delivers a messed up hurricanrana for two. Pillman puts Liger in a modified abdominal stretch and cradles him for one. Liger traps Pillman in a bow and arrow submission and Nick Patrick ignores that Ligerâ€™s shoulders are on the mat. After a chinlock, Pillman comes back with a headscissors, but Pillman misses a charge and goes over the top rope. Liger cannonballs onto Pillman from the apron but when Liger tries to suplex Pillman inside Pillman reverses it and Liger ends up on the floor. Pillman goes to the top rope and delivers a flying body press onto Liger on the floor. Back in, Pillman goes to the top rope again, but Liger crotches him and superplexes Pillman for two. Liger dives off the top rope but Pillman dropkicks him in the gut for two. Pillman puts his head too early and Liger powerbombs him for two. Liger gets a super hurricanrana off the top rope for two. Liger puts Pillman back on the top rope but Pillman rakes his eyes and gets a tornado DDT for two. Liger goes for an inverted slingshot but Pillman reverses that with a victory roll for the pin at 6:52. After the match, Pillman and Liger shake hands. I love watching these guys wrestle, but this match was a sloppy rehash of their previous encounters. There were some delays between the big spots and not much psychology was employed. Also, the lay crowd they were wrestling in front of killed the buzz this match couldâ€™ve generated if it was held in any other arena in the countryâ€¦except maybe Sturgis, South Dakota. Grade: C+
-Sting says that he can walk the aisle better than â€œThe Nature Boyâ€ Ric Flair.
-Bischoff interviews WCW Champion Hulk Hogan, who is signing autographs at his Pastamania restaurant. He says heâ€™s been eating his pasta and Big Bubba Rogers better watch out.
-United States Championship Match: Sting (Champion) vs. â€œNature Boyâ€ Ric Flair:
In true Nitro fashion, they take a main event for any arena in the country and turn it into a midcard bout on free TV. In the first big surprise of the Monday Night Wars, Lex Luger appears in the aisle and destroys a month of taped WWFâ€™s storylines. Bischoff and McMichael sell the appearance like a shoot. Luger and Sting are temporarily distracted but get things going in due time. Flair runs into two gorilla press slams and a hiptoss and a dropkick causes Flair to bail. Flair flops on the floor just because he can. Back in, Flair pokes Sting in the eyes during a test of strength and chops away in the corner. However, Sting quits selling them and gives Flair another gorilla press slam. They mess up a running of the ropes sequence, but Flair eventually body presses Sting and both men go over the top rope. Outside, Sting military presses Flair into the ring but a Stingerâ€™s splash eats buckle. Sting quickly recovers and gives Flair a bulldog but a blind charge eats elbow. As both men recover we go to a commercial break.
When we return Flair gives Sting a knife-edge chop and goes to the top rope, only to get tossed off like always. Sting gives Flair ANOTHER gorilla press slam for two. Is that the only move in Stingâ€™s arsenal tonight? Arn Anderson comes down to the ring as Sting misses a dive off the top rope and Flair hits a vertical suplex. Sting no sells that and clotheslines Flair all over the place. Flair goes to the eyes and fights off a Sting superplex. Both men go to the mat, with Flair covering Sting for two and Sting bridging out and getting a backslide for two. Sting hits a superplex and talks to Anderson. Flair chop blocks Stingâ€™s knee and applies the figure-four. The referee catches Flair grabbing the ropes for leverage and Anderson enters the ring as the referee calls for the bell at 8:45 shown. Anderson beats on Flair and Flair quickly escapes and flees. During the next segment, David Penzer says that the match is a no contest. This was okay, but Stingâ€™s repetitive offense and refusal to sell for Flair really messed up the match. Also, both guys were just doing moves to each other without much of a story being told. Grade: C
-Scott Norton shows up and gets in McMichaelâ€™s face. â€œMacho Manâ€ Randy Savage suddenly shows up and says that if Norton wants a reputation he should face him. Norton and Savage say they are ready to fight now but Bischoff says thereâ€™s not going to be a match because itâ€™s not signed.
-Video package for Sabu, a new superstar in WCW. Yes, thatâ€™s right. Sabu did wrestle in WCW for a brief period.
-â€œMeanâ€ Gene Okerlund congratulates Mike Hill for winning the Harley Davidson sweepstakes.
-IRSâ€¦I mean Michael Wallstreet cuts a promo that says that heâ€™s here in WCW to get to the top, yada, yada, yada.
-WCW Championship Match: Hulk Hogan (w/Jimmy Hart) vs. Big Bubba Rogers:
Itâ€™s funny to see a few fans throw trash at Hogan on his way to the ring. Bischoff announces that Randy Savage will face Scott Norton next week on Nitro. Rogers kicks Hogan in the gut during a test of strength and gets in some shots in the corner as Heenan recalls Rogers past history as a prison guard. Might that have been in Cobb County, Georgia? I hear that they make people serve hard time there. Rogers splashes Hogan in the corner but Hogan blocks a take to the buckles and takes Rogers to them six times. Both men brawl for a while until Hart distracts the referee and Hogan chokes Rogers with Hartâ€™s coat. I could rip on Hogan for not being a role model but he never claimed to be and thatâ€™s Jesse Venturaâ€™s job. Rogers turns the tide with some uppercuts but a blind charge eats buckle and Hogan gets in some more shots. Rogers catches Hogan with a Bubba Slam (Boss Man slam) but that only gets two and Hogan hulks up. Since Rogers doesnâ€™t leave the ring Hogan beats on him, gives him a big boot, and the leg drop finishes at 7:08. This would have been a good match if it was fought in Mortal Kombat due to the amount of striking maneuvers both guys were employing, but it made for a very boring match until the finish. Grade: D-
-After the match, the Dungeon of Doom comes in and Hogan fights off all of them by himself. Luger comes in to join the fun and after both men clear the ring they have a face off. After the commercial break, Savage and Sting are in the ring and Hogan asks Luger what heâ€™s doing in WCW. Luger says that heâ€™s in WCW to take the belt off of Hogan and that heâ€™s tired of playing around with kids. Amen to that. Hogan says that heâ€™s got tons of Hulkamaniacs on his side and botches his line about Luger not having to wait for next week because he offers him a title match next week in Miami. Both men have a small shoving match as we go off the air.
The Final Report Card: Despite the matches being short and sloppy, this first edition of Nitro can be considered a success because it brought Luger in and effectively built up next weekâ€™s show, when Nitro was going to be going head-to-head against Raw for the first time. Although Nitro would narrowly lose that showdown, this show established Nitroâ€™s reputation as a live wrestling show where anything could happen. Itâ€™s non-squash format for better or worse also differed significantly from what the WWF was putting out and would change the way Raw was booked. However, these â€œintangiblesâ€ donâ€™t show up in the showâ€™s grade.
Show Grade: C-
Tags: Arn Anderson, Big Bubba Rogers, bobby heenan, Brian Pillman, Eric Bischoff, Gene Okerlund, Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, jimmy hart, Jushin Liger, Lex Luger, Monday Night Wars, Nitro, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Sabu, Scott Norton, steve mcmichael, Sting, WCW, What the World Was Watching