Gleed’s WCW Nitro Retro Coverage – September 4, 1995: The first WCW Nitro with Lex Luger's shocking appearance, Brian Pillman vs. Jushin Liger, Sting vs. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba, Randy Savage, and more
By Haydn Gleed
WCW Nitro on TNT
Bloomington, Minnesota at Mall of America
With the first 100 hours of WCW Nitro being made available on WWE Network this week, I thought it would be a good opportunity to review the first ever Nitro which aired on September 4, 1995. Head honcho Jason Powell was in attendance so rest assured, if I get anything wrong on my review, he will shout at me! (Powell's Note: Haydn mistakenly listed the host city as Minneapolis rather than Bloomington. Even if that's the city WCW claimed they were in, Mall of America is located in Bloomington, and thus Haydn will be locked in a room, tied to a chair, beaten, starved, and forced to watch the very worst of Bastion Booger compilation DVD made just for him).
In the UK, I didn't have the opportunity to ever watch Nitro. The channel that it was being aired on was aimed more at male adults, so my parents wouldn't let me watch it and by the time I went to university I didn't have the channel that carried it because I was a skint student. My only exposure has been through WWE released DVDs or my own reading through newsletters that were published at the time. This is the first time I've watched the shows, and I'm very much looking forward to it.
In 1995, Eric Bischoff was in full control of the direction of WCW, and was recruiting big ex-WWF stars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. He has stated in interviews that he went into a meeting with Ted Turner mid-1995, who asked what they needed to do to compete with WWF. Eric, who was not expecting to be asked this question, said he wanted to run a show on prime time. Ted Turner decided to give him a slot on Monday night prime time.
And so the war began.....
We see a deserted street with pyrotechnics going off. On the buildings, images flash up of big stars such as Hulk Hogan, until the finale when an explosion goes off and we see the words WCW Monday Nitro highlighted. All of this is happening to contemporary music for the time...
Retro Verdict: If I had been a channel surfer in 1995, and I had seen that intro, I would have gone, I need to see this. Equally, if I was a WWF fan, and all I was used to was a bad saxophone/generic graphic intro, I would have gone, what's this? Good way to entice viewers right from the get go.
Eric Bischoff welcomed us to the land of 10,000 lakes, and to the Mall of America. He said it was the only building that was capable of holding the debut of Monday Night Nitro. He was standing at ringside and introduced his co-commentator, Steve "Mongo" McMichael. Steve said this was a place to showcase championship athletes.
Retro Verdict: McMichael was a member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears team that went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl.
As he was talking, we heard woah woah woah, and out from behind the camera stepped Bobby Heenan to complete the broadcast team. Eric said later we would hear from Hulk Hogan, but our first match was about to start. Out first was Jushin "Thunder" Liger, who came out in his usual gear. Eric Bischoff said that this is where the big boys play. Out next was Flying Brian (Pillman) to a great reception...
1. Jushin "Thunder" Liger vs. "Flying" Brian Pillman. Bothe men locked up and Pillman managed to apply a wristlock. Liger reversed, and ended up whipping Pillman in to the corner, did a handstand backflip and splashed Pillman. Pillman reversed a whip to the other corner, went to follow in but Liger jumped over him, ran to the other corner and hit a moonsault on Pillman. Pillman just stood there watching Liger do his thing instead of going after him, so it didn't look natural. Liger got a two count after the moonsault.
Jushin continued on the offence. Steve McMichael said even Bobby "The Stain" Hernia would appreciate how good Liger is. Pillman made a comeback and hit a huracanrana. He chopped Liger in the corner. Pillman hit another but this time sloppy huracanrana. Pillman started some ground based offence, but Liger cameback and placed Brian in a reversed surfboard.
Pillman managed to get out of the move and hit a head scissors takedown on Liger. Brian hit the ropes and went for a crossbody, but Liger moved and he fell to the outside. Liger took advantage and hit a somersault from the apron. Pillman managed to crawl onto the apron, Liger tried to suplex him back into the ring, but Pillman reversed and Liger fell to the outside. Flying Brian went up top and hit a crossbody to Liger on the floor.
Brian threw Jushin into the ring, he went up top but Liger recovered and knocked him off the top rope. Liger used the situation to hit a superplex on Flying Brian for a close 2 count. Liger went up top to hit an axe handle, but Pillman hit a dropkick while Liger was on his way down for a close two count of his own.
Bischoff reminded us that we would see Sting and Ric Flair later in the show, as well as WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. In the ring, both men were trading impressive high spots and athletic offence. The finish came when Pillman hit a standing switch for the 1-2-3...
Brian Pillman beat Justin Liger in 6:57 via pinfall.
Retro Verdict: What a great way to start of your new program. There was some sloppiness at the start, and things that didn't look realistic, but I can forgive that with the rest of the match. Exciting way to open Nitro. By the way, Mall Of America is such a great and unique way to present your first show, it's something different and the setting looks great. Between the match and the venue, again if someone with a passing interest in Pro Wrestling stumbled on this, they would have paid attention. One sad note, just over two years after this, Brian Pillman died. During this match, I was thinking of everything that he achieved between this match and the night before Bad Blood '97. He fit so much into that two year period, such a sad situation.
They showed a pre-taped interview with Sting, where he said there was no one like the Stinger, and no one can apply the scorpion death lock like him. He finished with wide eyes and a YEAH!...
A commercial aired of the WCW hotline with Mean Gene Okerlund. I'm so glad I wasn't a kid with access to these phone lines, I would have bankrupted my parents probably. The copy of Nitro I have actually has commercials, so I got to sit through commercials for Batman Forever the video game, Big A and Pierce Cardin Insatiable fragrance for men...
Back from the commercials, they went to another pre-recorded video, this time with Hulk Hogan. Eric Bischoff was standing outside Pastamania where Hulk was signing autographs for the kids. Eric knocked some of the kids out of the way (gently I might add, he wasn't grabbing the little Timmy's and throwing them across the room) and got to Hulk. He said how do you feel about your match tonight?
Hulk said, well I'll tell you something Eric, Monday Nitro is running wild. He said that tonight he will have the belt on the line against Big Bubba, and with Pastamania running through his brain, he asked the kids who's going to win? The kids of course said Hogan...
Retro Verdict: If Hulk mentioned Pastamania and pastamaniacs one more time, I was going to throw my laptop through my TV. In case you're wondering, the Pastamania venture flopped.
Back in the arena, Ric Flair's music was playing and Bobby was woo'ing. Ahhhh all is right with the world. McMichael said, "I know these two are the best in the world with their action, if you are not tuned into this....", Eric cut him off and said, "Don't say it, don't say it". With Ric in the ring, Sting, in bright pink and purple, made his entrance...
2. Ric Flair vs. Sting. As both men were taking off their jackets and robes, the camera showed Lex Luger walking down the aisle. Eric screamed, to take the camera off him, and to get him out of here. Luger just stood in the aisle while both men in the ring were watching him. Bobby said we have a situation here.
Ric and Sting circled each other and locked up. Ric backed Sting into the corner, but as they broke, Sting hollered. Both men ran the ropes until Sting caught Ric and pressed him over his head. Ric ran the ropes with the same result.
Sting continued with the offence, including a beautiful dropkick which caused Ric to bail to the outside. Eric said there was chaos in the locker room with Lex Luger arriving, and he had now been removed by security. In the ring, Ric put a thumb to the eye of Sting and was on offence. He unloaded on Sting in the corner with chops. Sting started to no sell the chops and punches, and again picked him up above his head and slammed him down.
Ric ran against the ropes, ran across the ring and crossbody blocked Sting and they both went tumbling to the outside. Sting picked up Ric above his head again, and threw him in the ring. Ric begged off as Sting entered the ring. Sting went for a splash in the corner but Ric moved, but Sting stopped himself. He whipped him to the other side of the ring but Ric got his elbow up as we went to a break.
Back from the break (no ad breaks on my copy this time unfortunately), Eric said that the action had gone back and for. Ric was on the top rope, and Sting caught him and threw him half way across the ring. Sting again picked Ric up above his head and slammed it. The camera showed Arn Anderson coming down the aisle, as Sting missed a splash from the top rope.
Ric hit an inverted suplex which Sting no sold. He reached his feet and whipped Ric to the corner. Ric flipped over to the apron, and Sting hit a clothesline. Arn watched on. Flair applied a sideheadlock which Sting powered out of. Sting again put Ric on the top rope and hit a superplex. Sting got distracted by Arn's presence at ringside, which Ric took advantage of by taking his knee out. Flair applied the figure four leglock which Sting seemed to no sell.
Sting eventually succumbed to the pain and laid on his back. Ric grabbed the rope for more leverage but ignored the referee's count and was disqualified...
Sting beat Ric Flair in 9:34 via disqualification.
After the match, Arn entered the ring. He pulled Flair off Sting and took his jacket off. Flair attacked him but Arn came back with a barrage of punches. They battled down the aisle, but Flair made a run for it. Arn turned towards the ring grabbed his jacket while keeping his eyes on Sting.
As we thought things were calming down, Scott Norton was seen pushing Heenan and Bischoff, and squared up to McMichael. He said he had signed a contract and that he wanted an opponent. From out of nowhere Randy Savage came out of the crowd and stood up to Norton. Savage said if you want to do it, let's do it now. Norton said what are we waiting for? Macho Man said nothing, let's do it!
Eric stood between Norton and the ring and asked for security to come and help. Eric said if you step in that ring, you will never wrestle in WCW he will promise you that. Eric threw to a video package on Sabu, which had a Nirvana-esque riff playing, as I take a deep breath...
Retro Verdict: Okay, where do I start? Firstly, it's quite obvious when the first shot was fired in the Monday Night War. Luger jumping was a huge deal, because no one expected it to happen. Luger had been working under a good faith agreement with Vince McMahon while they sorted out his contract. He made no secret that he was negotiating with both companies, but according to reports at the time, Luger had made indications that he was going to re-sign with the WWF, so much so he was scheduled, and a storyline was setup, to wrestle Triple H on the next In Your House PPV. He had even wrestled the night before Nitro at a WWF house show in Toronto. This was shocking to everyone, including Vince McMahon, and set the tone for what would become arguably the biggest boom period of wrestling in the modern era.
The match between Ric and Sting was decent, and showcased the talents and strengths of both men, and it felt like a big event without all the other bells and whistles going on around them. Sting's limitations as a wrestler shone through, but the character was super over with the crowd and as a result the match was exciting. The brawl with Ric and Arn obviously had been building up based on the comments from the announcers and what happened after the bell.
Finally, the whole Norton/Savage deal. If this were TNA, we would be shouting at them for not letting anything sink in before moving onto the next thing, and that argument could be used here. What you have to remember was this was the very first Nitro, and they wanted to hook the viewers in and not have a reason to change the channel. You also have to think in two segments, we had Hulk Hogan, Sting, Ric Flair, Lex Luger & Randy Savage all make appearances when they were either in their drawing prime or just coming out of their prime. This made the product and the company seem big time. Anyway, back to the show.
Back from the break, Okerlund was standing in the ring. He said he wanted to congratulate the winner of the Harley Davidson sweepstakes winner. He then said Eric back to you...
Retro Verdict: That was so pointless, except I guess to get Mean Gene on camera.
Eric said we would find out some more about Scott Norton, the guy who just came out and interrupted proceedings a moment ago. He moved on to a plug for the WCW Saturday Night show... McMichael said that he was enjoying his debut, and he thought he would be getting involved in some action. Eric then threw to a video interview with another new superstar about to debut in WCW...
We saw Michael Wallstreet (IRS, Mike Rotunda, Bray Wyatt & Bo Dalles's father) standing in the locker room. He said we hear a lot about the new generation, but in reality it is a generation for the few. He said it is about money and power, and right here in WCW, you have greatest wrestlers in the world. He listed Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting and Vader. He said you can now add to the list Mr. Wallstreet. He said he is sure the IRS will be watching closely (boom), because he said as he goes down the road in WCW, people will know he will be a player.
Retro Verdict: Anytime there is a shot at WWF look for me to write boom. Short and not really that sweet promo from Rotunda. It was okay, but it felt it was only building to put over WCW and take a shot at the IRS gimmick, as opposed to getting himself over. I keep saying it, Bray and Bo certainly didn't get their promo ability from dad.
Back in the arena, Big Bubba (Big Boss Man) made his entrance wearing a shirt and tie. Eric said they have to take one quick break. I got to watch a Macho Man promo for Slim Jims, Hot Pockets (such a cheesy commercial!), and Tootsie Roll... Back in the arena, the WCW Champion Hulk Hogan made his entrance, along with Jimmy Hart. The crowd were going crazy...
3. Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba for the WCW Heavyweight Championship. Before the bell rang, Eric announced that it was chaos in the locker room due to Lex Luger showing up and the Norton/Savage issue. He said next week, the contract has been signed for a one on one match between Norton and Savage.
Both men circled each other, feeling each other out. They locked up and Hogan powered Bubba backwards and posed. Bobby took a shot at Minnesota summers and how the people enjoy their three days of summer. Bubba put Hogan in a headlock. Hogan shot Bubba to the ropes and they shoulder charged each other, which caused Bubba to bump to the mat.
Bubba got up and got the advantage. He whipped Hogan across the ring and followed up with a splash. Bobby said Bubba knows what he's doing and is tough. He said he used to be a prison guard (boom). Hogan managed to turn the tide and rammed Bubba's head into the top turnbuckle 10 times, but Bubba managed to rake the eyes of Hulk.
Bubba hit a backbreaker and continued with the attack in the corner. Bubba charged at him but Hogan put his boot up and Bubba completely missed it but still sold it. He charged again and this time it did connect. Hogan beat Bubba on the mat with punches until the ref pulled him off. With Hogan distracted, Big Bubba regained the advantage.
With Hogan's throat straddled on the second rope, Bubba came off the ropes and landed on Hulk's back. Bobby said that will make you throw up the pasta. Bubba went after Jimmy Hart at ringside but Hogan made the save. He threw Bubba back in the ring and started chocking Bubba with Jimmy's jacket, with Jimmy distracting the ref. Hogan took Bubba to the middle of the ring and hit a powerslam followed by two elbow drops and rake of Bubba's eyes with his foot.
Bubba got his second wind and hit Hogan with a couple of punches. He charged at Hogan in the corner but he moved. Hogan returned with a few punches, bounced off the ropes, but Bubba hit a side walk slam. Bubba pinned him, but Hogan kicked out at two and started Hulking up. Do I need to type the rest of what happened next? Walk around the ring, punch, no sell, punch, no sell, finger point, punch punch, whip into the ropes, big boot followed by a legdrop, 1-2-3... #hulkstandardfinish
Hulk Hogan beat Big Bubba in 7:10 via pinfall to retain the WCW Championship.
After the match, Hulk celebrated in the ring with Jimmy Hart. From the back, the Dungeon of Doom came running down the aisle and started to attack Hogan. As they got the advantage, Luger came running down and helped Hogan clear the ring. Both men collided and went to punch each other, but just stopped themselves.
Hulk looked confused as they started jawing at each other, including Hulk shouting, why don't you go back to where you came from? Macho Man and Sting came out to hold both men back. Eric said Mean Gene was making his way down to the ring, and Eric said they will take a final break but don't go away as Okerlund will try and get an interview...
Retro Verdict: The Hogan vs. Bubba match was okay, just a standard Hogan match really. The big thing coming out of this segment was the Luger and Hogan face off. If you have been reading my reviews of the WWF in 1993, Hogan had just left and Vince was trying to make Luger the "new Hulk Hogan." It didn't work, but the fact that both these men were standing face to face in the same company was huge.
Back from the adverts, Mean Gene stood between the pair as Hogan screamed, what you doing in my backyard, Luger? Luger said he was here for one reason, people say that you are the number one wrestler in the world today. You wear the WCW Heavyweight belt, which makes you the only world champion in the world (boom), and he wants to take that belt.
Luger said that he has been down the same road as you, he has beaten the same people as you Hogan. He said he is sick and tired of playing around with kids, and he's here to get it on with the big boys (boom). He said he will get his shot. Hogan held the belt and said he is the champ and he will stay that way. He said he knows where you have been playing games (boom), but when you come into the WCW, there's thousands of Hulkamaniacs who will stand behind him. He said he will put the title up against him next week as he pushed him away...
They went back to the announcers who ran down what is going to be on WCW Nitro next week. They thanked everyone for joining them on the debut WCW Nitro as the end graphics showed...
Retro Verdict: Hogan messed up twice at the end. Firstly the thousands of Hulkamaniacs? Where did the millions go? He also said, you don't have to wait until next week, shake on it and you will have your shot next week in Miami....yeah, but it was in the heat of the moment so I'll stop nitpicking. Good promo's otherwise that built excitement well for the next show, and I'm guessing the fact these two were facing each other sent a buzz around the wrestling world at the time, although I can listen to the argument that they should have thought long term instead of going straight into this. My argument to that was simply they were trying to get viewers at the start of the new show, and make their show a destination on Monday nights, so they had to pull out all the stops.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the debut of Nitro. You have to remember I've watched a heck of a lot of 1993 wrestling recently, so for me watching this was something completely different and I enjoyed it. From the matches that were put on, to the non stop action and the feeling that you never knew what's going to happen next, this would have had me hooked in 1995. I could nitpick some areas that irritated me slightly, but they would literally be nitpicks. A really enjoyable show, and I'm looking forward to the time when I can review the old WCW Nitro's on a weekly basis.
Do you remember the first Nitro? Do you want to share some memories? Do you have any thoughts on my review? It's all good, hit me up on twitter @haydngleed or by email at email@example.com
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