Happy Wednesday Everyone!
Earlier in the year I posted a list of what I considered to be my favourite moments from the 30 year history of WWF/E Monday Night Raw. I quite enjoyed that so I thought I’d do a similar list for Raw’s main rival during the “Monday Night War” Era, in the form of WCW Monday Nitro. Nitro was, at one stage, a colossal ratings success, winning the famed Ratings War™ for 83 weeks in a row until the company began combusting under the weight of its own ineptitude.
Nitro was actually on the air for less than six years, but a lot of memorable moments took place during it’s time on the air, from Ric Flair stealing Randy Savage’s woman and spending his alimony, to the nWo crushing all before them, to Sting going from Surfer Dude to brooding Crow in the rafters, to Diamond Dallas Page becoming one of wrestling’s most unlikely heroes, all the way up to Bill Goldberg’s meteoric rise to the top of the wrestling world.
As always with these lists; this is just my own subjective opinion and isn’t supposed to be some kind of objective declaration of the greatest Nitro Moments. I know for most of you that will be obvious, but this is the internet, so I feel it’s probably best to clarify for those easily riled amongst us. Please feel free to share your own favourite Nitro moments in the comments section!
We’ll do 10 to 6 this week and finish up with 5 to 1 next week.
Number Ten – 4th September 1995
Lex Luger Arrives
The first episode of Monday Nitro ran unopposed at the Mall of America, with WCW doing its best to make it a blow away show in order to try and hook first time viewers. Brian Pillman did battle with Jushin Liger for the work rate fans, Ric Flair and Sting tussled in order to please traditional NWA/WCW hardcores and Hulk Hogan took on long-time foe Ray “Big Bubba/Big Boss Man” Traylor in the Main Event in an effort to derive interest from casual or older WWF fans. It really was a very intelligent card from WCW, with the cherry on top being a big surprise appearance from Lex Luger.
Luger had been out of contract with the WWF after a three year stint there and had been negotiating a renewal when Sting personally went to Eric Bischoff and suggested that WCW bring Luger in whilst they had the chance. Bischoff had never been a particularly big fan of Luger and low balled him on the offer so he could say to Sting that he tried but Luger wasn’t interested. Luger surprisingly agreed to the contract offer though, so Bischoff kept his signing on the down-low and then had Luger walk out just before Flair and Sting were due to lock up.
The vast majority of wrestling fans had no idea about Luger’s contract status and thus had no inkling that he might show up, so Luger strolling out automatically became a big moment that established Nitro as unmissable TV because you never quite knew what to expect. Luger had a very good run in WCW for the next couple of years and eventually got a nice pay rise, at which point he quickly switched things into neutral for the rest of his stint in the company. However, that big surprise arrival did a lot of juice Nitro from its first episode and the Ratings War™ was now in full flow!
I’ve always enjoyed this moment because it not only showed that Nitro was a show you had to pay attention to because you never knew who might be there, but it also got Luger back on the track to stardom again after being kind of just another guy in the mid-card in the WWF following his failed chase of the WWF Title in 93/94. Jumping over made Luger instantly fresh again and it led to one of the better storylines from this period where Luger was clearly a Heel but he was still friends with babyface Sting, leading to some genuinely interesting storytelling.
Number Nine – 7th July 1997
DDP Is La Parka
Randy Savage had joined the nWo faction in February of 1997 and his first major feud as a member of the group was with the freshly turned babyface Diamond Dallas Page. DDP had been starting to gain some momentum ever since refusing to join the nWo himself in January of 1997, with a big pay per view win over Savage in April of 1997 being the big moment he needed to break out as a genuine top of the card act.
Savage and DDP jousted back and forth every week during their feud, with each one sneak attacking and tormenting the other whenever the opportunity would allow. Savage would ram a limo door into DDP’s mid-section in order to crack his ribs, but then DDP would give Savage a Diamond Cutter on the concrete, and the feud continued to heat up as other people got dragged into it. One of the most unexpected and entertaining moments of the feud though came on the 7th July 1997 episode of Nitro when Savage took on the masked luchador La Parka.
La Parka was known for wearing a full bodysuit that made him look like a skeleton, as well as his wacky dance and propensity for swinging chairs at his opponents. He quickly developed a cult following with the WCW fan base but he would often lose when put up against the top stars in the company, with Goldberg famously no selling one of his chair shots and then ploughing straight through him with a big Spear.
Thus when Savage got in there with La Parka, most fans expected an easy Savage win. However, as the match progressed, La Parka suddenly busted out a very similar looking move in the form of a Diamond Cutter before unmasking to reveal DDP, as “The Bang Man” had once again caught his rival unawares with an ingenious sneak attack. What made this segment so great was DDP’s commitment to being La Parka, as if you watched the match not knowing what was coming you would have honestly just thought it was a squash match win for Savage until the realisation set in.
Humorously, DDP even played up the ruse backstage as well, to the point that the other wrestlers actually thought he was La Parka and were equally surprised when the reveal was made. That’s just Pro Wrestling in a nutshell isn’t it? This is a cracking segment and one of the best examples of a good swerve that actually added something to the show and storyline, and wasn’t just done for the sake of doing it. I’ve always been into the Savage/DDP feud and this moment was a good example of how they managed to keep it feeling fresh and interesting even though it was a long running storyline.
Number Eight – 2nd September 1996
Giant Goes nWo
When the nWo faction formed in July of 1996 they went on an absolute terror, clobbering not just all of WCW’s babyfaces but also Heels like The Horsemen and The Dungeon of DOOM. As far as the nWo was concerned, everyone was an enemy, and that made them not only dangerous but very cool because they could (and often would) destroy anyone at any time based on a whim. However, with just three official members (Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) it was starting to get a bit ridiculous that they could keep dominating in such fashion, so the group needed some new additions.
They recruited one heck of a fourth colleague, in the form of The Giant, who had previously been attached to The Dungeon of DOOM stable. Giant had actually been the WCW Champion as recently as August, so the nWo was recruiting one of the top stars in the promotion, as well as one of the most physically imposing. The angle where Giant finally joined was one heck of a brutal beat down, as the, now bolstered, nWo ran through both The Horsemen and Dungeon before storming up to the stage area and smashing that up as well.
This angle not only made the group more dominant but it also represented the first time that a home-grown WCW guy had joined up with them. Nash and Hall had previously worked for WCW, but they had attained their biggest fame in the WWF and were thus seen as outsiders to the promotion, and the same could be said for Hogan as well. Giant was the first time that someone who had made their name in WCW had decided to betray the home team and side with the nWo, something that would happen again with the likes of Buff Bagwell and Scott Steiner down the road.
Interestingly it was unlikely that Giant was supposed to be the person in this slot, with rumours abounding that Sean Waltman and Davey Boy Smith were first considered for the slot, but the WWF dragged their feet with giving Waltman his release and Smith eventually decided to stay with the WWF, so Giant ended up getting the nod instead. In some ways it benefitted the angle that they went with Giant, as giving an already dominant Heel faction a ruddy GIANT to bolster their ranks made them all the more terrifying and sent a message once again that you could never be sure what was going to happen next on Nitro.
This is such an effective beat down angle and it instantly heated Giant back up following his loss of the World Title to Hogan, although by the time 1997 rolled around The Giant was back fighting for WCW and this period was kind of forgotten. The initial angle where Giant turns is great stuff though, just because the fans are genuinely surprised and it draws some fantastic heat from the crowd, the sort of heat that makes you want to watch the next show to see where the story goes, as opposed to the sort of heat we’d get later on in the company’s life where you just wanted to shut the show off.
Number Seven – 30th March 1998
Chris Jericho’s List………Of Holds
Chris Jericho had initially entered WCW as a hand slapping babyface and it hadn’t really worked out for him. He had won the Cruiserweight Title on a couple of occasions, but he’d never really broken out of the pack and whenever he took on the cool stars from the nWo he’d often get roasted by the crowd even though he was supposed to be the good guy. Entering into 1998 the decision was made to turn Jericho Heel, with Jericho gleefully latching onto it and becoming one of the most unlikable villains in the wrestling business.
Whilst other Heels like the nWo and DX over in the WWF focused on being as cool as possible, Jericho tried to be as unhip and hateable as he could possibly be, ripping up any signs in the crowd from potential fans and just being a whinging little cry baby whenever things went against him. This led to almost instant gold, as Jericho was regularly one of the more entertaining acts on WCW television and he delivered solid in-ring action as well against the likes of Juventud Guerrera, Rey Mysterio Jr and Dean Malenko.
It was during the feud with Malenko that Jericho produced perhaps one of his finest gags. Malenko was renowned as a technical wrestling master who could tie opponents in knots with little difficulty. Malenko had been bestowed with the nickname of “The Man of 1000 Holds” as a result, which of course left him open to ridicule by the despicable Jericho. Thus Jericho started referring to himself as “The Man of 1004 Holds”, with the implication being that those four extra holds made him a superior grappler.
The zenith of this particular character trait was when Jericho produced a list of his 1004 holds following a victory over Marty Jannetty on Nitro. The list was ludicrous in its length (visual gags are often some of the funniest) and the segment kicked into high gear when Jericho started reeling off the names of each hold as Nitro went to a commercial break, only to return with Jericho STILL in the ring listing them all.
The fact that the move “arm-bar” appeared on the list so many times seemed to contradict that Jericho did indeed know 1004 holds, but that was kind of the point. This remains one of my favourite segments on any wrestling show, as Jericho got given a small bit of leeway and just ran with it until he got himself over by sheer force of will. Had WCW kept Jericho as a bland babyface then he might never have gotten the momentum he’d need to secure a gig with the WWF in 1999. Cutting promos and doing exemplary character work like this in WCW showed that Jericho had far more strings to his bow and it was the beginning of his journey to the top of the American Wrestling landscape.
Number Six – 26th March 2001
Flair Vs Sting; For The Last Time (In WCW)
Ric Flair Vs Sting was potentially one of the most booked matches in the history of JCP/WCW, with them first matching up all the way back in 1988. Over the years both wrestlers were inextricably linked with the WCW promotion, with Flair being perhaps its most iconic villain whilst Sting had been the company’s most enduring hero. The two wrestlers had done battle on the very first episode of Nitro back in 1995, so the decision was made to have them wrestle on the last episode of Nitro as well, with Flair cutting one heck of a promo earlier in the night to set it up.
Once the two got in the ring they essentially had a “best of” compilation of all the trademark spots they had performed over the years, with the crowd enjoying it and giving both wrestlers a good reception. Flair was suffering from serious imposter syndrome at the time and didn’t feel comfortable wrestling without his shirt on, but once the bell rang we still got ourselves a solid outing and the enduring image of the match was of the two competitors embracing and closing the door on both Nitro and WCW itself in an emotional moment.
I don’t think it would have been possible to pick a better match for Nitro to go out on in all honesty, even if Flair wasn’t fully himself when the two did battle. It was a bittersweet ending of course, as WCW finally crumbled after years of mismanagement leaving us wrestling fans with an 18 year monopoly in American Wrestling until AEW finally came along to finally provide a genuine alternative. I must say though that this match hits a bit different with 21 years of hindsight and I can now enjoy it more for what it is and focus more on the positives with it than the negatives, as it seemed almost poetic that WCW would go out in such a manner. Regardless, this remains a powerful moment not just in Nitro history but also in the history of WCW itself.
And that’ll do us for this week. I hope to see you all next week when we finish this list off!