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This Week in Wrestling: WCW Monday Nitro Episode 1

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On August 4th, 1995 WCW debuted its new weekly episodic program that would change the landscape of Professional Wrestling forever. WCW Monday Nitro was launched in an attempt to combat the WWF and their long-standing program, Monday Night Raw. The battle that ensued would come to be known as the Monday Night Wars and would set the stage for the “car-crash” booking that would dominate the late 1990’s. This booking style, innovated by Head WWF and later WCW writer Vince Russo, would lead to a ratings spike for both shows never before seen in wrestling. For WWF and WCW, storylines like Austin/McMahon and The NWO respectively would have viewers torn between which show won for the week and would constantly flip between channels so as not to miss a single second of unpredictable action.

With an announce team of Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Steve “Mongo” McMichael, the first Nitro kicked off amidst a sea of fans within the Mall of America where the event took place. The show kicked off with cruiserweight action as Brian Pillman took on Jushin Thunder Liger. Opening an event with a cruiserweight division match would become a staple for WCW, using the high-flying antics of the performers to get the crowd pumping for later in the night. The two exchange high-risk maneuvers including top rope hurricanranas and a tornado DDT before Pillman wins with a roll-up.

The cheesiness of mid-90’s WCW rears its ugly head as we see Hulk Hogan in the middle of his new restaurant, Pastamania, which is located inside the Mall of America. Hulk tells kids, or Pastamaniacs, to eat their “Hulk-a-Roos” (cringe). He also says he knows they will be behind him for his title defense later in the night against Big Bubba Rogers.

The night continues with a match between two of the men who personified WCW throughout its existence, Ric Flair v. Sting. As soon as the match starts, the camera pans to show Lex Luger watching from the ramp way. Wrestlers, announcers, and the fans alike were stunned to see Luger on their television screens. The shock came from the publics lack of knowledge about Luger signing with WCW, including the WWF, for whom Luger had performed at a house show the night previous. Announcers demanded cameramen get the camera off him to play off the unpredictability of the moment. The match continues with many tropes of the two wrestlers including thumb pokes, eye rakes, and woos.. so many woos. The match ends in a DQ when The Nature Boy refuses to release the Figure Four LegLock before the count of 5. Arn Anderson appears and brawls with Naitch to the back.

Scott Norton appears to antagonize the commentary team, Mongo McMichael especially. He is greeted by Macho Man Randy Savage who challenges Norton to a fight. The match is made but for next weeks edition of Nitro. A promo package for Sabu is shown hyping his WCW debut also taking place next week on Nitro. The main thing I’ve noticed about this episode is how carefully they build the anticipation to the next Nitro. This is a trend which would eventually contribute to their demise, as they became more concerned with ratings for Nitro than worrying about Pay Per View buys.

It’s time for the Main Event, WCW champion Hulk Hogan defending his championship against Big Bubba Rogers, formerly known as The Big Bossman in the WWF. Very standard Hulk Hogan match as Rogers is quickly disposed of with a big boot and a leg drop. After the match, the Dungeon of Doom attacks Hogan who is saved by Lex Luger and the duo run the stable off. Luger takes to the mic and said that he’s grown tired of playing with kids and wants to “get with the big boys” (very awkward typing that one out). Hogan accepts Luger’s challenge for the WCW Championship and the stage is set for… (you guessed it!) next weeks main event as the program fades to black.

Though there were only 3 matches booked on the card, I thought this was an amazing viewing experience. Though it later became their downfall, I loved WCW’s approach to hook the viewer in not only for the next weeks Nitro with big matches but also the suspense of never knowing what could happen next i.e. Lex Luger debuting unannounced by even the smartest of 90’s internet fans. They also did a great job of establishing their overall product style to potential new viewers from the breath-taking athletic display of the cruiserweights to the charismatic Icon Sting and they managed to grab the attention of causal fans with the “look we even have Hogan” approach. As a die-hard fan of the history of the business, I knew of the peaks and troughs that Nitro would eventually go on to have but still I was intrigued with what would happen next! Luckily for this writer, the WWE Network is available to the masses (for an undisclosed price) so myself and any viewers that are interested can follow from the very beginning and see what takes place next!

If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to comment below for your opinions on the episode or WCW in general. If you’d like to get in touch or maybe discuss a future article for This Week In Wrestling, email me at Cwaughh16@gmail.com. Also be on the lookout for my newest series “The ButterFly Effect” coming soon later this week!

Christian is an avid wrestling fan who began watching in the summer of 2001. His passion for the business starts and ends with the history of the sport. He loves holding discussions with fellow fans about their opinions on events in wresting history spanning all promotions and time periods. He currently has plans to co-host a podcast with fellow FightBoothPW contributor Brandon Miller (@brandonpsmc). If anyone would like to reach Christian, they can email him at cwaughh16@gmail.com or his Twitter account @cdubb106

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