Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?
Monday Nitro #1
Date: September 4, 1995
Location: Mall of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve McMichael, Bobby Heenan
So nearly three years after Raw got going, WCW woke up and realized that being on Saturday nights at 6:05 for your flagship show wasn’t the brightest idea in the world so they decided to go head to head with Raw by debuting Monday Nitro. Their first episode aired unopposed due to Raw having the night off, which really was the right thing to do when you think about it. This is a show I’ve seen at least 5 or 6 times so let’s get to it.
I always liked the intro video for Nitro as it was a street more or less blowing up with pictures of wrestlers and a great song. It really was cool and I liked it better than Raw’s for a long time. That’s also a great way to set the stage for the show.
The announcers welcome us to the show. I don’t think anyone knew who McMichael (a former Chicago Bear) was outside of Chicago, but when did that really bother WCW?
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Brian Pillman
This is a rematch of a masterpiece that opened SuperBrawl II in 1992. Liger is just coming back from a broken leg so he might be a bit rusty, meaning he’ll be better than 95% of the wrestlers in the world. Naturally, they start off hot with both guys jockeying for position. This is another one of those pairings where it’s hard to mess it up. Eric is pitching the company like no other which is fine here as it might be the first show for a lot of viewers
Liger gets an early two off a moonsault press and it’s off to an early chinlock. Brian comes back with chops in the corner and a bad looking middle rope hurricanrana for two. We’re two minutes into the match and Mongo and Heenan are already calling each other names. This could be a really long night. We get the surfboard submission from Liger which is a move that I always mark for. Bobby: “I never go surfing. I always have people do it for me.” I love that. McMichael is trying but he’s just lost out there. For the life of me I have no idea why they thought he was a good idea.
Liger sends Pillman to the floor for a flip dive off the apron and Brian is in trouble. Pillman comes back with a suplex to the floor and a big crossbody off the top to put Jushin down again. Back in and Liger crotches Pillman on the top for a hurricanrana, good for two. These two were WAY ahead of their time out here as the Cruiserweights wouldn’t rise to prominence for over a year.
Jushin goes up again but jumps into a dropkick for two. Not that it matters as he comes back with a powerbomb for a near fall, followed by another hurricanrana for the same result. Brian comes back with a tornado DDT and counters a German suplex into a cradle for the surprise pin.
Rating: B. This is an idea that would work for WCW for years to come: take two talented smaller guys and give them about seven minutes to fly all over the place and ignite the crowd. It sets a good pace for the rest of the night and gives the fans the energy they need as we head into the more important stuff later on.
Call it a good start:
Sting is ready for Flair.
WCW Hotline ad.
Ad for Batman Forever for the SNES. That game was absolutely horrible. You use Down + R to use the grappling hook yet X and Y aren’t used at all. See the problem?
We come back from break to see…hang on I need a moment here. Ok I’m good. We come back to Hulk Hogan at Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania. Hulk Hogan had a pasta restaurant in the Mall of America, complete with a dish called Hulk A-Roos. You can’t make this stuff up at all. He cuts a generic promo but the kids around him are loving it. The guy was great with kids, I’ll give him that. This was one of the biggest jokes in wrestling history, but it did show Hogan’s mainstream appeal. Or the ability for WCW to cross promote.
US Title: Sting vs. Ric Flair
Sting is defending. I’ll give Nitro this: they got the card spot on for the first show. You have a cruiserweight match that’s going to be awesome, you have this which is more or less impossible to screw up, and Hogan vs. a big man in the main event. They played things safe here and that’s all they needed to do. These two have faced each other so many times that there’s almost no way to screw it up, much like the opening match.
Before the bell, we get the defining moment for Nitro until the following year: Lex Luger walks down the aisle and stares at Sting and Flair. Now that doesn’t sound very interesting does it? The thing you have to remember is Luger had been wrestling in a WWF ring the day before. This was the first big shock and since the internet was more or less a non factor for the most part back then, this was a shocking moment. No one knew this was coming and it really did set the tone for Nitro and WCW in the future as Luger was immediately in the main event picture.
The announcers have no clue what to say to this and even though Bischoff knew it was coming, he’s playing it off well. As for the match, Sting was the perfect choice to put on the show here as he had the speed, the power, the mat wrestling ability, the look, the charisma and the talking ability to be remembered really well. Sting speeds things up to start before gorilla pressing Flair down with ease. A second gorilla press is followed by a dropkick, sending Flair out to the floor.
Back in and Flair goes to the eyes to take over as is his custom. His trademark chops have no effect on Sting other than to fire him up, meaning we get press slam #3 before a crossbody from the challenger takes both guys out to the floor. Sting still isn’t affected by the chops so he lifts Flair up in another press but throws Flair back inside instead. A bulldog puts Flair down but he gets an elbow up to stagger Sting.
We go to a break and when we come back we have a wide shot of the Mall and it looks VERY cool. It’s a three story mall and you have all kinds of people shopping around and we just happen to have a major wrestling show going on. Sting slams Flair off the top and hits the fourth gorilla press of the match for two. Arn Anderson walks out as Sting misses a top rope splash. Arn and Flair had been having a lot of problems lately so we’ve got some high drama here.
Sting pounds away on Flair but gets taken down to the mat, only to come back with a backslide for two. To give you an idea of what the announcers are going to be like on this show, here are the reactions to Sting hitting a suplex: Bischoff says the ring moved two feet, McMichael says his monitor nearly fell off the table and Heenan says his monitor went black. I wish I was making this up. Flair gets the Figure Four but Arn comes into the ring for the DQ, triggering a brawl between Anderson and Ric.
Rating: C+. Again, this is hard to get wrong. It wasn’t one of their better ones, but it wasn’t supposed to be. It got them in front of a TV camera and showed the fans what they had coming. This was a lot like the debut of a new promotion in a lot of ways as no one really knew what to expect here. They kind of had to restart a lot of the stories in the early weeks to give the people a feel for what they were all about. The match was fine and they did their regular good stuff, but this was about angles and not the match and that’s fine.
Scott Norton, a big strong man, comes out to yell about not being on the show despite having a contract. Randy Savage comes out to yell at him. They set up a match for next week. It’s so adorable that Norton thinks he means something outside of Japan.
Sabu is coming. Oh joy.
Some guy from Alabama wins a sweepstakes. This took 10 seconds of ring time.
Ad for Saturday Night, featuring a double main event: Johnny B. Badd vs. Dick Slater and Sting/Savage vs. the Bluebloods (Bobby Eaton/Steven (William) Regal). And people wonder why the fans were very happy Nitro debuted.
Mr. Wallstreet (Mike Rotundo) is coming to WCW. It was WWF wrestler going a rich man’s gimmick and he even mentions the IRS. Seriously?
WCW Title: Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba Rogers
Hogan is defending of course. Rogers is more famous as the Big Boss Man from the WWF, meaning this is another pairing with a lot of experience against each other. Hulk Hogan’s manager, and former rival, Jimmy Hart has stars and stripes pants and a jacket, making him look like a walking barber pole. The fans are going nuts for Hogan if nothing else, which shouldn’t surprise anyone at all.
Hogan shoves Bubba back to start but gets caught in a headlock. Bubba sends Hogan into the corner to stay on the champion but can’t ram him into the buckle. Instead it’s a backbreaker to put Hogan down for no cover, with Bubba opting to pound away in the corner instead. Hogan gets two straight boots up in the corner to stop a charging Bubba before pounding down right hands in the corner. A simple shot to the throat puts Hogan down again but Bubba goes after Jimmy Hart on the floor, allowing Hulk to come back again.
Back inside and Hogan wraps Jimmy’s jacket around Bubba’s head to pound away even more. Some hero. Hogan slams him down and drops some elbows but Bubba drives knees into the ribs to take over. Hogan avoids a splash in the corner but walks into Bubba’s trademark side slam for two. The champion Hulks Up, hits three straight right hands, a big boot to the face and drops the big leg to retain his title.
Rating: C. It’s exactly that: average. Hogan wrestled this exact same match probably a thousand times over his career and there’s nothing wrong with it. Why mess with the most successful formula of all time? This is the kind of thing the fans wanted to see and that’s exactly what they got here. Fine idea for a main event.
The Dungeon of Doom which had been feuding with Hogan hit the ring but Luger makes the save. Macho and Sting show up to calm them down. This would be your main event at Fall Brawl. Sting, Hogan, Luger and Savage vs. Shark (Earthquake), Zodiac (Brutus Beefcake) Meng and Kamala. I wonder who wins that.
We go to commercial and see an ad for the Muscular Dystrophy Association which sponsored Fall Brawl for some odd reason.
Back in the arena, Luger says he wants a title shot. Hogan says sure but says he’ll be champion forever and a day. I love delusions of grandeur that almost came true. They make the match for next week and a shoving match ends the show.
Overall Rating: B+. For a debut show, this was great. They advanced a lot of stuff and set up next week and the future pretty well. With only an hour they did quite well but remember there was no Raw tonight. The ratings were good but they lost for a good while. The wrestling was ok and we got three kinds of matches and angles were advanced so I’d say very good job here. Things would get far worse for a while though.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.
Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. We are proud to offer our popular Wrestling Rumors app and encourage you to download it for an optimized user experience. It is available for Android and also on iOS. Thank you for reading!