Oh boy. What an assignment this was. Each and every week without a major wrestling pay per view event the hosts of the At Odds with Wrestling podcast assign each other a classic wrestling show from the past to watch. This week, inspired by Triple H taking over WWE and making changes, Adam assigned this episode of WCW Monday Nitro when the entire brand was relaunched. I don’t know that I’ve watched this since the initial airing, but I remember it as a huge show. There’s a lot of promise here but overall the execution failed and then the WCW brand was itself executed. Let’s head down to ringside.
Very cool opening with nice graphics, the wrestlers in the WCW logo and the Nitro Girls dancing in fire and explosions. If you’re not a wrestling fan you have to at least stop on the channel to see what this is all about.
Tony Schiavonnie introduces us to this new chapter of WCW.
All, well most, of the WCW wrestlers are in and outside of the ring waiting for tonight’s announcements. Some I don’t recognize, despite the fact I watched every week. Some I haven’t seen in years, some I forgot, Some are dead. Some talent is still coming out. Bigger talent like Scott Steiner, Booker T, Van Hammer. Jeff Jarrett introduces Vince Russo. The announce team of Tony, Scott Hudson, and Mark Madden say that Russo claimed he would never appear on camera. Oh, if only. The big question is, where is Eric Bischoff? Russo says the old new direction, the good ole’ boys, sucked. People have left. This is now a new era. Russo talks about who left because the previous direction sucked and it’s now weird to hear Chris Benoit’s name on a wrestling show. Eric Bischoff finally comes out and asks Russo “are you done yet?” What the heck is Van Hammer whispering to Russo? This is a man pushing to get ahead with every bit of screen time he has tonight. Russo and Eric shake hands and hug. Everyone is shocked. Bischoff says he made a lot of mistakes in WCW like Nash, Hall, Sting, DDP, and Sid but his biggest mistake was Hogan.
Lex Luger, Miss Elizabeth, Diamond Dallas Page, Kimberly Page, Sid, and Sting are all watching backstage. They’ve had enough and the backstage main eventers come out. “Sid, no softball game?” They are going for the shoots and really the wrestling internet was not at the same level 22 years ago that it is now. Eric says he made all of them. Russo says Ric Flair is a piece of shit. Russo announces that all titles are now vacant. This will be a brand new playing field. Eric takes the world title away from Sid Vicious. “What’s the matter Sid, can’t find your scissors?” As much as wrestling internet wasn’t the same level back then, I do remember this as a huge shocking line. It’s the established talent on the entrance ramp versus the new blood in the ring – like Brian Knobbs and Madusa.
Hulk Hogan arrives. Sting tells Hogan what he missed.
There will be a mini tournament tonight with the winner to face Jeff Jarrett for the vacant world title at Spring Stampede in six days. Jarrett as the now former United States champion is by default the number one contender. I’ll give them that.
Diamond Dallas Page (with Kim) vs Lex Luger (with Elizabeth) in a tournament match.
DDP and Lex have their music and lights cut short. A shot at them from the new management. Not a bad match. Buff Bagwell comes out with his full music and pyro. Lex is distracted. Page hits a nut uppercut. Buff flirts with Kim and Liz. Lex is distracted and goes to Liz. Diamond Cutter and DDP gets the win.
Hogan in the back looking for Eric.
Curt Hennig shows up and asks Vince Russo what’s happening. Russo rewards Hennig’s previous loyalty by putting him against Jeff Jarrett tonight and if Curt wins he gets Jarrett’s spot on Sunday.
Hogan keeps looking.
Tank Abbot comes out and calls out Goldberg. Tank will beat people up until Goldberg shows up. Tank destroys Mark Madden. Mark is gone from commentary for the rest of the show. I’m okay with this.
Jeff Jarrett is mad he has to wrestle tonight.
Billy Kidman tells Torrie Wilson he has something on his mind.
Terry Taylor gives directions to Hogan.
Hogan confronts Bischoff. They go inside Eric’s office to talk away from the cameras.
Billy Kidman comes out to the ring and calls out Hogan. “Who knows more about drawing flies than a piece of shit?” Lots of shit talk tonight. Lot of pushing the censorship button. Hogan leaves Bischoff’s office? Maybe? It’s not made clear. Hogan sees Kidman on the monitor and heads to the ring. Hogan gets his full music. Hogan calls Kidman “p-whipped”, couldn’t push that button far enough to say pussy whipped on cable before 9 pm. Kidman attacks Hogan. Hogan beats the hell out of Kidman. Eric comes out with a chair and lets Hogan know he brought it out for him. Long telegraphed but it still works when Eric inevitably hits Hogan with the chair. Eric counts a pin on Hogan. Hogan is bleeding.
Ric Flair has arrived at the building.
Hogan is going mad backstage.
Flair gets caught up on what he missed. He heads out to the ring. Flair is so good here. He’s old here, but he’s still so good, especially compared to what we’ve seen from him in the last few years. Flair calls out Russo. Scott Steiner comes out to the Steiner Brothers music. Steiner puts in redneck teeth to mock Flair. Shane Douglas comes through the crowd and attacks Flair.
Kevin Nash has arrived and he’s on crutches.
Is that? It is! Bret Hart is sitting in the crowd. The announcers say he’s been gone for five months.
Flair is backstage looking for Shane Douglas.
Mean Gene interviews Shane, good promo.
Sting vs Sid Vicious in a tournament match.
Fun and familiar, maybe even paint by numbers match. The Wall comes out with a table. The referee is down. The Wall hits Sid with a chair. Wall puts Sid through a table, barely. Sid is counted out and Sting wins.
Tony Schiavonnie says he doesn’t know what’s next.
Ric Flair is back in the ring and challenges Douglas.
Hogan destroys everything.
Footage from the Hollywood premiere of Ready to Rumble. Well, if you watched that movie and wanted to check out WCW this episode must have been very confusing.
Jeff Jarrett vs Curt Hennig.
The fight starts in the aisle. The classic Mr Perfect music plays, and Shawn Stasiak makes his WCW debut. Shawn barely hits the spit out the gum spot. Ref bump. Stasiak attacks Hennig and almost botches this move badly. Jarrett doesn’t go for the pin, he has to hit the Stroke first and then pin Hennig.
Hogan searches the sky boxes for Eric.
Kevin Nash is on a giant cell phone.
Mean Gene interviews Sting.
Ric Flair vs Shane Douglas.
Both are in their street clothes. Russo comes out. This is the first mention of the “Millionaire’s Club”. Russo hits Flair with a bat. Shane uses the bat as well. Flair wins by DQ.
Kevin Nash comes out, still on crutches. Nash in the ring. He cuts a promo on Vince and Eric. “Where is that dog when you need him?” Ok, that’s funny. Good promo. Mike Awesome debuts and attacks Nash. Oh this was huge and shocking when it happened. Awesome cuts a quick promo.
Hogan is on the phone in his limo, and sounds like he’s talking to his lawyer. A white Hummer rams into the limo repeatedly. Bischoff is driving the Hummer and Kidman is alongside him. Hogan is taken out on a stretcher. Bischoff and Kidman come over to bother him. Kidman spray paints NB for New Blood on Hogan.
DDP (with Kim) vs Sting in a tournament match.
Jarrett joins for commentary. Was there a Thunder this week? There is, and it has matches to set up Spring Stampede. Future homework? Jarrett harrasses Kim. The ref is distracted. Vampiro comes in and hits the Nail in the Coffin on Sting. DDP hits a Diamond Cutter for the pin. Jarret comes in, swings his guitar, Page moves but Kim takes the guitar hit. A really good spot. Kim telegraphs it but it’s still good. Page carries Kim out.
Eric, Vince, and Jeff celebrate backstage. Jarrett comes back out. Did they run short on time and had to pad this out? Jarrett cuts a promo. Page comes running back out to fight Jarrett. Scott Steiner out and attacks Page. Lex is out to even it up. Buff, Vampiro, Wall, Sting all come out. Booker T and Ernest ‘the Cat’ Miller come out for the New Blood. New Blood stands tall. Eric and Vince stand on the entrance ramp to celebrate. Bret Hart shows up behind them and we’re now off the air.
I remember watching this live and being shocked at how many things were happening. All of the belts stripped, returns, debuts, huge angles. I had never seen anything like it in wrestling before. Honestly, I still haven’t. Such a sudden stop and start. Changes like the Attitude Era happened gradually. Even NXT 2.0 had a lot of new faces but titles continued and the level of talent was nowhere near the same as the collection we saw on Nitro. There are a couple ways to look at it too. One, it’s brilliant. Time to push the new guys, literally call the group New Blood, yet every match on the show is between veteran talent. Even Shane Douglas at this point is established. So the “characters” of Bischoff and Russo are saying they’ll push the young talent but none of the matches actually feature young talent. Which could also be spun as the new bosses are making these millionaires earn their money. Shane Douglas and Ric Flair. Billy Kidman and Hulk Hogan. Stasiak and Hennig. Mike Awesome and Kevin Nash. The fresh talent is all getting a rub from the veteran talent, thus elevating them. There’s a world in which this could have all worked.
I remember being excited for Kidman. I thought Vampiro was so cool. And all of the events around Mike Awesome jumping is classic wrestling lore.
However, it is also a mask of change without being actual change. There are 9 World championship changes in the 50 days following this episode. While some people finally became world champions like Jeff Jarrett, Booker T, and Scott Steiner there were also title reigns for Kevin Nash, Ric Flair, DDP, and the Hogan one from Bash at the Beach doesn’t count. Terry Funk for the Hardcore title. The United States, tag team, and of course Cruiserweight belts did feature some new faces in their respective title hunts. Ironically, the real change comes when the Natural Born Thrillers group shows up a few months later. A group that could really be compared to NXT 2.0. Wrestlers in training who were thrown into the spotlight before they were ready.
I hate to admit it, but I’m curious about where things go next and where they fall apart. I don’t think Nash or Hart will wrestle in WCW again. I can’t remember when Goldberg’s heel run happened. There are so many cage matches, and an increase in violence and sex, plus David Arquette coming up. They were going for shock TV but eventually ran out of shocks. There can’t be debuts or returns or blood or what have you every time. Plus, stories need to build to logical conclusions or at least seem like there’s a plan. The constant title changes, as WCW closes just over a year later, doesn’t give fans the feeling that anyone knows what they’re doing from week to week. Honestly, I think Bischoff was too burnt out and went along with things. Russo can fire off many ideas but that doesn’t mean they’re all good. He would be best with an editor, which Eric could have been but clearly wasn’t.
Will there be more homework from this era of WCW? Stay tuned.