James Dixon: Off the back of last week’s successful debut, this is another historic show, as it is the first episode of Nitro going live head-to-head with Monday Night Raw. Vince McMahon was short-sighted about the impact Nitro would have on his show, and rather than counter with a live broadcast of his own, he opted for a canned episode taped almost a month earlier. Bischoff used that to his advantage.
Hosts are Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mongo. Bischoff puts over that WCW is live, then uses excessive hyperbole to promote the show. “The match of the century!” he rants of tonight’s Luger vs. Hogan match, “…And you’re going to see Scott Norton in action!”. Well, whoop de do. We get a full recap of last week’s Luger and Hogan confrontation, then Bischoff reveals that Vader is AWOL and out of the pay-per-view because he, “Didn’t sign the proper documents.” Whatever that is supposed to mean. In reality, he had a fight at a television taping with road agent Paul Orndorff, and got fired.
Sabu vs. Alex Wright
This is the WCW debut of ECW icon Sabu, who hardly makes a great first impression what with his shoulder patched up, and a band of white tape on his arm with “SABU” crudely scrawled across it. It looks bush league. Sabu does his usual idiotic stunts, causing Mongo to nearly have a fit with excitement. As usual, Sabu crashes and burns, flying from a chair at Wright at ringside but only eating the guardrail. The ref lets them get away with being on the outside for an age, then Wright tries to ape Sabu with flying of his own. It develops into an entertaining car crash, though to call it a wrestling match is pushing it. At one point communications completely break down, and Sabu lies there doing nothing when Wright is expecting a spot, so Sabu just stands up. He is the shits. Wright puts together a tidy combination into a German suplex for a near fall, then Sabu connects with a head scissor – let’s be kind and call it “variant” – from the top. He covers, Wright kicks out at two, but the ref calls it three and that’s the match. An ugly fucking mess, but you could not call it boring.
Final Rating: *½
Post match, Sabu continues his beating and then brings out a table. “He’s gonna hit him with that buffet table,” says Mongo, and you can hear Bischoff starting to get irritated with him. “He’s not going to hit him with it!” corrects Bischoff. Sabu places Wright on the furniture then dives onto him from the top in another messy dive, breaking the table and hurting himself. This is not wrestling. Sabu is a moron. The referee agrees and reverses the decision, awarding Wright the win via DQ. Seems a little knee-jerk, but who cares? Sabu will be gone within a few weeks.
Promo Time: Ric Flair
Mean Gene hosts, as Flair laments the fact that his running buddy Arn Anderson is no longer hanging with him. Apparently while Flair was stylin’ and profilin’ last night, Anderson was sat in a hotel room on the phone to his wife. Maybe Flair should take some marriage tips from him. Flair reminds everyone about the Four Horsemen, which draws out an ex-member of the faction for a little face-to-face, one Lex Luger. Ric immediately bigs him up, but Luger is somewhat dismissive. “Some things never change,” he observes, “You are too much.” With that, Lex shakes his head and fucks off! What on earth was that about? I cannot explain the purpose behind Luger being out here at all.
WCW United States Championship
Sting (c) vs. V.K. Wallstreet
This has got to be a joke. After years of suffering through I.R.S. matches in The Raw Files, I thought I was finally done with his rest-hold filled matches and languid ring work. Alas, no, here he is larger than life, doing a bad impression of his ex-tag partner Ted DiBiase. “Alright, Bobby, what’s with the V.K. stuff?” asks Bischoff. Gee, Eric, perhaps it is your ill-advised petty dig at V. K. McMahon. Twat. Wallstreet shows more athleticism in the first few minutes of the bout than during his entire I.R.S. run, jumping for leapfrogs and hitting dropkicks. Sting responds with more of his own, as Bischoff begins to ejaculate over himself behind the announce desk as he repeats WCW’s daft slogan “where the big boys play” over and over, with the gist being that Wallstreet came from the WWF and is now getting a real test here in WCW. He then outright gloats about Luger having wrestled for the WWF just nine days earlier, having gone from the “bush leagues” to “the only game in town”. He promises more will follow. I am so happy that it all eventually blew up in his smug little face. Bischoff is a horrible commentator, and incredibly it is Mongo who puts over the match and the guys involved. Sting picks up the win in what amounts to an extended squash thanks to a top rope crossbody, ending a routine but surprisingly watchable match. Yes, a bout involving I.R.S. didn’t completely suck!
Final Rating: *½
Tune in to WCW Saturday Night to see Renegade vs. Max Power, and Big Bubba vs. Dave Sullivan AND HIS RABBIT. How can anyone resist?
Scott Norton vs. Randy Savage
Norton is one of those generic stocky guys that always turn up in wrestling. Some of them find a gimmick that helps them stand out from the pack, others meander along pulling angry facials and putting on samey matches. Norton falls into the latter category. Fundamentally he is fine, but he is thoroughly unremarkable. Savage has fallen into a sad pattern in WCW, putting on dull bouts week after week that all sing from the same hymn sheet. He barely varies his game at all anymore, which is a sad sight to see after watching him tear up WWF rings in the eighties. Hell, only four years ago he was putting on classics with the Ultimate Warrior, Ric Flair, and Jake Roberts. Here he gets beaten up. A lot. He has always been a seller, but he used to actually hit moves once over as well. Norton hits the hanging top rope DDT that Randy Orton will steal a decade later, but Savage mounts a comeback. “Dungeon of Doom, Dungeon of Doom,” bellows Heenan, as my dinner repeats on itself at the prospect. Shark tries to get involved, but Savage sees him coming and Shark ends up sprawled across Norton’s legs, incapacitating him. Savage drops the elbow, and of course that does it. “Norton blew it,” says Bischoff. It might help the new guys get over if they actually win now and again, Eric.
Final Rating: ¾*
WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Lex Luger
Bischoff again talks about Luger having jumped from the WWF, because he has a one-track mind and is obsessed with Vince McMahon. Concentrate on your own product you egregious cretin. This is a huge match to be giving away on free television, because it is at once Luger’s WCW return after four years away, a World Title match, a rare Hogan television match and the first ever meeting between these two. It is something of a “dream” match actually… five years ago. Hogan does some competent chain wrestling and hits a suplex, but Luger pops up before Hulk. They run another spot that ends in a Luger suplex, and this time Hogan pops up. The idea is that they are evenly matched, I guess. “The match made in Heaven,” says Bischoff, which is yet another WWF reference, of course. The guy is like a stalker. Luger hits a powerslam and puts Hogan in the Torture Rack, which the crowd respond to favourably. Luger releases the hold because he thinks he has won, but then, his character has always been a bit slow on the uptake. Hogan Hulk’s Up and hits the legdrop, but the Dungeon of Doom return for another run in to draw the DQ. Sting and Savage barrel down to make the save, then Hogan yells at Luger afterwards for not helping him. “Where were you at?” he yells. Selling your legdrop, you bronze swine!
Final Rating: *
Promo Time: Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting
After the match, Hogan and Savage want to know where Luger stands. They say he has been sending mixed signals since his return last week, and note that the Dungeon of Doom didn’t attack him. Savage doesn’t trust him, but Sting backs up his buddy and says he should be given a chance to prove himself by replacing Vader as their partner at Fall Brawl in the War Games battle with the Dungeon of Doom. Savage is really not feeling it and refuses, but Sting votes him in. Everyone out there is so mistrustful of one another that it becomes almost an onscreen version of the real paranoia prevalent in WCW’s locker room when the cameras are off. Hogan agrees to let Luger onto the team to prove his true colours, and that is that.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Sting. It was slim picking to be honest, because nothing was particularly good. Sting takes it for getting match out of I.R.S. that I didn’t hate.
Least Entertaining: Eric Bischoff. He is not quite as bad behind the announce desk as Shane McMahon, but he runs him pretty close.
Quote of the Night: “By the way: in case you’re tempted to grab the remote control and check out the competition, don’t bother. It’s two or three weeks old. Shawn Michaels beat the big guy with a superkick you couldn’t earn a green belt with in the YMCA” – Eric Bischoff fires his second direct assault on the WWF, and ruffled more than a few feathers in doing so.
Match of the Night: Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger. Yes, I realise I rated two matches higher than this one, but I enjoyed this the most. While the action was only so-so, it was also the first meeting between two of the big industry players of the decade. For historical value alone, it gets the nod.
Verdict: Not very good. While it breezed past because of the short run time, there was nothing worth going out of your way to see wrestling wise. For the time though, this show was important. Giving away a match like Hogan-Luger on free television was a huge decision from Bischoff, albeit a stupid one, but it ultimately changed what was expected of televised wrestling. So begins the death of the squash match and the start of the overexposure era. Hip hip?