Monday Night Wars Documentary Review Episode 3: Embracing Attitude

The Attitude Era is considered by many fans to be the WWF’s greatest era, featuring the height of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s popularity, along with the Rock, Mankind, and DX.

This episode opens with the more cartoon-ish gimmicks of the pre-Attitude WWF, such as the Sultan, Steve Austin’s Ring Master gimmick, and Ron Simmons in that goofy looking helmet.

Eric Bischoff was riding high with Monday Nitro and the NWO story line. At the time he believed WWF would never recover. Someone warned him that WWF was about to try Howard Stern/Shock Jock type programming, but he dismissed that thinking it would never work.

The Austin/Pillman gun incident is covered, where they filmed a segment at Brian Pillman’s home during which he fired a gun at Austin. Hugely controversial at the time, Vince apologized on air the next week. However, announcer Jim Ross said they got a 75% positive response from their audience to that segment.

Sports journalist Bill Apter is interviewed for this documentary. He supplies a few quotes as it is explained that from here the WWF roster became more edgy. Acts like the black militant group the Nation of Domination formed, as well as De-generation X.

Vince McMahon’s opening speech on the 12/15/97 edition of Raw is shown, where he explains how his programming will now be more contemporary, and away from the older formula of good guys vs bad guys.

By January of 1998 Raw was still losing the ratings battle to Nitro but was on the rise with its new edgier gimmicks like Val Venis (basically a porn star), sexual chocolate Mark Henry, Mr. Ass (Billy Gunn), and the pimp character the Godfather.

Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff still wasn’t impressed. Jericho says that Bischoff was telling people in six months McMahon will lose his TV sponsors and go out of business. Meanwhile Sable (who is not interviewed here) is shown on TV guide, and Nash says that she beat any segment Nitro had at that point.

Just as WWF was embracing the Attitude Era, the corporate structure of Turner Broadcasting was becoming more restrictive on WCW. Standards and Practice representatives were in the WCW creative rooms while porn star Jenna Jameson did a segment with Val Venis on Raw, and WWF introduced their hardcore title.

WCW embarrassingly tried to compete with the Attitude Era while wearing the Standards and Practices handcuffs. They tried their own hardcore title, and we see that clip where Terry Funk almost legitimately almost got kicked in the head by a horse. We also see the infamous junkyard invitational, the viagra on a pole match, and Judy Bagwell on a forklift match. WCW Stunt Coordinator Ellis Edwards is interviewed here and says “I would tell them the things I would do in the stunt business and they would write it into the storyline.” This is the one part of the episode I would have liked to have seen more elaborated. I would have like to have seen who thought of trying to have a WCW Hardcore title and how they balanced that with standards and practices, etc.

This episode layed out the interesting parallels of the shifting creative direction of WWF that mirrored the more restrictive environment of WCW, but I would have like to have seen more of the struggles that came with the latter.

The Origin of the Monday Night Wars

The roots of the Monday Night Wars stem from a rivalry between Vince McMahon and Ted Turner that went as far back as the 1980s, when Vince McMahon was first taking his promotion national.

Before the advent of cable television, the professional wrestling scene in the North America was made up of several small regional territories that never crossed over into one another. What would eventually become WWE was a territory based out of New York run by Vince McMahon senior. Other territories included Mid Atlantic, run by Jim Crockett, Georgia Championship wrestling by Jim Barnett, AWA in the Midwest run by Verne Gagne, and in northwestern Canada was Stampede wrestling run by Stu Hart. When Vince McMahon Jr. took over his father’s business, he took his company national, hiring talent from other regions in a move that was unprecedented, eventually turning his territory into the global giant it is today.

One of the ways McMahon reached a national audience was through cable, but he was not the only wrestling promoter on cable. Ted Turner launched TBS, the Turner Broadcasting System, which was the first super station, or the first station to be carried on all cable providers. One of the main programs on the super station was Georgia Championship Wrestling. Starting in 1971 Georgia Championship Wrestling aired from 6:05pm to 8:00pm on Saturday nights. TBS’s highest ratings were from Georgia Championship wrestling. Hence it was around this show that Turner built his cable empire. New shows would debut before and after Georgia Championship Wrestling until they built an audience and moved to another time slot. (1)

While it was a different territory, Jim Crockett and his Mid Atlantic territory out of the Carolina’s grew highly successful, and ended up supplying a lot of the talent that appeared on Georgia Championship Wrestling, and thus appearing on TBS. (2)

Georgia Championship Wrestling’s stockholders included Jim Barnett and Paul Jones, but in the early 1980s a young Vince McMahon got control of the company. This put Vince in position to air WWF programming on the TBS network. McMahon offered TBS $500,000 a year to air WWF programming. Turner agreed, and took Crockett’s wrestlers off the air.
While WWF talent appeared on TBS, Vince also had a deal to air programming on the USA network, saying “I thought that would be a great 1-2 punch straight away into the cable market.” Turner and Vince had a handshake agreement, but eventually Turner wanted out. (3)

Turner was not happy when WWF programming was airing on another network besides his own. Turner also wanted to buy a piece of the WWF but was refused. Turner went to court over this dispute, but the court ruled in favor of McMahon, who ripped up his contract in front of Ted Turner. (4) Crocket also wanted back on the air, and paid Vince 1 million dollars to get his old contract back to be on TBS. At the time Vince was planning his first Wrestemania, so basically Crocket helped pay for Wrestlemania. (5)

By 1988, Jim Crockett’s business grew very popular, but unfortunately for them acquired a lot of debt. That year Ted Turner purchased what was then called Jim Crocket promotions and re-christening it World Championship Wrestling, or WCW. At this point Turner called McMahon saying “Hey Vince I wanted to let you know I’m in the rassling business.”
To which McMahon replied “Well you’re in the rassling business…. I’m in the entertainment business. That’s two completely different philosophies.” (6)

WCW star Ric Flair ads “The association with Ted Turner and the cable network was huge. What was bad was he just gave different parts of the company to his friends whether they had experience or not.” (7) The early days of WCW saw a series of rotating bookers (people who plan out the matches) and executives; including Jim Herd, Ole Anderson, Kip Fry, wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, the controversial Bill Watts, and Bill Shah. Under Shah’s regime, a new position for Executive Producer opened, which would eventually be filled by a young ambitious man who would change the course of wrestling history. That man, was Eric Bischoff. (8)

Sources

1 The Rise and Fall of WCW. DVD, WWE Home Video. 2009

2 Rise and Fall

3 Rise and Fall

4 McMahon. DVD, WWE Home Video 2006

5 Rise and Fall

6 The Monday Night Wars Episode One: The War Begins. WWE Network, 7/7/2014

7 The Monday Night Wars Episode One.

8 Rise and Fall

Monday Night Wars Documentary Review Episode 2: The Rise of the NWO.

Episode 2 of the Monday Night Wars documentary on the WWE network covers the NWO, the heel stable led by a villainous Hogan that pushed WCW Nitro ahead of WWF Raw in the ratings.

After a short recap this episode starts out with the careers of Scott Hall/Razor Ramone, and Kevin Nash/Diesel. Both of them were formerly in WCW but floundered there. Nash’s various horrible gimmicks are shown, such as Oz. He’s on camera saying those were the worst 3 years of his life. It also shows the cartoonish gimmicks WWF was still using, such as Doink the Clown, and some character in a Bison outfit. Eventually Hall and Nash became big stars in the WWF, as older stars like Hogan and Savage went to WCW, and WWF began focusing more on younger talent.

However, as WCW was having success with its older talent, it started needing some younger blood as well. Nash and Hall’s contracts were both up within 6 days of each other. The contract negotiations are covered, and it’s interesting to see the conflict between the loyalty to WWF and not really wanting to go to WCW, and the lure of money and family pressures, especially from Nash. It’s noted that they were offered around1.2 million for around 120-150 days of work. They said guys might have made that in WWF but worked 300 days.

Documentation is shown on screen for how WWF sued WCW for copyright infringement as Vince McMahon alleged that WCW portrayed Hall and Nash basically as Razor Ramone and Diesel. Hall is shown talking about carving people up and doing his toothpick bit on both WCW and WWF programming. They don’t talk about how the lawsuit turned out. I’d read somewhere that one of the results was that WWF would have first dibs if WCW was up for sale, but I’d like to get that confirmed.

As Nash and Hall were having success in WCW, the story line teased of a third man that would join them. Meanwhile Hogan was not getting the crowd reactions he once had in the 80s. Kevin Sullivan is on camera saying he was in Hogan’s ear telling him to turn heel. He told him to look at WWF’s Undertaker, a dark foreboding undead character is their hero. Bischoff went to Hogan’s house talking to him about it Hogan’s responded with “Until you walk a mile in my red and yellow boots you’ll just never really understand.” And showed him the door.

Originally the NWO’s third man was going to be Sting, but Hogan called Bischoff to inform him that he in fact was the third man. This led to perhaps the greatest heel turn in history as Hogan joined Hall and Nash at Bash at the Beach in July of 1996.

In WWF Hall and Nash’s wrestling gimmicks were Razor Ramon and Diesel. WWF attempted to stir things up by having other wrestlers play those gimmicks. This tactic is portrayed as not being received well, and Nash says it led to WCW offering them an even more lucrative contract, thinking they actually were going to leave.

New Japan pro wrestling had a similar NWO type story that Bischoff is said to have borrowed from. This episode lightly touches on this, as well as the backstage resentment at how the NWO ran over everyone in the ring. The NWO’s own PPV Souled Out is mentioned, I would have liked to have heard more about that. It’s also a great mystery to me why the NWO never actually had their own television show. I know Bischoff talked about it and wanted it, but I never heard anywhere why that never happened.

This new type of story line with the New World Order is shown to lead into WWF creating the attitude era, which is the topic of the next episode.

The First Time WCW Nitro Aired Head to Head Against WWF RAW

On September 4th, 1995, the first shot of the Monday Night Wars was fired as World Championship Wrestling (WCW) debuted Monday Nitro. However, they chose this date to debut because the USA network was airing the US Open and not WWF Raw. Hence the first time Nitro actually went head to head with Raw was on 9/11/1995. Here we will analyze both programs that aired that night.

At this point it was two weeks since WWF’s Summerslam was on Pay Per View, and Raw opened with highlights from the ladder match between Shawn Michaels/HBK and Razor Ramon. Vince McMahon told the audience the main event of Raw would be HBK vs Psycho Sid (also known as Sid Vicious) for Michaels’ Intercontinental Championship belt. The opening match that night would be Razor Ramon vs the British Bulldog. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler call the action. Lawler makes a joke about the Bulldog needing a pooper scooper as McMahon welcomes us to a new season of Raw.

The intro video to Raw is a far cry from what came later in the Attitude Era. The visuals are exciting, with various wrestlers beating each other up in the ring, but the music is very low beat. The show’s theme song had very relaxed vocals calmly stating “I like it Raw.”

Nitro’s introduction is much more exciting, with a more energizing guitar riff accompanied by images of explosions going off through a city interspersed with in ring action. The first match of Nitro that night was the German Wunderkind Alex Wright vs Sabu, who was hyped in a vignette on Nitro’s debut episode and was fresh out of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Sabu wins the match, but then after the match lays Alex Wright on a table outside. Then he climbs up on the turnbuckle and jumps out of the ring, landing on Wright and crashing through the table. This prompts the referee to reverse the decision and award the match to Sabu. This trend would continue for several Nitro’s afterwards. It was a great idea, not letting the extreme superstar be extreme, but like many great ideas WCW had, in the long run it didn’t build to anything.

Having said that, the Sabu/Wright match was a great segment. Compare this to the first Raw match, and we can see how WWF was still partly (but not entirely) stuck in it’s 80‘s style cartoonish gimmicks and wrestlers whose gimmicks were occupations. Apparently Razor Ramon had been feuding with Dean Douglas, a heel/villain whose gimmick was a school teacher and had an interview segment called the Report Card. A flashback clip is shown of the two brawling. Back to the Bulldog/Ramon match, after a ref bum Douglas does a run in, followed by the 1,2,3, Kid who came to help Ramon. Unfortunately for Ramon, the Bulldog gets a victory via DQ.

After a commercial break McMahon interviews Ramon and Kid in the ring, after a dated promo with a voice over in rhyme for an upcoming show. “So why are these teams both scheduled to meet? Cause our fan friendly prez (Gorilla Monsoon) thought it’d be neat!” McMahon has his own bad jokes as well. As the 80‘s style Gold WWF logo is on the screen Lawler cracks on McMahon’s suit. To which Vince answers it’s a French cut, J. C. PenYay.

Nitro has Mean Gene do a brief interview with Ric Flair while Lex Luger walks out. They briefly speak but it doesn’t lead to much.

Next on Raw is a match between the two cowboys called the Smoking Guns and the team of Brooklyn Brawler and Rad Redford. Billy Gunn in later years will be known as Mr. Ass and join DX.

Nitro’s segment at this point is US champion Sting vs VK Wallstreet, who also had a promo vignette last week, and was previously known as I.R.S. in the WWF. More importantly, this segment was the first time an infamous move was made during the Monday Night Wars. Raw was taped, meaning the matches that aired that night were previously filmed/they happened already. Nitro was a live show. As Sting comes down to the ring, Eric Bischoff says “Hey and by the way, in case you’re tempted to grab the remote control and check out the competition, don’t bother, it’s 2 or 3 weeks old. Shawn Michaels beats the big guy with a super kick you couldn’t earn a green belt with at a local YMCA. Stay right here, it’s live it’s where the action is.” Mongo McMichaels joins in saying “Who cares about that. They named it (RAW) after a bunch of uncooked eggs. This thing sizzles here ladies and gentlemen, period.” Bischoff giving away the results to Raw on his live show became an infamous part of the Monday Night Wars. It’s curious why he waited 20 minutes into the program to do this, and why he didn’t give away all the results, but the shot was fired. Raw eventually would start being live every week, and continues to do so to this day.

After this match Randy Savage defeated Scott Norton, who started his feud with Savage the previous week. Meanwhile on RAW the dentist Isaac Yankem D.D.S. defeated Scott Taylor with a DDT he called D.D.S. for some reason. He also did a chokeslam. Yankem would eventually be the monster Kane, brother to the Undertaker, but at this time he came to the ring to the sound of a dentist drill and wore fake rotting teeth. This was followed by a What’s Happening In Your House segment. In Your House were Pay Per Views that aired in between the months of the bigger shows like Summerslam, Survivor Series, etc. This segment is hosted by Todd Pengril, who tried to come off like a late night talk show host, making jokes about the TV show Mad About You on the NBC network. Matches of this upcoming Pay Per View included Bret Hart vs the pirate Jean Pierre, who apparently stole sunglasses from a young fan that were given by Bret Hart. Psycho Sid is seen walking to the ring briefly as this segment ends. Later in the broadcast there’s an ad for the next in your house with a kid parting at home with the Smoking Guns and the Bushwackers as his disgruntled mom catches him at the end. It looked like a throwback to the Beastie Boys classic video “Fight for Your Right to Party.”

At ringside Barry Dyzysnky is shown telling the TV audience how they can buy their own Shawn Michaels leather hat and sunglasses. The match gets underway as Vince calls Shawn Michaels a modern day Evil Knievel, the 1970’s daredevil who was known for jumping motorcycles across great distances. Of course as Bischoff has already told us, Shawn wins the match.

Back at Nitro the main event is Hogan vs Luger. Luger was brought into the WWF initially as a heel, but once Hogan left WWF Luger was repackaged as an all American patriot ala the next Hulk Hogan. Wrestling fans at the time would have been clamoring to see a Hogan/Luger match, and might have been surprised it was given away for free on WCW TV. Of course the match did not have a clean finish. Hogan hit the leg drop and was about to go for the pin when the heel stable the Dungeon of Doom arrived to attack Hogan. The Dungeon of Doom was led by the Taskmaster/Kevin Sullivan, and included members Kamala, the Zodiac, (Brutus Beefcake in the WWF), Ming (Haku), and Man Shark (Earthquake). It also included the Giant, but he did not appear on this episode. Sting and Luger ran in to make save Hogan, prompting an argument about Luger’s loyalties. Much to Macho Man’s disagreement, Hogan agrees to let Luger join his team for the upcoming Wargames Pay Per View, as Vader was apparently out.

In comparing the two shows one noticeable difference is Nitro seemed to definitely move it’s stories along more. Raw’s main event almost had no meaning, and the beginning was more of a recap of Summerslam. The first Nitro had a great cliffhanger to the next episode with the Luger/Hogan match announced, followed up this week with Luger joining Hogan’s team. Also of note is while Hogan main evented the first two Nitro’s, then WWF champion did not appear in the ring on this night.

While looking back now WWF is criticized at that time for having cartoony characters, WCW’s Dungeon of Doom looked like they could have been a WWF stable, and while WWF did still have teachers and dentists as wrestlers, they were starting to have edgy content as well. Shawn Michaels was just about pulling his pants down at the end of Raw while dancing around the ring to the delight of the female audience. The character Goldust, a sexually ambiguous character who dressed in gold and painted his face was already introduced by this point. On this night he would appear on a pre-recorded promo calling out the Undertaker.

So you could argue that wrestling in 1995 for both companies was somewhere in between the cartoonish gimmicks of the past and the edgier content that was about to dominate in the coming years. Either way, it was a neck in neck race that night, with Raw scoring a 2.5 rating and Nitro just behind with a 2.4. Wrestling was off to the races, and it was only going to get more wild from here.

The Monday Night Wars Documentary Episode One Review: The War Begins.

1973 saw The World at War, a WWII documentary considered a landmark in the history of British Television.

A generation later, World at War producer Jeremy Isaacs returned to produce the Cold War documentary for CNN and BBC.

Last August, the most important documentary of our generation debuted, its final two episodes aired in early January of 2015. This documentary aired on the WWE Network. This documentary, was the Monday Night Wars. Each episode covered a particular aspect of the war. In this series I will review each episode.

The first episode is entitled “The War Begins.” It covers the events leading up to the first few months of Monday Night Nitro. It starts with the early 1980s when Vince McMahon Jr. took his father’s company and expanded it nationwide during the advent of cable television. The seeds of the McMahon/Ted Turner rivalry are explained as in these early days WWF (now called WWE) programming aired on both the USA and TBS network. TBS was owned by Ted Turner, and was the first nationwide cable network. TBS also aired wrestling programming from southern regional territories like Jim Crocket Promotions/NWA and Georgia Championship Wrestling. Ted Turner is not interviewed for this documentary, but several episodes of this series show clips of a 1998 Ted Turner interview. In this particular episode Turner is shown explaining that he didn’t like WWF programming being on the USA network as well as his own, so he canceled his deal with Vince.
Following this, in 1988, Ted Turner formally bought Jim Crocket Promotions and re christened it World Championship Wrestling, or WCW. Vince explains that Turner called him at this point saying “Hey Vince I wanna let you know I’m in the rasslin business.”

To which Vince replied that meant they were in different businesses, explaining “Well, you’re in the rasslin business…. I’m in the entertainment business.”

Explaining the eventual problems with management, WCW star Ric Flair says “The association with Ted Turner and the cable network was huge. What was bad was he just gave different parts of the company to his friends whether they had experience or not.” While Flair said this we see the clip of Robocop freeing Sting from a cage, undoubtedly one of the goofier moments in WCW history.

WCW in the early days had trouble succeeding, but by the early 90s WWF was facing hard times as well (The Gobly Gooker bit is shown). Vince felt his mega star Hulk Hogan had reached the zenith of his career, and they parted ways in 1993 while Vince started focusing on younger talent.

At the same time, a young Eric Bischoff, who was a C team announcer in WCW, put in for the job of WCW Executive Producer. Within 18 months he turned it into a profitable company. One of the changes he made was WCW started filming shows at Disney MGM studios. On the next lot over, Hulk Hogan was filming a TV show called Thunder in Paradise. Hogan says that Bischoff and Ric Flair approached him on set. At that time in his life, Hogan thought he was done with wrestling, but says they kept approaching him for five to six months before he eventually decided to wrestle again. This five to six month period is something I’d be very curious to hear more about. I’d love to follow the thought process of all those involved during this period.

From here it explains how other stars like Macho Man signed onto WCW. The documentary takes the stance that Eric Bischoff had a blank check from Ted Turner to do what he wanted. Bischoff is never given screen time to respond to that. Bischoff tells the story of the now famous meeting between him and Turner, in which Turner asks him what they have to do to compete with WWF. Not expecting the question, he answered go head to head with Vince. Not expecting Turner to agree, Ted Turner decided to start a show Monday nights on TNT, which was Turner’s flagship channel.

Apparently Eric Bischoff had 6 weeks to prepare what would be Monday Night Nitro. The first episode aired on September 4th 1995, and ended up having 2.5 million viewers. It was broadcast live from the Mall of America in Minneapolis Minnesota. One of the more memorable incidents is when Lex Luger, whose WWF contract expired literally the day before, walked onto the set of the first Nitro. This episode provides a lot of interesting details about how that came about and how his defection was kept under wraps.

The Madusa incident is also covered, where the WWF women’s champion appeared on Nitro and dumped the women’s title in the trash. However there wasn’t as much new insight into that incident. Madusa was not interviewed regarding this incident or for the documentary in general, whereas Lex Luger was.

This episode covers how Eric Bischoff gave away the already recorded events from RAW on his live Nitro program. The tone of the episode is mostly negative toward that tactic.

It ends with the WWF Nacho Man/Huckster comedy bits that make fun of Hogan, Savage, etc. Bischoff says both he and Turner thought they were funny.

While I would have liked to have seen an original interview with Ted Turner, former president of Turner Sports Harvey Schiller offers a few words of insight. Overall this first episode is very informative on the origins of this great era in wrestling. It is easily one of the best episodes of this series.

The Very First WCW Monday Nitro

It is possibly the greatest conflict in the history of entertainment. Twenty years ago from the time this blog was posted, September 4th, 1995, at 9pm eastern time, World Championship Wrestling debuted it’s professional wrestling program Monday Night Nitro on Turner Network Television. For the next 5 and a half years, WCW would air their Monday night program on TNT head to head against the WWF’s Monday Night Raw on the USA network. In less than a year, WCW would do the unthinkable, and dethrone the WWF’s reign as the number one organization in professional wrestling. During this period, both sides would try various stunts to try to out do the other, and wrestling talent would jump form one side to the other. Meanwhile, Extreme Championship Wrestling, a small Philadelphia based promotion with a rabid fanbase, would serve as a third party in this conflict. This period is regarded by many to be the greatest era in the history of professional wrestling. This era, was the Monday Night Wars.

On this blog I’ll be recording the history of the Monday Night Wars, and my first entry will be about the very first episode of Monday Nitro.

WWF Raw did not air on September 4th 1995, as the USA network aired a tennis program instead. Hence WCW would get a great opening shot in the Monday Night Wars. The first thing about Nitro that was different was that it was live. WWF RAW and their other programs were pre-recorded. Usually their only live programming was their Pay Per Views.

Nitro in the Mall of America in Minneapolis Minnesota. The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the United States (designed by the same people that made the West Edmonton that is the largest mall in the North America). At it’s center is an amusement park and this central area is where the ring was set up for the show. WCW head Eric Bischoff chose to have the debut show in the mall, because he figured if he debuted at an arena and the attendance was poor it would look bad on television. Debuting at America’s largest mall would give the show a different look, and would guarantee a crowd would be watching.

The broadcast team was Bischoff, along with WWF alum Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Steve “Mongo” McMichaels. McMichaels played football for the Chicago Bears and won a Superbowl, and would eventually become an in ring talent. This first Nitro was actually his WCW debut, and when broadcasting he always had his dog Pepe by his side. Throughout the early Nitro’s, he would often say hilarious things to encourage people to tune in. They would be along the lines of “If you’re not watching Monday Nitro you must have brain damage!”

Nitro’s very first match would also establish their differences from their competitor. It was a cruiserweight match between “Flying” Brian Pillman and Japanese superstar Jushin Thunder Liger. Liger was a masked wrestler and together with Pillman offered something extremely different for North American audiences. Pillman won the match, and afterwards raised his arms side by side with Liger.

After this match Hogan is shown in a pre-taped segment being interviewed by Bischoff in the mall. Apparently Hogan had a business venture in the mall, a pizza joint called Pasta-mania. Hogan cut a promo for his title match against Big Bubba, and promised that with Pasta mania running through his veins he couldn’t lose. Sadly Pasta mania does not exist anymore.

On a personal note, I remember the first time I was at the Mall of America in the spring of 2000. I actually saw a cardboard cut out of Hogan, which was an ad for pasta mania. They had it on display somewhere in the mall. I think at that time I didn’t know what the significance of it was.
The next match featured a surprise that would set the tone for the Monday Night Wars. During a Sting/Flair match, Lex Luger walked down the aisle toward the ring. Luger had worked in WCW in the past, and but more recently was a star in the WWF.

Personally Bischoff wasn’t a fan of Luger, but Luger was friends with Sting and asked Eric several times to talk to Luger again. When they spoke Eric offered Luger 20% of what he made when he left WCW. Eric figured Lex wouldn’t take it, but he did. As the Nitro date was approaching, they realized Luger’s contract ended literally the night before. In fact on September 3rd Luger wrestled a house show in Halifax, Nova Soctia. Everthing was kept secret, Lex held up resigning with WWF, realizing that at that time WWF owner Vince McMahon kept people at their word. (From the Monday Night Wars DVD, released in 2011)

So when Luger walked down the aisle at the Mall of America on the very first Nitro, it was quite a shock to both wrestling fans and insiders. Bischoff played it off as if it were “real” shouting “Get that camera off him,” and calling for security to remove Luger. Heenan, always playing devils advocate, said it was a public mall and he had the right to be there.

The referee calls the match after Arn Anderson came to the ring to attack Flair. The two former allies had been feuding, and had a match at the upcoming PPV Wargames, which is mentioned here for the first time tonight.

After this match we had an impromptu confrontation between arm wrestling champion Scott Norton and Macho Man Randy Savage. Norton actually confronted McMichaels before Savage came to ringside. During the main event it is announced that Norton and Savage will face each other the next week on Nitro.

The main event was the world title match between Big Bubba Rogers and champion Hulk Hogan. Rogers previously wrestled Hogan in the WWF under his Big Boss Man gimmick. In fact when he came to the ring Rogers was billed as being from Cobb County Georgia, the same as the Big Boss Man. He also used the same finisher. In fact Heenan even says he used to be a prison guard, which was basically the Big Boss Man gimmick,

After Hogan wins, the villainous stable the Dungeon of Doom ambushes Hogan. Luger comes to the ring and helps fight them off, before they almost square off themselves. Hogan shouts at Luger “Why don’t you go back to where you came from!” Mean Gene Oakerland comes to the ring and puts them both on the mic. Luger calls Hogan “The only world’s heavyweight champion.” Continuing on, he says “I’ve been down the same roads as you. I’ve been where you’ve been, I’ve beaten the same people you’ve beaten, I am sick and tired of playing around with kids! I’m here to get it on with the big boys (WCW had an ad campaign that said WCW was “Where the big boys play.”) and that means you.” Hogan accepts the challenge and declares the match will happen on next weeks Nitro, a perfect almost cliffhanger like way to end the first episode.

Nitro was live, in a different kind of venue, started with a cruiserweight match with a Japanese superstar, then showed two of WCW’s top guys, Flair and Sting, and also included former WWF superstars Hogan and Savage, along with Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan. From the very beginning, Nitro established that it stood apart from WWF, offering audiences both the different and the familiar. The first episode had a 2.9 rating, and it was off to the races from here. No one could imagine the incredible changes that wrestling would go through from this point. The war was on.