The Origin of WCW Monday Nitro

It is important to look at the early days of WCW to see how Nitro got started. Eric Bischoff was a third string announcer for the company who ended up getting the Executive Producer position because upper management wanted someone to run WCW that wasn’t a “wrestling guy.”

WCW was known for hiring ex-WWF wrestlers, though it should be noted that one of the first things they did was hire Mean Gene Oakerland and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Ric Flair suggested these announcers get hired first so they could help make stars in WCW. (Flair 226)

One of the first things Bischoff did was move the TV tapings to Disney MGM studios in Orlando Florida. WCW hadn’t been making money running live events, and now they were in a position where Disney was paying them to produce television and was supplying a fresh audience as people toured the various studios where TV shows were being filmed.

One of those shows being filmed was Thunder in Paradise, starring Hulk Hogan. Hogan had left the WWF in the early 90s, and at that point in his life honestly thought he was done with wrestling. While still in the WWF, Hogan was approached by the producers of Baywatch, Doug Schwartz and Greg Bonann, to do a pilot about two ex Navy seals that ride around in a boat fighting crime. It was not picked up as a series right away, but eventually Rysher Entertainment, the company that produced Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, got the show a syndication deal about a year and a half after the pilot was shot, with Hogan as executive producer. (Hogan 225)

Thunder in Paradise was shot on sound stage A, where three thousand people an hour went through the glass walkway on the studio tour. (229) Later, WCW filmed on sound stage B, but the way the tour was set up, people saw B before A. So basically everyone watched the WCW wrestling show, then saw Hogan filming Knight Rider on a boat and wondered why he wasn’t wrestling.

Bischoff got the idea to see if Hogan would be interested in wrestling again. Since Ric Flair knew Hulk previously, Bischoff asked Flair if he would talk to Hogan. (Flair 232) One day Flair approached Hogan on the set of Thunder in Paradise. Both Bischoff and Flair went back to the set several times to meet Hogan.

Hogan was reluctant at first, but he missed wrestling, and there were backstage events for the Thunder in Paradise show that were a factor as well. Keith Samples from Rysher Entertainment did not like some of the deals being made regarding the show, and wanted to bring a producer from Robocop in. However, Hogan was asked to take full responsibility for the show as well. By this point Hogan had enough, saying “The hell with it, pull the plug I don’t care.” (Hogan, 231, 232).

Before signing on Hogan wanted to meet with Ted Turner himself. He met Turner and Bill Shaw, the president of WCW. Hogan’s WCW contract gave him over half of his merchandise sales,though WCW didn’t have much of a merchandise machine at that point) (Hogan 238) and 25% of the Pay Per View revenue. (Flair 233).

Hogan was immediately put into a feud with WCW Champion Ric Flair. Flair had briefly been the WWF a few years prior, and one of wrestling’s great mysteries is why a Hogan/Flair match never happened at Wrestlemania. That dream match finally happened at Bash at the Beach in 1994, where Hogan became the new WCW champion. Flair had long been the face of WCW, as Hogan was the face of the WWF. Bischoff says “In a way-and in retrospect, because I didn’t think of it this way at the time-we were creating a war between the two brands.” (EB 119) He ads “We weren’t looking for a confrontation with Vince, although some people thought we were. Admittedly, some of our statements made it look that way.” (EB 119) Around this time he and Bill Shaw were interviewed by the Miami Herald and both said they dreamt of beating Titan in the wrestling industry. The Herald quoted Bischoff as saying “The biggest challenge we have ahead of us is making people realize we do have a better product. I think the consensus is we are better. But not enough people know that” (EB 119)

Much criticism has been levied to Bischoff over the years about giving Hogan creative control in his contract. In his book, Bischoff says it was the first time WCW spelled it out in the contract, and he reasoned that Hogan was an established brand, the biggest name in wrestling, he wasn’t going to “throw him into the lion’s den to be shredded up by a bunch of insecure people with their own agendas.” (EB 122) He quotes Hogan himself as saying “They’re going to look at Hulk Hogan as the guy who’s going to come in and have too much control over their lives, and they’re going to do everything they can to make that unsuccessful. The only way I’m making this move is with creative control. So if the situation is not comfortable for me, I won’t have to do it.” (EB 122) Also, it is important to remember that WCW was not a strong brand at the time. Hogan feared that if WCW crashed and burned, that the Hulk Hogan character would go down with it. (EB 120)

The next big hire was Macho Man Randy Savage. Macho Man had been an announcer for the WWF, as they were beginning to go with younger in ring talent. Still feeling he had a lot to offer, he had meetings with Bischoff and Flair. Later, Bill Shah asked if Savage was worth half a million dollars and Flair agreed that he was. (Flair 245) Savage would debut on December 4th, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night.

In early 1995 WCW went through some company restructuring, and Bill Shah was out of the company, Eric Bischoff became president of WCW, and now reported to Harvey Schiller, the head of Turner Sports. (EB 146-147)

Eric Bischoff’s goal was to simply turn a profit. In fact he made a bet with Harry Anderson, who worked on the financial side of Turner, that he could make WCW turn a profit. The deal was if he did, Anderson would get on his hands and knees and give him one dollar in front of WCW employees. (EB 148)

One idea he had to make a profit was to sell their TV footage overseas. Now that they had big stars like Hogan and Macho Man that were recognizable in Europe and Asia this was a good opportunity. Star TV in China was paying top dollar for footage at the time. The problem for Eric was Rupert Murdoch owned Star TV, and famously didn’t get along with Ted Turner. (EB 149) This led to the now infamous meeting between Bischoff and Turner.

At the meeting was Bischoff, Ted Turner, Scott Sassa, who oversaw Turner’s TV networks, and Harvey Schiller. Eric did his presentation on the Star TV deal, and just a few short minutes in Turner interrupted. “Uh, Eric, What do we need to do to become competitive with Vince.”

Eric was prepared to answer every possible question about the Star TV deal, but was not ready for this. Thinking off the top of his head he simply said “Well, Ted, I think we need to have prime time.”

Ted Turner then looked at Scott Sassa and said “Scott, I want you to give Eric two hours every Monday Night on TNT.” He then asked how soon the show could be ready. Eric said perhaps by August, Turner agreed. What was soon to be called Monday Night Nitro would debut on September 4th, 1995, and the Monday Night Wars began. (EB 150 151)

Bischoff, Eric with Roberts, Jeremy “Controversy Creates Cash” Simon and Schuster 2006

Flair, Ric with Greenberg, Kieth Elliot “Ric Flair, To Be The Man” Simon and Schuster 2004

Hogan, Hulk, with Friedman, Michael Jan, “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” Simon and Schuster 2002

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WCW Monday Nitro 1996: The Pre-NWO days.

WCW continued their war with WWF Nitro in the early episodes of 1996. The January 8th episode hyped the upcoming Clash of the Champions wrestling event on TBS, Bischoff saying fans could watch it for free “Forget about the Royal Fumble,” referring to WWF’s upcoming January Pay Per View the Royal Rumble that Bischoff calls an “over priced PPV.” Clash of the Champions aired on January 23rd, the main event having the Giant and Ric Flair defeating Hogan and Savage. Also of note is Hogan’s entrance included his real life wife Linda, Woman (who formerly managed Ric Flair), Debra McMichael, two other women, and the WCW debut of Miss Elizabeth. This event had the only time WCW mentioned the WWF parody skits airing on Raw, and only back handedly. The WCW 900 number is plugged and one of the selling points is Mike Tenay interviewing Eric Bischoff about the WWF skits.

The taunting continued on 1/29 when Bischoff says “Forget about it Vince, get a job at a Pizza Parlor buddy.” Later former WWF women’s wrestler Madusa (known in WWF as Alundra Blayze) lost to Sherri Martel to which Bischoff says “Madusa should have stayed in the WWF she could have taken on 90% of the male athletes in that division.” Steve Mongo McMichaels adds “She’s a lot more of a man than Goldfarb I’ll tell you that,” referring to WWF star Golddust. Later Bischoff refers to Goldust as the “Rupal impersonator.”

A month later on February 26th Bischoff reffered to the “World Whining Federation.” “DQ Yokozuna in a handicapped match,‭ ‬Jake the Snake Roberts,‭ ‬you talk about picking up some bones here,‭ ‬over Isacc Yankem and Diesel over Bob Holly.‭ H‬e’s still around?”

A few months later on April 22 the broadcast opens with Bischoff “We are not like the world whining federation which a‭ ‬taped canned show,‭ ‬happened a couple weeks ago. Let me save you some time and put your remote control down.‭ T‬he‭ ‬Rupal impersonator, the transvestite Golddust defeats Savio, regains the intercontinental title YAWN‭ ‬Mankind‭ ‬defeats Auto Montoya,‭ ‬bigger yawn.‭ ‬And Vader defeats Batu Oh Boy”

A month before that one of the stranger WCW events occured with Uncensored 1996. The main event being a triple cage match between the Mega Powers, Hogan and Savage, vs the Alliance to End Hulkamania, which consisted Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, The Taskmaster, Z-Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution, with the now heel Woman, Miss Elizabeth and Jimmy Hart. Z-Gansta was actor Tiny Lister, known among wrestling fans as villain Zeus from Hogan’s WWF produced No Holds Barred Movie. The character Zeus even had a few appearances and matches in the WWF. On the 3/18 episode of Nitro Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan introduced Z-Gangsta saying “Everybody in the world knows this man and what he did to you in the late‭ ‬80s.”

There was another extremely large wrestler in the ring. His real name was Robert Swenson. Taskmaster, in the ring on live TV, called him the Final Solution. The character was not affiliated with Nazis in anyway, but apparently WCW creative weren’t aware that the Final Solution was the name for the Hitler’s plan to kill all the Jews. By the time the Pay Per View aired the next Sunday, the name was changed to Ultimate Solution. It would be Swenson’s last pro wrestling match (he had a brief wrestling career in the late 80s). A year later he went on to play Bane in the Batman and Robin movie, considered by many fans to be the worst comic book movie ever, (he also had a small role in the aforementioned No Holds Barred movie). Swenson passed away in August of 97, and was perhaps the most unlucky guy in the history of pop culture.

Even without the unspeakably offensive name this match is still known as one of the dumbest things ever in wrestling. Hogan and Savage of course beat the eight other wrestlers, but it is somewhat note worthy that it was Hogan’s last major match before his infamous heel turn. He had a handful of appearances in subsequent Nitro’s, but by mid April he was off the air for a few months. The real life reason was he was filming a movie, Santa with Muscles. There was no in ring story to explain his absence, looking back, one would think they could have had a brutal defeat of Hogan at Uncensored to have an in ring story for his absence.

Of course Hogan would return to WCW at the July PPV Bash at the Beach, and his return would mark one of the greatest moments in professional wrestling history.

20 Years Ago Today: Hogan Turned Heel And Joined NWO.

Twenty Years ago today was World Championship Wrestling’s Pay Per View called Bash at the Beach. The main event was a six man tag between Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger, against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and a mystery third partner.

Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were in WCW in the early 90s, but did not achieve superstar status. Both of them went to WWF where they did become big stars. By the mid 90s, WCW, under the leadership of Eric Bischoff, launched Monday Nitro head to head against WWF’s Raw. Needing new talent, he was able to sign Kevin Nash and Scott Hall back to WCW. Both wrestlers were happy in WWF, but WCW offered more money and less days on the road.

Both Hall and Nash’s WWF contracts expired around the same time. Eric Bischoff had the idea from a New Japan Wrestling angle about wrestlers from another company invading theirs. Scott Hall walked into the ring on Nitro on 5/27 promising a war was coming. Kevin Nash soon followed, and subsequent weeks of Nitro showed the two, dubbed the outsiders, in the audience, going backstage, and generally disrupting the show. The idea was that two WWF wrestlers were coming to sabotage WCW. Soon a challenge was issued for a three on three match at Bash at the Beach. The Outsiders teased a mystery third partner, following a lot of speculating on who it would be.

Hogan himself had not been on WCW TV for some time, as he was off filming a movie. I believe it was the TV movie Assault on Devil’s Island, which aired on Turner TV the next year. A few segments about his career aired on Nitro from time to time, and at one point the Nitro announcers said they heard Hogan offering to be on the team to fight the Outsiders.

When the PPV came Hall and Nash came to the ring without their third partner. The match began, and Sting got (in story) injured and had to be taken to the back. Later on, Hulk Hogan came walking down the aisle. The fans cheered as people presumed he was coming to help his friend Macho Man, who was the legal man in the match. This was the first time WCW fans would have seen Hogan in months. The ring cleared as he entered, except Macho Man who was laying on the mat.

Bischoff, as well as WCW booker Kevin Sullivan had talked to Hogan during the course of that year about Hogan turning heel (heel is a wrestling term for villain). Hogan was reluctant, as he’d been a face for around ten years, (and as such was the biggest star in the history of the business. He actually was heel in his very early career). By 1996 the Hogan gimmick was getting old. In the 1990s the anti-hero was in, the traditional good heroes were not in vogue. People liked things at that time that had more of an edge. In fact, in early episodes of Nitro, especially when he was in the south fighting Ric Flair, Hogan was getting booed by the live audience.

Once Hogan saw how hot the outsiders were, he decided that he would be the third man, and the wrestling business was never the same. Bischoff later said that if Hogan hadn’t agreed to turn heel, the third man would have been Sting. Sting was the traditional WCW hero. While a Sting heel turn would have been shocking, it of course would not have had near the impact that Hogan had.

So the crowd was shocked when Hogan dropped the leg on Macho Man and sided with Hall and Nash. People were so mad they actually threw trash in the ring. Mean Gene got in the ring and Hogan immediately cut a vicious heel promo where he said he was bigger than the business and told the fans to stick it.

No one ever could have guessed that Hogan would have turned heel. It was the one thing in wrestling people never thought would happen. This is honestly one of the great regrets of my life. I wish so much I could have been watching this live on pay per view, or even have been in the audience. To see Hogan come down the aisle, assuming he would make the save, and then watch him drop the leg. Just to feel the shock of that moment. “Oh my god! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!!” Simply the greatest heel turn ever.

Watch Hogan in all his evil glory here.

WCW Monday Nitro 1995 Part 2

One of the many ways the WCW differentiated themselves from the WWF was by acknowledging other wrestling organizations. One of the WCW angles leading into Starrcade was a “World Cup” between WCW and New Japan pro wrestling. Bischoff had arranged a talent exchange between the two organizations. Talent from WCW would wrestle in Japan, and Japanese wrestlers would appear on WCW programming. (One side effect of this was the One Man gang winning the US title in a match not on WCW TV). Sonny Onnoo, a personal friend of Eric Bischoff, would appear on Nitro managing Japanese wrestlers. It was announced on Nitro that the December PPV Starrcade would have a world cup event between the two organizations, but the details were vague until the actual PPV aired.

The world cup was 7 matches between WCW and New Japan talent, all of whom managed by Sonny Onoo. Whichever team won the most of the 7 matches would “win.” In the first match Chris Benoit lost to Jushin Thunder Liger after interference from Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan, who later fueded with Benoit. It was noted during the event that Liger had a Saturday morning cartoon.

In the second match Koji Kanemoto, the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion, beat Alex Wright, putting New Japan up 2-0.

Lex Luger got WCW on the board, beating Masahiro Chono. Johnny B Bad tied it up beating Masa Saito. In a rare moment victory was achieved via the over the top rope disqualification rule. During the match commentator Bobby Heenan mentioned that he managed Masa in the AWA.


Shinjiro Ootai defeated Eddie Guerrero putting New Japan on top. Then Macho Man Randy Savage defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Sting defeated Kensuko Sasaki, resulting in WCW winning the “World Cup.” This was an interesting and different idea that acknowledged another wrestling organization. The stakes were pretty much just bragging rights and it was not built up as well as it could have been. The world cup angle was never used again.

Around this same time the famous Madusa incident took place. Right at the opening of Nitro on 12/18/1995, wrestler Debra Micelei walked onto the announcers booth. Bobby Heenan can be heard saying “What the hell are you doing here.” Debra in years past had wrestled in WCW as Madusa, but has just did a run in WWF as Alundra Blayze where she was the WWF women’s champion. In fact when she left the WWF they never took the belt off her, and she was now appearing on live WCW TV with the WWF belt.

Madusa had a mic and said  “I am Madusa, always have been Madusa, and always will be Madusa. This is the WWF Woman’s championship belt. (She picks up a trash can, and with the camera focused front and center on her,drops WWF belt in the trash). And that’s what I think of the WWF Woman’s Championship belt. This is the WCW. I am now in the WCW, and they used to call me Alundra Blaze, but not anymore, because this is where the big boys play, and now, this is where the big girls play.” She then walks off, and Eric Bischoff refers to her as Madusa, the name she would wrestle under in WCW.


Immediately after this Steve “Mongo” McMichael, the former NFL player and now WCW announcer, brings up a special guest. William “Refrigerator” Perry, the legendary defensive linemen for the Chicago Bears, walks up to announcer’s booth. Mongo said he was tired of wrestlers always coming up to the announcers booth and Perry was going to take care of that. Perry was never involved in any story lines with WCW, but his appearance surely appealed to the older demographic the WCW was targeting.

The Madusa incident is one of the most shocking events of the Monday Night Wars, however, it could be argued that it was indicative of the problems that would later plague WCW. While it was a shocking moment, there was little to no follow through. WCW did not establish a women’s title until almost a full year later. A whole storyline could have been set up around Madusa finding her way (and losing matches) to WCW female talent, and eventually turning things around and getting into the title chase.

Of course hindsight is twenty twenty. Either way, the Madusa incident, along with the feud with New Japan put WCW on the map as a place that offered innovative story lines that were fresh for American audiences.

WCW Monday Nitro 1995 part 1.

While the NWO era of the Monday Night Wars has been well documented, that storyline didn’t begin until around late spring of 1996. Not as much has been written about WCW and their Monday Nitro program in the pre-NWO era. This piece will provide coverage of that era, specifically from their debut until the end of 1995. During this period WCW utilized established WWF stars, as well as older WWF storylines, and, in retrospect, had some foreshadowing of the evil Hollywood Hulk Hogan character.

The major storyline in the opening days of Nitro was WCW champion Hulk Hogan, and his allies, the Hulkamaniacs, fueding with the Dungeon of Doom. Hogan’s allies were Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Vader. Ironically Vader got fired shortly before the debut of Nitro after a real life locker room brawl with Paul Orndorf. Vader was actually seen in the opening vignette of the debut episode of Nitro.

The Dungeon of Doom was a group of villains led by Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan. As much as this era of WWF gets criticized for still relying on cartoonish gimmicks, the Dungeon of Doom could just as well been a villanous WWF stable. They had Kamala, Manshark (John Tenta/WWF’s Earthquake), the Zodiac (WWF’s Brutus Beefcake), and Meng (Haku in the WWF). Another member was the Giant, a 7 foot wrestler who prior to Nitro claimed to be the son of Andre the Giant, and, on the late Andre’s behalf, was seeking revenge against Hulk Hogan. The Giant did not appear on the first Nitro.

The debut of Monday Nitro, 9/4/95, was a few weeks away from their September Pay Per View Fall Brawl/Wargames/The Match Beyond, the main event of which was the Hulkamaniacs vs the Dungeon of Doom. Wargames was WCW’s answer to the Survivor Series. There were two rings side by side with a steel cage around both. There were two teams, and one member from each team would fight each other in the ring. After five minutes, another member from one team would enter, giving a two on one advantage, (which team got the advantage was determined in story line by a coin toss). Then every two minutes another wrestler would enter, until all team members were in. Once this happened, whichever team gained a pinfall or submission would win for their team.

Lex Luger made his shocking return to WCW on the debut of Nitro, and was granted a title shot against Hogan the next week. Hogan vs Luger was a big match at the time, and part of WCW’s philosophy was to show matches of that caliber on TV as opposed to PPV.

The announcers on the 9/11 episode of Nitro said that Luger ‭“‬Literally came out of the bush leagues to play with the big boys.‭”‬ During the match Hogan dropped the leg on Luger when the Dungeon of Doom stormed the ring. At this point, Luger joined the Hulkamaniacs at the urging of his real life friend Sting, as the announcers stated that Vader was no longer with the company hence Hogan was a man short for Wargames. Macho Man in story was more apprehensive about Luger joining.

At the Wargames match, the Dungeon of Doom had the two on one advantage (as the heel or villain team usually did in these matches). The Hulkamaniacs were dressed in camaflogue/military gear. Hogan came out and some kind of white dust in the Doom member’s eyes. The Hulkamaniacs won, which meant that Hogan was allowed five minutes in the ring with Kevin Sullivan. After knocking him around a bit, the Giant came into the ring, got behind Hogan, and twisted his neck. This is arguably similar to the 1988 Saturday Nights Main Event episode where after defeating King Kong Bundy, Andre came behind Hogan and choked him out.
This led up to a Halloween Havoc match in October between Hogan and the Giant. In the build up to the PPV Hogan’s character was deconstructed, in a strange foreshadowing of Hollywood Hogan. On the 10/2/95 episode of Nitro, Kevin Sullivan, disguised as an old woman in the crowd, attacked Hogan, leading to the Zodiac shaving off Hogan’s mustache. The next week, Mean Gene interviewed Hogan who came out wearing black and black neck brace. The following week Hogan cuts a pre-recorded promo with a new black and grey background. Here he talks about the dark side of Hulk Hogan, how there is evil inside him. He also talks about how he once worked with a promoter who’s ego got out of control. He then took his Hulkamaniacs to WCW and “As we speak, that promoter is dying, and choking on his own ego.” He goes onto say how Hulkamania is more powerful than wrestling promotions.

Halloween Havoc had a sumo monster truck challenge that took place on top of the events arena where both the Giant and Hogan had monster trucks and tried to push each other out of a giant circle. Hogan’s truck was apparently made by the crew of the Bigfoot monster truck. Hogan won and after wards the two brawled and the Gaint seemingly fell off the building.

Later that night Hogan was in the ring, still dressed in black with a black design painted on his face. They were selling the idea that the Giant was gone. Sure enough, the Giant showed up. The match went on, and after a ref bump this other giant wrestler wrapped up like a mummy came to the ring. This was the Yeti, who debuted at the very end of Nitro seemingly bursting out of a glacier. In one of the more bizarre moments in wrestling history, Hogan was crushed between the two giants as it looked like the Yeti was dry humping him from behind. The match ended in a disqualification, but on Nitro it was revealed that Hogan’s manager, Jimmy Hart, arranged for the title to change hands if there was a DQ. Hart turned on Hogan and arranged for the Giant to win the title. However, due to the bizarre circumstances of the match, the title was declared vacant, and it would be up for grabs at the next World War Three Pay Per view.

Where Wargames was WCW’s answer to the Survivor Series, WW3 was there attempt to outdo the Royal Rumble. This match had three rings with 20 men in each ring. Each ring had their own battle royal, and when there were 20 men left between the three rings, they would gather in one ring and resume. The winner of that battle royal wins the World War 3 match, and on this inagural PPV would win the title. The match was naturally chaotic, hard to follow, not offering much in the way of spots. The TV screen was split into three segments for the audience back home to attempt to follow the action. Wrestlers seemingly exited and entered the ring at will, as you had to be thrown over the top rope to be eliminated.

On the PPV, before the WW3 match, Hogan cuts a promo where he goes back to the red and yellow. He burns the black outfit over which he had his traditional red and yellow outfit. Then cuts a promo on dirt-sheets/the various fan written newsletters that report on backstage gossip pertaining to wrestling such as the Wrestling Observer. “Observe this brother!” Hogan called the dirt-sheets out for saying the Giant would win the WW3 match and saying Macho Man’s arm was legitimately hurt. “This is like a dinosaur compared to the internet brother! The internet’s got the scoops!”

The winner of the WW3 match was Macho Man, who less than ten years prior won the vacated WWF title at a tournament at Wrestlemania IV. That title was vacated after a bizarre finish to the Hogan Andre rematch on Saturday Night’s Main Event (which followed Andre choking Hogan on the aforementioned Bundy match).

The last PPV of the year was Starrcade, and event which actually pre-dated Wrestlemania. The main event had Savage defend the title against Ric Flair, who that same night won a triangle match against Sting and Luger for #1 spot. The show ended with Flair winning the title. Oddly Hogan was not on this PPV (neither was the Giant). Given Starrcade was WCW’s equivalent of Wrestlemania it is a mystery why the first Starrcade of the Monday Night Wars didn’t feature wrestling biggest star, even if he was starting to get booed. Never mind why a Hogan/Giant match wasn’t saved until then.

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.