For the first time in over 18 months, Retro Express returns to the Armbar Express! Only this time, the Retro Express is on a mission…
As long as I’ve been a wrestling fan, the biggest wrestling company I’ve ever known was World Wrestling Entertainment. I started watching wrestling in 2003, where WWE dominated the wrestling industry with no major competition at all from the sports entertainment side of things.
But there was a time, before I was a wrestling fan, where WWE did actually have huge competition. In fact, this was competition that almost drove them out of business. This competition… was World Championship Wrestling.
I’ve read Bryan Alvarez’s “The Death Of WCW” book (which, by the way, I would hugely recommend) and had heard all the stories about WCW. The narrative that WCW, a wrestling company powered by one of the richest men in the United States that crumbled as the “revolutionary” WWF Attitude Era rose to prominence. I don’t buy that narrative entirely.
Having re-watched some of the old recent WWF Attitude Era stuff recently (not covered in the Armbar Express yet), I can’t say there was a lot to praise from that era with the exceptions of like Austin vs McMahon as well as the rise of The Rock. WCW, in my opinion, were the ones that screwed WCW. I can’t go with the idea that the WWF were so great and WCW were so terrible. I don’t buy that. Obviously WCW did completely decline in their last few years but it’s not as if WWF was mind-blowingly good.
So then how is it that the WWE is still around, thriving and making hundreds of millions of dollars each year? How is that WCW are gone forever? What was it?
Well I decided to see if I can try and answer my own question. I’m not watching RAW IS WAR and Monday Night Nitro side-by-side but since I have never really watched WCW in a major capacity, I decided to watch every episode of WCW Nitro from start to finish. That’s right. 300+ episodes starting with an episode including Sting vs Ric Flair and ending with an episode…. including Sting vs Ric Flair.
Let’s get to it with EPISODE ONE….
WCW Nitro #1
Date: September 4th 1995
City: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby Heenan
We started things off with Eric Bischoff and STEVE MCMICHAEL opening the show, welcoming us to WCW Nitro. Seeing Bischoff as a babyface is extremely rare for me, knowing what’s going to happen in about a year’s time in WCW. Steve McMichael was one of the most annoying and worst announcers I’ve ever had to listen to in my life. I have no idea how long this guy will be doing commentary but I’m praying it’s a short term deal before Tony Schiavone is on the scene.
Bobby Heenan interrupts. He sucks up to McMichael after supposedly making some kind of remark about him. Very hard to figure out what he was on about.
Jushin Thunder Liger vs ‘Flyin Brian
I enjoy re-watcing old things and, for the majority of the time, I don’t really have an issue with watching old stuff with modern eyes. I did have an issue with this match. I know how this is a very historic and romanticised match but time has not been kind to this one. I’m sure at the time this blew people away and the fans were going crazy for the match. That being said, this was a very sloppy match!
The match was OK for about the first minute when Liger hit a moonsault which barely connected. He went for a big boot which… barely connected. They attempted a hurricanrana spot and it completely fell apart as they both fell down. The head-scissors by Brian the second time was a vast improvement. There was some ridiculous spot where Liger tried to dump Brian over the rope but Brian ended up going through the middle rope. The crowd broke out into a USA chant because of course they did.
Steve McMichael, I don’t know who he said it to, but he gave either Liger or Brian the following advice: “Give it to him the way he wants it.” At least it’s nice to know McMichael was actually into this match. When he wasn’t invested in the match he made fun of Bobby Heenan with every pun in the book including “Bobby The Stain.” Sick burn.
Liger almost killed Brian with the powerbomb. Liger hit a Frankenstiener on Brian and PLANTED HIMSELF. I shrieked. His head dropped to the floor as he sent Brian across the ring. I’ve concluded that this was way worse than the Bayley/Sasha Frankensteiner from NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn a number of years ago. Oddly enough, Jushin Liger WRESTLED AT NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn a number of years ago. How he walked away fine after this is a mystery.
Brian rolled Liger up for the win and a HUGE POP. The crowd loved Flyin’ Brian in the first ever match of WCW Nitro. It wasn’t a terrible match but there was a lot of messy spots that could have ended way worse than it did.
They showed WCW US Champion Sting cutting a promo on Ric Flair basically vowing to beat Ric Flair on this episode of Nitro. Straight to the point, short and all you needed.
Then we cut to WCW World Champion Hulk Hogan… and PASTAMANIA was running wild! Now I’ve heard that Hogan did this back in the 90s… I had no idea it was like this. Hogan had a restaurant in Mall of America based in Minneapolis, which was where this particular show was based. First of, just the idea that this Nitro was based in a US Mall shopping centre. People were just doing their shopping and going down these massive escalators and watching these guys wrestle. WWE is not adventurous enough to try this in 2018 and that’s a shame.
So Bischoff interviewed Hogan with these little kids surrounding them, getting autographs with Hogan. Jimmy Hart was also there. Hogan cut this astonishing promo on PastaMania, saying PastaMania was running through his veins. He said that he was slimming trim with pasta! Yes, pasta! He said he was going to beat Big Bubba Rogers to retain the WCW title tonight. The PastaManiacs were going to help him win. Man, could you imagine WWE trying this with like “Roman Noodles” or something in 2018? PastaMania lasted less than a year, for those of you wondering.
Sting vs Ric Flair
Before we actually get started, I have no idea if this match was for the WCW United States Championship or not. Pro Wrestling Wikia, who has details of almost ever show for like WWE, WCW, ECW etc., has this down as a US title match, which I though it was. However, The Internet Wrestling Database had this down as a non-title match. Either way, Sting vs Ric Flair is a match that will never get old. It never changes but it never needs to change. Ric Flair is the greatest seller in the history of pro wrestling. Sting going crazy is awesome and he’s one of the best babyfaces of all time.
Before we actually got the match, we had an invasion… LEX LUGER arrived in WCW. The fans were going nuts as Eric Bischoff played it up as if he was invading from the WWF. He said Luger wasn’t supposed to be there. Sting and Flair were confused and Luger was asked to leave, which he eventually did.
Luger debuting here was actually a pretty big deal at the time since, like the night before, he interfered in the main-event of WWF SummerSlam. There was no like internet or anything for the fans to know that Luger was coming. So when he showed up without warning, on Nitro, these fans didn’t know what to think. Are the WWF invading? Is he signed? What’s going on? Later on in the night, it was clearer as to what was going on.
Sting and Flair, after being confused for a solid minute or so, then started to fight. Sting Gorilla Pressed Flair OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Sting ran wild. Flair turned things around with a poke to the eye. Flair and Sting somehow did the smoothest crossbody to the outside I’ve ever seen. Sting Gorilla Pressed Ric into the ring. Flair going to the top rope and then getting thrown off will never get old to me. ARN ANDERSON then came running down to the ring. It sounded as if Flair and Arn were doing a break-up angle. McMichael theorised that Arn had been down at PastaMania.
Sting made a comeback. Flair sold a clothesline on the apron as if he got shocked with a taser. Sting, like a completely doofus, distracted himself by talking to Arn when Flair did the chop block and put Sting in the Figure Four Leg Lock. This Figure Four was awesome as Sting fought back, pumped up his chests and was ready to turn the hold around to put the pressure on Flair. Sting fought and fought but before he could turn it over, Flair got the ropes to break the hold.
So then Arn Anderson got in the ring and the bell rang. Having re-winded the show, it appears to me that Flair was DQ’d because he didn’t break on five after getting the ropes. Arn broke up the Figure Four and he and Flair brawled to the back. Arn got in the ring to get his jacket and that was that. A very lame finish to an otherwise vintage Sting vs Ric Flair match.
Then almost immediately, SCOTT NORTON ran down to the ring. When I first was watching this, I had no idea who he was. Part of the problem was that they never mentioned on commentary who this guy was. He confronted Bischoff about a contract. Mongo stepped up to Scott. Randy Savage came down to say he’d fight him. Bischoff said no and then they cut to a Sabu hype promo.
This hype promo hurt my eyes but it couldn’t help but showcase that 90% of Sabu’s moves were just massive botches. This included a spot where Sabu did a moonsault onto a table which didn’t break. I assume this was all WCW Saturday Night footage or something.
Mean Gene Okerlund came down to congratulate the winner of the WCW Harley Davidson Sweepstakes they did. Congrats to Mike Hill from Alabama.
They plugged WCW Saturday Night with Sting and Randy Savage teaming up as well as WCW Fall Brawl.
They then showed ANOTHER video package. I was begging for a match. Michael Wallstreet, otherwise known as IRS, said that WCW is all about money and power. He said the “New Generation” was now the “Few Generation”. This was referencing WWF’s new change in creative direction. He said he was a real player and… Michael Wallstreet was here.
Hulk Hogan (c) vs Big Bubba Rogers for the WCW title
This was every Hulk Hogan vs a big monster match you’ve ever seen. Very slow but when Hogan was attacking, the fans went crazy. PastaMania was running wild. They announced Randy Savage vs Scott Norton for next week. I’ve always thought in history that nobody threw worse punches in a match than Shane McMahon. Big Bubba, otherwise known as Big Boss Man in the WWF, threw some disgusting punches in the corner. This may not have been as bad as Shane but these were right up there. Heenan claimed Big Bubba knew martial arts which can’t have been true after watching these punches. God bless Big Bubba, who is actually not with us anymore, but these punches were that horrible.
Hogan was Irish whipped into a corner and responded with a big boot which missed Big Bubba by about 100 miles. All efforts to cover this up were fruitless including Bischoff claiming that “the heel” connected. In hindsight, that could quite possibly have been an impromptu inside joke attempt by Bischoff. Then again, I could just be overthinking this but it is WCW after all.
The referee grabbed Hogan by the hair as a means to pull him off of Big Bubba. Hogan pulled out the most heelish move in the match as he choked out Big Bubba with a jacket as Jimmy Hart ran distraction. I swear to all the gods, he did this and he’s the biggest babyface in the company. Then Hogan started stomping on his face…. how this man was a beloved babyface is mind-boggling when you see all these on-screen jerk-ass moments from Hogan.
Mongo’s jokes included “Bobby Hernia” among other lame lines. Big Bubba hit the uranage. Hogan made the comeback, hit the Leg Drop and got the pin. The crowd went batshit crazy for the guy after he won. PastaMania was truly running wild. Not particularly a tremendous in-ring match but I didn’t have high expectations going in for Hogan vs Big Bubba. The crowd loved it throughout which I guess makes all the difference so why not. This was a success for PastaMania.
The geeks from Dungeon of Doom ran in to jump Hogan. Hogan fought them off when Luger came down to aid the Hulkster. Luger came down as Hogan was already beating on the Dungeon of Doom! The heels escaped. Hogan and Luger went face-to-face. Randy Savage and Sting came down to calm them down. Believe it or not, we got some “Luger” chants.
Mean Gene came down to interview them after they both somewhat calmed down. Hogan asked what Luger was doing here. I wish Luger actually went with what Mongo said earlier and explained that he was going to PastaMania. There was just a bunch of wrestlers in his path as he wanted to get an order in! XD
Luger actually said he was here for one thing and that was the WCW title. He confirmed that Hogan was the only world champion in wrestling right now. He said he was here to get it on with the big boys. Hogan said that he was going to be champion forever. Hogan asked Luger to shake his hand to have the match next week for the title. They shook hands. They pushed each other as Savage and Sting held them apart.
Overall, I actually thought it was an OK show. I don’t know how long the hour-long episodes of WCW Nitro is going to last but I hope it’s like this for a whilte. I really think weekly wrestling shows need to be around an hour. If there’s one thing we can learn from wrestling’s past is that less is more. This was a very basic show to watch as it was not over the course of 3 hours and the structure for the majority of it was simple to follow.
Liger vs Flyin’ Brian didn’t really age well and was very sloppy at times but Sting vs Flair was everything it needed to be for me except the finish. Hogan vs Big Bubba got the crowd popping and the Hogan vs Luger main-event for next week was easily set up.
That was that. Quick preview of episode #2: If the video packages are anything to go by, Michael Wallstreet and Sabu will both appear on WCW Nitro. We’ve got Randy Savage vs Scott Norton and of course, WCW World Champion Hulk Hogan vs newcomer Lex Luger for the WCW World title.
Thank you for reading and I’ll be back with Episode #2 of WCW Nitro as part of the Retro Express.