Monday Nitro #288
Date: March 26, 2001
Location: Boardwalk Beach Resort, Panama City, Florida
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson
I can’t believe I actually typed that. After over five and a half years, we’ve actually arrived at the final episode of Monday Nitro. Tonight is the Night of Champions show with every title being defended. Other than that there’s been an open call to all former WCW World Champions to show up and bring their gear. That could be interesting or a big disappointment and I’ll let you guess which I’m expecting. Let’s get to it.
We open with Vince McMahon standing in front of the Raw interview set. There had been rumors that something big was coming but if you thought WCW was going to survive after this, you really were in denial. Vince gives us the famous quote of “the very fate of WCW is in my hands” and that’s pretty much it for WCW. Yeah there were plans for WCW to continue, but you had to know that Vince was going to crush them given his track record.
The outside sets are still really cool and look so different than anything else most companies would do.
The announcers aren’t sure what to think. It’s so strange to hear his name mentioned on Nitro.
Here’s Ric Flair, instantly a face for the final show, with something to say. Ric thinks he heard Vince McMahon say he would hold WCW in the palms of his hand. So he’s going to hold Jack Brisco, Dory Funk, Harley Race (none of whom actually wrestled in WCW but close enough), the Road Warriors, Lex Luger and Sting in the palm of his hand? Not on Flair’s watch.
Flair is a fourteen time World Champion (as the title count is a different number here despite him winning no more titles and despite him saying he’s a 20-something time champion because it’s all over the place) and this is a company that has run neck and neck with Vince for years. Yeah I think it’s like two or three years but whatever. Vince’s dad voted for Flair to be the World Champion (you don’t often hear Flair break kayfabe like that) back in the 1970s and he’s been flying around the world ever since.
This company has always been about the boys and Vince can’t hold them in his hands. Vince hasn’t bled for forty five minutes and wrestled for an hour before going to the next town and doing it all again the next night. In closing, Flair says his greatest opponent has been Sting. Tonight, he wants Sting one more time as it’s his last chance to beat the man.
This was a really passionate speech and Flair was the only one who could give it due to his history and resume in wrestling. The problem is that he’s wrong about how WCW is going to be remembered. A lot of people are going to remember it as the wrestling based company (and it was) but a lot of people are also going to remember it as the company that set the standard for being the biggest money pit that wrestling has ever seen.
Now Flair is definitely in the previous camp of the two as he really never was in with the crowd that brought WCW down and always stood for tradition. I liked the idea here and Flair sold it very well but it’s hard to accept WCW as this great company that Vince just pulled the plug on one day.
Macho Man Slim Jim ad, just for old times’ sake I guess.
WCW World Title/US Title: Scott Steiner vs. Booker T.
Title vs. title. Booker starts fast with a spinning kick to the face for an early two. Scott Hudson asks when the last time the US Champion faced the World Champion as he’s supposed to do “every single night”. That’s why I’ve never liked that rule and was glad when WCW stopped enforcing it. If the US Champion is the #1 contender by definition, wouldn’t that be the only World Title match we ever get?
Booker hammers away in the corner until Scott sends him outside but misses a pipe shot by hitting the post by mistake. Hudson: “He almost split the post with that pipe!” No Scott, he didn’t. A belly to belly gets two on Booker. Steiner cranks on both arms but gets dropkicked down. The Ghetto Blaster and Spinarooni set up a side kick, followed by the Book End to give us a new World Champion.
Rating: C. Well that happened. This felt like a quick TV Title match for the sake of getting the titles on the show instead of something big. I know they wanted to give the title to a top face but opening the show with a five minute match? I’m curious to see what else they feel deserves this time instead of this match.
Video on Spring Break. Eh it’s a sponsor thing so I guess they have to do this.
Vince is on the phone with his attorney and laughs at the idea of WCW holding its last show in the Florida panhandle.
Jung Dragons vs. 3 Count vs. Kidman/Rey Mysterio
Winner gets a Cruiserweight Tag Team Title match later tonight. Kidman headscissors Yang to start but everything breaks down in the first thirty seconds. Everyone heads outside with Shannon hitting a big corkscrew dive, leaving Yang to hit Yang Time for two on Rey as Kidman makes the save. Bottoms Up plants Kidman with Kaz making the save this time. Karagias hits a 450 on Kaz for two more but Kidman knocks him out to the floor. Back in and Rey hits a quick springboard legdrop to pin Moore and get the title shot.
Rating: C. This is another hard one to grade as it’s about three and a half minutes long with everyone flying all over the place and no structure whatsoever. They probably could have been cut off the show without missing anything and the time could have been giving to the World Title match but I’ve heard worse ideas. That being said, I would have liked to see 3 Count, Noble/Karagias or the Dragons get a title shot, if nothing else as a thank you for everything they did for six months.
Trish Stratus comes in to see Vince and I think you can guess what happens.
Cruiserweight Title: Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Shane Helms
Shane is defending. Chavo drives him into the corner to start but gets caught in the fireman’s carry facebuster for two. A belly to back puts the champ down but he pops back up top for a sunset flip. Chavo gets two more off a northern lights suplex and ducks a superkick. The second superkick connects though and the Vertebreaker retains Helms’ title.
Rating: C+. Another short match but I like the idea of putting Shane over again. Helms has been awesome and deserves to go out as champion. It’s good that both of these guys had long careers as they’re two of the only guys who looked like they were trying every single night in the last six months of WCW’s run. It’s even more impressive when you consider how different Shane’s character would become in the next few years.
We’re off to a commercial before Tony can even say who won.
Booker says he’s not done yet and is ready to fight anyone.
Trish has lost her jacket and here’s Michael Cole to interview Vince. Guess what his thoughts are on WCW fans’ concerns.
Tag Team Titles: Lance Storm/Mike Awesome vs. Sean O’Haire/Chuck Palumbo
Palumbo and O’Haire are defending after losing a non-title match last year. Sean and Storm start things off with O’Haire taking over and bringing in Chuck. That goes badly for the champs as Awesome slingshots in with a splash for two. Back to Storm who is catapulted into the buckle and staggers back into a sunset flip for another near fall. The hot tag brings in O’Haire to clean house and the reverse AA gets two on Awesome. Everything breaks down and the Jungle Kick into the Seanton Bomb puts Awesome away to retain the titles.
Rating: C. This show is moving fast and the longest match so far is the opener. That being said, the wrestling is far from the point tonight with most of the show being about the atmosphere and making sure every champion gets one more match. Team Canada were good designated victims for O’Haire and Palumbo, who should have been bigger deals than they wound up being.
Shawn Stasiak vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
THIS warranted a spot on the show? They really couldn’t have thrown this on Thunder instead? If Stasiak loses he gets tattooed. Stacy teases stripping before the match but just introduces Stasiak. Bigelow’s early offense goes nowhere but he ducks a top rope clothesline. Stacy gets on the apron to distract the referee as Bigelow hits the top rope headbutt. Greetings From Asbury Park is broken up by the blonde and the neckbreaker puts Bigelow away in a nothing match. This really didn’t need to be on the show.
William Regal tries to talk Vince out of buying WCW. I still love that Wrestlemania X7 baseball jersey.
Diamond Dallas Page has loved the ride and wants to know what’s next. Page thanks everyone who has been there for him but gives most of the credit to the fans. It’s time to take this to the next level.
Package on the WCW/NWA World Title. That’s a nice touch.
Vince says it’s about that time.
Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles: Kidman/Rey Mysterio vs. Kid Romeo/Elix Skipper
Skipper and Romeo are defending. Skipper jumps Kidman on the way in as Tony rips on Regal because THAT needed to be done on this show. Kidman holds Skipper up for a springboard dropkick from Mysterio as they’re clearly going very fast. A quick double team puts Kidman in trouble and Skipper Matrixes out of a cross body.
Romeo misses a high cross body of his own and the hot tag brings in Rey to clean house. Everything breaks down and a baseball slide low blow sets up the Bronco Buster on Skipper but Romeo saves him before Rey can go up top. Rey’s springboard falling headbutt gets two and the Kid Crusher on Elix gives us new champions.
Rating: C+. That’s it for the belts and really, it’s not like they meant anything in the first place. Romeo and Skipper had a total of maybe five matches together so it’s cool to see Kidman and Mysterio winding up as the final champions. They’ve been around for so long that they deserve one last title reign before this company goes under.
Sting is here and says there’s no way he would miss this night. As for his future, nothing’s for sure. IT’S SHOWTIME FOLKS!
Another Spring Break video.
Vince struts down the hall.
Ric Flair vs. Sting
Flair is wrestling in a t-shirt, which is probably in our best interest. Hudson puts over Sting as the only guy who never jumped. Sting shoves him down to start and Flair is already complaining of a hair pull. The announcers talk about the history between these two as Flair keeps bouncing off Sting. A quick thumb to the eye has Sting in a bit of trouble but, as has been the case for thirteen years, the chops have no effect. It wouldn’t feel right if they did. Ric heads outside for a breather before bailing from Sting’s….leapfrog?
Back in and Sting hits the gorilla press before raining down right hands in the corner. There’s the Flair Flop and Sting takes a quick bow. Flair gets in the required low blow but goes up top for one more slam. The clothesline train is broken up and there’s the Figure Four on Sting. A few bangs of the chest allow Sting to turn the hold over and it’s time to no sell some more chops. Sting grabs a superplex and throws on the Scorpion Deathlock to make Flair give up and end the final Nitro match.
Rating: B. That’s pure nostalgia and there really was no other option to end the show than Sting (well maybe one but we’ll get there in a second). Sting and Flair have a special connection to each other and even their TNA match felt somewhat special. This was all you could ask for out of a final match between them or from WCW and I smiled a lot as it went on.
On a side note though: is there a better way for WCW to go out? Not with the young guy winning the title back from the veteran monster. No, instead we have two guys past their primes as both athletes and draws but they’re having the main event slot because that’s how we did it in the old days and they’re the real stars. Oh and one of them was so out of shape that he had to wear a shirt instead of his regular gear. Of course it’s very different than the times that killed WCW but it’s kind of poetic in a way.
Sting and Flair hug and it’s time to go to the simulcast of Raw.
Vince is in the ring and says for the first time ever, this is being broadcast on both TNT and TNN. As you may have heard, he’s bought his competition and acquired WCW. However, the deal isn’t quite done yet because no one knows what to do with WCW. Time Warner has signed the contract but Vince is going to sign his part at Wrestlemania. Oh and he wants Ted Turner himself to walk down the aisle at Sports Entertainment Mania.
Vince has conquered wrestling and become a billionaire all by himself. Once Turner brings him the contract, Vince is going to have him sit in the corner and watch what Vince does to his son. This turns into a promo about Sunday’s McMahon vs. McMahon match and oh yeah this is about WCW. Vince brings up some WCW history and just lets out a lot of (never all of it) his bragging about finally beating them.
Maybe they could turn WCW into a big conglomerate but that brings up the question of who should be part of this new WCW. Fans: “GOLDBERG!” Hulk Hogan gets a very lukewarm reaction, Lex Luger gets NOTHING, Buff Bagwell actually gets a pop, Booker T., gets a bigger pop, Scott Steiner gets a roar (that’s a surprise) and the Goldberg chants cut Vince off. Sting gets another pop (though smaller than Bagwell’s actually) and Goldberg gets the loudest pop of the bunch.
Vince gets back to business and says he could have gone down to Florida and given everyone a piece of his mind. By piece of his mind, he means telling them that they’re fired of course. That’s what’s going to happen anyway because WCW is going on the shelf and it’s buried for good. Anyone who attempts to compete with him, including his son Shane, will be buried just like WCW. Vince yells a lot but here’s Shane……ON NITRO!
Shane is down in Panama City, Florida while Vince is in Cleveland and as usual, Vince’s ego has gotten the best of him. Vince wanted to finalize the deal at Wrestlemania but the deal has already been finalized. The name on the contract does say McMahon, but it says SHANE McMahon because he now owns WCW. Ignore the fact that Vince said Time Warner didn’t know Vince hadn’t signed yet so this doesn’t make a ton of sense. Just like WCW did in the past, Shane is going to take care of Vince at Wrestlemania. I lost it seeing this live and it still works very well all these years later.
Nitro wraps up with a graphic…..for Austin/The Rock vs. Undertaker/Kane.
Oh wait we do get a good night and goodbye message…..with the word satellite underneath for some reason. One last production glitch for the road I guess.
Overall Rating: B. I really don’t know what to think of this show. The wrestling certainly wasn’t the point and they did a good job of making this feel like a fun show. Stasiak was the only heel to win all night and everything felt either fun or important with the titles (and Flair vs. Sting) being the only things that mattered. This show flies by and feels like an appropriate finale.
You could say that WCW could have brought in some more former stars and previous World Champions, but really that wouldn’t have made a lot of sense. WCW is going out of business because of how bad things were in the previous era. Do you really want to bring back those people and celebrate them? With all the horrible things people like Hogan and Nash caused for WCW, they really don’t belong on a show that is the closest thing to a celebration of the company we’re going to have.
As for the final storylines, many of which were abandoned, I was interested in finding out who was attacking the Magnificent Seven (never mentioned on this show) but I didn’t have a lot of hope for the storyline long term. At the end of the day, your top heels were Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Buff Bagwell, Jeff Jarrett and the Steiner Brothers. Same guys, same big heel stable, same cruiserweight division stealing the show and being treated like nothing more than a warmup act. It was the same thing, as it always was again and again, just like Nitro was for years.
Now on to the final thoughts on the show as a whole, which are probably going to ramble a lot.
I liked the last Nitro and one major reason was because it felt completely different than any episode in years. Instead of a show that needed to be put out of its misery, it was actually fun for the first time in way too long. Yeah fun. Of all the problems Nitro had over the years, a big one was a lack of entertainment. Other than stuff from Jericho or a few one off lines from various people, how many fun things do you remember about this series? With that idea in mind, let’s go ahead and get to the big final thoughts on the series.
It’s safe to say that Nitro was definitely more adult oriented and serious than Raw but that doesn’t always work. There have literally been books written about how badly WCW screwed up over the years and I’m sure you’re familiar with all their various blunders, flat out stupid decisions, title messes and any other possible dumb thing they could have done so I won’t bother rehashing all of that again. Just remember: Vince Russo is MANLY.
Here’s what I find interesting: Nitro really was a change of pace for WCW. Do you remember how things were before it came on the air? Say, back in 1993? Remember how those shows went? With stuff like the British Bulldog main eventing and Sting vs. Nailz or the NWA being around for reasons that still make no sense? Even in 1994, it was Hogan vs. people like Brutus Beefcake, Earthquake and Kamala.
Then Nitro came along and changed things, but the first few months were hardly anything interesting. You had Hogan vs. the Dungeon of Doom (I still like them) and Ric Flair vs. the Giant but it took the Outsiders invading to take the show to new heights. Once Hogan showed up as the leader (which he didn’t do until eight days after Bash at the Beach, which is still ridiculous) and took the whole place over, there was no turning back for about a year.
Unfortunately, that was the peak of the show. Sting chasing Hogan and the build towards Starrcade 1997 was great but there was nothing after that. Goldberg winning the title was a great moment for one night but the show overall was turning into a mess as WCW scrambled to figure out what they could do to get back into the fight with Raw. By early 1999, Nitro was basically done as a real challenge and it only got worse after that.
So let’s say the good times started the night Hall jumped the barricade (May 27, 1996) and ended with the Fingerpoke of Doom (and that end date is a big stretch) on January 4, 1999. That’s less than three years where Nitro was good (Assuming you consider the 1997 shows to be good. I can go with must see TV but that doesn’t equal quality.) and the rest of the time ranged from not bad to some of the worst television in the history of wrestling.
That’s what people often forget about Nitro: in less than six years on the air, they were only good for about half their run. It’s really fascinating to me that Nitro is almost this fabled program that everyone remembers but Impact has been around twice as long as Nitro was and that’s more of a nuisance than anything else.
The point though is that Nitro was a game changer for WCW, but it was a short term change. WCW really wasn’t doing very well until Hogan came in and he could only carry them so far. They overtook the WWF on the strength of the NWO feud but once that ran out, the WWF came right back and WCW never came close again. Nitro was indeed a big deal, but it wasn’t something that put them on top for years and years, which shows you how rare it is for something to challenge Raw. To only be around that long and be the undisputed second biggest show ever in this era is quite an accomplishment.
Before I wrap this up, I have to mention some of the main reasons fans stuck around with Nitro. Over the years, there were WAY too many great matches to count between combinations of Eddie Guerrero, Raven, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Benoit, Booker T., Saturn, Ric Flair and so many other names of workhorses who were the backbone of WCW and held the show together with great wrestling while the big names got the glory after putting in almost no quality work. Those guys are the forgotten heroes of Nitro and I’m glad that so many of them got to go elsewhere and have another run in their careers.
In addition to those bigger name wrestlers, Nitro also showcased a bunch of guys who almost never got any recognition in America. These guys were all talented and could put on a really fun show when they were given the chance. One of the best examples of this would be from June 7, 1999 with Ciclope/Damien vs. La Parka/Silver King in a hardcore match. These guys knew they weren’t going to get much TV time aside from this so they beat the heck out of each other and had one of the best surprise matches you’ll ever find. Check this out if you want to see four guys just beat each other up and have a great time doing so.
That’s why people stuck with Nitro as long as they did: sure the main event scene was going to be a bogged down mess that might offer one or two watchable matches a year but the undercard had the potential to offer you a show stealing classic on any given week. You never knew what the likes of Kanyon, Mysterio, Kidman, Malenko, Jericho, Guerrera and so many other names could pull off. There was even the hope that the new generation might rise up and become something, but once so many names left for the WWF in a year’s time, they took that hope with them. For me, that’s when WCW really died: when the hope left.
Overall, Nitro was a show that came, made a huge splash and then exploded into a huge fireball like nothing else in wrestling history. It definitely had some good moments (the Sting Army always springs to mind) and I was a huge fan growing up but by the middle of 1997 it was clear that the WWF was on the rise and WCW was going to have to step up its game to hold on. It gave fans another choice though and lit a very necessary fire under Vince that gave us some great Raw content as a result. If Nitro had one positive lasting legacy, it’s how good it made things on Raw and in a way we should be thankful for it.
That being said, Nitro really wasn’t the best show. The wrestling wasn’t great (though there were some bright spots, including some very good Eddie Guerrero/Chris Benoit vs. Ric Flair matches and of course Benoit vs. Hart) and it was high on drama which was hit or miss, but there was an aggressiveness and an attitude in the early days that made you take notice. Once that left though, it was basically Impact with a bigger budget: copying whatever the WWF was doing and hoping to steal enough of an audience for one more big move.
There comes a point where you have to deliver something good on its own though and I don’t think WCW really knew how to do that. They knew how to have a big idea (or variations of that same big idea) and have a great start to a story but after that it would fall apart again due to a combination of incompetence, people with too much creative control, stupid politics or just bad wrestling.
That’s a major reason the WWF won in the end: all the stuff they would build up often resulted in a great payoff match at the end. With WCW, it usually led to Nash/Hogan/Luger/someone else having a bad match and bragging about how awesome it was while the fans changed the channel to see what Austin was up to next. Other than a few occasions, WCW never had that must see guy who could have the big match that people wanted to see. When they did, they stuck a taser in his chest so Nash could win the World Title.
I’m not going to miss watching Nitro, though I do miss part of having it around. As a kid I watched every week no matter what, but looking back it’s amazing that the show lasted as long as it did. It was put out of its misery at the end though and I have no reason to believe it was going to get any better (long term that is) under new ownership. It was WCW’s nature to find a way to mess things up and they had nothing to counter everything going on in the WWF.
Nitro may not be the whipping boy that the WWE likes to remember it as, but it’s also hardly this great show that was killed off too soon. That company ate itself alive and you could watch a lot of that happen every single week on Nitro. There are some good things to remember but there are far more moments where you wonder how they actually got this bad and still stayed on the air as long as they did. I can’t say I’m glad its gone but I really don’t miss sitting through that kind of self destruction week to week. That’s what Smackdown is for.
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