- WCW Monday Nitro
WCW Monday Nitro
The WCW Monday Nitro logo from 1999 to 2001
Format Professional wrestling Created by Ted Turner
Craig Leathers (1995–1999, 2001) Rick Fansher (1999, 2000)Mike Miller (2000)
Starring See World Championship Wrestling alumni Opening theme "Adrenaline V.1" by Purity Country of origin United States No. of episodes 288 Production Camera setup Multicamera setup Running time 60 minutes (September 4, 1995 – May 20, 1996, April–May 1997-2000 7 p.m. ET before NBA Playoffs)
120 minutes (May 27, 1996–January 19, 1998, January 3, 2000–March 26, 2001)
180 minutes (January 26, 1998–December 27, 1999)
Broadcast Original channel TNT Picture format 480i (SDTV) Original run September 4, 1995 – March 26, 2001
WCW Monday Nitro was a weekly professional wrestling telecast produced by World Championship Wrestling, created by Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff. The show aired Monday nights on TNT, going head-to-head with the World Wrestling Federation's (WWF) Monday Night Raw from September 4, 1995 to March 26, 2001. Production ceased after WCW was purchased by the WWF, now known as WWE.
The debut of Nitro began the Monday Night Wars, a ratings battle between the WWF and WCW that lasted for six years and saw each company resort to cutthroat tactics in order to try and one-up the competition. In mid-1996, Nitro began to draw better ratings than Raw based on the strength of the nWo storyline, a metafiction event built around the idea of former WWF wrestlers forming their own anarchist organization in order to take over WCW. Nitro continued to beat Raw for 84 consecutive weeks; as the nWo storyline grew stagnant, with wrestlers in the nWo consistently beating non-members, fan interest in the storyline waned, and Raw began to edge out Nitro in the ratings. The turning point for the organizations came during the January 4, 1999 broadcast of Nitro, during which host Tony Schiavone gave away the results of matches for that night's Raw broadcast, as it had been taped the night before; Bischoff believed that knowing the outcome would dissuade viewers from watching the program. Excited by the prospect of seeing perennial WWF underdog Mick Foley win the world championship, a dramatic number of Nitro viewers changed channels to watch Raw. From that week forward, Raw consistently beat out Nitro in the ratings by a significant amount, and Nitro was never able to regain the numbers it had once enjoyed.
Besides broadcasting from various arenas and locations across the country (such as the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, from which the very first episode of Nitro was broadcast), Nitro also did special broadcasts from the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando in 1996, and did annual Spring Break-Out episodes from Panama City Beach, Florida starting in March 1997.
The rights to WCW Monday Nitro now belong to WWE.
- 1 First episode
- 2 Monday Night Wars
- 3 Notable episodes
- 4 Other notable moments
- 5 WWE Classics On Demand / WWE Home Video
- 6 On-air personalities
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The first episode of Nitro was broadcast from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The featured matches on the one-hour broadcast were Brian Pillman versus Jushin Liger, Ric Flair versus WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Sting, and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan taking on Big Bubba Rogers. The show was also highlighted by the return of Lex Luger to WCW after having spent the previous few years wrestling for the WWF, where he had been one of the promotion's top stars. Luger's appearance was particularly jarring because he had just wrestled a match for the WWF the previous evening; the match was his final contractual obligation with the company, and Luger signed with WCW the morning of his appearance. The event set the tone for Nitro's "anything can happen" atmosphere, and prefigured the similar defections of WWF wrestlers Scott Hall and Kevin Nash the following year.
Monday Night Wars
The advent of WCW Monday Nitro brought with it an intense rivalry between WCW's Monday Nitro program and the WWF's Monday Night Raw program. This rivalry is known to wrestling fans as the "Monday Night Wars." Throughout the Monday Night Wars between Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, Nitro was gaining on its WWF counterpart popularity-wise. Soon Nitro would surpass Raw in the TV ratings. Monday Nitro beat Raw in the ratings for 84 consecutive weeks until Raw finally regained ground in the ratings war. At its peak, the rivalry resulted in performers on either show trading verbal insults and challenges. At one point, Eric Bischoff challenged Vince McMahon to face him in a match to be held at Slamboree 1998. McMahon never formally recognized the challenge and did not appear. Bischoff was declared the winner via countout.
Initially, Nitro became popular as result of WCW's extensive roster of stars. Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were some of the major stars signed with WCW and appearing on the Nitro program at this time. WCW's lineup of cruiserweights – smaller wrestlers known for their crowd-pleasing high-flying wrestling maneuvers - provided a strong set of setup matches for their main events. With the introduction of the New World Order, Nitro started its unprecedented run of ratings domination. With former WWF wrestlers Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hogan (who was now calling himself Hollywood Hogan) as rebellious heels, the company seemed to have a winning story and a great future. Wrestling fans watched the show every week to see what the nWo would do next. Since Nitro was live and Raw was often taped, Nitro was seen as far less predictable and thus more entertaining than its WWF counterpart. Initially only sixty minutes in length (as was WWF Monday Night Raw at the time), Nitro was expanded to two hours following the 1996 NBA Playoffs while Raw waited until nearly a full year later to expand to a second hour. Nitro remained a two-hour program from May 1996 until January 1998, when WCW and TNT agreed to a third hour for the still-#1 wrestling program in the country.
WCW Monday Nitro also pulled in strong ratings in the UK. It was once the third most watched show on satellite and cable TV only beaten by Raw and certain football matches, but unlike in the USA, it never beat Monday Night Raw in the then head-to-head "Friday Night Wars" in the UK. This was despite the fact that Raw aired on a subscription channel whereas Nitro aired on TNT, a basic Sky and cable channel. However, Raw being on Sky Sports was much more heavily promoted in the media through advertisements and TV guide listings, whereas Nitro being on TNT did not receive the same amount of promotion. It is likely many people were unaware at Nitro's peak that it was on. (On screen TV guides did not exist back then as they do now on Sky. Similarly the listings for TNT received little media coverage in comparison to Sky Sports.) TNT in Britain (now named TCM) would only start at 9pm after the end of Cartoon Network in the late 90s. Nitro was its flagship show and was the only actual TV show on the network, as it showed classic movies like TCM in North America rather than standard broadcast TV shows. From 2000 until its end in March 2001, Nitro in Britain moved to Bravo where it moved to 10pm directly head to head with Raw instead of the usual hour head start. Nitro would air in the United Kingdom four days after its live US airing from its first showing in late 1995 until it moved to the Bravo network in 2000. It then was two weeks behind the US airings until it went back to four days again in early 2001. It stayed this way until WCW's demise. The last Nitro was shown head to head with Raw meaning the crossover did work the same as it did in the USA as both channels aired at the same time in the same "simulcast" style as was in the USA.
Eric Bischoff's on-camera role
Eric Bischoff soon became the voice of Nitro (in perhaps, a subtle knock on Vince McMahon, who often appeared on camera as a commentator) and began to air Nitro a couple of minutes before Raw so he could give away the results of the WWF program so fans had no point to see the competition. Nitro would be expanded to a three-hour show, starting from the January 26, 1998 edition, unprecedented for a live, weekly wrestling program.
Raw gains ground
While Raw was taking a new approach to programming with its "WWF Attitude," Nitro would start producing lackluster shows with the same storylines. Hogan and the rest of the nWo almost never lost and the once elite group was now bloated in size and recruiting midcard wrestlers. The only newcomers elevated to main event status at this time were Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page. Goldberg's main event match with Hogan on the July 6, 1998 edition of Nitro from the Georgia Dome in Atlanta won the ratings battle from WWF for the week, but some observers (including Vince McMahon) felt that WCW could have made millions if they saved the Goldberg/Hogan match for an eventual pay-per-view event. Despite Goldberg's title win and Page's rapid ascent into the main event picture, they still took a backseat to the nWo, which by this point had split into two warring factions and would dominate storylines for most of the summer of 1998.
The D-X/Norfolk, Virginia incident
Meanwhile, on Raw, fans were immersed in the feud between WWF owner Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin. New talent such as Triple H and his D-Generation X faction, and later Mankind and The Rock were elevated to main event status on WWF's program. Things got so heated between the two programs that D-X was sent to Atlanta to film a segment near Turner's headquarters for a "war" storyline that was done when both shows were in nearby areas on the same night (Raw in Hampton, Virginia and Nitro in nearby Norfolk), sending D-X to the Norfolk Scope arena which Nitro was broadcasting from and interacting with WCW fans. (This eventually led to a lawsuit filed by WCW against the WWF, who had claimed that in order to fill the Norfolk Scope for Nitro, WCW had given away free tickets on the day of the program.)
With Raw starting to beat Nitro in the ratings on a consistent basis, Bischoff and WCW officials attempted to use a series of "quick fixes" to regain ground in the ratings war. All these attempts would win them short-term ratings victories, but the WWF continued its steady climb to ratings dominance. Nitro's inability to create new stars was its ultimate undoing, while the WWF had invested in younger talent like The Rock, Triple H, the Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian and Kurt Angle. WCW continued to rely on established stars like Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and The Outsiders to support ratings, causing much unease among the younger and less well known members of the roster. This was illustrated most clearly in 1999, when former WCW mid-carder Chris Jericho signed with the WWF and immediately started a feud with The Rock, when months earlier he had been told he was too small to sell tickets in WCW.
January 4, 1999 broadcast
Bischoff's "tried and true" tactic of giving away the results from taped Raw shows backfired on January 4, 1999. Mick Foley, who had wrestled for WCW during the early 1990s as Cactus Jack, won the WWF Title as Mankind on Raw. Nitro announcer Tony Schiavone sarcastically mentioned "that'll sure put some butts in the seats." The comment, however, backfired and Nitro would lose the ratings battle that night. The next week, and for months after, many fans in the Raw audience brought signs which read, "Mick Foley put my ass in this seat!" To make matters worse for WCW, a convoluted storyline was played out over the course of the evening that eventually resulted in Hulk Hogan returning, winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and the two warring nWo factions reuniting as one.
Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara
Former WWF writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara were also hired to fix the company but may have increased the gap between the two Monday night programs. They attempted to make Nitro more like Raw with edgier storylines, lengthier non-wrestling segments and an increased amount of sexuality on the show. Nitro's third hour was jettisoned and the program returned to an 8-10 PM timeslot, with the first hour running unopposed and the second hour competing with the first hour of Raw. Although Russo's change made Nitro more of a streamlined program (WCW had been criticized for not featuring much wrestling in the first third of Nitro since its expansion), the loss of an entire hour of advertising revenue offset whatever benefits the change may have produced.
Bischoff would be brought back to WCW and attempted to team with Russo to fix the ills of Nitro and WCW. Part of this involved Nitro being taken off the air to reboot the program, but all this was to no avail. The once highly rated Nitro became deprived of wrestlers, with its most capable young stars signing with the WWF and its current roster of talent being constantly misused. To top it all off, Bischoff and Russo did not work well together at all, with the two constantly at each others' throats over Russo's booking style. Nitro's ratings were continuing to lose ground to Raw's and Bischoff eventually left the company in July 2000 after an incident involving Hogan and Russo. Bischoff's departure left Russo in control of everything production-related in WCW, and an already bad situation turned worse. Although Nitro eventually pulled to within .6 ratings points of Raw in early September, it was not momentum that could be sustained and Raw once again began to distance itself from Nitro. This was evidenced by a December ratings battle that saw Raw draw a 5.75 rating while Nitro could only manage a 1.8. At that point, it only seemed like a matter of time before Time Warner would give up on WCW, and 2001 saw the company begin searching for a buyer.
Episode Title Date Rating Note WCW Monday Nitro September 4, 1995 2.5 First episode of Nitro. See above for more information. nWo Monday Nitro December 22, 1997 3.5 The nWo organized a complete takeover of Nitro six days before Starrcade. The Fingerpoke of Doom January 4, 1999 5.0 Goldberg was arrested before his title match for the World Heavyweight Title. Later, Tony Schiavone, on orders from Eric Bischoff, gave away Mankind's pre-taped WWF title victory on Raw, which resulted in over 600,000 viewers switching to Raw.
See above for more information.
WarGames 2000 September 4, 2000 3.6 On the fifth anniversary of the premiere, a WarGames match took place in a three-tiered cage between two teams for the world championship. Kevin Nash retained the title. The Night of Champions March 26, 2001 3.0 Final episode of Nitro. WCW is purchased by the WWF. See below for more information.
The Night of Champions – Final broadcast
To try and save WCW and Nitro, Bischoff made an attempt to purchase the company with a group of investors. However, although Bischoff's offer had been accepted, recently appointed Turner Broadcasting executive Jamie Kellner announced shortly after his arrival that Nitro and all WCW programming was immediately canceled on both TNT and TBS. Bischoff's group then withdrew their deal, as it was contingent on keeping WCW programming on some outlet, and WCW was bought by Vince McMahon- the owner of the WWF, its long time competitor.
Around the time of the cancellation, WCW was preparing to make its yearly trip to Panama City, Florida for Spring Break. Since the premiere of Nitro WCW had gone to either the Boardwalk Beach Resort or Club La Vela every March to try and gain favor with adolescent and young adult viewers who might not otherwise be tuning into the program. It was announced that the upcoming March 26, 2001 episode of Nitro from Panama City was to be the finale and the show was dubbed "The Night of Champions." The show began with McMahon appearing via satellite from Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, the site of that Monday's RAW is WAR broadcast on TNN. McMahon announced his purchase of WCW to the crowd and appeared in vignettes throughout the show, including one where he terminated WCW's Jeff Jarrett on air due to bad blood the two had had in the past.
The show was unique in that all of WCW's major championships were defended that night and in almost all of the matches on the show, the faces won (traditionally WCW was seen as the promotion where heels were often the top stars as opposed to the WWF, where faces were often the top stars). In addition, various WCW wrestlers were interviewed giving their honest, out-of-character responses to the selling of WCW. The co-main event of the evening was WCW World Heavyweight Champion Scott Steiner taking on WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Booker T in a match with both belts on the line; Booker defeated Steiner for his fourth WCW World Championship while retaining the U.S. Championship.
Just as it had been on the initial Nitro, the final match of the final Nitro was between long-time WCW rivals Ric Flair and Sting, a match that was more informal than their usual encounters (Sting and Flair were seen smiling and nodding respectfully towards each other throughout the match). Sting won using his finishing move, the Scorpion Deathlock. After the match, the two competitors stood in the middle of the ring and embraced to show respect for one another.
The show ended with a simulcast on Raw on TNN with an appearance by Vince's son Shane McMahon on Nitro. Shane would interrupt his father's gloating over the WCW purchase to explain that Shane was the one who actually owned WCW (this was just part of the storyline, as the WWF as a whole was the true owner of WCW), as part of the set up of their match at WrestleMania X-Seven and of what would later become WWF's "Invasion" storyline. In addition to the tape library and other intellectual properties, WWF would also buy a few selected contracts of the WCW talent, keeping many of the younger stars. Four of WCW's championships found their way into the WWF; in addition to Booker T carrying both the WCW Championship (as it was renamed) and United States Championship with him into the WWF, McMahon also signed then-WCW Cruiserweight Champion Shane Helms and then-WCW Tag Team Champions Chuck Palumbo and Sean O'Haire to contracts. (The WWF scrapped the WCW Hardcore Championship, as it was officially retired immediately following the last Nitro despite no one holding it since Meng departed for the WWF in early 2001, and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship for undisclosed reasons; although no official reason was given, Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, Jr. were the last champions and McMahon was only able to sign Kidman to a contract at the time.)
Other notable moments
When then-WWF Women's Champion Alundra Blayze signed with WCW in 1995 (going back to her old name of "Madusa"), she brought the WWF Women's title belt with her and threw it in a trash can on Nitro (the first week that Nitro started before the top of the hour), and the title itself would become inactive for the next three years. Many cite this incident as one of the causes of the infamous Montreal Screwjob. This infamous event would be parodied by WCW on a 2000 edition of Nitro, when Scott Hall threw the WCW World Television Championship in the trash and weeks later on an edition of WCW Saturday Night, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan found it and claimed it.
The only wrestler to appear on both Nitro and Raw on the same night was Rick Rude. Rude was able to appear on both shows because he was not under contract with the WWF at the time, appearing on a handshake deal with McMahon on Raw – which was still pre-recorded at the time while Nitro was broadcast live.
The January 13, 1997 episode of Nitro ended with the first two minutes of the Hollywood Hogan vs. The Giant main event. Before the show went off the air, commentator Tony Schiavone announced the match was to continue during the commercial breaks of The New Adventures of Robin Hood, which premiered that night after Nitro. This resulted in the premiere episode of Robin Hood receiving high ratings due to WCW fans being lured in to watch the show for the Hogan/Giant match.
WWE Classics On Demand / WWE Home Video
Since buying the WCW video library, WWE Home Video has included many Nitro matches and segments on some of their Superstar biography DVD sets. Episodes are also streamed on WWE Classics on Demand, as part of The Monday Night Wars feature.
While the service does show episodes of Nitro, they are often edited. Some WCW entrance theme music tracks are replaced with stock WWE music. Beginning in July 2007, WWE Classics on Demand began deleting content from episodes of Nitro, as matches and some references to Chris Benoit are removed. Benoit is sometimes shown in segments where he is not the main issue of the segment. This was in light of the controversy surrounding the deaths of Benoit and his family on June 24 of that year.
In April 2009, WWE Classics went back to the first episodes that aired in September 1995. These shows alternate with the current Nitro airings (Dec. 1997 and onwards).
A 3-disc DVD entitled "The Very Best of WCW Monday Nitro" was produced and released by WWE on June 7, 2011. The set is narrated by former three time WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page and highlights some of the biggest matches and moments in the history of WCW Monday Nitro.
Commentators Dates Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Steve "Mongo" McMichael September 4, 1995 - May 13, 1996 Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko* May 27 - July 29, 1996
August 5 - August 26, 1996
Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan* May 27 - July 22, 1996
August 5 - August 26, 1996
Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko and Eric Bischoff July 29, 1996 Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay* September 2 - November 18, 1996 Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Larry Zbyszko* August 25, 1997 - April 12, 1999 Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay* November 25, 1996 - April 12, 1999
December 20, 1999 - January 24, 2000
Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan April 12 - May 24
May 31 - July 12
August 9 - December 13, 1999
Scott Hudson and Bobby Heenan July 19 - August 2, 1999 Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Mark Madden January 31, 2000 Tony Schiavone and Mark Madden February 7 - March 27, 2000
Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Mark Madden April 10 - July 10
July 24 - August 21
September 19 - October 2
October 30 - November 13
December 4 - December 18, 2000
Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden and Stevie Ray July 18, 2000
October 9 - October 23, 2000
Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden and Jeremy Borash September 4 - September 11, 2000 Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Stevie Ray November 13, 2000 Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Stevie Ray December 12, 2000 Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Disco Inferno January 8, 2001 Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson January 15 - March 26, 2001
(*) - Starting with the May 27, 1996 edition of Nitro, after a week off due to the NBA Playoffs on TNT, the show started using two Broadcast teams for the show. Schiavone and Zbyszko would call the first hour of the Nitro, and when the top of the hour came, even if during mid-Match, the pyro would go off on the Stage while Bischoff and Heenan would take over from their booth near the set. Eventually the teams changed, and starting in September 1996, Mike Tenay became a color commentator for both hours of Nitro, calling the first hour with Schiavone and Zbyszko, usually at Heenan and Bischoff's booth, and would call the second hour with Bischoff and Heenan. After Bischoff joined the nWo and took on a more prominent on-screen authority figure role, Schiavone replaced Bischoff in the second hour of Nitro, thus making him the lone play-by-play commentator for the show. Unlike Tenay, Schiavone, despite calling both hours of Nitro, would leave the Ringside position at the top of the second hour and join Tenay and Heenan at the booth, instead of just waiting for the first break of the second hour, and he would do this until the Ringside position was discontinued in 1997.
- WCW Monday Nitro at the Internet Movie Database
- WCW Monday Nitro at TV.com
- WCW Monday Nitro 1995 Intro on YouTube
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