Welcome to the latest edition of the Phat Daily Column. Today, we go back into time, to around 1995 when WCW tried to step up their competition. I LOVE discussing this time, because WCW could have been successful long before the NWO formed. Well, they at least had the talent before the famous heel turn of Hulk Hogan. Let's take the Quantum Leap, so on to the Phat Daily Column.
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WCW from the start of Nitro to the formation of the NWO (1995 - 1996)
Alright, after about a year of expectations not being met in WCW with the arrival of Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff's career was on the line. Ted Turner, who had his head completely up Hulk Hogan's ass, couldn't believe that Hogan's debut in WCW wasn't the huge success that he thought it would be. Bischoff was obviously the man looked at to blame. However, the real man to blame was Hulk Hogan, who used his Creative Control clause to his best abilities! The past year was nothing but Hogan and past friends becoming successful in WCW, while WCW longstays like Sting and Ric Flair were obviously getting the shaft.
But Bischoff found some braincells in his thick head, and he began to investigate the WWF. He noticed that they are going downhill on attendance, ratings, and everything that the current WWF is dropping from. See the trend? Monday Night RAW, now the flagship show of the WWF, was only drawing ratings in the 2.0 range. Bischoff was shocked at that, considering that his Clash of the Champions specials were drawing ratings in the 3.0 range. The WWF was very weak right now, and WCW had a bunch of top name guys signed over from the WWF to showcase, like Hogan, Savage, to name a few. He thought "what if we did a Monday Night show too?" And the thoughts kept moving, especially since he thought that the WWF's ratings would be easy to capture, along with the core WCW audience, his Monday Night show would be successful!
So Bischoff begged and pleaded with Turner and WCW officials to give him a Monday Night show, on TNT no less to really drive interest. After a nice laugh by the Turner officials, Ted Turner decided to give Bischoff his Monday Night show, making it his last ditch effort to keep his job as WCW's Vice President. Turner and everyone at WCW didn't think much of this show idea, because they thought the WWF was still strong. Bischoff actually knew better, and he was ready to prove to the world that WCW was not only on the same level, now, as the WWF, but that they were better!
So at the Mall of America, we got our first edition of Monday Nitro. On September 4th or 5th of 1995, Nitro began unopposed because of the wonderful US Open tennis championship. The show started off hot too. First match was the late Brian Pillman versus the always fun to watch Jushin Liger. Like many of their previous matches, they didn't disappoint. Many of the WWF fans at that time never even saw Liger or Pillman perform before, and were shocked at how great they truly were against each other. VERY smart opener by the guys booking Nitro, which was a combination of Dusty Rhodes, Kevin Sullivan, and Eric Bischoff, along with Hogan's creative control out there too.
They also threw a Sting vs. Ric Flair match on it, which never disappoints. But the main event is the significant part of this first ever Nitro. Not that the match between Hulk Hogan and Ray Traylor (now the Bossman in the WWF) was a great match, but the ending was a shocker! Lex Luger ran down after the match, and made a HUGE challenge to Hulk Hogan for his world belt. This is really crazy, because Luger just got out of his WWF contract. He did some WWF tapings, too, about a month before he showed up on WCW, so he was still surfacing in WWF shows. The WWF fans who were watching this were very shocked, as was everyone else watching it. It was an amazing ending, and it instantly made Nitro a must see show! Many in the wrestling world began talking about WCW again! Nitro, then, drew a 2.5 rating, which is about the maximum rating for RAW.
It should be noted here, however, that Vader wasn't apart of the early Nitros. Why? Before Wargames, they claimed that Vader went crazy and left. Nooo, he got in a fight, backstage, with Paul Orndorf (Mr. Wonderful of all people), where Orndorf put the hurtings on Vader. Vader was simply let go to the WWF, while Luger was brought into WCW. I guess you could say that it was a talent trade, and oddly enough, WCW got the better end of the stick actually.
However, the HUGE match between Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger was a disappointment. The match's ending consisted of the Dungeon of Doom, which consisted of Kevin Sullivan and all of his sloths, running down for a cheap run in finish. This was the first in a series of disappointments for the early Nitros. Had they let some clean wins happen from the start, then maybe they would jump far ahead of the WWF anyway. But no. Every main event match, until the end of 1995, had the Dungeon of Doom running down. It left no incentive for the viewers to keep tuning in!
A couple of interesting moves though for the rest of 1995 though. Extreme Championship Wrestling and WCW began discussing some possible talent trading, just to liven things up. ECW's talent pool was just incredible at the time, and Eric Bischoff wanted it! His goal was to make a show of NO squash matches, which was very innovative at the time. RAWs, back then, were mainly squash matches, pitting a jobber versus a regular wrestler. Bischoff wanted all good matches, on one card. So Bischoff attacked the weak contract system of ECW back then, and STOLE a ton of talent. We're talking Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Konnan, Rey Mysterio Jr., Psychosis, Juvy, and many more Luchadores. This move not only put ECW in pain for losing all of that great talent, but it now gave WCW a full roster of excellent workers, besides the old ones they had at the top.
But hey, WCW found a HUGE talent of their own, which they were developing in the Power Plant. Paul Wight was about to debut as the new Dungeon of Doom member. He was given the name the Giant, and then given tights like Andre the Giant once had. Mr. Wight, who would later become the Big Show in the WWF, was 7 foot 4 inches(really 2 from what I've heard) and a lean, mean, buffed and jacked 360 pounds during this time. Here, you have a very tall man, in great shape, with a very mean look. He was agile, and he had a vicious chokeslam too! He definitely wasn't the out of shape Big Slow that he currently is, nor did he have that stupid look on his face either. This guy was the real deal, back then.
WCW noticed quickly how good the Giant truly was, early on, especially seeing how bad guys like the Yetti or Loch Ness monster were. With that, evil Kevin Sullivan sent out the Giant to KILL HULKAMANIA! Of course, it was done in a stupid fashion at Halloween Havoc 1995. Before the match, Hogan pushed the Giant off a building during a stupid Monster truck segment. Nice imaginary booking, Dusty. Their match was a disappointment, but someone in the back used some smarts for the next event. Evil Jimmy Hart somehow screwed Hogan out of the World Title, and made the thing vacant for the next event: World War 3.
World War 3 was significant in that Hogan wouldn't win the title. Of course, he was eliminated in a cheap, controversial way, but it paved the way for the eventual break that he was going to get. I don't know whether Hogan just wanted a nice vacation or if he had some movies to do. I really forget. But anyway, after Uncensored 1996, he disappeared for a while...
At World War 3, Macho Man was declared the world champion. Well, actually, that's not the significant event! The 4 Horsemen reformed again, when Sting trusted Ric Flair, again, as a tag team partner. The match was Sting/Flair vs. Arn Anderson and the crazy Brian Pillman, at the time. Flair turned, and reformed the Horsemen with Arn, and they of course added Pillman. They needed a 4th member. Unlike in 1993 where they had Paul Roma as a 4th member, they saw a PERFECT match. That 4th member would be the Crippler, Chris Benoit. Easily, the best Horsemen since the Flair/Arn Anderson/Tully Blanchard/Barry Windham days, if you ask me.
The sick thing was that people began cheering for the Horsemen, who were beating up faces, like Sting and Hulk Hogan. Shirts were selling like crazy too! Somebody in the back realized that Flair had an awesome feud with Macho Man in 1992 (WWF), so they immediately had Flair and Savage in a violent feud. This feud saw Flair stealing Miss Elizabeth away from Savage. It totally didn't involve Hogan either, although he was on the receiving end of the classic Horsemen beatdowns. Even more amazing, they did an angle where Arn Anderson began getting cheap wins over Hulk Hogan. I loved those shows. I don't know how or why Hogan jobbed to Anderson, but hey, I've seen crazier shit in the wrestling world.
All of these cooler angles were coming from the fact that Dusty Rhodes decided to step down as booker and become a full time announcer. With Bischoff finalizing all decisions, the two main bookers were Kevin Sullivan, who was responsible for the constant push of the Dungeon of Doom, and Terry Taylor. Taylor was pushing for a new division, back then. Since WCW had so much talent in Luchadores and guys like Dean Malenko, he wanted to start a Cruiserweight division. That he did, and some of the matches stole the show! Want to know why? The lightweights were insanely talented, and there were good finishes to each match! Taylor would later be given all midcard responsibilities, while Bischoff controlled the main event or NWO sector, which is the year 1997, a good one.
But with all of this new talent in, many were shut out. Jerry Lynn was forced under a mask to be Mr. J.L., which was absolutely retarded. Many Luchadores were just jobbing too. Also, Sabu's stay in WCW was a disaster! He wasn't quite allowed to do what he did in ECW, therefore, he was limited, bigtime! I never thought the Road Warriors were used well, either, upon their return.
Sting, though, was left out in the cold, if you ask me. After carrying WCW throughout the 90s, he was consistantly tagging with Lex Luger, and they won the tag titles. Sure, it would have been cool, had they ever defended the titles. It's a shame that Sting wasn't a main focus of the early years of Nitro, but I guess his wait for the spotlight paid off in the future... as Crow Sting. The only time Sting could get the spotlight was in a special match against Hulk Hogan...
Hulk Hogan was driven mad by the Dungeon of Doom, for everyone turning on him. He did this angle where he trusted nobody. He started to wear all black gear, which was sort of a prototype for Hollywood Hogan at the time. Sting, who was a co-champion with Lex Luger, was always sticking up for Luger, who had some weird ties to Jimmy Hart and the Dungeon of Doom. Hogan went paranoid on Sting, saying that he'd be the next man to stab him in the back. Foolish Hogan offered a challenge to Sting for the next Nitro, which Sting accepted to prove that he's not "stabbing him in the back". This was a dream match for me.
The match was very interesting, with the face pops going mainly to Sting. They both hit their famous moves to fire up the crowd, like they'd do against heels. The ending is what I'll always remember though. Sting whipped Hogan in the Scorpion Death Lock, and Hogan was screaming to Macho "he's gonna break it Macho", like a crybaby! Fans were screaming, but guess what was the ending? Fucking Dungeon of Doon run in! A missed opportunity to really jump ahead of RAW with a shocking loss to Hogan.
The Dungeon and Hogan war came to a close, near Uncensored 1996. Kevin Sullivan went out and found two Hollywood actors. One, was the artist formerly known as Zeus from "No Holds Barred". The other, oddly named the Ultimate Solution, was the actor who played Cain(??? I'm not sure on the name, but the guy who broke Batman's back in the comic books) in Batman and Robin. The Ultimate Solution was one buff motherfucker, and WCW painted his face up too. He looked like a legit bad ass wrestler then, but in reality, he was only an actor. That actor died a few years ago of a heart attack, I believe. May he rest in peace.
WCW did this Doomsday Match, where it was about 3 levels of cage that Hogan and Savage had to fight through. It was filled with Horsemen and Dungeon of Doom members, including the two actors listed above. It was a very disappointing event at Uncensored 1996, where Hogan and Savage got out of the cage early to fight around the arena, and then got back in the cage to escape it?!? Badly booked match, but it was Hulk Hogan's last ride in WCW. Notice how I say "Hulk", cause a different Hogan would show up in July of that year....
Without Hogan, WCW's angles and wrestling was very fun to watch! Great cruiserweight action, the Horsemen were soo cool, and it was a much better program to watch without Hogan or compared to the crap that the WWF was putting on. A very funny angle between Flair and Giant was about to occur. For some reason, Ric Flair and the Giant would tag up for some intersting matches with Sting and Lex Luger. In the second match, Flair accidentally threw hot coffee on the Giant. After the match, the Giant challenged Flair to a world title shot! Flair said that he'd kick his ass, for lack of the remembered phrase he said. Flair said something really funny after this Nitro. Damn it, I forget!
The following week, we were treated to a great Nitro match. Flair vs. Giant. It was funny, because Flair used Woman and Miss Elizabeth to cheat like hell for him. It actually worked on the Giant, and Flair started working on the leg. It was very strange to see this legend getting the best of a really large, and fierce guy like the Giant. Flair, thinking that he worked on the leg enough, slapped the Giant in the figure 4 leglock. Giant reached over with his big paw, grabbed Flair's neck, got out of the figure 4, and CHOKESLAM!! 1, 2, 3, we have a NEW World Champion! After a great match, WCW's developed star is the champ.
And a good one too. Giant made a strong, respected champion. One thing you must consider is that the WWF was stepping it up at the time WCW was getting stronger, after Hogan's vacation. They were fighting better matches on their cards, ditching the squash matches. Plus, they had some strong hype for Wrestlemania, which also helped. It was neck in neck at this point, but WCW was more stronger, in that they had better talent. Much better talent. All WCW needed was something to put them over the top, so that the weak WWF could feel their wrath! Something new, innovative, fresh, and just awesome...
As we headed into the summer of 1996, three contracts within the WWF were up. Kevin Nash or Diesel had his contract come up, and was negotiating with the WWF... but he was getting a massive offer from WCW. Nash took the money and ran with it, especially since he was at his peak and getting older. Scott Hall was having various drug and alcohol problems within the WWF, not to mention odd behavior, so the WWF wasn't going to renew his contract. WCW, unaware of how dangerous Hall would be to their federation years later, signed him to a BIG money deal, thinking they were matching a WWF deal. WWF wasn't offering Hall a thing. Bret Hart's contract came up too...
Eric Bischoff saw how a few "hostile takeover" angles were done, in various places, and he thought with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and possibly Bret Hart, he could arrange such an angle. Bischoff offered up lots of money to Bret Hart to join WCW, but the "good" man that Hart was wouldn't let him break loyalty to the WWF. Bret would later resign with the WWF for the famous 20 year contract, with the famous one year out clause, which would be impacting for the year 1997. So Bischoff needed a 3rd guy to complete the takeover team...
Eric Bischoff was talking to Ted Turner about the roadblock he hit, and together, they brainstormed that it would be interesting to see Hulk Hogan as a heel. It would especially work since Hogan was taking time off at the time. I believe as the story goes, Ted Turner came to Hogan and asked him about being a heel. Hogan said that he'd love it, since he started the business as a heel. So Hogan would be the third man of the Hostile Takeover, or the third Outsider.
WCW was very smart in the way they handled this angle. Firstly, they slowly teased us with Scott Hall appearing on a Nitro in early summer. He teased that he was somewhat from the WWF, and that "we're taking over". It was strange, but it had the whole wrestling world tuning into Nitro to see what else he'd say. The following week, Hall returned again. Then, at the end of the show, Sting confronted Hall and slapped him silly. Hall warned that he'd have a "big surprise" for the next week. That big surprise was Kevin Nash, and suddenly, the whole industry's jaws just dropped! Two WWF stars, taking over WCW?
It should be noted that Nash's first WCW appearance in 1996 was at a Nitro in Wheeling, WV, which I live near. For some reason or another, I didn't get tickets for this show. I don't know why I didn't at the time, but I missed out on some history in the making. Damn it!
Ahem. Nash and Hall promised to be at the Great American Bash, with a special challenge. The challenge was for WCW to put up their top 3 wrestlers against Hall, Nash, and their mystery partner. Bischoff wouldn't reveal the 3 WCW wrestlers at the Bash, so he was powerbombed, hard, off the stage in a thrilling moment in wrestling. The 3 wrestlers were announced on Nitro, which was Sting, Macho Man, and Lex Luger to face the Outsiders. But the intrigue of this 3rd man had everybody guessing!
Speaking of the Great American Bash, the hype of Hall and Nash overshadowed a promising moment, which got a lot of media attention. Brian Pillman left WCW, but after a very strange match with Kevin Sullivan at Superbrawl that year. Sullivan and Pillman pulled a stunt that only smarts would know in an "I respect" match. Pillman got on the mic and said "I respect you, Bookerman" early on in the match. WCW took it seriously, since Sullivan was the booker and it was exposing the business, so Pillman was let out of his contract before it eventually was coming up. WCW sprang up an idea involving Steve Mongo McMicheals, who had a beautiful wife to use as a valet (Debra). Mongo, then a part time announcer, wanted to become a wrestler. Kevin Greene, one of the best defensive players at the time, wanted into WCW too.
So the WCW creative juices got flowing, and they came up with an angle to make Mongo the next Horseman! The angle was great, but the long term plan with Mongo as a Horseman was bad... Anyway, the 3 remaining Horsemen attacked Mongo, who made some comments against the Horsemen. Flair and Anderson challenged Mongo to find someone to fight them, which he did. He found Kevin Greene, and the match was set for the Great American Bash. During the match, Debra McMicheal (now Austin) was taken to the back for some reason. She came back out in a stunning evening gown, and with a briefcase. She showed Mongo the money in that case, and he was amazed. He slammed it shut, and WHACK, he nailed Kevin Greene with it to become the 4th Horseman. It was amazing at the time, but a bad move for the future.
But the Outsider angle was the cream of the crop. Everyone tuned into Nitro to maybe catch a glimpse of the 3rd man. The Outsiders would make random attacks on wrestlers, and even screwed Luger/Sting out of their titles when they came to the ring with baseball bats. The tension was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. The Cruiserweight division was also spectacular, and always generating great matches. Nitro was slowly pulling away from the WWF, but it would need a great surprise 3rd man at the Bash at the Beach 1996 match between the Outsiders/3rd man vs. Macho/Sting/Luger.
That it was. Hulk Hogan came down during the match, to what many thought he'd be replacing the injured Lex Luger. Oh no he wasn't. He was the 3rd guy, and it turned the whole wrestling industry upside down, inside out, and in a whirlwind of greatness. This great move to have Hogan as the 3rd man gave Nitro the edge they needed to finally put the nail in the WWF dynasty's coffin. WCW was now the top federation in the industry, and there was NO looking back until the WWF totally stepped it up in 1998. Of course, WCW didn't keep themselves on top, but that's a different column.
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Congrats to the Black Hills Wrestling Federation for winning the Backyard BBQ Site of the Year Award! Be sure to check out the Backyard BBQ for the January 2000 Site of the Month and the best in Backyard Wrestling!
Yes, my Pittsburgh Penguins lost last night. When your goalie lets by 4 easy goals, you are going to lose many games. The Penguins have had to win by outscoring teams, and they simply couldn't get 5 goals, which is kinda hard to do. Lemieux had 1 goal and 2 assists, which makes him a God, still. If the Penguins find a good goalie on the market somewhere, LOOK OUT! Lord Stanley will be in Pittsburgh.
@That's all for today. I shall be back, tomorrow, with another Phat Daily Column. So until then, Stay Out of Trouble!
Take Care, and Enjoy Your Saturday.
Mr. Tito © 2000 Exclusive to Lordsofpain.net
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