March 27, 2011
MONDAY NIGHT WAR CLASSICS – Week 2: WCW Draws First Blood (09/11/95)
WCW Monday Nitro Highlight of the Night
The highlight of the night was not exactly a highlight, but it’s worth mentioning as the Monday Night War officially begins this week. Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger wrestled for six minutes in the TV main event, but a clear winner was not determined. The match was used to continue the feud between Hogan and The Dungeon of Doom, which is led by Kevin Sullivan. It also introduced Luger’s new role in WCW. After the cameras went off for this episode of Nitro, the question was if Luger was also part of the DOD or was he simply playing the lone wolf character. Interesting developments will take place in the next couple of weeks. The flat finish made sense, but was heavily criticized. Since this is a head-to-head competition, WCW needs to deliver in their TV main events. Luger or Hogan not getting the clean pinfall killed the purpose of the main event hype. In contrary, .the finish made sense as well. As stated, Luger’s character was somewhat defined after the show went off the air. Still, Luger will play an interesting role during the Hogan-DOD feud.
WWE Monday Night Raw Highlight of the Night
Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels defended the IC Title against Psycho Sid during the main event of Monday Night Raw. This match was saved for so long, five months to be exact. The last time these two men were in a confrontation, Sid turned on Michaels the night after WrestleMania XI. Michaels went on a six-week hiatus and returned as a babyface. During Michaels’ absence and return, Diesel took over and successfully retained the WWE Title in matches with Sid. Michaels was scheduled to face Sid at SummerSlam ’95, but “fan favorite president” Gorilla Monsoon changed it to Michaels-Razor II (a ladder match again). Sid finally got his shot at Michaels and the IC Title on the September 11th Raw. This was the match to settle the score as Michaels ended this long feud.
In the first week of Monday night ratings battle, WCW Nitro drew a 2.5 rating compared to WWE Raw’s rating (2.2). Eric Bischoff felt pretty good about himself winning the ratings battle the first week. His strategy did work and it raised some eyebrows in Titan Towers, especially Vince McMahon. Bischoff’s tactics on the September 11, 1995 Nitro were simple. Luger was going to challenge Hogan to a title match. Not only that, Bischoff had other ideas in order to keep his viewers intact that Monday night.
Bischoff’s strategies to beat WWE in the ratings battle were good, but risky. Bischoff knew he had to take risks to win. One strategy that might or might not work in the long run is the fact that Luger made a surprise appearance on the first ever Nitro. Fans like surprises and that’s a reason to tune in. Bischoff took a tremendous risk because when he delivered, he didn’t deliver all the goods. The Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger TV main event fell below expectations. The match ended with no clear winner and that was all. The match did tell a story, though. Luger was playing a tweener role (sometimes good guy and sometimes bad guy). Hogan wanted to make sure that Luger came in as a babyface, just like in his WWE days, but somehow Luger couldn’t be trusted. After this show, Hogan and Luger did not wrestle again until two years later. Luger’s short run as the number one contender diminished after just one week. In other words, Luger played the similar “All-American Hero” WWE role. Hogan was still riding high in WCW as champion, but his character was getting stale as a babyface.
Another risky strategy by WCW was clever. Bischoff acknowledged that there was another wrestling organization and mentioned the letters, “WWF” on live television. Bischoff also revealed Raw results on the air, announcing the finish of the Raw main event between WWE IC Champion Shawn Michaels and Psycho Sid. He also ripped on WWE Champion Diesel, mentioning that “their (WWE) World Champion was a mid-carder in WCW”. (Kevin Nash, who played the Diesel character in WWE, wrestled in WCW for two years before entering the WWE). This strategy worked in favor of WCW and WWE as well. Some viewers who did hear Bischoff’s “Raw spoilers” on Nitro probably did stay to watch WCW. Probably another portion of Nitro viewers who heard the results did tune in to Raw out of curiosity. Bischoff thought that this strategy did work because Nitro won the ratings.
When Bischoff announced that WCW was going head-to-head with WWE on Monday nights, Vince didn’t press the panic button. He knew that WCW was a distant number two wrestling organization. The only thing he did was plug the Raw Fall Season and he was going to start off with a bang. The first thing he did was repackage the Monday Night Raw opening montage. He featured his top wrestlers brawling on top of the Titan Towers. One of the wrestlers was Luger, who was also considered one of the top stars in the WWE. Thanks to the Dog Show and the cancellation of Raw on September 4th, Vince had time to react quickly and re-tape the opening montage, this time of course without Luger. Other than that, Vince was not worried about this so-called competition.
Unlike Bischoff, McMahon wouldn’t acknowledge WCW on live television. He did, however, acknowledge that his beef was with Ted Turner, not Bischoff. Also, about this war, Vince had a big advantage because of the way WCW uses their wrestlers. The fact that WCW headliners were in the WWE before is what keeps the WWE fresh and that’s why they have the advantage. Vince thought that Turner’s idea to air Nitro the same timeslot as Raw was crazy because WCW wouldn’t stand a chance against WWE. There was also a challenge of some sorts between WWE and WCW. Vince contacted TBS executive Bill Shaw about having a WWE-WCW Super Card. Vince said, “I never talked to Ted Turner, but I talked with Bill Shaw about it. Mr. Shaw said I would be a moron if I didn't accept his invitation. Since that time I often sit in the corner with a dunce cap on babbling to myself."
As of this time, Bischoff winning the ratings battle means a lot to him. That means a “W” in the win column for him. As for Vince and the WWE, he simply doesn’t care. Time will tell if that will change, but as of right now, WCW drew first blood and the WWE is not making a big deal of it. Next week should be interesting for both Raw and Nitro. The WWE is featuring another taped edition of Raw leading to a pay-per-view. Nitro, which airs live every Monday night, is coming off a PPV.
Editorial: Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger’s “Dream Match” Turned into Nightmare
The most anticipated match of the week or perhaps the year in wrestling was Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger for the WCW World Title. Fans knew that this was a pay-per-view caliber match. Management knew that this was a PPV worthy match. But why did WCW rush this match into a TV main event, only for the match to finish in a no-contest?
Obviously, Hogan had something to do with the poor booking here. Hogan is not going to drop the WCW World Title to someone who has not proven himself. Luger has repeatedly stated that he wants to be WCW World Champion, but with Hogan on the top of the mountain, that remains highly unlikely. Hogan only challenges whomever he pleases and that has become an unpopular story during this Monday Night War era.
What happens next? Should Luger get a title shot at Halloween Havoc ’95? That would be the logic after this match ended in a no-contest. Well, it didn’t happen as a young Paul Wight, aka The Giant (Big Show) went on to score the upset over Hogan in that event. Luger never got his title shot against Hogan that year.
Two years later, a babyface Luger faced the top heel Hogan for the WCW World Title on the 100th episode of Nitro. Luger won the match and title to spark ratings against Raw that featured Shawn Michaels turning heel and close of forming Degeneration X. Hogan recaptured the WCW World title six days later on the Road Wild PPV, thanks to the NWO helping their leader. Luger never got a clear edge over Hogan and they never wrestled since then.
Luger complained that he wasn’t pushed properly in the WWE, yet never got the clear upper hand against Hogan. Simply put, Luger was never main event caliber in his career and was definitely overrated.
Top 10 WWE-WCW Superstars of the Week (September 10-16, 1995)
Hulk Hogan (WCW World Champion, 13 months, 24 days)
Diesel (WWE Champion, 9 months, 14 days)
Shawn Michaels (WWE Intercontinental Champion, 1 month, 18 days)
Sting (WCW U.S. Champion, 2 months, 22 days)
Monday Night Wars Key Players
The following wrestlers wrestled on WWE Monday Night Raw and WCW Monday Nitro this particular week (September 11, 1995). Somehow, these wrestlers made an impact on the Monday Night Wars:
Razor Ramon was considered one of the top wrestlers in the WWE in the early 90s. He came in and got to work quickly, headlining the Survivor Series ’92 PPV, teaming up with Ric Flair against Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect. He also received a WWE title shot in his first singles PPV match against Bret Hart. Not everyone can say that. He captured the IC Title on numerous occasions during his 43-month tenure with the company. After leaving the WWE, Razor (now known as Scott Hall, his real name) jumped to WCW to form the NWO with Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan. Hall made the biggest impact in the early stages of this war and I will get in-depth when I get to that point. I will also dedicate a whole entire column to Scott Hall and the creation of the so-called invasion angle that WCW was popular for.
I’m going to share my thoughts next week on the British Bulldog and what he meant to the WWE during his heel turn in my next edition of Monday Night War Classics. To make this short, the Bulldog left the WWE in 1997 after the infamous Montreal Screwjob. He went to WCW and was quickly established as a mid-carder and never got out of the shadow of Bret Hart, who also left for WCW with him. The Bulldog sustained a serious back injury that almost ended his wrestling career. Bulldog was fired from WCW while being injured. This was Bischoff’s bad habit of firing wrestlers while they couldn’t perform. Bulldog returned to the WWE in 1999 when Vince McMahon sent him to rehab for drug abuse. Shortly after Bulldog’s last tenure in the WWE, he passed away.
Psycho Sid had several stints with WWE and WCW, going back and forth between the wrestling organizations. Sid came from WCW in 1991 when he was inserted in the main event of SummerSlam ’91 when he refereed the Hogan & Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter and his troops handicap match. Sid turned heel on Hogan a few months after his debut and co-headlined against him at WrestleMania VIII. Sid left and returned in 1995 as Michaels’ bodyguard. He turned on Michaels the night after WrestleMania XI and has been in Ted DiBiase’s Corporation since then. Sid spent the next two years trying to establish as the top heel in the business. He won the WWE Title twice and then left in mid-1997. Sid returned to WCW in 1999 as his final run in wrestling. He suffered a broken leg when he landed wrong coming off the top rope in a match with Scott Steiner in 2000. Sid was never seen in both WWE and WCW again.
The only wrestler that wrestled on Monday Nitro on September 11th to jump to WWE during the Monday Night War era was Sabu. Sabu is a forgotten gem in this era because he didn’t exactly sign with the WWE. He came in part from ECW to showcase his talents on Raw in 1997. He was part of the famous invasion angle that WWE ran with ECW. He was remembered for coming off the RAW letters as the highlight of Raw that night (February 17, 1997). Sabu didn’t make an impact in WCW as he only wrestled a few times for them and then went back to ECW.
Monday Night War Scoreboard
WCW Monday Nitro 1, WWE Monday Night Raw 0
That’s it for this week in Monday Night War Classics. Tune in next week for Monday Night War Classics Week 3 – Which Route Should Lex Express Take? (09/18/95)
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