Torch Flashbacks FLASHBACK: WCW Nitro launches 20 yrs. ago today - Lex Luger jumps from WWF to WCW - full PWTorch Newsletter Cover Story
Sep 4, 2015 - 2:21:37 AM
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WCW Nitro launched 20 years ago today on September 4, 1995 at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Included was the memorable show-closing appearance by Lex Luger fresh off finishing up with WWF/E that set the tone for the Monday Night Wars ...
PWTORCH #352 COVER STORY
HEADLINE: Luger jumps, will face Hogan next Monday
SUBHEADLINE: Monday Nitro debuts with a bang, WWF responds with emergency taping
By Wade Keller, Editor
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Lex Luger surprised virtually everyone in the wrestling industry by walking to ringside during Ric Flair vs. Sting at Monday Nitro and by the end of the hour agreeing to wrestle Hulk Hogan next week live on Monday Nitro. Only a small handful of WCW personnel knew of the secret deal that Luger struck with WCW late last week that resulted in about as big of a surprise as WCW could pull off for their debut show.
Luger told the Torch after Monday Nitro that his decision to jump to WCW was made in the last few days. He said he had been working for Vince McMahon under a good faith agreement without a contract for a number of weeks but had been openly negotiating with both WCW and the WWF. He said that WCW and New Japan together were able to make an offer late last week that he was unable to turn down, most notably having to work so many fewer dates than with the WWF. He said he had not had discussions with WCW until a few weeks ago despite reports that he also talked with them earlier in the year. He said that he isn't sure whether McMahon feels he left him "high and dry," but says his move was neither a breach of contract, a breach of ethics, nor a breach of his word.
Luger worked a WWF house show in Canada the night before and no one on the card knew anything about him leaving. It was sometime between that evening's card and his debut on Nitro that McMahon knew of Luger's decision to leave. The reports vary regarding when McMahon knew, some saying his first knowledge came as it aired on television.
Luger was open with Vince McMahon a few weeks back when he flew to Atlanta to negotiate with WCW. The negotiations did not result in an agreement as the two sides were apart on money and his role. The WWF, which pulled Luger & British Bulldog from SummerSlam partially because of Luger's negotiations with WCW, reincorporated him into storylines at TV tapings last week because he had told Vince he would be staying. However, because Luger still had not signed a contract with the WWF, he was still fair game for a counter-offer from WCW. The WWF meanwhile involved him in the angle with Bulldog and announced Saturday that Luger would face Hunter Hearst Helmsley at the Saginaw, Mich. "In Your House" event.
The situation changed late last week when WCW and Luger began negotiations again and consummated a deal perhaps as recent as this weekend. WCW may have sweetened the deal to Luger because of a locker room incident that has Vader's future with WCW in question (see "WCW Newswire," pg. 3). If Vader were to be fired by WCW as a result of a locker room brawl with supervisor Paul Orndorff, that would leave a big gap in the storyline involving Vader participating in WarGames and wrestling Hogan at a later date.
There had been talk of hotshotting an angle on the debut of Monday Nitro that would result in a Hogan vs. Vader match on Sept. 11 head-to-head with Raw. That hotshot angle did take place, only with Luger instead of Vader.
Luger made his surprise appearance during the second match on the card. Ric Flair was wrestling Sting when Luger walked down the aisle, slapping a few fans's hands on his way. He stood with his hands on his hips and watched for less than a minute and then left.
After Hulk Hogan defeated Big Bubba Rogers in the main event of Nitro, all of the members of the Dungeon of Doom except the giant attacked Hogan. Luger ran to the ring and, like at SummerSlam when Luger saved Diesel, he cleared the ring of the heels. Hogan and Luger then backed into each other. Hogan turned around, and coming off as rather ungrateful, got in Luger's face and told him to go back to where he came from. Luger responded by saying this has been a long time coming. In the end, Hogan and Luger agreed to wrestle for the title next Monday night live on TNT. Luger and Hogan have never crossed paths before. When Luger first broke into the wrestling business, he was touted "the next Hulk Hogan," but never reached anywhere near that level of success or notoriety. WCW and the WWF both made attempts to promote Luger as a Hogan-like megababyface and both pushes did not result in long term, or even much short term, success.
The marquee value of the Luger vs. Hogan match is about as strong as any match in wrestling today, even though the potential for a high quality match, especially if it is not meticulously booked, is pretty low.
The WWF had planned to air the Shawn Michaels vs. Sid match taped last Monday night. Instead, late Monday night there were calls being made discussing holding an emergency television taping to hotshot a few matches themselves to somehow create a match that they could hype on USA Network all weekend on Mania and Action Zone that might pry viewers away from the Luger-Hogan match-up. Certainly few fans aware of both matches wouldn't easily choose Hogan vs. Luger over Michaels vs. Sid simply because of the historical magnitude and symbolism of such a match.
The problem that can result from this one-upsmanship is obvious. Everyone is going to hotshot themselves into oblivion, Raw next week might actually feature, say, Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels and Diesel vs. Undertaker or two other Wrestlemania main event caliber "WWF dream matches."
This fight over who scores more ratings points prime time on Mondays is great for viewers in the short run, great for media covering such a happening time in wrestling, and great for the respective TV networks, but it may cause a major problem with sensible timelines in booking.
WCW's initial goals for the first week of Monday Nitro can be broken down into three simple areas: (1) appear major league; (2) keep the show moving at a fast pace; and (3) get people talking about WCW and the new program.
Although the show was not without its flaws, it accomplished all three goals. The program opened with aerial shots of Downtown Minneapolis, Minn. and the Mall of America in neighboring Bloomington. They then went to a live shot of the main rotunda in the mall and introduced the program. Eric Bischoff and Steve McMichael opened the show. Bobby Heenan then entered the picture. McMichael shook Heenan's hand and zapped him. Heenan and McMichael bantered, then Bischoff finally mentioned the main event, almost as an afterthought, of Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba.
Brian Pillman pinned Jushin Thunder Liger in the opening match. They did about twice as much as they should have in the time allotted, which kept the match moving, but also didn't give the match a chance to have proper transitions and develop a comprehendible storyline. Pillman pinned Liger after catching him with a dropkick as Liger dove off the top rope and then rolled him up for the three count at 6:48. A promo with Sting aired as they bumped to a commercial.
A pre-taped interview aired with Hulk Hogan at his Pastamania restaurant. Hogan self-promoted himself and his restaurant for a couple minutes. Right after Sting and Flair's ring introductions, Lex Luger walked down the aisle. Bischoff said, "What's he doing here... Get that guy out of here... This is just unabashed arrogance... I want to know what he's doing here... Call security."
Bischoff talked about Luger as if he were intruding and as if he were a heel. Heenan said Luger had a right to be there. Doug Dillinger then told Luger to leave the aisle. During the match, Bischoff said there was chaos in the locker room. At 8:08 Arn Anderson walked to ringside. The quality of the bout was above the standard Flair-Sting fare with both guys working really hard, but also again a bit rushed. The match ended when Flair had Sting in the future-four leglock and Sting reached the ropes. When Flair didn't break the hold, at 11:29 Anderson ran in and pulled Flair off. They brawled down the aisle where Flair escaped to the back. Scott Norton then interrupted proceedings at ringside. Norton shoved Heenan and Bischoff, said he signed a contract and wants an opponent. He and McMichael faced off, but then Savage came to the ring and stared him down. Savage asked Norton if he (Savage) was a big enough deal to be his opponent. Norton was held back as Savage challenged him to wrestle him immediately. A Sabu music highlight video aired.
After a commercial, Gene Okerlund announced the winner for the Harley Davidson contest. A segment aired with Michael Wallstreet. He said, "You know in the past people have talked and talked and talked about the New Generation, but the new generation is nothing more than the "few generation." That's why I am in WCW... where the greatest wrestlers in the world are... I'm sure the I.R.S. will be watching me really close."
Hulk Hogan pinned Big Bubba. During the match, Bischoff announced they already signed Savage vs. Norton for next Monday, although it still wasn't at all established who Norton is. Fans held up "Hogan Sucks" and "Hogan is a Whimp" signs. Bubba went after Jimmy Hart at ringside, but Hogan made the save. A much better bout than his match against Kamala, but nothing special either. Even the very pro-Hulk Minneapolis crowd didn't have a lot to cheer about. After a sideslam Hogan began his superman comeback and scored the pin with the legdrop at 7:08.
During his celebration, Kamala, Zodiac, Kevin Sullivan, and Shark attacked Hogan. Luger immediately made the save and cleared the ring. Sting and Savage came to the ring to keep them apart. The fans began chanting "Luger, Luger."
After a commercial, Hogan said, "What are you doing here? You have no business in my backyard." Luger responded by saying, "You are the only world's heavyweight champion. I want that belt and that's why I'm here." Hogan interrupted him, but Luger asked to let him finish. "I've been down the same roads as you. I've been where you've been, I've beaten the same people you've beaten. I'm tired of playing with kids. I'm here to play with the big boys." Hogan gave Luger his due, but said when you get in Hogan's face there are thousands of Hulkamaniacs who will stand by him. Hogan then tripped over his words in getting around to offering Luger a title shot next week on Monday Nitro. Okerlund closed the show, even with time left on the program.
Bischoff said with Hogan vs. Luger, Sabu on the card, Michael Wallstreet, and Savage vs. Norton, Nitro will provide more action than anywhere you go looking for it. McMichael said if you don't tune in next week, "you've got a screw loose." Nitro then went off the air.
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