"Three letters say it all: WCW! Where the Big Boys Play presents... Monday Nitro!"...And we're LIVE from [insert city here]!In 1995, World Championship Wrestling was looking for a way to compete with the World Wrestling Federation. The method they went with was to start a weekly show on TNT designed to go head to head with their rival's flagship program. Thus, Monday Nitro was born.Nitro was a highly unconventional wrestling show from day one. Plot twists happened nearly every episode, and every match was designed to be on the quality level its competitors reserved for pay-per-view. Since Nitro was live, unlike Raw, which was taped at the time, the show's commentators would sometimes reveal the results of matches. This uniqueness was further compounded by the New World Order angle, as it blurred the line between kayfabe and reality.All of this made for a winning formula for success. Nitro outdid Raw in the ratings for 84 weeks straight, and at one time was the most watched show on cable.However, it wouldn't last. The nWo angle ran well beyond its welcome, and the Fingerpoke of Doom removed any sense of prestige from the title belts. Affecting WCW as a whole, the PPV-quality matches were able to draw ratings but left nothing notable to save for PPV. The last few years were a shadow of what the show once was. Bizarre twists, time-wasting filler, and a heel face revolving door that just wouldn't stop made for an almost Ed Woodian show.Eventually, the WWF bought WCW. The last episode of Nitro aired on March 26, 2001, and the end of that episode served as a lead-in for the Invasion angle.
This show contains examples of the following:
- The Bad Guy Wins: Part of the reason the nWo angle ran out of steam was because the bookers forgot that the heels are eventually supposed to lose. The nWo, on the other hand, kept dominating without anyone to stop them. The closest thing to a victory was Sting and Bret pounding the stuffing out of Hogan in 1997, and even then, the nWo kept splintering and re-forming.
- Bookends: The first and last Nitro both had Flair vs. Sting.
- The Cameo:
- After Bischoff pulled up stakes and moved to Orlando, several WCW wrestlers were given roles on Baywatch: Hogan, Flair, and Vader starred in the same episode, and Scott Steiner appeared in the last TV movie, White Thunder at Glacier Bay.
- Arliss was once a guest-commentator, newly-arrived in Orlando to hype the wrestling debut of Dennis Rodman. Note that it was not Robert Wuhl the actor who representing Rodman. It was Arliss. He spent the show trashing actual wrestlers and hyping Rodman as the biggest thing in wrestling. (He actually fell asleep on a turnbuckle and later sued the promotion.)
- Fake Band:
- Conspicuous Consumption: Rewatching Nitros in the present day is a wistful, and slightly surreal, experience. So many limousines and pyros they could afford on every broadcast. Especially interesting is how WCW went overboard with the pyro for wrestlers' entrances. Pyro was a rare event in the WWF, even during the Monday Night Wars. (Kane, for example.) But in WCW, even midcarders like Buff Bagwell and the Misfits in Action had pyro. Talk about excess!
- Continuity Reboot: A rare in-company example of this took place in April 2000. There was a concerted effort to try and shake off the badness that had accumulated in the last few angles. It didn't work.Dave Meltzer: The changes in Nitro remind me of putting a nice, fresh coat of paint on a house that had just been hit by a Tornado.
- Cool vs. Awesome: Many a main event match was like this.
- Crushing Handshake: Played with at WCW Bash at the Beach 1998. Stevie Ray faced Chavo Guerrero Jr., with the stipulation that if Chavo didn't win the match, he had to face Eddie Guerrero in a "loser gets their head shaved" match immediately following. Chavo, wanting to be fresh for the next match (and really wanting to get to Eddie after weeks of abuse at his hands) offers Stevie a pre-match handshake and immediately taps out once a shocked-looking Stevie takes his hand. Chavo would proceed to lose to Eddie and shave his own head, then try to shave Eddie's head while shrieking, "WE CAN BE TWINS, EDDIE!"
- Fingerpoke of Doom: The trope namer. Kevin Nash laid down for Hulk Hogan after receiving a gentle poke in the chest, effectively making Hogan the World Heavyweight Champion again, as well as mocking the audience.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Bischoff's obsession with tearing down the WWF backfired on him with the "That's gonna put some butts in the seats!" spoiler. Much earlier, Bischoff had made Vince shit bricks by spoiling pre-taped WWF matches at his own live events. Where he miscalculated on January 4, 1999 was that Mankind was no Shawn Michaels. To put it another way, Mankind was the underdog garbage wrestler, the long-shot contender. Fans were less likely to tune into Raw before Tony's comments. Even Russo, crazy and meta as he is, probably would have warned Bischoff not to do this.
- Hostile Show Takeover: The nWo existed to take over WCW and make it their own playground. They had some amount of success at this; they took over Nitro on two separate occasions, and put on their own pay-per-view event once.
- Insistent Terminology
- Bischoff insisted on the term "Cruiserweight" instead of "Light Heavyweight" because he felt the latter made the smaller wrestlers seem less important.
- There was also a period of time which Turner handed down a mandate that banned the word "foreign" from being used on his network in favor of the word "international." As such, foreign objects became "international objects" on WCW television.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: When Hulk Hogan joined the nWo. It is one of the most memorable and well done turns in wrestling.
- Remember the New Guy: Related to the enforced method acting during the late 1990s and 2000s, WCW would sometimes debut new wrestlers or teams with no debut vignettes or promos, just as though they expected everyone to already know who they were and what they were about. Even David Arquette was introduced while feuding with Jeff Jarrett, whom he had never met. Later, Jeff explained that Arquette offended him by not inviting him to star in the movie — despite Jeff joining WCW well after it was filmed.
- Squash Match: Averted. The great appeal in Nitro's early years when compared to the product being put out on Raw was that, with the notable exception of matches featuring Goldberg, there were almost no squash matches. Nearly every match on the card was set as being between two more-or-less equal sides that were seen as having a respectable chance of winning. Compare this to the cards being put out on Raw circa 1995, where almost all matches except the main event featured dedicated jobbers to some degree.
- Strictly Formula: In WCW's later years, the creative staff went back to the well a half dozen too many times by reviving the nWo seemingly every six months and booking matches and feuds between the same groups of wrestlers over and over again. As The Death of WCW put it, as great a match as Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera could be, you can only watch so many variations week after week before it gets old. One of the main reasons why WCW fell in the ratings was because the bookers were dead set on running with a pat hand, keeping entire segments of the roster firmly segregated from each other in competition and not giving them the chance to compete against different opponents.
- Sure, Let's Go with That: Bischoff was put on the spot when asked what WCW needed to turn the tide by Turner. After some nervous stammering, he blurted out the first thing that came to mind: a Monday night time slot to compete head-to-head with RAW.
- Take That: Nearly every episode would have at least one directed at the WWF.