The idea behind this feature is to start from the beginning and compare Nitro and RAW, month by month (starting in September 1995, when Nitro first launched) and declare a winner. I’ll give my general thoughts for each show while also listing off the best and worst moments.
(Remember, this is all subjective so if you don’t agree with my opinions I gladly welcome you to leave a comment and share your thoughts, respectfully. If nothing else I hope to jog your memory with fun storylines, great matches and forgotten names that will make you go back and watch these old shows along with me.)
After SummerSlam, the September 11, 1995 episode marked the start of the new fall season and despite two decent TV matches--British Bulldog vs Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels vs Sycho Sid for the IC Title--RAW didn’t establish or put forth any stories that intrigued me as a “new” viewer. The main feud on the airways all month was between Razor Ramon, Dean Douglas and the 1-2-3 Kid. This all started because Douglas gave Razor a grade of “MF” for “miserable failure” after his ladder match with Shawn Michaels at SummerSlam. There was nothing palpable happening between any of the performers and this resulted in me checking out during most of these segments. To top things off, 1-2-3 Kid was only involved because he wanted to earn Razor’s respect despite the fact that they both claim to be close personal friends. If you’re gonna have a boring angle, at least have it make sense!
One thing WWF did do well was build up the main event of In Your House 3: a “Triple Header” match involving Owen Hart, Yokozuna, Shawn Michaels and Diesel where the Tag, IC and WWF titles were all on the line. It was inventive, exciting and gave me something to look forward to. The ball was dropped by Owen no showing the match and then interfering, but for a few hours I was actively anticipating something. That is more than I can say for the rest of the month that featured Bret Hart feuding with a Pirate (Jean-Pierre Lafitte) who stole a jacket that his mom made for him. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re on an elementary school playground, but I expect better for The Hitman.
Overall, I can’t say I’m very excited for the next month of WWF programming. Aside from Goldust’s in-ring debut, they have nothing on the horizon that signals things are going to be any better. My only hope is that the bigger name stars start appearing on TV more often. Aside from Razor and Bulldog, the shows were made up of mainly enhancement and lower mid-card talent. If Bret, Shawn, Diesel, Undertaker and Bam Bam Bigelow, just to name a few, show up more than once in October then there is a chance it could be more tolerable.
Live from the Mall of America, Nitro’s pilot episode quickly and effectively established a sense of unpredictability and excitement. Lex Luger appearing during a great match between Sting and Ric Flair really drove home the mantra of “anything can happen.” Each week the show felt fresh. Whether it was Macho Man getting attacked on the set of Baywatch by Kevin Sullivan or The Giant trying to run over Hogan in a monster truck there was a noticeable attempt to be different and it worked.
Beyond the spectacle, what made Nitro so enjoyable in its first month was the way the show expertly weaved four different stories, all of which were individually compelling, together. Taskmaster and Giant trying to kill Hulk Hogan, Lex wanting a shot at the Heavyweight Championship, Macho Man not trusting Luger - or Sting for that matter - and Ric Flair trying to reconcile his friendship with Arn Anderson all managed to coalesce and hook me instantly. All of these men could show up at any point during the others’ segments and it allowed for a more cohesive feeling to the program.
This being my first time watching Nitro, I couldn’t have been more impressed. The stories were interesting, had depth, and all feel like they had the legs to continue for a long time. Having big names appear every week definitely made the show feel important, but it also didn’t overshadow the surprisingly deep roster that they had at the time. Not all the matches were great, but names like Alex Wright, Johnny B. Badd and Flyin’ Brian were given plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents. I’m definitely excited to see what happens next, WCW does a good job of leaving you wanting more, and based on what has already been announced, October should be another solid month.
10 Best Quotes of the Month:
“What you gonna do in the Mall of America, brother, when Hulk Hogan, Pastamania, and all my Pastamaniacs run wild on you?!?!” - Hulk Hogan, Nitro
“Ladies and gentlemen get on the edge of your seats. This is the biggest thing to hit TV since the little old lady said “where’s the beef?” Well, it’s right here on the WCW.” - Steve McMichael, Nitro
“I’m sure the IRS is gonna be watching me real close, but that’s fine because as you go down the road in the WCW, people are gonna know for sure that Michael Wallstreet is a real player.” - V.K. (formerly Michael) Wallstreet, Nitro
“I’m sick and tired of playing around with kids, I’m here to get it on with the big boys.” -Lex Luger, Nitro
“One thing Double A always said was ‘Naitch, Hulk Hogan driven you crazy.’ Well, Hogan, look what you’ve done now! Look who’s here, The Total Package! 6 foot 5! 275 pounds! 22 inch arms! 60 inch chest! The Total Package! Hogan, tonight The Package takes control. Right, Package?!” - Ric Flair, Nitro
“Brian Pillman, you former great football player for the Cincinnati Bengals, tonight I’m gonna chop you so hard, Boomer Esiason is gonna feel it all the way back in Long Island.” - Ric Flair, Nitro
“You wanna play with the big boys, well there’s no bigger boy than the Macho Man Randy Savage and all we’re missing here is a bell. DING DING!” - Macho Man, Nitro
“Shawn Michaels is 6 foot 1 and weighs A MERE 235 pounds, but Sid on the other hand is 6 foot 9 and weighs 317 pounds, McMahon.” - Jerry Lawler, RAW
“You don’t turn your back on Shawn Michaels and you don’t spit into the wind!” - Vince McMahon, RAW
“I don’t know, the fact that he’s supposed to be a pirate, I didn’t think pirates really existed anymore.” - Bret Hart, RAW
WWF: Owen Hart and Yokozuna (C) vs
The Smoking Guns for the Tag Team Championship (RAW 128)
After a month of inconsequential matches that almost always ended in interference it was nice to see an up-tempo, crisp, hard hitting fight. The crowd was hot, the story crescendoed perfectly and we ended up with new champs.
WCW: Ric Flair vs Arn Anderson (WCW Fall Brawl * War Games)
The history between these two men allowed for some great, impassioned promos that made you care about the match. It was stiff, no-nonsense wrestling and you could feel the animosity between Flair and Anderson. Not only was the action great, but they told a terrific story and were able to continue the feud at the same time.
WWF: Razor Ramon - Talking about Dean Douglas “making waves” and how he made the 1-2-3 Kid famous.
WCW: Ric Flair - Talking about Arn Anderson turning his back on him and what they used to stand for.
WWF: British Bulldog had three matches on four shows (PPV included) with Razor Ramon, Bam Bam Bigelow and The Undertaker. All three were hard-hitting, technically sound performances that reminded me how great Davey was in the ring.
WCW: Sting had three matches on five shows (PPV included) with Ric Flair, V.K. Wallstreet and The Dungeon of Doom. I considered giving the award to Flyin’ Brian, who worked the same amount of matches, but Sting was definitely working at a different level. Everything he did looked so effortless and impressive that it was hard not be in awe of his skill.
WWF: Marty Jannetty vs Skip w/ Sunny (RAW 128)
This was the return of Marty and the crowd was eating up every last bit of it. He worked a fast paced match with lots of great spots involving Sunny on the outside. I used to love The Rockers so I was particularly happy with his showing here, even if he did win with a 5-Knuckle Shuffle type maneuver from the top rope.
WCW: Hulk Hogan vs Big Bubba Rogers (Nitro 01)
I’d never been a big fan of Hogan so I wasn’t expecting much from this match, but I have to admit that I got swept up in the fervour. It was good vs bad. Big Bubba is the consummate pro you want in a spot like this and there was something refreshing about watching a match and not being completely cynical. Was it the most technically proficient match I’d ever seen, no, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pop when Hogan pointed at him and then quickly thereafter dropped the leg.
PPV of the MONTH
WCW Fall Brawl * War Games wins out over In Your House 3 for the simple fact that the storylines leading into the PPV were much more compelling. I cared about the outcome of WCW’s matches and that made it infinitely more engaging and enjoyable. Not only that, but they used the show to propel the stories even further, something that WWF didn’t do. In Your House 3 felt like matches for matches sake and that has never compelled me.
Notes About Nothing
- Mall of America instantly had me thinking about D2 and picking up Averman from his job at the theatre.
- Lex Luger is always dressed like Jerry Seinfeld in “The Puffy Shirt” episode of Seinfeld.
- Goldust cut a super creepy and unsettling vignette promo, but looked like Boy George painted gold.
- Vince is great on commentary and is able to make the mundane sound extraordinary.
- Both commentary teams have a bad habit of talking over the the ring announcer. That needs to stop!
- WWF generating heat by waving the Japanese flag. Some things never change.
- WCW got Michael Buffer to do intros at Fall Brawl. Really nice touch that made the show feel like a spectacle.
- American Males have the most absurd theme song I have ever heard.
- I feel bad for the poor bastards who had to carry King Mabel out to the ring.
- There seems to be a pandemic in wrestling in regards to bedazzled jackets and capes.
AND YOUR WINNER
WCW Nitro is the runaway victor for September 1995. Everything felt more thought out, whereas WWF seemed to be coasting by on a few big names. That being said, everyone in WCW - at the top of the card - felt like a bigger star than anyone in WWF; with the exception of Shawn Michaels, who Vince put over ad nauseam.
That concludes the first month of my Monday Night Comparisons. I hope you enjoyed taking a look back as much as I did. I’m excited to continue forward and I hope you’ll continue to follow along with me on this journey. Remember to leave me your thoughts and share your favorite memories in the comments below. Thanks!