In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the last Nitro, the WWE recently put out a 3-disc DVD set entitled The Best of Nitro. Could they finally be putting over their long-time rival? History says no.
But let’s take a look…
We start off with an introduction by WCW veteran Diamond Dallas Page. I thought Page had a solid delivery overall. And considering the other options for host, I think he was the best choice, since he was not only with the company from the first Nitro to the last one, but he was also a top star for many of those years.
Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Brian Pillman: It was the first match on the first Nitro ever. And it was a great one. It took place in the Mall of America, which is a very unusual setting for a wrestling event. These two always had tremendous chemistry together, and they couldn’t have selected a better match to kick this off.
Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba Rogers: This was the main event of the first Nitro in September ’95, so it’s understandable why they would include it in the set. Some would say it was a renewal of their rivalry from 1988. It wasn’t a great match by any means, but perhaps the most notable thing here is the post-match angle. Hogan won this match clean with the legdrop, but was then surrounded by the Dungeon of Doom. And who should come to the rescue? Well it was WCW’s newest acquisition Lex Luger, who just made his return to WCW earlier that night. The odd thing is that after Luger ended up saving Hogan, the two of them were then at odds. They were separated by Randy Savage and Sting, as Hogan agreed to put the World title on the line the following week against Luger. I always hated when a recognizable face would come into a company and automatically get pushed to the main event. For those of you who watch wrestling on Thursday nights, that may sound familiar.
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson: It’s always great to see the Macho Man in action, as he and Flair really carried the load in this match, with Hogan eventually getting the hot tag and the glory. But Savage and Flair were an excellent pairing.
Lex Luger and Sting vs. The Road Warriors for the World Tag Team Championships: I’m not sure if this was intended or not, but Bobby Heenan kept referring to the Road Warriors as the Legion of Doom in this match, which was kind of funny, as he was never corrected. This was a pretty good match, with a weak finish. Jimmy Hart came down to the ring with some sort of metal object, which Luger would then use on Animal to pick up the victory.
Lord Steven Regal (William Regal) vs. The Belfast Bruiser (Finlay) in a Parking Lot Brawl: I’m not so sure why this was on the set. These guys wouldn’t typically take part in this kind of match. I guess they were trying to display some of the innovative matches in Nitro’s history, as this match was very much out of the ordinary. Regal got the win with a piledriver on the hood of a car.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Ric Flair: This match wasn’t very significant. But I guess they wanted to showcase some of Eddie Guerrero’s matches. This was a very good one as well. I actually think it may have been the best match in the set. WCW had just done a pay per view the previous night, where Guerrero and Arn Anderson were partners against Flair and Savage in a battle bowl tournament and Guerrero took exception to the fact that he was victimized by the Horsemen. Flair gets the win with the figure-four, and he uses Woman’s hand for leverage. It’s amazing how the referees would never catch these things, despite being so close.
Scott Hall’s Nitro debut: This is really self explanatory. They needed to show that anything could happen at any time, and this was a perfect example. I thought this was well done, where it really came off like Hall was actually an outsider (pardon the pun) who was sneaking into the building. My only criticism is that the match that he interrupted was a lower priority than the angle, and I always hated when matches were discarded like this. But at least it had people talking.
Kevin Nash’s Nitro debut: This was another shocker, as Nash had also recently given his notice to the WWE. It was really innovative at the time to include elements of realism into the storylines and actually use their real names as well. I thought that part was well done.
Sting and Lex Luger vs. The Steiner Brothers vs. Harlem Heat in a triangle match for the World Tag Team Championships: I wasn’t a fan of the way this match ended. Again, it’s a classic case of the matches being secondary to the angles. This was a title match too, making it even more annoying. Hall and Nash came through the crowd with baseball bats and by that point, everyone forgot that the match was still happening. What’s worse is that Harlem Heat actually won the tag belts here and nobody cared. This was not one of Nitro’s finest moments.
NWO is taking over: This was the night after Hulk Hogan double-crossed WCW. At least they waited for the match between Lex Luger and Big Bubba to end this time, before attacking both guys. After the match, Hogan cut a promo, telling the fans to stick it. There were excessive amounts of garbage being thrown in the ring at this point, and the NWO had tremendous heat. Hogan then issued a challenge to the Giant for the World title at the next pay per view.
Outsiders attack WCW Superstars: Another match is broken up here, as Jimmy Hart comes out screaming that there’s a commotion in the back, causing all participants in the match to come see what’s going on. I can understand that they needed to present the NWO as a serious threat, which they did. But they really should have waited for after a match, or at least interrupted a promo or something. The camera crew got back there first, where the Outsiders were just beating on a few guys. Scotty Riggs comes out to check on his fallen partner Marcus Bagwell, and Riggs looked like a complete idiot here, as he just got laid out with a mailbox or something. Rey Mysterio Jr. then dives off the railing of a trailer and is caught by Kevin Nash, who tosses him head-first into the trailer. As the Outsiders get back in the limo, The Macho Man jumps on the hood just as they’re driving off and tries to get some shots through the moon roof. Meanwhile, all the fallen wrestlers are being attended to, with Rey screaming that he saw a fourth guy in the limo. I thought this was well done. And the announcers did a great job of selling the angle too. It’s almost as if everybody actually broke character for this segment.
Sting and Lex Luger vs. The Outsiders: The NWO had Nick Patrick in their back pocket for this match. Patrick moved Hall out of the way of a Stinger splash, which led the Horsemen to come in the ring and chase off the Outsiders. I thought this was significant, because WCW finally started showing unity for the first time.
NWO takes over: I was a little surprised that Chris Benoit was used quite a bit on this DVD. It was a match between him and Sting, which the NWO interrupted yet again. This time, they set their sights on the Horsemen and actually broke out the spray paint for the first time, and got it in the eyes of Flair. I thought it was really cool that these guys were beating up heels too and trying to prove themselves as the only gang in the company.
“Sting” attacks Luger: A Lex Luger match turns ugly, as referee Nick Patrick lures Luger out to the parking lot where Ted Dibiase is seen talking to someone in a limo, who is off camera. Luger asks where Sting is. Suddenly, the limo door opens and a Sting look-a-like gets out and attacks Luger. I thought this was also well done. I remember seeing this as a kid and actually believing that it was Sting, so kudos to whoever came up with this idea, because it worked obviously. And it also served as the springboard for a huge storyline that would follow.
Sting walks out on Nitro: Coming off the heels of the previous week and the pay per view, where nobody trusted Sting, he was hurt that the company turned their backs on him. I liked that the announcers brought it to everyone’s attention that Sting was turning his back to the camera for the promo, which I thought was a great visual. He said he would make periodic appearances, but will never be the same.
Rowdy Roddy Piper confronts Eric Bischoff: This is the night of Bischoff’s heel turn. Piper basically called him out for being a liar. I thought Bischoff’s facial expressions were great here, but the actual heel turn was pretty weak. Piper ended up being attacked by the NWO, who all hugged Bischoff to signify the turn. I didn’t think there was enough drama here and it really just became another NWO segment.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Dean Malenko: I guess they had to get some current stars on this set. These two had a great match, as they usually did, but I was disappointed about the time limit draw as the finish. It only went ten minutes and really led to nothing. I don’t believe there was ever a rematch between these two.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Mark Starr:Mark who? After DDP put away the jobber with the diamond cutter, Hall and Nash came out and tried to recruit him in the NWO. It turned into a swerve, as DDP planted Hall with a diamond cutter. I guess the significance is that DDP was the only guy to have turned down the NWO.
Harvey Schiller suspends Eric Bischoff: I actually don’t remember this. Bischoff had apparently abused his power long enough for one of the higher ups to step in and suspend him. He had fired referee Randy Anderson and stripped the Steiner Brothers of the tag belts by this point. But once again, it really had no effect on the NWO’s success and wasn’t necessary.
Sting attacks the NWO: I’m not exactly sure why they chose this title for the segment, because Sting had nothing to do with it. The NWO interrupted a match between the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat. Luger and The Giant then came out for the save, causing the NWO to retreat. It was at that point that Sting lowered himself into the ring, which was pointless.
Syxx vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. for the Cruiserweight title: I always thought Sean Waltman was underrated. This was a great match, with another terrible finish. Kevin Nash stepped in behind the referee’s back and powerbombed Mysterio, leading to the victory for Syxx. They then attacked Rey after the match, which was stopped by JJ Dillon, who I believe was the commissioner at the time.
Hollywood Hogan vs. Lex Luger for the World Heavyweight Championship: I counted a total of five wrestling moves in this entire match. It was all brawling. Luger finally wins the title, despite the NWO’s interference and actually makes Hogan submit in the torture rack. This led to a big celebration, which was another great visual, but meant nothing after a week or so, as Hogan won the belt back at the next pay per view.
NWO mocks the Four Horsemen: This was not one of the finer moments in Nitro history. It was the NWO acting out a parody of Arn Anderson’s retirement the previous week. It was hard to watch at times. It wasn’t nearly the same as DX imitating the Nation, because they never made fun of anything serious. This was just lame.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Buff Bagwell: I don’t know what’s so significant about this match. I assume DDP must have agreed to host this set if they include a few of his matches. The match was average at best, but the finish was pretty cool. DDP basically hit the diamond cutter on Vincent and then did a tilt-a-whirl into another diamond cutter on Bagwell, which looked pretty good.
Sting saves DDP from the NWO: The match was DDP against Hogan. As DDP started mounting a comeback, the rest of the NWO came in and attacked him. Sting then entered through the crowd and took out the NWO by himself, with Hogan on the outside. He ended up dropping both Scott Hall and Curt Hennig with scorpion death drops, which was surprising, since the two of them were higher on the card then say Vincent or Scott Norton. This would eventually lead to Hogan vs. Sting at the upcoming Starrcade pay per view later that year.
Sting vs. The Macho Man Randy Savage: This wasn’t much of a match, but the main thing of note here is the post-match angle. Savage hits Sting with the top rope elbow drop, only to have Hogan come down and pry him off the pin to tease a feud there. That was broken up as both guys were attacked by Sting and Luger. I suppose any advancement in storyline was worth having on the set. This match was used to tease tension between the NWO.
Jericho’s 1,004 holds: This was great. Jericho was involved in a heated rivalry at the time with Dean Malenko, which was rare for two mid- to low-card guys to be involved in anything long term. Malenko was known as the man of 1,000 holds, so Jericho decided to one-up him, by reading his own list of holds, which ended at 1,004, although armdrag was on the list about 200 times.
Hollywood Hogan vs. Bill Goldberg for the World Championship: This was perhaps the most significant match in Nitro history, as they finally decided to let someone new run with the ball. Goldberg was on a hot streak with 173 wins and zero losses, so they decided to have him win the belt in the Georgia Dome that night. There were only two problems: a) it was not a pay per view, where they could have actually made some money off of it, and b) it wasn’t advertised. WCW always liked to pull out some surprises now and then. Sometimes they work, but on nights like this, there needs to be some promotion for this kind of match.
Kevin Nash and Sting vs. Scott Hall and The Giant for the World Tag Team Championships: In a very confusing set of circumstances, The Giant and Sting had defeated Hall and Nash to win the titles. But then both teams had a falling out and the champions had a singles match against each other, where the winner would be able to select a new partner to reign as tag champions with. So Sting and Nash were the defending champions here and were part of the NWO Wolfpac. Hall and The Giant win the titles after interference by another recent WCW acquisition Bret Hart, who really had nothing better to do, summing up his entire run in WCW. They had no idea what to do with him.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Chris Jericho: This was a decent match. I didn’t care for the finish, but I guess it was supposed to build to a pay per view match. Basically there was a ref bump and Mysterio cradled Jericho into a pinning combination. With the ref still down, Dean Malenko stepped in and made the count, declaring Mysterio the winner. Malenko was scheduled to be the guest referee for a Jericho match at the next pay per view. Make of that what you will.
Juventud Guerrera vs. Billy Kidman for the Cruiserweight Championship: I’m not so sure why this match was necessary to include in the set. Neither guy is on the current WWE roster, and it didn’t really further any top storyline. It was a good match, but these two have had much better against each other. Kidman won the title here with the shooting star press.
Ric Flair returns to the Four Horsemen: This was a very emotional segment, as Flair was coming off a suspension and it was basically the reuniting of the Horsemen. Although I wasn’t impressed with the last run of the Horsemen, it was an outstanding segment, which included elements of realism, due to the real-life feud between Flair and Bischoff.
Bret Hart vs. Diamond Dallas Page for the U.S. Championship: I thought this was a good match. But it was another one that could have been saved for a pay per view. There was another questionable title change though, and it almost seemed like the heel got screwed here, which I didn’t care for.
Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff: There was legitimate hatred between these two. The sad thing is that this is a rematch from the pay per view from the night before, with a much better finish. We also saw the return of Randy Savage who pulled a swerve on the NWO and actually led to Flair winning control of WCW, followed by a huge celebration. It was a great moment.
Kevin Nash vs. Hollywood Hogan for the World Championship: This was probably the most significant moment in Nitro history, and arguably the moment when they jumped the shark. It was scheduled to be Nash vs. Goldberg in a rematch from Starrcade, but Goldberg was arrested, as he was accused of stalking Ms. Elizabeth. So Hogan steps in as the substitute and it ends with what is now known as the “finger poke of doom.” This would lead to the merger of the NWO and Wolfpac, and it was also the night that Nitro finally lost a ratings night to Raw. Coincidence? Perhaps.
Goldberg spears the Hitman: Bret Hart calls out Goldberg in Toronto, saying that he can beat anybody in this company. Goldberg accepts the challenge with a spear, but it’s then revealed that Hart has a metal plate strapped under his Tie Domi jersey. I thought this made Goldberg look unbelievably bad. Hart then counts a victory for himself, before quitting the company in storyline.
Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page for the World Championship: This was a very good match, but an unnecessary title change, as Page ended up winning the belt back later that night. It just made both himself and Sting look like idiots and made the title look worse.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Juventud Guerrera: This was Eddie’s return to TV after the tragic car accident during the holiday season. It was a good match, but it was confusing as to who was the face and who was the heel.
Hollywood Hogan, Goldberg and Sting vs. Kevin Nash, Sid Vicious and Rick Steiner: This wasn’t much of a match, but the significance is that Hogan went back to wearing the traditional red and yellow, instead of the black and white that he had been wearing for the last three years.
Billy Kidman vs. Diamond Dallas Page: I’m not sure why this match was so important to put in the set. Kidman comes out to do an interview and Mean Gene asks him about the Nitro girls. He says DDP’s wife Kimberly is his favourite, but he means no disrespect to DDP or Kimberly. Of course, DDP takes that as disrespect, which sets up this match. And Kidman gets the upset victory here.
Bret Hart vs. Goldberg for the World Championship: This was another pay per view rematch that was given away on free TV. It was also the rebirth of the NWO version 3.0. This new group was made up of Jeff Jarrett, Bret Hart, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and eventually Scott Steiner. It didn’t last long due to Bret’s injuries, and by this point, the NWO angle had run its course anyway.
Kevin Nash vs. Sid Vicious for the World Championship: Chris Benoit had just one the World Title at the pay per view the night before, but he left soon after to the WWE. Sid Vicious won the title here, and business was not looking good.
The Bischoff and Russo era begins: This was really WCW’s last hope. Like most of Russo’s ideas, it started off well and looked like a good concept on paper. But they failed to build on their own momentum. This was the birth of the New Blood, which might have worked if it had been done years earlier. But at this point, the company was unsalvageable.
Jeff Jarrett vs. Diamond Dallas Page in a steel cage match for the World Championship: This was the top program at the time obviously. But I always hated when they had numerous people interfere in a main event match, before a winner is declared. And this was a steel cage match, but there were still people interfering, which defeated the whole purpose. Plus, it would be only two nights later that David Arquette would win the World Championship. The company was doomed.
3 Count vs. The Jung Dragons: There must have been at least ten matches between these two teams in the last year of Nitro, so I was kind of disappointed that this is the match they chose. For what it was, it was pretty good, but it only lasted about five minutes, with another ridiculous finish, which saw the Jung Dragons steal 3 Count’s platinum record.
Booker T vs. Lance Storm for the World Championship: This was an excellent match. These two really had great chemistry with each other. But once again, the match was overshadowed by the storylines. Jeff Jarrett administered a post-match beat down on Booker T, which led to a guitar being inadvertently smashed over the head of the large woman who accompanied Mike Awesome. And that would begin a feud between Jarrett and Awesome.
Triple Cage War Games for the World Championship: This match was insane. It was basically a three layer cage match involving multiple participants. To win the match, you had to get to the top layer and get the belt. Then you would have to work your way down. Believe it or not, Vince Russo was the defending champion in this match. Kevin Nash walked away with the belt, as Bret Hart prevented Goldberg from winning it. This match was beyond ridiculous.
Vince McMahon buys WCW: Well it was all over, and this promo really said it all. Vince won the war.
Sting vs. Ric Flair: I’m glad that they ended it with this match, instead of Vince’s promo. I don’t know if it was intended to end the set on a high note, or if they just wanted to keep it in sequence. Regardless, this was the best way to end it. It was the main event of the last Nitro, so why not? My only criticism is that I would have included Flair’s promo that opened this show, which would actually lead to this match. Out of his recent promos, it was one of his best.
They called this The Best of Nitro, which is somewhat questionable when they include the finger poke of doom and the Triple Cage War Games and stuff like that. All in all, I’d give it a 7 out of 10. It did have some significant shortcomings, but I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking to relive some classic moments.