Ten things we loved/hated about ‘Nitro’
The frequently uttered “Anything can happen” tagline usually associated with a live sports entertainment broadcast never meant more than it did during the days of WCW.
The company embraced that ideology with mixed results.
WCW’s Monday night staple, “Nitro,” either revolutionized the industry with its week-to-week offerings or left fans’ heads shaking in disbelief. Critics and apologists often shared the same view on the now-defunct company: WCW threw its ideas out each week, without filtering the good from the bad.
Here’s some of what stuck and what didn’t:
10. Curt Hennig: The late WCW and WWE superstar always provided his share of entertaining routines, even if they weren’t intended. In the midst of a would-be serious promo, Hennig toppled over and crashed to the mat. The rest of the nWo barely flinched as Hennig rolled onto his belly, hopped back to his feet and finished his promo as if nothing happened.
9. “The Limo”: Before showing a limo pulling into the arena became passe, WCW actually turned this simple, behind-the-scenes act into a noteworthy occurrence. From Hulk Hogan and the nWo to an unexpected visitor — usually a WWE defector — the limo added a certain unpredictability that epitomized the early years of “Nitro.”
8. Celebrities (and moms) running wild: Toby Keith, KISS, Master P and David Arquette, who actually won the WCW world title, all showed up in one form or another on “Nitro,” giving fans a first glimpse of entertainment becoming more important than sport.
7. Competition: McMahon can brag all he wants about beating WCW, but Eric Bischoff deserves just as much credit. Bischoff and his underhanded tactics, namely raiding WWE’s roster for talent, ripped the complacent McMahon from his comfortable sports entertainment haven. In turn, McMahon developed a hip, edgy program, complete with an overhauled roster featuring future greats such as The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H, to compete with WCW.
6. The end result: Bischoff showed his lack of respect for Vince McMahon when the brash WCW executive vice president revealed the results of pre-taped “Raws” during live “Nitro” broadcasts. WCW featured “Nitro” live each Monday, while “Raw” had one live show per month, with the other three weeks being taped.
5. Cruiserweights: The cruiserweights flourished under the less-than-watchful eye of WCW. Bischoff brought the likes of Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Psicosis into the company to bulk up “Nitro,” while the lethargic main-event “big boys” used the first and last 10 or 15 minutes of the show to cut promos and participate in the money-drawing angles and storylines.
4. The announcing: Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael added absolutely nothing to the announce team. WCW transformed Gene Okerlund, the lovable, bald-headed announcing mogul, into a disgruntled foul-mouthed employee. The robotic Mike Tenay stared into the camera like a serial killer, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan didn’t really call the action as much as he did reinvent the “Announcer Scream:”
3. Hey you, can you wrestle?: WCW, much like today’s WWE, had a knack for finding talentless guys and throwing them on TV way before they were ready. Names like Tyson Tomko, Mordecai and Kenzo Suzuki come to mind. Sorry, wrong company.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, WCW head of security Doug Dillenger wouldn’t allow veteran Mikey Whipwreck, who signed with WCW from ECW, into the building because he thought he was a fan.
2. Remembering Spicolli: His 10-bell salute lasted for only three gongs, followed by a loud crashing noise. Then, the always in-character Zbyszko, who was feuding with Spicolli at the time, proceeded to insult the fallen superstar.
1. Attention to detail — or lackthereof : Kevin Nash once got hit by a Hummer while sitting in his limo. The “Who’s Driving the Hummer?” caper, touted as one of WCW’s bigger storylines, pointed the finger at different culprits, one of which was Nash. If you’re asking how Nash could have been driving the Hummer that smashed into his limo, then you’re already smarter than WCW’s creative team.