Remembering the 20 Greatest Moments in the History of WCW Monday Nitro
When fans tuned into WCW Monday Nitro, they knew to expect just about anything, from major title changes to wrestlers from the rival company showing up to hilarity courtesy of Chris Jericho.
The show not only opposed WWE Raw every Monday but at times dominated it in terms of ratings. Memories of the late '90s are flooding back thanks to WWE Network broadcasting The Monday Night War, a series on WCW and WWE's battle for audience attention.
One thinks back to Sting with a baseball bat in hand, The Four Horseman's reformation and Goldberg's biggest win.
The following is a chronological look back at the greatest moments in Nitro history. The most emotionally moving, memorable and history-making highlights made the list.
These are the times when Nitro made most fans' jaws drop or burned a memory into their brain.
- Oct. 21, 1996-Sting's first appearance with black-and-white face paint
- Jan. 13, 1997-Diamond Dallas Page teases joining nWo
- Aug. 17, 1998-Ultimate Warrior debuts on Nitro
Sting provided a succession of attention-grabbing moments. His transformation into a darker, black-clad character was the ideal way to oppose the nWo's tyranny.
The first time he stormed into the ring with this new look had fans slide to the edge of their seat. His other highlights made the list proper, though, because they were even more dynamic.
DDP putting on a nWo T-shirt, only to floor Scott Hall with a Diamond Cutter, was a fun, crowd-pleasing scene.
It looked to be one of the many times a hero would succumb to the villainous group but instead became a memorable act of rebellion. Other nWo-centered moments stuck in fans' minds even more, though.
Nitro was also home to a litany of surprise debuts. The Ultimate Warrior was one of the bigger stars to show up on the show.
His showdown with Hulk Hogan just missed the top 20 thanks to some overacting and how short-lived Warrior's momentum was following this. Had it had more of an effect on WCW history, it would push aside one of the following highlights.
Lex Luger Appears on First Episode
Sept. 4, 1995
WCW took a major swing at WWE during the very first Nitro.
Lex Luger, who had appeared for the rival company just hours prior, popped in as Sting and Ric Flair battled. Fans were unsure what he was doing there or if he still worked for WWE.
No one saw Luger's appearance coming.
As Bobby Melok wrote on WWE.com, "After a series of clandestine meetings, Bischoff and Luger agreed on a deal to bring The Total Package back to WCW." The secretive nature of the deal paid off. Nitro's first episode delivered one of the biggest surprises in wrestling history.
That set the tone for what Nitro was to become: a home to the unexpected and a place that increasingly featured some of wrestling's biggest names.
Madusa Dumps WWE Women's Championship
Dec. 18, 1995
Madusa (Alundra Blayze) was one of many WWE defectors to appear on Nitro. To the surprise of the fans watching at home, she came bearing the WWE Women's Championship.
The two companies often existed in two parallel worlds, but in this case, they overlapped, a WWE titleholder appearing for WCW.
She dropped that title into a trash can, denouncing it, her WWE name and WWE itself. Madusa's dramatic entrance was a stiff right hand to the company she no longer worked for. A wrestler was telling the audience that the WWE women's belt was worthless, and WCW was "where the big girls play."
The visual of that championship plopping into the wastebasket is an enduring image, one of the most famous early shots fired in the Monday Night War.
Scott Hall Shows Up on Nitro
May 27, 1996
A wrestler changing teams was the catalyst to the biggest angle in wrestling history, the foundation for what WCW would soon build.
Much like Lex Luger, Scott Hall appeared unannounced in street clothes on Nitro. Unlike Luger, though, Hall didn't passively watch the action with his arms crossed. Hall dissed WWE and talked of starting a war.
His appearance alone would have had the audience buzzing, but what he was hinting at completely ensnared the fans. WCW portrayed his arrival as an invasion, implying that he was in business for himself, a renegade forcing his way onto the airwaves.
It was a precursor to the nWo's formation, a seed planted that had fans watching and waiting for it to grow.
The Outsiders Attack
July 29, 1996
Once Scott Hall and Kevin Nash joined forces, WCW did well to portray them as dangerous outsiders.
During a tag team match, Hall and Nash ambushed a number of WCW stars backstage. They left a line of fallen, writhing men. Once the cameras finally caught them in action, fans saw Nash drill Rey Mysterio into the side of a trailer.
These weren't just WWE's castoffs—these were badasses threatening to tear WCW apart.
Mysterio's crash was memorable enough, but the whole scene and the chaotic energy it cooked up made the following week and beyond must-watch television. WCW was building around a destructive force. That force was compelling from the onset.
Sting Is a Free Agent
Sept. 16, 1996
Sting exited in memorable fashion.
Caught in the struggle between WCW and the nWo, Sting claimed he was a free agent. He spoke with his back turned to the camera, a new edge to his voice.
This was a more aggressive version of the babyface fans had come to know. His tone made it sound as if he was slipping into a shoot at times.
When he said he would just be "popping in from time to time," fans had to wonder what was next for him. Was a major star going on hiatus? Was this somehow a tease of him joining the nWo?
The uncertainty that he left behind and the passion in his voice made for a lasting, powerful moment. Little did the audience know a transformation was coming for The Stinger.
Eric Bischoff Joins NWO
Nov. 18, 1996
The nWo grew from a trio to an army. It felt as if the group was swallowing WCW. That feeling intensified when Eric Bischoff joined.
He was the corporate face of WCW, the man struggling to push back the tide of the black-clad invaders. Then he became one of them.
That moment made it seem that no one was immune to the nWo. It made it feel as if chaos was overtaking the company, that evil would win out.
The helplessness of the cause of fighting them off was mighty powerful. Fans kept waiting for a hero to show up, for someone to be able to cut down this growing beast.
Sting Comes Down from the Rafters
Jan. 20, 1997
The hero that fans waited for arrived, gliding down from the ceiling. Sting's first trip from the rafters to the ring made fans pay attention.
Randy Savage had taken Nitro hostage. He refused to leave the ring. Caught in between WCW and nWo, he was being pushed out of the spotlight.
An ally soon arrived.
Sting strode down from the sky, baseball bat in hand, and left with Savage in tow. WCW didn't build enough on this partnership, but few fans will forget seeing Sting morph into a superhero live on TV.
Diamond Dallas Page as La Parka
July 7, 1997
WCW knew how to toy with expectations.
When seeing Randy Savage and La Parka go head-to-head, most fans would assume that the former would dominate the latter in a short match. When La Parka gave Savage a bigger battle than one would have thought, fans' curiosity had to be piqued.
After hitting a Diamond Cutter, Diamond Dallas Page tore off his mask.
Page and Savage had long been entrenched in an intense rivalry. Donning La Parka's gear had allowed him to sneak into battle and outsmart The Macho Man.
The crowd howled in approval at the unmasking, having witnessed one of the best surprises Nitro ever offered.
Lex Luger Defeats Hollywood Hogan
Aug. 4, 1997
Air horns blaring, trash strewn about him in the ring, Lex Luger lifted the WCW world title with joy beaming from his face. A hero had torn through the barbarians and taken back the WCW crown.
Emotion powered this impromptu title match from bell to bell.
Hollywood Hogan represented the dominant, unyielding group that had WCW in a stranglehold. Luger not only had to defeat him but had to fight off nWo's other soldiers flying at him. Somehow, he cleared the ring long enough to force Hogan to tap out.
The crowd erupted for this victory, celebrating a WCW star reclaiming the WCW belt in the name of good. That kind of triumph is one that stays with the viewer forever.
NWO Parody the Four Horsemen
Sept. 1, 1997
On par with D-Generation X's mockery of The Nation of Domination, nWo ripped The Four Horsemen in a memorable skit.
Buff Bagwell as Curt Hennig and Konnan as Steve McMichael were both funny, but it was Kevin Nash's send-up of Arn Anderson that made this such a classic moment. Nash made fun of Anderson's gut, workout habits and win-loss record.
The segment didn't go unnoticed by the men who inspired it. Mike Mooneyham of The Post and Courier wrote that Ric Flair and Anderson "were irate following the parody."
It may have done little for backstage relations, but the segment certainly had fans rolling. Nash's comic timing isn't one of the first things folks associate him with, but he showed off that skill in spades on this night.
Sting Saves the Giant
Sept. 29, 1997
As overcrowded and messy as the nWo angle got at times, it still delivered some of the most thrilling moments in WCW history. That team running over foes made it all the more satisfying to see someone thwart them.
That role often went to Sting.
After The Giant (Big Show) fell victim to an nWo ambush, the trenchcoat-wearing ass-kicker soon showed up. Sting cutting down these heels like he was some action hero was one of Nitro's most compelling elements.
You will not often hear a crowd grow so charged up as when Sting dropped his baseball bat and started punching anything that was within striking range.
Rick Rude Appears on Raw and Nitro on the Same Night
Nov. 17, 1997
WCW not only snagged a talented grappler in Rick Rude, but it did so in a way to take a jab at Raw being taped.
When Raw went on air, Rick Rude appeared with a full beard, working with D-Generation X. That same night, Rude stepped in front of the cameras for a live Nitro. Rude made reference to The Montreal Screwjob and called WWE a "Titanic."
His unrestrained anti-WWE statements made this a powerful moment.
It was one of many instances of WCW snatching up WWE talent and doing it in surprising fashion. One watched Nitro not knowing who to expect, wondering if another big name was going to jump ship.
Man of 1,004 Holds
March 30, 1998
Chris Jericho made sure people were paying attention to him, even if he wasn't involved in the prominent nWo storyline or wasn't one of WCW's centerpieces.
During his feud with Dean Malenko, he produced some of the funniest moments in Nitro history. One of those came after he had bested Marty Jannetty. Jericho claimed he knew 1,004 holds, four more than "The Man of 1,000 Holds."
Reading from a computer printout that hung at his feet, Jericho listed as many of those moves as he could while the camera was on him.
It remains one of Jericho's best promos, one fans still quote today. It embodied the randomness that made Nitro so fun. The undercard was often the heart of the show with both cruiserweight matches and Jericho's attempts to get over.
Chris Jericho, Conspiracy Victim
June 1, 1998
Another hit came out of the Dean Malenko vs. Chris Jericho feud just a few months after the famous "1,004 holds" promo.
Jericho was furious after losing the cruiserweight belt to Malenko. At Slamboree 1998, he took on the winner of a Battle Royal. He believed he was fighting Ciclope, but it was instead his archenemy under a mask.
To fight the unfair (in his mind) way he lost the title, Jericho went to Washington D.C. to protest the conspiracy against him.
The result was the goofy and endearing Jericho walking around the capital talking to security guards and whoever would listen to him. The segment clicked. It elevated Jericho's whiny character and provided one of Nitro's most entertaining stretches.
Goldberg Wins World Title
July 6, 1998
Yes, it should have happened on a pay-per-view, but Goldberg dethroning Hulk Hogan remains one of the biggest, most compelling matches to occur on either Nitro or Raw.
The unstoppable Goldberg met the leader of the powerful nWo. Goldberg's undefeated streak and Hogan's world title were both on the line, and fans waited to see what would give here.
It was an anticipated matchup that had fans on fire from the beginning.
In an obsessive pursuit of ratings, WCW broadcast this match on TV rather than getting folks to pay for it. It was bad for business but great for fans.
As Wade Keller reported for the Pro Wrestling Torch, "a record WCW crowd of 36,506" saw the match inside the Georgia Dome. That electric crowd only added to the dramatic pull of the match, one featuring a rising star conquering a legend.
Four Horsemen Reformation
Sept. 14, 1998
Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko joined a new version of pro wrestling's most famous quartet, The Four Horsemen.
Ric Flair had been away, battling Eric Bischoff in the courtroom. He returned in Greensville, North Carolina, which is undoubtedly Flair Country. The audience went nuts for the legend, and Flair responded with tears and pure emotion once he grabbed the mic.
Flair and Arn Anderson took in the up-and-comers in an attempt to continue The Four Horsemen legacy and take on Bischoff. This was a true passing-of-the-torch moment, Benoit and Malenko getting anointed by two Hall of Famers.
The emotionally charged scene remains a highlight for Nitro, even if WCW didn't make the most of the faction's reformation afterward.
Ric Flair Goes Nuts on Eric Bischoff
Dec. 28, 1998
Ric Flair could generate on-screen animosity for anyone. Against Eric Bischoff, who had disrespected and underused him during Bischoff's time as WCW's head, the rage came easy.
The Nature Boy riled up the crowd by ripping off his clothes in the ring and calling Bischoff a "jackass." He challenged his boss in as spastic and frenzied a way possible.
He set up a stipulation where if he lost against Bischoff, he would give him all his money, but Flair would be in charge of WCW if he won. That challenge would have been a memorable moment done in regular fashion, but having a nutty Flair threatening to strip naked amplified it.
Bret Hart Outsmarts Goldberg
March 29, 1999
Bret Hart slayed a beast in 1999. Just before he went on hiatus, he cut one of the best promos of his career in front of an electric Toronto audience.
Hart called out just about everyone in WCW but focused on Goldberg, and Hart's mocking drew the former NFL player to the ring. A steel plate hidden under The Hitman's chest knocked Goldberg out.
Goldberg lying lifeless atop Hart after hitting a spear was stunning. This was the most dominant force in the company. Goliath was face down.
When Hart revealed his secret weapon, the crowd erupted. It was one of Hart's few highlights during his WCW run, a smart way to book him as a cunning warrior.
Owen Hart Tribute Match
Oct. 4, 1999
Bret Hart honored his fallen brother, and Chris Benoit did the same for a longtime friend.
As a tribute to the late Owen Hart, Benoit and Bret battled on Nitro. Owen had died that May in a tragic accident while wrestling for WWE, which Bret recalled on his website.
Pitting these two men so connected with Owen against each other created a touching moment in Owen's honor. It was more than a match; it was a salute to a lost member of the family.
As one would expect, the two mat technicians put on a fine show. It was Bret's best WCW match and one of the few Nitro bouts that inspired tears.
Ric Flair and Sting Once More
March 26, 2001
The Monday Night War ended when Vince McMahon bought WCW in 2001. Fans couldn't be sure how things would unfold but had to know that the business was set to change forever.
Before the curtain closed for the last time, Sting and Ric Flair collided in the last-ever match on Nitro.
It wasn't their finest work, but nothing could have been more fitting. The two men had been WCW's cornerstones for so long. It was only right to let the foes who battled in the first-ever Nitro cap off the very last one.
It was an emotional match due to the uncertainty around it. Would this be Flair's last match ever? Would Sting go to WWE?
The surreal, subdued energy that surrounded this bout is a drastic contrast to Nitro during its heyday, but few will forget Sting and Flair embracing in the ring after their showdown. It is one of Nitro's most enduring images, as permanently embedded in fans' minds as Goldberg's title win or Scott Hall's invasion.