Tuesday, December 30, 2014

WCW's Early Monday Nitro Era

Photo Credit: WDN
Thanks to WWE Network I've been able to go back and start watching WCW Monday Nitro from the very beginning.  The Early Nitro Era began when pro-wrestling didn't really have my full attention.  I kind of had an eye on it still, but it was during the one period in my life that I wasn't "fully engaged."  At some point I was exposed to Nitro in late-95 or early-96 though and it was off to the races again.

Anyhow, the point is that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching those early Nitros and several things have jumped out at me about them.

A lot of it simply has to do with the presentation of everything compared to the tired template we have today.  For example, a lot of the shows simply start with the commentary team welcoming us to the show, they briefly setup the action for the night and then they send you to the ring.  To me, that method should be used far more often on RAW as opposed to the standard 10-20 minute promo that typically has multiple interruptions and inevitably leads to some on-the-spot matchmaking for that night's show.

As it relates to authority figures, this was a transitional period for WCW I figure because you have Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel often mentioned in these shows.  What's interesting about that is that he hasn't been seen or heard from at all.  All we know about the commissioner's decisions is what is passed on to us by the commentary team and honestly it works really well.  For one, it gives you what feels like a truly neutral authority figure who again isn't going to ramble for 20 minutes to start every show.  Secondly, it establishes that there are actual honest-to-goodness rules an regulations in the promotion.  It also establishes the premise that there are people working behind the scenes that are in charge of making matches, determining contenders for titles, etc.  It eliminates a lot of the pointless talking we see so often in modern-day wrestling.

Another thing that strikes you is that Bischoff really was executing his plan flawlessly.  What plan?  He's providing a little something for everyone.  You've got the cruiserweights doing their thing before there's even a title (it is coming soon though according to Bischoff), you've got the corny Hogan/Dungeon of Doom stuff that appeals to the kids I guess(?!)*, you've got that less cartoonish stuff going on with Flair and the Horsemen, Sting, Luger, etc.  You've got a solid tag team division that doesn't feel like an afterthought.  The only things that I guess you could say aren't available at that time are extremely violent matches and women's wrestling.    Even some of the over-the-top stuff works to some degree.  Sister Sherri and Col. Robert Parker's love affair angle was undeniably corny as was Robert Fuller playing that role honestly, but they are talented enough to make it work in my opinion.  It should have been eye-rollingly awful, but they are so hammy and entertaining with it that it somehow works.  By and large though there is a good variety of things you will see on an early episode of Nitro.

In some ways the Early Nitro Era reminds me of today's WWE.  You've got a lot of quality action that is hampered by some of the goofiness at the top (John Cena).  If you could simply delete or ignore the painful Hulk Hogan vs Dungeon of Doom feud I'd say that WCW was a really solid promotion at the time and that's before The Outsiders arrived.  It's a shame that it was headlined by Hulk Hogan in a lot of ways.  It's also a shame that we know that Ric Flair and the Horsemen were minimized or that the cruiserweights ended up being kind of pigeon-holed. 

All-in-all, those early Nitros look a whole lot like what I think a wrestling promotion should look like. 

*My seven year old loves the Hogan/DoD stuff FWIW.  Not a huge sample size, but I could see how some of that was interesting to little Hulkamaniacs.

No comments:

Post a Comment