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Welcome to the first-ever Retro Recapitation! In this experiment, I dust off an old VHS tape and see what wrestling’s biggest shows from the past have to teach us in the present.

Before we get going, I should set the stage with all the relevant historical information on the epic Monday Night War:

Vince won.

Panama City Beach, FL
Aired live on TNT, 3/26/01

Backstage at Raw (in Cleveland, OH) Vince McMahon opened the show gloating about how he purchased WCW. The fate of WCW “is in my hands,” he ominously crowed. He vowed that all would be revealed on the first-ever Nitro/Raw simulcast later in the evening. On a Surreal Scale from 1-10, this was a 27.

The horrid late-2000 open for Nitro aired one last time. Tony Schiavone welcomed us a “landmark” night for the sports entertainment. Schiavone and Scott Hudson were at the broadcast table and Tony, in particular, looked like someone had slipped a turd in his double-decker taco supreme. Well, given the fact that Tony was none too popular with the slew of WWF staff that was backstage all day, that may be more than just a figure of speech.

The show was called both “A Night Of Champions” (because all the WCW gold was on the line) and “Spring Breakout 2001” (because it was their annual outdoor show complete with swimming pool set).

Ric Flair walked out to a huge pop and I’d give half of my uncensored Gail Kim pics to know what was really going through that man’s mind at that moment. Flair rattled off a list of past WCW greats…and Buff Bagwell. The hell? Flair said that at “12:00 today,” someone special to him told him not to go out on that show, knowing he would be on TNT for the last time. Flair put over his 14 World Titles and called WCW “the greatest wrestling organization in the world.” Flair talked about how WCW was “on a par with any wrestling organization in the world” thanks to the Horsemen, the Steiners, the Road Warriors, and “the Stings?” Well, there was also NWO Sting, so why not? By the end, he was a better worker than both Steiners, that’s for damn sure. Flair said they ran neck-and-neck with Vince McMahon for years, and pointed out that when Vince Sr. was on the old NWA Board Of Directors, he voted for Flair to be the World champion. Line of the night. A fan in a La Parka mask held up a sign that said “McMahon is Satan.” Just perfect. Flair said it was never about the boys; it was always WWF vs. WCW. Flair talked about the wrestling lifestyle as only he can, and vowed that Vince can’t control them (the boys) or their futures. In closing, Flair said that his “greatest opponent” over the years in WCW was Sting, so to go out on a high note, Flair wanted one more match with Sting. Flair told Sting it was his last chance to be the man. A goosebump-inducing promo that ranks right up there with the best of ‘em. Whether you loved or hated WCW, this was an emotional night for wrestling fans, and if you couldn’t appreciate the weight of Flair’s words at that moment, then I feel sorry for you.

Some people were actually mad that Flair put over Sting as his “greatest opponent,” feeling that he shortchanged Rick Steamboat. Usually, I’M the one kvetching about historical minutia like that, but this time and this time only, gimmie a fucking break. Flair was doing what Flair does best, and that’s put over his match. Should Flair have called Sting his “SECOND-greatest opponent ever”? The fact of the matter is that it didn’t get any more WCW than Flair vs. Sting, which was always something of a fallback feud over the years for WCW. They’d teamed together, fought each other, and traded a lot of gold over the years. In fact, Flair vs. Sting was one of the marquee matches for the very first Nitro, back on 9/4/95, so tonight really was coming full circle for them, if not the fans. I’d even go as far as to say that these were the two most popular wrestlers in the history of the promotion. Face it, Flair vs. Sting was the best (and I’d even say, the ONLY) possible main event for the final WCW television program ever.

As they panned the crowd, a crude fan sign taunted, “VINCE, 1ST XFL, NOW WCW, YOU’RE A DUMBASS.” I’m pretty sure the director knew he wasn’t Stamford-bound, so he chose to get in his licks where he could.

1) U.S. champion Booker T pinned Scott Steiner (w/ Midajah) in a title vs. title match to keep the U.S. Title and regain the World Title at 5:08.
All joking aside, Vince’s purchase of WCW was finalized literally days before the show took place, and before the last “i” was dotted, many of the wrestlers and crew figured they’d be officially unemployed come 3/27/01. To wit, Steiner’s website floated a rumor that Big Popeye Pump “might just forget what’s supposed to happen” in his match, insinuating that he would shoot on Booker and run off with the World Title, or somesuch. Didn’t happen. This was a surprisingly fast-paced match, seeing as how Steiner’s mobility was limited due to a major foot problem. Hudson said that there were 31 various WCW title reigns between these two over the years, spanning the World, U.S., TV, and Tag championships. Hot finishing sequence saw Steiner counter an attempted Bookend into a northern-lights suplex for a nearfall, then as Steiner went for a powerbomb, Book jumped clear and hit the Bookend for a clean pin. Good, heated match. Kinda strange that they wanted to get the advertised title vs. title main event out of the way first. I found it fitting that Booker was the last World champion of the Turner network, if only because he was one of the few guys left who was not only a home-grown talent, but consistently improved over the years to where he earned every bit of his success. (David)

Trivbit: Scott Steiner was the only wrestler to compete on both the last Nitro and the first Raw, where he and Rick squashed a masked jobber team called “The Executioners” (1/11/93).

The first of many segments aired with Vince in his office backstage at the live Raw. Vince was on the phone with his lawyer running down WCW’s last show being aired in a “drunken redneck bar on the panhandle.”

2) Rey Misterio Jr. & Billy Kidman won a sudden-death three-way over Two Count (Shannon Moore & Evan Karagis) and The Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi & Yang) to earn a shot at the CW Tag Title later in the show at approximately 3:36 (no opening bell).
Ever see six careers’ worth of highspots packed into a three-minute match? Tony put over Kaz’s “Back Leg Front Kick,” which broke up Moore’s sunset flip on Kidman. Well, it took them five years, but with literally minutes to go before the promotion closed, they finally named Kidman’s shooting star to the floor (the “Kidmankaze”). Here’s a blow-by-blow account of the last two minutes: Spot, pin attempt, save, spot, pin attempt, save, spot, pin attempt, save, spot, pin attempt, save, spot, pin attempt, save. Rey-Rey finally pinned Moore with a guillotine legdrop. Fun, but too schizophrenic to fully keep track of and enjoy. My guess is that all the guys wanted to get in all their stuff, not knowing if they’d ever make it back to basic cable. (David)

Trish Stratus brought Vince some champagne to celebrate. Vince ravished her, throwing the bottle to the carpet, where its contents gushed out. You can’t tell me that this wasn’t one of those planned Vince double-entendres. WCW employees didn’t know if they were going to be on the breadline the next day, while he let champagne go to waste on the floor. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned, but for today, it’s close enough.

3) CW champion “Sugar” Shane Helms pinned Chavo Guerrero Jr. to retain the title at 4:40.
The surviving (read: less important) Nitro Girls were Shane’s dancers, the Sugar Babies. They aired clips from previous PPVs, showing the lads trading victories. All the emphasis was that tonight’s match would once and for all determine who was the better man. I swear, I thought this was going to have a double-DQ finish. I really, really did. Finish saw the guys dance well until Helms got the pin after finally hitting his sweet “vertebreaker” finisher that the WWF made him stop doing. Another great little fast-paced match amongst the chaos of the night (notice a pattern yet?). It’s kinda funny that out of all the WCW guys who were immediately scooped up by the WWF, these two made it big better than any of their WCW peers, and still have jobs today. And this was the Cruiserweight Title match, to boot. How’s that for irony? Throughout the entire Monday Night War, the one and only thing that WCW always did consistently better than the WWF was their showcasing of the cruisers. (David)

Not to be outdone in the emotional promo department, a contemplative Booker T said he had mixed feelings as he was both the World champion and U.S. champion, yet it was the closing of WCW. Book said this was the end of one chapter, but there were many more to come as he continued to prove that he was the best wrestler in the world. You could tell that tonight got to the Bookerman as much as anyone. Told ya he was a great pick for Nitro’s last World champion.

Almost as an unintentional counterbalance to Book’s earnest words, Lance Storm came out in character and demanded fans rise for the Canadian National Anthem. Well, the final WCW show was still a WCW show, after all.

Back on Raw, Michael Cole interrupted the Vince-Trish snugglefest. COCK BLOCK~! Cole asked Vince what would become of fans who were worried that they would never see “their brand of sports entertainment again,” or for that matter, “WCW competitors who don’t know if they’ll ever get the chance to compete again.” Vince understandably blew up at Cole, which understandably turned Trish into a quivering mound of silicone.

Back at the Nitro broadcast table, Tony slowly disintegrated before our very eyes. His big meltdown is coming up shortly…

4) World Tag champions Chuck Palumbo & Sean O’Haire beat Lance Storm & Mike Awesome to retain the title at 3:21.
All four worked hard for yet another good high-octane match. Finish saw the future Mrs. Billy Gunn escape the Awesome bomb and hit the jungle kick, which set up SOH’s Seanton bomb for the pin. (David)

5) Shawn Stasiak (w/ Stacy Keibler) pinned Bam Bam Bigelow in a “tattoo match” at 1:24.
Stip was that if Stasiak lost the match, he would be forced to get a tattoo. Strangely enough, I wasn’t paralyzed with sentimentality over watching the final stupid WCW stip match that no one wanted to see in the first place. Stacy intro’ed SS to the ring, doing the world’s worst Tammy Sytch impression. Tammy would later get revenge by consuming several Stacy-sized sandwiches (Subway sells ‘em three-for-$12 on weekends!). Bam hit the diving headbutt 50 seconds in, but Stacy distracted the ref. BBB picked up SS for his “Greetings From Asbury Park” finisher, but Stacy helped SS escape, allowing him to hit a terrible neckbreaker for the pin. Schiavone was indignant that tonight, on the final Nitro, a man was not going to get tattooed against his will. All the signs were there that Tony was cracking, I tell you. Even for a 90-second match, this was horrendous. Only truly bad match of the night, though. Like it sucked up the “suck” from everything else for the evening. (kevin)

Over on Raw (well, you know what I mean) then-WWF Commissioner William Regal went to Vince with his apprehension about the WCW purchase. Regal’s diatribe (which he delivered beautifully) turned out to be arguably the most controversial part of the whole show.

"I’ve heard you’re buying WCW. Are you sure you want to do that? I know quite a lot about that place. It’s a bloody awful place. The nonsense that goes on there is unbelievable. I mean, I don’t want to second guess you, but are you really sure? I mean, it leaves rather a stench in the air. As much as I think of you, I wouldn’t want you to get in any trouble above yourself or anything."

Vince thanked Regal for his concern, but assured him that he was “on crack.” Or maybe he said, “On the case.” History soon revealed the true answer.

A promo from “earlier today” aired, with DDP waxing nostalgic about the long, strange, ride that was WCW. DDP thanked everyone for letting “a kid from the Jersey shore become Diamond Dallas Page.” DDP continued, “it’s not really the promoters who decide who’s over; it’s the fans.” Interesting comment from a guy who got his big break because he was tight with Dusty Rhodes, then got his career push because he was Eric Bischoff’s neighbor and buddy. DDP thanked the WCW fans and his then-wife, Kimberly, concluding that the dream wasn’t over yet.

A video feature aired focusing on the turkey plate, showing clips of all the great legendary WCW World champions. Somehow, Kevin Nash snuck in there, too. From Thesz to Dusty to Flair to Sting to Vader to Bret to Booker, this thing reached David Sahadi levels of awesomeness, but it was way too short. Before they went to commercial, Tony managed to sneak in, “Champions never die.”

Vince said it was “just about that time,” so he hung up the phone and picked up his sports jacket. I don’t think he meant “Time for Tony Schiavone’s career-ending public meltdown,” but dammit if that isn’t what happened as the next match started. Here’s the gospel from Mr. S:

"You know, I don’t want to sit here and – and as a person who has been on Monday Nitro for many years – take issue with anything anyone said. Mr. McMahon, it’s – it’s his money. He can do whatever he wants. He can – And I don’t know what he’s going to do tonight. But let me say this: To sit here and listen to their Commissioner rip WCW? Come on. I mean, we’ve had to do some crazy things, STEVE Regal, including put your ass over on TV!"

From there, Hudson tried to literally make the save for his broadcast partner, begging that they call the match with “four guys that we’re gonna build the future of wrestling around in the ring right now. Give them their just due.”

Tony ran with the ball, or more to the point, the Fisher Price dig-your-own-grave play shovel, pointing out that the match was “an example of what we do better than anybody in the world, and that is the cruiserweight division!” The next few seconds of Tonyspeak were muted out, as his mic was briefly turned off. As Tony got back to business, a fan sign helpfully suggested, “BISCHOFF, SUBWAY IS HIRING.” The timing couldn’t have been better.

6) Misterio & Kidman beat “Primetime” Elix Skipper & Kid Romeo to win the CW Tag Title at 4:43.
Best match yet, as it had all the highspots we’ve come to expect from the night, yet the lads actually took a little time to set up their stuff, and you know, SELL. Finish saw Kidman escape PT’s “play of the day” finisher, and hit his own “Kid crusher” finisher for the pin. Trivbit: Rey & BK are the only team in WCW history to have been both World Tag champions and CW Tag champions. Granted, these two teams were the only CW Tag champs in WCW history as PT & Romeo won a tourney to crown the inaugural CW champs at the Greed PPV eight days earlier, but still…trivia is trivia. (David)

For old time’s sake, Sting cut one last short energetic promo from a room with black baseball bats hanging from the ceiling. Sting hit his more memorable catchphrases in the allotted time, and pointed out that he and Flair started “this thing” years ago, and tonight, they’re going to finish it once and for all. Another irony: That’s a clichéd line for a wrestling promo, but tonight it was 100% true. You could FEEL the minutes ticking down on WCW at this point. Even now, it hurts just to type those words.

Vince power-walked to the Raw ring, almost paralleling Ric Flair’s final walk to a WCW ring for the main event.

7) Sting beat Ric Flair by submission in WCW’s final match at 7:17.
During intros, Tony did an amazing job summing up what both the “Nature Boy” and the “Stinger” meant to WCW, and vice versa. “This is one for all the fans who loved WCW over all the years!” Testify, Tony. Hudson followed it up by pointing out that Sting was the one who never jumped to the WWF when it was “en vogue.” (Meaning when, exactly? The 1900s?) Hudson’s cred folded about 20 minutes before WCW itself, as he said Sting was “a Horseman for so many years.” Sting’s cup of coffee with the 4H lasted for maybe four months from late-1989 to early-1990. Flair wrestled wearing a Nitro t-shirt. The guys did all their classic spots and the psychology was right there where they left it. Flair briefly took over with a low blow, prompting a chant of “Stinger.” Sting officially started his comeback after – you guessed it – reversing a figure-four. After all these years, Flair’s chops still have no effect on Sting. Personally, I could have cracked up had he sold the last one like he was dead. Finish saw Sting superplex Flair to set up for the scorpion deathlock. Flair submitted clean, straightaway. Schiavone ironically screamed, “It’s over! It’s over!” After the bell, Sting helped Naitch to his feet and the guys hugged and shook hands. Hudson got his cred back by putting over how Flair made Sting at the first Clash Of Champions, and thanked them both for the memories. I couldn’t have put it better myself. As curtain calls go, this one was more than appropriate for WCW. The announcing, heat, and significance of the match bumps it up a notch. (Kerry)

They crudely cut away to Raw as Vince made Lilian Garcia re-introduce him in a clever spot (McMahon had a minute to kill after a timing miscue). Seeing the WWF logo in one corner of the screen and the WCW Nitro logo in the other corner of the screen was about a six-billion on the Surreal Scale of 1 – 10. Vince tried to get over the enormity of the first-ever simulcast, but screwed the pooch out of the gate by saying this simulcast was also airing on “TNN – Turner Network Television.”

Vince bragged that Time Warner practically “begged him” to take WCW off their hands. Not 100% true, but close enough. Vince demanded that Ted Turner walk down to his ring in six days at WM17 and sign over WCW to him personally. Wishful thinking on the part of Vince Caesar The First. Vince proceeded to put over his WM17 streetfight against Shane McMahon. (In all fairness to Vince, he was seriously overworked this week. In addition to tonight, his biggest – and best – Wrestlemania ever was set to air six days later, on 4/1/01.)

Vince then took a Scott Hall-style survey about just what he should do with his new toy. He teased that he was going to put WCW on the shelf and sit on their video library. Don’t worry, though, it was just a worked promo in his heel charac – Yeah, yeah, we all shoulda known then. Vince engaged the crowd in a game of “Pop Association” with a list of names from Dubya-See-Dubya.

Hulk Hogan = Surprisingly loud boos
Lex Luger = Unsurprisingly loud boos
Buff Bagwell = Surprising pop (Kiss my ass, Cleveland)
Booker T = Mixed reaction
Big Poppa Pump = Big Popping Pump
Sting = Another mixed reaction
Goldberg = Biggest pop of them all

Vince felt that he HAD to include Goldberg because fans started chanting “Goldberg” halfway through this thing. Vince continued his thinking-out-loud promo, talking about WCW’s last show being in a “beer hall,” and threatened that he almost went down to Nitro himself just so he could tell each and every WCW employee, “YERRRRRRR FIRRRRRRRRRED!!”

Vince vowed to bury WCW, “just like anyone in the world who gets in my way!” Fans started chanting “asshole,” causing Vince to throw a hilarious in-character tantrum. Shane’s music (which at the time, was also Vince’s music) hit, and Shane-O-Mac walked to the Nitro ring in Florida. Shane’s audio was on a delay at first, but they quickly switched feeds so Shane’s words caught up with his mouth. In the best promo of Shane’s career, he revealed that because Vince and his ego wanted to hold off “finalizing the deal” until WM17, it allowed Shane to sneak in and steal WCW away from his old man. So now Shane officially owns WCW, and Shane vowed that WCW would kick Vince’s ass all over again, just like Shane himself would in six days at WM17. This was a great angle that had me marking out huge and wondering where they would go with this bold new concept.

Now remember, all of this was airing on TNT. The Nitro copyright appeared for the last time as Raw announcers Jim Ross and Paul Heyman were going nuts, selling the Vince-Shane angle as if we’d just witnessed the beginning of the next chapter in the WWF vs. WCW war. They threw to commercial with a plug for Raw’s “slobberknocker” main event (Rock & Steve Austin vs. Undertaker & Kane), followed by a quickie commercial for WM17.

And that was it.

Overall over-analysis: Lex Luger returns. Scott Hall invades. Misterio vs. Malenko. How will DDP hit the diamond cutter this week? The Giant’s promos with the WCW World Title slung over his shoulder. Sting tells the fans to “stick it.” Diamond Dallas Parka. Jacqueline’s oufits. The NWO's Horsemen spoof. Rick Rude pulls a double-shift. Booker T’s first TV Title win. “Apologize to Grandma!” Jericho vs. Malenko. Goldberg beats Hogan. The Dancing Fools. Saturn frees the Flock. Kidman vs. Juventud. Ric Flair returns to the heart of Horsemen Country. The big wiggle. Bret and Benoit pay homage to Owen in the best way possible. Who betta than Kanyon? Goldberg spears Bret’s metal chestplate. Lance Storm is a gold magnet. The locker room gives a standing O to new U.S. champion Hugh Morrus. Mark Madden and The Cat snipe at each other. Cruiserweights. Luchadores. Japanese wrestlers. Nitro Girl nipple slips. Racing home from work to catch the live show, then watching the replay, too.

Say what you want about WCW, Ted Turner, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Kevin Sullivan, Vince Russo and all the other fools. For myself and millions of others, 1995 was the year that we had to memorize which channel was TNT on our cable/satellite providers. Without Nitro, there would not have been the wrestling boom of the late 90s. At its best, Nitro was edge-of-your-seat must-see-TV that revolutionized an industry. At its worst, Nitro made even the die-hards ashamed to be fans. If you want to know the full painstaking story of how Nitro went from one extreme to the other, I STRONGLY recommend picking up “The Death Of WCW” by two of my pals who happen to be two of wrestling’s best writers, R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez. Far as I’m concerned, this book is required reading for any serious student of the biz. Go treat yourself. You can find ordering info

Okay, back to the present, already. For the purposes of a review, to just try and isolate this as one wrestling television show is grossly short-sighted and does a major disservice to just how significant those two hours were to myself personally, and the industry as a whole. For the first time in my life, there was only one major wrestling company in the country. Still though, “Shane’s coup” had me marking out in ridiculous proportions. At the time, I thought it was the single best possible thing that could have happened, given the circumstances. Hey, how was I supposed to know that the McMahons would ruin the single biggest “sure thing” angle in wrestling history? But I digress.

The promos from Booker, Sting, and especially Flair. A bunch of good little fast-paced matches. The fact that Stasiak-Bigelow was too short for me to remember (I’ve already forgotten it all over again). The underlying emotion of the whole damn night. And most importantly, all the great WCW memories it brought back. Even years after the fact, this epic show still puts a smile on my face.

This Observer’s Thumb……………………..is up.


Harry Simon is a trivia-fueled wisenheimer who has been writing about pro wrestling off and on for 16 years and counting. Harry has written trivia pieces for both the Wrestling Observer and Live Audio Wrestling websites, and contributed a ton of research to his fellow Las Vegan Mike Tenay in preparation for the first NWA TNA PPV in 2002. Harry has also done play-by-play, color commentary, and ring announcing for indy promotions. Harry invented the Von Erich Match Rating System, which you can learn about HERE.
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*All Pics and Logos created by Sean Carless

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November 2006


by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).