WCW Monday Nitro was a professional wrestling television program that aired on TNT from September 4, 1995, until March 26, 2001. It was the flagship program of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), one of the largest wrestling promotions in the United States during the 1990s and early 2000s.
The idea for Nitro originated from Eric Bischoff, who was the Executive Vice President of WCW at the time. Bischoff wanted to create a show that could compete with WWE’s Monday Night Raw, which had been dominating the Monday night ratings for several years. Bischoff’s vision was to create a live show that would feature top stars and compelling storylines, and he believed that going head-to-head with Raw would generate the necessary buzz and excitement.
Beginning in June 1996, Nitro beat Raw in the ratings for 83 consecutive weeks, forcing the WWF/WWE to usher in the more adult-oriented “Attitude Era” in order to compete.
Throughout its existence, WCW Monday Nitro was one of the most influential shows on cable TV. Its impact on the wresting industry can still be felt today, and its legacy lives on in the many wrestlers and fans who were inspired by its groundbreaking programming. While Nitro may be gone, it will never be forgotten, and its place in wrestling history is secure.
- Nitro premiered on September 4, 1995
The first episode of Nitro aired on September 4, 1995, from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The show featured matches such as Sting vs. Ric Flair and Flyin’ Brian vs. Jushin Liger.
The show was also highlighted by the return of Lex Luger. Luger had previously been working with the World Wrestling Federation without a contract but signed with WCW that morning following an appearance with WWF just the night before.
2. Nitro was the first wrestling program to air live every week
Before Nitro, most wrestling programs were taped in advance. Nitro was the first program to air live every week, which added an element of unpredictability to the show. This allowed for real-time reactions from the crowd and created a more engaging experience for viewers.
3. Nitro helped usher in the “Monday Night Wars”
The “Monday Night Wars” were a period of time when WCW’s Nitro and WWE’s Raw competed head-to-head in the ratings. At first, Raw had the upper hand, as it had been on the air since 1993 and had a loyal fan base. But Nitro quickly gained ground, thanks to a combination of innovative programming and a roster of popular wrestlers.
Nitro’s success was due in large part to the “nWo” storyline, which featured top stars like Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash portraying villainous characters who were trying to take over WCW.
As the weeks passed, Nitro’s lead over Raw grew. The show consistently beat Raw in the ratings, sometimes by a wide margin. Fans tuned in each week to see what would happen next. But Nitro’s dominance couldn’t last forever. WWF introduced a new character named “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Clad in jeans, black leather and proudly raising his middle fingers, Stone Cold Steve Austin is regarded as one of the most popular WWE superstars of all time. Austin’s rise coincided with a shift in WWF’s programming, as the company began to push the envelope with edgier storylines and more adult-oriented content.
WWF’s new direction paid off, and Raw began to chip away at Nitro’s lead in the ratings. In May 1999, Raw finally beat Nitro, ending the 83-week winning streak. From that point on, the Monday Night Wars were more evenly matched, with both shows trading wins back and forth.
4. Nitro’s “nWo” storyline was one of the most successful angles in wrestling history
The “nWo” (New World Order) storyline was one of the most successful angles in wrestling history. The storyline featured wrestlers Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash portraying villains who were trying to take over WCW. The angle helped WCW dominate WWE in the ratings for a time.
The nWo storyline began in July 1996 when Scott Hall (formerly known as Razor Ramon in the WWF) appeared on WCW Monday Nitro and issued a challenge to any wrestler in the company. This was unusual because Hall was still under contract with the WWF at the time, and his appearance on Nitro was unexpected.
The following week, Hall appeared again, this time with Kevin Nash (formerly known as Diesel in the WWF) by his side. The two men claimed to be outsiders who were there to take over WCW. They also hinted that they were not alone and that others would be joining them.
Sure enough, in the weeks that followed, Hulk Hogan made his shocking debut in WCW as the third member of the nWo. Hogan had been a fan favorite for years, but his turn to the dark side was unexpected and controversial. He aligned himself with Hall and Nash and became the de facto leader of the nWo.
The nWo storyline had a long-term impact on the industry. The storyline helped WCW to overtake WWF in the ratings, and it forced WWF to change its approach to wrestling.
The nWo storyline eventually ran its course, but its impact on wrestling can still be felt today. The nWo inspired countless imitators, and it remains a beloved and iconic part of wrestling history. Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the nWo changed the face of wrestling forever.
5. WCW Nitro Commentators
- Eric Bischoff (1995-1996)
- Steve McMichael (1995-1996)
- Gene Okerlund (Interviewer – 1995-2001)
- Bobby Heenan (1995-2000)
- Larry Zbyszko (1996-1999)
- Tony Schiavone (1996-2001)
- Mike Tenay (1996-2001)
- Scott Hudson (1999-2001)
- Mark Madden (2000-2001)
6. Eric Bischoff’s WCW Nitro role
Eric Bischoff is a name that is synonymous with WCW Nitro, and for good reason. Bischoff was the president of WCW from 1994 to 1999, and during that time, he helped to transform Nitro into one of the most popular wrestling shows in history.
Bischoff had a background in television production, and he brought that expertise to WCW. He was instrumental in the creation of the nWo storyline, and Nitro’s “live” format.
Eric Bischoff soon became the voice of Nitro. He began to air Nitro a couple of minutes before RAW so he could give away the results of the WWF program so fans had no point to see the competition. Bischoff also famously challenged Vince McMahon to a match at WrestleMania, which would have pitted Bischoff against McMahon in a real wrestling match. McMahon declined the challenge, but the publicity helped to draw even more attention to the Monday Night Wars.
Despite his success with Nitro, Bischoff was not without his critics. Some wrestlers and fans felt that he was too focused on the nWo storyline and that he did not do enough to develop other talent or storylines. Bischoff also made some controversial decisions, such as bringing in Dennis Rodman to wrestle for WCW.
Bischoff’s tenure at WCW came to an end in 1999 when the company was sold to the WWF. Bischoff would later go on to work for the WWF and TNA Wrestling, but his legacy will always be tied to WCW Nitro and the Monday Night Wars.
7. Nitro’s ratings declined in its later years
Despite its early success, Nitro’s ratings began to decline in its later years. WCW made several missteps, including bringing in too many aging wrestlers and not developing new talent.
One of the main reasons for Nitro’s decline was a lack of coherent creative direction. In the early days of Nitro, the nWo storyline captivated viewers and kept them coming back week after week. However, as the nWo storyline ran its course, WCW struggled to come up with new, compelling storylines to keep audiences engaged. In 2001, the company was sold to WWE, and Nitro was canceled.