Today In History 9/11: WCW Wins Week 1 Of Monday Night War With Hulk Hogan - Lex Luger Dream Match

* 20 years ago in 1995, the Monday Night War officially kicked off: On one side, WCW had the second episode of Monday Nitro live on TNT with a show at the Knight Center in Miami, Florida. On the incumbent side, the WWF's Monday Night Raw returned from its annual preemption for U.S. Open tennis with a taped show. All eyes were on WCW, which had been promoting the Hulk Hogan vs. Lex Luger dream match for the previous seven days.

Coming off of the first edition of Nitro, there was actually a rumor floated in the Pro Wrestling Torch that there might be an emergency TV taping to replace the show that the WWF taped on August 28th in Canton, Ohio. The scuttlebutt, which included Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart main event, turned out to be born out of confusion over a taping on the roof of Titan Tower that week. For the "season premiere" of Raw, they shot a new opening sequence by doing a mock Raw taping (dubbed "Raw on the Roof") that was edited together.

Reaction was mixed and it didn't last long; the classic original Raw theme song was back before long, along with a new video. The $100,000 spent on the new opening montage in the middle of front office salary cuts doesn't exactly sound like a great idea in hindsight.

The first of the two featured matches was Razor Ramon vs. "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith. The goal here was to forward Razor's two issues, with Dean Douglas and the 1-2-3 Kid. Douglas interfered after referee Earl Hebner was bumped, while Kid tried to fight him off and neutralize the interference. Unfortunately, not only did Kid accidentally hit Razor with a frog splash when Bulldog moved, but the referee saw it and Razor lost by disqualification. Razor and Kid slowly started to have a falling out after two years, which eventually led to Kid's turn.

In the main event, Shawn Michaels beat Psycho Sid after a series of three superkicks to retain the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Keep that finish in mind. Being that this was originally supposed to be on the SummerSlam card, they had the theoretical hook of a pay-per-view-quality match on Raw.

Meanwhile, Nitro in Miami opened with Sabu's WCW television debut (he had only worked in dark matches to shoot footage that was cut down to a music video on the first Nitro) against Alex Wright. Wright had been de-pushed when Ric Flair (his biggest supporter) was replaced by Kevin Sullivan as head booker, and while he was competitive here, his job was to play victim. Sabu won with a super victory roll in an interesting finish...only to be disqualified after the match for shoulder blocking Wright through a table. Talk about taking the edge off his debut.

Meanwhile, Eric Bischoff set the tone for the Monday Night War with these words:

In case you're tempted to grab the remote control and check out the competition, don't bother. It's two or three weeks old. Shawn Michaels beats the big guy with a superkick that wouldn't earn a green belt a a YMCA. Stay right here. It's live.

The WWF's reaction the following week was to take the tact that they should embrace it. If a show like Melrose Place can show scenes from the next episode, why can't we? Yes, they started showing clips of the next week's big matches, outright admitting the shows were taped. Usually, promotions did the opposite, treating everything as live without outright saying so.

What Bischoff did would happen again from time to time. Most famously, ton January 4, 1999, Bischoff fed a line to Tony Schiavone about Mick Foley beating The Rock to win the WWF Championship that backfired badly. A huge number of WCW viewers switched over immediately.

One of the featured matches was a very "WCW" moment in the worst possible way. Scott Norton vs. Randy Savage was made via a great angle on the first show that immediately made him look like a major player. Here, he lost to Savage when Shark (John Tenta) fell on his legs and he couldn't get up or kick out. That was the end of the Savage-Norton issues; there was no program even though Savage was into it and willing t put Norton over. V.K. Wallstreet (Mike Rotunda) also lost in his debut, where Sting beat him easily.

Finally, it was time: The dream match that the wrestling magazines talked about for years had arrived. Lex Luger had his first WCW match in over three and a half years, taking on WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. They had a very good match while it lasted, but the Dungeon of Doom ran in at 5:28 to attack Hogan, who won by disqualification. Sting and Randy Savage arrived before long to make the save.

Meanwhile, Vader was gone after his infamous backstage brawl with Paul Orndorff (on TV, they said he refused to sign the proper paperwork and went AWOL), so Hogan, Sting, and Savage needed a new partner against the Dungeon of Doom in Wargames at Fall Brawl six days later. Sting suggested Luger, his returning best friend, but Savage didn't trust him: He was suspicious that the Dungeon didn't attack Luger or Jimmy Hart (and he was proven right at Halloween Havoc). Still, Hogan agreed to take Luger on and Luger went with it under the condition h got a title shot.

Nitro won the ratings battle with a 2.5 to Raw's 2.2. The Nitro debut had done a 2.9, while Raw had been doing in the mid to high threes. There had been fear that they'd just take the Raw audience and split it in half, but it turned out there were a lot more total wrestling fans than anyone realized.

* 18 years ago in 1997, Terry Funk promoted a show called "50 Years of Funk" at the Fairgrounds in Amarillo built around a theoretical retirement match drew a strong crowd of 4,000 fans. To show the respect Funk had in the business, the card featured a mix of wrestlers from the WWF, ECW, and FMW as well as various independent talent.

The main event saw Funk losing to WWF Champion Bret Hart in a non-title match. Hart felt honored to be in the spot and offered to put Funk over (he had permission), but Funk refused. They had an excellent '70s-style match and with hindsight, if Hart lost, that would be the story of the match historically since Funk didn't retire. Sound familiar?

Instead, he showed up in the WWF as Chainsaw Charlie three months later. Why? Who knows. That's on both counts: The new gimmick was his idea, too, though fans immediately chanted "Terry" and it was quickly acknowledged who he was as a result.

* 18 years ago in 1997, Terry Funk promoted a show called "50 Years of Funk" at the Fairgrounds in Amarillo built around a theoretical retirement match drew a strong crowd of 4,000 fans. To show the respect Funk had in the business, the card featured a mix of wrestlers from the WWF, ECW, and FMW as well as various independent talent.

The main event saw Funk losing to WWF Champion Bret Hart in a non-title match. Hart felt honored to be in the spot and offered to put Funk over (he had permission), but Funk refused. They had an excellent '70s-style match and with hindsight, if Hart lost, that would be the story of the match historically since Funk didn't retire. Sound familiar?

Instead, he showed up in the WWF as Chainsaw Charlie three months later. Why? Who knows. That's on both counts: The new gimmick was his idea, too, though fans immediately chanted "Terry" and it was quickly acknowledged who he was as a result. When it comes to Funk's official retirements, this is probably the shortest.

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