* 20 years ago in 1995 was a huge historical milestone, the debut of WCW Monday Nitro on TNT. Airing live from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, it led to numerous changes in the pro wrestling business, t say the least. It all came about when Eric Bischoff had to arrange a meeting with Ted Turner to propose a business deal that would require his permission. Before Bischoff could get his pitch going, Turner asked him why the WWF was beating them. The first thing Bischoff could think of was that the WWF had a prime time Monday night prime time flagship show while WCW's top TV show was Saturday evenings. Turner immediately demanded that WCW get an hour on TNT on Monday nights.
The first show aired on an off-week for Raw (due to the U.S. Open) and It was the beginning of a new look for WCW. There had been a tonal shift in WCW programming since Hulk Hogan showed up, and it didn't featured the type of wrestling WCW fans liked. That changed with the launch of Nitro, as head booker Kevin Sullivan wanted to bring in the best in-ring talent in the world to make Nitro a show that was different from and better than Raw. Sabu, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko were signed, while Jushin Thunder Liger was brought back from NJPW for special appearances. Each show had at least one showcase "workrate" match early on, and on the debut show, it was Liger resuming his legendary feud with Brian Pillman.
The second bout was what sort of became WCW's signature match, Ric Flair vs. Sting. It made perfect sense to be on the first Nitro, and it worked out even better that the match was made when WCW signed a surprise wrestler to debut on the show: Lex Luger. Who better to serve as the backdrop for his return than the two wrestlers he's most closely associated with? It was the perfect moment to establish Nitro as a live show where anything could happen. Luger had just been part of an angle during the SummerSlam main event and worked a WWF house show in the Maritimes the night before. While it was known that he was talking to WCW, nobody expected him to show up in WCW without notice.
After the match, the debuting Scott Norton came to ringside and demanded that Eric Bischoff give him a match. Randy Savage quickly showed up to set up a bout for the first head to head show the following week, and in cutting a promo on Norton, put him over as a star and a legitimate threat. Unfortunately, this didn't go anywhere after their one match, but the initial angle was great.
In the main event, Hulk Hogan defeated Big Bubba Rogers, who had been one of his best drawing WWF house show opponents as the Big Bossman. That connection was seemingly the idea behind the matchmaking, as there had been rumors that Paul Orndorff, who set records with Hogan, would get the main event spot It was a smart choice to headline the first show
After the match, Luger hit the ring, and after nearly getting into a fight with Hogan, he challenged him to a match the next week as the main event of the first Nitro to go head to head with Raw Hogan accepted, and suddenly, the WWF had to contend with one of the biggest dream matches that magazines would dwell on for years was about to become a reality. Yes, it was hotshotting, and WCW became too reliant on it at times, but to establish Nitro, it was the right mmve.
Also, Hulk Hogan pushed his new Pastamania eatery at the Mall of America food court. The "Little Pastamaniacs" menu included dishes like "Hulkaroni & Cheese" and "Hulkios."
* Eight years ago in 2007, ECW on Syfy aired with an episode taped three days earlier. With a South African tour coming up during the week, that's why they taped TV over the weekend. The show was built around CM Punk's "last chance" at ECW Champion John Morrison. They had been feuding for months, and it just wasn't clicking, but it all came together here. Morrison was on the Signature Pharmacy customer list, so between his suspension and the stipulation, Punk winning the title was obvious, but he didn't let it hurt the match,. This was the best singles performance of his career up to this point and the match was fantastic. They had the crowd in the palms of their hands and it was the finest moment of Punk's WWE career to date, too.
Plus hey...WWE got a straight edge champion!