Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Final Episode Of WCW Monday Nitro (2001)

The show opens with the WCW signature with the flying logo and thing. And right after, the first person on screen is Vince McMahon in the backstage area of RAW IS WAR.

"Imagine that," he says with a smug look on his face, "Me. Vince McMahon, on WCW television. How did that happen? Well, I'll tell you how . See, it was only a matter of time before I bought my competition. That's right. I own WCW."

This is the segment that opened up the final episode of WCW Nitro, eminating from a beer hall in Panama City, Florida. Coincidentally enough, this is the first episode of WCW Nitro that I've watched in months since making the decision to stick with RAW for my wrestling viewings, as Nitro had become such an unbearably unwatchable show that it wasn't worth the headaches. This is the only episode of Nitro that I still have on tape in its entirety.

So it's one of those Spring Break specials where a bunch of drunk kids show up and enjoy the show... or the booze. From the segment with McMahon, we open up with a somewhat impassioned promo from Ric Flair, who talks about the company in a positive light. Seems almost funny looking back at this after having heard Flair on numerous occasions say that he was happy to see the company put out of its misery. Going back to the promo, he challenges Sting to one last match... in TNA.

Okay, perhaps not.

United States champion Booker T defeated World Heavyweight Champion Scott Steiner to unify both titles. I find it hilarious that after months of being pushed as this big badass monster champion, Steiner is taken off his perch by Booker T in roughly five minutes. On the other hand, given how much of a joke Booker was treated as in his matches against Steiner when he lost the title in late-2000, I suppose it's ample payback. The match is alright, nothing really special, and work mark the last time Scott Steiner would appear on a major wrestling show until 2002 when he would be signed by WWE to participate in some pretty brutal main events against Triple H.

It should be noted that in between matches and commercial breaks are these backstage segments with Vince, who would later be joined by Trish and occasional appearances from Regal and Michael Cole, who happened to be sporting a Wrestlemania jersey, because what better way to celebrate the final night of WCW than to slide in a plug for your upcoming Pay-Per-View. The segments are nothing special, add nothing of value, and sort of serve to remind people that, yes, Vince owns WCW now. On the rare occasions we don't get Vince, we get some words from Booker T or DDP as well as a montage of past champions. It's a nice touch.

For anyone hoping for worthwhile wrestling on the final episode of Monday Nitro, you'll be sorely disappointed, as the matches are somewhat short and feel a bit rushed. While the matches aren't bad perse, they feel more like compressed versions of what these talents could've done if given a bit more time.

Case in point, the 3-way tag-team match between Rey Mysterio/Billy Kidman, 3 Count (Evan Karagis/Shannon Moore), and Kaz Hayashi/Yun yang. A nice, entertaining match of cruiserweight action with lots of the usual high-flying bits, but it's over before it can really get going. Mysterio and Kidman won the match and earned themselves a shot at the extremely short-lived Cruiserweight tag-team championships held by the short lived team of Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo later that night... and they'd win the titles in another good match, but again, the match was only a couple minutes long. And given the quick pacing and trying to get all the matches in one segment, one has to wonder if Vince Russo was somehow writing the show under a pseudonym.

Shane Helms defeated WCW Cruiserweight champion Chavo Guererro to win the title. Again, this had the makings of an awesome match, but felt cut short before it could really go anywhere. Apparently, these two have had quite a feud during the dying days of WCW and I should probably go check those out for whatever that's worth.

WCW Tag-Team champions Chuck Palumbo and Shawn O'Haire defeated Lance Storm and Mike Awesome to retain the titles. And yet again, a good match that felt short and rushed.

Shawn Stasiak defeated Bam Bam Bigelow thanks to a distraction from Stacy Kiebler... meh.

And in the final match to air on WCW television, Sting defeats Ric Flair (who's wearing a shirt) with the Scorpion Deathlock and both men hug it out. The match is, of course, short and compared to some of their past efforts, is far from a stellar outing. But as a feelgood moment, it was fine. It was emotional. And in a way, it's a perfect way of capping off Nitro and WCW as a whole with the two big names most synonymous with that brand.

And because we have a touching emotional moment on screen, we immediately cut in to the RAW IS WAR segment with Vince McMahon gloating over his victory and the eventual surprise appearance of Shane McMahon in Panama City to kick off the much-maligned Invasion angle. It should be noted that this segment that's being watched by WCW fans on TNT is the exact same segment seen on USA Network, complete with RAW IS WAR graphics and occasional commentary from Jim Ross and Paul Heyman. And when that segment came to a close, you had the little WCW Nitro copyright graphic that closed out every episode of Nitro, tossed on there like an afterthought.

And that is how the final WCW program ends. No goodbyes from the WCW crew, no comments from their perspective, none of that. The final segment of professional wrestling on the Turner networks ends with a segment simucast from the competiting - and victorious - WWF.

The final episode of WCW Monday Nitro is an interesting historical footnote, but in the grander scheme of things, made the finality a much bigger deal than it was treated on RAW. Over at RAW, outside of a couple segments where Vince is commenting on WCW stars who will no doubt be fired (some of them will be back, though) and the simucasted segment with Vince and Shane, that night's edition of RAW IS WAR is just another day in the office, focused primarily on building towards Wrestlemania X-Seven rather than cover the ramifications of Vince's newly acquired monopoly.

Nitro treated this closure as something somewhat significant. From the constant speculation and concern as to what the fate of the company was going to be via commentary and backstage segments, to the Night Of Champions theme for the show. It was treated as an event, it was treated as a major turn in sports entertainment, it was treated as something significant... whereas the WWF didn't give it much thought beyond that one segment and after that...  business as usual. That's probably why out of the two Monday night programs to air on that night, I only kept the Nitro show.

If there was any real gripes to be had, it's that I wish Nitro had a proper ending and closure from the WCW side of things. I wished that, instead of just airing RAW's bit wholesale, we'd get the same deal, but with the WCW commentary team on hand instead of Ross and Heyman; sort of like an exclusive commentary track for Nitro. And then when that segment ended, we'd get a final sign-off from Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson to bring a close to a near-three-decades worth of wrestling on the Turner networks.

As a wrestling show on its own merits, it feels more like an appetizer or sampler than any semblance of a quality wrestling show. Every match flies by quickly and feel rushed, as if they're just trying to get it over and done with. And while the wrestling was good, it just didn't last long. Reading my little piece, how many times have I mentioned a match feeling rushed or just too short? That was almost every match on the card.

From a purely historical standpoint and from a curiosity standpoint to see how the Monday Night Wars legitimately came to an end, the March 26, 2001 edition of WCW Monday Nitro is definitely worth checking out. From a purely wrestling standpoint, the most you'll get out of this show is a sampler of some great matches that you could probably find elsewhere in slightly longer format. All in all, a fairly decent show and a respectable closure to one of the big name wrestling organizations.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep it real and keep it clean.