MONDAY NIGHT WAR CLASSICS – Week 1: Lex Express Arrives in WCW (09/04/95)
By Octavio Fierros, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Lex Express took a different route and unexpectedly arrived in WCW, specifically Bloomington, Minnesota, the site of the debut WCW show Monday Nitro. Lex Luger surprised the world of wrestling by appearing on WCW TV after just hours of wrestling his last WWE match. In the world where Internet was uncommon and wrestling newsletters were the only source of information, this was a major shocker.
Luger was wrestling without a WWE contract for months, but he kept giving Vince McMahon his word that he would be with WWE. McMahon took that risk and this time the tables were turned against him as Luger blindsided him to go to WCW. Sting approached Eric Bischoff and pitched an idea about signing Luger. Bischoff didn’t like Luger, but signing him would really benefit him in the early stages of the Monday Night War. Bischoff didn’t care about Luger’s talent, but his appearance on the first ever Monday Nitro would increase the shock factor. Bischoff agreed to sign Luger to a contract and the rest was history.
Bischoff’s main intention right from the beginning of this Monday Night War is to have WWE viewers tune in to Monday Nitro. One way was to have Nitro air at the same time as Monday Night Raw. Owner of WCW Ted Turner gave Bischoff the keys to the castle and Bischoff ran with them. Bischoff had a lot of ideas on how to put WCW on prime-time and the on the map. One idea was to present Luger on the first ever Nitro with wrestling fans knowing that Luger was wrestling for the WWE. Better yet, the first ever Nitro was going to be the only wrestling show that Monday night due to USA Network cancelling Raw to air the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In other words, Bischoff had three reasons for Raw viewers to tune in: (1) Raw viewers didn’t have wrestling to watch that night so WCW was the only option, (2) steal Raw viewers permanently to tune in to Nitro on a regular basis, and (3) increase the shock factor in order to have viewers glued to their TV sets.
Bischoff’s idea would only work if Luger appears on Nitro “without being told”. In other words, the announcers and wrestlers who were going to be part of this angle were going to act like nobody knew Luger was going to appear. During the Sting vs. Ric Flair match, Luger made his way to the ring, but stopped in the aisle. Commentators Bischoff, Bobby Heenan, and Steve McMichael acted like he was still in the WWE but were wondering what the heck he was doing in WCW. Luger left and appeared again later in the show, this time challenging WCW World Champion Hulk Hogan to a title match.
Luger challenging Hogan to a title match during his first appearance was a shocker. Luger went to the ring and got face to face with Hogan and said this, “I’m here for one reason and one reason only. People say that you are the number one wrestler in the world today. You wear that WCW belt around your waist and you know what? That makes you the only World Champion and I’m here to take that belt… I’ve been where you been, I’ve beaten the same people you’ve beaten. I’m sick and tired of playing with kids. I’m here to play with the big boys and that means you. I don’t care if its next month, next year, or five years, I’m going to get my shot…” Hogan gave Luger credit when credit is due. Hogan acknowledged Luger’s success elsewhere and granted him a title shot next week on Monday Nitro.
Monday Nitro drew a 2.9 rating without competition from Monday Night Raw. Raw was drawing those ratings as well. That probably meant that some Raw viewers did tune in to see WCW. That also meant that some “die-hard” WCW fans that saw Saturday Night weekend show were directed to Nitro. In any event, we will find out during Week 2 of the Monday Night Wars if WCW will keep momentum on their side or if WWE will bounce back by having the truly number one wrestling show on Monday nights.
Welcome to Monday Night War Classics! Every week, I’m going to take you back to the Monday Night War moments featured every week starting from the beginning of the war (September 4, 1995) to the end (March 25, 2001). Each week, I’m going to feature the most significant event from Monday Night Raw and Monday Nitro on that particular week. Along with ratings information, you will also read some tidbits that you probably did or did not know.
This column is dedicated to the fan of the Monday Night War. In other words, to the fans who witness these historic wrestling events. It’s also dedicated to the new wrestling fans who did not witness history in the making. Please e-mail me if you are a new fan and would like me to introduce you to the characters of the Monday Night War every week. For example, who was Eric Bischoff? He had multiple personalities and it might create some confusion.