Home » The Last Episode of WCW Monday Nitro (3/26/01)
The Last Episode of WCW Monday Nitro (3/26/01)
It’s been ten years since WCW closed. Exactly ten years since Vince McMahon appeared on WCW Nitro–which beat McMahon for an astonishingly long time on the back of the nWo angle, Sting vs. HulK Hogan, and the rise of Bill Goldberg–to gloat about his victory in the Monday Night War. So here’s the whole show.
Amazingly, Tony Schiavone does not start off the show by telling us that this is the most important night in the history of our sport, though it very may well have been. The signs had been around for awhile, from Hulk Hogan’s acrimonious exit from the promotion to the cancelation of WCW Saturday Night (which was one of the longest running weekly episodic television shows in U.S. history), and the new president of TNT announcing that all wrestling programming across Turner networks was to be cancelled, which ensured that Eric Bischoff wouldn’t buy the company and drove down the price to the ridiculously low level Vince McMahon eventually bought it for.
But never you mind, because Ric Flair is the first guy out, and he cuts maybe one of the best promos of his 2nd WCW run, minus including Buff Bagwell as one of the most important people in WCW. Also, Flair sets up what would be an unexpectedly historical moment, other than being WCW’s last main event: The only live appearance of Sting on a show run by Vince McMahon. Sadly, Scott Steiner vs. Booker T, perhaps the only reason to watch WCW in its dying days, was given something like four minutes. Had to squeeze in those anti-WCW segments from Raw is War, you know?
Match #2 is another sprint, but given that it’s a cruiserweight tag team match, that’s probably appropriate. I can’t tell you why WCW felt the need to water down their tremendous cruiserweight division by adding tag team titles, but they did, and a lot of people who watched at the time felt that that aspect of the company, featuring teams like 3 Count, the Jung Dragons, and Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, was one of the few reasons worth tuning into Nitro or Thunder. I guess you can argue that, but the influx of small, somewhat sloppy independent workers from the United States made the matches a slower, more dangerous version of what WCW had done so well from 1996-1999. Kidman and Mysterio, always two of the more popular guys in WCW, were absolutely wasted on the division, Jamie Noble and Jimmy Wang would go on to be very solid (and in Noble’s case, very good) workers, Kaz Hayashi went back to Japan, Evan Karagias, always a terrible wrestler, wound up doing nothing, and Shannon Moore looks like this:
In any case, Kidman and Mysterio wind up being the second (and final) Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions, beating “Primetime” Elix Skipper (who was an early member of TNA’s X Division), and Kid Romeo. But not before Chavo Guerrero would face “Sugar” Shane Helms, the former leader of 3 Count. Chavo stayed around after his uncle Eddie left WCW with Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit. His reward was being made the figurehead of the cruiserweight division, which didn’t quite matter like it did before the Crusierweight Tag Team division, but was a long time coming. Shane Helms was something of a future prospect. He, Shannon Moore, Jeff and Matt Hardy all came up together, and Helms was arguably the most talented of the three, mixing Matt’s solid wrestling credentials with Jeff’s risktaking. The end result was a good run in WWE as the Hurricane, but he was plagued by injuries, slowed down, and was eventually let go. Chavo, on the other hand, probably has a job for life, even if he’s never quite gotten his due. The match between the two is better than the lame version of “C.R.E.A.M.” that heralds the entrance of “HB2K” (maybe the worst nickname in pro-wrestling history), but so, so short.
Then Macho Man makes his last official appearance on a Vince McMahon show via a Slim Jim commercial. SNAP INTO IT~!
The only thing I can really say about the Tag Team Title match is that it’s nice that Storm didn’t break character. It’s also unfortunate that they didn’t put the titles on Storm and Awesome, and perhaps even more unfortunate that WWE, like WCW, had no idea what to do with Awesome. The Natural Born Thrillers, who were at one point in time led by “Mr. 3.0″ Mike Sanders (again, a candidate for worst nickname in pro-wrestling history. Mr. B-?), wound up being a bust, though Sean O’Haire wound up with an interesting gimmick and Roddy Piper as a manager, and Chuck Palumbo had about 400 gimmicks, including a biker and Billy Gunn’s lover, Billy Gunn being the former “Mr. Ass.”
The best thing about the last Nitro is, without question, Tony Schiavone. So long prone to hyperbole, he manages to sound legitimately concerned for the future, which, by all rights, he should be. Scott Hudson, the guy calling the action along with him, got hired by WWE and called all of one match, a disasterous encounter between Booker T and Buff Bagwell, but Tony Schivonne wouldn’t even get that chance, which was about right. His style of announcing worked for the WWF in 1989, but was well past his sell-by date in 2001. Didn’t stop him from having the best moment (in the history) of his career in TNA, though:
But screw Schiavone, because we’ve got a Tattoo Match, baby! That young, blonde, business-attired young lady is Stacy Keibler, who in WCW managed a group of winners including Silver King, El Dandy, David Flair, and Shawn Stasiak. Keibler actually wasn’t a bad manager, as she managed to be an enjoyable part of some absolutely horrible gimmicks, and she would enjoy a long career in the WWE before participating in Dancing with the Stars and leaving for a career as a C-list Hollywood star. Stasiak got a WWE developmental deal (probably because his dad was a former WWWF Champion), but boy did he suck. And Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the best big men ever, but was at the end of the line here. The awful storyline that led to this awful match are emblematic of WCW’s larger problems.
Then William Regal shoots on WCW, leading to Tony Schiavone going ballistic on him! Like I said, he was the best part of the show. But when you’re competing with an awful rendition of D.M.X.’s “Party Up,” it’s not hard. Kidman and Mysterio win the Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles, Kidman gets into WWE, and Rey sits out the remainder of his gigantic contract with AOL/Time-Warner before returning, fresh, rested, and masked, to the mainstream. He did more than a few stints in the indies though, including a pretty good three-way involving CM Punk and an in-rehab Eddie Guerrero, which will likely get posted here at some point in the future.
The big travesty of this show is that Ric Flair and Sting didn’t get a good 20 minutes to cap their feud, which spanned some 15 years and was the embodiment of the WCW brand. It didn’t matter if the feud was good (as it often was) or beyond horrible (as it was when THE BLACK SCORPION was involved), because if those two were anywhere on the card, the fans had something to look forward to. As mentioned by Schiavone and Hudson, their 45-minute match at Clash of the Champions ran AGAINST Wrestlemania IV (where Macho Man was crowned WWF Champion), so you can imagine a wrestling fan’s dilemma that night. Yes, Ric Flair wrestled his final WCW match in a T-Shirt, and Sting would refuse to sign to WWE because it wasn’t family friendly (which is odd when you look at the state of TNA), but it obviously wasn’t either man’s last match. And it wasn’t the final moment in WCW, either, which is too bad, because the two men showing respect for each other in the ring would have been about as good as any last moment any TV show ever got.
But see, Vince McMahon was building up to Wrestlemania X7, and he had just vanquished WCW. X7 has something of a victory lap like feel to it. Former WCW wrestlers are watching, McMahon is wrestling on the card, the show is opened by Chris Jericho and William Regal–two WCW castaways who managed to draw money for Vince–and headlined by The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, who were the reason WWF eventually came out on top of WCW (ignoring the problems with WCW, of course). So Vince gets the final word, and it’s a doozy, as he threatens to fire the whole company (and does fire Jeff Jarrett, who held the Intercontinental Title hostage on his last night with the WWF in 1999), but out comes Shane McMahon…
…and the InVasion angle was on. People can (and do) say a lot of negative things about that era of wrestling, but as a 13 year old, the angle was incredible to a point. The WWF midcard was about as rock solid as any company in the history of professional wrestling, the crowds were hot, Steve Austin was an exceptional heel, Paul Heyman and Jim Ross were a tremendous announcing team, and people like Rob Van Dam and Booker T. were intriguing newcomers, all while some 3-5 title matches took place every week and guys like Chris Jericho got their first legitimate chance to break through the glass ceiling. In retrospect, I think everybody knows that something better could have come from the InVasion, but it’s been 10 years, Snooki is going to Wrestlemania, and the time to be jaded about the whole thing is over. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity? Plenty of things are, and those get screwed up, too. 2001 was a strange, sad, wonderful time to be a wrestling fan, and looking at the state of the industry today, it’s a shame that there’s no potential for history to repeat itself.
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Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.