nWo Takes Over Monday Night Nitro

On December 22nd, 1997 nWo Takes Over Monday Night Nitro. WCW Monday Night Nitro was on fire giving WWE Monday Night Raw a run for its money. WCW went from arguably an afterthought on Turner networks to its reason to watch. A lot of this was attributed to former WWF Superstars leaving Vince McMahon for billionaire teds guaranteed money. This included Legends Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Rowdy Piper, Curt Hennig, and soon the arrival of  Bret “Hitman” Hart.

They also acquired the talents of Bobby Heenan, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and Miss Elizabeth. WCW also had its own homegrown talent in Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, Ric Flair, and Goldberg. WCW became the place literally where “the big boys play”. All the fans of those stars now watched WCW.

nWo Takes Over Monday Night Nitro
We’re Not Here To Play

At the same time Eric Bischoff, Vice President of WCW had an out of box idea to bring in Hall and Nash as a group of “Outsiders” who were invading World Championship Wrestling. Without mentioning WWF, Razor Ramon, or Diesel. Hall and Nash proclaimed they weren’t in WCW to “play”. The Outsiders attacked WCW at every opportunity. It looked like a legitimate invasion.

To the fans, it looked as if WWF was attacking WCW. The Outsiders claimed there was a third man yet to join them. As we all know, at Bash at the Beach the third man was none other than Hulk Hogan, now known as Hollywood Hogan. The three called themselves the New World Order. Several other former WWF superstars began to join the NWO. Macho Man Randy Savage with Elizabeth even aligned themselves with the faction.

They also added Curt Hennig for the perfect mix of brutality and in-ring perfection. WCW stars also defected to the nWo. These included The Giant, Scott Norton, Buff Bagwell, and Konnan. To make matters worse Eric Bischoff himself joined the nWo. The boss was a part of the black and white. It was now cool to be bad. The ratings and the merchandise reflected this new trend.

The nWo destroys the WCW Nitro set and replace it with their own: Nitro, December 22, 1997 | WWE
[Photo: WWE]

Bringing the Thunder

The idea for a second WCW wrestling show on Turner Broadcasting was in the process. WCW had a ton of talent. Arguably too much for one show. Executive Producer of WCW Eric Bischoff had an idea for another show called WCW Thunder. In his book Controversy Creates Cash, Biscoff described the thought process

“The nWo was supposed to take over Nitro, and WCW would have Thunder. The strategy was never to put an end to the NWO or WCW. The strategy was how do I create NWO to be its own brand.”

On paper, this strategy was the perfect counter to the phenomenal success of  WWF Monday Night Raw and Smackdown. WWF always was the mecca of pro wrestling, but Biscoff wanted a war. The Monday Night War was born and arguably it was the best thing ever in the history of the business. It gave fans an edgier product with the WWF Attitude Era. However, it was obvious by the ratings that fans were also watching WCW. The ratings reflected it when WCW beat WWF 83 weeks in a row.

We Are in Control

On December 22nd, 1997, in Macon, GA, Biscoff decided to give NWO Nitro a test run. It was not announced that the NWO would take over the program. The timing of this show was critical because that Sunday WCW would present its most anticipated PPV of all-time Starrcade 1997. The main event was Hollywood Hogan vs Sting or NWO vs WCW.  The first hour was your traditional Nitro programming.

An amazing match between Eddie Guerrero and Fit Finlay opened the show. At the end of the first-hour nWo members Rick Rude, Konan, Scott Norton, and Buff Bagwell started the process of remodeling the Nitro set. It gave the appearance of the Nitro crew being “forced ” to work for the nWo.” The banners in the arena were replaced with nWo banners. The NWO members even chased off Commentators Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, and Larry Zybsko. The promos and replay footage had a grainy black and white filter which was the mo of the group. The Nwo were in Control of Monday Nitro

Money, Power, Fame…Now Our Own Show

At the conclusion of the set remodel. The roar of a motorcycle echoed through the arena. Eric Bischoff, who was on-screen part of the NWO, rode to the ring. Eazy E was in full heel mode as he grabbed the mic and proclaimed his love for the crowd.

“I want to bring out the coolest bunch of guys, that ever walked the face of the wrestling earth, my good buddies, lets bring out the entire nWo.”

With that, the New World Order hit the ring. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were celebrating as they oozed down to the ring. Macho Man Randy Savage made his entrance feel as only he can. Even though Savage was a ‘bad guy” any wrestling fan had nothing but respect for Macho Madness. Curt Henning and Konnan joined the crew. Last but not least was WCW/nWo Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

Bischoff gave Hogan several gifts during the night. He gave him a custom Harley, a ring, and larger-than-life prints of Hogans Sports Illustrated Cover from 1985.

With the New World Order now calling the shots, many WCW stars were nervous to compete. Everything from the referee to the ring announcer was in the nWo’s pocket. JJ Dillion, WCW’s on-screen President, let Rick Steiner know he didn’t have to go compete. However, the Dog Face Gremlin wouldn’t hear of it. Steiner tried his best but he couldn’t match the constant three-on-one beating from the nWo.

Curt Hennig defended his United States Title against Disco Infierno. The MVP for WCW that night arguably was Chris Jericho. The Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla was just coming into his own. Jericho stole the show against Buff Bagwell. It was painfully obvious Chris Jericho was worth way more than WCW was giving him. Needless to say Buff defeated him with the blockbuster.

The Gift Hogan wants to Return

At the end of the show, Bischoff once again returned to the ring with Hollywood Hogan. This was the final promo to hype Hogans match with Sting at Starrcade for the WCW Championship. This match had been almost a year in the making. WCW played it right by not having Sting or Hogan get in a physical confrontation until this match. Sting would taunt Hogan from the rafters with a vulture and a baseball bat but no contact was made.

Fans were salivating for this match. Arguably that’s what the business of today is missing in the current quick rush format. Hogan began to hype the match

“At Starrcade Sting will be stung, brother. The weight of the world is on your shoulders. Hollywood is used to the pressure. You will be another notch in the nWo belt. The pressure is on you.”

Just then another present was brought to the ring. Hollywood Hogan was given a large box. Thinking this was another gift from Bischoff,  Hogan thanked his boss. From out of nowhere Bret “Hitman” Hart appeared. Bret was supposed to be the special referee at Starrcade in the Eric Bischoff vs Larry Zybysko match. The fans seemed to be more interested in Bret Harts arrival than what was going on in the ring and rightfully so.

As Hogan opened the box it was a replica head of Hogan. Hogan looked terrified as he held the head in his hand. Biscoff looked on in horror. Looking back on it, not sure if Eazy E was horrified at the head or Hogans facial expression. It was too comical for a serious moment. All of a sudden, Sting appeared and pointed at Hogan from the rafters. As the Stinger began to propel himself on down to the ring the show cutaway. This was an amazing strategy by WCW. Fans had to turn in to Starrcade 97 to see the result.

Back to the Drawing Board

Unfortunately, the nWo Nitro was not a success. WCW actually attempted an all nWo pay per view the previous year called nWo souled out. It was an interesting concept of an all heel pay per view but too much for three hours. Several fans turned out to watch Monday Night Raw. The ratings dropped. Another issue was that the Eric Bischoff vs Larry Zybzsko match was for control of Nitro.

Why didn’t Biscoff and Co wait until the outcome of that match? Yes at Starrcade WCW won, but if nWo had won arguably the next Nitro could have been NWO Nitro. Even though it wasn’t a success, WCW did a lot right that night. They told a story that made sense. They added to the momentum of Starcade by heating up the war between WCW vs nWo.

By cutting to commercial when sting hit the ring they increased to pay per view buy rate. There were no spoilers so fans had to tune in to see.

nWo Takes Over Monday Night Nitro
[Photo: Rockstargary.com]

WCW begins to Deteriorate

Thunder continued to be a second show that showcased the rivalry between WCW vs NWO. The plans for an all-nWo show were nixed. Unfortunately, Thunder became the B show of the company rivaling WCW Worldwide. Monday Nitro was still successful and continued to grab ratings until 2000. In 2000 the company went through several changes. The nWo split up into several factions.

WCW was grabbing at straws as they spent more and more money. The end of the company came when Time Warner took over. WCW could not stay survive.  WWF won the war and purchased WCW.

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