And so, after five and a half years we’re here. The last ever WCW Monday Nitro. The final nail in the coffin was confirmed by Eric Bischoff on last week’s show. His attempts to purchase WCW fell apart when, essentially, WCW’s TV deal with TNT was cancelled. Without a television slot, WCW was worthless as an ongoing concern.
This enabled Vince McMahon to seal the ridiculously cheap deal to purchase the company which was confirmed just three days prior to this show.
So whilst this had been trailed as “Night of Champions” with every title on the line AND there had been an open invitation to all former WCW World Champions to appear (spoiler alert, nearly all who weren’t already scheduled to appear didn’t bother) there was never going to be anything else other than Vince McMahon opening this show.
He was, of course, backstage at Monday Night Raw and was in a triumphant mood. “The very fate of WCW is in my hands” was a portent of what was to come although WCW was already dead as an independent-of-WWE entity. Some of what was to come in the months ahead were all too obvious, some weren’t. But in reality, WCW was having it’s last hurrah tonight.
Boardwalk Beach Resort, Panama City FL – TV Rating – 3.0
We were outdoors at Panama City tonight for Sping Break Nitro and it’s a somewhat cool setting that at the same time doesn’t really befit the final every Nitro. Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson welcome us to the show and they don’t really know what to say.
As it’s the last ever Nitro it’s understandable that a heel Ric Flair who last week ended the show with his face rubbed in a donkey’s ass walks out with no mention of that and as a babyface. He takes Vince to task for saying he would hold WCW’s future in the palm of his hands. Jack Brisco, Dory Funk, Harley Race, The Road Warriors, Lex Luger, Sting…Vince isn’t holding them in the palm of their hands. Ric even breaks kayfabe by saying Vince’s dad voted for Flair to be the World Champion. The upshot is that Flair challenges his greatest ever opponent Sting to one last match tonight, to go out in style. Really, no other member of the roster could (or should) have been out there to give us this promo.
Randy Savage becomes the first unscheduled “former WCW champion” to appear…in the form of a Slim Jim advert.
CHAMPION Vs CHAMPION: Scott Steiner Vs Booker T
Both Scott Steiner’s World Title and Booker T’s United States Titles were on the line here in a winner takes all encounter. Given some time, this could be something quite good. Of course, it’s given about five minutes. Booker takes it to Steiner, but the World Champion sends his opponent to the outside. He misses a pipe shot when he instead hits the ring post. Back in the ring, Steiner hits a suplex for a two but Booker goes through his routine with a Ghetto Blaster, Spinarooni, sidekick and Book End for the 1-2-3 and the new World Champion.
Nothing is awful in this one but at five minutes there’s only so much you can do and this twisting and turning climatic last ever Nitro World Title change is not one of those things. Ending the Nitro era with a babyface World Champ is understandable and I guess this was just their way of doing it. As well as putting the belt on someone who was going to actually make his way to the WWE version of the company.
A Spring Break sponsor video is shown before we see Vince on the phone with his legal team, It apparently amuses him no end to see that WCW is holding it’s last ever show in the “redneck” Florida panhandle.
Jung Dragons Vs 3 Count Vs Kidman & Rey Mysterio
This is a triple threat match where the winning team will get a crack at the Cruiserweight Tag Team Titles later tonight. If you’re surprised that a 21st Century Nitro bout with the “little guys” is over in three and a half minutes and features nothing but fast-paced flying moves then you’ve not been paying close attention. It is what it is. Rey pins Shannon Moore to get his team the title shot.
Back with Vince in Cleveland, Ohio. He has a visitor. It’s Trish Stratus. You can probably guess what they end up doing…
CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE: Shane Helms Vs Chavo Guerrero
See the previous match… Yes, another short one that packs as much into it as you could possibly expect. Chavo starts on the front foot, but Helms fights back and the two go back and forth for a bit. Chavo hits some suplexes and although he ducks a superkick the second one from Helms connects and a Vertebreaker later its all over. Although they weren’t given much time on the final show it’s worth pointing out that over the final few dark months of WCW these were two guys who could always be depended on to put in the effort.
Booker T is interviewed backstage and says that his journey isn’t over. It’s then back to Vince and Trish. Trish has lost her jacket but Michael Cole interrupts, eager to know what Vince thinks about the concerns of WCW fans.
TAG TEAM TITLE: Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo Vs Team Canada
This came about after the Team Canada duo of Lance Storm and Mike Awesome defeated the champs in a non-title match last week on Nitro. Again this doesn’t even reach the five-minute barrier. And again, the talent involved does as much as they can with what they are given before a Jungle Kick and Seanton Bomb retains the title for O’Haire and Palumbo.
All four would end up in WWE, to not the greatest of success it has to be said. But that’s another story for another time.
Shawn Stasiak Vs Bam Bam Bigelow
Well, this is the match you probably didn’t expect to get a showcase on the final Nitro. The stipulation here is that if Stasiak loses he has to get a tattoo. Who knows if Vince would force him to adhere to that. Stacy Keibler is out first and she teases that she’s going to strip but then doesn’t and just introduces Stasiak instead. As sure as night follows day we get Keibler offering up a distraction on the apron as Bigelow hits the top rope headbutt. A neckbreaker from Stasiak ends things. I’m pretty sure that almost anything they had booked, match or otherwise, would have filled this spot better than this nothing match.
Back in Cleveland, William Regal tries to talk Vince out of buying WCW, saying what a miserable place it is/was, whilst cleverly chatting to Vince about his WrestleMania X7 baseball jersey so that everyone watching Nitro is in no doubt about the PPV coming up on Sunday.
A Diamond Dallas Page promo video is next. He says he has loved the ride and wonders what is next. Regardless, he’s ready to take it to the next level. That’s followed by a nice little video package on the NWA/WCW Title.
CRUISERWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE: Kid Romeo & Elix Skipper Vs Kidman & Rey Mysterio
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…but it’s a short match that has some big moves and precious little else. The titles were never really anything more than a footnote, to begin with mainly because WCW didn’t survive long enough for them to be anything else. Was nice to see WCW stalwarts Kidman and Mysterio pick up the win and the titles on the last night but that’s all it was. There was no way Vince was carrying over these titles to whatever his vision of the brave new world was.
After a Sting promo, another spring break promo and a look at Vince strutting in the hallway back in Cleveland we get the last ever match in Nitro history.
Ric Flair Vs Sting
They fought on the first episode of Nitro back on September 4, 1995 (although that match was more memorable for the shocking return to WCW of Lex Luger than any of the action itself) so it was fitting that the two wrapped things up here.
Flair wrestles in his t-shirt, which kind of makes me sad. Scott Hudson says Sting was the only guy who never jumped and they talk all about the history of the two’s rivalry. To me, this match is a bit like when a famous music act picks up a “lifetime achievement” award and throws out a medley performance of their greatest hits. It puts a smile on your face, for sure, but also reminds you that the “good old days” are long behind us. Eventually, Flair taps out to the Scorpion Deathlock and that’s that.
Maybe if someone had bought WCW and Nitro was a going concern that would be taken to another channel things might have been different. Perhaps a shocking World Title win for a hot new star or something could have ended it. But although it was nothing more than nostalgia, it somehow felt fitting that this was how Nitro ended.
Match wise anyway.
Nitro actually ends with Vince McMahon’s simulcast. For full details of that see my Raw review from the same night. We cut in halfway through Vince’s entrance because the Flair/Sting match didn’t end in time (on Raw, Vince makes Lillian Garcia introduce him a second time to kill time). He brags about killing his competition, how Ted Turner will be at WrestleMania on Sunday to sign the contracts officially and then we’re all shocked as Shane McMahon is in Panama City and is the new owner of WCW.
The final ever Nitro ends with Jim Ross shilling the fact that over on TNN in the next hour there will be Stone Cold Steve Austin & The Rock vs Kane & The Undertaker.
This show was never going to be about the matches. Some titles needed to be expediently shifted to people who may end up in WWE and Flair vs Sting was a nostalgic throwback for anyone who had been with “WCW” since the start. Of course, the likes of Nash, Goldberg and Hogan all sat at home rather than come back for one last goodbye. Who can blame them, professionalism aside? They could get away with it one last time so that’s what they did. It was odd to note that the people Vince was watching on a monitor on Raw didn’t even appear on this show (Jarrett, Dustin Rhodes etc) too.
Perhaps the fall of WCW Monday Nitro is summed up perfectly by a show where the smaller non-main event guys put in the effort for no reward, a handful of loyal “veteran” names turned up and did the best they could under the circumstances and a lot more “main eventers” couldn’t even be bothered to turn up and sat at home counting their money instead.
It’s often lost of course in the rush by some to focus on the final years of Nitro that when it was good, it was revolutionary. Few gave them a chance of successfully challenging Vince in the short, medium or long term, never mind beating him for 83 straight weeks.
So whilst the final Nitro isn’t a classic, by all means, it should be enjoyable for anyone who ever enjoyed Nitro, even in it’s darkest days. And for better or worse there’s an argument that it’s a very fitting end given the history of the Monday Night Wars.