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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Nitro compelling once again


By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

The wait is over.

Kidman is bad!
Bischoff drove the Hummer.
Not that it was a long wait, mind you. It was, after all, just two weeks ago when the official word came down that Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo would be working together as the new WCW creative team. With 14 days to prepare and rumors running rampant, all signs indicated that the seemingly odd couple had plans to shake things up in a big way.

Give them an 'A' for effort. In front of an enthusiastic crowd at Denver's Pepsi Center, Bischoff and Russo presented a fast-paced show that featured a new set, the simultaneous stripping of all title belts and Russo's on-camera debut -- something he stated in the past he would not do. Delivering on their promises to confront the competition, the creative team and the talent made references to the WWF on numerous occasions.

As was widely speculated throughout the wrestling world, Nitro saw the beginning of a feud between established stars and the younger grapplers. But there's a catch: at least at the outset, it appears youth will be served by playing the heels. And it wasn't only obvious candidates like Billy Kidman, Buff Bagwell and Vampiro attacking Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and company, but a few men who haven't been seen in WCW in quite some time -- if at all.

One possible drawback: to understand what was going on, viewers had to have their history books handy. Tony Schiavone, Mark Madden and Scott Hudson did their best to provide the backstory, but the plot unfolding in WCW makes references to angles and feuds spanning all three major federations and at least ten years. If anything, Bischoff and Russo may have opened the "How smart is too smart?" can of worms even wider.

Reaction to the "new Nitro" will almost certainly be mixed, but one point will be hard to argue. For at least one night, Nitro was compelling sports entertainment once again.

Nitro report

  • I feel like a great weight is about to be lifted from my shoulders. After slogging my way through report after report during Nitro's most apathetic period ever, the eagerly anticipated April 10 show from Denver is about to begin. Eric... Vince... do your thing.
  • Several changes are readily apparent. The new set shows definite TitanTron influence, while the new pyro has some attitude leanings as well. We're also back to three announcers, with Scott Hudson joining S & M: Tony Schiavone and Mark Madden.
  • At least 50 wrestlers and valets are in and around the ring, mostly of the jobber variety. A few more recognizable faces come down the ramp: Vampiro, The Wall, Big Poppa Pump, etc. Jeff Jarrett comes out last and takes the stick. Jarrett happily announces the return of Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo and tells the old booking team (now watching at home) that what comes around, goes around. Russo's entrance music (that's not a typo) hits and he comes to the ring. The former WWF writer toots his own horn concerning the competition's success and lashes out at the "old boys network" that doomed him in his first WCW stint. But wait, whose music is that?
  • It seems Eric's got his own music too, and he makes his way to the already crowded ring. The moment of tension between Vince and Eric is broken when Bischoff cracks a smile and gives Russo a hug. Looks like those two softies have more in common than we thought. Easy E says he's made a lot of mistakes, specifically Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sting, DDP and Sid Vicious. Naturally his biggest mistake was Hulk Hogan. Ah, but the veterans were watching the rant backstage, and soon DDP, Sid, Sting and the Total Package come to the top of the ramp. Bischoff says the new state of the union is a level playing field, and Page is cut off harshly when he tries to air the minority response. Russo takes the mic to call Flair a piece of crap and declare that all WCW titles are hereby stripped. Jarrett reluctantly parts with his US title, and soon Russo has all the belts except the world title around Sid's waist. Bischoff goes up the ramp, looks Vicious in the eye and threatens unemployment if the world belt isn't handed over. Sid eventually gives it up and a smug Bischoff tells us we'll see a new world champ crowned at Spring Stampede. In the back, Hogan is on his way in.
  • Sting tells Hogan about Bischoff and the impending power play. Hulk tells the Stinger he'll handle it.
  • Match 1 - DDP vs. The Total Package This is the first match in a mini-tournament - which also involves Sting and Sid - to determine who will wrestle Jarrett for the world title on Sunday. As proof that they are in control, Bischoff and Russo cut both men's music halfway through and give them no pyro. Package dominates the match until Buff Bagwell's music hits and the stuff struts to the ring. Buff has a word with Kimberly then steals a kiss from Kimberly. A distracted Package falls victim to a Diamond Cutter and that's all she wrote.
  • Hogan can't find Bischoff backstage, but Curt Hennig does find Russo. Hennig thinks he deserves a title shot after he was right-hand man to the Powers That Be. Booking on the fly, Russo tells Hennig that if he can beat Jarrett tonight he'll take the Chosen One's place at Spring Stampede.
  • Tank Abbott grabs the mic to announce that he's a dancer, not a stripper. Actually, he says he's a shootfighter, not a wrestler. Couldn't agree more. Tank says the only reason he came to WCW was to fight Bill Goldberg and implies that the timing of Goldberg's injury was no coincedence. Abbott decides he will hurt innocent people until Goldie returns, and for his first target he selects... Mark Madden. Abbott tears Madden's shirt off and beats him mercilessly until security is sickened enough by the sight of the shirtless announcer to intervene.
  • Jarrett doesn't want to wrestle tonight, but Russo tries to soothe his fears. After all, who does he look like, JJ Dillon?
  • Torrie tries to warn Kidman of something but Billy apparently has something he has to do. Meanwhile, Terry Taylor tells Hogan where to find Bischoff, and a closed door meeting ensues.
  • Kidman heads to the ring to cry about how he and the other New Blood have been held down by egomaniacs like Hogan. Billy says he has two things that Hulk will never have -- heart and talent -- and calls Hogan out. Who the hell does Kidman think he is? Hogan tells Billy he gives the other young guys a bad name and starts to talk about Torrie. Bad move. Kidman beats Hogan and rolls him out of the ring. Sadly, Kidman misses a move off the apron and Hogan gets some payback. Bischoff comes out with a chair to add to the fun. But it's swerve city: Easy E hits Hogan with the chair instead, Hogan blades and Bischoff makes a mock three count for Kidman's pin.
  • Flair arrives and can't believe the tape he watches of the first segment. The Nature Boy hits the ring to cut a promo stating that he got great, not old. Flair calls out Russo but Big Poppa Pump comes out instead. Steiner accuses Flair of having his old friends pull strings for him, and BPP is well into a Flair parody when Shane Douglas comes out of the crowd to lay the old man out.
  • Kevin Nash crutches his way into the arena. And is that Bret Hart sitting quietly in the crowd?
  • Yep, that's the Hitman alright. Backstage Flair is hunting for Douglas, but the Franchise is with Mean Gene. Okerlund tries to take Douglas to task, but he fires back with a promo running down Flair and telling Gene to kiss his ass.
  • Match 2 - Sting vs. Sid Vicious. A back and forth opening sees Sting fall in love with the Stinger Splash and Vicious get a near-fall with a cobra clutch slam. Sting fights back and both men are felled by a double clothesline. The Wall comes down the ramp and sets a table up at ringside. The ref gets knocked out, Sid delivers a power bomb and The Wall drops Vicious with a chair shot. Wall chokeslams Sid through the table, leaving the revived ref to count Sid out.
  • Flair is back in the ring calling for Douglas. It looks like the Nature Boy versus the Franchise tonight.
  • Hulk does a pretty mean imitation of his green-skinned namesake while continuing his incoherent backstage rampage. But come on -- does he really have to toss 3 Count around like that?
  • Match 3 - Jeff Jarrett vs. Curt Hennig. The action starts in the aisle, then Hennig beats Jarrett on the announce table. JJ clamps on the sleeper in the middle of the ring but Hennig escapes with a belly-to-back. Hennig's old music hits to announce the arrival of the artist formerly known as Meat, Sean Stasiak. The youngster mocks Hennig's smacking the gum thing and makes his move when a back elbow catches the ref. Stasiak nearly drops Hennig but recovers to hit a variation of Kurt Angle's finisher. Jarrett polishes Hennig off with The Stroke.
  • Hogan searches through the Pepsi Center's skyboxes for Bischoff. Nash is on his cell-phone -- could it be Hall on the other end? And Sting tells Mean Gene about what real loyalty is.
  • Match 4 - Ric Flair vs. Shane Douglas. No wrestling tights, strictly street clothes. Schiavone says Flair would not wrestle Douglas during Russo's first term, but the Nature Boy is landing most of the offense here. Russo comes out with a baseball bat and smacks Flair, then gives the bat to the Franchise for his turn at the plate. Douglas goes to town and Russo claims Flair's watch as a souveneir.
  • The familiar Wolfpac music plays and Nash limps out. Big Sexy runs through the events of the night and asks where the hell The Dog is when you need him. Nash claims he saved Russo from Shawn Michaels numerous times during his days in the WWF and bailed Bischoff out during Nitro's formative years. Enough talk. None other than ECW world champ Mike Awesome climbs in the ring and proceeds to break a crutch over Nash's back. Take that.
  • Hogan implores his lawyer to set something up for Kidman, but it's not a good idea to be in a limo because... the white Hummer is back. The seemingly forgotten piece of WCW history does a number on Hogan's limo. Of course, Bischoff is at the wheel with Kidman riding shotgun.
  • Kidman and Bischoff taunt Hogan as he's wheeled out on a stretcher. Kidman spray paints Hulk with a red NB for New Blood.
  • Main Event - DDP vs. Sting. Jarrett generously offers to help with the commentary. Sting fires off a facebuster and two Stinger Splashes, but Page escapes to the ropes to avoid the Scorpion. Sting wins an exchange of right hands; DDP gets a two count with a belly-to-belly. Sting clotheslines Page out of the ring, where he finds himself forced to keep Jarrett away from Kim. Vampiro hits the ring and plants Sting with the Nail In The Coffin. Page comes back in and ends the match with a Diamond Cutter. Jarrett goes for a guitar shot, but DDP ducks and the guitar crushes Kimberly instead.
  • Epilogue: Bischoff, Russo and Jarrett celebrate backstage. The creative team tells Jarrett to return to the ring because his fans are calling. They're not, but JJ goes back out anyway. Jarrett taunts Page and the plight of his wife, so DDP flies back out to the ring and starts taking Jarrett apart. Scott Steiner, Bagwell, Package, Vampiro and the Wall all hit the ring. Sting runs down and he's on fire, but Booker and The Cat reinforce the New Blood and the Millionaires' Club falls to sheer weight of numbers. Russo and Bischoff come halfway down the ramp to survey the carnage, but someone is standing behind them: Bret Hart.
  • Whew. Once my head stops spinning I'll start to sort it all out. With all respect to American history, this may one day go down as the Great Compromise: the young guys get a push, but it's a heel push, while the veterans get to save face as faces. Of course that's only the way it looks after one episode...