The true story behind the debut of WCW Monday Nitro

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September 03, 2013

Bischoff, after galvanizing his staff into putting their full effort into launching Nitro, set out to gain any insight on what he could do to make his program better than WWE. With the help of a crack Turner Broadcasting researcher, Bischoff saw something that kept coming up in the responses they got from potential viewers.

“The questions were things like, ‘What do you like about professional wrestling?,’ ” Bischoff wrote in “Controversy Creates Cash.”

“The answer: ‘I like it when it’s unpredictable.’ ‘Unpredictable’ and ‘spontaneous’ popped up over and over. People like surprises, especially in wrestling.”

Little did Eric Bischoff know, one of the biggest surprises in wrestling history was about to fall into his lap.

“It was all Sting,” Lex Luger said with a hearty laugh. “It was all his fault.”

As WCW readied Nitro, the powerhouse known as The Total Package was in the midst of a big run with WWE. After leaving WCW in 1992, Luger famously landed on the deck of the USS Intrepid and bodyslammed the massive WWE Champion Yokozuna, setting off a summer-long tour across America in a bus dubbed the "Lex Express."

Luger relives his "Lex Express" expedition

Though Luger’s WWE Title aspirations cooled off by spring 1994, he was still happy in WWE.

“I was hoping to end my career with the company,” Luger told “Vince and I had a great relationship.”

When Luger’s WWE contract came up for renegotiations in early 1995, things hit a snag.

“I was trying to negotiate some things outside of wrestling,” Luger explained. “Because of that, we hadn’t worked out a new contract. My old one expired and I was working on a handshake for six months. It was unheard of.”

A conversation between Luger and Sting, one of his closest friends, set things in motion. The Stinger couldn’t believe that Luger was working on a handshake.

“He was astonished,” Luger said. “He asked if he could call me back and called Eric Bischoff to let him know, because of Nitro.”

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Bischoff, at first, wasn’t even considering bringing The Total Package back to WCW.

“I never really liked Lex much,” the WCW executive wrote in his book. “He treated people badly and had too high an opinion of himself.”

Today, Luger’s quick to agree with that assessment.

“Back then, I was much more all about me,” he said.

However, after a series of clandestine meetings, Bischoff and Luger agreed on a deal to bring The Total Package back to WCW. Before pen was put to paper, though, Bischoff had one caveat: He wanted Luger to not give notice to WWE.

“They knew, the way the Internet was, even back then, if I gave notice it would have ruined the surprise,” Luger said.

Still, The Total Package had misgivings about the whole situation, despite being free to do so, given his handshake agreement. He felt it went against how he had been brought up in the business.

As the debut of WCW Nitro neared in September 1995, Luger had traveled to Canada’s Maritimes for a weekend of WWE Live Events. Lex made, what turned out to be, last-ditch efforts at finalizing a new deal with WWE, which were fruitless. He left Moncton, New Brunswick, and WWE, heading out to Minneapolis for what would be an historic night.

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