The true story behind the debut of WCW Monday Nitro

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September 03, 2013

The first Nitro emanated from the Mall of America. WCW chose the shopping center as its first venue for very specific reasons.

“Malls were hot at the time,” Sullivan explained. “It was the biggest mall in America. It made it look like we were coming from the largest venue other than an arena.”

“WCW was drawing okay,” Hart said. “We knew we needed something that looked fresh, not just another audience in an arena. People were hanging over the balconies everywhere you could see. When the cameras panned around, it was magnificent.”

The Minneapolis crowd was treated to a fantastic opening match, a fast-paced encounter between light-heavyweight trailblazers Brian Pillman and Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Though fans were ready for a night of action, they had no idea what they were about to be witness to.

Watch Pillman and Liger clash

In a hotel across town, Lex Luger was secluded, separated from all the hubbub at the Mall of America.

“I didn’t know anything about [what was going on at Nitro],” Luger said. “They waited until the show was on the air, shoved me in a van and brought me into a back area of the mall. I was away from where the show was and any of the wrestlers were, in a big trenchcoat with a towel over my head.”

No one in WCW had laid eyes on Luger until the moments right before he walked out to save Hulk Hogan from a beatdown at the hands of Sullivan and his Dungeon of Doom.

Highlights from the first Nitro

“When I came out, it was such a shock to everybody,” Luger said. “You could feel the electricity in the air.”

“That was the last thing people were expecting,” Sullivan said. “WWE had put a lot of resources into Lex. He wrestled the champion at WrestleMania.”

Luger’s defection set the tone for the unpredictable feeling of Monday Nitro. Over the next few years, a shocking amount of WWE Superstars made the leap to WCW.

“That was one of the things that really made wrestling on Monday nights,” Sullivan said.

The successful launch of WCW Nitro helped usher in one of the biggest booms in sports-entertainment history. Nitro grew to be a formidable competitor to Raw as WCW beat WWE in the ratings for 84 consecutive weeks in what became known as The Monday Night War. The stiff competition forced WWE to step up its game, bringing about the Attitude Era.

25 moments that defined the Attitude Era

“It brought out the best in both companies,” Luger said. “Both WWE and WCW got super creative, it was the greatest period of creativity I’d seen in my career.”

Sullivan, an influential general on WCW’s side of the war, was quick to agree.

“You couldn’t walk down the street without seeing an nWo shirt, a Goldberg shirt or a “Stone Cold” Steve Austin shirt,” he said. “The combined ratings were astronomical, they hooked the American public.”

The battle for sports-entertainment supremacy made an enormous impression on millions of people. The man who fired the first salvo of The Monday Night War still hears about it all the time.

“It made Monday nights,” Luger said. “People have such fond memories of it. They come up and tell me all the time about how they had the remote flipping back and forth between Nitro and Raw. It was unbelievable.”

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Lex Luger Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Jimmy Hart Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Kevin Sullivan Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles Hulk Hogan Bio, Videos, Photos, and News Articles

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