Every professional wrestling fan recalls the moment they fell in love with the squared circle.
For me, it was the September 29, 1996 edition of Monday Night Nitro.
More specifically, watching Kevin Nash launch Rey Mysterio Jr. like a lawn dart headfirst into the side of a production truck. The thud of Mysterio’s head slamming into a steel wall signaled the start of a new era. That singular image had a profound impact on my childhood, as I was drawn into the world of black and white.
I sat anxiously on the edge of my couch every Monday watching Nitro and Raw, wondering what would happen next.
Today we will explore the good, the bad(trust me, there is a ton of bad!) and the Mongo of the first Monday Night Nitro.
Before we continue, I’d like to set a couple ground rules.
- Due to the numerous reviews you can find online, I’m not going to give you play by play. Instead, I intend to focus on the things that stood out when I was younger and things that stand out now.
- Remember, this will contain the good AND bad.
- The list is in no particular order.
So as Eric Bischoff would say, “Welcome to Monday Night Nitro!”
Monday Night Nitro, Episode 1 (9/4/95): Minneapolis Minnesota. Mall of America
Surfboard Stretch – GOOD
Probably the best in-ring moment of the night, Jushin “Thunder” Liger puts “Flyin” Brian Pillman into a surfboard stretch. The move looks great, the crowd loves it, and it’s a precursor of the great cruiserweight battles to come.
Hulk Hogan Promo – PastaMania – BAD
I’m not kidding, Hulk Hogan gives a promo at his “PastaMania” restaurant.
Watch closely and you’ll see Eric Bischoff shoving kids out of his way. Why didn’t they just start filming Bischoff next to Hogan?
Hogan talks about his upcoming bout with Big Bubba, and how he has bulked up by eating Hulkaroos.
What the hell is a Hulkaroo? Jimmy Hart stands in the background looking either really confused or super happy.
Hogan calls us his “Pastamaniacs,” as the Children of the Corn all smile awkwardly into the camera
Scott “Flash” Norton vs. Randy Savage – GOOD AND BAD
Scott “Flash” Norton comes out after Ric Flair vs. Sting ends in a disqualification. Bobby Heenan shies away while Norton mumbled something about a contract and eventually goes face to face with Steve ‘Mongo” McMichael’s face. And just talks nonsense.
Norton just mumbles while “Macho Man” wants to fight in the ring. The match doesn’t happen because…I don’t even fucking know.
Sabu Promo – BAD?
We then cut to a Sabu promo? Really!? So I guess we’re not getting an impromptu match between Savage and Norton?
It just awkwardly cuts to a Sabu promo while we are still trying to figure out what Norton was trying to say.
I still can’t figure out if this is a good moment or bad moment.
Lex Luger Returns! – GOOD
Sting and Ric Flair are about to lock up but wait a minute, out walks Lex Luger!
Plenty of people who know Luger is, so the Mall of America erupts with “Luger” chants.
This is a HUGE moment, as Luger jumped ship from the WWF into the land of “Where the big boys play.”
After helping Hogan clear out the Dungeon of Doom at the end of the show, Luger cuts a decent promo stating that he is back to win the belt and is done playing with “kids” (a nice little jab at the WWF).
Out of context…that sounds bad.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael – Mongo
Former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve “Mongo” McMichael was so bad at announcing that I had to create an entirely new category for him. Don’t believe me? Watch this.
“Listen baby, this venue right here, the place here is apropos, and that don’t mean you’re diggin’ around the dirt with farm emblements (?) baby.”
McMichael starts his announcing career with a bang shocking Heenan with a hand buzzer, and then proudly proclaiming “Don’t underestimate Mongo, Mr. Heenaaaaaan! Remember, we still have over 40 minutes left of him (SIGH!). Don’t believe me? Here are some more highlights:
- Mongo refers to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as Bobby “The Stain” and continues to do so multiple times throughout the broadcast.
- He states that “This is a championship place to showcase championship athletes.” I’m not sure if he really knows what he’s saying here, as he looks incredibly confused. This is all within the first five minutes of the broadcast!
- Right after Pillman defeated Liger, he gives his best quote of the night – “Let me tell you this if the fans weren’t tuned into this, baby, they didn’t see a match worth watching.” I had to watch this three times to translate that garbage. I have no idea what he was trying to get across. Essentially “Stay tuned to Nitro! If you do, then you probably won’t see a match worth watching”. Is Mongo a double agent? Luckily Bischoff has the common sense to cut him off and will continue to do so.
- During Sting’s entrance, Mongo is so impressed by the energy of the crowd, he compares the crowd to the Thunderdome. Thanks, Mongo!
- When Arn Anderson walks out to the ring during Ric Flair vs. Sting, he claims that Arn Anderson is “growing razor blades.” Yep, growing razor blades! You can’t make this up!
- During the Hulk Hogan vs. Big Bubba bout, Mongo tells us that he wants Hogan to mall drag Big Bubba around the Mall of America.
Seriously, the WWE Network needs a separate closed captioning function just for Mongo’s commentary.
But something strange happened while rewatching episode one of Monday Nitro, I found myself once again sitting on the edge of my couch with bated breath. Every suplex. Every surprise debut. Every PastaMania promo. I felt like a kid again.
And that’s the magic of professional wrestling.