It’s 25 years since the birth of WCW Monday Nitro. A weekly show that indelibly changed pro wrestling’s presentation, characters and storylines forever.
But just how timeless is Nitro? Have their top storylines stood the test of time?
Come with me, as we take a trip down a misshapen memory lane. Fantasy booking with a twist.
An alternate universe where I take a modern superstar and transplant them into a classic Nitro moment. Seven “What if” scenarios designed to showcase the best of Nitro to a contemporary audience.
Celebrating 25 years of Nitro has really brought something to my attention. A lot of modern wrestling fans never watched WCW at the time. Having launched in 1995, you need to be at least 30 years old to have any memories of it.
However, if you’re like me, maybe you were just a hardcore WWF kid and even catching the intro to Nitro once Cartoon Network had ended felt like a dastardly betrayal.
Although I remember a lot of angles, I never appreciated most of them without the benefit of hindsight. However, Madusa dumping the belt in the bin on Nitro is one I remember vividly.
The former Alundra Blayze appeared suddenly from behind Steve McMichael, the 90s version of David Otunga, stated her name as Madusa and dropped the WWF women’s title into a trash can.
The scene is enhanced by Eric Bischoff’s feigned surprise; the kind of surprise when you open your Christmas present and you already know what it is and that Christmas present is a picture of you kicking your mate in the balls.
When looking to drag a modern superstar into the time vortex with me to recreate this event, I initially considered Becky Lynch. Her run as “The Man”, winning both brand’s belts at Wrestlemania meant she was arguably the strongest cornerstone of the division since Blayze.
The sound of two straps clanging into the on-set waste paper basket would almost surpass the original betrayal but Lynch feels overwhelmingly like “The Company Man” to me. Instead, I’ve opted for an equally dominant competitor, who’s defection to the competition feels more realistic. Feels almost more satisfying to the fans. Asuka.
Asuka throws the women’s title into the trash
It’s October 1995 and due to financial troubles, the WWF release their women’s champion, Asuka, from her contract. The wrestler formerly known as Kana, was brought in by the WWF to revive the division and carry a championship that lay dormant for 3 years prior.
Fast forward to December 18th of the same year and on WCW Nitro, a familiar face appears behind Steve McMichael (he is the one true constant in every reality) and the rest of the commentary team.
Bischoff and co seem bewildered at the appearance of the rival’s champion, an emotion sustained across all debuts in the Nitro era but their confused musings are interrupted by a tirade of Japanese venom sprayed straight down the lens. They may not speak Japanese but the message is clear when Asuka holds up the WWF women’s title.
“I am Kana. Always have been Kana. Always will be Kana”
She grabs the bin from behind the desk, holds both it and the title aloft and then furiously condemns it to irrelevance.
More angry Japanese shouting before ending with the line,
“I am WCW”
Kana leaves as quickly as she entered.
More angry unintelligible ramblings, this time in English from Steve McMichael, as Bischoff shouts “wow” so loudly into his mic it’s almost distorted.
The saviour of the WWF women’s division has become its judge, jury and executioner, in one simple display on Monday Nitro.
You like to think Kana could go on to have a more successful career than Madusa but sadly, as we only transport a single talent and not long term storylines or modern sentiment, it’s likely Kana would have some landmark matches in the women’s division before being relegated to fighting men in sideshow contests.
Madusa did become the first woman to hold the WCW cruiserweight title but this wasn’t spiritually the same belt the likes of Jericho, Psychosis, Malenko, Mysterio, Guerrero and Juvey had made famous. She would go on to lose the title to ‘Oklahoma’, an insulting parody of JR, an indication of the joke that the cruiserweight division had become.
Before her time in WWF, Madusa trained extensively in the Japanese style, as well as cross-training in Muay Thai, Kickboxing and Boxing, creating a hard-hitting shoot style comparable to Asuka today.
Madusa’s most prominent opponent is likely Bull Nakano, an icon of Japanese wrestling displaying a style and athleticism years before her time.
As with all of these “what if” scenarios, it’s important to realise the societal context at the time. Before the late 80s, women’s wrestling was often a footnote on the poster, next to little people. There was no real division and the championship was essentially gifted to The Fabulous Moolah, who held it for 28 years.
Madusa established women’s wrestling as more than an afterthought and her willingness to fight, rather than parade around in a bikini, was almost too forward thinking for the 90s audience.
Asuka, arguably, has been underutilised on the main roster today. She was a true empress in Japan, conquering her opponents with the same unapologetic grappling of Bull Nakano and Madusa before her.
This dominance extended to her undefeated run in NXT and although I’m not a proponent for never-ending streaks, a great deal of her threat and allure was lost after Charlotte became the first to beat her.
I picked Asuka because I can see her defection being met with more justification and satisfaction than that of a Horsewoman. The dumping of the belt, regrettably, is THE only significant moment in Nitro history to feature a woman, not in the role of valet. In my eyes, that requires a no-nonsense wrestler, one who carried the division, only to be scorned by her previous employer. Other than Madusa, I would be more than ready for Asuka to fill that role.
But maybe you don’t agree. Who do you think would be the best replacement for Madusa in this classic Nitro moment?