It's Still Real To Me: WCW: The Best of Monday NITRO

It’s Still Real To Me: WCW: The Best of Monday NITRO

The main point about Best Ofs is that they feature… well, the best of something; as a rule, the only time a second compilation can be issued is if anything’s happened after the release of the original Best Of. As anyone aware of the WWF/WCW Monday Night Wars would know, this is not the case for The Best Of Monday Night Nitro Volume Two, so the casual examiner would have to wonder what is on offer amongst the 427 minutes promised on the packaging. Aside, of course, from the loveable and welcoming Diamond Dallas Page, who only plugs his yoga twice as he plays host – and, to compensate for this, delivers a tearful and legitimately moving tribute to the late Macho Man Randy Savage.

So let’s not even start to think about what is – or isn’t – second best. This three disc set should be viewed as a historical document that allows immersion in a bygone era and a snapshot of the journey to one event: the death of WCW. These three discs demonstrate why, at one point, WCW was looking likely to triumph in the ratings battle – and also show us why the company eventually had to be fed one last meal of sweet, tasty oats and kissed on its velvety nose, then taken round the back of the barn and shot in the head.

The thing is, the WCW could well have enjoyed a few more years in the paddocks, galloping and prancing in the sunshine, had it not been ridden into the ground by a gang of flabby, lazy cowboys and a ranch owner who left command to others. It’s been well documented in scores of wrestling autobiographies how Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and a bunch of their pals used WCW to push their own agendas at the expense of storytelling (and indeed wrestling). However, until you watch it here – segment after segment edited together into a dreary patchwork quilt of pointless ring-wandering and hugging while more senior conspirators bellow leaden insults at whoever hasn’t joined them yet (and by the end, this was about three people and a set of metal stairs) – these reports might have seemed resentful or jealous of the New World Order’s prominence. An aside: Scott Hall doesn’t count, because he can do what he likes, end of argument.

It crackles off the screen that these shows were devised by someone who knew how to put on An Event. Every bit of pyro, lighting, proper art direction and tits – that live concert attendees of the time took for granted – provokes the crowd to fever pitch long before anyone’s even walked out from backstage. Then the addition of some of the most insanely exciting wrestling talent, fiery cruiserweight gems like Guerro, Benoit and Mysterio, served as an effortless draw to those who were more concerned with what happened inside the ring.

The odd match aside, we mostly see much-loved veterans who weren’t in the nWo (ever, or just not at the time) doing what they do best, whether it’s Flair stylin’ and profilin’ or Sting dangling from a variety of ceilings, roofs and rigs. Puzzlingly, Lex Luger is only shown staging repeated run-ins, his face twisted like a Halloween lantern that has come alive and wants to KILL US ALL.

There are moments of genuine, belt-binning excitement recorded here. The countless times that the cameras follow the action outside perpetuate the feeling that the whole world was losing its shit along with the viewers at home. Watching this in a darkened living room in chilly 21st Century spring, it genuinely feels like one of those seemingly endless summer evenings, just before the school holidays, when possibilities were limitless and excitement was just beyond your front door.

The first disc even contains parts of the first ever WCW, show recorded in a Mall with levels of neon, sequins and candy colours last seen at a primary school disco (and that was just the men! etc etc). The nWo was a few years away from here, but there’s still a huge emphasis on existing, well-established characters repeatedly changing allegiance over perceived slights and petty grievances, often on the spot. To all intents and purposes the garb and age of Hogan, Savage, Anderson, Flair and their interchangeable lady companions makes one segment here look like a car park brawl that has spilled out of an over-50s fancy dress disco. But without knowing what came after, it’s still garishly entertaining.

The value here is mostly one of nostalgia, and not just for wrestling; the Nitro Girls audition footage at the end celebrates an era where ever so slightly bum-stroky aerobics set to music was the height of cutting edge sexy dancing. MBA superstar Denis Rodman turns up, looking like he’s been dressed at the discount high street outlet, Peacocks; the arm candy, numbering Miss Elizabeth and the fantastically-named Woman, look like glamorous but demurely dressed pub singers, maybe even cruise ship worthy. It truly was the pre-Swag era, and it’s charmingly innocent.

So you, the viewer, will run out into this metaphorical, highlighter pen coloured summer evening, to be greeted by a group of walnut-coloured gentlemen with drawn-on marker pen beards, wandering around as if they are unsure what to do next. Some of them are urinating on your lawn, and others are singing ‘Canada, O Canada’, for what could have been forty minutes. From time to time they rip their t-shirts off, only to reveal exactly the same t-shirt underneath, but a different colour.

Run past them, friend. Do not pause to high-five them, it only encourages.


You will be rewarded with a glimpse of the emerging DIY comic genius of Chris Jericho; some genuinely landmark moments in wrestling history; a couple of enjoyable cruiserweight matches; a fleeting blaze of the white hot, all-round talent of Eddie Guerro; and some solid, sometimes exciting, wrestling from some folks who have gone on to greater things. Once you’re finished there, get to know a couple of those boors on the way back home – some of them aren’t half bad when you get them on their own, and they have some cracking stories to tell.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.