September 11, 1995
WCW Monday Nitro: 2.4 Rating
WWE Monday Night Raw: 2.5 Rating
On this First Edition of Gonzo Shark Attacks The Ratings, I will examine the very first week that Monday Nitro and Monday Night Raw went head to head on primetime television. It was just one week after WCW Monday Nitro premiered and Lex Luger shocked the world by jumping ship to the Atlanta based promotion and walked out to the ring to challenge the World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan.
I wasn’t even 10 years old when the Monday Night Wars started and just like everybody else, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the emergence of a legitimate counterpart and rival to McMahon’s flagship Monday night program. Even to me as a 9-year-old, it was obvious that WCW’s new show was going to be a contender in that Monday night slot!
The purpose of this project is to watch each episode from each week back to back, over 20 years later, and examine if the ratings actually told the story of which show was better. Which show had the better matches? What show had the better storylines and hotter angles? Who was more cutting-edge and pushed the envelope a little further? What show was better produced and more fluid? Did the rating reflect the momentum of either show, or were people watching either show because it was more popular at the time?
The first thing I noted was that Monday Night Raw was definitely a well produced program and showcased the more polished in-ring work. It was also glaringly obvious that WWE had been in this game of primetime television much longer when you compared the visual look and format of each show.
Although both shows were only an hour, WCW managed to integrate the better storylines and angles into their show. Hulk Hogan was to lead his team into Fall Brawl: War Games against the Dungeon of Doom just six days later but he was down one man because Vader was nowhere to be found and wasn’t eligible to be on Hogan’s team anymore. He was also going to defend his belt against the new arrival Lex Luger in the main event of this edition of Nitro. They did a good job of portraying that Hogan was in some turmoil and didn’t know if his team would be down one man in War Games. This story played on throughout the show from beginning to end. Monday Night Raw didn’t really showcase any hot angles or storylines other than 1-2-3 Kid challenging his best friend Razor Ramon at the beginning of the show. After that the program really fell flat as far as stories go. Goldust had a very good vignette/promo on The Undertaker but that was the only noteworthy occurrence as far as stories go.
Each show managed to cram at least one meaningless match into their show, but Nitro clearly had the better main event with Hogan defending his championship against Luger to set up ‘The Total Package” agreeing to join Hogan’s War Games team. Nitro left us wondering if the team would implode at the pay-per-view because they were divided as to whether or not Luger could be trusted. Shawn Michaels retained his Intercontinental Championship against Sycho Sid in Raw’s main event but it was just a straight up match without much semblance of an accompanying hot storyline to go with it!
At the end of the day both of these shows were fairly weak, but Nitro did a better job of putting together a more complex show. Sure, Monday Night Raw was the better produced show and more aesthetically pleasing-- but it simply lacked the substance that Nitro brought to the table on their show. WCW’s show was a grittier and ironically a much more raw show than it’s rival!
On the next edition I will be examining the shows from September 18, 1995. Do you agree or disagree with my examination? Let me know on Twitter @GonzoShark1!!!