I recently went to my local K-Mart intent on purchasing the latest WWE DVD release, Triple H: Thy Kingdom Come. Unfortunately, they did not have it in stock so I decided to purchase The Best of WCW Monday Nitro Vol. 2 instead.
I’ve never breezed through an entire WWE 3-disc set with such ease.
In a year of strong WWE offerings, this overlooked gem ranks among the finest. This set transported me back in time to a period when professional wrestling, and WCW in specific, was at its zenith. It captures the very essence of what made Nitro must-see television.
The biggest strength of Vol. 2 is host Diamond Dallas Page, who is excellent at every turn. In addition to being a 3x WCW world champion and one of the biggest stars in the promotion’s history, DDP is a credible authority to accurately tell the real history, both good and bad, of WCW.
Contrary to how WCW is portrayed in most of WWE’s revisionist history, it seems that the goal of Vol. 2 is to prove just how much WCW did right.
DDP expectedly gives praise to the revolutionary NWO storyline and cruiserweight division, but also offers a glimpse into how WCW was ahead of the curve on many aspects that became staples of the professional wrestling scene in the late 90s. Features on the Nitro Girls, the annual spring breakout shows from Panama City, and Nitro parties illustrate just how much WCW mastered the art of appealing to the coveted older male demographic. He also debunks the notion that WCW never cultivated its own talent.
DDP dishes out tantalizing heaps of backstage information. Stories about what Madusa told him backstage prior to her tossing the WWE women’s title in a trash can; Rey Mysterio being voted ahead of him for Rookie of the Year in the 1992 Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards; and Stacy Kiebler’s reaction to meeting Bill Goldberg are all fascinating. Perhaps the highlight of the entire collection is the poignant tribute he pays to Randy “Macho Man” Savage. The segment alone is worth going out of your way to see.
Truly, no one could have done a better job of navigating viewers through Nitro’s history as he did.
At its peak, Nitro regularly sold out 20,000 seat venues in a matter of minutes. DDP recounts a story of taking a picture of the Mets Center in Minneapolis, MN, after Nitro had just set the record for the fastest sellout in the history of the facility. That catch is that the arena happened to be in the hometown of music icon Prince, whose attendance record was also shattered. Particularly notable is a 1998 DDP vs. Chris Jericho match at the Georgia Dome. While the match itself is rather basic, seeing such a large crowd for a TV taping is an indicator of just how hot of a commodity WCW was at the time. They would pack out the arena a few months later for the historic Goldberg’s historic world title win over Hulk Hogan.
Other standout bouts include a heated cage match between Vampiro and Sting; a sensational six-man lucha tag match featuring Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, and the late Hector Garza; a collection of matches from the formative stages of Booker T’s singles career; and a fun cruiserweight match pitting Shane Helms vs. Shannon Moore. Goldberg’s debut match vs. Hugh Morris and a Booker T vs. Scott Steiner world title match from the final episode of Nitro are both noteworthy additions from an historical stanpoint.
WWE is notorious for repeating matches on its DVD sets. For instance, the same 2007 Shawn Michaels vs. Edge match from Raw is included on Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story, The Best of Raw 15th Anniversary, Edge: A Decade of Decadence and You Think You Know Me? The Story of Edge collections. Thankfully they didn’t make that same mistake this time around. To the best of my knowledge, the majority of these matches have never been made available on any prior release.
On most WWE DVD releases, we’re accustomed to seeing matches begin with both guys already in the ring with the screen fading to black immediately following the conclusion. However, we’re treated to full entrances for every match, commercial jumps, post-match replays and interviews. Vol. 2 flows very smoothly, making you feel as though you’re watching an actual episodic show instead of a random collection of matches. And DDP is right there to put every moment into its proper context.
After watching WWE dominate professional wrestling over the last 11 years, it’s refreshing to be reminded of a time when there was legitimate competition. When it was firing on all cylinders WCW Monday Nitro was a textbook example of how to do a weekly wrestling show the right way.