We all know that the biggest notch on Goldberg’s streak belt in WCW was beating Hollywood Hogan on Nitro to become the WCW Champion in the Georgia Dome in 1998.
It was such a big blow to the nWo and their momentum. The belt was out of the enemy camp as a WCW savior stood up to the black and white and recaptured the top prize in the company.
He wasn’t the first though.
In April of 1997, Lex Luger defeated The Giant and Harlem Heat in a four corners match that gave him a shot at Hollywood Hogan’s WCW Championship. For months Hogan, being the consummate heel that he was, did everything he could to duck and dodge the challenge from The Total Package.
Hogan couldn’t get away from Luger for good though. It was August 4, 1997 at The Palace of Auburn Hills just outside of Detroit that WCW aired Monday Nitro for the 100th time (although on the WWE Network it’s listed as Nitro #99, so if anyone can explain that to please, please feel free). The main event was set to see Luger against Hogan for the title, finally!
After several attempts of the nWo to interfere and either cost Luger the match or just get Hogan disqualified, The Total Package put Hogan up in the Torcher Rack and within seconds Hogan gave up and Luger celebrated as the new WCW Champion.
Quite possibly the best part of the initial moment was the overwhelming combination of shock and excitement in the face of referee Randy Anderson as he called for the bell. Hey, he was an employee of WCW as well! It was WCW’s moment!
This was the first real setback to the nWo. After coming on to the scene over a year prior, Hall, Nash, Hogan and the boys ran roughshod throughout the WCW roster. There really wasn’t a big WCW moment. There would be a win here and there, but for the most part, the nWo was running the show.
The crowd immediately erupted as Luger jumped up on the turnbuckle, dropped down to his knees, and was greeted by the quickly emptying WCW locker room as all of the WCW stars wanted to congratulate Luger on his moment. Tony Schiavone called it best with Jim Ross-esque exclamation of “LUGER WON THE TITLE! LUGER WON THE TITLE!”
However, you can’t discuss a big moment in WCW without talking about the negatives…because there ALWAYS seemed to be at least one! With this, two glaring bad decisions shone brightly – both were constant flaws seen from the south.
First off, this match took place five days before their Road Wild pay per view show. WHY have this big title match on free TV less than a week before? This is why we watch Raw and SmackDown instead of Nitro and Thunder – WWE understood that this business is a marathon and WCW ran their business like a sprint.
The Monday ratings were important, no question about that. But business wise, it’s all about making money! A build up for the Luger/Hogan championship match could have generated a large increase in pay per view buys. Another missed opportunity.
Well, kind of. They still did Luger and Hogan at Road Wild later that week. A potential large buy-rate for a highly anticipated title match was now main evented by a rematch from less than a week ago. It just didn’t make sense.
And Hogan won!! This leads me into the second frequently seen WCW mistake. People have a problem today with the Raw Woman’s Championship changing hands quickly…this was FIVE days! It wasn’t as big a problem at this time as it was later in WCW’s run, but that company cheapened the allure of a title change.
It is impressive that Booker T was a 5-time WCW Champion, I in no way am taking anything away from him. However, his first championship win came eight months before WCW closed its doors. That’s five title wins in 8 months. WCW higher ups would just throw a title change out for the sake of changing the title. It was sad.
All that said though, that night in Detroit proved to be one of the most exciting moments in the 5 ½ year run of Monday Nitro. The WCW crowd was electric that night, which was a bit of a microcosm of WCW as a whole at that point. This night came right in the middle of Nitro’s year and a half long run of topping Raw in the ratings.
The bottom line is that Luger deserved this moment. This was the first time since February of 1992 that The Total Package had a World Championship around his waist! He was a key part of the Monday Night Wars and was a front-line soldier for WCW in their battles against the nWo as well as Monday Night Raw.
It was a night that should not be forgotten!