March 26, 2001, was one of those days that no wrestling fans of that era will ever forget. That was the day that WCW aired the final episode of Nitro. Perhaps more importantly, that was also the day that Vince McMahon announced on RAW that he had purchased WCW. After years of fighting for ratings and control of the wrestling industry in America, WWE had finally, officially beaten WCW. While the battle between the two companies hadn’t been much of a fight at all in recent years, March 26, 2001, still marks the final evening of the Monday Night Wars: a period in professional wrestling history that many still say represents the absolute best of what the medium has to offer. It was a sad, joyful, and truly historic day.
As historic as the last episode of WCW Monday Nitro was, though, there’s quite a bit about that night that many people don’t know about. While that’s partly because many of those who participated in the evening were perhaps too worried about the future to dwell on the past, it’s also because there was no real social media in 2001 and there weren’t many who had reliable internet access. As such, the stories that played out off-screen that night weren’t properly revealed until years later when everyone who was part of that memorable evening began sharing tales about an infamous evening that change the business forever. They may not be the stories that played out in front of the camera, but they are stories you need to know. These are 20 backstage facts fans didn’t know about the last nitro episode
20 WCW Sold Extra Tickets By Promising Unlimited Refreshments
You probably already know that WCW was struggling to sell tickets prior to WWE purchasing them. However, you’d think that the final episode of WCW Nitro would be historic enough to attract quite the crowd. Maybe that would have been the case, but it seems that WCW didn’t have enough faith in their ability to attract enough people who wanted to be part of wrestling history. So, they also advertised that fans who paid their $30 to attend would also enjoy “5+ Hours" of free refills on all refreshments. Given that the show was run around the time of spring break, the promo seemed to have worked.
19 WCW Spent Way Too Much Money On The Final Show
While not everyone went into that Nitro knowing it would be the final show (more on that later), those who did know also knew they wanted the last Nitro to be a spectacular event. So, they decided to spend a little more money than they normally would on the show’s production values. It’s not entirely clear how much the final episode of Nitro cost (there are conflicting reports), but we do know that WCW’s crew spent quite a bit on pyrotechnics, the stage set-up, and some elaborate mechanisms to make the outdoor venue work. We guess they figured they had nothing to lose at that point.
18 The Final Show’s Set Took Almost a Week To Build
The final episode of WCW was not only expensive, but it was pretty elaborate from a logistical standpoint. While WCW had done outdoor shows before (the final show was actually their traditional outdoor spring break show), those who were in the know about what was going to happen had decided that they needed to go all out. As such, it took almost an entire week (five or six days) for the crew to finish the show’s set-up. Interestingly, the prolonged set-up for the show was one of the first indications that WCW was really shutting down. This is why some of the stagehands knew what was happening before the wrestlers did.
17 People Were Swiping Tons Of Stuff From WCW Headquarters Leading Up To The Show
The most fascinating thing about the final episode of Nitro is how unaware most people were regarding what was about to happen. In fact, most of the people outside of WCW’s offices didn’t really know what to expect. While some of the people at the offices (which included visiting road crew) were in the loop, that didn’t exactly mean that they were handling the information well. Some of the old WCW production team members recall that office employees and visitors were taking everything from souvenirs to staplers once it became clear that the whole company was going to be shut down in a matter of days.
16 Most Wrestlers Didn’t Believe What Was Happening...Until Shane McMahon Walked In
While most of WCW’s wrestlers were finally brought into the loop leading up to the final episode of Nitro, WCW executives still didn’t bother to formally tell everyone what was happening. That information was just sort of passed around. Even then, most wrestlers didn't know if WWE was really running things. The guys in the back were still arguing about what was real and what was an angle before the start of the show. Those who didn’t believe they would really do such a thing were finally convinced it was happening when Shane McMahon himself walked into the backstage area. Needless to say, that put an end to all doubts.
15 Shane Told WCW Wrestlers That WWE Planned To Keep The Company Alive
WWE’s purchase of WCW happened so quickly that the truth of the matter is that many of the details were still being ironed out after the papers were signed. As such, Shane McMahon honestly probably didn’t know what the real future of the company was when he addressed WCW’s locker room. However, he elected to tell everyone there what WWE figured was the best possible scenario for WCW’s performers.
Specifically, he told them that WWE would continue to run WCW shows under the WWE banner. The truth was that this was just one of the ideas that WWE was floating around at the time. It was also the most unrealistic.
14 The WWE Crew At The Show Were Worried About Their Safety
Aside from Shane McMahon, WWE actually sent quite a few pieces of backstage talent to the final episode of Nitro. While this would normally be quite the honor, the truth of the matter is that WWE’s representatives didn’t really know what to expect. What they did know was that many of the people on the WCW side of things didn’t really know what was happening.
As such, they saw themselves as the bearers of some potentially really bad news and felt that they might actually be attacked by WCW performers. However, some WCW performers said they were relieved to see the WWE guys because at least they knew what they were doing.
13 WWE’s People Basically Ran The Final Episode Of Nitro
By the time the final episode of Nitro rolled around, it was clear to just about everyone that nobody at WCW actually knew what they were doing. The company’s visionaries had long left or given up, the top wrestlers were just treading water, and even the production crew had started to phone it in. Maybe that’s why WWE’s people pretty much ran the final episode of Nitro. The team Vince sent to the show immediately assumed the gorilla position (essentially home base for the production) and even directed the road agents on how to handle the booking of most matches.
12 A Ton of Former WCW Employees Showed Up For the Last Episode
Even before anyone really knew what exactly was happening, word got around quickly that the final episode of Nitro was indeed going to be the final episode of Nitro. While that didn’t necessarily attract a ton of fans to the show (see the entry about free beer) it did inspire a lot of people from WCW’s past to show up. Reports from those backstage at the time say that a parade of former crew, performers, and executives slowly worked their way backstage in order to say goodbye and experience the final show for themselves. It would have been beautiful if it wasn’t also so sad.
11 The Highest Paid WCW Wrestlers Were Also The Most Worried
No one thing killed WCW, but the absurd contracts that the company gave its top performers certainly didn’t help their long-term prospects. Guys you’ve probably never even heard of were making hundreds of thousands of dollars during the company’s final days. That might sound sweet, but the highest-paid wrestlers during WCW’s dying days were also the most worried. WCW’s highest-paid stars figured that there was no way WWE would pick up their ludicrous contracts. They were right. WWE confirmed that very night that they were not picking up contracts over $100,000. The wrestlers with contracts over that mark either waited for their contracts to expire or took new deals.
10 Diamond Dallas Page Knew What Was Happening (Because He Already Signed A WWE Contract)
While most of WCW’s biggest stars were left to worry about what came next, a select few knew what their future would be. That included wrestlers who knew WWE had bought their contracts, stars who had already opted to sit-out and let their contract ride, and Diamond Dallas Page. Why is Page separate from the rest? Well, he was pretty much the only major WCW star who had agreed to a deal with WWE well in advance of WCW closing its doors. In fact, he had to keep a straight face about the whole thing as he was one of the few WCW wrestlers who knew what was going on.
9 Scott Steiner Was Convinced He Wouldn’t Wrestle Again
By the end of WCW’s run, Scott Steiner was one of the highest paid performers in the company. It’s believed that he made about $850,000 during his final year with the company once his contract and all associated bonuses were accounted for. As we mentioned before, that means WWE wouldn’t automatically pick up his contract. While that was true of many guys, Steiner was particularly convinced that the end of WCW meant the end of his career. Steiner’s antics, style, and inflated contract left him with serious doubts regarding whether or not WWE would ever hire him again. He spent most of the last show moping around backstage.
8 The Jeff Jarrett Firing Scared A Lot Of WCW Employees
There were many infamous moments during the final episode of Nitro, but few are more memorable than when Vince McMahon used one of his promos during that show to namedrop Jeff Jarrett and seemingly fire him live on television. As it turns out, that’s pretty much exactly what happened. While just about everyone, Jarrett included, knew that Vince didn’t like Jarrett, the way that he so casually let him go through a comedy promo was seen as an odd move considering that WWE was privately telling people WCW would live on in some form. This was one of the first signs something else may be happening.
7 Ric Flair’s Opening Promo Did Not Go Over Well
Speaking of awkward promos, let’s talk about the one that kicked off the show. Ric Flair’s opening promo during the last episode of Nitro could have been a beautiful way to begin the end of the legendary company. Instead...well, Flair went on a weird rant about Vince McMahon and how Vince’s dad had agreed to make Flair the world champion back in the ‘80s. Much of it made no sense, and the parts that did came across as petty. Some of the production crew backstage at the time confess that the promo wasn’t a bit hit with most of the people in the back.
6 Shane Helms Was Determined To Steal The Show Because He Felt Guilty
Once the last episode of Nitro was actually underway, most of the people who wrestled on it managed to do their jobs like it was any other night. However, a few of the people in the back decided that this was their last chance to be noticed and that they had to go out and give it their all. Shane Helms was motivated to give it his all, but for a different reason. The story goes that Helms felt a weird sense of responsibility for what had happened to the company and that he felt that he needed to have a great match so nobody would think less of him.
5 Chavo Guerrero Spent Most Of The Show Talking To Eddie
Shane Helms’ opponent during the last episode of Nitro, Chavo Guerrero, was also determined to go out and steal the show with him. We imagine that the few minutes Chavo got to spend in the ring actually came as a relief considering that he was apparently more emotional than most backstage. Reports indicate that Chavo spent a good deal of the show talking to his uncle, Eddie, who was already signed by the WWE at that time. As neither one of them were really all that sure what was happening, the conversations were no doubt somber and full of questions.
4 Booker T And Stevie Ray Had an Emotional Parting
Chavo Guerrero may have spent most of WCW’s final night talking with his uncle, but that was arguably not the most emotional family moment of the night. No, that title likely goes to the moments that Booker T shared with his brother Stevie Ray. See, Booker T was young, talented, and hadn’t been fully corrupted by WCW. He was likely going to be signed by WWE. Stevie Ray was a different story. Simply put, Booker T knew that WWE wouldn’t sign Stevie Ray. As such, he and his brother were aware that this would likely be the last night they got to live their dream together and share a locker room.
3 WWE Had Several Backstage TVs Tuned To Monday Night Nitro
Let’s flip over to the other side of this story for a bit, shall we? We’ve noted several times that most of WCW’s stars had no idea what was happening when they walked into the final episode of WCW Nitro, but the same is true of WWE stars. Many of them had no idea what was about to happen when they went to work that night. In fact, Matt Hardy recalls understanding that something strange was happening when he noticed how many backstage TVs were tuned to Monday Night Nitro. Apparently, it was very rare for WWE to show WCW backstage during their shows. Hardy recalls watching one of those TVs for much of the night.
2 Why Ric Flair Wrestled In A Shirt
Have you ever found it strange that Ric Flair wrestled the final match in WCW Nitro history while wearing a t-shirt? Considering that it’s hard to think of another time Flair wrestled in a t-shirt (if it’s ever happened), it probably seems odd that he would pick such a moment to do so. While many people seemingly assume that Flair was out of shape or was just being weird, the truth isn’t that simple. As it turns out, Flair had recently had surgery and wore a shirt to hide some of the still visible work that had been done. So why was he asked to wrestle such a big match in the first place? Good question…
1 Vince McMahon Requested That Ric Flair vs. Sting Be The Final WCW Match
While Vince McMahon spent quite a bit of time knocking WCW down a few pegs during the company’s last night, the truth of the matter is that he still respected their achievements and the legacy of the company (at least to an extent). That’s probably why he personally requested that Ric Flair vs. Sting be the last WCW match ever. The story goes that Shane McMahon approached Ric Flair the night before and was able to convince him to go out and wrestle this match because of how much it would mean to Vince, to WCW, and to everyone watching.