WCW Nitro created a legacy as one of the most important television shows in wrestling history. Eric Bischoff came up with the concept and pitched the idea of starting a show that competed directly against WWE Raw to Ted Turner. Nitro and Raw went to battle for over five years with the ratings war becoming a massive part of each of their business plans. WCW defeated WWE in the Monday Night Wars for 83 weeks straight before things shifted.
The ratings for WCW was strongest between 1996 and 1999 before things started to decline. We will look at the episodes of Nitro that had the best ratings. Each episode will be viewed as to what exactly caused such interest in the show. The main event, memorable moments and competition against Raw will be explained. Find out what made fans love WCW with the top ten highest-rated episodes of Nitro.
10 January 4, 1999: 5.0 (Kevin Nash vs Hulk Hogan main event)
The January 4, 1999 episode of Nitro is remembered for all the wrong reasons. It is an infamous episode of television that featured Hulk Hogan defeating Kevin Nash with the finger poke of doom to win the WCW Championship.
The nWo Elite formed this episode with fans hooked to see what was going to happen with Goldberg’s story playing out all show before he was attacked by the group. WCW broadcaster Tony Schiavone spoiled the results of Raw that evening with Mick Foley winning the WWE Championship, but it caused people to change the channel. This 5.0 rating was good for Nitro in general, but it helped sink WCW further since viewers were unhappy.
9 August 25, 1997: 5.0 (Lex Luger vs Randy Savage main event)
Nitro ran unopposed on August 25, 1997 as WWE Raw was not airing on Monday this week. WCW took advantage of the lack of competition by putting up an impressive 5.0 rating. The main event featured Lex Luger and Randy Savage ending in a no contest like many WCW Nitro endings.
Some of the fun undercard matches included Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho vs Yuji Nagata. WCW was red hot around this time with fans tuning in to find out what was going on with the New World Order.
8 April 20, 1998: 5.1 (Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage main event)
The April 20, 1998 episode of Nitro put up a huge 5.1 rating thanks to a massive main event. Hulk Hogan rarely wrestled on Nitro and the WCW Championship matches were typically saved for PPV. That made it a huge attraction when Randy Savage defended the title against Hogan in the main event here.
Savage won the title one night earlier from Sting before Hogan stole it here. This show helped set up the splitting of the New World Order as Savage and Kevin Nash grew tired of Hogan. The card was deep with Booker T vs Psychosis and Chris Benoit vs Curt Hennig booked. Nitro outdid Raw’s 4.4 rating to win the ratings war on this night.
7 February 16, 1998: 5.1 (Sting and Lex Luger vs Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage main event)
WCW continued to find success in 1998 as the Sting vs New World Order feud continued in the early months. The February 16, 1998 episode of Nitro scored a huge 5.1 rating thanks to the star-studded main event of Sting and Lex Luger representing WCW against Hogan and Savage of the nWo.
Sting and Luger won the match after the referee disqualified the heels for having the rest of the faction interfere. The match to steal the show on this night featured Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit facing off against Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. WCW benefited from WWE not airing Raw on this night.
6 October 26, 1998: 5.1 (Diamond Dallas Page vs Bret Hart main event)
The late 1998 time frame of WCW did start to see some negatives creep in, but the company was still doing well overall. This episode on October 26, 1998 scored a 5.1 rating just one night after Halloween Havoc.
WCW’s PPV ran too late cutting the show off before the main event, so fans were treated to the Goldberg vs Diamond Dallas Page WCW Championship for free as a huge reason for the ratings boost. Page wrestled in the main event defeating Bret Hart to win the United States Championship. Raw received a 4.5 rating just a few shades behind Nitro for the night.
5 March 16, 1998: 5.1 (Lex Luger and Sting vs Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage main event)
The March 16, 1998 episode of Nitro ran unopposed since there was no Raw, and it paid off with a huge 5.1 rating. This is the second time the blockbuster tag team main event of Lex Luger and Sting vs Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage created a top-ten rating for Nitro.
Fans were once again disappointed as the match ended in a DQ after nWo interference. One fun element to this show is that it took place in the unique outdoor environment for the WCW Spring Break theme. Goldberg also continued his dominance on this episode destroying Lodi as part of The Flock.
4 August 24, 1998: 5.2 (Goldberg and Kevin Nash vs Hulk Hogan and The Giant main event)
The star-studded main event for the August 24, 1998 edition of Nitro earned it a tremendous 5.2 rating against Raw’s 4.7 as the competition grew hotter. Fans tuned in to see the unusual pairing of Goldberg and Kevin Nash team together to defeat their common foes of Hulk Hogan and The Giant.
The rare clean finish made the fans happy as the two most popular stars won the match together. Some of the standout undercard matches included Dean Malenko vs Kaz Hayashi, Chris Jericho vs Curt Hennig and Lex Luger vs Brian Adams to show just how deep the roster was in 1998.
3 September 7, 1998: 5.5 (Sting and Lex Luger vs Diamond Dallas Page and Roddy Piper main event)
The September 7, 1998 of Nitro found massive success on Labor Day with a 5.5 rating. WCW booked a strong main event of Sting and Lex Luger representing the nWo Wolfpac against WCW’s Diamond Dallas Page and Roddy Piper even though all four were fan favorites.
The match ended in a no contest as interference once again found its way into the main event. Goldberg continued his undefeated streak defeating Scott Putski. The show-stealer of the night was Dean Malenko vs Curt Hennig on another great edition of Nitro.
2 February 8, 1999: 5.7 (Ric Flair and Mongo vs Scott Hall and Kevin Nash main event)
This was another instance of WCW benefiting from Raw not airing on the night to compete with them. Nitro scored a 5.7 rating on February 8, 1999 to give it their second biggest rating ever. The main event featured Kevin Nash and Scott Hall of the nWo Elite against Ric Flair and Steve “Mongo” McMichael of the Four Horsemen.
Flair and Mongo won the match by DQ when the rest of the nWo interfered during the feud between Flair and Hulk Hogan. A strong semi-main event of Roddy Piper defeating Bret Hart for the United States Championship also brought in viewers on this night of star power.
1 August 31, 1998: 6.0 (Sting and Lex Luger vs Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan)
The August 31, 1998 of Nitro scored the highest rating in WCW history with a massive 6.0 rating. This was one of the biggest main events in WCW history as Sting and Lex Luger represented the Wolfpac defeating Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart of the Hollywood side in this nWo vs nWo war.
Fans enjoyed the Wolfpac in the early days and it showed here. Goldberg defeated the WCW Championship and continued his unbeaten streak with an easy win over Al Greene. WWE did not air Raw live on this night which WCW even more of a chance to put their biggest rating ever.