I think it there may be little denying the fact that the mid-1990s served as a boom for the professional wrestling sports entertainment industry. Both Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation and Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling had been around for years (the former being longer lasting), though it was that time when both organizations decided to turn their thoughts towards one another, and it made for some memorable moments for wrestling as a whole. The cresting moment of this battle was unquestionably the turn of longtime fan favorite Hulk Hogan to a group of heels (bad guys) known as the New World Order.
The group started as an interesting idea, with former WWF castoffs Kevin Nash (known then to many as Diesel or Vic Vegas, depending on your level of familiarity) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) eschewed their previous persona and came out as real people, cutting interview promos that skewered any and every sacred cow in the sport on the microphone. The instant popularity and adoption of the nWo (as they labeled it) spread across the country, to the point where celebrities like basketball player Dennis Rodman and Jay Leno(!?!) participated in matches. Like most things though, the shelf life tended to not last too long, and pretty soon there was a harder-core nWo, followed by a Latin version of same, and then pretty soon, everything was cliquish for the organization. Kind of like high school. But the memories and the popularity of WCW during that time, performing house shows in large arena venues, smaller ones (the Mall of America!) and different ones (on top of a swimming pool during college spring break) made for some unique memories, good, bad or otherwise.
The popularity of this was such that when the former WWF, now WWE (who owns the video rights to WCW matches) finally put together a 'Best Of' compilation to celebrate Nitro, it was met with anticipation and swooped up in droves, justifying a second Volume of matches and moments from the era. This multi-disc set is hosted by Diamond Dallas Page, a marquee name during the WCW era and one of the more recognizable faces of the time. He has since moved on to other ventures (as he is willing to show the viewer), but his introductions are quick, painless and superficial. As far as the matches go, even with the second layer of matches to pick from, there's still a few things here, and listed as follows:
Sting vs. Ric Flair (WCW US Championship Match - September 4, 1995)
Hulk Hogan vs. Arn Anderson (February 12, 1996)
Steiner Brothers vs. The Road Warriors (March 11, 1996)
Jushin 'Thunder' Liger vs. Dean Malenko (May 6, 1996)
Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera (WCW Cruiserweight Championship - September 16, 1996)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Jeff Jarrett (WCW US Championship Tournament Quarterfinals - December 9, 1996)
Ric Flair vs. Scott Hall (June 2, 1997)
Rey Mysterio vs. Kevin Nash (June 30, 1997)
La Parka vs. Randy Savage (July 7, 1997)
Goldberg vs. Hugh Morrus (September 22, 1997)
Booker T vs. Jeff Jarrett (October 6, 1997)
Steiner Brothers vs. Public Enemy (WCW World Tag Team Championship - November 3, 1997)
Booker T vs. Randy Savage (December 15, 1997)
Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera & Hector Garza vs. Psicosis, Silver King & La Parka (December 22, 1997)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Chris Jericho (WCW US Championship Match - January 5, 1998)
Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall vs. Sting, Randy Savage & The Giant (March 5, 1998)
Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page (WCW Championship Match - March 23, 1998)
Raven vs. Goldberg (WCW US Championship Match - April 20, 1998)
Kevin Nash & Lex Luger vs. Hollywood Hogan & The Giant (June 1, 1998)
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (December 21, 1998)
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Scott Hall (Ladder Match - January 25, 1999)
Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper (WCW US Championship Match - February 8, 1999)
Perry Saturn & Kanyon vs. Diamond Dallas Page & Bam Bam Bigelow (WCW World Tag Team Championship - May 31, 1999)
Randy Savage vs. Hollywood Hogan (WCW Championship Match - July 12, 1999)
Kevin Nash & Scott Hall vs. Bret Hart & Goldberg (WCW World Tag Team Championship - December 13, 1999)
Sting vs. Vampiro (House of Pain Match - May 15, 2000)
Shane Helms vs. Shannon Moore (February 26, 2001)
Booker T vs. Scott Steiner (WCW Title Unification Match - March 26, 2001)
As far as this set goes, while it may lack some of the sizzle on the proverbial steak which the first volume may have had, it does manage to cover some of the things that made Nitro popular. Page recounts the time when Rodman skipped a Chicago Bulls practice to come do the television show one night, Medusa Miceli's trashing of the WWF women's title is shown, and clips of various 'Nitro parties' during the era are shown to help re-emphasize the popularity of the show. The metamorphosis of some of the performers who appear occasionally through the half dozen years this set covers is fascinating too; Scott Steiner, looking at you here specifically.
There are some down moments in the set, partly because even on a set that chooses from second tier matches, there are some duds. Granted, TV matches generally are limited in terms of time (and in the late '90/early 2000 era the commercial breaks before a match would start or during a match were particularly annoying), but if there is a TV match under five minutes on a disc, unless it possesses a metric tonne of run-ins from other people or something it can likely be left off. Like other wrestling DVDs, there is a personally unavoidable touch of morbidity when viewing folks like Bigelow, Guerrero and especially Savage as they wrestle and/or cut promos, and Page remembers Savage and handles the general tone of his introductions gently and in the proper tone. I do not know if he hosted the first set, but he does a fine job in this one.
All in all, The Best of Nitro is good, but certainly not reference material for the WCW Monday Nitro era. However, if you take out the quandary of sequels not being as good as the first, it turns out to be more good and bad, but one would hope the resources have a little more care and attention in mind should a third volume come to realization.
The WWE can tout this being an HD broadcast all they want, but putting The Best of Monday Nitro on three standard definition discs does not help matters. The matches are in full frame video and good as good as they are going to, and no noticeable image processing can be spotted while viewing. You get the mullets, the strange jean styles, the whole magilla. Any flaws in the material would appear to be inherent, but I could not spot much worth complaining about, and Turner's production values for the show were always solid.
Well the discs have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio, but for matches that had stereo audio accompanying them, the track is a little wasted. If memory serves, the power chord guitar intro music of Nitro is retained, along with the originally recorded music for some of the performers. Match action sounds as good as it is likely going to be, with play by play from the announcers through the years coming across clear and balanced. Most of the sound is in the front of the theater with very little, if any, action in the rears. Solid listening material.
What, three discs full of matches and you want extras to boot? So greedy.
Volume 2 of The Best Of Nitro as a companion document serves this purpose well, filling in gaps that the first may have missed from a match standpoint and an event one, with capable hosting by one of the icons of the era. As a standalone piece it tends to be weak. If you have the first one, then the second one will not hurt your collection, and of course if you have not seen Volume One, check that one out first before diving in here.