This is a remarkable and unique book despite not being the comprehensive WCW history you might imagine on first glance.
The key selling point (beyond the sheer length at 500+ pages) is the intensive research through interviews and in turn access to documentation. While some key on-camera figures such as Eric Bischoff, Kevin Nash, Vince Russo and Kevin Sullivan are among the subjects, the fresh angle here is interviews with people working behind the scenes in production and management, particularly from TBS.
The result is a book that is not so much a history of WCW the wrestling promotion, but rather the business structure in which both its triumphs and insanity was able to thrive. It’s certainly a crutch for some involved in the creative process to blame all their failings on the corporate politics, but the book does set out some of the examples of how so many things spiralled out of control.
A notable element of the interviews can be read as a strength or weakness depending on your perspective. For the most part quotes and claims from participants are left unchallenged. Where claims are in doubt it’s more a case of presenting contradictory quotes from two different sources rather than Evans attempting to explore which might be more credible. There’s certainly a case that this aids objectivity (and avoids extending the book even further) but the reader is left to draw their own conclusions rather than the book presenting an argument or strong narrative.
It’s a sign of the book’s strength that the greatest criticism I had was that at times it has too much detail that wasn’t necessary for the wider points being made. For example, at one point its mentioned that Gene Okerlund missed a particular show and we’re told not only that he had food poisoning but also what he’d eaten and where. Similarly there’s an entire paragraph on rapper Master P having tried out for a basketball team that has no real relevance but includes such precise details as his scoring record in the game, the size of the crowd and even what time fans began arriving at the arena.
While some of these references could have been pruned, it’s only fair to point out that as with the rest of the book they are still told in an engaging manner. This means they aren’t as jarring as some similarly heavily researched wrestling books where a reluctance to leave any of the hard work out results in a dry list of facts.
Comparisons of this to The Death of WCW are inevitable, but somewhat missing the point as they are trying to achieve different things. Despite its blurb, Nitro doesn’t really make a case or draw any conclusions about why the demise of WCW was indeed inevitable. However, it gives an immensely detailed look at the context in which both the rise and fall occurred, showing why the business behind the product was simultaneously an asset and a handicap.
For that reason, it’s an essential read for anyone who thinks they know the story of WCW or wants to find out more.