Dan Hey: We’re in the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado tonight. Hosts, as usual, are Eric Bischoff, Mongo, and The Brain. Pepe the pooch is wearing those novelty glasses with the eyeballs on springs popping out. Right then. Flair approaches the broadcast table and yanks Bischoff’s headset right off his fat head to announce that he’s coming for Arn Anderson tonight. This match is one half of the double main event; the other is Savage vs. Luger.
Video clips recap the events of the past two weeks involving Savage and Luger. Two weeks ago Savage gave Luger a love tap on the face; last week, The Giant gave them both a pasting.
Lex Luger vs. Randy Savage
On paper, at least, this is a big match, especially one being given away on free TV. However, Luger is nowhere near as good as his consistently high positioning on the card in both WCW and WWF suggests, while Macho Man has been prone to phone it in more often than not during his entire WCW run.
The match starts with a stare down followed by a lock up, which lasts over a minute and feels like an hour, and they stay locked up as they spill through the middle rope and we go to commercial. Before returning to the action, there’s a vignette for the upcoming pay per view, Halloween Havoc (“card subject to change”), where Hogan and The Giant will have some sort of monster truck off or something – oh, and the title’s on the line, too. Back in the ring, not much is happening, and they return to the lock up. Basically, the match is being sold as two guys testing each other’s strength with neither giving way to the other – a bit like the backstage politicking that would come to characterise the organisation. Mongo uses the WWF tagline from Savage and Elizabeth’s on-screen wedding, “A Match Made in Heaven,” (not the first time WCW have mentioned that on Nitro) to describe the bout, curiously foreshadowing Elizabeth’s involvement with Luger both on and off-screen a few years down the line.
Luger displays some heel tactics, such as using his feet to prevent a backslide, before executing his own for a two count, while Macho sells some of Luger’s power moves, putting him as the babyface in peril. It doesn’t last long before the ref gets bumped and Savage hits the big elbow for the visual win. Out comes The Giant to chokeslam Savage. Luger puts Savage in the torture rack and wins by TKO (I guess). This match fuelled the angle well enough, but the in ring wasn’t up to much.
Final Rating: *¾
Tune in to WCW Saturday Night: Flyin’ Brian & Arn Anderson vs. Bunkhouse Buck & Dirty Dick Slater; an update on Johnny B. Badd and why he missed his US title shot; and Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs. Big Bubba Rodgers. Meh.
Back at the desk, Mongo doesn’t know what to say about what just went down in the last match. Well, give it a go, eh, Mongo; I mean, after all, you are a commentator. It’s not as if The Giant’s involvement was a complete shock. Fortunately, Heenan does provide some analysis, and Bischoff wonders why The Giant left Luger alone. Disco Inferno’s music starts to play, which gets clueless Eric in a flap, but Brain happily boogies along. Bischoff has Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko on his sheet, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he really didn’t know that Disco would come out. “Where’s Malenko? Where’s Guerrero? Where’s the match everyone wants to see?” he panics. Yes, where is it, Eric?
Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko
Here it is. Eddie tells Disco to do one, which he promptly does, and we get our match after all. I really do want to see this one, too. These guys are both phenomenal wrestlers. For as much as Bischoff wanted to see this match, though, he spends an awful lot of time talking about Hulk Hogan, giving us ETAs and traffic updates on the whereabouts of his limousine. Meanwhile, the two future Radicalz are putting on a decent show that is getting largely ignored.
Heenan starts the bidding for quote of the night by saying, “They call Dean Malenko the man with 1000 holds, but Eddy Guerrero’s got to have 999.” Mongo beats him to it with this confusing response: “There’s a book called 1,001 sex positions. Where did he come up with 1,000 holds?” What?? Heenan isn’t allowed to respond to that or Bischoff will pull his microphone (possibly a euphemism). Meanwhile, in the ring, there’s some fast past counter wrestling with some amazing feats of athleticism going on, but instead we cut to the backstage cameras to see Hogan arrive in his limo. Jimmy Hart is squeaking at him not to confront The Giant, as Hogan’s neck still isn’t 100%. Hogan’s doing it for the little Hulksters, though.
We finally go back to the ring and the action is completely secondary, even non-existent, for Bischoff and Heenan. Mongo does at least acknowledge that this is a match for “wrestling purists” just before Eddie hits an impressive looking crossbody from the top rope to the outside. The height and distance that he got on it was incredible. Malenko was in the aisle! Heenan wonders why anybody would bother doing that. For entertainment purposes, perhaps? Eric is still more concerned about reports coming from the locker room that Hogan is looking for The Giant. He wants to get a camera there. Meanwhile, Eddie counters a roll up attempt for the win. Both guys shake hands and agree on a rematch. This was a good match, but was treated as secondary to the events surrounding Hogan. The cuts away and lack of focus from the announce team hurt the rating somewhat.
Final Rating: **¾
Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
Middle-aged Hulkamaniac Mean Gene hosts. Hogan says he doesn’t have a lot to talk about. This should be a worthwhile use of promo time, then. Hogan says things anyway, like about how he is going to take on The Giant for one specific Hulkamaniac who has an upcoming lung transplant. He rips off his shirt and decides that he is going backstage, but instead he gets salt thrown in his eyes by a woman in the crowd. Actually it’s Humpty Dumpty Kevin Sullivan, but Gene mistakes him for a real woman. Sullivan beats on the Hulkster with a cane and out come The Giant and Zodiac. The Giant rag dolls Hogan’s neck, then Sullivan shaves off his famous moustache (Hogan’s, not Sullivan’s) and some of his remaining hair (again, Hogan’s). The American Males and The Nasty Boys attempt the save, each one of them eating a chokeslam and thus putting an end to their scheduled tag team title match tonight. This segment actually worked to make the feud more intense, and is worth viewing to see Hogan lose his ‘tache.
Arn Anderson vs. Ric Flair
We start with AA in the ring. Flair gets his full entrance and I, for one, am glad. Flair has possibly the best entrance in all of wrestling. Everything about it, from his theme (Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra – synonymous with 2001: A Space Odyssey, the greatest film ever made), to his robe, to the way he walks the aisle exudes class. Mongo and Heenan do a great job of selling this as a blood feud, and the in-ring action has that same believable intensity. Both guys know each other inside out; they also hate each other’s guts (in kayfabe) at the moment, and so deliver high impact strikes and counter strikes. The wrestling is kept fairly basic, but this is to the match’s credit, as, again, they make it look like a believable encounter between two familiar foes. Each blow means something. Outside the ring, Flair takes a backdrop – for someone with a history of back problems, Flair sure does take a lot of back bumps. Heenan gets lost for words for once and can’t pronounce Brian Pillman’s name. Spinebuster punishes Flair’s back some more, but only gets a two count. Anderson hooks in an armbar, and Eric, in a rare moment where he isn’t talking about Hulk Hogan, channels a future Michael Cole and calls it “vintage Arn Anderson.” AA escapes the figure four but receives a receipt for the backdrop to the outside. He calls a DDT, which Flair escapes, and a second figure four might have it won, but instead it draws a run-in from Pillman (who Heenan calls Pitman) and they beat down Flair. Pillman woos into the camera as he and Arn leave. A great TV match here, which might’ve scored higher with a bit more time and a clean finish.
Final Rating: ***½
To finish, Bischoff announces that Commissioner Nick Bockwinkle has sanctioned a cage match between Flair and Anderson for next week. I’m instantly gutted that I’m not covering that show. In other matches, Sting faces Shark, Sabu returns to face Mr JL, and Big Bubba will take on Hawk. I don’t care for any of those three matches, but I’d sit through them all for AA vs Flair in a cage.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Eddie Guerrero for doing his utmost to put on a great match despite the commentary team (and the cameras) largely ignoring it.
Least Entertaining: Eric Bischoff for his constant concern over Hulk Hogan at the expense of the in-ring action.
Quote of the Night: “There’s a book called 1,001 sex positions. Where did he come up with 1,000 holds?” – Mongo on Dean Malenko
Match of the Night: Arn Anderson vs. Ric Flair
Summary: A good episode, crammed with action and some big-name encounters, two of which delivered. Even the Hogan angle took on an added dimension and really ramped up the intensity of his feud with the usually-pathetic Dungeon of Doom, ahead of his title defence and monster truck showdown with their newest member, The Giant. It’s a shame, though, that Bischoff felt the need to make much of tonight’s action secondary to Hogan pretty much throughout the whole show.