WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)
James Dixon: We open with a production gaffe, with Eric Bischoff, Mongo and Bobby Heenan all facing a camera that doesn’t exist, thus standing with their backs turned when they do their show-opening promo. After that bush league faux pas is rectified, Sting turns up at the commentary position and expresses concern about the ongoing Randy Savage/Lex Luger situation. He promises to do something about it.
WCW United States Championship
Sting (c) vs. Shark
“He is from Tsunami,” says ring announce Dave Penzer of Shark. A tsunami is a large wave, not a place. WCW make errors like this on a frequent basis. I am sure everyone remembers Yeti, the abominable snowman who was actually a mummy. Sharkquake jumps Sting and goes to town, dominating him with his size and power, showing a real energy to his performance. Sting makes a comeback after around a minute of action, hitting the Stinger Splash three times, then a crossbody from the top for the win. I guess he is not getting paid by the hour. We have to get the match out of the way for the Hulk Hogan Show, of course.
Final Rating: ¾*
After having already seen highlight footage of last week’s Dungeon of Doom attack on Hulk Hogan prior to the credits, we now get to sit through it all again. What a wasteful use of time. I can only assume it is written into Hogan’s contract that he has to be referenced, shown or revered at least every five minutes on Nitro.
Sabu vs. Mr. JL
Sabu’s debut on the show three weeks ago was a train wreck, but then, all of his matches invariably are. The creatively named Mr. JL is the great Jerry Lynn working as a purple luchador. They go a million miles an hour, with both guys seemingly trying to top each other with one high flying move after another. The Chicago crowd appreciate it, then randomly start chanting, “Hogan sucks”. You can see why he eventually turned heel. The action spills to the outside for far longer than the ten count, where Sabu this week connects with his chair assisted kick.
Back inside, JL comes back with a German suplex and a vicious dropkick in the corner which the announces mark out for like drunk ECW fans. Sabu returns fire and they begin to trade holds, including a top rope DDT from JL, of all things. He goes up again where Sabu tries to hit a rana, only for JL to grab the ropes and block it. JL comes off top and gets caught with a powerbomb, then the camel clutch wins it for Sabu. Post match, he can’t help himself but to throw in a botch, going for a slingshot powerbomb off the apron to the outside, but getting the timing all wrong. It looks terrible, like most Sabu spots. Kudos to Jerry Lynn for carrying this thing and making most of Sabu’s flimsy offence look respectable, and for giving himself plenty of the match too. Fans of selling probably didn’t like this, but it was a tremendously fast-paced and spot-laced TV match, and I enjoyed it.
Final Rating: ***
Promo Time: Sting and Lex Luger
To drag things out a little more, Sting calls out Randy Savage to join the duo in the ring so that tensions between he and Luger can be ironed out. Sting thinks he has a solution to their problems. Sting blames The Giant, who has been chokeslamming everyone, to which Savage instantly questions why Sting hasn’t been chokeslammed. Sting calls him paranoid and warns Savage to settle down. Sting’s answer to the Savage-Luger tensions? For them to wrestle each other at Halloween Havoc if (read: when) they get through their respective matches against Kamala and Meng. It’s not exactly the most original of ideas. Luger balks at the prospect, causing Sting to mock him for being a wuss and hitting him with a few home truths. Luger takes the bait and accepts the match. “Hopefully it’s gonna be Luger against Savage… if they win,” says Mean Gene. Horrible booking. Scrap the shitty bouts that now have no purpose and just announce Savage vs. Luger!
Elsewhere, Chris Benoit shows up at the building and declares, “WCW. Where the big boys play.” He is not a verbose man.
Big Bubba Rogers vs. Hawk
Disco Inferno turns up in the aisle and does a dance, though he is not scheduled to be here. His music cuts off as Big Bubba makes his entrance, but that doesn’t stop Disco, who grabs a boom box and carries on dancing. Bubba walks right past him. His opponent, Hawk, gives Disco an angry stare of disapproval. As Hawk is walking the aisle, Disco steals a fan’s hat then sneaks up behind Hawk and places it on one of his shoulder pad spikes. Hawk has no idea. Considering we are in Road Warrior country, Hawk is not as over as you would expect. Hawk and Bubba have an eighties style WWF match, then Disco appears on the apron to do some more dancing. Hawk has had enough and pulverises him, but he gets counted out. This was a waste of air time. What did it achieve? Who got over or furthered their storyline with this? It is a frequent problem in WCW that the majority of what happens on television doesn’t mean jack to the product. It is matches for the sake of matches, with no purpose behind them. “Don’t leave us now! Hulk Hogan, when we return!” shrieks Bischoff. Why doesn’t he don an “I heart Hulk” shirt and be done with it.
Final Rating: ¼*
Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
Hulk is clad in all-black tonight, from bandana down. It is the first time he has ever dressed in such a fashion, and Mean Gene is almost beside himself. Hogan explains that he is wearing all-black because the games are over, whatever that means. That doesn’t explain anything at all, Hulk! He references WrestleMania III, because he can’t help but bring it up at least once a month, then he tells The Giant to break the law and violate a restraining order preventing him from entering the building, so he can “be as bad as he says he is” and face him. After burying Vince McMahon (see: The Nitro Recap), Hogan again calls out The Giant. He is all over the place tonight. Hogan compares Kevin Sullivan and The Giant shaving his moustache to burning the American flag, which has even Mean Gene feeling uneasy. The Dungeon of Doom turn up in a monster truck chased by police, but a couple of security guards keep them out of the building. Hogan decides to go out and confront them. This was a horrible segment.
As the announcers are hyping the upcoming monster truck sumo match (!) between Giant’s oversized car and Hogan’s custom-built beast, police officers arrive to fill Bischoff in on the latest between Hogan and Giant. Turns out they are being kept apart. Why not just show that scene? We already know they have a camera there!
Steel Cage Match
Ric Flair vs. Arn Anderson
This is a rematch from last week’s outing, which was a fine match. This time they are in a cage, and it has to be the shortest cage I have ever seen. It’s barely higher than the height of the wrestlers! What a farce! The cameraman is right there in the ring, which makes it much easier to see than most WCW cage bouts, but also means we get the majority of the contest filmed from one ultra-close-up angle. Flair struggles to know what to do as a fiery babyface so settles on lots of chops and sending Arn into the cage, though this is corporate WCW, so there is no blood. Chicago is not happy about that, and loudly chant, “We want blood!” So do I. I feel a cage match without blood is a waste of a cage match. Anderson sends Flair into the cage, but Naitch responds with a delayed stalling suplex. Brian Pillman decides to run interference, even though the whole point of a cage match is to keep people out, but Flair sees him coming and sends him flying. Flair goes for the figure four to win it, but Anderson hits him in the face with an international object (though it is not obvious on first viewing at all) and covers for the win. “It’s tape, it’s tape!” yells Bischoff upon seeing the replay, completely oblivious to the fact that Arn used brass knucks. Tape? Tape!? Why the fuck would he hit him with tape? Imbecile.
Final Rating: **½
Flair turns up at the commentary position, and he is hot. He calls out Anderson and Pillman for a tag match next week, promising to look for a partner, but saying he will happily go it alone if needs be. Pleasingly, he breaks Bischoff’s headset in his excitement, leaving Eric having to hold it together for the remainder of the link segment. Ha, I hope his arm hurts. This final wrap-up lasts for a remarkable four minutes, time which could have been better spent on the matches. The cynic in me puts it down to Bischoff’s self-indulgence and wanting himself to have as much screen time as possible. Having seen the way he went on to book himself in the nWo, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if that were really the case.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Mr. JL. I have a soft spot for Jerry Lynn as it is, and tonight he proved once again that he is among the most underrated performers in the history of mainstream wrestling.
Least Entertaining: Eric Bischoff. Nearly every word that comes out of his mouth irritates me.
Quote of the Night: “A long time ago brother, in the New York City area, brother, when Hulkamania was running wild, the promoter’s ego got bigger than the wrestling business. A couple of years down the road, as we speak, that same promoter is choking on his own ego” – Hulk Hogan on (the unnamed) Vince McMahon
Match of the Night: Sabu vs. Mr. JL
Summary: Everything felt very rushed. WCW’s policy with Nitro is to cram in as much as possible in the hour, then spend the duration talking about Hulk Hogan. It led to two really pointless matches that might as well have not been on the show. To make matters more galling, Eric Bischoff then spent five minutes at the end of the show wrapping things up, and we never did get a resolution to the Giant-Hogan confrontation. The only real highlight was the fun Sabu-JL match, which was full of thrills and spills and held my attention throughout. The main event was okay as well, but far too short and sanitised. Once again however, the pacing meant the broadcast was never boring, and some of the novelties on the show (Hogan in black, for example) make it worth checking out at least once for curiosity sake.