James Dixon: A decade before WWE thought up the concept of Taboo Tuesday comes this edition of Nitro, which is a special “interactive” episode. In other words, it is a money grab, because to vote on what match you want to see you have to call a premium rate phone number and pick a wrestler from the “red” (heel) locker room, and another from the “blue” locker room. Quite clearly, the match has been pre-decided, as the announce trio of Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mongo are already hyping Sting versus Ric Flair.
The Giant vs. The Cobra
The Cobra is WCW dogsbody Jeff Farmer, who also had stints in the company as Lighting and imposter Sting. His entrance theme as The Cobra is one of the most annoying in history: a collection of beeps that are supposed to represent Morse code. Who thought that would be a good idea!? The Giant picks up ring announcer Dave Penzer before the match and dangles him in the air, forcing him to say that this is a WCW World Championship match. Bischoff yells, “It’s not a title match!” because The Giant isn’t the official World Champion, but who cares? The “match” lasts less than the entrances anyway, with Giant winning immediately following a chokeslam.
Final Rating: SQUASH
We cut backstage where Mean Gene is in the heel locker room – because he is a real life heel – and he is utterly bemused by the Blue Bloods reading a book. Tony Schiavone is with the babyfaces, and because the Nasty Boys and Hacksaw Jim Duggan are there it becomes a loud, gurning farce. Both of these segments exist merely to hype the premium rate phone number.
We go to Venice Beach, where Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage – both decked in black – are sat with a Venice Beach “warlord” who looks like Master Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean, but talks like a midget. Hogan repeatedly implores Savage to, “Stick with me in the darkside, brother”, then both talk shit for a couple of minutes while the warlord rants, and an oddly dressed man plays a guitar. This was like an acid trip segment.
Kevin Sullivan vs. Renegade
As if this show couldn’t get any better, we now have to watch a tubby mini-Hulk Hogan against the fake Ultimate Warrior. Renegade hits a bunch of clotheslines in true sloppy Warrior fashion, but gets distracted by Jimmy Hart yelling, “You could have been the next Hulk Hogan,” at him, which is ridiculous. Sullivan batters him from behind then takes over on offence, and it is awful. Sullivan was a horrible worker. Renegade makes a comeback with a slam and a cartwheel elbow, but misses a charge and ends up stuck in a tree of woe. Sullivan kicks him in the face and follows up with a double foot stomp (!) from the middle rope for the win. Post match, Jimmy Hart throws water in Renegade’s face and wipes his paint off with a towel, then outs him as “Rick”. There goes his career.
Final Rating: ¼*
In the red locker room, Shark and Scott Norton have another heated to-do, so head off somewhere to have a fight. Cue an increasingly common (and hilarious) WCW production gaffe: the lights go out on the segment and Mean Gene has to immediately ask, “Who did that… intentionally?” to try and cover up the incompetence. It can’t be done, Gene. It is like trying to put wallpaper over cracks in a dam. Ric Flair yells at Sting, then refers to himself as God, saying he has the power to make lights go on and off. Nice save, Ric. He hypes his match with Sting later tonight, even though it isn’t actually official and the “vote” is still open. They are robbing folk blind.
Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero
Boy, oh boy, does this show need a match like this. Bischoff tells everyone not to take their eyes or focus off the match for even a second, then goes into a meandering stream of consciousness never-ending sentence, seemingly saying whatever words come into his head with no consideration as to whether they make sense. It actually has to be heard to be believed. Benoit lays his shots in hard tonight, smashing Eddie with snap suplexes, spinebusters and clotheslines. When he locks on a bow and arrow, Bischoff suddenly gets distracted by a contingent of wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling, including Masahiro Chono (whom Bischoff doesn’t recognise, despite starting into a sentence as if he was going to name him) and Jushin Liger, all of whom are eating from a buffet table. Apparently, Bobby Heenan has something to do with it. In the match, Eddie launches himself at Benoit with a plancha over the ringpost, but back inside, Benoit strikes with a superplex. Bischoff, who advised us to pay attention, remember, starts talking repeatedly about Hulk Hogan. Back to the ring, where the pair do some nice counter wrestling and switching, before Benoit hits a German suplex. Benoit has very much controlled this match, so obviously that means Eddie goes over, covering Benoit and scoring the pin despite the ‘Crippler’ having his foot on the ropes. I am not convinced that was the finish, because Eddie looks confused afterwards, as if the referee made a hash of it. Good match, but ruined by the commentary and the confusion.
Final Rating: **¾
The babyface locker room has expanded to include Evad Sullivan. Jim Duggan has taken a hike though, so one step forward, one step back. Sting hypes tonight’s not yet voted on match against Ric Flair. Given how they have promoted this bout all night, those fans who still bothered phoning in and voting must be really stupid to have fallen for the sham.
The Fall Brawl VHS is available tomorrow, featuring a picture of Vader on the cover despite him not being part of the card, or indeed WCW at all. Once again, WCW is baffled by the simplest of things. We cut to the announcers, who claim “the fans have voted” and tonight’s main event is Sting vs. Ric Flair. Well there’s a shocker! Nothing is shown on screen to show how people voted or anything like that, because it’s a fix! Anyone who did vote who happens to be reading this now, get on the blower to Time Warner and demand your money back.
Sting vs. Ric Flair
We have been here before. Thankfully they tend to have good-to-great matches together, though it depends heavily on what mood Flair is in. They certainly have a spirited opening exchange, with Sting fiery and Flair sneaky, as per their respective strengths. The battle spills to the outside where Sting charges with a Stinger Splash, but Flair moves and Sting smashes the barricade. When we return from commercial, Flair works Sting over with his usual heat, which means lots of chops and stomps, a handful of cheating, and the occasional move. We have seen it a thousand times, but it is still entertaining, especially against perennial nemesis Sting. The whole thing feels a little like a condensed greatest hits match, as they throw in all of their popular spots. Reversed figure four? Check. No selling chops and punches? Check. The latter leads to Sting’s big comeback, but a Flair thumb to the eyes slows his momentum.
They brawl outside again, where Flair unloads with more chops, then gets into a shoving match with the referee. The crowd boo because they expect a cheap DQ, but the ref lets it slide. Flair looks to wrap things up, but Sting switches some pin attempts into a backslide for a near fall, then gives Flair his token bump from the top. Sting gets too excited in the corner so the ref gets in front of him, leading to Sting carrying him away. The brief distraction gives Flair time to use brass knuckles, but he wastes time strutting before dropping an elbow and Sting kicks out. Flair is shocked, and so I am given this is 1995 and weapon shots usually equal death. Suddenly Sting is invincible and walks through a chop, then quickly finishes things off with the Scorpion Deathlock.
Sting refuses to break the hold after the match, despite pleading from Eddie Guerrero and Mr. JL. Even Evad Sullivan pleads with him, but to no avail. Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Johnny B. Badd eventually get the job done and drag Sting away… Only, Sting is not finished. He charged back to the ring and reapplies the move, but Lex Luger has a word with him and he immediately breaks the hold. Bischoff is beside himself, close to a breakdown as he pleadingly sobs, “Luger and Sting… together?” Luger is a heel all of a sudden now, even though he practically was anyway, thanks to his actions at Halloween Havoc. Good match, as ever when these two meet, though it is one we have all seen plenty of times before.
Final Rating: ***
Promo Time: Giant, Kevin Sullivan , and Jimmy Hart
This is supposed to be tonight’s “big announcement”, but first we have to endure Jimmy Hart talking about Hulk Hogan. He and Sullivan claim the Halloween Havoc contract was binding, and thus Giant’s WCW Title win is valid. Mean Gene brings out lawyer Nick Lambrose, who was in fact a real lawyer, and WCW’s answer to Jerry McDevitt. He reveals that Jimmy Hart is right in claiming he had power of attorney over Hulk Hogan’s affairs before he turned on him, but he also says that The Giant is not the champion. Giant’s wide-eyed reaction and furious head shaking is comically bad. Lambrose reveals that the title is now vacant and the new champion will be the winner of the three ring, sixty-man farce of a battle royal at World War 3. “What!? What!? What!?” screams Sullivan, staring at his hands with a look of despair. It is some of the corniest over-acting I have seen. Jimmy Hart protests, so Mean Gene, typically crass, tells him to wipe his ass with the Halloween Havoc contract. So that is that then. This was WCW’s method of getting the title off Hogan without him really jobbing, so he can go and film movies and still claim to be unbeaten, thus guaranteeing him the title when he returns.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Ric Flair. His match blueprint might have become repetitive, but he can still piece together an entertaining outing when in the mood.
Least Entertaining: Kevin Sullivan. For his crappy match with Renegade and his hammy over-acting.
Quote of the Night: “All you are is just plain old Rick. A nobody. A nothing” – Jimmy Hart kills Renegade’s gimmick.
Match of the Night: Sting vs. Ric Flair
Summary: The way this episode started out it looked like it might be the worst broadcast of the year, but a couple of strong matches given a decent amount of time saved the day. As usual it was WCW’s reliable hands to the rescue, the performers who bring the goods between the ropes while scrubs like the Dungeon of Doom are clogging up the main event. The wrestling is carrying Nitro at the moment, which becomes the show’s pattern for a while. Without its undercard, WCW would struggle significantly.