James Dixon: “This match should have been on pay-per-view,” says Mongo of tonight’s Sting vs. Hulk Hogan match, as we open the show with a rare kernel of truth. Of course a match of that magnitude should have been saved for pay-per-view, but that is not WCW’s style. Ratings, ratings, ratings, pointless overstated ratings. It’s all about the numbers for Easy E and his band of incompetents. Putting Sting vs. Hogan on free television is clearly a knee-jerk response to Raw hammering Nitro in the Nielsens last week (2.6 to 2.0), and it does the trick tonight as Nitro beats one of the finest episodes of Raw ever (the show where Shawn Michaels suffered an in-ring collapse during a bout with Owen Hart) with a 2.5 to a 2.3, but it is a fool’s bounty. Bragging rights does not keep a company prosperous, money does. WCW probably threw away the best part of a $1 million by splurging tonight’s bout rather than saving it for a paid show. Hell, the highest grossing WCW pay-per-view in history, Starrcade ’97, was headlined by that very same match-up.
Scott Norton vs. Shark
It’s the epic rematch we have all been waiting for! Shark is so keen to get this over with that he doesn’t even wait for his entrance, attacking Norton in the aisle as he is making his journey to the ring. They engage in a punch-heavy brawl in the aisle, with the match officially starting once they make the ring. Shark hits a belly-to-belly, which impresses Bischoff far more than it should, then he slowly dismantles his stocky opponent. Suddenly Norton stops selling, like a fat version of Sting, then a powerslam followed by a dodgy looking three count gives him the win. Well, that was brief, but I am not complaining. What is with the dodgy counts on this program though? Why does everyone kick out right on, or immediately after the three?
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Hart
Mean Gene conducts this one in the aisle, and he reckons that “something is starting to smell”. Indeed. Jimmy Hart stirs the pot between Hogan and Sting, poking at the Stinger by pointing out how he is not in the latest episode of Baywatch, but Hogan’s new best friend Randy Savage is. Well that does it then, blood feud! Sullivan rolls his eyes into the back of his head and nods furiously, then gets a few seconds on the mic to ramble on. Mean Gene is not impressed, calling the pair of them, “Two of the biggest pieces of human garbage I can ever recall” to their faces. Real heels would have slapped him across his disrespectful mush.
We are supposed to be seeing an Eddie Guerrero match, but unfortunately we have to endure the chore that is Disco Inferno first. “Why doesn’t this guy dis-go away?” quips Mongo. I would roll my eyes, but I agree with him. Eddie threatens Disco during his entrance and scares him off. The match is supposed to be Eddie Guerrero vs. Ric Flair, but Flair walks out wearing a suit, and Brian Pillman is dressed to wrestle, so he is taking the match instead. “Flyin Brian, take care of my light work. I’ll get the jet ready.” Flair should know better than to bury an opponent, because what does it achieve? You either beat a nobody or lose to one.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Brian Pillman
Slaps and chops from Pillman start us off, so Eddie responds with a big punch. He flies from the top but gets cut off with a Pillman dropkick, as Bobby Heenan adds insult to insult with regards to Eddie by calling him a “ham and egger”. Eddie throws some chops of his own, but Pillman regains control with a backdrop and a suplex. The pace is much slower than I was expecting, with Pillman opting for the methodical approach and basic heat, rather than an evenly matched back-and-forth contest. Pillman suplexes Eddie out of the ring then goes for high flying, but a dive sees him eat rail. Eddie shows him how it is done with a plancha over the ring post, and he gets incredible air time and distance on it. Eddie finally comes into his own, drilling Pillman with a brainbuster, but again going up top costs him when Pillman crotches him on the ropes. Pillman tries for a superplex, but Eddie throws him off and quickly hits the frogsplash for the win. I was expecting a lot more from a bout between these guys.
Final Rating: **½
We cut to a video of last week’s Dungeon of Doom and Lex Luger assault on Randy Savage’s arm, and Bischoff says he has an injury. Then in a confusing piece of nonsense, he wonders aloud if Savage is kayfabing everyone on the extent of the injury as a way to play mind games so he can win the WCW World Championship at World War 3. Wow, that sure buries the Dungeon and Luger in one go right there. It’s as if he is implying that the injury or the attacks are fake. Why would you say that? Oh sorry, I forgot who we are dealing with here; he is saying it to get himself over as a genius when his bold prediction comes true.
Big Bubba Rogers vs. Hawk
It’s another big rematch that no-one wanted to see! Hawk jumps Bubba in the aisle, much like his former WWF rival Shark did in his match earlier tonight. Hawk throws Bubba around with surprising ease, then Bubba returns fire with similarly outdated offence. Both guys look like they are seeing the business pass them by at this stage, yet in little over a year Hawk will be one of the top stars in the WWF again, main eventing on pay-per-view in July 1997 at In Your House: Canadian Stampede, and Bubba will wrestle for the WWF Championship in four years time also on pay-per-view. Watching this match, the prospect of either of those scenarios sounds like madness. For the finish, Bubba wraps a bar of soap in some tape and goes to knock out Hawk with it, but Hacksaw Jim Duggan trips him and Hawk covers for the win. Bad.
Final Rating: ¼*
Tangent: It has dawned on me that a remarkable five out of six performers who have wrestled matches tonight are no longer with us. Scott Norton is the lucky winner, and he is the only one of the sextet who never worked in the WWF. I am not implying anything, really, I just find that interesting.
Sting vs. Hulk Hogan
Other than Flair vs. Hogan, this was always the ultimate dream match for kids growing up in the late eighties and early nineties. Perhaps even more so than Flair vs. Hogan in fact, because this was the inter-promotional equivalent of the ‘Ultimate Challenge’. It was Hogan against a fellow hero, an icon of the company. Shame then, that not only is it being squandered on Nitro, but that Hogan is wearing his black “darkside” attire rather than his red and yellow. It ruins the visual excitement of seeing them clash for the first time.
Hogan milks his entrance for an age without making an appearance, leaving his one-armed buddy Savage stood in the aisle waving his hand around in the air like a lonely lunatic. Hogan appears from in the crowd wearing a bizarre mask, which spooks Sting. Hogan removes the mask and the match gets going, despite whining from Bischoff that the pillars of WCW are crumbling around him. Sting lays into Hogan with kicks, clearly playing the babyface. Hogan is aggressive and plays heel, not too subtly either. It is basically nWo Hogan, both in attire and attitude. History paints his heel turn at Bash at the Beach ’96 as a monumental moment, and it was, but it also conveniently forgets this little run.
The action is poor, with more than a few clunky moments, and it is hardly the dream confrontation you might hope for. To my immense surprise, Hogan tries to do a bit of chain wrestling, even tying up Sting’s arm and rolling him into a cross arm breaker, briefly, before Sting turns the tide and locks on an armbar. They try more intricate holds and reversals, but it’s not pretty. Hogan does to a bearhug to really kill the match and then misses an elbow to the head, only for Sting to sell it anyway. It is about the third time they have done that. Hogan throws some suplexes, then Sting finally fights back and goes after Hogan’s leg. It is a terrible comeback, just a few kicks then the Scorpion Deathlock. Where is the fire, Sting? Hogan breaks out of the hold, of course, then Hulks Up to major heat. Hogan hits the big boot but hurts his leg, and Sting avoids the legdrop. “What a match! What a match!” screams Heenan like a fool. Get a grip Bobby, don’t put over bullshit like this. It only serves to cheapen your already tenuous credibility. Sting locks on the Scorpion Deathlock and Hogan screams at Savage to help him, but before he has to do a job, the Dungeon of Doom run down for the run in.
Hogan and Sting combine to take out the Dungeon, but Giant makes his entrance and grabs both men by the throat. Savage sacrifices himself, hurting his injured arm further by drilling Giant with a chair to the back to save Sting and Hulk, and he eats a chokeslam for his troubles. Sting and Hogan combine with the chair to get rid of Giant, and the rest of the Dungeon prevent him from getting back in the ring. The. Shits.
Final Rating: ½*
Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Hart harass the announcers after commercial, and shock of all shocks, one of the headsets gets damaged in the fracas. WCW and technical equipment don’t mix.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Eddie Guerrero. I guess.
Least Entertaining: Hulk Hogan. I hate the pre-nWo black attire and “darkside” gimmick. In addition, his performance tonight was atrocious.
Quote of the Night: “This match should have been on pay-per-view” – Mongo on the Sting vs. Hogan match. It turned out that he was right in theory, but perhaps it is best for WCW that the match they had tonight wasn’t on pay-per-view. It was horrible.
Match of the Night: Eddie Guerrero vs. Brian Pillman, even though it was a letdown.
Summary: This broadcast promised so much but delivered so little. The Sting-Hogan main event and the Guerrero-Pillman confrontation both could have been special in their own ways, but as it turned out they were both really disappointing. Guerrero-Pillman was at least okay, but the main event was dire. Nitro is very much the Hulk Hogan Show at the moment, and it is suffering because of that. The sooner he and his nemeses the Dungeon of Doom are out of the way, the better.