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James Dixon: The show opens with the announcers talking for three minutes solid about tonight’s show, which is such a waste of airtime. Why not just get on with it rather than hyping everything to death? We can see what is happening for ourselves. Easy E informs us that Hulk Hogan, The Giant and Ric Flair have all been flown in and subsequently placed on probation as of “forty-eight minutes ago”, which is a ridiculously specific amount of time. He couldn’t have said an hour? If it was anyone else I wouldn’t care, but Bischoff irritates me so much that things like that push my buttons.
WCW World Tag Team Championship
Harlem Heat (c) vs. The American Males
Phoenix hates the American Males. Hates them. The m/Males have earned a title shot courtesy of an upset non-title win over the champs, though nobody takes them seriously. There is a significant size difference between the two tandems, with Stevie Ray absolutely towering over Scotty Riggs. The Males try a Rockers impression with babyface double teams, but they are not convincing. Booker does his best to help get them over, throwing himself so much on a back body drop that he lands on his shins. Bischoff tries something novel: attempting to offer some insightful commentary, pointing out that Riggs is adept at using a dropkick as the final move of a combination. My slant on it is that Riggs has so few ideas that he goes to the dropkick over and over because he has no other flashy moves.
Colonel Robert Parker heads to the ringside area and woos Heat’s manager Sherri, and she appears to agree to marry him. They walk off hand-in-hand, and Heenan throws out WCW’s favourite ripped-off WWF phrase “a match made in heaven,” again. Meanwhile, Harlem Heat have complete control over proceedings, with Booker T impressing with a series of kicks that connect right in the jaw. To his credit, Riggs ends up inside out on one of them, though he may well have been knocked senseless for real. Booker doesn’t cover because he is too busy arguing with Phoenix Suns basketball player A.C. Green. Riggs is clunky, struggling to make it over on a sunset flip, and not receiving any encouragement from the audience, who cheer for A.C.
Riggs eventually gets the tag to Marcus Bagwell, and Bischoff tries to disguise the fan apathy towards the challengers by shouting over the top of Bagwell’s “hot” tag. He observes, quite correctly, that Bagwell has “put on a lot of upper body size” recently, and credits the gym. I credit something else. “Where the big boys play” was not simply a corporate marketing slogan, you know. Bagwell works a sequence with Booker, giving me nightmare flash forwards to their infamous “WCW” match on Raw in 2001. Within seconds it is over, thanks to Booker T’s always impressive Harlem Hangover. Booker was really good throughout the contest, but the rest weren’t anything special.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: Sting and Lex Luger
These two are Starrcade opponents, set to meet in a triangle match alongside Ric Flair. Sting does an intelligent promo, saying that while he doesn’t agree with Luger’s lifestyle choices of palling around with Jimmy Hart and the Dungeon of Doom, their friendship runs deeper than that. Sting predicts that Luger will beat Randy Savage to win the WCW World Championship tonight, but that at Starrcade they will forget about their friendship for the night. Luger agrees with both the prediction and with how Starrcade will go down, and they leave it at that. Succinct and logical, which in WCW is a rare gem indeed.
Sting vs. Kurasawa
Sting heads straight to the ring after his promo for the match, and Kurasawa heads out alone because Colonel Parker is shagging Sherri up against a ring truck… presumably. After their apathy towards the opener, the crowd are into this one, and in the early going they get a fast-paced, hart-hitting show. Sting throws a beautiful dropkick, Kurasawa responds with meaty chops and kicks. Kurasawa takes over by trying to break Sting’ arm, but the Stinger shrugs it off, mounts a comeback, and locks on the Scorpion Deathlock for the win. Well that was abrupt.
Final Rating: *
Scott Norton vs. The Giant
As Norton makes his entrance, Eric Bischoff reveals the explanation behind his job and push: he has known him for a decade, and used to mark out for him throwing drunks out of a nightclub with one hand when he bounced the door there. “Clubbering” yells Bischoff, which about sums this up. Norton shows a moment of strength by lifting Giant off his feet, but he cannot follow it up with anything. Norton goes to more clubbering, then slowly rams Giant’s head into the buckles. Really slowly. Giant shakes it off, hits the chokeslam, and that is the end of that. To celebrate, Giant spits all over the television camera.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Ric Flair
Basketball player and Space Jam star Charles Barkley comes out first, followed by Flair, and Bischoff is over the moon about it. You can hear the self-congratulatory smugness in his voice as he crows about how anything can happen on Nitro. Sir Charles speaks first, telling Mean Gene he doesn’t care what the people think – here in his hometown no less – because Ric Flair is his guy. He turns down the chance to team with Flair and work a match, saying he could never match up to Naitch in the ring. At least he knows his role. Shame Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone didn’t follow his lead a few years down the line. This segment meant nothing, it merely existed to get Charles Barkley on the show so WCW could crow about how Nitro is the most exciting wrestling program on television. “Wow!” yells Bischoff as the piece concludes. He is evidently easily impressed, because I am still trying to figure out why anyone would consider this a meaningful use of time.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. Lex Luger
This could go one of two ways. Both guys could be motivated being in a title match main event and bring their A-game, which would make for a very good match, but that’s not what happens. Instead they go for option B, which is always the choice WCW main eventers opt for, and that is phoning it in. At least Savage gets in a sustained period of control before starting to sell, which makes a change from his usual tiresome WCW match. He decides to fight fire with fire, targeting Lex Luger’s arm because he has an injured appendage of his own. He has had a dodgy arm for months now. In the WWF in 1992 he has a bad knee for an age too. Pretty much from WrestleMania VIII right through to when he lost the WWF Championship to Ric Flair in September. The guy heals slowly.
The way Savage controls the bout from the off means this is getting an age, which we knew anyway because Bischoff has been going on about carrying on with the show past its scheduled end time since the start of the broadcast. Savage works what is essentially a heat on Luger’s arm, and we are about ten minutes in before Savage accidentally crashes into the guardrails, giving Luger an opening. Luger grinds away, though credit to him he does at least remember that Savage has been pounding his arm all match and sells it appropriately. For a while at least. A collision centre ring is the beginning of the end for this bout, giving Savage a route back after Luger’s last few minutes of bossing things. While Savage is making his comeback, Jimmy Hart removes a turnbuckle pad, and Savage spots it. He sends Luger face-first into the steel, causing Lex to fall backwards unconscious and wipe out the ref. Savage hits the big elbow, but there is no ref. Savage decides to beat up Jimmy Hart while he waits, but he is saved by Ric Flair. Isn’t he supposed to be on probation? Must be a special sort of probation where you are allowed to interfere in title matches.
Flair is countered by a no longer clad in black Hulk Hogan stood in the aisle. He marches Flair to the ring and cleans house, beating up his former manager Jimmy Hart as an act of retribution. Luger takes a shot as well, which draws out Sting to calm things down. Hogan waffles him too, but claims it was an accident. Sting and Hogan get into a tizzy, and now Savage has to play peacemaker. I have no idea what the official result of the match is, but who cares; it was a non finish either way.
Final Rating: *½
Promo Time: Hulk Hogan, Sting and Lex Luger
Hogan doesn’t give two shits about being on probation, probably because he has movies to film. Hogan wants to know whose side Sting is on because he is friends with Luger, but Sting turns the tables and asks Hogan why he trusts Randy Savage. Hogan says Savage was the one who called that Luger was a bad egg from the off, which he did, but Sting defends Lex again. Mean Gene stirs the pot, but Sting reminds Hogan that they have Ric Flair and Arn Anderson to focus on when the two of them team up next week. Hogan tells Sting to keep Luger out of his face, Sting agrees, they shake hands, and everyone loves each other again. How quaint.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Booker T. A banner night for the Book, who excelled in the opener. He was performing on a level way beyond his brother and most of his opponents.
Least Entertaining: Scotty Riggs. If Marcus Bagwell had a decent partner (and he has had decent partners in the past) then the tag title match could have been a lot better. Riggs frequently looked bewildered by the simplest of thing.
Quote of the Night: “You wanna watch wrestling or do you wanna watch people talk about wrestling? If you want wrestling the action is here on Nitro. The rest of it is all gaga” – Eric Bischoff can’t help himself but get in a dig at Monday Night Raw. Considering the quality of the matches tonight, his claims are a little rich.
Match of the Night: Harlem Heat vs. The American Males
Summary: The extra ten minutes tacked onto the end of the show caused it to drag. Many of these early broadcasts, even the bad ones, have been easy to sit through because of their brevity and non-stop pace. This episode felt like it went on forever. I am all in favour of long matches and short promos, but only if the long matches feature workers willing to go out there and perform. Savage and Luger in their aeons long main event did more than I expected, but it was still a chore to endure. In that regard it rather captured the feel of the whole show perfectly.