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James Dixon: This is an historic show, one that would be claimed in the future by WWE revisionist history as the night that changed the business. The reason being? An incident that occurs right at the start of the show when Debra Miceli a/k/a Alundra Blayze, the reigning WWF Women’s Champion, turns up and denounces her WWF gimmick, reminding everyone that she is – and always has been – Madusa, then dumps the belt in the trash. I wrote about this in Titan Sinking:
Miceli informed Bischoff that she had been terminated from her WWF contract due to the company’s perilous financial situation – the news of which alone was like music to his ears – and that she wanted to come back to WCW, where she had previously performed under the moniker ‘Madusa’. Eric was doubly thrilled when she told him that Vince had fired her without her dropping the title. Sensing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something extraordinary, Bischoff salivated at the prospect of the plan he was formulating.
“Do you still have the belt?” he asked her.
“Erm, Yeah,” she responded, wondering what he had in mind.
“Why don’t you bring that along with you [to Nitro] too…” he insisted.
Miceli was reluctant because of the bridges she would burn with her ex-employees, but for Bischoff this was war, and it was no belt, no deal. Not wanting to be out of work, Miceli came to the conclusion that she owed Vince nothing since he had fired her, and agreed to the terms. On Nitro, she showed up unannounced at the commentator’s desk where Bischoff was sitting. After running down the Alundra Blayze character, Miceli, under orders from Bischoff, dumped the belt in a trash can. If giving away the WWF’s results had been a dirty trick, having one of his performers denigrate their championship belt live on television was akin to sacrilege.
On-screen Bischoff feigned shock, but inside he was thrilled with how the stunt had played out. He had created another “moment” on Nitro, and when the ratings came in he had further cause for celebration. Nitro had won again, their third victory in a row, with a 2.7 to Raw’s measly 2.3. Other than the unopposed first show, it was on par with the best rating they had done to date. The deed had perfectly encapsulated the “anything can happen” nature of the show that Bischoff so desperately craved. Fans who were watching Nitro stayed with it rather than flicking over to Raw, wondering just what on earth would happen next.
Meanwhile over in Newark where Monday Night Raw was airing live, Vince McMahon was given the news of the stunt from a technician who had been keeping tabs on the rival show in the production truck. He was stunned, but not as angry as many expected. Rather than vowing to tear WCW apart, Vince seemed despondent, and on commentary during the broadcast he was obviously distracted. It seemed to Vince that every week Bischoff and Nitro were attacking the WWF, and at that point he had no answers as to how he could combat them.
“WCW had us by the balls, that was in the back of Vince’s mind,” said Tom Prichard, who also recalled, “Everyone was pissed at Madusa. Back then you would get pissed at people all the time for the things they did, but the truth is, most would have done the same thing for the money.”
Jim Cornette shared similar sentiments, “The locker-room thought Madusa was a f*ck*ng douche bag, but the fact is, Vince was stupid enough to fire her without getting the belt back first. It wasn’t really a huge thing, it was just insulting. The only thing it did was prove that Eric Bischoff was a skunky little f*ck*r.”
Mongo is cross about the amount of wrestlers that have been invading the commentary desk of late, so introduces a friend to act as his bodyguard. It is none other than football legend William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry, a man last involved in wrestling nearly a decade earlier at WrestleMania 2. Yes, once again Eric Bischoff looks to siphon off the past successes of the WWF like a blood sucking leech. Perry shakes Bobby Heenan’s hand, and The Brain oversells the strength of his grip like a champ, though Fridge looks bemused by it all.
Ric Flair vs. Eddie Guerrero
This is the contest we were promised a few weeks back, where Flair decided that Eddie was “light work” and gave the match to Brian Pillman instead. At their respective peaks it is a sure-fire bona fide classic, but neither men are at that stage of their careers. They stall for an age before a tentative feeling-out process to start, but Flair gets too cocky and gets taken down with a dropkick and a series of drop toe holds. Eddie mocks Flair’s theatrics with a strut, which galls Naitch so much that he bails to regroup. Bischoff manages to annoy me immediately by yammering on about Sting and Lex Luger, instead of appreciating the excellent technical wrestling on display in the ring. Flair goes to work with chops and his usual heat, which Eddie counters with punches, a tornado DDT, and a springboard head scissor takedown. Eddie goes up top to finish Flair off, but Naitch knocks him off the ropes to the outside. Eddie hurts his knee and Flair hones in on it immediately, stomping away and then locking on a ropes-assisted figure four. Eddie survives for a while, but the pain proves too much and he passes out, giving Flair the win. Great little match. Flair showed he could still go with the right opponent, and the bout the pair constructed together was excellent.
Final Rating: ***½
Promo Time: Ric Flair and Arn Anderson
Double A says the Horsemen are on a roll after their recent dealings with Paul Orndorff, Johnny B. Badd and now Eddie Guerrero. Indeed they are. This version of the group – classic Flair, Anderson, Blanchard, Windham grouping aside – is perhaps my favourite incarnation. All four guys are super-workers, and it is a shame they didn’t last longer together. The promo is soon interrupted by the depressing sight of Kevin Sullivan and Jimmy Hart, though Flair does tickle me with his reaction, “Hey Devil, what’s up man?” Sullivan says he has always respected Flair and Arn, but he has an issue with “loose cannon” Brian Pillman for knocking his beloved Dungeon of Doom. He warns Anderson to keep Pillman on a short leash or else he will come looking for him. Flair is happy to oblige, but Anderson disagrees. “If you come looking for Pillman, you might just find Flair and Anderson”. The Four Horsemen should not be working a program with scrubs like the Dungeon. Who would ever think that was a good idea? Other than Kevin Sullivan. Need I remind anyone who is booking this stuff? Yes, The Taskmaster himself. He has far too high an opinion of his abilities and worth if he thinks he and his band of zany goons can hang with the Horsemen.
Over at the announce desk, Sgt. Craig Pittman turns up for a chat, and William Perry is nowhere in sight. Just a real bang up job of running defence there, Fridge. Pittman wants to talk with Heenan, but he seems to be unclear on how microphones work and holds it by his side as he addresses him. Bischoff jumps in and holds the mic so we can hear what he has to say. Pittman makes an odd comment about how he has been “sneaking and peaking”, which sounds like the confession of a sex pest. Turns out he has only recently discovered that Bobby Heenan used to be a great manager (perhaps they don’t have TVs in the USMC) and he wants The Brain to manage him to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Heenan respectfully declines because he no longer manages, but offers to shop him around to, “Jimmy Hart, or someone.” Pittman walks off with his tail between his legs. I wish Heenan has come out of management retirement and sided with Pittman. He is a guilty pleasure of mine and I would have enjoyed seeing him towards the top of the card. He certainly trumps Kevin Sullivan and co.
Lex Luger vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell
It’s the battle of the juiced up physiques; the narcissist against the body dysmorphic. The mass that Bagwell has put on recently is Scott Steiner levels of phenomenal. Again, Bischoff draws attention to it and credits the gym. I am not sure who to credit/blame for his Michael Cole hair highlights. Bagwell’s offensive strategy is all clotheslines and elbows, but it doesn’t get him far. Luger shrugs it off, hits a powerslam, then Torture Racks him for the win. Short match, which is for the best.
Final Rating: ¾*
Promo Time: Lex Luger and Jimmy Hart
“You know Gene, I’m breathless with anticipation,” pants Luger, fittingly blown up from his three minutes of exertion. He says little of note other than that he will be the next WCW Champion.
Bobby Eaton vs. Sting
The onscreen graphic can call him “Earl Robert Eaton” all it wants, but to me he is and always will be the great Bobby Eaton. I am a big fan of Bobby, who despite the plaudits he receives from those who have watched him over the years, still doesn’t command anywhere near the reputation I feel he deserves. At this stage of his career, he is much bigger, that is to say rounder, than he used to be, and Sting looks like a million bucks in comparison. Eaton’s job is to make Sting look good and then do the job, which is hardly befitting one of the greatest tag team wrestlers of all time, but he does it well enough. A missed knee from the top puts Eaton in trouble, and Sting quickly follows with the Stinger Splash and the Scorpion Deathlock. “I feel like I’m on a roll!” bellows the victor.
Final Rating: ¾*
Promo Time: Sting
Tonight’s theme is promos with guys after they have worked. At least they are all connected, part of the upcoming triangle match at Starrcade that Eric Bischoff has been hyping to death all night. Like his buddy Lex Luger, Sting has few words. He simply says he wants to win the WCW Championship for the sixth time, then does some yelling.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. The Giant
The challenger is flanked by Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan, as if we needed to see those two guys again tonight. Savage is still wrestling with an injured arm, entering Bob Orton territory in terms of long-term selling. Even though Savage is twice Giant’s age, he still has the speed advantage due to Paul Wight’s general cumbersomeness, and he utilises that in the opening stages. He uses ring smarts and deduces that the best way to beat Giant is to put him to sleep, so jumps on his back with a sleeper. Giant’s response is simply to hurl him off, then he goes to a boring bearhug. After commercial Randy gets a little more offense, but gets thwarted with a Giant backbreaker. “He is carrying him around like a child… like a child,” says Bischoff, who appears to be developing a new annoying verbal tick of repeating what he has just said in order to emphasise his point. Giant powers Savage around the ring, then makes the frankly nuts decision to come off the top with a splash. “Andre the Giant never did this,” says Heenan, and he is right. Andre had such a presence that he didn’t need to resort to dangerous spots like that, though I did once see him hit a top rope butt splash during a cage match with Big John Studd. The missed splash allows Savage time to hit the flying elbow, but Giant powers out at two “like a loaf of bread.” Bischoff repeats it again for good measure, because that is his thing now. Giant removes the protective mats on the outside and tries for a suplex, but Savage keeps hold of the ropes and the bumbling Giant falls onto the concrete. Back inside Giant recovers and hits a legdrop, which draws out Hulk Hogan. He decides to maul all of the Dungeon of Doom with a chair, then the referee for good measure, which prompts Mongo and Fridge to get off their asses and try to stop him. Such is Hogan’s paranoia that he questions their motivations. Not sure what the justification was for Hogan’s sustained assault, but it was entertaining.
Final Rating: *½
Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
More talking! Midway through Hogan bails to wipe out The Giant with a chair to the head, then gives one to Kevin Sullivan too. He has gone loco! Hogan doesn’t care about being on probation, but he does care about Randy Savage’s WCW Championship, which he wants a shot at. Savage agrees and promises to grant him one if he can get through Ric Flair next week, Hiroyoshi Tenzan at Starrcade, and his title challenger following the Starrcade triangle match. I am not sure if he is subtly making a point about how hard he works compared to Hogan, but that’ how it comes across to me. Giant tries to return, but Sullivan and Craig Pittman hold him back, with Mongo and Fridge preventing Hulk from getting himself in further hot water. The Hulkster is so paranoid that he threatens to kick their asses too. This all existed to get Hogan off Starrcade, WCW’s supposed biggest show of the year, remember, so he can film movies. Can you imagine Vince McMahon allowing any of his wrestlers to miss WrestleMania to shoot a B-movie? Hogan was allowed far too much leeway by Eric Bischoff.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Ric Flair. For providing he really can still go.
Least Entertaining: Few really warrant it tonight, so almost by default it is Kevin Sullivan. He takes it for his misguided belief that he warrants booking himself to mingle with the main eventers.
Quote of the Night: Anything from the Madusa segment is memorable because of how history has painted the moment as “business changing”.
Match of the Night: Eddie Guerrero vs. Ric Flair
Summary: This was a good show. The opening segment with Madusa was memorable and historically important, the Flair-Guerrero match was a Flair throwback, and most of the rest of the card at the very least had direction. Some of the matches weren’t exactly riveting, but they were kept short enough as to not offend. Right up there with the better Nitros of the year thanks to the lack of anything inane or idiotic to drag it down.