Monday Nitro (12/25/95)

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Dan Hey: Merry Christmas! The final broadcast of the year goes out live on Christmas Day 1995. It’s also the go-home show for Starrcade. The usual trio host. Bobby Heenan and Eric Bischoff look like they’re ready for their post-Christmas dinner snooze.

 

Lex Luger vs. Scotty Riggs
The recent trend has been for Luger to take a beating from lesser opposition before finishing with the Torture Rack. They stall to begin with, and I notice that there’s a guy in the crowd wearing a giant bee costume on the same side as the hard cam. He must be a Sting fan. I’d imagine that could be quite distracting. Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan once claimed that he missed a relatively simple pot because a child’s Tellytubby doll was in his eye line, so I don’t know what catching a glimpse of a massive bee might do. The far bigger and more muscular Lex should be rag-dolling this guy; instead, he gets hardly anything. Riggs’s offence is dropkick heavy, probably because he doesn’t have much else in his locker, which again begs the question as to why he gets so much offence on a guy positioned much higher up the card. Luger taps on an arm bar, but fortunately for him tapping won’t constitute a submission for a few more years yet. Lex finally gets some offence in, knocking Riggs to the outside, which draws a taunt from the bee. Hardies, Riggs. Luger wraps it up with a powerbomb and the Torture Rack. Much to my surprise, the finish popped the crowd, but the match was terrible.
Final Rating: ½*

 

Promo Time: Sting
Mean Gene shits himself when Sting’s pyro goes off. Sting gets sick of being asked the same questions each week. He’s not the only one sick of it. In short, he’s trying to get Luger on the straight and narrow, he still has business with Ric Flair, and New Japan will be on USA territory, which is where, he claims, that all the best action goes on. Gene tries to ask the same question about the situation with Luger again, so Sting stares him down, which makes Gene soil his keks for a second time. Brief and to the point.

 

Sting vs. Big Bubba Rogers
Mongo says that Sting “won’t be thrown in a basket,” which means that he won’t turn heel. As he’s approaching the ring, I notice for the first time how massive the aisle is. He’s walking down the middle of it and can barely reach any of the fans’ hands on either side. Sting doesn’t appear to be in the mood for the ex-Bossman’s nonsense today, but he does get caught with some kind of dropkick attempt, which Bischoff calls a “round kick.” The camera gets a nice close-up of a Roger’s uppercut in the corner. That’s about all he brings of any worth at this point in his career, though. Sting rallies with face plants both inside and outside the ring; Bubba responds with the over-the-top theatrical selling that he did in his match against Hogan on the first episode of Nitro. Speaking of Hogan, as Bischoff usually is, it’s announced that he’s suspended until the end of the year. There’s only six days left of it! Basically, he gets Christmas night off and is allowed to miss their biggest pay-per-view because he’s off filming movies again. Given that most of the viewers are stuffed and exhausted from their Christmas dinner, a Big Bubba chinlock is probably not going to keep many of them awake. The crowd try a “let’s go Sting” chant, but it’s half-hearted. Sting does go anyway, winning the match with a small package on what looked like a muscle buster attempt from Rogers.
Final Rating: *

 

Promo Time: Lex Luger and Jimmy Hart
Gene’s got a Santa hat on now, and quite possibly new trousers to replace the ones he soiled earlier (he’s only shot from the waist up here). “What’s the deal?” bleats Gene for the millionth time in seventeen Nitros. Luger says him and Sting are friends, that’s it. He also puts himself over for the triangle match at Starrcade and other such repetitions from his promo a fortnight ago (he’s the uncrowned champion until he wins the belt). Out comes Craig Pittman. Pittman recently started an angle where he comes out each week in search of a manager. He’s got no charisma, nor any idea of how to conduct a promo. Where Bobby Heenan fobbed him off politely last week, Jimmy Hart just ridicules him, comparing Pittman’s rotund midriff to Lex’s impressive physique. He chucks a coin at Pittman and puts him down further: “Take this quarter and find a manager who needs a few good men.” Instead of punching him, Pittman says, “I will find a manager,” before skulking off.

 

Dean Malenko vs. JL
Malenko looked impressive last time out against Sting, while Jerry Lynn has also impressed in recent weeks. He’s also become androgynous it seems, with his “Mr” prefix seemingly an early consignment to the Wrestler’s Names Room 101, to be followed by the likes of Langston, Antonio, Alexander, and Adrian. Dean brings a T-bone suplex amid the usual counters and counter-counters. Bischoff politely calls them both short by referring to their low centre of gravity. JL gets a nice powerbomb on Malenko; Malenko responds by turning a powerbomb attempt into a guillotine. It’s high-intensity and fast-paced, which means that selling goes out the window. The man of one thousand holds takes control with a fireman’s carry gutbreaker and finishes with the Malenko Leg Lock, as Mongo calls it. Bischoff thinks that Malenko used about eight-hundred and forty-two of his one thousand holds. I’d say it was more like twenty. The match was a “low centre of gravity” (i.e. short), but it was always exciting and fun to watch.
Final Rating: **¾

 

Promo Time: Ric Flair
Jimmy Hart comes out before Naitch gets his points across, making it the second week in a row that he’s been interrupted by a little runt. He apologises for Kevin Sullivan sticking his beak in last week, and he wants to manage Flair in his title match against Savage tonight. Flair mentions Charles Barkley for no reason and to no response. Hart claims that he owes Flair one from a few weeks back (from when Sir Charles was on the show, but in a completely separate segment) and tells him that he always pays back his debts. Since when has Jimmy Hart been a Lannister? I suppose he manages someone with the physique of Tyrion (though with none of the personality). Anyhow, flattery gets him somewhere and permits Jimmy to be present for the match.

 

WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Randy Savage (c) vs. Ric Flair
This could go one of two ways, depending on how much effort the two of them are willing to put in. Before we begin, Bischoff gloats over recent appearances from the likes of Charles Barkley and William Perry. He wonders who might show up next, given that Nitro is so unpredictable. Savage is still selling the arm injury from before World War 3. He targets Flair’s knees and puts him in his own finishing move, the figure four, early. Flair sells it like death. Mongo thinks that he’s done for, but Heenan and Bischoff each point out that Flair should know how to get out of it. He escapes by grabbing the ropes, making Mongo look a bit of a silly mark. Flair’s own attempt at the figure four is countered into a small package for two. Both guys seem as if they’re willing to put on a show tonight, which should make for a great match.

Macho wants to punch Flair in the corner, so the ref pulls him back, allowing the dirtiest player in the game to go low. Jimmy Hart puts the boot in to Savage on the outside while Flair has the ref distracted, which Mongo instantly renders irrelevant by saying that no shots by Hart could hurt anyway. After the break, the two are brawling in the aisle. The referee is clearly being lenient with the count tonight. Macho goes crashing into the rails, which draws a few of the younger members of the crowd over to pat him on the back. At least he isn’t being disrespected by a huge bee. Savage grabs a chair, which is immediately confiscated by the ref. Bischoff decides that Savage is the iron man, and to be fair, he has been working a packed schedule as champion, unlike a certain other recent champion. Back in the ring, Flair finally starts to target Macho’s bad arm, hooking it behind his back and going for several pin attempts, using the ropes for leverage whenever the referee isn’t looking. It comes across as smart wrestling. Savage comes back, but he’s fighting on instinct alone. Flair lands another low blow, this time with a hoof in the corner. He takes heat for a while, as he often does in his matches, though he rallies again by winning an exchange of chops versus punches. Flair takes his usual repertoire of bumps.

Rather than putting the match over, Bischoff champions Nitro as the most watched wrestling show anywhere in the world. It is probably just edging ahead of the WWF at this point. The season of goodwill doesn’t extend to the WWF, either, as smug Eric continues to ignore the match in favour of taking shots at Titan: the talent are “leaving in droves,” etc. He’ll be glad of a job there in seven years’ time. Mongo jumps on the bandwagon, calling WWF a “lesser league.” Flair’s switched from working the arm to the knee now, but that’s because of his finishing move rather than poor wrestling psychology. He does get the figure four cinched in, but Savage escapes. Both men look weary, having given their all tonight. Jimmy Hart tries to get involved again, but Savage clobbers him, which brings Lex Luger out for the DQ, marring what was a great match. Sting comes out for the save. He collides with Macho in the ring and they go face-to-face as the broadcast goes off the air.
Final Rating: ***¾

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Randy Savage and Ric Flair. It’s only fair to split this one down the middle, as they both played their part in a great title match tonight.

 

Least Entertaining: Scotty Riggs takes it just ahead of Craig Pittman. Being humiliated on national TV by Jimmy Hart is bad enough, but being dissed by a guy in a bee suit trumps it.

 

Quote of the Night: I couldn’t hear what the bee was saying to Riggs (presumably telling him to buzz off), so we’ll go for Jimmy Hart’s Pittman put-down: “Take this quarter and find a manager who needs a few good men.”

 

Match of the Night: Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, obviously.

 

Summary: Taken into consideration as a free TV broadcast on Christmas night, this episode deserves its plaudits. The title match would almost certainly have broken four snowflakes with a clean finish and (again, but for the finish) was worthy of a pay per view main event. Malenko and JL also put on a tidy little match, while the promos were a lot better this week, too.
Verdict: 64

Monday Nitro (12/18/95)

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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:

 

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.
Verdict: 62

Monday Nitro (12/11/95)

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Dan Hey: We’re in Flair Country, Charlotte, North Carolina. Woooo! Eric Bischoff, Brain, and Mongo host as usual. The main event is Sting & Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson. For once, Mongo doesn’t point out that this is a pay-per-view quality main event, even though it certainly is.

 

Eddie Guerrero vs. Mr JL
The action begins almost immediately into the broadcast. Bischoff is taken aback by the quick start, but the camera had clearly shown that both men were already in the ring as soon as the title screens had finished. This follows a similar pattern of most of WCW’s 1995 cruiserweight matches, only this one is a truncated version as it only gets a few minutes. I’m not complaining: the standard cruiserweight matches that became a staple of early Nitro are always good to watch, and there are two great talents in the ring right now. Eddie brings the flips, tilt-a-whirls, and springboards as you’d expect, then applies a rest hold – an abdominal stretch. The match is too short to need one, and it’s obvious that it’s a move for its own sake when Eddie gives up on it and hits Mr. JL with elbows to the head instead. The commentary team again have a debate about what JL might stand for. Heenan comes up with “Just Lucky.” Eddie goes up top but gets hit with a springboard drop kick that sends him out of the ring. JL brings the flips outside, cannonballing off the apron. Once again, Heenan ponders why they risk their bodies in such a way. It’s probably because it’s the only way guys of this size could get themselves over in the nineties. Back inside, a counter of a counter (for those counting) to a sunset flip wins it for Guerrero. Not bad at all, but too short to develop into anything better.
Final Rating: **

 

Promo Time: Jimmy Hart and Lex Luger
“Who dresses you: Spike Lee or Spike Jones?” Mean Gene is getting lippy with the ‘Mouth of the South’ on a weekly basis now. Jimmy should slap him one. We see snippets from the horribly convoluted main event at Halloween Havoc and from a recent Nitro as evidence to why Luger is the uncrowned WCW World Champion. Sting stopped him from taking out Macho Man’s arm, he claims, otherwise he’d be champ. So it’s either your own fault or your buddy Sting’s, Lex. He trips over his words putting himself over for the triangle match at Starrcade.

 

Disco Inferno vs. Paul Orndorff
The Charlotte crowd has disco fever! This will be Orndorff’s last match. He is forced to retire due to recurring problems from an arm injury suffered in the mid-eighties while working for WWF. He was in the middle of a big money feud with Hulk Hogan at the time and didn’t want to take time off, and so his injuries never had the necessary healing time. I don’t like seeing these athletes being forced to retire through injuries picked up and/or made worse through the industry, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see a forty-six year old leathery man preening himself in a mirror either. Disco brings some aggression by attacking Orndorff before the bell. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring any wrestling moves or excitement with it (he doesn’t even have that many disco moves). Orndorff takes over with his own set of punches and clotheslines. He then mocks Disco by doing a horrible dance for what seems like an age before dropping an elbow. He looked like a drunk uncle at a wedding. The sequence reminds me of Scotty-2-Hotty’s worm, where the final pay-off is not worth all the faffing around in the build-up. Orton takes it with a side suplex. I don’t think Disco has won a match on Nitro.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Promo Time: Brian Pillman, Arn Anderson, and Ric Flair
We have three of the Four Horsemen here tonight. There’s no Chris Benoit again. Okerlund asks Pillman what it’s like to be a Horseman. It’s a “chance of a lifetime,” he responds. Pillman then proceeds to list all the members of the roster who wanted to be one. The Hulkster did, apparently, though I highly doubt that his ego would allow him. So did the American Males and even Mongo. He warns Gene about cutting him off, though his shtick is bordering on irritating. Next on his list to rag on is Paul Orndorff. He also wanted to be a Horseman, but he couldn’t make the cut. Flair takes over now to a massive WOOOOOO from the crowd. Naturally, he’s über-over tonight. Orndorff wanders out to confront Pillman. He respects the others, but he thinks that Pillman is nothing more than a “punk.” He puts Flyin’ Brian in his place by telling him that he’s only a Horseman because Orndorff didn’t want to be one. The perma-cool Arn tries to smooth things over, but hot-headed Pillman continues to provoke, so Orndorff calls him a glorified bag-carrier and they get into a scrap. Flair and Arn join in for the three-on-one mugging and deliver a spike piledriver to ‘Mr. Wonderful’, which will be used as the reason for his TV disappearance. Mongo and Heenan really sell Orndorff’s neck injury by relating to their own personal experiences, which gives this segment a certain gravitas.

 

Lex Luger vs. Jim Duggan
Luger is put over by Bischoff as a wild card. Basically, he’s a heel who’s mates with one of the most over faces in the company. Duggan cuts a retrograde figure in 1995. If he ever had any usefulness as a performer, he’s long surpassed it now. Duggan brings the clubberin’, and Heenan makes me smile by calling him a “blue-collar buffoon.” The camera cuts away to Orndorff being loaded onto a stretcher in a neck brace, and then again to him leaving the arena in an ambulance. It really emphasises the seriousness of the injury and is of much more interest than the club-fest taking place in the ring. It’s also all Duggan, with Lex barely getting any offence in at all. Like in the match with the American Males a few weeks back, he’s being treated almost like a jobber by what should be a far inferior opponent. Jimmy Hart gets involved, struggling to handle Duggan’s big wood on the apron (oo-er!). Duggan, being the imbecile that he is, falls for it, allowing Lex to put him in the Torture Rack. “Wow! That’s impressive,” bullshits Heenan. He’s fooling no one, except Bischoff perhaps. This was awful.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Promo Time: Randy Savage
Gene tells Savage that he personifies a fighting champion and goes over his Starrcade schedule and his title match against The Giant next week. For the umpteenth pay-per-view in a row, the booking is convoluted. Savage is wrestling another match earlier in the night then having to defend his title against the winner of a triangle match, where two of the three competitors also have other matches against members of the Japanese contingent on the same card. Gene quickly reminds Savage that the title might change hands next week, rendering all of the Starrcade booking irrelevant, but he’s convincing no one. Also, The Giant has now shrunk another inch – he’s billed at 7’3 now, having been 7’5 on his arrival and 7’4 on a recent Nitro (7’2 will get mentioned next week). “Sounds like mission impossible, doesn’t it?” responds the champ. The usually wacko Savage comes out with the most sensible solution to this loaded schedule: he’ll deal with his problems one at a time, starting with The Giant next week before even thinking about Starrcade. He says that he’s going to be dynamite and predicts victory next week before walking off. This was really good promo work from Savage: brief, logical, and to the point.

 

Ric Flair & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Hulk Hogan
Hogan looks pissed off and storms to the ring while Sting’s music is still playing. In his usual display of class, he throws his shirt and bandana at his opponents before the bell rings. The crowd are wooing, and there’s an audible “Hogan sucks” chant. We’re in Flair Country now, Hulkster. AA schools Sting by reversing an Irish whip into a fireman’s carry at speed, then again with a go-behind hammer lock. Sting responds with a press slam, so AA calls for Hogan to get in the ring. A note about the competitors in this match: when all is said and done there’s forty-two major World Championship title reigns between these competitors (though not at this point), yet not one by Arn. Arn is an extremely talented professional wrestler – underrated in my view – and is certainly not out of place among the other well-decorated performers in this match. Make no mistake, though, he’ll be the one doing the job tonight lest one of the major players gets a clean decision over one of the other major players. Flair comes in, which pops the crowd, and so Hogan no sells his chops right away. Flair takes his usual flurry of back bumps, including the one where he goes over the buckles and runs the apron, though this time he runs right into Sting. When the Horsemen get back in control, they try to work over Hogan, but he’s not interested in selling a period of heat and brings in Sting on a barely lukewarm tag. Bischoff begins to lose his voice on commentary; it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. Sting applies the Scorpion Deathlock to the illegal Flair and is planted with a DDT by AA. Jimmy Hart comes out to distract the referee, while Luger arrives to put Hogan in the Torture Rack on the outside. It actually looks impressive on the large Hulkster, and it saves Lex from sharing the award for Least Entertaining tonight. Hogan sells this on the outside for ages, while Sting takes the real heat of the match.

Bischoff tries to get his head around all the permutations of the title scene at Starrcade. Just book a regular title match, it’s not that hard! Flair and Arn work over Sting’s knee, with the gist being that they are trying to take him out to give Flair one less problem in the triangle match, which actually makes sense and follows Savage’s one problem at a time logic. Hogan’s back on the apron, but the referee misses a tag, which bring the crowd to rag on the Hulkster. The ever-deluded Bischoff suggests that the crowd are outraged that Hogan couldn’t get in the match. Eventually, Sting makes the tag, but Hogan walks into a big AA spinebuster. The Horsemen are celebrating prematurely, though, as Hogan is no selling once again and goes into his Hulk up, big boot, leg drop finishing sequence. This was actually a really good TV main event featuring some of the company’s top stars, despite the interference and typical Hogan bullshit.
Final Rating: ***

 

After the match, Pillman runs in for the three-on-two beat down. Luger comes out to protect Sting but not Hogan. Sting helps Hogan. It’s already chaotic, then out comes Macho Man to help rid the ring of the heels. He gets clocked in the face by a Sting right hand. Hogan intervenes between the two of them, which leads to…

 

Promo Time: Randy Savage, Sting, and Hulk Hogan
Mean Gene brings it down to schoolyard level by pointing out who likes who and who doesn’t like who. No one likes you, Okerlund, that’s for certain. Hogan admonishes Sting for being pals with Lex. Savage hates Luger, and he wants to know what the deal was with that punch he took from Sting. Sting puts all his recent miss-hits down to accidents – Freud would tell him that there are no such things as accidents, only unconscious intentions slipping through. Macho suggests that they all take a chill pill and then talks about subliminally respecting Sting. With good cause, Mean Gene cuts them off. The general conclusion is that they all need to try and stick together. This was just more of the same stuff that’s been going on for weeks.

 

Bischoff sums up next week: it’s Macho Man vs. The Giant for the title. Heenan predictably predicts a new champion. Hogan will also be on Nitro next week. Bischoff reminds us that Flair, Giant, and Hogan are all on probation, whatever that entails, as it hasn’t made a difference to how they act on the show or the fact that they are booked in main event matches. Title matches even, in The Giant’s case.

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Arn Anderson. It was a toss-up between him and Savage, as they both delivered good promos. However, AA also played his part in the main event match, too. Plus, it’s about time ‘The Enforcer’ got some recognition!

 

Least Entertaining: Hacksaw Jim Duggan. If WCW are going for cutting edge with Nitro, then Duggan does not belong on this show.

 

Quote of the Night: “Put your leather on, you’re going to see some mean and nasty boys tonight.” – Mongo forgets that he’s not at his local all-male dominatrix club tonight.

 

Match of the Night: Ric Flair & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Hulk Hogan

 

Summary: Everything involving the Horseman was great, and Randy Savage cut a good, precise promo. Everything else was something of a wash out. Nitro is really pushing itself as a chaotic show. At times, that can make it seem fresh, innovative, and exciting; at other times, it’s just too much booking and too many segments for angles to develop organically, making the whole thing feel rushed. The main event is worth watching for its star quality, while the promo/angle with the Four Horsemen and Paul Orndorff is also worth your time. I’d caution against sitting through the entire hour, though, as there is also some dud material.
Verdict: 39

Monday Nitro (12/04/95)

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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:

 

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.
Verdict: 33

Monday Nitro (11/27/95)

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Dan Hey: Eric Bischoff, Mongo, and The Brain host. Macho Man is the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion, having won the sixty-man battle royal last night at World War 3. He’ll be here later. There’s no controversy with Macho Man being the champion, states Eric; however, there is some controversy between Hogan and Savage. They’ll be face-to-face tonight. Controversy is the key theme tonight. Brain immediately claims that there is controversy over the battle royal, suggesting that officials may be reviewing the tape. He also waves a miniature Japanese flag.

 

Tangent: In summary, here’s how the crowning of a new champion has come about: Hulk Hogan lost the belt under suspicious (lest we overuse controversial) circumstances to a man with the words “The Giant” in his ring name. Only, The Giant would be stripped of the belt by company officials. Instead of a direct rematch, both Hogan and said “Giant” would have to compete in a multi-man match up at a future pay per view for the vacant title. Hogan will not be eliminated via the standard method of elimination specified for said multi-man event, allowing Macho to go on to be crowned champion without Hogan having ever really been beaten for it. You’ve got to hand it to Easy E for originality, haven’t you? That’s never happened before (cough: WrestleMania IV).

 

We get footage from last night’s pay per view. It’s not the “controversial” finish to the match but a promo from earlier in the night. Hogan is with Savage and Sting. He ditches the black attire and switches back to the more familiar red and yellow. A waste paper bin on fire symbolizes how the Dungeon are going to burn, apparently. The three of them are all thunder buddies forever, or something. That’s all we get.

 

Back at the desk, it’s announced that the recently-turned heel Lex Luger will team up with perennial babyface Sting. They’re facing two members of the Four Horsemen, reminding us that Luger was once in that stable. The word controversy is used at least once every ten seconds. This segment lasted about as long as a Shark match.

 

WCW Television Championship
Johnny B. Badd (c) vs. Diamond Dallas Page
This is a rematch from World War 3. Johnny B. Badd has Diamond Doll with him. She’ll stab him in the back, says Heenan. Badd’s also back in possession of his confetti gun, but has also kept his Frisbees, too. Page brings out some flowers for his real-life missus by way of apology for his recent behaviour. It’s a distraction tactic, though, and he sucker-punches Badd in the side of the head as the bell rings. The action, however, is confined to the background, with Diamond Doll occupying the camera’s foreground at a low level angle, which really makes it hard to follow the action. Fortunately, I guess, it’s just Page working heat on Badd, with the only move worth calling being a tilt-a-whirl slam. There’s a chain in the flowers. Heenan and Mongo both claim that it’s a bracelet, but Eric ‘Oracle’ Bischoff knows that it’s a weapon. The commentary team also remind us of the controversy surrounding last night’s events, just in case we’d forgotten. DDP pleads for Doll to throw him the chain, but she throws it through his legs, allowing Badd to use it for extra weight in the Tutti Fruitti, a move which usually knocks his opponent out anyway. Why didn’t the referee see any of this? Doll is excited that Badd won; Badd is confused. There was nothing to this, but I’m knocking off half a snowflake for the infuriating camera angle and the terrible acting by Doll.
Final Rating: *

 

Bischoff brings up the controversy again. I suppose, according to him at least, it does create cash (and how did the company’s finances work out again, Eric?). They plug Luger and Sting. Mongo reiterates the numerous controversies.

 

Promo Time: Jimmy Hart and Kevin Sullivan
For the second consecutive week, their promo takes place on the rampway instead of the ring. Good. They don’t belong near it. Sullivan and Hart are bickering because Sting convinced Luger to release an arm bar that he had locked on Savage’s injured arm last night, which, in Sullivan’s logic, would’ve eliminated him from the battle royal later in the evening. It’s Sullivan’s turn to bring up controversy now. Hart reassures him that he’s playing the long game with Sting and Luger, whatever that is. Sullivan leaves. Pointless but thankfully brief.

 

Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki vs. Bull Nakano & Akira Hokuto
This is a treat. Raw was running Alundra Blazye & Kyoto Inoue vs. Aja Kong & Tomoko Watanabe, which was pre-recorded the week before. On this occasion, though, I won’t be complaining about Eric’s copycat tactics. Hokuto comes out dressed in a Hannya mask and massive red wig. She looks scary. There’s something about Bull’s hair, too: it’s impressively vertical. She must’ve applied a lot of whatever fluid is holding that in place.

They go for a fast, frantic, back-and-forth pace, showcasing innovate (at least in North America) moves. Nakano swings Ozaki around by her hair and throws her across the ring – twice. The match also plays around Bull’s strength amid the other girl’s aerial abilities. Cutie’s in now. She’s wearing some sort of white lace lingerie, but the long dark hair that covers her face makes her look like a yūrei (like Sadako in Ringu / The Ring). She hits an impressive dragon suplex on Hokuto for two, but then gets caught on a crossbody attempt into a fall-away slam. Bull comes in but misses a seated senton from the top. Ozaki and Cutie double team Bull, executing a double log roll and a double stomp from the top! Bull’s too big for a double suplex, though, and suplexes them both at the same time instead.

We momentarily forget the other controversies, as the commentators are actually putting this match over, even if Heenan can’t resist throwing in some stereotyping and dated (and frankly racist) puns – he’s supposed to be on their side! Cutie makes the save after Hokuto hits a powerbomb on Ozaki. The five second rule doesn’t seem to apply in this match, and she’s back in again, this time missing a crossbody off the top and hitting her own partner. A bridging belly-to-belly on the illegal Suzuki gets another two count. The faces recover to hit a double dropkick on Bull, who’s been caught going up top again. She spills out of the ring and the action follows.

The double teaming on Bull continues, but the future professional golfer is just too strong, and she floors both her opponents with a double clothesline. Hokuto comes in to hit the northern lights bomb on Cutie to win. This was a great match, especially for free TV. Lots of action, with some very good and innovative tag team wrestling on display.
Final Rating: ***¾

 

Hulk Hogan vs. Hugh Morrus
Morrus likes to laugh (Hugh Morrus – humorous, get it?). He’s the latest addition to the tedious Dungeon of Doom stable. Hogan is back out in his red and yellow. Bischoff references the controversy again, but claims that Savage is the “official” champion. Hogan starts the match by throwing his shirt in Morrus’s face. Classy. Later on, Hogan and Savage are going to watch some footage of the controversy. Heenan claims there are two opinions on the matter, then proceeds to list three: Hogan’s, Savage’s, and the referee’s. He also finds it funny that Hogan is now the former champion. Laughter is infectious, I suppose. Hogan tries a bit of mat wrestling, but it doesn’t last long. He takes a lot of boring heat, mostly just stomps and punches, yet Mongo puts over Morrus as a wrestler. Morrus’s only real move – a moonsault – looks way off, almost a moonsault headbutt. Hogan’s offence has included biting and eye gouging. And this is supposed to be the good side of Hulkamania. Controversy is mentioned some more. Hulk up, big boot, leg drop, finish. Standard Hogan squash with the new guy jobbing.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Promo Time: Randy Savage
In a funny moment, Macho doesn’t see Mean Gene’s proffered hand for a handshake, so Gene has to forcibly place his hand in Macho’s. Savage is about to embark on a “reign of terror” whether it lasts a day or forever and a day. Mean Gene brings up the controversy. Hogan joins them before Macho can respond. They review the footage, only, it cuts out to static before showing Hogan actually going under the bottom rope. I’m half-expecting Cutie Suzuki to crawl through the television screen. Instead, The Giant comes out and chokeslams Savage on the concrete. He battles Hogan to the ring, getting the better of him. Sting makes the save as Giant is about to hit Hogan with a leg drop. Hogan grabs a chair and beats him with it up the ramp and through the curtain. To stir the controversy, Bischoff notes afterwards that Sting pulled Hogan off The Giant – “What’s that about?” Hardly.

 

Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Lex Luger
They tease Luger no showing, but he does show. Arn and Sting start the bout, with Arn immediately goading Lex, allowing him and Pillman to double team Sting. Sting reverses an Irish whip sending AA into Luger on the apron, knocking him to the floor. The gaffe is quickly brushed off, though, and Luger joins his partner in the ring to hit press slams. AA wants a time out – there’s no time outs in wrestling, Arn! He gets back in the ring and now he wants Luger. Lex takes it to both of them, sending Pillman off the apron with a double noggin-knocker. Lex sends Anderson spinning with his metal-plate-loaded forearm, which thankfully Heenan references. Luger is none too bright and doesn’t attempt a pin, instead tagging in Sting. Meanwhile, controversy is the order of the day on commentary. Sting has the Scorpion Death Lock applied on Arn; Pillman goes up top, but Luger shoves him off – right into Sting! Heenan believes it was an accident. Luger must be even more stupid than he appears, then, as he just shoved Pillman in the same line of trajectory that he had set himself up in. What did he think would happen? Luger gets suckered in again and misses the hot tag. All four men get in the ring. Sting gets the pin on Pillman, but eats a DDT from Arn immediately afterwards. Flair comes down for three-on-two, but Hogan returns the favour and makes the save. Sting prevents Hogan from sucker punching Luger. Lex takes a powder, then Hogan and Sting go face-to-face in the ring. You can feel the controversy bubbling. They stare each other down, but decide to shake hands and hug to finish the show.
Final Rating: **¼

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Cutie Suzuki. Although, any or all four of the Japanese women could’ve claimed this one tonight, to be fair.

 

Least Entertaining: Eric Bischoff for his constant use of the word controversy.

 

Quote of the Night: “She’s kind of attractive in an Oriental way.” – Japanese sympathiser Bobby Heenan just can’t help his ignorance when describing his attraction to Bull Nakano.

 

Match of the Night: Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki vs. Bull Nakano & Akira Hokuto.

 

Summary: Welcome to Monday Nitro: The Controversy Edition! Seriously, that word lost all meaning tonight. Controversially, we didn’t even see the main “controversial” incident. Aside from the women’s match, there’s nothing much to see – plenty to avoid, in fact. However, the tag match is definitely worth hunting down.
Verdict: 35

Monday Nitro (11/20/95)

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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.
Verdict: 18

Monday Nitro (11/13/95)

WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)

Dan Hey: Mongo, Brain, and Eric Bischoff host. They recap last week’s events, which saw The Giant stripped of his belt by a WCW lawyer, despite Jimmy Hart legally adding a clause to the contract stating that Hogan could lose it on a DQ. The title is in abeyance and will be awarded to the winner of the upcoming sixty-man battle royal at World War 3. Mongo is “tickled pink” by these events, while Bischoff calls Hart a “maggot.”

 

Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
His promo emanates from an undisclosed location, as he grunts and groans while the camera tracks him. Hogan is dressed in a black cowl and leather mask, and he delivers his lines like Christian Bale doing Batman. The Dungeon of Doom are shaking in fear, he says, because Hulk Hogan is still walking around. It’s very much like an Undertaker video from just about any point in the nineties. They’re afraid of Hulkamania because its founding tenets (prayers, training, and vitamins) are immortal. He then pulls out a fucking sword! He calls upon Macho Man to bring him Meng’s head on a silver platter, as Meng is first on his list of people who he is taking down (better give Macho the sword then). He’s also suspicious of Sting because he left the area with Lex Luger last week. Is Sting on the light side or the dark side of Hulkamania? Does he have to be on any side? He’s moving right up to the top of that hit list if he’s with the Dungeon. This is miles removed from, and even more ridiculous than, Hogan’s pasta promo ten weeks ago.

 

Heenan predicts that Hogan will be the first man eliminated from the battle royal. Are you sticking with that Heenan? Not a scrub like Cobra, Disco Inferno, or Frankie Lancaster perhaps?

 

Meng vs. Randy Savage
Meng is accompanied by The Taskmaster. Bischoff thinks that WCW should run a species test on Meng because he doubts that he is human. I’d run one on Sullivan while they’re at it. Macho is introduced as hailing from “the dark side of Venice Beach.” He’s wearing and black and white outfit that looks like proto-type nWo attire. To show off his dark side, he sneaks in the ring behind Meng, who is watching the aisle, and hits him with a knee to the back that sends him crashing into Kevin Sullivan, knocking the lardy buffoon through the ropes. Macho is in control until he turns his back to deal with Sullivan on the apron, allowing Meng to take over. It’s just brawling and strikes. Jimmy Hart makes his way towards ringside as Meng misses with a flying headbutt. Hart tries to intervene on the apron, but it backfires and Macho wins with an elbow drop. “Shark attack! Shark attack!” yells Heenan, as Shark and Lex Luger get involved post-match. Luger takes out Savage’s arm and we go to a break. The ring will be cleared when we return.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

Kensuke Sasaki vs. Chris Benoit
Benoit has been involved in some great matches on Nitro since returning to WCW, so I have high hopes for this one. They start with a chop exchange and then go into fast-counters until Sasaki takes over following a short clothesline. The commentators are largely ignoring the action, putting over the sixty-man, three-ring battle royal instead. Once again, that’s too many things going on for its own good, but then this is WCW. Heenan thinks that The Giant will win that match, although he mistakes the name of the pay per view for War Games. In the ring, it has been all Sasaki. The chemistry isn’t as good as I’d expected, either, with a couple of Benoit counter attempts appearing to be fluffed through miscommunication. Fortunately, the match springs into life when Benoit takes over on offence, hitting multiple German suplexes and a Dragon suplex for the three count. After the match, Bischoff reminds us that, by the way, Benoit is now a member of the Horsemen. Aside from what seemed like a couple of miscommunications, the match was solid if not too spectacular, and not really long enough to warrant a snowflake fest.
Final Rating: **¼

 

WCW Television Championship
Johnny B. Badd (c) vs. Eddie Guerrero
DDP has Badd’s confetti gun, so Johnny brings Frisbees to throw in the crowd instead. He’s got good technique on his throw. I played Ultimate Frisbee for a few years; throwing them is harder than it looks! Bischoff interrogates Heenan on his recent dealings with Sony Onoo. It’s implied that because Heenan is heel and Onoo Japanese, the deal must be dodgy. In the ring, the match is as fast-paced as might be expected. Badd hits a crisp tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but then he goes to the well once too often and has a second attempt countered into head-scissors. I think Benoit and Sasaki were going for something similar in the last bout and missed it. The match is played out with each wrestler mirroring the other’s moves and then countering one another to a stand-off. It works because it is well executed and looks smooth. Both men break out springboard manoeuvres for two counts: a leg drop from Badd; a ‘rana from Eddie. Eddie looks like he landed hard on the back of his neck on that last move, though. Badd fends off a superplex attempt and gets impressive height on a top-rope sunset flip, which leads to a set of back-and-forth pin attempts. So far so good. The former New York Golden Gloves champion breaks out a couple of right hooks, knocking Eddie senseless and completely changing the pace of the match, which comes to a standstill while Eddie rests on the apron and the referee keeps Badd in the opposite corner. When Eddie gets back up, the match descends into a brawl. The ref takes a spill, but that’s not a DQ. Instead, it’s announced that two minutes remain of the time limit. I smell a time-limit draw. Badd reverses a tombstone attempt for one of his own, which gets two. Selling then goes out the window as Eddie pops up for a tornado DDT… for two. They hit simultaneous crossbodys and the time limit expires. The match was really good in places, but the abrupt change of pace in the middle disrupted the flow somewhat.
Final Rating: **¾

 

Hogan’s been on the blower. He wants Sting next week. I hope he had to phone the premium-rate number.

 

Promo Time: The Dungeon of Doom
Groan. Not these nitwits again. DoD is represented by just Sullivan, Hart, and Giant tonight. It seems like these idiots are out here every week rambling their incoherent nonsense, complete with added gurning and, hammy, exaggerated theatrics. Mean Gene publicly admonishes Jimmy Hart for his “despicable” actions at Halloween Havoc. Jimmy thinks that’s a complement and thanks him. Frankly, Hogan should’ve paid more attention to who had control of his contracts. Rocky Balboa took his eye off his finances in Rocky V and look what happened to him. Hart puts over how clever him and Sullivan are for beating Hulk Hogan. Sullivan tells the world that he’s lay awake at night for ten years trying to figure out a way to beat Hogan. It’s took you ten years to come up with slipping an added clause in a title match contract? At least he’s been safe from Freddy Kruger in that time, I suppose. The usual hyperbole ensues from all involved: World War 3 biggest event ever… yak yak yak… Giant will win… yak yak yak. The Giant repeats what has just been said, while Sullivan has another of his seizures on the floor. Jimmy Hart covers him up with one of his two-hundred Hulkamania ring jackets (he only has the one with him). Mean Gene finally brings the segment to a long overdue end. I hated this.

 

Dean Malenko vs. Sting
This is more like it. The man with a thousand holds starts off with a waistlock, which Sting takes a while to break. It’s part of the psychology that they’re working towards: Malenko as a competent scientific wrestler; Sting’s mind partially on other things. Surprisingly, Bischoff puts over Malenko’s vast knowledge of holds and counters, while Heenan talks about the wrestling pedigree of Dean’s father, Professor Boris Malenko. See, this is how to get your mid-card guys over. Instantly, Mongo buries him: “Sting’s just too powerful for this guy. Who you kidding, Bobby?” That’s disappointing and ignorant from Mongo, who is usually the one putting over these guys while the other two are bickering about Hogan. Bischoff continues to put Malenko over, even though he qualifies it by pointing out that Sting might be a little distracted from Hogan’s challenge. Distracted or not, Stinger impressively catches a Malenko leap frog into a press slam. Malenko regains control quickly, though, targeting the legs as we go to a break. When we return, we see footage of Sting almost getting Malenko in the Scorpion Death Lock during the commercial. Malenko continues to work over the legs after regaining the impetus, and Mongo starts to eat his own words. “Malenko’s been treating Sting like a red-headed step child,” he declares. Malenko does seem to have a counter for everything Sting does. He evades the Stinger Splash and hits a dropkick off the top. Unfortunately for Dean, he gets caught in a small package for three. Despite the loss, Malenko looked really impressive here. Stinger was really put through his paces, despite Malenko, on my count, only using fifteen-twenty of his one-thousand holds.
Final Rating: ***

 

Bischoff reminds us again of the circumstances surrounding Hogan’s title loss. You know, the best way to have gotten The Giant over would’ve been to have him beat Hogan clean. Hogan would have fair claim on a rematch anyway. He plugs World War 3 again, the key events of which will probably be shown the night after on free TV anyway.

 

Promo Time: Sting
Sting looks cream-crackered after going five minutes with Malenko. Mean Gene wants to know what’s going on with the Stinger right now. Sting responds by stumbling over his words in a series of unfinished sentences of mangled syntax. “I don’t want to do it, but I will, because as they say, this is where the big dogs play.” Dogs? I thought it was boys. He’s looking forward to next week, and he’s a big dog. Okerlund interrupts with an absolute gem: “If it looks like a rat, if it smells like a rat, and it quacks like a rat, you can rest assured that it is a rat.” Quacks? Fucking quacks? It could be a duck! Sting responds by saying that he’ll see Hogan next week.

 

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Dean Malenko. He looked clinical in the main event tonight.

 

Least Entertaining: No surprises here: Kevin Sullivan. It might seem as if I’m picking on him – and perhaps to some extent I am – but his horrible promos, his constant presence in multiple segments, his cheek to be anywhere near the main event performers, and his preposterous theatrics during recent promos make me detest the sight of him. He specifically gets the award this week for another of his in-ring seizures that was meant to be an impression of a beaten Hogan.

 

Quote of the Night: “If it looks like a rat, if it smells like a rat, and it quacks like a rat, you can rest assured that it is a rat.” Mean Gene gets his rats and his ducks in a muddle.

 

Match of the Night: Dean Malenko vs. Sting

 

Summary: Three out of four matches rated between above average and good, with each match on the show getting better as it progressed. The promos, on the other hand, are some of the worst that you will ever see. The Dungeon of Doom’s promo in particular was the worst of the bunch, with the same old rubbish being spouted from tubby Kev. Sting’s promo offered nothing extra to fuel my interest in his clash with Hulk Hogan next week, either. Perhaps worth checking out for the last two matches, but don’t go out of your way for the whole show.
Verdict: 38