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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.