Jim Cornette And Vince Russo Return To War

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The decades-long ill-feeling between Vince Russo and Jim Cornette shows no sign of abating following a recent public spat on their podcasts and social media.

On the latest edition of his podcast The Jim Cornette Experience, the opinionated industry veteran dismissed Russo’s talk on other podcasts of the two getting together for the sake of charity to put their differences aside, grumbling:

You know that ain’t gonna happen ’cause we got nothing to talk about.”

Cornette instead challenged Russo to a legitimate fight, telling him:

If you give me a date, time and an address, I will meet you there and I will bring five grand in cash. As long as the rules are no cops, no guns, and no knives. And what happens, happens.

Cornette continued the tirade, ripping into Russo for, among other things, stabbing everybody in the back who he has ever worked with, killing careers with goofy gimmicks, and making the wrestling business into a joke.

Russo was unable to resist the bait and responded in turn by posting a video on his social media accounts. During the 12-minute rant he refused Cornette’s offer of a fight, mocking his “barn door wide ass”, “Kamala belly”, “Gumby-like arms” and “ripped chiseled stomach”, then arrogantly dismissed $5000 as “not a lot of money”.

Russo then sarcastically apologised to Cornette, stating:

First and foremost, I want to apologize for you blowing out your knees when you fell off that scaffold because you are a mark who didn’t know how to take a bump.

I want to apologize Jim for you putting Smoky Mountain Wrestling out of business.

I want to apologize Jim for you being fired from Ring of Honor for a public emotional outburst.

I want to apologize Jim for being fired from WWE for assaulting another employee.

I want to apologize Jim because I’m from New York.

I want to apologize Jim because in my entire life I was never fixin’ to do anything.

I want to apologize Jim that I don’t believe the Dukes of Hazard is a reality show.

I’d like to apologize that I never went on national television and dressed like the village idiot.

I want to apologize that I never asked a wrestler to chew on an Alka-Seltzer so it would appear like he’s foaming at the mouth.

I want to apologize that even the great Terry Funk didn’t get over when you had him come out of a box.

I want to apologize for setting ratings records at both the WWE and TNA and also raising the ratings at WCW the whole nine months that I was there. I sincerely apologize for that.

And last but not least, Jim, from the bottom of my heart, I apologize for both Dixie Carter and Vincent Kennedy McMahon for choosing me over you. Because at the end of the day, 18 years later, that is what this is all about. It sticks in your craw because no matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter what asinine promo you cut, it does not go away. From a creative standpoint, the numbers clearly dictate I was better than you, and I know that is hard for you to accept and I know that is hard for you to deal with so that is why from the bottom of my heart, I apologize, I am sorry, and I hope from this point on we can move forward.

We will not get into the personal spat part of things, which amounts to little more than handbags at dawn he-said-she-said playground level silliness, but some of Russo’s claims require some dissection.

Firstly, those living in glass houses should not throw stones. Having the gall to criticise Cornette’s famous scaffold bump when he doesn’t have a lick of wrestling experience himself (and no, booking yourself to play wrestler does not count) is one thing, but more importantly, let’s not forget who it was that penned Owen Hart’s Blue Blazer storyline in 1999. Unable to fathom how to get a real wrestler over, Russo made one of the finest technical grapplers on the planet descend from the rafters dressed as a superhero buffoon, resulting in him plummeting to his death when the stunt went wrong. I wonder if Russo considers him a “mark who didn’t know how to take a bump” too?

Russo’s claim that he set ratings records in WWE are fanciful. While he was head writer for Raw’s highest rated show (8.1 on May 10, 1999) it was far from the highest rated WWE TV show ever. That accolade belongs to The Main Event I in 1988 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. The broadcast pulled a phenomenal 15.2 rating, which equated to an unheard of 33 million views.

Russo’s constant claims of having improved the Nitro rating during his WCW tenure are propped up by strawman logic too. Russo is always quick to point out that the ratings were 3.0 when he took over and 3.4 when he left. Well, that’s true, but little over one month earlier WCW was hitting 3.4’s and above regularly – the 3.0 was a dead rubber show in a holding pattern awaiting the new regime. And the 3.4 he drew was also the highest number he managed in his three months at the helm.

The key is, those ratings were on three hour shows, which average out to smaller numbers than the two hour broadcasts Russo was penning by the end. To put that into perspective, had Nitro been two hours the week before Russo took over, it would have pulled a 3.3 rating. So the difference is negligible.

Not only that, but in cutting the show to two hours, WCW lost out on a fortune of ad revenue. Ratings points are far less important than people – Russo in particular – think they are compared to concrete figures of actual revenue being generated (live attendance, merchandise, pay-per-view buy rates, ad revenue). Russo also fails to acknowledge that pay-per-view buy rates tanked when he was in charge. People might have been willing to watch his car crash booking for free, but they sure as hell weren’t paying for it. WCW’s biggest show of the year, Starrcade only managed a meagre 0.23 buy rate under Russo, down from a 1.15 the previous year.

Russo also defends his decision to put the WCW Title on actor David Arquette, justifying it based on the media they got off the back of the decision. But media coverage is only any use if it results in more eyes on the product. When Arquette won the belt, the next episode of Nitro fell from a 3.0 to a 2.5. Similarly, the pay-per-view where Arquette defended the title pulled a 0.14, down from a 0.25 the previous month. People turned off the show when Russo made that ridiculous call. And that’s before we even get into the small matter of the millions of dollars WCW hemorrhaged during his time at the top.

As far as we are concerned, this round goes to Cornette.

 

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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 (10/30/95)


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Dan Hey: The regular trio host. It’s the night after Halloween Havoc, and Bischoff puts it over as the “event that shocked the wrestling world.” It was shocking in a ‘why is all this garbage taking place on a wrestling show’ kind of way. Bischoff plugs the event as if the viewers of Nitro won’t have purchased the pay per view. And as an insult to those who spent their cash on it last night, they’re going to show the footage from the Hogan-Giant main event. Only, it’s not arrived here yet, which makes the company look completely incompetent. It’s on its way. Goody gum drops. In other news, Macho Man was injured last night and will be replaced by Eddie Guerrero tonight. That actually is good.

 

Sgt. Craig Pitman vs. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie has been involved in some quality matches since Nitro first aired. I’m not sold on Pitman, although he did have a semi-decent bout with Kurasawa that James covered a few weeks back. To me, Pitman doesn’t convince as USMC drill sergeant. He just doesn’t seem assertive or physically confident enough. Strange really, given he genuinely was a sergeant in the Marines. Compare him to R. Lee Ermey, another real-life drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket, and he’s just not as convincing. The only way Pitman could drive Private Pyle to suicide is through the boredom of watching him wrestle. He also adopts an odd stance and facial expression in the ring. Bischoff buries him by calling his style “amateur.” Unfortunately, the larger Pitman dominates the bulk of this match, keeping it at a slow pace. He works the arm, which makes sense, as Eddie had his arm systematically dismantled by Chris Benoit only a couple of weeks ago. Pitman’s offence is infinitely more boring than Benoit’s, however. And very sloppy at times, especially an attempted roll up that completely misses and leaves the announcers momentarily silent. Bischoff takes a moment to plug World War 3, which is exclusive to WCW. It’s a pay per view, not a global conflict, and will feature a three-ring sixty-man battle royal. That is too many men and too many rings to make a good match. There’s a few “boring” chants, and not unwarranted too. I’d generally rag on the announcers for giving updates on the ETA of the Halloween Havoc tape instead of calling the action, but there’s not much to say. Pitman continues to work the arm slowly, badly, and it’s incredibly boring. Eddie then springs to life with his first real offensive move: a springboard crossbody. Pitman immediately responds with a suplex followed by a brutal powerbomb. He attempts what looks like a hip toss, but Eddie rolls through to win it. Aside from the last four or five moves, this was awful.
Final Rating: ½*

 

We do have footage available from the 9/11 edition of Nitro. Scott Norton and Shark are feuding because Shark fell on Norton’s legs and cost him a match against Savage. We also see their backstage brawl from last week. That match is next. Great. Meanwhile, Heenan has left the broadcast booth. I don’t blame him.

 

Shark vs. Scott Norton
John Tenta’s Shark ring attire makes him look ridiculous, although I am fantasy booking a match between him and TNA’s Shark Boy right now. Norton is a bog-standard generic big man. He’s also a former World Champion at arm wrestling, according to Bischoff. Fascinating. AvaSharkQuake hits an impressive belly-to-belly and an elbow drop. He started at an impressive pace against Sting a couple of weeks ago, and then lost in less than three minutes. I’m hoping this match will be equally short. Norton hits two clotheslines and a top-rope shoulder block which doesn’t take the big man off his feet. But a powerslam does! It pops the crowd and gets a two count. Bischoff tells us that Norton has “some major guns on him.” Pitman came out in the last match draped in bullets, so perhaps those two should form a team: Guns and Ammo. Both men hit simultaneous clotheslines and the big boys have themselves a little rest from their play with a double down. The camera cuts to Heenan dining with Sonny Onoo in the crowd. Meanwhile, the match spills outside for a double count out. They struggle with each other down the aisle and take turns bashing each other’s head off a “solid steel” W. This match wasn’t great and had a crappy finish, but I was actually expecting worse.
Final Rating:

 

Back to Heenan and Onoo. Heenan is discussing WCW programming, which I’m sure he gets wrong. He also takes a poorly-concealed bribe. Well, it worked for Sepp Blatter for so long.

 

Promo Time: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman
Tony Schiavone takes over from Mean Gene this week. We may not have the Hogan-Giant footage yet, but we do get stills from the Flair & Sting vs Arn & Pillman match from last night. Flair was allegedly beaten in the back by AA and Pillman, so Sting was in a “one-on-two” match (Schiavone). To be fair to Flair, the Stinger did leave him on his own against the same opponents only two weeks ago. Flair came out later, and guess what? It was all a ruse. The three of them administered a beating to Sting. We see Flair mugging to the camera in the last shot. In the ring now, Flair and Pillman are like Rod and Todd Flanders on a sugar high. The Loose Canon gets particularly excited about their actions last night. We’re also one new member (cough: Benoit) away from the latest incarnation of the Four Horsemen: “Some people call it a gang. Some people call it a militia. We call it a dynasty” (Pillman). The Enforcer cuts a cool promo to contrast against his hyper stable mates. He puts over Stinger’s guts for lasting so long against them. During all this, Pillman is messing about on his knees and Flair is bouncing off the ropes. AA reminds people to be careful what they wish for, as they’ll soon be introducing the fourth member, “And you know what that means.” Enjoyable segment.

 

The footage is still on its way. Next week is live and interactive, where the fans will call the shots.

 

Sabu vs. Disco Inferno
Disco is “dancing like a champion” says Bobby Heenan, now back at the booth. He then not-so-subtly hints that Hogan isn’t a champion. WCW’s resident Disco Stu (minus the hair and the charisma) has “Monday Nitro Fever” on the back of his tights. He literally falls on these words when Sabu jaws him ferociously. That was some pop in the mount. Sabu takes charge of the match, though he’s never really in control of anything with his own unique and unpredictable aerial style, which Bischoff calls “lethal.” Yes, but often just as lethal to himself. Disco makes a comeback, and chokes Sabu on the top rope. He stops to dance between each move (because he likes Disco you see, and thus is unable to focus on his wrestling career for five minutes or so). The crowd get a little Sabu chant going, and this rallies the lunatic, who wins it with a somersault leg drop. He attacks Disco after the match, and naturally, he botches it, completely missing an attempted slingshot rana and falling on his neck. He sets up a table, but Disco rolls out of the way (he’s still dancing inbetween all these ‘moves’) and the table fails to break as Sabu hits the wood. Sabu is now going to “throw the buffet table” at Disco (see Mongo in week two), so Disco high tails it. Two complete fools. It can have a quarter star for Sabu socking Disco in the mush, but that’s all.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Lex Luger & Meng vs. The American Males
Luger and Jimmy Hart are part of Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom now. The American Males’ theme music starts by repeating the words, “American Males,” several times. It’s a shame they couldn’t pre-empt and pluralise Steven Regal’s 1998 man’s man theme song: ‘we are men, such men’ etc. It amused me when the Quebecers did it with the old Mountie theme song. “Do you know what they do on their day off? They work in a department store and they spray cologne at people when they walk in” (Heenan). He’s talking about the American Males, but only because Luger and Meng couldn’t get hired in those roles. The Males work early heat on Luger’s arm and it’s boring. Mongo says they are “kicking the shag out of Luger.” Bischoff has a heart attack thinking that he might say shit on air, and Heenan says that it’s like working without a safety net. Bischoff then confuses Sting with Meng, while not a thing is happening in the ring. WCW’s big coup (Lex, by the way) and recently turned heel is getting treated like a jobber by two guy dressed as Chippendales (who moonlight as faux-cowboys, apparently). Riggs then hits the worst backdrop in the history of the sport: Luger set too early and Riggs literally stopped in his tracks and tumbled over him. Bischoff lies and calls it “nice”; Heenan out-lies him and calls it “very nice.” It’s only nice enough for a two count, though. The fans call for Hogan. Well, a fan is. He/they won’t be getting him this week, although his name has been mentioned more than any other wrestler actually on the show. Meng is on the offensive now, as the Dungeon take over on heat. It’s as boring as you would expect. Luger comes back in, but Bagwell receives the hot tag and gets the visual win over Lex “Ham and Egger” Luger. The ref is distracted, though, allowing Meng to kick Bagwell in the head, which sets him up for Luger’s Torture Rack and it’s over. Awful.
Final Rating: DUD

 

Back at the commentary desk, Mongo trick or treats his colleagues on behalf of Pepe. Bischoff, courtesy of a sponsor, provides some candy. You shouldn’t give chocolate to a dog, it’s not good for them at all. Heenan has nothing so gets Silly String sprayed in his face.

 

WCW Championship
Hulk Hogan (c) vs. The Giant
Here’s your real main event, folks. Highlights from the pay per view main event that you were encouraged to buy last night being given away for free on TV. In an unfathomably convoluted angle, Hogan has a visual pin on The Giant after a leg drop, but Jimmy Hart takes out the referee – twice. He blindsides Hogan with the megaphone and Sullivan gets involved. The Giant puts him in a snuggle, but here comes Luger and Savage for the save. Only, it’s another double-cross, as Luger beats on Savage. Out comes the YET-AY! (read: mummy). The YET-AY joins the bearhug from behind and wiggles. Yes, he wiggles and grinds while pressed up against Hogan’s back while simultaneously massaging Giant’s neck.
Final Rating: -*

 

Promo Time: The Dungeon of Doom
We cut instantly to Nitro, with The Giant in the ring wearing the WCW World Championship belt. It’s momentarily confusing and looks like a jump cut from the footage. Kevin Sullivan, Jimmy Hart, Lex Luger, and The Giant represent the Dungeon – there’s no sign of YET-AY, Zodiac, Shark, Kamala, or Meng, not that I’m complaining. Schiavone points out that it isn’t Giant’s belt by rights because of the DQ finish last night. Jimmy won’t tell us now why he turned his back on Hogan; instead, we have to buy his book, or just wait until next week. Lex gloats about Hogan lying in a pathetic heap last night. Sullivan has some kind of heart attack or seizure – or he’s providing visual aid to Luger’s words. The Giant throws in a cheeky stomp for laughs. For further chuckles, Giant throws out a little rhyme (try as they will, they won’t knock him off the hill). He’ll also defend the title that isn’t his on Nitro next week. Sullivan has another epileptic fit, while Hart runs victory laps around the ring. Utterly worthless.

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Extremely slim pickings this week, but I’ll give it to Arn Anderson for his slick promo.

 

Least Entertaining: I’d say just about everyone else, but if I have to decide, then the dubious distinction goes to Kevin Sullivan for his writhing around.

 

Match of the Night: Yes, even though Eddie Guerrero was on the card, this one goes to Norton vs. Shark. This is no way an endorsement of that particular match; rather, it is a harrowing indictment as to the poor quality of the wrestling on the night. A prelude of Nitros to come.

 

Quote of the Night: “Guess what? Guess what? We’re back. We’re back. And whether you like it or you don’t like it, learn, by God, to love it, because it’s the best thing going today.” A caffeine-fuelled Ric Flair is excited about the return of the Four Horsemen.

 

Summary: Simply put, this was a terrible episode of Nitro, easily the worst one I have witnessed since covering the shows. The matches were poor, with shoddy, sloppy workmanship the theme of the night. When Scott Norton and Shark get match of the night on the basis of a powerslam, then you know you’re in trouble. The main event was essentially highlights from a show that the company charged fans to see one night before. Only the Horsemen promo was worth watching, and I wouldn’t track this show down just for that.
Verdict: 11

Monday Nitro (10/23/95)


WATCH NOW (ON WWE NETWORK)
James Dixon: Hosts are the usual half-competent trio, and Eric Bischoff starts with some bragging about how Nitro is the most watched wrestling show in the world. Actually, Raw won the ratings battle last week, and will do so again this week, so as usual Bischoff is full of hot air.

 

Randy Savage vs. Kurasawa
I enjoyed Kurasawa last time I saw him against Craig Pittman, he was wild. Savage is dressed in magnificent Technicolor tonight, immediately upping my interest levels. Magpies like shiny objects, I like bright wrestling attire. I guess that explains my love of Doink the Clown, and the status of ‘Kona’ Crush as my favourite Brian Adams gimmick.

Musings aside, in the ring Kurasawa is completely in control from the off, targeting Savage’s dodgy knees with repeated kicks. Bobby Heenan points out that Savage has a bum left arm, a fact already given away by the presence of a small bandage over the joint, and Kurasawa soon picks up on that too. The arm becomes his focus of attack, as he utterly dominates proceedings. In that sense it is every Randy Savage TV match of his WCW run, though at least Kurasawa’s offence is more interesting and purposeful than the majority of the grinding scrubs on this roster. The match gets time, going through commercial and returning with more Kurasawa control.

Savage finally gets a break when Kurasawa swings a kick on the outside of the ring, misses, and hits the post with a thud. Back in the ring, Savage manages to evade Kurasawa again by dropping him throat-first on the ropes, before the big elbow finishes. Not bad, with plenty of intelligent work from Kurasawa and decent selling from Savage, but the repetitive nature of the structure of Macho Man’s matches is becoming irritating. And there are four more years of this from him yet!
Final Rating: **

 

The announcers discuss tonight’s main event, which will see Sting team with Lex Luger against Harlem Heat, when suddenly the lights go off. Fans boo, suspecting the oft-incompetent company has neglected to pay its electric bill, then they are greeted with the gruesome sight of The Master appearing on the big screen. He cuts the most rambling, incomprehensible promo you will ever hear, to the point where I briefly wonder if he is speaking in tongues until I pick out the phrases “the whiskers of the rare white Bengal tiger” and “Halloween Havoc”. As he is talking, a giant block of what is supposed to be ice, is revealed in the aisle, and it starts glowing. Oh no. Bischoff hands the segment to Mean Gene, who has experience with large inanimate objects on wrestling shows “hatching”, as it were. Gene is stood with Kevin Sullivan and The Giant, the latter of whom wrings his hands repeatedly as if he is using a particularly soft moisturiser. Sullivan says the iceberg behind them is the Dungeon of Doom’s insurance policy: “THE YET-AY”. Oh good god no. Giant calls himself “the real immortal” and that is that. No Yeti sighting tonight, we have to wait until later for that privilege.

 

Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
We follow that promo with another one, this time from the still black-clad “evil” Hulkster. Hearing him say “Yet-ay” is a delight. Hogan does his usual, only this time he adds murderous connotations by referencing O.J. Simpson (see The Nitro Recap), then by promising to buy a new Harley, tie The Giant to it and drag him around the city. Essentially, he is going to kill him. Hogan turns his attentions to Sting, Lex Luger and Randy Savage, his “so called friends”, noting that he doesn’t trust a single one of them. And isn’t that a shoot, brother. After confusing himself with a pair of conflicting animal themed metaphors, Hogan wraps up with his (temporary) catchphrase: “What you gonna do when the man in black destroys you?” Indeed. I wonder if Lost was inspired by this. That show’s main antagonist was quite literally “The Man In Black”. Maybe Hogan’s influence is more far-reaching than anybody realises.

 

Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs. Mr. JL & Eddie Guerrero
Look at this piece of wrestling gold! Alex Wright was originally scheduled to be Eddie’s partner, but he has injured his knee, meaning JL is drafted in. Shame, huh? “Mr. JL, a man that we do not know a lot about. It’s like ‘E.T.’ “JL”, what is that about?” – Bischoff. What a tool that man is. If you think it is such a shitty name, DON’T GIVE HIM A SHITTY NAME IN THE FIRST F*CK*NG PLACE. I have never known an announcer bury his own product and performers in such a manner before. Can you imagine if Vince McMahon had talked that way when commentating on some of the bullshit he came up with in the early nineties?

I won’t let Eric Bischoff ruin this for me. Mongo tries by muttering something about “junior league”, but I choose to ignore him rather than lose my patience. Eddie and Benoit start out with some smooth mat work, followed by a few double teams from Benoit and Malenko. Malenko grabs Eddie on the outside and holds him for a Benoit charge, but Eddie moves and wipes out Deano. These things happen. JL comes flying over the top next with an Eddie-assisted plancha, which Bischoff tries to call but ends up getting a headache from. He meanders off into nonsense quite embarrassingly, then tries to laugh off his complete lack of wrestling knowledge.

Eddie and Dean pair off and the action is too fast to call, but expertly crafted. Benoit and Malenko dismantle JL without a moment of wasted motion, then infuriatingly we cut to a backstage brawl between Scott Norton and Shark, as if anyone on the planet would want to see that fat-fest ahead of the wrestling clinic in the ring. Back from commercial and Benoit is busted at the mouth, but his team are still in control. Bischoff inadvertently points out the massive juxtaposition that is WCW, reminding everyone about the block of ice sitting in the aisle while this pure wrestling contest is unfolding in the ring. It sums up the hotchpotch nature of WCW programming in a nutshell.

The match goes on, given plenty of time to develop into a really fine tag match. JL is able to catch a breather with a spinning back elbow, and the heat has been so solid that the tag to Guerrero is hot. He looks brilliant as he unloads on Deano and Benoit, with a springboard armdrag/head scissor combo on both opponents a particular highlight. Benoit and Eddie spill to the outside, Alex Wright gets involved off camera, and JL catches Malenko with a victory roll for the surprise win. I didn’t think JL would be the one going over in this. Post match, Brian Pillman jumps Eddie Guerrero in the aisle, because he is Brian Pillman, and he does that sort of thing.

Mongo, who I am starting to think is underrated as an announcer, puts over the quality of the match and the guys involved. It comes to something when an uneducated (with regards to wrestling) NFL footballer is more adept at putting over the product than the greatest manager the industry has ever known, and the man in charge of running the company. It says a lot about WCW.
Final Rating: ***½

 

Sting & Lex Luger vs. Harlem Heat
For the second week running, Sting is teaming with someone he is unsure if he can trust. And he called Randy Savage paranoid only a few weeks ago! If this was the WWF, Sting would be teaming with Ric Flair here as a continuation of last week’s angle. Instead, WCW can’t help but muddy the waters and dilute the issue. Christ, look at that – watching this show is making me mix metaphors as badly as Hogan. “So much controversy, so many questions,” reckons Bischoff as Sting and Luger make their entrance. Is there really though? Sting has made an attire faux pas by dressing in the same colours (red and yellow) as his opponents. Though, actually, Harlem Heat need to take the blame for that when I think about it. Sting is working in those colours as a subtle reference to Hulk Hogan, you see. It is part of the angle and even Bischoff mentions it. Harlem Heat are the ones who should have switched their gear. It matters!

The action between Booker and Sting is pretty solid, then as soon as Luger tags in Bischoff screams, “We gotta go,” and we cut to commercial. Amusing. Poor Lex. When we return Harlem Heat are in control, working Luger over with a fairly generic heat. Bischoff gets bored and starts talking about the block of ice in the aisle again, claiming it gives him the willies. “What the hell is a Yet-ay anyway?” he asks, again burying his own dumbass product. Heenan points out it is a “Yeti”, pronouncing it correctly, but Bischoff has switched off. Harlem Heat’s manager Sherri gets bored of Stevie Ray’s dull ring work too, so fishes some Polaroids of her and Colonel Robert Parker out of her ass and kisses them. Honestly.

It’s still chinlock city in the ring, and Bischoff is STILL going on about the f*ck*ng ice block. Luger finally makes the tag to Sting when Booker misses the Harlem Hangover, and he explodes into life with clotheslines and splashes. Bischoff spells out the pointlessness of working heat because it invariably leads to a hot tag and the heels getting their asses kicked, which is true, but perhaps it would be advisable not to expose the repetitiveness of ring psychology to the world. Luger gets back in as it all breaks down, and Sting connects with a crossbody from the top for the win.
Final Rating: *

 

Post match, the Dungeon hit the ring, and Giant takes out Luger and Sting with chokeslams. Randy Savage comes out to confront him, but Hogan’s arrival renders his presence unnecessary. Hogan confronts Giant and throws some shots, but Giant no sells and pounds him down. Hogan Hulks Up and gets the best of the big man, then the Dungeon enter the ring en masse and brawl with Hogan and Savage. Doug Dillinger turns up armed with a billy club to calm Hogan down, then silliness ensues as the floor begins shaking and THE ICE EXPLODES, revealing… a Mummy!? “What is that?” asks Bischoff as we fade to black. It’s a f*ck*ng Mummy, Eric. Not, in fact, a Yeti at all. Though why am I surprised that you do not know!? Good post match segment actually, until the last three seconds of head-scratching nonsense.

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mr. JL. Everyone in the tag match was great, but JL took the beating and scored the win, so he deserves the credit for doing the majority of the work.

 

Least Entertaining: The Master. He talked even more shit than Eric Bischoff.

 

Quote of the Night: “I just might hang on to the black gloves brother, because everybody knows what a man with a pair of black gloves on and a black rag on his head, is capable of doing dude” – Hulk Hogan makes distasteful references to O.J. Simpson.

 

Match of the Night: Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero & Mr. JL

 

Summary: This wasn’t bad. The decent opener and excellent tag match between the super-workers in the middle of the show carried the broadcast, and it would have been among the better Nitros if not for the horrible announcing of Bischoff, the absurdity of The Master, Yeti, Hulk Hogan channelling O.J. Simpson, and the slow main event. At least we ended on a high with a strong Halloween Havoc go-home brawl between Hogan and Giant, though the reveal of Yeti bursting out of the ice as the show faded to black is surely one of the worst sign offs in history. Worth a watch regardless of the silliness.
Verdict: 41

Monday Nitro (10/09/95)


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James Dixon: We open with a production gaffe, with Eric Bischoff, Mongo and Bobby Heenan all facing a camera that doesn’t exist, thus standing with their backs turned when they do their show-opening promo. After that bush league faux pas is rectified, Sting turns up at the commentary position and expresses concern about the ongoing Randy Savage/Lex Luger situation. He promises to do something about it.

 

WCW United States Championship
Sting (c) vs. Shark
“He is from Tsunami,” says ring announce Dave Penzer of Shark. A tsunami is a large wave, not a place. WCW make errors like this on a frequent basis. I am sure everyone remembers Yeti, the abominable snowman who was actually a mummy. Sharkquake jumps Sting and goes to town, dominating him with his size and power, showing a real energy to his performance. Sting makes a comeback after around a minute of action, hitting the Stinger Splash three times, then a crossbody from the top for the win. I guess he is not getting paid by the hour. We have to get the match out of the way for the Hulk Hogan Show, of course.
Final Rating: ¾*

 

After having already seen highlight footage of last week’s Dungeon of Doom attack on Hulk Hogan prior to the credits, we now get to sit through it all again. What a wasteful use of time. I can only assume it is written into Hogan’s contract that he has to be referenced, shown or revered at least every five minutes on Nitro.

 

Sabu vs. Mr. JL
Sabu’s debut on the show three weeks ago was a train wreck, but then, all of his matches invariably are. The creatively named Mr. JL is the great Jerry Lynn working as a purple luchador. They go a million miles an hour, with both guys seemingly trying to top each other with one high flying move after another. The Chicago crowd appreciate it, then randomly start chanting, “Hogan sucks”. You can see why he eventually turned heel. The action spills to the outside for far longer than the ten count, where Sabu this week connects with his chair assisted kick.

Back inside, JL comes back with a German suplex and a vicious dropkick in the corner which the announces mark out for like drunk ECW fans. Sabu returns fire and they begin to trade holds, including a top rope DDT from JL, of all things. He goes up again where Sabu tries to hit a rana, only for JL to grab the ropes and block it. JL comes off top and gets caught with a powerbomb, then the camel clutch wins it for Sabu. Post match, he can’t help himself but to throw in a botch, going for a slingshot powerbomb off the apron to the outside, but getting the timing all wrong. It looks terrible, like most Sabu spots. Kudos to Jerry Lynn for carrying this thing and making most of Sabu’s flimsy offence look respectable, and for giving himself plenty of the match too. Fans of selling probably didn’t like this, but it was a tremendously fast-paced and spot-laced TV match, and I enjoyed it.
Final Rating: ***

 

Promo Time: Sting and Lex Luger
To drag things out a little more, Sting calls out Randy Savage to join the duo in the ring so that tensions between he and Luger can be ironed out. Sting thinks he has a solution to their problems. Sting blames The Giant, who has been chokeslamming everyone, to which Savage instantly questions why Sting hasn’t been chokeslammed. Sting calls him paranoid and warns Savage to settle down. Sting’s answer to the Savage-Luger tensions? For them to wrestle each other at Halloween Havoc if (read: when) they get through their respective matches against Kamala and Meng. It’s not exactly the most original of ideas. Luger balks at the prospect, causing Sting to mock him for being a wuss and hitting him with a few home truths. Luger takes the bait and accepts the match. “Hopefully it’s gonna be Luger against Savage… if they win,” says Mean Gene. Horrible booking. Scrap the shitty bouts that now have no purpose and just announce Savage vs. Luger!

 

Elsewhere, Chris Benoit shows up at the building and declares, “WCW. Where the big boys play.” He is not a verbose man.

 

Big Bubba Rogers vs. Hawk
Disco Inferno turns up in the aisle and does a dance, though he is not scheduled to be here. His music cuts off as Big Bubba makes his entrance, but that doesn’t stop Disco, who grabs a boom box and carries on dancing. Bubba walks right past him. His opponent, Hawk, gives Disco an angry stare of disapproval. As Hawk is walking the aisle, Disco steals a fan’s hat then sneaks up behind Hawk and places it on one of his shoulder pad spikes. Hawk has no idea. Considering we are in Road Warrior country, Hawk is not as over as you would expect. Hawk and Bubba have an eighties style WWF match, then Disco appears on the apron to do some more dancing. Hawk has had enough and pulverises him, but he gets counted out. This was a waste of air time. What did it achieve? Who got over or furthered their storyline with this? It is a frequent problem in WCW that the majority of what happens on television doesn’t mean jack to the product. It is matches for the sake of matches, with no purpose behind them. “Don’t leave us now! Hulk Hogan, when we return!” shrieks Bischoff. Why doesn’t he don an “I heart Hulk” shirt and be done with it.
Final Rating: ¼*

 

Promo Time: Hulk Hogan
Hulk is clad in all-black tonight, from bandana down. It is the first time he has ever dressed in such a fashion, and Mean Gene is almost beside himself. Hogan explains that he is wearing all-black because the games are over, whatever that means. That doesn’t explain anything at all, Hulk! He references WrestleMania III, because he can’t help but bring it up at least once a month, then he tells The Giant to break the law and violate a restraining order preventing him from entering the building, so he can “be as bad as he says he is” and face him. After burying Vince McMahon (see: The Nitro Recap), Hogan again calls out The Giant. He is all over the place tonight. Hogan compares Kevin Sullivan and The Giant shaving his moustache to burning the American flag, which has even Mean Gene feeling uneasy. The Dungeon of Doom turn up in a monster truck chased by police, but a couple of security guards keep them out of the building. Hogan decides to go out and confront them. This was a horrible segment.

 

As the announcers are hyping the upcoming monster truck sumo match (!) between Giant’s oversized car and Hogan’s custom-built beast, police officers arrive to fill Bischoff in on the latest between Hogan and Giant. Turns out they are being kept apart. Why not just show that scene? We already know they have a camera there!

 

Steel Cage Match
Ric Flair vs. Arn Anderson
This is a rematch from last week’s outing, which was a fine match. This time they are in a cage, and it has to be the shortest cage I have ever seen. It’s barely higher than the height of the wrestlers! What a farce! The cameraman is right there in the ring, which makes it much easier to see than most WCW cage bouts, but also means we get the majority of the contest filmed from one ultra-close-up angle. Flair struggles to know what to do as a fiery babyface so settles on lots of chops and sending Arn into the cage, though this is corporate WCW, so there is no blood. Chicago is not happy about that, and loudly chant, “We want blood!” So do I. I feel a cage match without blood is a waste of a cage match. Anderson sends Flair into the cage, but Naitch responds with a delayed stalling suplex. Brian Pillman decides to run interference, even though the whole point of a cage match is to keep people out, but Flair sees him coming and sends him flying. Flair goes for the figure four to win it, but Anderson hits him in the face with an international object (though it is not obvious on first viewing at all) and covers for the win. “It’s tape, it’s tape!” yells Bischoff upon seeing the replay, completely oblivious to the fact that Arn used brass knucks. Tape? Tape!? Why the fuck would he hit him with tape? Imbecile.
Final Rating: **½

 

Flair turns up at the commentary position, and he is hot. He calls out Anderson and Pillman for a tag match next week, promising to look for a partner, but saying he will happily go it alone if needs be. Pleasingly, he breaks Bischoff’s headset in his excitement, leaving Eric having to hold it together for the remainder of the link segment. Ha, I hope his arm hurts. This final wrap-up lasts for a remarkable four minutes, time which could have been better spent on the matches. The cynic in me puts it down to Bischoff’s self-indulgence and wanting himself to have as much screen time as possible. Having seen the way he went on to book himself in the nWo, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if that were really the case.

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Mr. JL. I have a soft spot for Jerry Lynn as it is, and tonight he proved once again that he is among the most underrated performers in the history of mainstream wrestling.

 

Least Entertaining: Eric Bischoff. Nearly every word that comes out of his mouth irritates me.

 

Quote of the Night: “A long time ago brother, in the New York City area, brother, when Hulkamania was running wild, the promoter’s ego got bigger than the wrestling business. A couple of years down the road, as we speak, that same promoter is choking on his own ego” – Hulk Hogan on (the unnamed) Vince McMahon

 

Match of the Night: Sabu vs. Mr. JL

 

Summary: Everything felt very rushed. WCW’s policy with Nitro is to cram in as much as possible in the hour, then spend the duration talking about Hulk Hogan. It led to two really pointless matches that might as well have not been on the show. To make matters more galling, Eric Bischoff then spent five minutes at the end of the show wrapping things up, and we never did get a resolution to the Giant-Hogan confrontation. The only real highlight was the fun Sabu-JL match, which was full of thrills and spills and held my attention throughout. The main event was okay as well, but far too short and sanitised. Once again however, the pacing meant the broadcast was never boring, and some of the novelties on the show (Hogan in black, for example) make it worth checking out at least once for curiosity sake.
Verdict: 40

Monday Nitro (09/18/95)

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Dan Hey: We’re in Johnson City, Tennessee for the third episode of Monday Nitro. Hosts, once again, are Eric Bischoff, Mongo, and The Brain. As odious as Bischoff is, without him it’d be just Mongo and The Brain, which sounds like the name of a nineties cartoon about two mice – one stupid, the other intelligent. It’s also the night after Fall Brawl, and Bischoff promises recaps and updates on that.

 

We cut to an “emergency” in the back, where Mean Gene Okerlund plays the role of morally bankrupt ambulance chaser, ready with his microphone. Out the back appears Kevin Sullivan and The Giant, fresh from his WCW debut last night. He cuts a creepy-voiced promo on Hulk Hogan, who he attacked and put in hospital last night (hence the symbolic use of the ambulance, you see). He’s being billed as Andre the Giant’s son, here, and says that if his “dad” was still alive, then he would definitely support his quest to rid the WCW of Hulkamania. He also claims to be the one, true immortal.

 

The American Males vs. The Bluebloods
The American Males are Marcus Bagwell and Scotty Riggs, who made their in-ring debut as a tag team in a win over the Nasty Boys at Fall Brawl. Bischoff refers to Bagwell as Alex Wright, who isn’t even American. There’s no match because tag team champions Harlem Heat attack Bobby ‘the Earl of’ Eaton as he comes through the curtain. Mongo surmises that they must’ve gotten to Regal in the back. If that was the case, why would Eaton be coming out at all?
Final Rating: N/R

 

Harlem Heat, with manager Sister (formerly ‘Sensational’ and ‘Sensuous’) Sherri in tow, head to the ring. Booker T grabs the mic and decides to put the titles on the line. Which leads to…

 

WCW World Tag Team Championship
Harlem Heat (c) vs. The American Males
The Males are dressed like Chippendales, complete with suspenders and bow ties (but topless), and foreshadow SmackDown’s The Dicks by about a decade. The commentary team put over the tag division and general level of competition in WCW, as well as last night’s pay per view. In the ring it’s mostly Harlem Heat hitting big moves, such as Booker T’s various axe kicks on Riggs, or Stevie Ray catching (and nearly dropping) Bagwell in mid-air for a slam. In the crowd, right in the direct line of the hard cam, someone is holding up a sign that says, “WE WANT RAW” – well, it’s on now and you’re missing it by being here.

Hot tag to Bagwell and he cleans house. Sherri looks to intervene with her shoe, which brings Colonel Rob Parker down to the ringside to sweep her off the apron and into his arms. They engage in a little smoochy-time, and in the resulting distraction Bagwell picks up the win and the titles with a crossbody. The match was average at best, but it does hold the distinction of being the first title switch on Nitro, which makes me wonder whether they could’ve made a bigger impact by switching one of the singles titles on the first episode. I can’t image Hogan would’ve agreed to drop the belt though, and he would’ve needed a better opponent than Big Bubba Rodgers, but maybe they could’ve switched the US Title in the Flair-Sting bout. I suppose it’s a moot point now.
Final Rating:

 

Mean Gene Okerlund shills the hotline for behind the scenes news and wrestling trivia. Macho Man advertises Slim Jims in the most intense and aggressive manner possible.

 

Promo Time: Ric Flair
He’s facing Brian Pillman later. Mean Gene recaps the events of Fall Brawl, where Pillman got involved in Flair’s match against Arn Anderson. Flair says that AA broke code of the Horsemen by allowing an outsider in, as opposed to them settling their differences among themselves. They’re actually setting up the latest version of the group, which will include Pillman and Chris Benoit. Flair says that after he’s done with Pillman, he’s going to kick Arn’s ass. Nothing to it.

 

Bischoff plugs WCW Saturday Night. Sting will face Steven Regal, Cobra is up against Craig ‘Pitbull’ Pitman, there’s an interview with the ‘American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, and an update on WCW Champion Hulk Hogan. That sounds like a decent show, except for Cobra vs. Pitman.

 

Paul Orndorff vs. Johnny B. Badd
Mr Wonderful is debuting new entrance music. He’s also carrying a mirror, because he’s so wonderful that he wants to look at himself constantly. He’s in good shape for his age, but the key phrase there is “for his age”. He’s old enough to know better really, plus he looks like English football manager Steve Bruce. I really wish he had his handlebar moustache here. Mongo asks if Orndorff is singing his own music at precisely the point where a clearly female soprano is warbling, “wonderful, he’s so wonderful.” Johnny B. Badd also has his own customized entrance music (“He’s pretty as a picture / and he looks like Little Richard”). Sometimes, gimmick-specific entrance themes work well when simple and to the point – e.g. the Million Dollar Man’s theme song; sometimes, they’re just unnecessary. Johnny B. Badd’s likeness to Little Richard (in both looks and flamboyancy) was conveyed much better by the jaunty piano ditty that was his original entrance theme.

When the match eventually gets going, Orndorff hits a nice dropkick to Badd’s knees. It’s actually good strategy when you think about it. Mr. Wonderful gives him a kicking in the corner, as the commentary team remind us of injuries Badd sustained at Fall Brawl. The crowd, meanwhile, loudly chant “Paula”. Badd mounts a comeback but gets caught with boots to the face, which Orndorff put up very early as Badd came off the top rope, leading me to the following tangent…

Tangent: To connect with Orndorff’s boots (which had been there for an age), Badd had to jump so that he was landing on his feet. So what move was he actually trying to hit? If Orndorff hadn’t put the boots up, he would’ve just landed on his feet in front of him. It makes him look stupid, crap, or both! If he’s gone for an elbow drop, for example, he probably would’ve avoided Orndorff’s feet and landed the move.

After the commercial it’s a double down, which at least makes a change from the Raw Post-Break Chinlock™ Badd tries a running splash, but Orndorff gets the knees up. Mr Wonderful tries an impressive-looking splash from the top that misses, though at least this looked like a believable sequence – i.e. Orndorff would’ve landed a move had Badd not rolled out of the way. Badd motions for the Tutti Fruity, but Orndorff rolls out of the ring to check himself out in the mirror, so Badd stomps on his head then hits a plancha. Back inside, Badd reverses a piledriver attempt into a backdrop. When Orndorff tries the same moments later, Badd hangs on for a sunset flip attempt, which is then countered for an Orndorff win. A few minor irks asides, this turned out to be a reasonable TV match.
Final Rating: **½

 

Bischoff segues to a clip of the WCW stars on the set of Baywatch. Macho Man does bench presses on the beach before being attacked by Kevin Sullivan, who fortunately isn’t dressed in beach wear. A selection of other wrestlers, including Ric Flair, chase off Sullivan.

 

Promo Time: Randy Savage
Resident pervert and premium-rate phone-line shyster Mean Gene hosts. Okerlund brings up the fact that Savage was unreceptive to Flair’s help in the previous clip, so Macho acknowledges tensions between the two. Judging by the segments at the end of the first two Nitros, it looks like he has tensions with just about the entire roster. He then talks about friction within the Hulkamaniac team which he was a part of, and calls Hogan a “horrible judge of character” because Luger cheap-shotted him last night. Mean Gene suggests that it was accidental. Macho is also going to destroy Kevin Sullivan and is “drawing a line in the sand” to divide those with him from those against him. The last time there was sand, Sullivan attacked him. Enter Lex Luger wearing the same clothes as he did on the first Nitro. He calls Macho Man jealous and in possession of an ulterior motive concerning the WCW Title. It’s true, Macho admits, he does want the title. Luger evades Macho’s direct question as to whether or not he intentionally cheap-shotted him, so Macho wants to fight him here and now. He gives Luger a little tap on the face, but we cut to the break, where, according to Bischoff, security clear the ring. They’re trying to cram so many of their top stars and multiple angles into a one-hour show that these segments are not only convoluted, but also repetitive because nobody backs down or resolves the issue at hand.

Bischoff recaps the events surrounding Hulk Hogan at Fall Brawl. First, we see him arrive at the venue on a chopper, pulling up right next to a group of his fans (clearly planted). Suddenly, a monster truck comes around the corner and runs over Hogan’s bike (with Hogan and the crowd nowhere near the incident despite only two or three seconds occurring between cuts). It’s like a scene from a really terrible movie (or a typical Hogan one – Santa with Muscles anyone?). The Giant is driving. Next, we cut to the end of the War Games match, where Hogan is pounding away on the tiny, out-of-shape Taskmaster. The Giant enters the cage and beats on Hogan. However, Hogan’s team had already won the match, so perhaps their new stable mate should’ve intervened earlier. Paul Wight doesn’t have the best track record for cage match interference: In the WWF he will go on to cost Vince McMahon a match at St Valentine’s Day Massacre by throwing Steve Austin through the cage, after lying in wait under the ring for an eternity while Austin panned McMahon all around the arena.

 

Brian Pillman vs. Ric Flair
This looks like a good match up and a decent TV main event. The action starts fast and furious with both men exchanging chops in the corner. There’s only one winner in this battle, so Pillman rakes the eyes. Flair keeps going back to the chops, which gets the crowd going. He also hits a top-rope axe handle to the outside. Pillman is transitioning into his ‘Loose Canon’ gimmick and so uses a lot more strikes and chokes than normal. He laughs maniacally as he targets Flair’s arm via the ring post and guardrail. Flair counters with more chops – WOOO! – and drops Pillman across the guardrail. Flair mounts the turnbuckles again and gets caught; there’s no chance that he’s hitting two top-rope moves in one match. The figure four is countered into a roll up for two and then heads collide for a double down that doesn’t last very long. Another exchange of chops before Flair cinches in the figure four for the submission win. This was a tidy, though short, TV match with a clear finish and unhindered by run-ins and angles.
Final Rating: **½

 

After the match, Flair calls out Anderson, but when AA doesn’t show up, Flair makes a match for next week. This brief segment gets bonus points because Flair cuts his promo while Strauss’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ played in the background.

 

There’s still time for one small segment at the announce desk after a commercial break (including an advert for herbal ecstasy). Bischoff shills the Saturday night show, while Heenan thinks Anderson will ensure that Flair has done his last “woooo”. Also, “something is happening in the back” but of course we don’t find out. Nice one. Next week: the Nitro debut of Disco Inferno, and Macho Man vs. Taskmaster.

 

THE NITRO RECAP:

 

Most Entertaining: Macho Man for his all-round insanity.

 

Least Entertaining: Kevin Sullivan. He popped up in too many segments for my liking (one is usually too many).

 

Quote of the Night: “This is more action than a rooster sees in a henhouse” – Mongo. What’s Terry Taylor been getting up to with those chickens?

 

Match of the Night: Ric Flair vs. Brian Pillman

 

Summary: Three matches, three promos, and a several recaps on the previous night’s pay per view is a lot to cram into one hour. Two of the matches are probably worth watching, and the other match has the historical significance of being the first title change on the show. This was also the first episode without Hogan, but his absence meant everything felt shortened or rushed because the whole show revolved around the events involving Hulk at Fall Brawl. Overall, this show is perhaps worth viewing once to see Nitro’s first title change and the Flair-Pillman match, but don’t go out of your way for it.
Verdict: 33

WrestleMania XIX

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James Dixon: Coming two years after WWE engulfed the industry and signed up all of its top talent, 2003 sees the company with one of the strongest rosters it has ever had at its disposal. It’s an eclectic mix, with veterans and legends from the past sharing the spotlight with modern day super-workers, built smaller but able to move around much quicker and with more intensity. Unfortunately it was also around this time that some of the booking became really baffling, and at times detrimental to the product. Y’know, like Triple H fucking a corpse on live TV. For that you can thank the fruit of Vince’s loins, one Stephanie McMahon. The period is somewhat undefined too, caught in the fallout of the Attitude Era’s demise, but not yet in the Ruthless Aggression era that saw the debuts of future main eventers like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.

The staging for WrestleMania XIX is somewhat unique. Coming from Safeco Field in Seattle, home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, the aisle is forced to curve (a galling sight for anyone used to Reality Era WWE, where every set is a Raw facsimile with a ramp to the ring and little to distinguish it) and the seating is all over the place, rather than in set, defined, cubic tiers. It looks good, certainly unique and vast, but is ruined by the open-air setting. Like all outdoor shows, the majority of the sound is lost to the heavens and thus the matches tend to come across as far less heated than the visible animated and excited crowd reaction suggest. It’s a shame, but is an issue that blights most stadium wrestling events.

King of the Ring ’93

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Arnold Furious: This is one of my favourite wrestling shows, ever. Coming off a disappointing WrestleMania, the WWF owed Bret Hart a bit of an apology, what with the lack of belief in his title run, and decided to build an entire PPV around him. This had a double objective with the WWF intent on finishing Hulk Hogan’s short run as WWF champion. With Vince and Hogan at loggerheads over his role within the company, Hogan’s time in the WWF was at an end. This show represents the death of Hulkamania. We’re in Dayton, Ohio. Hosts are the WMIX three-man car crash that is Jim Ross, Bobby Heenan and Randy Savage.

WrestleMania VIII

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Arnold Furious: Politics. Sometimes it’s a dirty word. Sometimes politics can ruin shows, angles and potentially great matches. But sometimes politics can be a positive boon to shows. The original plan for WrestleMania VIII was Flair vs. Hogan for the belt. It seemed like a no-brainer too. You’ve got the two biggest stars in wrestling in your company. One is a face. One is a heel. Go for it. But politics intervened. Neither man could agree a finish with Vince McMahon and the match was left in limbo, so both received different matches. Flair against Savage and Hogan against Sid. Hogan was clearly miffed at not getting the chance to pin Flair, and he got to go on last. However this was Hogan’s big farewell as he was about to take the rest of 1992 off. There was even talk of Hogan retiring. This wasn’t down to a lack of desire nor storyline issues, but rather the steroid scandal. It was about to erupt and Hogan had been widely accused in the media of being on steroids. He publicly denied it but the heat was so intense that he took time off. Of course in reality Hogan had been taking steroids, as he admitted in his book, so not only was he a ‘roid monster but now he was a liar too. So much for the WWF’s superhero. The steroid scandal had one hugely positive effect on wrestling; it meant that the technical guys got pushed to the moon. They didn’t need steroids to put on good matches, and with the muscular guys on the way out it was time for Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Owen Hart and others like them to get an opportunity. Vince was still a big fan of huge wrestlers so he hired as many naturally large men as possible to fill the void of his muscular monsters. The Hoosier Dome is a big venue, and compared to WMVII it looks like business is up.

Royal Rumble ’92

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Arnold Furious: The last time the WWF vacated their world title the result was an enormous tournament that lasted forever and ate up the majority of WrestleMania IV. Pretty much everyone hated it and, aside from Savage winning, it was a bust. So with the title vacant again, following not one but two screwy belt changes featuring Hogan and The Undertaker, the WWF had a better idea; put the title up for grabs in the Royal Rumble and make that match really mean something. The Rumble would go onto become one of the most prestigious matches in wrestling. Hell of a job for a glorified battle royal. 1992 is when it all started to make sense as a match, with the title on the line in an hour long contest. The field was strong too with potential winners throughout led by Hogan and Taker who’d been promised late entrance numbers. Also involved were Flair, Piper, Sid, Jake and Savage. We all know what happened, but Flair didn’t know until the day that he would win. Nor that he’d enter at #3. The WWF were eager to put over his stamina, notorious in the NWA, without putting him in an hour match on PPV. This way they could have their cake and eat it. We’re in Albany, New York. Hosts are Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan.