Best: Flair vs. Guerrero Is The 12 Reasons To Die of Matches
I’ll get to the point, I promise. Give me a second, though.
Rap music is at an interesting place right now. Rappers are finally reaching their 40s and trying to find relevance and longevity in their careers and most of them are struggling for a few reasons. One, it’s hard for musicians to be taken seriously talking about the same stuff they talked about 20 years ago. It’s just not cool to be the old guy at the club anymore. Also, there are just fewer ways to keep a certain style fresh over a long period of time. While a singer can go through a ballad phase or a cover album phase into his 60s, rappers have to just keep on rapping, which is hard to keep fresh. Finally, rap eats its old.
The way artists have kept fresh in their 40s has been by linking up with younger producers who were fans of theirs to keep their music fresh. That’s where Ghostface and 12 Reasons To Die comes in. Ghost linked up with Adrian Younge – a huge Ghost fan – who basically crafted an album catered directly to Ghost, so all he had to do was rap like we’ve been accustomed to while Younge did the heavy lifting. The result was 12 Reasons To Die, a great album that was powered by Younge’s desire to make a Ghost album and his creativity in crafting a world based on his work.
That’s what Flair vs. Guerrero was, and what I wish they would have let Flair do more of in WCW. While I think that the argument of “watch one Flair match, you’ve seen them all” was over-exaggerated in the 80s, he was definitely knee-deep into a routine match by 1996. And while his matches were still good at worst, much like Ghostface phoning in a verse is still pretty damn good, big-time Flair matches were starting to get few and far between. That’s why it’s so beautiful to see what Eddie Guerrero does with this match.
Guerrero is Adrian Younge here. He let Flair do his magic, then added some tweaks and turned the formula on its head just enough to make you say, “wait, that’s different” enough times to make this one of Flair’s better matches of the late-90s. It’s beautiful.
Also, Guerrero was pretty good at wrestling.
Worst: Oh , Right. Hogan Killed The Giant’s Dad
Remember last year when Stephanie McMahon was all “Big Show, we grew up together backstage” and everyone was all confused. I’ve always wondered if it was a callback to the WCW story that Big Show was Andre The Giant’s son. Because, if you recall, that was definitely a thing in WCW.
The Big Show Origin Story was that Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre The Giant to death at WrestleMania III and his secret son, The Giant, came to WCW to seek revenge. Dear Hogan, the Eddie Guerrero post-death angle between Mysterio and Orton called and said you might have gone too far with this one.
The story carried on all through 1995 and as we could hear in Giant’s promo to hype his title match with Hogan, it’s still a thing. Apparently Giant knew all along that Hogan was crooked and would join the NWO because Giant expected such a thing from someone who body slams people to death. Because Hulk Hogan killed Andre The Giant. With a body slam.
Seriously, I don’t understand how Hogan can sue Gawker for leaking his sex tape when he basically whipped his junk out and masturbated on TV for the entirety of the 90s.
Best: Sting vs. Outsiders Was Incredible While It Lasted
One underrated aspect of Sting’s greatness (yes, he was great), was his understanding of what made a compelling babyface. He knew just how much to give the crowd to make them lose their minds while also keeping the bad guys strong. On the Nitro before Bash At The Beach Sting slapped Hall’s toothpick out of his mouth. That’s it. But it was the first bit of offense WCW got on the Outsiders so it ended up being badass. Sting was the master of that. He knew how to create these little moments where he would get the crowd in a frenzy over his bowing up to the big bag guys and they never stopped being great. See also: his entire feud with Vader, which I’ll mention every single week because I can, dammit.
In this match, between Sting, Luger and the Outsiders, Sting creates one of those moments again by squaring up with Nash to the point the crowd gets all amped for him to get in the ring and kick ass. Instead of just going right to babyface flurry, he gets beat up some and THEN goes all chest-pounding Sting mode. The guys is a maestro, people. I don’t care what your snobby star ratings suggest.
Worst: Lex Luger’s Nervous Titty Twitch
Remember when Luger used to make his boobs jump up and down against Flair in matches and the crowd would go wild for it because I guess it means he’s strong or something? Well, this isn’t that. This is the weirdest sh*t ever. Luger just stands there for like 30 seconds and makes his boobs jump. Non-stop. On repeat forever. My wife watched this match with me and had to ask, “why is he doing that with his chest?”
I don’t know, honey. Maybe his body is rejecting his bionic metal arm plate.
Best: Hall And Nash Are A-holes
It generally took few months before WWF guys got to WCW and realized they didn’t have to care about having good matches anymore so it was always important to enjoy them early. Hall and Nash were grade-A bros and it was great. They had the perfect swag of guys who were bigger than their opponents and guys who knew they were going to win. Everything from the “rock, paper, scissors” before the match to Hall’s constant smirks and Nash’s laughing through the match were just jerk moves. And they were awesome.
Worst: The National Nightmare Of The Heel Ref
The Hall/Nash vs. Sting/Luger match ends with Nick Patrick chop-blocking Lex Luger and costing WCW the match, thus introducing us to the world of the heel ref AKA the laziest trope in professional wrestling. In theory, the idea is pretty novel – that the NWO would pay off a ref and use it to their advantage. But the execution is always poor. For a solid year whenever WCW didn’t feel like coming up with an actual finish, they’d run Nick Patrick out there and the ending would be “Nick Patrick doesn’t count for WCW pin then fast counts NWO pin.” This would happen multiple times on the same PPV and there was no creativity to it.
Of course, WWF would adopt the heel ref stuff and still use it now when they don’t have anything better in mind. I’m looking at you, Brad Maddox costing Ryback his title match against CM Punk.