Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: We returned from a hiatus to one of the most boring episodes of Nitro ever, built around Roddy Piper refusing help from the Four Horsemen only to get helped by the Four Horsemen and way too much about Kevin Greene. Also, M. Wallstreet joined the nWo! GASP!
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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 16, 1996.
Best: Larry Zbyszko Gets Emasculated
This week’s show opens with Tony Schiavone and Larry Zbyszko welcoming us to The Greatest Night In The History Of Our Sport™ and getting interrupted by Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase (and, less importantly, Vincent), who intend to take over the booth and turn Hour One into nWo Monday Nitro. According to multiple sources, this was one of those early attempts to see if anybody’d watch a totally nWo wrestling show. Surprisingly wrestling fans weren’t like, “yeah, the show should only be cool unstoppable bad guys, all the good guys should be ineffectual idiots who lose all the time and look like total goobers.”
The commentary is terrible, but I’m Besting the moment for the total and complete emasculation of Larry Zbyszko. Tony instantly bails to avoid confrontation because he’s a simple, affable mullet who just wants to watch baseball and listen to KISS and mind his own business. Larry resists, though, telling DiBiase that the team they’ve brought out is “not enough” to make him leave, and he’s gonna have to “go back and get more guys.” I don’t know if that was scripted or just Larry trying to save face, but the nWo doesn’t buy the bluff. They just kinda stand there staring at him and patting him on the shoulder until he finally gets the hint and leaves without incident.
Somehow Tony Schiavone looks tougher than him for just accepting his fate, and not trying to big-time the show-running heels just to immediately back down.
Best/Worst: Lord Steve Vs. Psychosis
For some reason, they thought the first thing they should do after having the nWo take over the program is put on a 10-minute Lord Steven Regal vs. Psychosis match, which has nothing to do with the nWo other than Bischoff and DiBiase half putting it over while half backhandedly insulting it. Hall and Nash doing this worked because (at least at the time, in context) it made them seem cool and irreverent. That was okay, because they’d then have to wrestle matches, and if you cared about respecting the sport, you’d want to maybe see them get beaten up. If you liked and agreed with them, the matches could play like they were revolutionaries changing the stale old status quo of pro wrestling. When Bischoff and Ted DiBiase do it from an announce booth, the only thing that happens is the audience listening and going, “yeah, this isn’t as important as the other stuff.”
Maybe that’s why as a kid, I never realized what a f*cking badass Lord Steven Regal was. Dude is out here getting sweaty as a seal and mugging his ass off while beating Psychosis to death with palm strikes, and it’s kinda the greatest. It’s a clash of styles, sure, but by the end of the match you’ve got a Pensacola crowd cheering the sh*t out of a rudo luchador Weird Al with horns, and you’ve got Regal locking on a desperation Regal Stretch and selling it like it’s life or death. They’re trying to make this matter.
Meanwhile, the nWo’s in the booth explaining how Hollywood Hogan is a bigger movie star than Roddy Piper and how Hogan had a conversation with Steven Spielberg about it. So, you know, it doesn’t.
Worst: He Calls That The Rear View!
The big story of the night is the shocking betrayal of Big Bubba, who turns his back on an outmoded supernatural comic book Hulkamania death cult to side with the living, expanding wanking motion of the New World Order. They tell the story in a few steps, and this is the first.
Bubba takes on Chavo Guerrero Jr., who hasn’t quite figured out that his best option as a performer is to be the Dollar Store Eddie. Chavo starts pretending he’s one of the Kangaroos and attacks Bubba with a flying asshole, followed by a somersault asshole to the chest. The announce team’s like, “haha what the hell was THAT.” Chavo eventually runs and jumps into a Boss Man Slam, and that’s it.
The highlight (and the commentary highlight of the night) is when Bischoff starts explaining that to beat Big Bubba, you’ve “gotta whack on him.” “Gotta whack on him half the night!” Uh, good to know, guys.
Best: Coach Ric Flair
Worst: Everyone Hates Chris Benoit And Nancy
First of all, a Best to Ric Flair for showing up looking like he should be coaching a college football team. Possibly a college football team of lizard people.
Second of all, a worst for this ongoing “Chris Benoit and Woman are long-distance cuckolding Kevin Sullivan an it’s pissing everybody off” story. You’d think the jet flying, kiss stealing et al Horsemen would understand wanting to skirt responsibilities to take a lady to Europe, drink a bunch of wine and send back sh*tty-hearted videos about it to make less fortunate people mad, but they totally throw him under the bus. Arn has a lot of stern thoughts about THE LOVE OF A WOMAN ruining men’s lives, and Debra McMichael says women in the wrestling industry wouldn’t have “a dog’s chance of winning a beauty pageant.” They’re saying this about people in their own squad, and then wonder why WCW fell the hell apart as soon as a group of 3-or-more friends showed up wearing matching t-shirts.
Worst: WCW Sh*ts All Over Its Own Global Swerve
The second of three nWo swerves on the night (and technically the first, since Bubba’s stuff doesn’t happen until later) is that New Japan Pro Wrestling star Masahiro Chono has thrown in, and will be starting an international branch of the nWo to take over NJPW.
Sonny Onoo (in a New Japan shirt) shows up alongside Chono for an interview with Mean Gene. The big moment is supposed to be Chono opening his jacket to reveal the nWo shirt and tearing off Onoo’s New Japan shirt as a statement. Instead, Bischoff spoils the entire thing as soon as Chono shows up, being all, “heh, hey guys, Chono’s in the nWo but Sonny Onoo doesn’t know it, heh, watch this.” And then they still go through the motions of the surprise, but everyone watching at home is like, “welp.” Also, Chono can’t tear Onoo’s shirt so he just kinda drags him around by it for a few seconds and throws him on the ground. THANKS FOR LETTING US CARE ABOUT THINGS, EASY E.
Worst: Chono Is Not Interested In This “Selling” Gimmick
Chono just walks to the ring to have a match with Chris Jericho, and I use “match” in the loosest sense of the word. Jericho could’ve brought a shotgun into the ring and point-blank fired it into Chono’s chest and Chono wouldn’t have sold it. Dude eats Jericho’s entire moveset for lunch and sh*ts it out.
At one point in the match Jericho kinda brute-forces a superplex, and Chono decides to be hurt for a minute. Jericho’s like, “cool, time to wrestle an actual match,” and Chono just snaps out of it and starts beating his ass again. There’s a difference in being Goldbergian undefeatable, and just wasting everybody’s time by not being an active participant in your half of a wrestling match.
Of course, the wonderfully WCW part is that Chono loses. Jericho gets hung up in the ropes and Chono won’t stop attacking him, so the referee calls for the DQ. Bischoff explains it as Chono “not understanding the rules,” because as you know, New Japan is just elaborate kabuki posturing with fans and flower petals and not a f*cking pro wrestling promotion.
Worst: David Sammartino, Good Lord
That Kinnikuman character being backslid by Dean Malenko is Bruno Sammartino’s lousy son David. He’s a 15-year veteran at this point and is still wrestling like a football player in a celebrity battle royal. It’s like when a sports star shows up on Ninja Warrior and can’t get past the second obstacle because their bodies aren’t wired for this kind of human movement, the pro wrestler.
Remember David Flair? David is to Ric Flair as David Sammartino is to Bruno. He didn’t get Bruno’s size, strength, charisma, wrestling ability, basic motor functions or operable frontal lobe, but he got the name, and that’s what matters! The match here is so bad that the ref just counts Sammartino’s shoulders down even though they’re up like two minutes in, and he never shows up again. Wikipedia says he wrestled a dark match sometime after this, but yeah, the company that let Dennis Rodman wrestle three matches only let Bruno Sammartino’s kid wrestle one, and they were totally justified. Because honestly, if you can’t wrestle something passable with 1996 Dean Malenko, what can you do?
Best: LIGHTNING FOOT
Finally, a real wrestler.
Up next is the WCW debut of one of the most memorable losers of the Attitude Era, “Lightning Foot” Jerry Flynn. He’s like Jerry Lynn if he was a local karate instructor your mom is dating. If you watched wrestling during this period, you probably know him best as about 75 of Bill Goldberg’s 173 consecutive victories. Goldberg LOVED to murder Jerry Flynn. Just loved it.
He shows up looking like a Will Ferrell character and a Danny McBride character mated, telling fans to “get outta his face” in breezy Taekwondo pajamas and I love him so much. He loses a short match to Ice Train, because the third nWo serve of the night needs you to remember that Ice Train exists.
Syxx and The Outsiders show up to say they don’t want to wait until Starrcade, they want to defend the Tag Team Championship against the Faces of Fear tonight. Why? Because they saw them giving “boy baths” to each other backstage and realized they aren’t scary. The sound you may be hearing is my brain turning into a field of crickets.
The closed captioning says “play baths,” which I guess means the same thing? Who knows. Urban Dictionary doesn’t have a definition for it, so I’m just gonna assume Nash walked around the corner and saw Meng in an oversized wash tub, happily clapping his hands and throwing suds in the air while The Barbarian scrubbed his back with a big brush.
Best: El Dragon Alabamian
Bobby Eaton had some kind of cloaking device going on in the late ’90s where nobody in WCW could see he was past his prime, so they kept putting him in these high-impact matches with guys like Chris Jericho and Rey Mysterio Jr. Even Goldberg wanted to lose to Bobby Eaton in the middle of his streak.
Eaton wrestles Mysterio here, and it’s good for what it is. They get about four minutes to tell the story of Rey being an underdog due to the size he was giving up to Eaton, who is more or less Beach Rod Stewart. Mysterio takes Eaton off the second rope with a springboard headscissors takedown for the win. The Blue Bloods were all about the lucha libre this week.
Worst: Also, The Regular Announce Team Is Back
Tony, Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan manage to take the show back for hour two, mostly because Bischoff and DiBiase had gotten tired of talking about Hulk Hogan instead of the matches. The WCW team makes up for this by talking about Roddy Piper instead of the matches. They should’ve had a third team that spent every Hogan vs. Piper match talking about how great Rey Mysterio is.
Worst: Tree Of Whoa
The Assassination Of WCW By The Coward Big Bubba continues here, in the long-awaited-but-not-really one-on-one showdown between Kevin Sullivan and Arn Anderson. Sullivan’s caught in the middle of history’s most retroactively awkward angle and Arn’s a little over a month away from retirement, so this one’s all about bad storytelling and only lasts about three minutes.
It starts as a brawl and builds to the big showcase moment of Arn being hung in the Tree of Woe and accidentally throwing his hand up to catch a charging Kevin Sullivan with a fist to the balls. Yep. The referee gets bumped, the Dungeon of Doom shows up — ‘sup, Bubba — and Arn takes them to the woodshed before Sullivan can blast him with the Meng Memorial Wooden Chair and steal the win.
You can tell where they gave up on some of these Nitros. The matches stop making sense and all the finishes seem winged. They’re just like, “go out there, wrestle for five minutes and then totally ruin it. We trust you.”
Worst: I’m Seeing Double … Four Stings!
WCW (and the nWo) spend the entire episode talking up the in-ring return of Sting, saying he’ll wrestle Rick Steiner and you should make sure not to change over to Raw because you will totally miss Sting.
So it’s time for Sting vs. Rick Steiner, and they show Sting up in the rafters. Then the nWo Sting comes down through the crowd and gets in the ring, because of course he does. Before anything can happen, Actual Sting comes down as well, and we get the world’s worst Groucho Mirror Gag with the Stings pointing bats at each other and turning their backs on the Steiners.
The worst part is that the announce team tries to sell the Stings as identical, with Tony saying he thinks the Sting on the left is real because he’s “acting a little darker.” First of all, what? Second of all, maybe the Sting on the left is real because he looks like Sting, and the other guy looks like Adult Biff Tannen in mime paint?
Anyway, Sting beats up Faux Sting and the Steiners acknowledge him as The One True King or whatever and WCW appears to be getting its act together. Note: this lasts for about ten minutes before they f*ck it up again.
Worst: 700 Minutes Of Hollywood Hogan Talking To Someone Who Isn’t There
Hulk Hogan wants to fight Rowdy Roddy Piper right here tonight, but thankfully not because he saw Piper giving someone a boy bath; Piper’s not in the arena, and it’s macho posturing. So Hogan actually macho postures, doing all of his signature poses to “entertain the fans” in Piper’s absence. It’s good heel work, I guess, but also massively infuriating, especially when you’re an hour-45 into a 2-hour show where none of the advertised matches or appearances are paying off.
For added weirdness, Hogan spends the early part of the promo getting Elizabeth to kiss him, to show that “has-beens” like the Macho Man never mattered. Not to spoil 20-year old stories, but the Piper/Hogan beef ends with Macho Man returning and helping Hogan win. So we’re just emasculating dudes in every direction over here.
Worst: Super Important nWo Swerves, Or
Worst: WCW Is Stupid
Speaking of advertised matches not paying off, here’s two images from The Outsiders vs. The Faces of Fear. Yep.
As foretold in ancient prophecy, the match ends almost immediately when Big Bubba shows up and decides to join the nWo by phantom punching Meng. Seriously, Bubba hits Meng with like four punches and three of them miss by about half a foot. That causes the Dungeon of Doom to run out and interfere, which brings out more nWo guys, which brings out everyone else in the locker room.
While this is going on, Fire & Ice show up to participate and Scott Norton super randomly turns on Ice Train, DDT’ing him on the floor. The announcers sell this as “EVERYBODY’S FIGHTING EVERYBODY,” if you’re wondering how important Scott Norton joining the nWo was.
But wait, that’s not all! At the peak of the brawl, Sting shows up. He pushes his way through the crowd of people (who all stop to watch him, because it’s Sting) and looks like he’s going to grab Meng (?) until Arn Anderson stops him and tries to throw hands. Sting ducks and lays out Arn, which causes Mongo to attack. When Sting dispatches Mongo, REY MYSTERIO randomly jumps on Sting’s back and has to be thrown off. You had me until Mysterio. Sting decides that WCW is a bullsh*t organization of idiots again and bails, and that’s the show. Great job, WCW.