The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 12/23/96: I’m Your Huckleberry

Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Jerry Flynn debuted! Get hype! Also on the show, Masahiro Chono joined the nWo to form nWo Japan, Kevin Nash accused the Faces of Fear of giving each other “boy baths,” and David Sammartino got pinned against his will just to stop him from wrestling.

Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page.

Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year old WCW jokes on the reg, your half of the deal is hitting these share buttons. Let people know how much you like the column!

And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 23, 1996.

Best: Benoit Vs. Guerrero, However Many Times You Want To Do It

This week’s episode, the last stop on the Road To Christmas 1996, opens with the best possible Nitro scenario: Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero. It’s two of the best wrestlers in the world (making a strong case for #1 and #2, respectively) doing what they do best, which is like 7 minutes of headlock takedowns that ends up super compelling because they are maestros and their orchestra is making 15,000 people get hot over the fundamentals.

This is the semi-finals of the United States Championship tournament, which makes it even better. The match has stakes. It also has history, as Nitro does a rare flashback to a month ago to show Benoit rolling through a hurricanrana to take an indecisive win. It’s perfect:

– two of the best young wrestlers in the world
– trading holds for like ten minutes to see which one of them is superior
– in the semi-finals of an important title tournament
– in WCW
– in 1996
– as the first match on a Nitro, so the announcers don’t have any Hogan or Piper talking points beyond “I wonder what Hogan and Piper will do later,” so they kinda talk about the match
– in front of a 1996 wrestling crowd that isn’t an hour and a half in and hasn’t had their enthusiasm ruined by Buddy Parker matches or whatever

It’s great. Benoit breaks out that superplex he does where he lands on his neck and folds himself in half, which is simultaneously the gnarliest move of the era and concerning as sh*t because it probably didn’t do a lot of favors for his brain health. The finish is Benoit getting distracted by the referee — not because of anything the ref was doing, really, but because he’s got the Woman/Kevin Sullivan situation on his mind and loses focus — and Guerrero managing to knock him backwards off the ropes and hit a frog splash with a twist for the win. I give it my standard, “if you have ten minutes, watch this.”

Worst: Everything About Benoit Vs. Guerrero Besides Benoit, Guerrero, And The Wrestling

The downside to that whole “it’s WCW in 1996!” excitement is that, well, it’s WCW in 1996.

The first interruption is from Kevin Sullivan, who causes that terrible tiny split-screen thing where it’s 90% flaming gunmetal, 5% the match and 5% somebody talking to cut a promo about chess and Genghis Khan. He says Benoit “stole his queen,” but has now fallen into his trap. And if he hits that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.

The second interruption is from Diamond Dallas Page, who shows up in a Three Stooges shirt and joins Tony and Larry on commentary. As you might’ve guessed, Larry instantly starts comparing the Stooges to the New World Odor, which even Page is like, “yeah yeah, let’s change the subject.” The Benoit/Woman angle gets brought up, and Page and Zbyszko start in about how women belong in the kitchen and should know their place, and how Tony Schiavone not hating his wife means he “doesn’t wear the pants” in his relationship. Larry is in HEAVEN.

Zbyszko’s gotta be the least likeable announcer ever. Here’s a (for all intents and purposes) babyface announcer who hates women, young people, cruiserweights and anyone not from the United States who goes on and on about what it means to be a real man, who talks SO MUCH SH*T about the nWo all the time, and the second he’s confronted, he backs down. He cowered in the face of Ted DiBiase and Virgil last week. Larry doesn’t “wear the pants” in his family, he lives by himself in a giant pair of irregular khakis.

Best: Sex Vacation Reprimands

After the match, Benoit gets another browbeating from the Horseman, who demand to know where he’s been and what he’s been doing with Woman. Benoit says he wasn’t in Germany for sexy reasons … he was there with Woman having 18-hour long meetings, trying to figure out a way to help the Four Horsemen and get them back to prominence. Meetings with who, Roman Herzog? You trying to get Das Wunderkind Alex Wright to join the team? You’ve gotta love Benoit’s explanation. “We just thought if we went to Germany and got wine drunk and sent Kevin Sullivan a bunch of cuck videos we’d all be happier at work.”

Also, without irony, this happens:

Mongo is about to tell him something, his friend.

Worst: TNT Loves Playing Tombstone

Remember 911? How could you forget!

If you missed out on the glory days right before the actual glory days of ECW, 911 was a big guy with the wrestling prowess of a carp that Paul E. Dangerously would send out to the ring when matches were bad. He was more or less the Howard Sims of pro wrestling, showing up to usher away jobbers and bad matches. His “hook” was chokeslams.

WCW saw a wrestler who even the promotion that thought Johnny Hotbody was championship material didn’t let wrestle full matches, and said, “hey, let’s sign him, put him on TV and make him wrestle full matches.” Here, he’s asked to be a “giant” Lex Luger can easily defeat before he wrestles the Giant, because I guess Ron Studd’s bitch manager wouldn’t let him out of his Monday shift at Chili’s.

I really wish they’d debuted him as SUPER NICK PATRICK, and had him referee matches until he got frustrated and chokeslammed people. But yeah, no, Luger beats him, everyone acts surprised that Luger can get him up in the Torture Rack despite them being basically the same size, and the Giant shows up to get Almost Racked during the post-match.

Worst: Play The Video

Up next, Rey Mysterio Jr. takes on Mr. JL. It’s the same kind of “begrudgingly fine” that every Mr. JL match is. Mysterio is dope, though, hitting a tope suicida through the corner ropes and pretty much seeing how complicated he could make the finish with a springboard into a top rope electric chair into an avalanche headscissors.

The amazing (-ly horrible) thing here though is the post-match, in which Mysterio heads up to the announce table (which we should always mention is super far from the ring and turned to face away from it) to protest them thinking Sting’s in the nWo. If you remember the ending to the previous episode, Mysterio jumped on Sting’s back during an nWo vs. WCW brawl and got thrown. It caused Sting to bail, and horrible humans Tony and Larry took that as definite, irrefutable proof that Sting is nWo 4 life. Sting, the guy who abandoned WCW because they wouldn’t stop telling him he had abandoned them and joined the nWo. Mysterio’s like, “yo, I jumped on his back first, he didn’t know it was me, he threw me, saw me and then bailed,” which is accurate. He begs them to show the footage, so they send it to a Sting video.

Not the footage, mind you. The Sting hype video from two weeks ago. When they come back, Mysterio’s just gone and they never mention it again.

Best: Boot Camp

Look everyone, it’s GLACIER. And he’s beating up an extremely small army dude!

Glacier wins an impossibly choreographed and practiced match against Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker. Parker is now an army sergeant instead of a police sergeant for some reason. I guess that 20 seconds as the Dungeon of Doom’s evil leprechaun necessitated a career change, and the rank was grandfathered in? Anyway, if you don’t know Buddy Lee Parker’s work, I suggest you go to WWE Network right now, cue up Starrcade ’91 and watch him get the holy living piss-Christ beaten out of him by Abdullah the Butcher. It’s such a beating that me and my dad still bring it up and laugh about it sometimes.

Glacier wins, and we’re just sitting around waiting for Mortis and Ernest Miller to debut.

Worst: Try To Figure Out What’s Happening In That Photo

Following that is the one-two punch of The Amazing French-Canadians vs. Public Enemy and Konnan vs. Big Bubba, which is like getting brain cancer and then finding out your wife left you.

To answer the boldface (in case you were wondering) (you weren’t), that’s the finish. A table gets set up across the top rope, so the Amazing French-Canadians try to hit the Quebec Crash from it. Not sure how jumping from a table hurts worse than jumping from a turnbuckle, but this is wrestling. Submissions hurt more if you do them on a table, remember? Anyway, as they’re about to hit it, Flyboy Rocco Rock shows up on the apron and bounces the table up and down causing Pierre Oullet to somehow lose his balance, go trampolining over Jacques Rougeau and miss the move. As he does this, the table bounces off the ropes into Rougeau’s back and BREAKS, because it’s a piece of cardboard held together by FabergĂ© eggs.

Instead of taking advantage of this, Public Enemy beats up the French-Canadians with the already broken table and get disqualified. If you’re like, “that’s the dumbest finish of the week,” hang on, there are at least two that’re worse still to come.

Best: The Return Of Nick Patrick, Or
Worst: This Match

First of all, remember when there was an in-plain-sight mystery about whether or not Nick Patrick was in the nWo, and he wrestled Chris Jericho about it? Well, Patrick is back on WCW TV sans neck brace, and his first order of business is to cheat for the nWo without technically cheating.

The announce team spends all night talking about how a member of the nWo would be wrestling, and derp, it’s Big Bubba. He’s been an nWo member for a week, moving up from “fifth most important member of the Dungeon of Doom” to “second least important member of the New World Order.” I guess that’s an upgrade?

Konnan’s out here looking for Dungeon revenge, tosses Bubba over the top rope and gets disqualified. Nick Patrick DQs him, because yeah, technically that’s still against the rules, and Konnan tries to beat him up for his nWo allegiances. Of all the things Nick Patrick’s done, this one’s not his fault. Go beat up Cowboy Bill Watts, Konnan. Bubba saves Patrick and sorta spoons him out of harm’s way.

Note: that screenshot belongs in a museum.

Best: Dean Malenko Vs. Lord Steven Regal

Speaking of things that should be good right now, remember Great American Bash ’96? Lord Steven Regal finally looked like he was about to be a thing, getting a great story and an even better match with Sting. Then the nWo showed up, Sting disappeared into the emo section of the ceiling and Regal stopped mattering. He won the TV title and didn’t show up on TV for a month. Also, Bash ’96 was when Dean Malenko really hit his stride, tearing it up with Rey Mysterio Jr. and ushering in a new Golden Era of cruiserweights. Since then, his most important story has been, “these Japanese people are showing up, and we hate them, we guess!”

Malenko’s got a Starrcade match against Ultimo Dragon coming up, so if he beats Regal here and takes the J-Crown at Starrcade, dude will have 10 belts. You’d be able to build a robot man out of title belts that would be bigger than Actual Dean Malenko. Regal’s not on the card.

About 9 minutes into the match, Mike Tenay mentions that there’s a 10-minute time limit. Nothing signaled “time limit draw” in NWA or WCW matches quicker than somebody mentioning a time limit. That “five minutes remaining in the match, five minutes” announcement was always a tell, even when I was little. As an added bonus, both Regal and Malenko are wrestling as heels here, so despite them both being amazing pro wrestlers, the crowd doesn’t have anyone to cheer for and the entire thing comes across as filler. That sucks SO BAD.

Worst: …

Speaking of “sucking so bad,” JEFF JARRETT.

This week’s main event is Jarrett vs. Rick Steiner in the Battle Of Fussy Babyfaces Inconvenienced By Sting. After a few minutes, the crowd stands up like meerkats when Sting appears. Sorry, The Bogus Sting.

Bogus Sting tries to hit a Scorpion Death Drop on Jarrett, but Steiner clotheslines him. Jarrett then pins fake Sting to win a match against Rick Steiner. The referee counts the three and everything. Also, FAKE STING KICKS OUT BEFORE THREE AND THEY COUNT IT ANYWAY.

Hulk Hogan Roddy Piper Eric Bischoff

Worst: Piper Vs. Hogan, I Guess

Finally, here’s 20 minutes of Hulk Hogan talking.

Hogan has two long promos here; one early in the show, and one at the end. Early in the show, he challenges Rowdy Roddy Piper to stop being scared and confront him face to face. Later, in an extremely creative swerve, we find out that “Piper” is just Eric Bischoff in a kilt and a Hulkamania shirt. They fart around for a quarter hour, and Hogan “pins” “Piper.” Are we havin’ fun yet?

After that, an ARMY OF ELDERLY MEN WITH BAGPIPES appear, ushering in Actual Rowdy Roddy Piper. I like to think Piper didn’t answer the previous two call-outs because he was busy organizing and choreographing this. Piper and Hogan throw hands for a few seconds, and then the nWo runs out and gang attacks him. That brings out WCW security, and we go off the air and into Starrcade with a pull-apart brawl and Sting watching from the rafters.

Next Week: Star arcade! The match of the century, which is technically the 7th or 8th best match on the show! More importantly, the final show of 1996. 1997, here we come!