Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Rowdy Roddy Piper threatened Hulk Hogan with an army of old man bagpipers. Also, Chris Benoit told somebody to “talk to the hand, talk to the hand, ’cause the man don’t understand.” No, seriously.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network, and here to watch the pay-per-view before it. You can catch up with all the previous episodes on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page.
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Up first, let’s see what went down at WCW’s biggest show of the year.
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about STAR ARCADE ’96, featuring the Match of the Century. Note: the Match of the Century is like, the 8th best match on the show. Additional note: there were 8 matches on the show.
Japan Beat The Dogsh*t Out Of WCW
Enraged by either Eric Bischoff saying he was gonna turn New Japan Pro Wrestling into the minor leagues or being unable to compete for the World Cup of Wrestling, the stars of Japan showed up to Starrcade ’96 ready to play. The first three matches on the show feature Japanese talent beating the dog mess out of WCW’s best.
– The show opener is Dean Malenko defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Ultimo Dragon’s J-Crown, which funny enough includes the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. I wonder if anybody asked him to throw 1/8 of his belt armor in a trash can? It’s a great match, especially the final 10 minutes or so, and it ends with Dragon unifying the titles with a sick Tiger Suplex. This is one of the matches you talk about when you’re like, “WCW’s main events sucked but they always started the show with some great cruiserweight thing.”
– Akira Hokuto defeated Madusa in the finals of the WCW Women’s Championship tournament, which I bet you forgot was happening. Lee Marshall is on commentary for some reason and can’t stop calling her “Hogan Toe.” Fun fact: Hokuto and Madusa have a match at the Great American Bash 6 months later where Madusa would have to retire if she lost. She loses and has to retire, and then Hokuto also leaves and the WCW Women’s Championship is never mentioned again. Looks like they threw two belts in the garbage!
– Jushin Thunder Liger, fresh off recovering from a f*cking brain tumor, puts the fear of God into Rey Mysterio Jr. Liger is basically Goldberg here. He’s powerbombing him almost as soon as the match begins, suplexes him from the apron to the floor, blocks his big hurricanranas and practically sits on his entire spine with a Liger Bomb. If Mysterio had just said, “sh*t, sorry everybody, I’m out,” after this match, nobody would’ve blamed him.
The nWo Is Tired Of DDP’s Wishy-Washy Attitude
Over the past several months, the nWo has been like, “hey, Diamond Dallas Page, you’re pretty great and we’re all friends, why don’t you put on this shirt and beat up babyfaces with us.” DDP’s been like, “why’d you wait this long to ask me, I’m insulted” and/or “whatever, who cares,” and it appears the nWo is officially sick of it.
The finals of the United States Championship tournament end with The Wolfpac showing up and distracting the referee, allowing Scott Hall to sneak into the ring and Razor’s Edge Page, giving Eddie Guerrero the win and the belt. Don’t think that means Eddie’s in the nWo, though, because they attack him 3-on-1 when it’s over. The crowd is DESPERATE for Page to make the save, but he doesn’t. He will, though, eventually, and it’ll be worth it.
Sting’s Never Gonna Dance Again; Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm
Lex Luger’s in a hole against the Giant. He’s outnumbered, and he’s got Nick Patrick in there kicking him in the leg when he’s going for the Torture Rack. When it looks like all hope is lost, Luger’s Best Good Friend The Stinger wanders in from the crowd.
In a great and never actually explained Lost In Translation moment, Sting whispers something clandestine to both men, leaves his overpowered baseball bat in the ring and bails. Luger gets the bat, feeds the Giant his lunch with it and gets the pin to probably the biggest reaction of the entire show. Note that Sting is now officially a year away from wrestling again.
One Old Man Beat The Other Old Man
Rowdy Roddy Piper comes out on top in the Match Of The Century — the 19th century — but how he got there is its own tale. I present to you,
The Ballad Of The Drunk Sting Fan
When Sting shows up to carelessly whisper and orchestrate bat murder, he enters through the crowd. As he’s walking, Ethan Hawke from Boyhood gets in his face and screams. When I say “in his face,” I mean their faces are almost touching. It’s like Ripley and a xenomorph. Here, look:
Security immediately pulls him away, which fills him with either anger or terror, or possibly a combination of the two. Feel free to put “drunken” before any of those things.
You think that’s the last you’re gonna see of him, but it’s not. The drunken terror rage builds up and builds up until the finish of the main, where it looks like the nWo’s going to screw yet another hapless babyface out of a big match. The Giant is about to chokeslam Piper, so drunk dude SPRINGS INTO ACTION:
Hogan and referee Randy Anderson subdue him with terrible shin kicks, but that’s not the full story. The way things are supposed to play out, the Giant is supposed to try to chokeslam Piper, only for Piper to kick Hogan out of the way and counter. Since Hogan’s busy and Giant’s only a year into the business, he doesn’t know what to do and ends up standing there, in place, holding Piper up the ENTIRE TIME. When Hogan’s done beating up the drunk guy, he meanders over to the static chokeslam and gets kicked so they can continue going through the motions.
The entire next episode of Nitro is devoted to the Giant having “dropped the ball” in the loss. Without the drunk fan running in, it’d be Hogan being a coward heel making excuses. WITH the fan, it actually plays like the Giant dropped the ball. Why’d you just stand there watching, dude? Chokeslam him. DO IT ALREADY.
And all for the want of a drunk Sting fan.
Here’s The Best and Worst of the final WCW Monday Nitro of 1996.
Worst: Let’s Get Right To The Terrible Garbage
If you’re one of those people who went to a friend’s house and watched Starrcade ’96 and were like, “hey, this wrestling thing people are suddenly into is pretty cool, I’ll tune in to Nitro tomorrow night,” here’s another goddamn Public Enemy vs. the Amazing French-Canadians match to make sure you never watch again.
You know the drill by now. Public Enemy is doing fine until they try to put someone through a table. Their opponent moves, and they end up going through the table instead. It’s like Sisyphus in a porno hockey jersey.
In fact, this week’s Nitro features an absolute cavalcade of short, terrible matches with short, terrible finishes, so let’s just knock them all out in a row.
Worst: Terrible Short Match Bonus Round
WCW got bodied by Japan at Starrcade, so they look to make it up on Nitro by having Hugh Morrus beat Kensuke Sasaki. I don’t know. Morrus has him dead to rights with No Laughing Matter, so Sonny Onoo runs in and swats at him with the Japanese flag. Only, Onoo misses his cue and the referee has to count really slowly. Onoo still doesn’t get in in time to beat the three, so the ref has to stop counting at 2 1/2, point at Onoo and go HEY! THAT’s when Onoo hits Morrus with the flag.
Morrus then tries to beat up Onoo, who escapes by removing his jacket. Onoo then stands on the outside pointing at his temple, repeatedly saying how smart he is, and the announce team talks about how he helped Sasaki. To get disqualified. In a match Sasaki was clearly losing anyway. You think 20 years later, Kensuke’s in an armchair somewhere like, “whew, thank God I got a DQ loss to Hugh Morrus instead of a pinfall, that would’ve been embarrassing?”
Remember last week’s Konnan vs. Big Bubba barn-burner? It ended almost immediately when Konnan tossed Bubber over the top rope, and Nick Patrick disqualified him. That’s actual against WCW’s rules so it wasn’t an nWo thing, but everybody made it out to be. This week, Konnan gets his revenge in a strap match … only Bubba no-shows, and M. Wallstreet takes his place.
Yes, Nitro features a gimmicked grudge match featuring only one of the people in the grudge. And it’s less than three minutes long, but they still do all the tried-and-true strap match tropes. They even do the “touch three corners, struggle and OH NO FALL INTO THE LAST CORNER” thing. In a sub-3-minute strap match, featuring Konnan and Michael f*cking Wallstreet. IN A BIG BUBBA-LESS BIG BUBBA ANGLE.
Man, I hope there isn’t a Harlem Heat match on the show to top it.
All right, so Harlem Heat wrestles the Faces of Fear. Colonel Parker and the Amazing French-Canadians show up and go after Sherri, because that beef is still happening, and Jacques uses the distraction to throw “salt” in Stevie Ray’s eyes. I put salt in quotes because it’s BLACK, so … he throws SOOT in his eyes? Did Jacques Rogeau just finish cleaning a chimney and need somewhere to dispose of the mess, so he was like, “Stevie Ray’s face?” It leaves a horrible black stain in the ring for the rest of the show, too.
So Steve Ray gets sooted and Meng goes for a cover, but the referee is still extremely distracted by wanting to pat the Barbarian on the shoulder for no reason. Booker T’s supposed to come off the top with something — a Harlem Hangover, probably — but Meng’s too far away. So Booker goes up top, hops off, runs up and drops a knee. He’s supposed to roll Stevie onto Meng before the referee gets back, but Mark Curtis gets back too early and starts counting the pin as Booker is rolling them over. So this ref for real ran over, saw Booker T lying on the ground aimlessly rolling folks, saw a soot-covered Stevie Ray in a mobile lover’s embrace with an unconscious Meng and was like, “SEEMS LEGIT.” He starts over when he realizes what he’s doing, but now Meng is like halfway under the ropes.
In retrospect, and with full honesty, Harlem Heat might be the worst tag team of all time.
Let’s hope this Nitro doesn’t give me another chance to do another bonus round.
Worst: Matches That Would’ve Been Good If They’d Gotten More Than 4 Minutes Bonus Round
AW HERE IT GOES.
There is a Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Ultimo Dragon match on this show. I’m putting it in its own bold, because it’s the best. The night before, one of these guys DESTROYED Rey Mysterio Jr. The other defeated the WCW Cruiserweight Champion, winning that belt and unifying it with the EIGHT OTHERS he holds. The challenger here just had a brain tumor and came back stronger than ever. There are so, so many easy stories to write here.
What do we get? Four minutes. FOUR MINUTES of Ultimo Dragon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, the night after all that important stuff. Dragon wins, to set up Liger taking the J-Crown from him in Japan less than a week later. Not the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, though, so your definition of “unified” may vary.
Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho suffer the same fate. It’s a good match while it lasts, which is about three minutes. The crowd is absolutely comatose, and Benoit wins with a backdrop off the top. Normally I’d praise a match like this for ending on a move you aren’t expecting to end a match, but this felt less like a creative decision and more like Benoit and Jericho saying, “holy sh*t, let’s get out of here.”
Don’t worry, there’s another conversation about Benoit’s love life right after it.
Worst: Who Is The Worst Dressed Person In That Picture?
The Horsemen have another squabbly fight about nothing, which features Mongo getting in Woman’s face and saying the wonderful sentence, “LISTEN, TOOTS, IT’LL BE THE DAY WHEN A SKIRT LIKE YOU TELLS MONGO WHAT TO DO!” The situation is diffused by Jeff Jarrett showing up in a blouse from JCPenney and pointing out that “the women out here are causing more problems than they’re solving.” He wants to talk to Coach Ric Flair about how he once said Jeff was THE MAN, but he hasn’t felt like The Man. This is all extremely masculine and interesting and not at all the reason why the Horsemen fell to sh*t and everybody threw in with the nWo.
Everybody’s upset about Arn Anderson not being there, and demand answers from Flair. He says Arn is “at the Hyatt with a Miller Lite in his hand so cold, woo, it’d freeze the hands off an Eskimo.” Everyone laughs and dances until Benoit speaks again, to which a background Flair responds with, “AW NOOOO!” I feel you, Ric.
The interview ends with Benoit telling Jarrett he’s not a Horseman, Debra saying Woman is irritable because of her “weight gain over the holiday season,” and Flair screaming and dancing again until everybody agrees to leave.
Best: The “Is There Anything Good On This Show” Bonus Round
Okay, some positives.
Here’s Disco Inferno vs. Glacier, which at least makes sense in regard to Pokémon types.
This is part of a great, ongoing angle where Disco claims to have a leg lock that will instantly win him matches, but he doesn’t remember how to do it. Here he actually has Glacier beaten at one point, but takes forever trying to put on the mysterious leg lock and has it countered. Turns out the hold is (spoiler alert) (for 20-year old WCW undercard Disco Inferno angles) a standing figure-four, which he occasionally needs cheat sheets and diagrams to apply properly.
Also pretty good is Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko, which I almost gave a Worst because Rey Mysterio vs. Dean Malenko should never be “pretty good.” That weirdly sexual screencap of Mark Curtis is probably the highlight.
The problem is that they’re trying to do a 10-minute TV time-limit draw, but it only goes about 9, and at this point Malenko has no idea how to do “sense of urgency.” If you’re trying to get over the time limit running out, you’ve gotta do a bunch of rapid-fire, exciting sh*t to build suspense. Instead, Malenko’s just like, “things aren’t exciting yet, let me lay you on the ground and dig my elbow into your bicep for three minutes.” He was great, but man, he was gonna wrestle the match he wanted to wrestle whether crowds liked it or not.
So what else was on this show? Is that it?
We also have the WCW debut of the “mini-superstars from Mexico,” featuring the SECOND character from Lucha Underground on this episode, Mascarita Sagrada. He’s teaming up with Octagoncito (where they hold little person MMA) against the least believable mini team ever:
On your right is Piratita Morgan, best described by Mike Tenay as, “the little pirate, complete with eyepatch,” and his tag team partner, Jerito Estrada. Jerito is like, the El Gigante of minis. He’s 5 feet tall, which is as tall as you can get before they make you wrestle Brad Armstrong. Actual Jerry Estrada is only 5-foot-10. It’s like Scott Steiner and Petey Williams.
It’s fun, but the crowd has no idea what to do with it, and they’re already the cardboard cutouts from the TRL scene in Josie in the Pussycats. Sagrada gets the win for his team with a Jumping Something, and Vince McMahon does a spit-take and is like, I DON’T CARE IF WE LOSE BRET HART, GET ME THESE LITTLE GUYS. ALL OF THEM.
Worst: Greg Valentine Matches In 2016, Still
In our main event, Lex Luger defeats what appears to be his mom by picking her up on his shoulders and hopping up and down in place.
Best: Continuity, Kind Of!
Finally (thank God) we get to the ending angle, which plays off the drunken escapades from Starrcade.
If you remember way back at Hog Wild, Hollywood Hogan pinned the Giant for the WCW Heavyweight Championship after hitting him in the face with the belt and some nWo interference. Hogan then spray-painted the front of the belt, renaming it the nWo Championship, but never actually changing the nameplate that says “GIANT.” Through some reasoning that honestly wasn’t much better than, “I was invited to Hulk Hogan’s house and we had a nice time,” Giant decided to JOIN the nWo and be Hogan’s lackey. He also won the battle royal for a title shot at World War 3, but hasn’t cashed it in.
So Starrcade happens, and Hulk Hogan’s like, “hey brother, you dropped the ball.” Giant’s like, “my name is on the title and also I have a title shot,” and Hogan’s like, “that’s all true, but nWo 4 life, and also brother you dropped the ball.” That’s the entire conversation. Meanwhile, Bischoff and Hogan are trying to remove all evidence of Hogan losing to Piper at Starrcade, stealing the video from the production team (because there’s only one VHS copy of the pay-per-view, I guess) and cutting long, long promos about how Piper lost.
The show ends with another nWo beatdown of Piper, culminating in Hogan ordering Giant to finish the chokeslam he started and took forever to complete at Starrcade. Giant resists, turns on Hogan and demands his title shot. Hogan cowers, agrees to give him the match, then sics the entire nWo on him.
The original heel to default face to heel turn didn’t make any sense, but this works. Giant has a reason to not like these dudes, and even though the episode ends with another endless nWo beatdown, the reasoning is there.
The best part of the episode was Disco Inferno failing to do a submission hold, let me have this.