Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW: We recapped the Clash of the Champions XXXIV, which was basically an extra Nitro that hit most of the same plot points as this pay-per-view. Sorry in advance, everybody. Also, sorry for everything else you’re about to read.
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 nWo Souled Out from Jan. 25, 1997.
Worst: Welcome To The Future Of Wrestling
If you want to know exactly how bad this show is without watching more than a second of it, the very first shot is of Eric Bischoff hanging off the back of a garbage truck, literally about to deliver garbage to a wrestling arena. The f*cking green light in The Great Gatsby wasn’t as symbolic as this.
Okay, so no review of nWo Souled Out is complete without pointing out that hey, it’s different. They’re going for something unique. A wrestling faction got its own pay-per-view, they got a light-up staircase and a trio of screens so Hogan, Hall and Nash could each have one to themselves, they had two heel announcers and an nWo voice-over guy insulting WCW wrestlers during the matches. They had a condescending beauty pageant (more on that later) (much later). It’s not the same old same old and is absolutely worth watching for anthropological reasons, like the Sturgis pay-per-views or horrible car accidents.
Worst: Everything About The Set I Didn’t Mention
So, most people’s view of the nWo, at least when it started, was, “WWF guys have shown up on WCW TV to destroy it.” Getting Hulk Hogan on the team only furthered that narrative, because despite him being the focus of everything WCW did for two years, he never really felt like he was “ours.” He was just a WWF guy slumming it on the other show because the WWF didn’t want him anymore. When Hogan turned, it was less “gasp,” and more, “ah.” There was gasping too, mind you, but the entire crowd was already ready to say f*ck that guy.
Eric Bischoff’s view of the nWo was, “condescending local failures you’d see hanging out in the background of The Lobo on Roseanne.” He’s like, “WE’VE GOT LEATHER JACKETS, WE’VE GOT HARLEYS, WE’VE GOT ROCK N’ ROLL,” more or less grabbing the bull by the horns and forcing it into a pair of Dockers. Dude’s like, “well I’m an aging white dude, all the kids these days must love what aging white dudes love!”
That ends up turning the New World Order from a group of disenfranchised anarchists into Homer Simpson jamming to Grand Funk on his kids’ carpool. Oh, and speaking of jamming, there’s a live band!
If that screenshot looks especially terrible, it’s because WWE Network edited out the live performance of the nWo house band CAPTAIN VIRGIL. Bischoff continued the weird aesthetic of Souled Out by hiring a band of non-threatening thirty-something skinheads who we could watch pick up instruments for the first time, and yes, “Captain Virgil” would’ve been an awesome tag team name for M. Wallstreet and Vincent.
The song is basically five minutes of him saying ARRRGH WE’RE GONNA ROB BANKS, NEW WORLD ORDER, NEW WORLD ORDER, and features one of the most hilariously off-the-top-of-the-dome rock intros I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard Tony Schiavone introduce KISS.
“I’ve come to redeem you! I’ve come to take you away! The wrestling world as you know it tonight will be changed forever! The political snake, the python will wrap you, squeeze you, seal your soul in doom! There’ll be no prisoners, we’ve come to take no prisoners! I’m here to tell ya, this is the real thing, King Kong could not last in this building! nWo Lemme hear it! I brought some friends with me! I brought some jackal friends with me, and they’ve come to have, kick some booty in a one-legged man contest! Lemme hear it! New World Order! New World Order! New World Order! New World Order!”
They should’ve skipped the beauty pageant and just shown us some of that one-legged man contest.
Also fun: Because there’s a band, there are roadies. Roadies who sit on the edge of the stage the entire show and kinda arbitrarily clap for anyone who walks by.
You guys realize we haven’t even gotten to the wrestling yet, right?
Worst: Chono Breaks Out The Japanese Table
Remember when Masa MY HERO Chono joined the nWo on Nitro and beat the piss out of Chris Jericho, refusing to sell anything and then losing the match by DQ because he wouldn’t stop beating his ass? That epic feud continues here, with exactly the same thing. The crowd is chanting “USA” about two minutes into it. I don’t think they care that Chono is from Japan and Jericho is a naturalized Canadian citizen, they’re just wondering why they’ve sat through almost three minutes of wrestling without Jim Duggan showing up and pulling magician scarves of athletic tape out of his bulge to punch somebody in the face.
For an example of how smoothly this match goes, consider the finish. Chono heads out and grabs a table from under the ring, and it’s one of those weirdly skinny Japanese tables. They fight for a while until Jericho ends up on the top rope, and Chono’s supposed to Yakuza Kick him off the top and through the table. The only problem is that the physics don’t really work out, so Chono ends up Yakuza Kicking Jericho in the chest and Jericho just kinda holding on to the top rope. Chono gives up and shoves him off instead, Jericho crashes through the table and that leaves Chono open to … uh, hit a Yakuza Kick and win. Sure!
I hope Chris Jericho’s amazing heel run beginning at the end of ’97 came from a contract negotiation where Jericho wrote NEVER WRESTLE CHONO AGAIN on a piece of paper and slid it to Eric Bischoff.
Worst: Big Bubba, Master Of The Mexican Death Match
When you hear the phrase “Mexican Death Match,” who do you think of? Big Bubba and Hugh Morrus? Oh cool me too.
That’s match #2 on this show. A f*cking MEXICAN DEATH MATCH between Big Bubba and Hugh Morrus. Bubba has to wrestle this because he still owes a debt to the loosely associated Dungeon of Doom, and I guess losing a strap match to Konnan on Nitro didn’t settle anything.
Now seems like a good time to remind you of the major problem of Souled Out: Nick Patrick. From the Best and Worst of Clash of the Champions XXXIV:
Not to jump the gun too much on my analysis of one of the worst shows ever, but part of the problem with the upcoming nWo Souled Out is that Nick Patrick referees every match. Nick Patrick is great, but by this point they’d just started putting him in an nWo shirt and making it very obvious that he was actively working to cheat the WCW guys out of victories. Not only did it kill the drama by making WCW victories impossible without interference and nonsense, it sorta neutered the nWo guys by making them look like they couldn’t win without a crooked ref. What should’ve been a rare occurrence of cheating turned into a nonstop LOOK AT NICK PATRICK schmozz-fest, and it just dulled the colors of everything.
Every match on the show has the same outline. A WCW guy does well, Nick Patrick refuses to be a regular referee and causes a distraction, the nWo guy capitalizes. Even in the matches where this doesn’t affect the finish, it happens. Now imagine how frustrating that is in a match between BIG BUBBA AND HUGH MORRUS that relies on a referee to make 10-counts to build drama. Imagine how well that works.
David D. said it best:
Imagine if American Ninja Warrior was three hours long and had the contestants get to the very last obstacle only for the whole stage to collapse and then lose at the very end, every single time. How many rounds are you watching before you say f*ck it? Now imagine if all of those rounds were absolutely terrible leading up to that stage collapse. That’s what we have here.
This match’s final obstacle stage collapse is Big Bubba driving a motorcycle into Hugh Morrus. They refer to it as “running him over,” but Bubba just sorta drives at him and Hugh jumps into Bubba’s shoulder and falls backwards. It’s the world’s safest version of Jerry Lawler getting hit by a car. Oh, and after the motorcycle accident Bubba runs back to the ring for the 10-count, because he doesn’t remember he’s in a Mexican Death Match and thinks the 10-counts are for count-outs. So dude wins a Last Man Standing match via count-out.
Note: Hugh Morrus deserved this for coming to the ring dressed like General Hugh G. Rection several years too early.
Worst: Jeff Jarrett Vs. M. Wallstreet With A Mongo Finish Is For Real A Pay-Per-View Match
Want a finish worse than Hugh Morrus getting bumped by a motorcycle and losing by count-out? Feast whatever’s left of your eyes on JEFF JARRETT VS. M. WALLSTREET, which is the kind of club-banger you want on your wrestling pay-per-view. Seriously, how was any of this supposed to make the nWo look cool? What’s the point of helping guys cheat to win if they look like total goobers for the first 99 percent of the match? Why would you want to be on Big Bubba and M. Wallstreet’s team?
Anyway, Jarrett and Wallstreet have the world’s most Nitro match with Nick Patrick cheating throughout, and the camera finds Debra and Mongo McMichael in the crowd. Debra is CRYING because Jeff Jarrett is having a tough time in the least important match in the history of professional wrestling and repeatedly begs Mongo to help, but he won’t. Eventually Wallstreet gets Jarrett in an abdominal stretch and grabs the top rope for leverage, and that’s a bridge too far. Mongo gets on the apron, collapses Wallstreet with a metal briefcase shot to the back and threatens Patrick into counting the three.
Study question: Why didn’t WCW do this all night? What, are you worried about losing by disqualification on a heel faction-sanctioned show? Who gives a sh*t? There’s no like, stipulation attached to Souled Out. Y’all aren’t winning or losing anything. There are a thousand dudes on the WCW roster, and I’m sure even Jerry Flynn and Jimmy Graffiti can put the fear of God into Nick Patrick.
Best/Worst: DDP Okey-dokes The nWo Again
A few weeks ago on Nitro, Diamond Dallas Page had a great star-making moment where he pretended to join the nWo, only to turn a handshake into a Diamond Cutter and escape through the crowd.
At Souled Out, the nWo stops Page’s match with Scott Norton to offer him a spot with the group anyway. Page accepts, only to turn a handshake into a Diamond Cutter and escape through the crowd. … Cool?
I’m giving it a Best because it’s mildly exciting, and “mildly exciting” at Souled Out is like water Beyond Thunderdome. I’m giving it a half-Worst, though, for two reasons. One, it’s just a worse version of something they did on Nitro, and two, Eric Bischoff spends the entire match talking about how the nWo would never ever ever forgive Page for turning his back on them like he did, only for the planned finish of the match that Eric Bischoff is in charge of being the nWo mindlessly forgiving him anyway and getting turned on again.
Worst: The Ending To The American Males Feud Is That Buff Bagwell Is Right And Better
The pulse-pounding American Males storyline comes to a close here with nearly 15 minutes (Jesus Christ) of what even The Miz would consider too-safe Safe Style. The payoff is the debut of Bagwell’s new finisher — the Buff Blockbuster — and Scotty Riggs just losing because Buff was right all along, and Scotty Riggs is just an out-of-shape loser. Even the PA announcer keeps calling him “loser.” Whoops!
I guess the only highlight here is Bagwell’s debut Buff gear, which I have fond memories of thanks to it being what he wore in WCW vs. nWo World Tour.
Worst: The nWo Announcer
Like I said, the PA announcer would sometimes pipe in during matches just to say “loser” or “new new new world order” or whatever, right? Well, he also gave condescending intros to the WCW wrestlers, who entered to no music and dead silence. Most of them are harmlessly unfunny, like saying Chris Jericho comes from “somewhere north of the border,” but Eddie Guerrero straight-up gets called a “Mexican jumping bean.”
I think the worst part is that Guerrero doesn’t look like he knows it’s gonna happen, hears it, and just stops to stare a hole through Eric Bischoff at the announce table. Bischoff and Ted DiBiase just laugh their asses off.
You know, I keep wondering why they’d go through the trouble of making a pay-per-view like this and not go far enough with it. You could’ve done it one of two ways, I think. The first would’ve been to play up how horrifically uncool and obnoxious all of this is, slide in a few legitimately cool WCW guys (like, uh, Sting?) and finally cement the nWo as not the cool anti-heroes, but jerks who need to get got. Or you could’ve had them try to play it straight and be a legitimate wrestling organization, and had the WCW guys “invade” from the crowd and ruin everything. Pull a Devil’s Rejects on it. Give the nWo a taste of their own medicine, instead of just sitting around in the crowd with your thumb pointed at the ground.
Best: Syxx Vs. Eddie Guerrero, Mostly
The best match on the show by a mile is the ladder match between Syxx and Eddie Guerrero for the United States Championship. It’s probably not as good as you remember it and certainly isn’t as good as the game-changing WWF stuff that preceded or followed it, but it at least sorta looks and feels like a wrestling match, and that’s f*ckin’ something.
I think it’s helped tremendously by the fact that Nick Patrick couldn’t be involved in the finish. One guy or the other had to physically climb a ladder and pull down a belt, there’s no way for Patrick to “delay” that or pour a bucket of quicksand over one side of the ladder or whatever. Guerrero ends up winning by hitting Syxx with the belt at the top of the ladder, then hopping down and grabbing it before Syxx.
It’s hurt, though, by the announce team’s weird need to remind you how great WWF’s recent ladder matches had been. “Scott Hall INVENTED the ladder match! Scott Hall’s ladder matches were so good! Oh you see this move Syxx is going for, Scott Hall did that! Hall taught him to do that, because Hall was in those really great ladder matches!” I think they talk about Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon more than they talk about Syxx or Eddie Guerrero.
Worst: Jeff Katz Dating Revolution
Between matches, the announce team sends it to TEEN RADIO HOST Jeff Katz. You may know him best as the guy who crowdfunded $100,000 from wrestling fans to film a battle royal. Katz has been tasked with interviewing the participants in the “Miss nWo Pageant” about whether they’d f*ck dudes from the nWo. Not a joke. The first question he asks is, “what does nWo going all the way mean to you,” and the woman’s response is to scream “fellatia!”
1. There is a 10-year old right behind you, lady
2. I’m going to assume that fellatia is the feminine version of fellatio?
3. WWE Network’s closed captioning says she says “Malaysia,” which is a way funnier answer
Most of the women can’t hear him because they’re on motorcycles on a stage in a wrestling arena directly next to a live band and he’s yelling into a microphone, so most of their answers are, “huh?” or “sure!” He’s got two responses: “OH YEAH I AM SO TURNED ON BY THIS,” and, “I’m not gonna say what I WANT to say!” It’s great if you pretend he’s the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo version of Bubba the Love Sponge.
Worst Ever: The Miss nWo Competition
So here’s the story: The nWo wanted to have a beauty pageant, but they’d only accept volunteers who were willing to pay their own way to get to the show. So instead of, I don’t know, models or female wrestlers or Miss Elizabeth or ANYTHING you’d expect, they get a gaggle of Iowa housewives and trailer park swingers without working ears or mouths.
For example, here’s a grain inspector who likes men in leather:
Here’s a bus driver who hates brats and looks like she just fell out of a Jackie Stallone workout video:
And here’s Large Marge from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure:
The winner via dirty things whispered into Eric Bischoff’s ear — seriously — is “Miss Becky,” a homemaker whose notable hobby is “cooking bratwurst and french fries.” Her prize is a crown, an upside-down sash, a bouquet of flowers Jeff Katz had to use his allowance to buy and, I sh*t you not, a graphic, deep French-kissing from Eric Bischoff.
So is she still a homemaker, or …
Have fun trying to figure out what the point of this was, beyond “Eric Bischoff trying to hook up with an ugly lady in Iowa before Tinder was a thing.” I’m not sure why we had to devote like 30 percent of the show to a bunch of confused Midwestern moms in chaps, but I’m not the millionaire in charge of a giant wrestling company.
Worst: Randy Anderson, The Voice Of The Voiceless
Oh lord, here’s the first shot fired in the worst storyline of 1997: Randy Anderson losing his job.
The Steiner Brothers are wrestling The Outsiders for the tag straps and Nick Patrick gets bumped. Rick Steiner hits a bulldog off the top rope onto Hall and pulls Scotty into a pin, but the ref’s down. As Steiner’s on the outside trying to revive Nick Patrick, referee Randy Anderson (dressed in a tucked-in turtleneck) jumps the rail, counts the three and awards the Steiners the championship.
Bischoff, of course, is beside himself. He promises to reverse that decision on Nitro, repeatedly insisting that the Steiners didn’t actually win anything and that everything you’d just seen was meaningless. He spends the remainder of the show going back to it, talking about how mad he is and how he can’t wait to strip the Steiners of the belts and reverse that decision. He’s telling the truth, too, because the very next Nitro opens — OPENS — with Randy Anderson getting fired, the Steiners being stripped of the belts and the Outsiders being tag champs.
So to put that into a proper context, they booked an exciting, fan-pleasing ending on a show full of disheartening bullsh*t only to IMMEDIATELY announce that it didn’t matter, constantly reminded you that it didn’t matter, then followed through with it not mattering.
Worst: The Ending You Expected
Speaking of not mattering, here’s the Hollywood Hogan vs. The Giant WCW title match we’ve been building to for like two months.
I don’t know if the Giant was ever paying attention when he was a member or the nWo or watched any of the show before his match, but for some reason he’s shocked when Nick Patrick won’t count his three, and when the nWo runs in to cause a No Contest. In the main event of a pay-per-view.
But yeah, Giant has Hogan beaten and Patrick’s arm cramps up before he can count three. Giant chokeslams him, which brings out everyone in the nWo (and nobody from WCW). Hogan attacks Giant with a powder-filled guitar and a balsa wood chair, then rips off Giant’s clothes (?) to spray-paint him. Seriously, look at this:
And that’s the show. That’s what we’ve been building to. The New Adventures of Robin Hood match without the commercial breaks and 100 percent more bare ass.
Now let’s never do Souled Out again.
Wait, there are THREE MORE??