Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Sting saved Diamond Dallas Page from an nWo beatdown by attaching his vertical maneuvering equipment to an unconscious Page and riding him to the ceiling. Also on the show, La Parka almost died twice, a fan in a pig mask rose from Alex Wright’s junk, and Lex Luger defeated Hollywood Hogan, only to be instantly beaten back tenfold.
Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. If you don’t tell them how much you like these, nobody’s going to read them. And you know what’s so great about this bash? It’s American.
And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Great American Bash for June 15, 1997.
Best: Wrestling Is Respect
The Bash opens with Ultimo Dragon and Psicosis in a “respect match.” If you’re wondering what that is, so am I, and I just watched the entire thing. It’s sort of like how an indie show will put EXHIBITION MATCH or FIRST TIME EVER over a singles match with no stipulation to make it seem more important. The good news is that (1) it’s just over 14 minutes of Psicosis vs. Ultimo Dragon in 1997, and (2) the crowd is HOT.
The first two matches on the Bash are very “house show,” in that they aren’t especially interesting or crazy, but the wrestlers are focusing more on the timing of things and playing to the crowd than usual. You’d expect Psico vs. Dragon in an opener to be balls-to-the-walls bonkers, but it’s honestly really well-paced and deliberate, with the big moments — Psico’s guillotine leg drop to the apron, Psico’s dive over the corner to the floor and Dragon countering a moonsault with a dropkick to the dick — spread out and earned.
And yes, you read, “countered a moonsault with a dropkick to the dick.”
If he’d tried to pull that off on Alex Wright he would’ve broken both of his ankles. Or the first two rows would’ve been covered in loose sausage like it’d gotten Sledge-o-matic’d at a Gallagher show. Also, if Psicosis gets kicked in the balls, is he being hypno-toed?
Dragon wins with a Dragon Sleeper after Sonny Onoo accidentally kicks Psicosis, because Sonny Onoo absolutely cannot get his shit together. At least nobody vomited blood all over him this week.
Worst: Stay Off The Internet, Chris Benoit
“AOL user Chavo316 writes, ‘do you think you’ll go into the Hall of Fame?'”
“I’d better! I’ll kill someone if I don’t go in!”
Best/Worst: Harlem Heat Get Virgilbagged
The second match on the card is the hotly disputed number-one contender match between the Steiner Brothers and Members of Harlem Heat. It’s another house show style match, in which Stevie Ray apparently was like, “how many times can I hit Scott Steiner in the face as hard as possible before he realizes I’m doing it on purpose and I’m not just bad at wrestling?” At one point dude throws a big boot and Steiner splats backwards and slides across the remainder of the ring. If I hadn’t heard Scotty talk before this, I would’ve pointed at this as the match that gave him brain damage.
It’s a lot of fun until Vincent shows up, which is also how I describe both Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ album and Final Fantasy VII. Vincent — aka Virgil, for anyone who hasn’t been following the passive-aggressive name game — comes down to the ring and elbow drops Booker in the face. That causes a DQ, and makes Harlem Heat the number one contenders. After the match, Vince explains why he did what he did by making black power fists at them.
I don’t want to spoil it for you too much, but everything gets reversed on the next Nitro and the story ends before Savio Vega and Crush can show up, or whatever. It’s pretty hilarious looking back that the Outsiders were so disinterested in doing anything that WCW ran infinite “number-one contender” matches and kept finding reasons to have to wait a few weeks and re-do them.
Worst: The Dungeon Of Doom Continues To Slowly Explode
If Virgil showing up and ruining a fun tag team match killed the crowd, Konnan vs. Hugh Morrus dug up the grave and hit No Laughing Matter on the corpses. I’m not sure I can say this as a guy who was live in the crowd for both Kennel From Hell and the every-man-for-himself War Games, but this is among the worst pay-per-view matches you’ll ever see. It’s like watching paint dry on a fist that’s punching you.
Both guys are sweating and panting like they’re 58 minutes into a Broadway like 5 minutes in, and the crowd that was so hot for STEVIE RAY TRANSITIONAL STRIKES is chanting “boring.” Konnan wins after knocking Hugh off the top rope, hitting him with the worst German suplex you can throw without technically doing something else, and renders him unconscious with the Tequila Sunrise. Only he can barely get Hugh’s leg up, so he’s just kinda pulling on it. Calling this a pile is an insult to actual discarded dog shit.
Worst: Public Enemy Delivers The Hugh Morrus Vs. Konnan Of Promos
Public Enemy are my favorite wrestlers.
Best: Mike Tenay Reads His Glacier Fan-Fiction
Up next is Glacier vs. Wrath, with Mortis handcuffed to the ring post in cuffs with a long chain that make it still pretty easy for him to interfere if Glacier comes anywhere near that corner. This is taking the long way around to set up one of the best tag matches of the year at Bash at the Beach — not a joke — and ends with Mortis and Wrath handcuffing Glacier to the ring and beating him up.
The best thing here, though, is Mike Tenay deciding that this match is when he should reveal everything he’s learned slash made up about the Blood Runs Cold storyline. We learn that James Vandenberg is the curator for the “Museum of Medical Abnormalities” — maybe he wants Glacier’s helmet to cover up someone’s abnormal head? — and that Mortis is a former pro wrestler (and now skeleton) who was banned from wrestling for being too violent and met up/became rivals with Glacier while pit-fighting in Taiwan. Man, one day I’m going to write the novelization of Blood Runs Cold and it’s going to be the most popular thing ever.
Glacier wins after hitting Wrath in the face with a chain Mortis threw in the ring, then hitting a Cryonic Kick the cameras completely miss. The chain becomes important later, because that Bash tag is really good.
Worst: Madusa Goes Out With A Whimper
After throwing the WWF Women’s Championship in the garbage, declaring herself the face of WCW women’s wrestling and spending a year getting into no angle more interesting than being Colonel Parker’s mistress, Madusa finally gets a one-on-one shot against women’s champ Akira Hokuto. The stipulation is that if Madusa loses, she’ll be forced to retire.
Usually, this is a stipulation that makes a babyface feel like their back is against the wall, and they fight against it and are able to triumph and score a big win. In WCW, where nothing is happy, not even for a second, the match starts like this:
… continues with Madusa having her knee injured, and ends with Hokuto pinning her clean. Honestly it’s a lot like the Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker match from WrestleMania 33, down to the, “my spirit is willing but my body can’t go anymore,” on the smallest possible scale. Commentary spends a lot of the match talking about how Madusa wants to be a boxer, so I guess that’s what she was leaving to do?
After the match, Mean Gene goes full heel as she’s being helped away from the ring sobbing, telling her that her career is, “finished, toast, over.” It’s such a dick move that the crowd starts chanting “leave her alone.” Tony says he doesn’t blame them. Gene is all, “Leave her alone? Listen to this chant from these people here at ringside tonight. “THIS YOUNG LADY IS HURT.” Damn, Gene.
Madusa wouldn’t return to WCW for two years. If you’re wondering if things got better for her then, her final WCW run consisted of (1) being one of Macho Man’s three valets, (2) feuding with and being managed by a Nitro Girl, (3) feuding with a writer dressed like a Jim Ross over the Cruiserweight Championship, and (4) falling off a scaffold.
You deserved better, Madusa. See you in a couple of years.
Oh, and a fun note: despite winning the match and being WCW Women’s Champion, this is the last time Akira Hokuto appears on WCW TV or the Women’s Championship is mentioned. Meaning that, yes, both women somehow lost the retirement match.
Best: Meng In The Grip Of Death
For the longest time, Meng vs. Chris Benoit in a Death Match at this Great American Bash was one of my favorite Chris Benoit matches. You’ll read reviews of it that put it in the two-star range, but nuts to stars. This is the match that convinced me that in addition to being a great wrestler and a guy who occasionally gets his head smashed in bathroom stalls, Benoit would do ANYTHING to win a wrestling match. And that he was smart and vicious enough to pull it off.
The match starts — starts — with Benoit diving through the ropes onto Meng as he’s walking to the ring. From there, Benoit just starts spamming finishers, hitting the headbutt and locking in the Crossface as soon as he can. He knows Meng will beat the shit out of him if he gets to his feet, so what else can he do? It’s all or nothing. There’s a great moment early on when Benoit tries to get Meng in a figure-four, Meng reaches up to block it, and Benoit grabs that arm and transitions into another Crossface. Love it.
And, of course, it’s Benoit vs. Meng. That means every time they aren’t on the mat, Meng is like, headkicking Benoit as hard as possible and turning him into an inanimate object. It really feels like Benoit’s in there fighting for his life. The match culminates in Benoit getting Meng in another Crossface and absolutely refusing to let go, no matter what happens. Meng has to crawl all the way across the ring to get to the ropes, and riiiiight when he’s about to reach it with the tip of his finger, he gives out.
Meng stays in that shit for like, two minutes. It’s so effective that the match ends with Meng AND Benoit being taken off on stretchers. That’s how into the Crossface Benoit was.
Super underrated match, and one of my favorites of the year. If you’ve never seen it, check it out.
Best: As The Halliburton Turns
A year ago at the 1996 Great American Bash, Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael turned on his tag team partner Kevin Greene for a metal briefcase full of money and membership in the Four Horsemen. A year later, after months of Greene being friends with Ric Flair and pretending nothing happened, the one-on-one grudge match happens. And, as you might have guessed, it features a Shakespearean ending in which Mongo loses to Greene when his tag team partner, Jeff Jarrett, hits him in the head with a metal briefcase.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, WCW is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man losing a match diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the Halliburton tolls; it tolls for thee.
Anyway, the highlight of this is Kevin Greene’s old mom hitting Mongo in the face with her purse.
CALL THE DQ, REF.
Like the Reggie White match at Slamboree and all of Kevin Grenee’s WCW matches, this one is surprisingly watchable and nowhere near as bad as it should be. Mongo in 1997 was kind of a sports-entertainment savant when he wasn’t having to book everything around a briefcase and how into fucking other dudes his wife was, so he was able to hold these long, one-on-one pay-per-view matches against novice wrestlers together and make something fun out of them with very little experience of his own. I don’t think he’s ever gotten the proper credit for that.
Worst: Who’s Ready For That Ric Flair Vs. Roddy Piper Feud
So, here’s what happens. Flair and Piper are challenging the Outsiders for the Tag Team Championship, and this combination of wrestlers means a big boot is the closest thing you’re gonna get to a “hold” the entire match. It’s mostly just Piper as the face-in-peril, in there with his K-2SO body throwing overhead jabs and eye-pokes.
The story of the match is that Syxx won’t stop interfering, so Flair — who already has a hate-on for Syxx — chops him to the back. Flair never returns, leaving Piper out there on his own to catch a beatdown. The Outsiders put him away and win the match, and Piper now has reason to believe that Flair abandoned him. This would somehow turn Flair heel, despite pretty much every other episode of Nitro being Flair fighting by himself while Piper either farts around in the ring not paying attention or being completely absent.
The Outsiders don’t defend the belts on pay-per-view again until August. After that, we don’t see a Tag Team Championship match on pay-per-view until February. They don’t actually lose them until May of 1998, when one turns on the other because of nWo subdivision allegiances. And the team that beats them doesn’t keep the belts because of them is in the nWo and one of them isn’t, so they have a singles match to determine the Tag Team Champions. Suddenly, Rowdy Roddy Piper doesn’t seem like the worst part of this.
Best/Worst: Savage/DDP II
Or, “Diamond Dallas Page and Macho Man Randy Savage try to do a humane, main-event version of Chris Benoit vs. Kevin Sullivan.” This one starts with Page jumping Savage from behind during his Michael Buffer entrance, builds until they’re piledriving referees and slamming each other through novelty picnic tables near the stage, and ends with an nWo run-in. So, you know, your standard match.
It’s not as good of a match as their Spring Stampede main, but it’s worth it for the novelty. It’s also worth watching for the finish, in which Diamond Dallas Page gets brutally concussed by Savage on the flying elbow. We talked to Page before his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame this year — look for that on With Spandex soon — and he told us the last thing he remembers is the noise of Savage leaving the buckles. After that, nothing but black.
If you go back and watch it, you can see him doing an Undertaker sit-up right before the show goes off the air. Apparently after that, he rolled out of the ring, no-sold the finish, gave everyone the finger and walked to the back. It wasn’t until he was walking around backstage with Kimberly after the match that he came to, and realized he’d pissed everyone off. It took a giant knot growing on his face before the next show for Savage to believe he’d actually gotten obliterated.
Next Week (or, Tomorrow) On Nitro:
- Harlem Heat is not the number one contenders, whoops, so we’re gonna have to do another match to see who is
- Mean Gene continues his one-man smear campaign against Madusa
- Super Calo returns and almost kills someone again
- Dennis Rodman wrestles*!