And now, please enjoy from the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for Sept. 16, 1996.
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about Fall Brawl ’96 featuring WAR GAMES: the match that is bed, bath, and beyond.
Rey Mysterio Jr. Rules, FYI
In case you weren’t aware.
Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio defends against SUPER CALO, a rap mascot from Mexico who wrestles in an attached hat and glasses and earned the shot by winning one match against the kinda-racist version of Pat Tanaka on Nitro.
It’s low on the list of great Mysterio title defenses, but notable for its finish, which is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Fall Brawl features War Games and you need two rings for that, so both are set up the entire show and matches happen entirely in one or the other. When it’s time to finish Calo, Mysterio springboards to the top rope and backflips over the second set of ropes, into the second ring. He then springboards back up to the top, hops the gap onto the ropes he started on, bounces off and swings through Calo’s legs for a hurricanrana. It’s AMAZING. It’s the kind of spot a blown-away teenage me told people about for like 10 years.
Chris Benoit Gave Chris Jericho A Great Idea For A Finisher
The other in-ring highlight is Benoit vs. Jericho, obviously, as they try to approximate the stuff they’d been doing in Japan a year prior. Early in the match, Benoit locks Jericho in an elevated crab and Jericho’s all, “oh man, this hurts, I should invent this.”
This was unofficially the show that set the standard for how we watched WCW for the next few years: The first 2/3 is full of dynamic, exciting sh*t and the last third and change is the nWo taking figurative and literal dumps on whatever and whomever happened between 1980 and 1995.
Juventud Guerrera Jobbed To The Steps
Oh, so that’s why they call it Fall Brawl.
WCW Just Let Paranoia F*ck Them
The big story of the night is Sting, who you may remember was replaced by a not-totally-convincing doppelgänger on the previous Nitro.
To recap, Sting had been the WCW’s franchise player for nearly a decade. He took over as the cool, young, child-friendly superhero when the Dusty Rhodes/Road Warriors era started to fade, and was the Hulk Hogan for kids like me who only got WWF via Saturday Night’s Main Event and bad Saturday morning cartoons. People spent most of the decade tricking him into being their friends just to turn on him. The worst of these were Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen, and Sting’s “best friend” Lex Luger. Even in the past year, the story had been that Luger was a secret heel scumbag who was just stringing Sting along until he could inevitably turn on him.
Sting was on Team WCW when Hogan turned his back on them. He wanted to be in War Games so badly that he petitioned his blood rival, Flair, to be on his team. Sting had always, always been trustworthy and noble. I mean, as noble as wrestlers get. Sting goes to Japan for a show, and while he’s gone, nobody remembers he’s in Japan on WCW’s dime and Luger gets tricked by Cobra in Sting makeup. Instead of anybody involved saying, “hey, let’s find out what’s going on,” they all IMMEDIATELY sell Sting out. The announcers are all, “Sting can STICK IT,” and even when Sting approaches Luger and the Horsemen on the War Games pre-show, they raise their fists to him and tell him they don’t trust him. It’s absurd. The one trustworthy guy in the company gets thrown under the bus for a devious plot my dad figured out by watching like 30 seconds of Nitro.
War Games is supposed to be Flair, Arn Anderson, Luger and Sting vs. the nWo team of Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and a mystery partner. That mystery partner turns out to be “Sting” (in quotes), and despite actual Sting being there earlier and this guy straight-up wrestling like a jobber pretending to be Sting, everyone buys it. The announce team talks about the franchise “going bad,” and how eternally disheartened they are by watching a suspiciously short Sting throw bad Stinger Splashes. It’s horrible.
When it’s time for WCW’s fourth man, Sting shows up. Everyone INSTANTLY pretend like they knew it all along. “THAT’s Sting! THAT’s Sting! I knew it!” Sting is the BADDEST MOTHERF*CKER ON THE PLANET here, single-handedly taking the four-man nWo team to the f*cking woodshed and leaving them all lying. When he’s done, Luger and Flair are like “YEAH, STING’S OUR MAN,” and he 100% rightfully tells them to go f*ck themselves.
That leaves Luger to get caught in a phony-bologna Scorpion Deathlock by Oscar Meyer-ass nWo Sting and a front facelock from submission specialist Hulk Hogan, and he loses. The nWo gets their next major victory, Sting is forever splintered from the trusting surfer hero he’d always been, Nitro must now feature the New World Order more heavily and it’s all downhill from here.
Or uphill, depending on how you look at it.
And now, the Best and Worst of Nitro for Sept. 16, 1996.
Best: Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera, Or
Worst: Let’s Watch nWo Fans Stand Around Instead Of The Finish To Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera
So, the nWo won War Games. What does that mean for WCW?
It means the New World Order is now the only important thing that can happen, period, and we’re willing to completely ignore matches and match finishes to wander off and film nWo logos. They don’t even have to be on the chest of someone important! Take for example this week’s opener, in which Rey and Juvi (two of the best performers on the show, assuming there aren’t any steps around) go nuts for 10 minutes. You want to see that, right? What if I told you the finish is Rey countering a TOP ROPE POWERBOMB at the last second with a beautiful headscissors and getting a miraculous three?
What if I told you we almost missed it, because the announce team “got word” that nWo fans were celebrating in the parking lot. nWo fans. Between a big nearfall and the finish, we for real go out into the parking lot to see a DiBiase (Sr.) Posse Party of wrestling fans in nWo shirts holding up signs that say “nWo” and chanting “nWo.” That’s it. It’s wrestling fans standing on a truck.
If I told you they did this again, on the same show, would you be surprised? What if they did it twice in the first 20 minutes?
Worst: Let’s STILL Watch nWo Fans Instead Of Match Finishes
This is the world we live in now.
Match two is Diamond Dallas Page vs. Ice Train. Page has started to become an accidental fan favorite thanks to the Diamond Cutter, which he used at Fall Brawl to defeat Chavo Guerrero. Ice Train got a win at the show, too, submitting his old tag-team partner Scott Norton with a full nelson. This should be good, right?
The finish is the announce team getting word that there’s “commotion” by the merchandise stand. We leave the match in its final moments to watch some nWo fans hold up signs that say “who wants this crap?” while other nWo fans wrap them in caution tape. The commentary goes out, we hear the bell and we just stay on the fans. Can you imagine if real sports worked like this? Like, it’s two out in the bottom of the 9th, but whoops, Vin Scully just heard about a RUCKUS at the pretzel stand. And then every camera goes to the pretzel stand, where two fans are cheering about how much they love pretzels. And that’s it.
The good news here, at least, is that they missed one of the dumbest Nitro finishes ever, and by “ever” I mean “outside of a Harlem Heat match.” Teddy Long has a towel around his neck, because I guess you’ve got to freshly shower before you can put on a Steve Harvey suit and manage the Ice Train. Train has Page in a full nelson, so Teddy gets up on the ring apron to … cheerlead? I’m not even sure. Page manages to grab the towel from Teddy and drop it, causing Nick Patrick to assume that Long “threw in the towel” for Train. You’d assume that Patrick would have the wherewithal to know “throwing in the towel” only works as a surrender gesture if a guy’s losing and can’t or won’t surrender himself, but nope!
Maybe the production guys missed the finish on purpose, out of protest.
Supplemental Best: Ice Train’s Entrance Theme
It’s so good. If I ever get to DJ a party, I’m opening and closing with it, and playing it on loop in-between.
Best: Glacier Ruins His Debut Before It Happens
We finally made it to the Iceworks Factory!
Before Glacier actually makes his Nitro debut, though, we get one final stall tactic: a video explaining who he is, where he comes from, why he likes doing martial arts and why he calls himself “Glacier.” It’s … amazing, really, but also impossibly anti-climactic, because we out the guy as a gym teacher from rural Georgia before he can even throw a kick. It also kinda sounds like he didn’t know what to say and was just winging it. “A glacier is what’s known as a mass of moving ice.” THAT’S WHAT I DO TO MY OPPONENTS. I MOVE TOWARD THEM.
He explains that his helmet and shoulder pads are an homage to great warriors over the centuries — seriously — and that the symbol on his back is “made into an ancient Japanese face of evil.” He went to Japan and saw “all the great Japanese wrestlers,” met a “sensei” (Japanese for “teacher,” as he helpfully explains) and learned how to combine puroresu with martial arts, which nobody has EVER done before. Actual, verbatim quote: “He took a bunch of styles, combined the best of those styles, and came up with an awesome style that was passed along to me.” I want to see a kung fu movie where a guy’s like, “you should back down! I know A BUNCH OF STYLES.”
Oh, and he ends it with his catchphrase: “Be cool.”
I’m so mad they didn’t have him ride Ice Train to the ring.
Best: Konnan Is Trying To Kill The Stars Of Mexico
Konnan’s in that weird period between being a colorful Ninja Turtle and being the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas guy in the New World Order, so he’s not sure where to go. He looks like the Konnan we remember most, but he’s still wrestling these brutal, accidentally violent matches against luchadores in defense of the “Mexican Heavyweight Title.”*
At Fall Brawl, he has a great match with Juventud (again, ignoring the steps). He follows that up with another great one against Super Calo, and they’re both kinda built around Konnan not giving a f*ck and hitting these dudes as hard as possible. He’ll start off with a powerbomb and just give up in the middle and throw them at the ground. That screencap is Super Calo landing on his ear off a clothesline and having his entire body kinda collapse in on itself. Konnan was not playing.
In retrospect, I don’t think anyone was working as hard as Super Calo. That guy showed up and knew he wasn’t Rey Mysterio, so he was like, “f*ck it, I’m on TV for 5 minutes, I’m gonna throw missile dropkicks to the outside and dive head-first at the floor. THEN they’ll notice me!” It … didn’t really work, but 19 years later I’m watching this and saying, “damn, GET IT Super Calo,” so small victories.
*Fun fact: The belt Konnan held that WCW called the Mexican Heavyweight Title” actually the AAA Americas Heavyweight Championship. It was supposed to be AAA’s top championship, but Konnan took the belt with him when he went to work for WCW full-time and kept it until 2004. Note that I didn’t say “defended it” until 2004. Kept it. It was vacated in October of ’96, but he didn’t actually give it back until August of ’04. Sangre Chicana won a tournament to become the new champion, then left the promotion and took the title with him.
Worst: Here Comes The Brad Armstrong vs. Hugh Morrus Feud You Were Dying To See
Brad Armstrong and Mr. Jelly Donut Man Hugh Morrus send us into hour two with exactly the kind of barn-burner you’d expect from Brad Armstrong and Hugh Morrus. Morrus hits the No Laughing Matter for what’s going to be the win, but he does that nonchalant cover that only ever leads to crucifix pin counters and loses. Has anybody gone for a pin like that and gotten it?
If you’re wondering where this match story went, go to your bathroom and stare down into your toilet for a few minutes. Don’t even flush it, just stare at the motionless toilet water.
Worst: Macho Man Is Helplessly Flailing
Macho Man Randy Savage has the next shot at the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and gets Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc, but he’s not actually doing anything. He kinda-sorta feuded with the Dungeon of Doom and The Giant, but The British Bulldog and Sean Waltman couldn’t show up in time to be the fifth man, so WCW inserted the Giant and left Savage hanging. At Fall Brawl he got beaten up by the nWo and got some surprise sympathy/protection from Miss Elizabeth, leading to her getting “NWO” spray-painted down the back of her dress.
On Nitro, Miss Elizabeth is scared of the nWo and won’t go out for her match with the Horsemen, but also seemingly has nothing to do with Savage. Savage gets fed to Scott Norton, who beats him up for like 6 minutes until Savage “goes crazy” and attacks him with a chair. If you’re rehabbing Savage so he looks good going into Halloween Havoc, is a DQ loss to Scott Norton a good idea? Norton JUST lost a match to Ice Train, who lost earlier in the night via an off-screen towel finish.
Spoiler alert for the ending to every non-Diamond Dallas Page WCW story from 10/96 until the company dies: “The guy who hates the nWo joins the nWo.”
Best: Glacier Bae
For best results, play this in the background while you read.
THE HOMIE GLACIER finally makes his Nitro debut against Big Bubba, seeking revenge for being called “karate man” for a few weeks. He uses a “bunch of styles,” which includes the ancient Chinese art of TOTAL NO-SELLING, and beats Bubba with the most karate. So much karate he could be an entire MAN of it.
I’ve read that the blue light and snow effects were to suggest that Glacier was extra sensitive to light — peep that Kane eyeball he’s got going on — and that his ill-defined karate ice powers wouldn’t work under the normal lights. This should be cheating, I guess, but here he is wrestling in a Samurai Fiction homage. If we’re being honest, the popularity of Mortal Kombat has nothing to do with Glacier … Glacier exists because Eric Bischoff wanted to call karate moves. He wanted pro wrestling to be WMAC Masters, basically. I wonder what he thinks about Lucha Underground? That show’s just lucha libre + WMAC Masters. AKA the f*cking BEST.
I want to go back in time and nurture the poor precious baby Glacier gimmick, and have the Blood Runs Cold gang feud for a while until they realize they have to come together and defeat the New World Order with MYSTICAL KARA-TAY. Get the goober version of the Dungeon of Doom involved. Why shouldn’t Glacier be fighting a 7-foot-tall Himalayan ice mummy? Would his powers even work?? Does ice cancel out ice? Do wrestling superheroes work like Pokémon? I just want Hogan trying the Fingerpoke of Doom on Glacier and yelling, “AAH, IT’S NOT HOT!!”
Best: Sting Literally Turns His Back On WCW
And now, the last (stateside) appearance of “surfer” Sting.
Sting shows up to address what happened at Fall Brawl, and gets straight to the point. He’s mad that WCW didn’t trust him, and threw him under the Lex Express at the first sign of trouble. Keep in mind that Sting’s been teaming with heel-turn-ass Lex Luger for a year, had Jimmy Hart randomly interfere and/or manage him out of the blue because of Lex’s bullsh*t, dealt with the crazy-ass Macho Man trying to kill people in real life for stealing his Dial M For Monkey voiceover money, watched the Four Horsemen swerve a football player just to add a different, sh*ttier football player to their team and sat through months of Hulk Hogan dressing like the f*cking Phantom of the Opera and threatening to kill people with broadswords because he didn’t think he had enough moral support. Everyone BUT Sting had turned, and Sting just chilled and did his job. A team of company-invading bad guys says Sting’s evil, so what, everyone automatically believes them? Even when Sting says he’s innocent? That’s f*cked.
The best part of the entire situation is this promo, in which Sting tells the crowd he loves and appreciates them, but that he’s professionally becoming a “free agent.” He keeps his back turned to the hard cam the entire time, which is only slightly ruined by the announce team explaining it too many times. Sting promises he’ll stick around and pop in from time to time when we least expect it, and he absolutely keeps that promise.
RIP surfer Sting. You were wrestling’s final, true hero. Now let’s settle in for 10 years of everyone giving the finger and screaming about how we should suck their dicks, followed by some deaths and murders, followed by 10 years of everyone walking on eggshells because we don’t want more deaths or murders.
Worst: Sean Waltman Is Here, And Surprise, He’s In The nWo
The 1-2-3 Kid show up in the crowd early in the episode, and Mike Tenay asks him why he’s here. He claims he’s here to see the show, and asks Tenay what happened at Fall Brawl, claiming he was on a plane back from Japan. Tenay’s like YOU KNOW VERY WELL WHAT HAPPENED YOUNG MAN, because he’s a 1,000-year old turtle, and the Kid’s all, “aw man, that sucks.”
About an hour later, he stands up with a comically large remote-control device and triggers it, causing nWo propaganda flyers to fall from the ceiling. Man, talk about a thing you couldn’t do at a wrestling show today. The entire arena’d sh*t their pants in fear.
Worst: One Last Time, Let’s Watch The nWo Hang Out Instead Of The Match In Progress
The final two matches on the show are garbage. Literally. WCW fans have just learned that they can throw trash into the ring at stuff they don’t like. WCW dumped a bunch of nWo flyers on them. What do you think happens?
Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are supposed to be wrestling Chris Jericho and Marcus Alexander Bagwell, but you’d never know it from all the distractions. First, Liz doesn’t want to come to the ring because she’s afraid of the nWo. Then, we abandon the match in the middle to visit the parking lot, where the nWo’s thanking Waltman, now officially known as “Syxx,” for helping them paper. He’s the seventh man, for the record. The actual wrestling we see is everyone going through the motions under a mountain of crumpled-up paper balls while the announce team argues amongst themselves about how bad the nWo’s gonna drag them. It’s not great.
That’s followed by an even WORSE effort.
Lex Luger and the Horsemen turned their backs on Sting, the stalwart company franchise hero, causing him to walk out and become a free agent. They should all be in the same boat, right? Instead, Luger gets a handicap match against Chris Benoit and Mongo built around Sting “abandoning” him, which he EASILY WINS. He’s got Benoit up in a Torture Rack for the submission when the other Horsemen interfere, and Bischoff gets all solemn about how Luger’s had to face heel factions by himself on back-to-back nights. You guys … you guys are missing a pretty big point of your own story. Of course, we once again go back to the nWo limo to listen to Hogan laugh about how he can get everyone backstage passes.
Sting should’ve just shown up to next week’s show with a flame thrower and torched the entire operation.