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Please click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for October 2, 1995.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Googly Eyes
“Obviously that tarantula’s been watching his highlight films.” — Bobby Heenan
Worst: Ric Flair’s Stream Of Consciousness Denver Promo
To show that “anything can happen,” Ric Flair interrupts the announce team’s intro and steals Eric Bischoff’s headset to cut a promo on Arn Anderson. The problem is that he’s got nothing to say besides “Arn Anderson” and “we’re in Colorado,” so it ends up sounding like an improv group who heard “Denver” when they asked for a suggestion from the audience. To paraphrase:
[screaming] “DABBALAY! CAN YA HEAR ME? DABBALAY! IT’S GONNA BE A MILE HIGH NIGHT YOU’LL NEVER FORGET, ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH, WOO, DABBALAY!” [screaming intensifies] “COLORADO ROCKIES DABBALAY, ANDRES GALARRAGA. ANDRES GALARRAGA. ME. YOU. RIGHT THERE. ARGH BLARGH. IN RING. DENVER WRESTLE. WOO!” [throws down headset] [inaudible wooing]
Best: Lex Luger Puts On His Working Boots For A HIGH STAKES NITRO
Here’s how high the stakes were on these early Nitros: Lex Luger returned to WCW five weeks ago, was on the winning team in a War Games match, challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship and is now in a CAREER-THREATENING MATCH against one of his teammates from War Games in the OPENING MATCH of Nitro. It’s like watching Wrestling Society X, only with dramatic WrestleMania stipulations for everything instead of exploding piranha tanks.
Nobody thinks of Lex Luger as one of the great wrestlers of his time, but for a guy who could’ve coasted solely on the broadness of his chest, the guy could work a match. At one point Savage goes for a backslide. Luger tries to power out of it, but leverage isn’t on his side, so when he starts to slide backwards he sticks out his leg and hooks it under the middle rope. This is the kind of little touch I’d normally be praising a guy like Daniel Bryan for, but NOPE, it’s Lex Luger. It’s like everybody huddled around last week’s Kurasawa/Craig Pittman match and were like, “shit, we’ve at least got to be as good as THAT.”
Worst: Super Secret Giant Finishes
The finish of the match is as stereotypically WCW as they come: Savage accidentally whips Luger into referee Randy Anderson, causing him to have a 2001-style interplanetary freakout and lie on the mat for several minutes. With the ref knocked out, Savage decides it’s a good idea to head to the top rope, drop a big elbow on Luger and cover him, despite watching the referee go down in a heap like 20 seconds ago. 1995 Randy Savage might be one of the dumbest characters ever. Anyway, this fiasco allows The Giant to come to the ring and chokeslam Savage. Luger comes to a few moments later, Torture Racks an unconscious Savage and gets the win. The announce team tries to play up Luger not knowing that The Giant showed up, and yeah, it TOTALLY makes sense that Luger would crash into Pee-Wee Anderson, become unconscious, wake up to find a knocked-out Randy Savage with a SEVEN FOOT TALL GUY IN A CAVEMAN SINGLET walking up the ramp and be all, “yeah, I did this. With my WRESTLING.”
I’m sad that the match didn’t end with The Giant driving a monster truck into the ring, running over Savage with it and somehow getting away before the ref or Luger noticed.
Best: And Now, The Nitro Debut Of Two Of The Greatest Pro Wrestlers Of All Time
Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero.
Dean Malenko is almost impossible to explain without hurriedly pointing and saying “NO, LOOK, WATCH HIM, WATCH HOW HE MOVES.” Watching him wrestle was like watching a master ballerina. That sounds like an insult, but it isn’t. He’s so physically aware of himself that even his miscalculations feel like intentional decisions. His legs, arms, hands, feet, head … they all move together, as though he’s been programmed to do these ridiculous motions and make them real. Every person dancing their way through an X-Division match is doing a bad impression of Dean Malenko. He’s not the best wrestler who ever lived, but he moved better than any of them.
Eddie Guerrero is FIRE. He is a legacy of and a passion for pro wrestling balled up into a tight little ball, living inside the body of a man. He had a long career of taking ridiculous things — Hispanic guy in a USA jumpsuit, illiterate GED-needer, a guy who teamed with his worthless nephew to steal candy from babies, a guy who sets up ladder matches as paternity tests, etc. — and making them unforgettable. He was a master in the ring, but his true talent was making you believe what you were seeing. When you saw Eddie, you saw Eddie. You didn’t see a man wrestling, you saw a WRESTLER. He took the bubbling blood in his heart and raced it up into his eyes and out through his fingertips so you could see it. So you could know it.
Both men would have better matches (and had already HAD better matches, some of them against each other), but this was their Nitro debut. It was the first moment when a kid watching Nitro could point at the screen and say, “there’s the future of wrestling. That’s what I want to see.”
Please click through to the next page to learn how hard of a shit WCW took on this match.
Worst: How To Ruin An Amazing Wrestling Match In Three Easy Steps
1. WCW was great about bringing in young, exciting new talent. They were also TERRIFIED of audiences not being into it or paying attention, so they (in the case of Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko) sports-entertainmented all over it. The first step was having Disco Inferno’s music play and having the announcers go WAIT A MINUTE, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE EDDIE GUERRERO VS. DEAN MALENKO, WHAT’S THIS DISCO INFERNO DOING OUT HERE?? Disco just plays his music, walks out onto the stage and starts doing the one Saturday Night Fever dance he knows. They superimpose a disco ball over him. Heenan jokes about how the “Denver Rockies” are going to have Disco dance instead of playing the national anthem.
Eventually Eddie Guerrero shows up and shoos Disco away. Are you entertained, folks? Suffer through 90 seconds of this wrestling stuff and we’ll update you on HULK HOGAN.
2. That’s not a joke. That is the #1 rule of Nitro: when Hulk Hogan isn’t on-screen, the other characters should be asking, “hey, where’s Hulk Hogan?”
Guerrero and Malenko start killing it in the ring, and it’s too much for Bischoff to take. They start giving updates that Hulk Hogan’s limo is 100 METERS AWAY, 90 METERS, 80 METERS like they’re about to be attacked by the giant sea monster from Deep Rising. When it arrives, they do one of those horrible Nitro “split screens” that are 10% one screen, 10% a second screen and 80% FLAMING METAL NITRO LOGO. Jimmy Hart almost gets run over by the limo trying to warn Hogan to stay inside of it, and when Hogan pops out the production team’s just like, “f*ck it, it’s Hogan, EXTREME CLOSEUP.”
Hulk Hogan’s entire point here is “I’M NOT AFRAID OF A BIG STINKY GIANT,” but we devoted several updates, a split-screen cutaway and a FULLSCREEN CUTAWAY to it because Hogan is the most important person in the world. Meanwhile, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero are doing … something.
3. Here’s the most important part: the announce team. Eric Bischoff assumedly got these guys on the show in the first place and likes what they’re doing, but he’s driven by an obsession with Hulk Hogan and can’t prioritize anything else. Bobby Heenan is paid to say the most dismissive thing he can think of off the top of his head — there’s “not enough hair-pulling or eye-gouging” for him in the match — and Mongo is … well, Mongo is Mongo.
Now all I can picture is Mongo lying motionless on top of Debra, shouting LET ME TELL YA SOMETHING, GET GRANMAW OUT THE BEDROOM CAUSE I CAN ONLY THINK A ONE POSITION BABY AND THAT’S MISSIONARY.
Best: Mongo’s Grandma Comments Actually Pay Off
So it turns out Mongo’s constant mentioning of GRANMAWS is a LONG CON to get over a Hulk Hogan sneak attack.
Hogan shows up in a neck brace to explain how he could take the neck brace off right now and be totally fine, because weakness and humility are for suckers. He assures us that BIG STINKY GIANT and also AMERICA and MONSTER TRUCKS. He starts to take a victory lap around the ring and slap everybody’s hands, but WAIT JUST A MINUTE WHAT IS THIS, a granny who is built exactly like Kevin Sullivan throws powder in his face, jumps the rail and starts beating him to death with a cane. Mean Gene just keeps going WHAT IS THIS and trying to send it back to the announce team, and Mongo starts cackling to himself because “this right here” is what makes Nitro so exciting. Mongo loves the shit out of some grandmothers.
The rub is that it’s a Dungeon of Doom ploy, and The Giant comes out and breaks Hogan’s neck again. I don’t think a wrestling pay-per-view build has ever had such an unbelievable physical quotient. Think about it. Hulk Hogan’s got a match against The Giant and is supposed to lose the Heavyweight Championship to him, right? So they have Hogan get his NECK BROKEN TWICE. That’s not enough to make Hogan’s physically vulnerable to a 7-foot tall muscular 20-year old, so they set up a monster truck battle so Hogan can win something ridiculous before losing. That just grazes the surface of Halloween Havoc 95’s stupidity, which we’ll get to in the … Jesus, SEVERAL WEEKS remaining before the show. I’ve had to delete three paragraphs of angry explanation already.
Best/Worst: The Other Swerve In The Making
To catch you up on the Ric Flair/Arn Anderson beef, they have a MILE HIGH ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH ELEVATION JOHN DENVER regular match that ends in — you guessed it — disqualification. Brian Pillman runs down and jumps on Flair while he’s got Arn in the figure-four. I don’t want to, but I’m really going to have to recap Halloween Havoc to point out how false this entire MONTH of WCW programming is.
That said, babyface Flair in the vicinity of his prime is still weird. He comes off the top rope to the floor at one point, turns his wacky flip in the corner into an offensive move by pulling down the top rope when Arn charges at him and is basically fighting off two guys with chops and punches. Rowdy, Stone Cold Ric Flair is one of those things I kinda wish we could go back and explore. Who screams “2014 babyface” more than an aging millionaire who takes all the cheapshots and shortcuts he can and has spent over a decade being awful to everyone?
Best: WCW Management Is A Well-Oiled Machine
The Flair/Arn match ends in DQ, so by the time the commercial break is over, WCW management has signed a rematch inside a steel cage for next week. Spoiler alert: it ends with Mongo coming off the top of the cage with a chopblock. No, it doesn’t, but I really wish it did.