Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Eric Bischoff was revealed to be the “piece of sh*t” behind the New World Order, which compelled Rowdy Roddy Piper to confront him. More on that in a minute.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. If you want to watch World War 3 1996 — the first thing I watched when I got the Network, oddly — you can do that here. You can catch up with all the previous episodes on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page.
Up first, let’s look at our nation’s second third World War.
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about World War 3 1996, aka “World War 31,996,” aka “World War 4.”
Hulk Hogan Spray-painted A Dude’s Hip Replacement Surgery Scar
Let’s recap the Hulk Hogan/Roddy Piper feud as we trudge through this filler pay-per-view and get to Starrcade.
Back in the 1980s — a decade ago, in 1996 — Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper were blood rivals. Not much of an accomplishment, considering that Piper spent the mid-80s heeling on everyone from Mr. T to The Goonies, but the feud spilled over into a Saturday morning cartoon so it was serious business. Eventually the “Rock n’ Wrestling” era ended and the two went their separate ways. Piper went to Hollywood to become a movie star. Hogan tried to do the same but ended up on TV shows about spy boats, so he kept one foot in the wrestling game and thrilled us with Doomsday Cages and rooftop monster truck sumo battle mummy murder fights.
In 1996, Hogan decided to embrace evil, buy half a box of Just For Men beard color and lord over the wrestling world with a gang of sarcastic, monochromatic WWF stars. WCW had already blown their load on Hogan vs. Macho Man and they’d done Hogan vs. Flair like 60,000 times between 94 and 96, so they had to go back 11 years and pull another dread Hogan rival from the mothballs. Enter: Rowdy Roddy Piper. The only problem? Piper was already in his mid-40s and had had hip replacement surgery. WCW’s plan? Point it out to everybody.
Piper showed up to insult Hogan at Halloween Havoc, but didn’t actually have plans to wrestle him, so …? Eric Bischoff pretended to try to sign the match, but he was secretly working with the nWo and made up a bunch of bullsh*t stories to keep fans satiated. Piper found out about this and showed up to confront him, and after Hogan called him a coward a few times and got his posse to rough Piper up a little, Piper agreed to sign a contract. That contract signing was at World War 3 and was basically the same scene, plus Hogan spray-painting “nWo” on Piper’s hip surgery scar.” It’s equal parts “Piper’s a great underdog and I can’t wait to see him whip Hogan’s ass” and “why are these old weirdos being so mean to each other?”
By the way, the match they signed for is non-title. And it’s gonna main event WCW’s WrestleMania. GET HYPE.
It Took Chris Jericho 8 Minutes To Beat Up Nick Patrick
World War 31,996 isn’t terrible, but it’s seriously just filler. There’s some good stuff — Ultimo Dragon obliterates Rey Mysterio in the opener, Dean Malenko wrestled Psicosis, and Sherri Martel beat up the French Foreign Legion version of Col. Robert Parker — but none of it really matters. It was the “WWE Network live special” of 1996 WCW pay-per-views. The only real storyline development outside of Piper/Hogan was Chris Jericho wrestling Nick Patrick with one arm tied behind his back, and taking way too long to get the job done.
Looking back, this match is where both characters kinda jumped the shark. Patrick went from a secretly hilarious Kenny Powers referee on the take to full-blown goofy villain, which wasn’t the right call. Chris Jericho went from a rising young star to a guy out here getting knocked on his ass by forearms FROM THE REFEREE. He wins, and he’s got a handicap, but I remember watching as a teen and thinking he just kinda looked like a dork. Imagine Nick Patrick vs. Chris Benoit with one of Benoit’s arms tied behind his back. He’d just chop him until he was one of those smoldering ash piles from Fallout.
Spoiler alert: Jericho gets it together, but he has to go rudo to do it.
The Giant Won, But It’s Not Going To End Well For Him
If you remember 1995’s World War 3, all the same complaints apply.
1. A 60-man battle royal sounds great on paper, but in practice is almost impossible to follow
2. The setup of a 3-ring, 60-man battle royal means WCW’s doing a three-way split screen with three announce teams, which is even more of a nightmare than it sounds
3. WCW’s split-screens are hard enough to see when there are two screens (because of all the fire and gun metal), so three is unbearable
4. If you can’t see anything in the battle royal or tell where anyone is, there’s no drama. The only part of any World War 3 match that matters is when they’re down to 5 or 6 people in ring 3. You could’ve just done, say, a 30-man staggered-entry battle royal and had a time and place to tell all your stories. This is one of the only places I’m gonna come out and say WWF was better than WCW. That hurts just typing it.
Lex Luger ends up in ring 3 with like half the nWo and goes nuclear, eliminating almost everyone. He gets Nash up in the Torture Rack in the closing moments, so The Giant stumbles over and shoves them both over the top rope to win the match. That sets up Giant for a title match at what would become the first “Souled Out” event, and continues our sneaking suspicion that The Giant was a means to an end for the nWo and never really part of the crew. It doesn’t end well for him.
And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for November 25, 1996.
Worst: Lex Luger Is Being Sting Stupid
On last week’s episode of Nitro, Sting showed up and handed Lex Luger a baseball bat. What we didn’t know at the time is that Sting put his gullible stupid Sting germs all over the bat, and now Lex Luger’s making all the terrible decisions Sting might.
This week begins a tournament to crown a new United States Champion, as Ric Flair’s been officially stripped due to injury and The Giant has a world title shot, so he’s not gonna drag the U.S. belt around. Luger faces Arn Anderson in round one, and the finish is ultra ridiculous: Luger gets obsessed with Torture Racking Arn, so he puts him in it outside of the ring. The referee is like, “hey, get back in the ring with that” and even tries to forcibly push Luger back toward the ring, but nope, he’s just hopping in place and grunting away. Eventually the ref has to count them out. Not only has Lex chosen to take a count-out and get both him AND his opponent eliminated from a title tournament, he chose not to win the match when you could literally walk back to the ring without breaking the hold. It’s not like he had a figure-four on and would have to Human Centipede his ass down the ramp to beat the count.
Best/Worst: WCW Never Figured Out Their Problem
Looking back, it’s easy to see why everyone liked the nWo. WCW was just … ill. Not cool ill, actually ill.
When Hulk Hogan responded to a minor professional setback by dressing up like the Phantom of the Opera and hanging out in a graveyard with a broadsword ordering the for-real execution of his co-workers, nobody batted an eye. When he turned on WCW and they couldn’t deny it, I think it gave everyone in the company a complex. The nWo dressed up Cobra as the fakest possible Sting, and everyone including Sting’s BEST FRIEND were like, “that’s the real Sting.” Even when Sting showed up and was like, “I was in Japan, this is a documented thing, WCW sent me over there,” everyone was like NO, YOU’RE NWO 4 LIFE, WE SAW A SHORTER LESS-IN-SHAPE YOU GET OUT OF AN NWO LIMO IN THE RAIN. That forced Sting into free agency and emo hiatus, and every time he shows up, everyone’s like, “oh no, this means he’s DEFINITELY in the nWo!!” It’s dumb.
DDP’s getting the same treatment. The nWo offered him a spot and he told them no. They offered him the spot again, and again he told them no. Now after two denials, Mean Gene is pulling him aside after a match with the Disco Inferno and being all, “hey Page, stop lying, you KNOW you’re in the nWo. You were friends with them once! YOU’RE GOING TO STAB US IN OUR BACKS.” Page could wear a shirt with “NWO” on the front with the Ghostbusters “no ghosts” circle around it and Gene would be like, “be straight with me, you’re a f*cking liar, right?”
Best: Marcus Bagwell Realizes He’s The Stuff, And Of Scotty Riggs He’s Had Enough
On the same episode, Eric Bischoff shows up with the entire gang and announces that everyone on the roster has 30 days to convert their WCW contracts to nWo contracts, or else. When the head of the company is getting 10 minutes in the middle of the show to demand everyone’s allegiance, do you really need to be up DDP and Sting’s asses about being super secret spies?
Anyway, this leads to one of the most refreshing heel turns ever: The American Males show up, and Marcus Alexander Bagwell just openly sides with the nWo. He’s like, “my tag team career has been in shambles lately and we keep f*cking up, so I see the writing on the wall. I’m gonna be friends with these guys who are clearly running the company and beating up anyone who doesn’t like it. Remember when they beat me up at Disney? Yeah, not happening again. See you never, Scotty Riggs.” Scotty Riggs is just standing there like a schmuck, so the nWo beats him up. Bagwell is now officially “the stuff,” and somewhere at lonely boardwalk kiosk, an expert in airbrushing top-hats just got a little extra spring in his step.
Best: Steiner Math
Those Steiner Brothers were never very good at math, were they? Also, hey Rick, no spoilers but you should probably check your numbers.
Worst: But No, WCW Never Figured Out Their Problem
So, as mentioned, allegiance to WCW means (1) constantly saying you’re “WCW,” which was vague as hell before the boss of WCW revealed himself as also the boss of the New World Order, and (2) assuming everyone who doesn’t constantly say they’re WCW is a lying, backstabbing traitor. Was 1996 pro wrestling a weird statement on McCarthyism or something?
We’ve seen this play out multiple times already. Sting left WCW because nobody trusted him, so he decided to hang out in the rafters and be a free agent. A free agent of JUSTICE. Jeff Jarrett called him a traitor, so he waltzed into the ring and Scorpion Death Dropped Jarrett to death. Jarrett cut another promo where he’s like, “no, seriously, Sting sucks and I’M the leader of WCW!” Sting showed up again and murked him again at World War 3. Now Rick Steiner’s out here saying he’s 110% WCW, and that Sting’s garbage for being team nonspecific. What happens next?
Steiner wrestles Big Bubba, and it ends with Sting showing up and Scorpion Death Dropping Steiner. HEY WCW, MAYBE STOP TALKING SH*T ABOUT THE MOST POWERFUL GUY ON THE SHOW WHO IS ALSO PRETTY CLEARLY ON YOUR TEAM.
Best: Villanos In Plain Sight
Up next, Lord Steven Regal wrestles “Tony Peña.” If he looks like one of the Villanos without a mask … well, he’s one of the Villanos without a mask. I’m not breaking kayfabe here, he’s wearing the Villano jumper with the big Roman numeral “IV” on the hip. If you’re wondering, yes, he’s the Villano that almost dies in the ring on Nitro a couple of years after this.
I think the worst part of this episode is that there are two potentially great matches on it, and they’re both under 3 minutes. The first is this one, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think there are enough matches where Regal gets to cut the sh*t and be a wrestling badass. There need to be more instances of him casually tripping people so they fall on their faces and then tying them up in knots. Regal continues to be awesome, and Peña goes back to catching for the Cleveland Indians.
Best: Rey Mysterio Jr. Vs. Psicosis
Worst: For About 90 Seconds
The other almost great match is Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psicosis, which is kinda bulletproof but also hard to fully perform in 2 minutes. It’s good, but what’s even the point, and we’ve seen the finish before — a crucifix powerbomb off the ropes from Psicosis gets countered into a headscissors on the way down and Mysterio gets the win. There’s two minutes of a terrible Jeff Jarrett/Alex Wright match coming up and like 5 minutes of The Faces of Fear and Harlem Heat farting around to set up an nWo beatdown … can we combine all four of these, pick one and give it 10 minutes? Would that kill us?
Worst: The Ugliest Counter
The second first round match in the United States title tournament is Konnan vs. Eddie Guerrero. It should be good, but it’s one of those matches where Konnan appears to get amnesia in the middle of executing moves and forgets where he’s at. The guy could be SO GOOD when he wanted to be, and then sometimes he had the ring awareness and inner light of YOSHIHIKO. Wrestling Konnan sometimes looked like someone was wrestling an inanimate object.
Take the finish, for instance. The way it looks, Konnan’s supposed to get Eddie up for a powerbomb and Eddie’s supposed to counter with a hurricanrana for the win. Instead, Konnan goes about halfway up on the powerbomb and completely spaces out, just kinda letting go and falling backwards. Eddie tries to scissor his legs and twist in mid-air, possibly to avoid paralysis, and ends up just kinda falling on Konnan horizontally. It’s awkward as hell, and Eddie has to just grab an arm and a leg and make it look like he fell that way on purpose.
Worst: Alex Wright Vs. Jeff Jarrett For No Raisin
Alex Wright takes on Je-
You know what? Nevermind.
Worst: Let’s Settle In For Another 3 Years Of This
The show collapses to a halt with The Faces of Fear vs. Harlem Heat, which only happens to give the nWo someone to beat up and sh*tcan. There isn’t much to say about it, other than the fact that WCW’s doing a great job of creating a post-apocalyptic wasteland dying for a Mad Max. That’s part of what made Sting work … WCW created this evil gang that threatened to destroy everything and kept making them bigger and bigger, and nobody in the company really stood a chance against them. But there was this one guy with a baseball bat and a bungee cord and a trenchcoat in the days before “trenchcoat” meant “creep” who could maybe pull it off. The guy who was betrayed by WCW and didn’t have to help was the only one who could.
Like I said, a great job of creating it. Following through, not so much.