The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 12/25/95: The Dog Who Saved Christmas

Pre-show notes:

– Merry Christmas, almost! You can watch this week’s Nitro on WWE Network here.

– If you’d like to read about previous episodes, check out the WCW Monday Nitro tag page. We’ve also started up a vintage Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw column, so if you like these Nitro reports, you’ll probably like those too. We didn’t write one this week because of TLC, but it’ll be back on Monday.

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Please click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 25, 1995.

This Week’s Pepe Costume: Santa

Thanks, Pepe. I’m sorry you spent all year terrified of being swallowed whole by the yokel ogre lugging you around in his armpit.

The secondary highlight of this week’s extremely cold open is the announce team in Christmas sweaters:

Well, Bischoff and Heenan are in Christmas sweaters. Mongo’s idea of Christmas attire is a Harley Davidson jacket over a red turtleneck. I wish I’d been on set for costuming that day to hear his rationale. “THE LITTLE GUY IS ALREADY SANNA, BABY, THERE CAIN’T BE TWO SANNAS THAT JUST DON’T MAKE NO SENSE.”

On a related note, I miss when ugly Christmas sweaters were just ugly Christmas sweaters, and not hilarious “ugly Christmas sweaters.”

Best: A Bee Mascot Is In The Front Row And Loving This Lex Luger/Scotty Riggs Match

I don’t know why (and it’s never addressed), but the Honey Nut Cheerios bee is in the front row. When Luger knocks Riggs off the apron, the only person who stands up to make “YEAH, TAKE THAT” gestures is the bee. I … don’t know what’s going on.

Regardless, these vintage Nitro reports are intended to be an educational guide to Lex Luger, so in addition to the L-fingers here’s another thing I love about him: his too-vocal selling of nothing.

Most Luger matches are the same. He gets a ton of momentum offense, similar to Batista, where he’s big and strong and can convincingly run at you full speed with a forearm extended and have it look like he killed you. The problem is that he never really learned how to believable take offense, so most of the time he doesn’t take it at all. He’s big on the transitional miss. He’ll whip you into the corner and run at you, but you move out of the way. Instead of just hitting the turnbuckles and selling it to set you up for something, he starts yelling AUUGHHHHH as he hits, glues the back of his hand to his forehead, throws himself into the buckles and bounces back yelling RAAUUGHHHH~!. It sucks, but it’s also kinda great. Scotty Riggs could come to the ring with a barbed-wire baseball bat and I wouldn’t buy him inflicting damage on Luger, but dude’s still going AAARUGHHH and RAUGHHRR on everything.

His alignment’s so weird here. He wrestles like a babyface and gets cheered like one, but he’s managed by Jimmy Hart and a member of the Dungeon of Doom. The big story of the month is “how can bad guy Luger be friends with good guy Sting,” but it’s an easy answer. He’s still as much of a good guy as anyone else, he just hates Hogan and likes hanging out in a mystical cave. Can you blame him?

Worst: Mean Gene Questions Sting

Back at World War 3, Hulk Hogan announced that Sting was his best friend forever and that he’d never question him again. The very next episode of Nitro ends with him questioning Sting. The week after that ends with Hogan questioning Sting again, and the week after THAT ends with him going nuts and questioning everybody. This week Hulk Hogan’s suspended for beating up referees, so Mean Gene brings out Sting to question him on Hogan’s behalf. TWICE.

It’s infuriating. Sting has explained on several, several occasions that he and Luger are longtime best friends who’ve been through some shit, so he’s trying to be a good friend to a bad guy. That’s it. That’s the entire explanation. He tells Gene the scoop again, and Gene just straight up ignores him and asks him what’s up between him and Luger. The pictures tell the story. Sting should’ve punched Gene in the face, set fire to Hulk Hogan’s motorcycle and gone upstairs to live as the Crow a year earlier than he did.

Best: Sting Vs. Samoa Joe, Basically

The main event of Starrcade is a “Hulk Hogan’s busy so everyone’s pulling double duty” triangle match between Sting, Luger and Ric Flair, with the winner facing Macho Man Randy Savage for the WCW Heavyweight Championship. They’re also supposed to be in a World Cup of wrestling against New Japan, but nobody cares beyond “yay USA, boo foreigners.” Anyway, that match is coming up so everyone involved has to look strong. Luger gets to Torture Rack the proprietor of American Males, and Sting gets to duke Big Bubba.

It’s a pretty fun match, too, with Sting continuing to use a lighter hand than his contemporaries in terms of making his opponents look like garbage. Instead of just Stinger Splashing Bubba and Scorpion Death Locking him to death (scorpion death), he gets creative and counters a gorilla press out of the corner into a small package. It actually took me by surprise almost 20 years later because I haven’t seen many people do it. Counters to counters are an under-appreciated thing in wrestling, especially when they think outside the “you rolled me up, now I rolled YOU up” box.

It’s also fun to imagine Big Bubba as a prototype Samoa Joe. He’s a bigger guy carrying a lot of weight who bounces around a little more gracefully than he should, and while he’s not going for big enzuigiris or elbows suicida, he’s ahead of his time in terms of big men being accepted as talented workers. I would LOVE to see Ray freaking Traylor in one of those 2014 showcase indie matches, where a guy who spent too much time in WWE drops down a level to prove he can go.

Best/Worst: Jimmy Hart Fat Shames Craig Pittman

On last week’s episode, Sgt. Craig ‘Pitbull’ Pittman broke through the impenetrable security of William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry to accost Bobby Heenan about managing him to the championship. Heenan gave him the brushoff, but promised to put him in touch with somebody who could help him.

This week, Pittman wanders out during a Jimmy Hart/Lex Luger promo and pulls the same shit on Hart. Hart isn’t as nice as drunk, abandon-all-hope Bobby Heenan, so he just makes Pitbull take off his shirt so he can fat shame him. LOOK AT YOUR BODY! NOW LOOK AT LEX LUGER’S BODY! WHY WOULD I MANAGE YOU? He tells Pittman to take a quarter and call someone who “needs a few good men,” which is basically the best possible 90s Army Guy burn. Watching poor Pittman flex his fit old luchador torso in the presence of THE NARCISSIST is pretty sad, but also SUPER funny. I just wish Pittman’s response had been, “you also manage Hugh Morrus, don’t you? That guy’s built like a water balloon.”

Best: The Man Of A Thousand Holds

Please enjoy this highlight video of Dean Malenko vs. Mr. JL, set to the PWG promo song for some reason.

This match is short but great, mostly because it’s WCW’s first attempt to really get over the “man of a thousand holds” thing for Malenko. Usually a wrestler with a “knows a bunch of stuff” gimmick does one or two things repeatedly, and the announce team yells about how knowledgable he is. Not to use Samoa Joe again, but his “Samoan Submission Machine” act involved him doing the same two submissions in every match, so unless the implication was that his submission machine made two varieties, it was a little much.

Here, Malenko dismantles JL (who I keep typing as “JBL”) with whatever he can come up with. He breaks out the soon-to-be signature Dean Malenko gutbuster off the ropes and finishes him off with the “Malenko Leg Lock,” which is the AJ Styles Calf Killer 20 years early. When I saw he’d won with the “Malenko Leg Lock” I thought WWE Network had misidentified the Texas Cloverleaf and got hot, but no, Dean Malenko just rules and knows over 999 moves. Mongo describes the match as, “two guys flying around like the birds going back to Capper-stranno here tonight.” Hashtag Mongo culture.

Best: The Dungeon Of Doom Send Their Regards

Jimmy Hart shows up and says that since Ric Flair saved him from the Macho Man last week, he wants to be at ringside when Flair beats Savage for the title. Flair agrees, not stopping to consider that Hart’s only out there to further a bunch of stories that’ll keep him from winning. “This guy who manages a guy I’m facing at the next pay-per-view wants to stand at ringside for my match. SURE THAT SOUNDS TOTALLY FINE.” I guess wrapping your legs around Sting’s legs that much causes some of his Stupid to rub off.

Worst: Eric Bischoff Tries To Explain The Triangle Match

Randy Savage with his last title defense … just days away … from Starrcade. Will the Macho Man Randy Savage be the World Heavyweight Champion at Starrcade? You’re gonna find out tonight right here, as the Nature Boy steps into the ring and tries to dethrone the Macho Man. And this this whole triangle match will all be about … who … will try to win the triangle match to get a shot at RIC FLAIR and the World Heavyweight Title.

Nailed it.

Best: These Precious Hogan-Free Nitros

But yeah, no, the main event of the show is an almost 20-minute title match between Savage and Flair, and while it has the same bogus DQ finish they all have, it’s still 20 minutes of Savage and Flair. If you like either of them and like watching them wrestle for the sake of wrestling, you’ll like this. Very early-90s WWF style, full of punching and builds to backdrops 18-minutes in.

The finish even works, because they’re trying to build a triangle match and need animosity built between everyone involved. Flair obviously hates Savage and wants the championship. So does Luger. Sting has an uneasy relationship with the guy, but he wants to be champ and is tired of having to walk on eggshells all the time. Savage is a crazy guy with too much confidence and none at all who won a 60-man battle royal with a bum and/or perfectly fine arm and has been terrified all month that somebody’s gonna show up and take it from him. Hogan especially. So Flair wrestles Savage, and Savage gets distracted by Jimmy Hart. He pops him in the mouth, and that brings out Luger. Luger jumps Savage in defense of Jimmy and that causes the DQ … so of course when the brawling happens and Luger and Flair are in the ring, Sting runs down to help out. That draws more stupid lines between Sting and Savage about “what side he’s on,” and you’ve got three top-level guys and a fourth with the belt all heading into Starrcade with their heads up their asses. It’s exactly what it needs to be.

And no red and yellow idiots show up to ruin it, for once.

(Stop it.)