The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 1/22/96: Hulk Hogan’s Friend Wins The World Title

Pre-show notes:

– You can watch this week’s episode of Nitro on WWE Network.

– 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.

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Please click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for January 22, 1996.

This Week’s Pepe Costume: Top Hat And Tails (Get It)

This week’s Nitro comes to you laaave from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, so Mongo puts a tuxedo on his dog. Say what you will about Steve McMichael’s ability to effectively finish sentences and call a wrestling match, but he’s the only color commentator in the history of the game cool enough to not only wield a chihuahua, but make sure it’s better dressed than anyone on the panel.

Best: A Wild Konnan Appears!

We don’t get a Pepe closeup or themed explanation for the costume (i.e. “THE LITTLE GUY’S WEARIN HIS TOP HAT BECAUSE WE’RE IN FOR SOME TOP ACTION HERE TANIGHT”) because KONNAN suddenly appears in the background holding a championship belt at pec-height and cutting a promo directly to the camera without clearing it or asking anybody. It’s SUPER WEIRD. Mongo and Bischoff just kinda swivel in their chairs and listen to him and the dog side-eyes him so hard.

Konnan is the Mexican Heavyweight Champion and will face Psicosis at the Clash of the Champions, and the entire match build is this random occurrence. He just pops into the background and is like LOOK AT MY BELT, I AM THE MEXICAN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION, I WILL DEFEND AGAINST PSICOSIS, PSICOSIS I’M GONNA BEAT YOU UP, BYE EVERYBODY. And then he just leaves. Everybody swivels back, and the show continues. I really hope the producers of Nitro got together before the show and had this heated, 3-hour conversation about what was more important for this 30-second block, promoting the Mexican Match or explaining why the dog’s dressed like Fred Astaire.

Worst: Welp, Here’s A World Title Change

I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but the finish to this week’s opening match is at least in the running for the Most WCW Thing Ever.

Ric Flair is defending his World Heavyweight Championship against Macho Man Randy Savage. Before it even starts, Savage is accompanied to the ring by an entire group of 40-ish year old women including Hulk Hogan’s wife Linda, Mongo’s wife Debra (before she was a thing) and Kevin Sullivan’s wife (cough) Woman. It’s like Eric Bischoff walked into a bourgeoisie key party and left with all the uptight moms he could find. Savage is being accompanied to the ring by the cast of ‘Dynasty,’ basically.

I’m calling them “Harem Heat.”

Anyway, the match is every Flair/Savage house show match you could imagine. When it’s time for the finish, Jimmy Hart hops up on the apron to distract the referee. That brings out Arn Anderson, who pulls the dreaded WHITE THING from his underpants as Flair holds Savage. He swings, but Savage moves and Arn blasts Flair, knocking him out. The referee sees this (even making the “watch the closed fists” gesture with his hands for some reason) and Hulk Hogan speeds out from the abyss to pull Arn to the floor and beat him up. The time keeper rings the bell because he assumes this is a disqualification. Savage goes up top and hits the flying elbow and the referee COUNTS THE THREE, even though the bell’s ringing, and awards Savage the World Heavyweight Championship. Before he can raise Savage’s hand, Hogan’s already in the ring raising it for him, then literally pushing Savage out of the way to point at him center-stage. That goes immediately into Hogan requesting a title shot, which he’s done on basically every episode of Nitro I’ve ever reviewed. Keep in mind that this is the day before the live special WCW wants people to watch and think is important that Hogan and Savage are TEAMING UP ON.

It’s incredible. Everything happens at once, nothing makes sense, nothing happens at the right time, nobody’s paying attention to the rules and Hulk Hogan is presenting himself a Hulk Hogan award for achievement in the field of being Hulk Hogan. You do you, WCW.

Worst: The Worst Match

New theory: everybody did absinthe shots before this episode.

The second match is Dean Malenko vs. Brian Pillman, and God, that should be great, shouldn’t it? Instead of you know, doing anything, Pillman spends 90% of the match stalling. When he gets in the ring, he takes a few moves, sells them like a surprised Michelle Tanner and then goes right into the finish, which makes even less sense than the first match’s. Malenko is in control and has taken zero offense, and Pillman crawls out to the apron. Malenko follows him out with shoulderblocks to the gut, but instead of doing them like everyone else in wrestling history he puts one leg THROUGH the ropes, visibly positioning his foot between them. Pillman punches him in the face once, Malenko falls backwards with his leg caught in the ropes like a cruiserweight Andre the Giant and referee Nick Patrick stares at it. Pillman slides back in the ring and covers but OH NO MALENKO CAN’T KICK OUT, and Nick Patrick just f*cking counts it like nothing happened.

Like I said, absinthe shots. Patrick was trying to catch a miniature green Kylie Minogue and just missed three times.

Best: Clash Of The Champions

Serious question — should I do a dedicated writeup of the Clash for next week’s Nitro report, or should I make it a one-page thing like I do for pay-per-views? I’m torn. On the one hand, not a lot happens. On the other, Colonel Parker and Sherri are getting married at a drive-thru wedding chapel in Las Vegas and I kinda want to write 2000 words about it.

Worst: Two Iffy Finishes Not Enough? Here’s A Third.

Match #3 is Harlem Heat defending the WCW Tag Team Championships against Sting and his true blue, not-evil-at-all best friend forever Lex Luger. If you haven’t figured it out by the brilliantly photographed screencaps, Jimmy Hart slips Luger a handful of silver dollars, and by “slips” I mean “gets on the apron, hands them to him and makes HIT HIM WITH THE SILVER DOLLARS punching gestures.” Luger sneaks in under cover of night and punches out Booker, spilling change everywhere and getting the one-two-three. Nick Patrick is still trying to revive an unconscious Argentinian and can’t see big circles of shining silver all over the damn ring, and we’ve got new tag champs.

The best part is Luger doing a big exaggerated YEAHHH!! and carrying away Sting, who looks like a 15th Century navigator who just got told the world is round. Sting can’t figure out what happened or why Booker T is covered in an exploded Coinstar, but he supposes everything’s fine! I’M SURE IT WILL WORK OUT FOR YOU BUDDY, JUST TRUST YOUR FRIEND.

Worst: Here’s One Clean Finish You Can Count On

1. I’ve written up every episode of Nitro from its debut in September until late January. Have I ever mentioned the United States Championship? Did you have ANY IDEA that the One Man Gang was the United States Champion?

2. On a show with two title changes — one of them for the tag team championships in a match featuring Sting and Lex Luger and a WORLD TITLE CHANGE featuring Randy Savage and Ric Flair — a non-title win for Hulk Hogan is your main-event. They have to stress really hard that it’s non-title the entire time, because nobody in f*cking existence thinks OMG’s pulling off a miracle against the 95-96 Hulkster. You don’t even have to watch the match. Hogan dominates for five minutes, gets raked in the eyes and splashed for about 15 seconds, no-sells it, hits his shit and gets out of there … not before bringing the new champion to the ring one more time to close out the show with the 1500th consecutive Hogan-Savage face-to-face about him needing a title shot. They did TWO in THIS EPISODE.

Poor OMG. More like OMG LOL, am I right?