The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 1/8/96: German Suplexed

Pre-show notes:

– You can watch this week’s episode of Nitro on WWE Network. If you want to watch Starrcade ’95 (referenced on the first page), you can find that 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.

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Please click through for the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for January 8, 1996.

This Week’s Pepe Costume: Bomber Jacket

“Well you see the little guy’s got his bomber jacket on baby, because he’s ready for the flak to fly. Excuse me for that expression my friend.”

Does Mongo think he’s cursing? Regardless, I applaud him for protecting his dog from flying debris and bone shards when the Mega Powers explode.

Best: This Is When Chris Benoit Starts To Get Really Great

Last week’s episode of Nitro featured a Super Assassins tag and Hulk Hogan single-handedly emasculating two concurrent heel factions. Between January 1 and January 8 I guess they had a meeting full of disappointed head-shaking, because this week’s episode is full of wrestling and it’s the best.

The opening match is Chris Benoit vs. Alex Wright, and it (along with last week’s intense but truncated Lord Steven Regal match) is where Benoit starts to be the guy we all loved and followed for a decade. The guy in the red tights with the weird off-color crotch hole who’d never get the spotlight, but would continually steal the show by stepping into the ring with WCW’s dense pack of mid-carders and hitting them as hard as possible. Poor Alex Wright gives it his best shot, but he’s severely outclassed. They exchange holds and strikes (including a few big ones, like Wright flying off the top to the outside) until a lengthy standing-switch sequence ends with Benoit punching Wright in the face and braining him with a dragon suplex.

It’s another example of Benoit making wrestling seem a little more real by competing with a sense of urgency. WWE tells everyone they hire to “slow it down,” and most people take that to mean “don’t do anything for large stretches between important moments.” That’s not it. What they mean is to not feel like only the flashy stuff and Movez matter, and to put effort and control into every little thing you do, whether it’s a wristlock or an irish whip. You should always look like you’re planning and doing something, because if you were really employed to fight for a living, shit, wouldn’t you be?

Great stuff. The Renegade Horsemen look like the toughest and worst people in the world, and Alex Wright loses because he’s a goober babyface who concentrated too much on the outside interference. Expertly done. Let’s try not to remember these guys begging daddy not to whip them with a switch in last week’s main.

Worst: Let’s Ask The WCW Universe What They Think About Alex Wright

Pro tip: do not read the comments on Alex Wright matches.

Best: Regal Vs. Guerrero, Check Please

The best part about Benoit vs. Wright is that it’s not even the best match on the show. That award goes to Eddie Guerrero vs. Lord Steven Regal, who wrestle one of the best underdog vs. overconfident veteran matches you’ll ever see.

This is one of those matches I have trouble analyzing, because in the middle I just go “augh this is SO GOOD.” Regal does these beautiful open-hand strikes that might be my favorite thing in wrestling. He’ll get you in a submission hold and instead of just sitting there grimacing, he’ll open his hand, bend all his fingers in and mash you in the face with his palm. They aren’t just for show, either. He’s KILLING you with them.

Very few wrestlers have ever been better at firing up than Eddie Guerrero. The guy was born to get his ass kicked and shake it off because he’s emotional and getting into it. It’s a realistic interpretation of the “Hulk Up.” Eddie won’t just no-sell your finish, stand up and hit all his moves in a row; what he’ll do is get caught with something, get hot and simply refocus. Get his second wind. Remember his game plan and passionately enact it. That happens here when Regal just straight-up pimp slaps him in the face. Back of the hand. Eddie’s response is “wait, WHAT did you just do to me?” and you can see his entire body react. He tries to fight back, so Regal bears down and blasts him with repeated palm strikes to the face. He goes for what looks like a big punch to finish it off, and Eddie dodges, backslides him (beautifully) and gets the surprise three.

Regal isn’t suddenly knocked out. He’s PISSED, so he immediately gets up and stays on the attack. A European uppercut sends Eddie out of the ring, and he has his hand raised while he’s collapsed against the guard rail for support.

Watch this match. Watch it twice.

Worst: Lex Luger Questions Sting

SWERVE! Sting questions him first. He wants to know what the deal was with that whole “causing us both to lose the triangle match at Starrcade” thing. In case you missed it (20 years ago) or don’t want to click that link, Sting, Luger and Ric Flair were in a triple threat match to determine who’d go on to face Randy Savage for the World Heavyweight Championship later on that night. Flair tossed Sting and Luger to the outside. Sting tried to get back in to break the 10 count, but Luger reached up and grabbed his arm. Both men were counted out, Flair won, and later Flair became the new champ.

Luger’s answer: “I was hurt and reaching for you to help me up, because you’re my friend and you’re always there for me.”

Sting not only believes this, he more or less proposes marriage by saying he and Lex should become a permanent, dedicated tag team. BET THAT’LL WORK OUT GREAT FOR YOU, STINGER. Especially since, you know, Luger’s active team membership is THE DUNGEON OF DOOM. There aren’t a lot of arguments about mission statements and alignment when your f*cking team’s called “the Dungeon of Doom.”

Next week: Hulk Hogan questions Sting. Not a joke.

Best: You’re Almost There, DDP

There are two distinct eras of Diamond Dallas Page. The first is when he’s a manager trying to transition into wrestling. He’s ugly, gangly, looks like he smells like an ashtray’s asshole. He’s not very good. The second is when he’s the “people’s champion,” the WCW Champion in rib-tape and blue jeans. His matches are a little too rehearsed, but they’re usually pretty good. Everyone seems to like him, and he rides that into a brief WWE run and a yoga empire.

He’s right smack in the middle of that transition here. He wrestles Sting and has a shockingly good (and logical) match. He’s in over his head, but he gets an early advantage by rubbing his cigar in Sting’s face, and surprisingly hangs with him move for move. Sting builds up a bunch of momentum and hits the Stinger Splash, but when he goes for the Scorpion Death Lock, Dallas grabs the ropes. The match goes on for a little bit until Page tries to repeat an earlier spot — an irish whip into the turnbuckles followed by a back suplex — and Sting reverses it, trips him and locks in the Death Lock again. This time he remembers his mistake, turns Page AWAY from the ropes and gets the submission win. Bobby Heenan points this out and calls the hell out of it, because he’s 100% sure Mongo and Bischoff aren’t going to. There is so much wrestling that makes sense on this show I feel like it came to me in a dream.

So, what’s the difference between DDP eras?

At one point in the match Page hits a big swinging neckbreaker and puts Sting down. Later Sting’s kinda bent over and prone, and Page stalls like he knows he’s supposed to do something. He does the neckbreaker again. The problem is that Page isn’t known for winning at this stage in his career, so he doesn’t have an over finish. If he’d busted out a Diamond Cutter right there, Sting would’ve been toast. The good news is that it comes, and three years later these guys would have arguably the best world title match in the history of the show.

Worst: And Now, Hulk Hogan

Hogan and Savage wrestle Ric Flair and Arn Anderson for about 15 minutes. Hogan wrestles for about one, easily defeating both Horsemen, then tags out to Savage. Savage gets his ass beaten for 13 minutes. He manages to tag Hogan, Hogan wipes the floor with both guys, no-sells Arn’s spinebuster and leg drops him for three.

Please compare and contrast this with literally everything else on the show. Even the dog in the jacket.

Best: Get Ready For A Hulk Hogan/Dungeon Of Doom Feud Even Dumber Than The One Involving Monster Trucks And Mysterious Ice Yetis

I’m pretty excited for Uncensored ’96, you guys. It’s still a little over two months away, but it’s the conclusion of the second leg of the Hulk Hogan/Dungeon of Doom saga, and Jesus Lord is it amazingly bad. It makes the sumo monster truck battle and the buttf*cking mummy look like Savage/Steamboat. One of the best things about doing retro reports is getting ironically giddy over the bad shit coming up, and being really, really excited to tell you about it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t jump ahead. Wait for it. It involves NAZIS.

The Giant shows up to get revenge for last week, skipping a Dungeon of Doom/Horseman brawl to coconut Savage and Hogan before chokeslamming them. The announce team is in shock, yelling about how this CANNOT HAPPEN, even though Hogan’s stood tall on basically every other occasion not involving neck-breakings. Even some of the ones INVOLVING neck-breakings. God bless the child who suffers, I guess.

Aside from Hulk, this was a really great episode. Spoiler alert: next week’s so boring Mongo’s dog falls asleep.