– 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. Eh, probably not.
– Share the column. If you don’t, I’m going to make my 700-pound friend stand near you and yell at you.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on February 12, 1996.
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about Starrcade ’96.
So, Uh, Kayfabe Is Dead
This is probably impossible to explain in three paragraphs and there’s no way to confirm it from any angle, but here goes nothing.
The story is that Brian Pillman had joined the Four Horsemen as a “new breed” of Horse Man, and his crazy antics had pissed off all the veterans. Arn Anderson wanted to discipline him in-house, but Kevin Sullivan got tired of waiting around for crappy 90s parents to discipline their terrible millennial children and attacked them both. That led to this match, a “Respect Match,” wherein you have to strap your opponent with a leather strap until he says he respects you.
The hook here is that the Respect Match is secretly a fulcrum for the DESTRUCTION AND REINVENTION OF PRO WRESTLING AS AN ARTFORM. I’m typing that in all caps so you know how serious I’m being. It was a shoot inside a worked shoot inside a shot work. The match goes for about a minute of apparently real fighting until Pillman grabs the mic, says, “I respect you, booker man” to actual WCW booker Kevin Sullivan and walks out with his middle finger in the air. The idea was that Pillman was supposed to “break the fourth wall,” get himself fired, go work for ECW for a while (as it was the cool “underground” thing) and return as the Hulk Hogan of postmodern, dadaist wrestling. It was an attempt to make an increasingly jaded, knowledgable audience say “all that other shit’s fake, but this is REAL.” It worked, too, because nobody — including the announcers, crowd, fans at home or the wrestlers themselves — knew exactly what was going on.
The aftermath is even more confusing. Pillman does go to ECW for a while, but ends up signing with WWE instead of returning to WCW. Whoops! WWE even gave him a guaranteed deal despite him destroying his ankle in a car crash, leading to a “welp, we’ve got to use him somewhere” run where Pillman just hopped around on crutches and pulled guns on people and got his head put in the toilet. He got into a feud with Goldust where he “won” Goldust’s wife in a match and documented her rape and torture, because The Attitude Era. Before that could be blown off, Pillman was found dead in a Budget Tel Motel room in Minnesota.
See? I couldn’t do it in three. The point, I guess, is that wrestling changed a little after this. It was the first important, popular moment where a wrestling promotion made “somebody went off script” a plot point. For the next 20 years, wrestling would (and still does) try to recreate I Respect You Booker Man over and over again, positioning real men in fake positions with just enough real life piled on to make you wonder where the line’s draw. To this day we wonder if “pushes” and “burials” are part of the story or punishment for something that happened in real life. We talk about what wrestlers think about each other in real life, and what would happen if someone broke an already broken-to-shit kayfabe and went into business for themselves. We created and lived through Attitude, Ruthless Aggression and The Reality Era, and it all started with a bad strap match in the middle of a February pay-per-view.
Konnan Is The U.S. Champion
In less dramatic news, Konnan apparently unseated Apparent United States Champion The One Man Gang on an episode of WCW Main Event, leading to this rematch at SuperBrawl. It’s not great, but I figured I should note a title change. One Man Gang can barely muster the strength to press his moobs into Konnan’s face in the corner, and poor Konnan’s doing every bad jump, flip and kick he can remember. The finish comes when OMG pulls Konnan up from a pin, and Konnan decides to just no-sell an entire match’s worth of damage to hit flying upside-down butt smash to the face for the win.
See how hard it is to make bad wrestling matches compelling after the Brian Pillman thing?
Ric Flair Won His 13th World Heavyweight Championship And Liz Is Now Using Her Shoes For Evil
Remember last week when Woman turned on Macho Man Randy Savage and aligned herself with the Four Horsemen? Well hold on to your butts because it turns out all women are terrible!
Savage is defending the World Championship against Ric Flair in a steel cage, and both men are in trouble. Woman tries to use her deadly POWDER THROW through the cage, but Savage sees it coming and ducks. This creates enough of a distraction for Flair to crawl toward the door and receive an assist from (GASP) Miss Elizabeth. She hands him the Fury + Ultima Weapon + Omnislash of WCW foreign objects, the HIGH-HEELED SHOE, and Flair bashes him in the face with it to become the 13-time World Heavyweight Champion. Hulk Hogan jogs out to run them off, because Macho Man is heeled and can’t fight his battles himself.
Hulk Hogan Is Being Terrorized By A 700-Pound Man He Will Never Fight
Speaking of Hogan, he obviously defeats The Giant in a steel cage match despite having his left eye covered with a panty shield.
The notable moment comes at the end. Hogan escapes the cage and is immediately attacked by Kevin Sullivan, which brings out the entire Dungeon Of Doom. All of them. Even Jimmy Hart’s out there. Hogan proceeds to dispatch all of them at once with his super weak “let me gently press this seat to your forehead” chairshots and goofy Run Two Guys Into The Cage At The Same Time spots. You’ve got like 8 dudes in the ring doing big, slow double axe-handles so Hogan can notice them and stop them.
As the Dungeon of Doom is fleeing, their NEW SECRET WEAPON shows up: THE LOCH NESS MONSTER. Sadly they did not like, flood the ramp and float down an actual sea monster, which would’ve been the only way to top a buttf*cking Himalayan ice mummy. This Loch Ness Monster was Giant Haystacks, a nearly 700-pound man who was a legit box office draw and one of the greatest heels in wrestling history. Unfortunately he was nearing the end of his career and had cancer, which caused him to fly back to England and end his WCW career after about a month.
Anyway, Hogan wants a piece of the Loch Ness and the Loch Ness walked all this way to stand by the cage door, but the Dungeon of Doom — the group dedicated to ending Hulkamania forever — holds him back. I guess they figured Hogan was in overdrive and had The Chair Of Destiny or whatever, so they retreated.
Fun facts about the Loch Ness:
1. He never actually wrestles Hogan.
2. He has three Nitro matches, and the combined length of them is about four minutes.
3. Combine that with his three weekend show squashes and 2:34 pay-per-view match at Uncensored and Giant Haystacks’ WCW career lasted about 10 minutes.
With that momentum, let’s watch WCW Monday Nitro!
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Jet Set Radio
“THE LITTLE GUY’S GOT THE HEADSETS ON CAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN BACKSTAGE TONIGHT, I SAW MACHO MAN SAVAGE WALKIN ROUND WHILE AGO, THAT’S A MAN POSSESSED, BABY.”
Best: Scheduled Matches Happening Even If The Stipulations Change
The opening match is Macho Man taking on THE LAUGHING MAN HUMOROUS, and the announce team points out that this was originally signed as a World Title match, but since Savage lost the belt at SuperBrawl it’d just be a regular one-on-one match. I love the idea of a sports organization — ostensibly what we’re supposed to pretend wrestling promotions are — getting their Monday show figured out and scheduled early in the week and having to honor contracts. It just makes so much sense. You still get to have the match, you still get to have Macho plow through Hugh Morrus like a fat pile of snow and you add legitimacy to any future scheduling decisions you “have” to make. And hey, if you don’t want a situation where you’re stuck with a match you don’t want, don’t make the match. Wrestling’s a work and you can make it whatever you want it to be, no matter what Flyin’ Brian says.
I don’t think I’ll ever get Hugh Morrus, though. He was never any good. Do you know anybody who has a favorite Hugh Morrus match? Is anybody ever like, “oh man, you know who I loved growing up? HUGH MORRUS!” No. You don’t. He was “humorous” made into a man’s name and stuck on a dumpy worker who could backflip off the top rope. Flyboy Rocco Rock could’ve been Hugh Morrus and nothing would’ve changed. The worst part is that now you’ve got Hugh f*cking Morrus as the taskmaster (so to speak) at NXT, teaching wrestlers how to be special enough to be huge stars in the biggest wrestling company in the world despite his resume peaking at “got a boner joke for a name, led a faction full of jobbers in army pants.” My theory is that they put him in charge to keep everyone’s egos in check, and to lower everyone’s expectations to make them easier to control.
Or, you know, Vince McMahon is the one dude in history who loves Hugh Morrus.
Best/Worst: Charismatic Enigma Steve Grissom
Mean Gene puts on a Joker smile to interview NASCAR’s Steve Grissom, driver of the #29 WCW car. You thought WCW’s love affair with monster trucks was bad, wait until you see them try to work the WCW vs. nWo rivalry into shoot auto racing.
The best part is that Grissom is obviously not a TV personality, so Gene will ask a real shouty question about NASCAR and Steve’ll be all, “yip, we get out ‘tear and prayctice, we gon’ get out ‘tear an qualify, ‘marrah’s a big day feruss.” He makes Mongo sound like Edge. It’s precious, and Gene having to get through it without drawing a pistol and shooting himself in the head makes it even better.
Worst: Loch Ness On Nitro, Match 1 In A 3-Match Set
If you’ve got Scotty Riggs vs. a 700-pound guy, how do you book it? You have Riggs run up to him and punch him a few times, try a few dropkicks that don’t work, get caught with something and squashed, right? Easy booking. Make Loch Ness look strong and have Riggs sell everything like he fell off a building.
Unfortunately Loch Ness is literally dying and can’t actually BE strong, so his big power moments come out looking like this:
It’s like one of those Vines where a person’s twerking and a bookcase falls on them.
That’s not all. Loch Ness tries to drop a big elbow as his finish, but isn’t happy with where Riggs’ arm is so he stops in the middle of it, waves to the referee like “cut, let’s do it again,” backs up and starts all over. It’s SO WEIRD. After a couple of massive armpits to the chest, the biggest possible man in wrestling has convinced us he can properly fall on an American Male 33.3% of the time.
Worst: Take It Home, Liz
See that face Miss Elizabeth’s making? She’s in the middle of a promo explaining how Macho Man made her stand in the background and never talk, and this is the exact second she realizes why. In a promo about how she wants to say stuff, she forgets what to say. It’s such a perfect Errol Morris documentary moment. Gene’s smiling his ass off and Flair’s doing his best to will the lines into her brain with his eyes, but she just GUTS it. All she had to say was, “I want to be in the spotlight, women be trippin’, peace out.”
The saddest thing is that it started off so well, with Flair having Woman and Elizabeth roll out his dead body on a gurney so he could pop up and Woo.
Man, who knew that out of these three RIC FLAIR would be the one still alive in 2015?
Best: A Match I Have Never Forgotten
I’m usually good at explaining things, but I don’t know if I can explain this.
Konnan vs. Dangerous Devon Storm has always been one of my favorite memories of Nitro. I don’t remember exactly how I felt, but the early Konnan matches felt like beautiful accidents. We’d seen him dump Psicosis on his head and go ass-over-head to defeat the One Man Gang, and now here’s BUDNICK showing up in sunglasses and a jumpsuit that makes him look like a highlighter and it is so insane. By today’s standards it’s basically garbage, but when you’re a kid on the cusp of learning what ECW was and not totally understanding that there’s a world where people just huck chairs at each other and throw powerbombs on the concrete for fun, it’s revolutionary.
That’s what the match is. Devon Storm has absolutely no right being in a ring at this level in 1996. He’s that mid-90s independent star, alongside guys like Reckless Youth and Mike Quackenbush and Christopher Daniels when he had hair. These were guys who came up wrestling in backyards and trampolines, and/or hadn’t yet been able to participate in a notable “indie scene” for wrestling and just were just DESPERATELY trying to change it. There’s such a palpable passion here because they don’t know where they’re going or what they can do … there’s no Ring Of Honor, there’s no reliable way for top US juniors to go to Japan on the reg, there’s nothing. It’s just make it or break it. So here’s Devon Storm breaking it, whipping out Sabu triple jump chair spots to the floor and getting awkwardly powerbombed off the ring steps.
I’ve never forgotten it. I had the pleasure of talking to Konnan personally when I went to the January Lucha Underground tapings, and I made sure to talk to him about this. It was a chaotic, messy style of wrestling that the crowd wasn’t sure what to do with and didn’t know they’d love, but they NEEDED it. They needed someone to shake them from the bonds of the Hulk Hogan, Macho Man punchfests and say no, there’s an alternative, wake up. Guys like Malenko and Guerrero and Benoit ruled, but they were so classically “good” that they just seemed like a better version of what we were used to. Ninja Turtle-ass Konnan doing sunset flip bombs on a ginger dork cosplaying Marty Jannetty is DIFFERENT. Capital letters.
WCW would bring in a bunch of guys soon who were much, much better than Devon Storm, and Konnan would get repurposed. Still though, this was one of the big developmental moments in my wrestling fandom. When Devon Storm didn’t become a regular I had to find out where he’d gone, and that led me to a bingo hall in Philadelphia. If you’re a longtime WCW fan you might know that his story has a happy ending: he returns in 1999 as “Crowbar” and wins cruiserweight, hardcore and tag team gold.
Worst: And Now, The Opposite Of That Match
If you can’t tell what’s going on in the picture, that’s Hulk Hogan tapping out Arn Anderson to a figure four and pinning Ric Flair with a small package at the same time.
The good news is that Hogan doesn’t actually win; Arn does, in the limpest and least impressive way you can imagine. It’s basically 4-on-1 already, so Flair slides in and tries to draw a DQ but gets caught and “pinned.” Woman springs into action with her RAT POISON CLOUD ATTACK — Bobby Heenan is dead-set on getting the powder over as “rat poison,” even if nobody else is playing ball — and tosses it in Hogan’s eye. Now he’s got TWO bad eyes. This distraction allows Flair to de-boot Miss Elizabeth and pass it to Arn, who swings for the fences and gets a cheap victory.
Don’t worry, though, because as soon as the three-count happens Hogan starts no-selling it and beats up Flair and Arn by himself. Macho Man shows up to run interference, and we end the show with this weird pissing contest of wrestlers trying to take over the announce table. Flair does it first, sending away Bischoff and Mongo, and then Hogan does it, sending away Heenan. Savage steals Heenan’s glasses for no reason. Really all you need to know about what happened is this GIF of Bobby Heenan trying to step over the table to escape.
This GIF, but for an hour.