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Please click through for the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on March 11, 1996.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Birthday Hat
The best part is that he’s not just wearing a birthday hat; he’s wearing a tiny hat with the rest of it as a shirt, suggesting that he’s popping out of a regular-sized person’s birthday hat. That’s a good chihuahua costume. I can see why Mongo saved it for this deep in the run.
Best: A Night Of Shockingly Good Wrestling
Not that you expect the wrestling on Nitro to be terrible (especially not when the cruiserweights show up and become a real thing), but this episode full of matches that look terrible on paper but end up being really good.
The first of those, I shit you not, is The Giant vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan. It’s a creative, lively, perfectly-told wrestling story. The Giant is the “biggest man in our sport,” called “the biggest man in any sport” by an announce team that doesn’t watch basketball and isn’t paying attention to wrestling’s fatter guys. Hacksaw is 6-foot-3 and 270, and by no means a small man. He’s used to being able to go in a three-point stance and bowl people over, but he can’t do that here. He tries to stand toe-to-toe with The Giant and throws these big, awesome haymakers — including several while standing on the second rope — but Giant keeps overpowering him. Realizing he’s outmatched, he goes for his secret weapon: the TAPED FISTS.
Nitro didn’t have as much about it as the other shows, but taped fists were Jim Duggan’s spinach. From 11/20/95:
For some reason, a person in 1995 thought the archaic-ass wrestling trope of “taped fists” was a cool thing to build a Duggan/Ray Traylor feud on, so they had them clandestinely wrap their fists in athletic tape during matches and win with SUPER TAPE PUNCHES. It also involved Duggan doing a ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ bit where he finds out his family lore is steeped in taped fist fighting victories.
Near the end of the match, Duggan dodges a big attack in the corner and hits his three-point stance, flipping The Giant over the top rope and to the floor. Duggan scrambles to find a followup and pulls out the athletic tape, but The Giant has landed on his feet, recovers too quickly and attacks him from behind. Duggan falls, and the tape goes flying. He gets caught in a bearhug and uses everything he’s got left to escape, including a headbutt that knocks him so silly he flies backwards and falls out of the ring. When he’s on the floor, he realizes the ringside mats are being held down by tape, so he starts pulling it up and wrapping his hands in it. Hacksaw Jim Duggan is USING HIS ENVIRONMENT TO DEFEAT A GIANT. He’s the world’s most cross-eyed, patriotic Jackie Chan.
The Giant shoves the ref out of the way and Duggan hits a series of big punches, causing the Giant to do his “I’m about to fall off the roof of an arena and die” wobble and sloooowly hit the ground. The crowd goes APE. Duggan’s about to win, so Jimmy Hart pops up onto the apron and grabs the end of the flailing tape. Duggan pulls him into the ring and lays him out, but Hart takes the tape with him. That leaves Duggan vulnerable again, and The Giant hits him with a quick chokeslam to put him away.
Where in the world did that come from? That is way too good for the match on paper. The match on paper makes me want to burn the paper.
The Steiner Brothers are currently regulars over in the Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw ’93 column so the timing’s all off, but this is Rick and Scott’s big return to WCW. Despite them being SUPER OBVIOUSLY the best tag team in the world in 1992, then-WCW head Cowboy Bill Watts lowballed them on their contract renewals so they jumped ship to the WWF. They won the tag titles there twice (thanks to some house show title changes) but never really accomplished much, because there was nobody else as good as them to wrestle. So by 1995 they were out of the World Wrestling Federation and off to New Japan, and the occasional match at the ECW Arena when that was becoming the coolest place in the world.
The match here is supposed to be the Road Warriors vs. the Nasty Boys, but the Steiners show up on motorcycles for some reason and take the Nasties’ places. The announce team tries to build a mystery on which team actually beat up the Nasty Boys, but nobody gives a puff-painted shit about the Nasty Boys.
They wrestle for a while, because if you’ve got the Steiner Brothers back and they’re in the ring with the Legion of Doom, you might as well let them go. It’s very hossy, and even though the Steiners are on the downswing of their tag team career, they aren’t a Road Warriors level of downswing so they’re fun. Scott’s mullet is CRAZY here. He looks like a low-income 1980s Virginia housewife on steroids. You can see that the end is near for them, especially in the post-match interview where Big Poppa Pump is basically Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 and trying to claw his way out of Scotty’s chest.
Best: Not Remembering How Everything Unfolds
In last week’s column I wondered why WCW was having the Road Warriors more or less cheat to beat Harlem Heat to build them up for a Chicago Street Fight when they’re facing heel-as-balls Lex Luger at Uncensored. Here’s the good news: sometimes I just forget where things actually went, and I’m totally wrong for questioning it. I think I’d just perma-blocked Uncensored ’96 in my brain.
I won’t spoil it for you until we get there (because holy shit, I might devote an entire week’s column to trying to explain that unprecedented garbage heap), but this is all going somewhere. The Road Warriors continue it this week, finding themselves on the precipice of defeat and cheating to win. Animal sneaks one of those spiked pads onto the apron and jabs Rick Steiner in the face with it, allowing Hawk to crawl over onto him and pin him. Mongo makes a pretty solid joke about Rick drinking water and having it leak out of his cheeks. That’s frankly adorable and beats anything I can come up with. I was gonna say it was like getting hit with a turtle shell in Mario Kart.
Anyway, the Road Warriors came in all boastful about how they could beat anybody in their big signature match and have spent the last two weeks showing ass to teams without members who individually have the combined age and gravity of the Usos.
Best: Road Warriors Fist Pump Guy
Watch this big boot, then keep your eye on the guy who stands up in the second row.
That guy is my hero.
Best: Lex By God Luger
1. As I’ve said before, one of my favorite part of doing these columns is changing my mind about stuff, and discovering that in 1996, Lex Luger of all people decided to be the best worker on the planet.
The guy’s doing next-level work. He puts on his white-ass working boots and hustles through this match with Alex Wright, which is the next on our list of matches that should be garbage but are surprisingly good. Luger is a supreme dick here (not the Alex Wright kind of “supreme dick,” the other kind) and throws Wright around, pie-facing him and slapping him around. When Wright’s on offense, Luger BOOKS around the ring. You haven’t seen Luger work until you’ve seen him sprint under a jumping Das Wunderkind to catch him on his shoulder. That picture’s of Luger selling his dropkick by doing a headstand, then flopping down like he’s got rigor mortis.
2. The finish continues Luger’s brilliant tightrope walk between being a do-gooding, Sting-loving babyface and the most dastardly heel ever. He gets overconfident and Wright pulls off a huge flurry of offense, which Luger sells like he’s 1/3 Wright’s size. Wright will like, get a boot up in the corner and Luger will clutch his face and stagger backwards across the entire ring. It’s great. Anyway, Wright goes up and a wild Jimmy Hart appears to trip him up. Luger takes advantage, drops Wright neck-first across the top rope and pins him. He doesn’t even Torture Rack him.
After the match, Luger tries to do a bunch of poses and Hart keeps hopping around and getting in the way, so Luger keeps exaggeratedly shooing him away. I know it sounds like I’ve drank a gallon of paint or something and am losing my mind, but The Total Package f*cking rules right now.
3. Oh, by the way, Luger’s TV Champion now. Johnny B. Badd’s left the company and the announce team can’t stop talking about what a helpless asshole he was, so somebody was like, “eh, Luger’s the Bomb Dot Compuserve Dot Com right now, just let him have it.” So now he hands two belts to a production guy when he flexes so hard he makes fireworks explode.
Worst: As A Reminder, Do Not Ever Search For Alex Wright On YouTube
I was going to link to the match in the report, but here’s the video description:
Prettyboy Alex Wright works over hard bodied sexy heel Lex Lugar.
New professional goal: have someone refer to me as the “hard bodied sexy heel.”
Best: Lumberjacks Dressed As Lumberjacks
The main-event sounds a lot cooler than it is: Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Brother Booty against Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan and Arn Anderson in a lumberjack strap match. The wrestlers AND the lumberjacks have straps. And yes, because WCW, the lumberjacks are all wearing flannel shirts.
I just wanted to post this so you’d have a visual record of Meng wearing flannel with skull-and-crossbones pants. And Lord Steven Regal wearing his ruffly collar OVER the lumberjack outfit.
Worst: Guess Who Screws It All Up
The match is just Hogan and company beating the mess out of the rudos for ten minutes until the finish, which is Hogan nonchalantly big-booting Ric Flair and pinning him in the middle of the ring. Because that’s the guy you want taking the pinfall in a match including 1996 Kevin Sullivan and Any Year Brutus Beefcake. The lumberjack gimmick is fun enough, but they clearly weren’t told what to do, so they all start whipping each other. It’s fun to watch Road Warrior Hawk on the outside, because even though he wrestled the f*cking Steiner Brothers 20 minutes ago he can’t be moved to sell a leather strap. Regal sells enough for both of them.
Anyway, there are two notable non-shirt-related moments here:
About 3 seconds into the match, Hulk Hogan finds himself on the outside being held by The Giant. Flair gets in a few cheap shots, but when the Loch Ness Monster tries to attack, Hogan moves. Loch Ness hits The Giant, and instead of them going “okay, shit happens, we’re all huge and out here wielding leather straps,” The Giant attacks. That causes them to have a BIG NASTY STINKY FIGHT to the back, assumedly because Loch Ness couldn’t stand in one place for more than a minute without deflating and making the entire room smell like month-old trash.
Later in the match, The Diamond Doll returns in her Sunday whites and once again tries to give flowers to The Booty Man in the middle of a goddamn match:
She stands on the ramp with her thumb in her teeth talking to the crowd. “I DON’T KNOW, SHOULD I???” The guy she’s trying to ask out is surrounded by 18 crazy lumberjacks who won’t stop strapping anything that moves. She thinks now is the time to ask him out. He’s been backstage all day unloading a gross of hairspray on his weird, reconstructed bloat-skull and now is when you wander out with flowers. And while we’re on the subject, why is she bringing the guy multiple bouquets of flowers? Who thinks you ask somebody out like that? Jesus Christ, Kim.
Best: Mongo Figures It Out
The show ends with Flair, Arn and Sullivan sticking around to cut a promo about how they’re going to end Hulkamania. When they’re done, the announcers wrap up the show. Mongo waves his hand like he smells a fart and drops some true pro graps wisdom:
“I don’t know what they’re bragging about, they just got their tails whipped. They should be slinkin’ off with it between their legs, but here they are, they’re talking in the ring.”
And all at once, Mongo knew what it meant to be a smark.