– And we’re back! If you’re a fan of this column you might’ve noticed I took a little hiatus after The Best And Worst Of Uncensored ’96. Travel the week before WrestleMania 31 and constant WrestleMania jabber the week after started that, and then I was suddenly hospitalized. Yes, watching Uncensored ’96 put me in the hospital.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on March 25, 1996.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Cow Cowboy
If this looks familiar, it’s a repeat of Pepe’s gear from the 11/20/95 edition of Nitro. Mongo didn’t even do the “Marge Simpson bought a dress on sale” gag and combine the accessories into something different. They just went with the cow cowboy mother/calf ensemble.
Sadly it appears that Pepe has peaked, and with Mongo getting in the ring soon it means we’re in the twilight of pro wrestling’s greatest cosplaying dog’s career. Let’s try not to consider this a repeat and consider it a farewell tour. He’s playing his greatest hits.
BRB gonna be sad about the same dog I got weirdly sad about 20 years ago.
Best As A Social Observation: Belfast Bruiser Vs. Macho Man
If you watched/read about WCW Uncensored ’96, you’ll know that The Belfast Bruiser is a night removed from totally forgetting wrestling’s a work and punching Lord Steven Regal in his face until he broke it. It was a weird BattleARTS thing where they were just like, “yeah, no, it’s fine, let’s just lie around and find ways to secretly hurt each other for real for 20 minutes.”
On Nitro, the Bruiser’s next match is against Macho Man Randy Savage. I have two theories:
1. Macho Man watched that match with Regal, went “holy shit” and demanded to have a match with Finlay. Savage seems like the kind of guy who’d gotten into a run wrestling Flair and Luger every week and was having bad matches with Kurasawa and Tenzan, and had FINALLY found his muse. I’M GONNA GET PUNCHED IN MY FACE FOR REAL, DIG IT~!
2. WCW was worried they’d accidentally hired a legit murderous psychopath and put Finlay in this match with Savage to make sure he was on the level. If the Bruiser got for-real violent with one of wrestling’s biggest stars, they’d have the option of kicking him in his asshole and shipping him back to Ireland on the carcass of the Loch Ness.
As it turns out, the match plays somewhere in-between those theories. Finlay is snug with Savage, but it’s nothing crazy. He certainly doesn’t try to break his face for real. There are moments where Savage seems legitimately heated, though, like he’s EXPECTING Finlay to take liberties and piss him off.
At the end of the match it’s no harm no foul, as Finlay exaggeratedly runs into the ring post and lies down forever for Macho’s elbow drop. The good news is that the Belfast Bruiser sticks around for a while, and that they put him in the Legit Murderous Psychopaths division with Chris Benoit.
Best: The WCW Hotline Commercial
I haven’t had the chance to sing the praises of this thing yet, but it’s the undisputed king of 90s WCW commercials.
In it, Mean Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan use disguises and subterfuge to spy on WCW talent and find out their darkest secrets. They creep on Disco Inferno while he tries to bang Kimberly, dress up like ladies and hide under Sting’s dinner table, and in the least advisable action of all hide in the American Males’ lockers. Brother, you don’t want to be in there. You have no idea what’s in there.
I’ve always loved this, and I appreciate the rando that uploaded it to YouTube. You’re in my heart.
Best/Worst: Mr. JL Almost Kills Konnan Like Five Times
So, Konnan wrestles Mr. JL. I’ve been sitting on it for days and I still can’t figure it out.
If you haven’t seen the match, it’s hard to tell if Mr. JL has gone full Sin Cara in an attempt to accidentally kill Konnan for real, or if Konnan’s sandbagging the shit out of him for some reason and causing it to happen. If you watch it, Konnan has zero facial expressions throughout the entire match, he just stands there with a frown on his face doing nothing and then JL runs up and DDTs him and almost severs his spine. So they get up, Konnan emotionally no-sells it and JL’s like, “okay, well, let’s drop you on your face again.” At one point even Nick Patrick doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, and hesitates so badly on a three-count near the ropes that the announce team has a conversation about it.
The finish is Konnan Alabama Slamming JL and flipping over into a “bridge,” which I’m putting in quotations because he’s just lying on the ground with his shoulders down. No idea. Maybe Konnan’s dog died before the match and felt bad about it.
Best: Disco Inferno Has A CD And DDP’s Panwed Rings
The best part is that it’s not ‘Shake Your Booty’ by Disco Inferno, it’s ‘Shake Your Booty Tour.’ So what, is this a live album? Could I have seen Disco Inferno in concert?
Worst: The Booty Man Makes Even Less Sense Now
The Booty Man wrestles Disco Inferno (get it, because “booty”) and it’s a total anal fissure. Two reasons:
1. The match is like three minutes long, and like two minutes in The Booty Babe shows up and gives The Booty Man an adrenaline boost by slapping him on the ass. Powered up, Booty starts punching Disco, stops to rub his own ass, then lands an extra powerful finishing punch. Is the Booty Man’s power source his right buttock? Is that why he’s called The Booty Man? Or is he physically transferring the power of Kimberly’s initial slap into his fist by like, rubbing it out? Sorta like how you can cup your hand near your asshole when you fart and bring it around real fast to throw in somebody’s face. Maybe that’s what’s happening? Who knows where they moved Beefcake’s butthole after that parasailing accident.
2. Eric Bischoff clearly has no idea who Disco Inferno is (despite identifying him correctly for several weeks) and keeps calling him “Disco Fever.” My two theories here are that Bischoff never paid attention to wrestling and read everything he ever said off a cue card, or that Kimberly being around gave him neighborhood key party hot flashes and he couldn’t concentrate.
Best: Emotionally-Complex Tag Team Matches
Continuing Lex Luger’s amazing 1996, this is one of the most interesting tag matches I’ve seen from this era. Not the best, mind you, but one of the most interesting.
The finish to the Doomsday Cage match at Uncensored saw Flair hold Macho Man for Luger to punch him with a deadly LOADED GLOVE. Savage ducked and Luger almost hit Flair, stopped, then followed through anyway. Out of context it looks like a botch, like he just double clutched and through the fakest punch in history because everybody wanted out of the f*cking Doomsday Cage, but they’re playing it off as a probably-purposeful decision. Luger’s out of the Dungeon of Doom and on the side of the angels again, but he’s still a massive prick. That’s the story, and it’s wonderfully layered.
Sting and Luger wrestle The American Males, and there are two stories. One is that Luger is a crazy heel nut that has to be reigned in by his do-gooding tag team partner, so there’ll be moments where he’ll snap and try to hurl a Male into the guardrail and Sting’ll have to wander over and stop him. He’ll freak out and start cheating and Sting basically has to grab him by the earlobe and make him stop. It’s great. The other is that Sting trained Marcus Alexander Bagwell, so there’s a student/teacher respect thing happening. Bagwell wants to show Sting up but he wants to do it the right way, and Sting likes Bagwell enough to coddle Luger through some Code of Honor bullshit.
This all comes together in the finish, which sees Sting out-hustle Scotty Riggs as they’re bouncing off the ropes to hit a high-impact running crossbody and get the pin. Bagwell can jump in and break it up but he hesitates, and that costs him. Luger doesn’t factor in at all but celebrates with both tag titles, and Sting has to like, wrangle him and make him celebrate as a team.
I’m going to be so sad when this precious Luger run ends and he goes back to being the one we remember.
Best: RAINMAKER POSE
One of the most absurd stories on the show is that Miss Elizabeth has suddenly taken all of Macho Man’s money in the divorce, despite the fact that they divorced in like 1992 and it’s 1996. But sure enough, she and Woman have stacks of Macho Man’s hard-earned husbandry money and are throwing it out to the crowd as Flair makes his entrance. The best part is that they’re clearly $1 bills. I guess she can’t walk out with a promotional box of Slim Jim samples and throw those out and have it feel the same.
The best part is that Savage is so enraged about losing 40 bucks that he runs out and tries to kill them. WCW security (and Jim Duggan) have to hold him back. I hope nobody reminded him of how desperate this seemed when he was recording that rap album.
Worst: The First Of Many, Many, Many Big Show Turns
The main event is a way, way too long championship match between Ric Flair and The Giant, two heels who have spent the past six months or whatever breaking Hulk Hogan’s neck, running over his possessions in monster trucks and poking out his eyes with shoe heels. It’s just a roundabout way to get to the post-match stuff, which is the first documented Big Show alignment shift.
If you’ve followed The Giant’s career since ’96 you know him as the least steady, least trusted WWE Superstar ever. Mark Henry and Alicia Fox are the only people who come close to changing sides as much as him. He’ll turn heel, turn face, then turn heel again in the span of a match. It’s his defining trait. You hear “Big Show” and think “heel turns that don’t matter” before you think “tall.”
He hits Flair with a chokeslam and is about to win the title, so Woman and Elizabeth get in the ring to run interference. That distracts him long enough for Arn Anderson to run out and swat him in the back with a folding chair, but before he can turn around, Kevin Sullivan is in the ring and yanking the chair away from Arn. That leaves the smoking gun in Sullivan’s hands, so The Giant chokeslams him, effectively ending his relationship with the Dungeon of Doom and turning face. He chokeslams Anderson as an exclamation point.
So now you’ve got the “son of Andre the Giant,” born from an exploding statue in the Dungeon of Doom’s mystical cave, the guy who accidentally died in a rooftop monster truck sumo battle only to no-sell death, the man who clubbering-forearmed a 600-pound mythical creature into oblivion, is now your top championship babyface.
Eh, I give it five months.