– In case you missed it, the retro Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw column has jumped ahead to 1996, so you can read about the episode of Raw that played against this Nitro. Spoiler alert, Ultimate Warrior beats up a dentist.
– Share the column! These shows are almost 20 years old, so your likes and shares and other Internet things make a difference.
And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for April 29, 1996.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Drunk Nerd
Mongo’s a month and a half away from his in-ring debut and he’s too busy worrying about his wife diddling Ric Flair to hit up a Petsmart, so he dresses his dog in a Hawaiian shirt and a Batman top hat. It looks like Larry Zbyszko got drunk and animorphed at Comic-Con.
Best: The Best Kind Of Sting And Luger Tag Match
This week’s opening match is Sting and Lex Luger vs. Harlem Heat, and it’s the very best kind of Sting/Luger tag. They’re Sting and Lex Luger, right? Unless they’re wrestling Vader and his tag team partner OTHER VADER, they shouldn’t be getting their asses kicked. Like, if Sting’s in the ring with Scotty Riggs, Riggs being the heel or whatever shouldn’t allow him to beat Sting’s ass for 10 minutes. It’s Sting.
Sting and Luger would occasionally figure this out, and they’d have these cool, genre-busting tag matches where NOBODY took the heat and everybody recovered quickly and threw bombs until one of the teams dropped. The best of these is their match against the Steiner Brothers at SuperBrawl ’91, the 1991 PWI Match of the Year and one of my very favorite matches ever. It’s 11 minutes of four of the strongest, most dynamic wrestlers you’ve ever seen saying, “f*ck this, I’m going to win.” It works because the crowd loves everybody, and everybody looks great. Nobody lies around on the ground gasping for air because they got hip-tossed despite having the body of a God and the conditioning of a championship race horse.
Sting/Luger vs. Harlem Heat is a version of that. Booker and Stevie Ray look like total equals in the ring with two of WCW’s biggest stars and have the match won at points, but don’t pull the trigger because they’re too in the moment and doing too well. Booker spinaroonies up and kicks Sting’s head off, but he’s stuck in the middle of this epic thing so instead of going for a pin, he gets up on the ropes all, “YEAH, YOU SEE THAT, NOW I’M WINNING.” Booker’s entire career was made during these Nitro midcard years, when we’d watch matches like this and go, “wow, that guy’s really good, he should probably be a star instead of a Second Stevie Ray.”
Worst: Not Having Proper Context For These Things That Already Barely Make Sense
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the match is good, but the finish is convoluted and dumb. Whoops!
Harlem Heat gain an advantage, shitcan Sting and hit Lex Luger with a powerbomb/elbow drop combination. It looks like they’re about to get the pin, but out runs Jimmy Hart. Hart tosses a towel into the ring, and the announcers are like, “NOT AGAIN, YOU MAGGOT!” Apparently Jimmy Hart threw in the towel during a match on WCW Saturday Night, and we don’t know this until now because 1) WWE Network hasn’t uploaded any WCW weekend shows, which were WCW’s lifeblood for ages, and 2) Nitro doesn’t do any “here’s what you missed on Saturday” video packages.
Anyway, Hart throws in the towel but the Heats catch it, so I guess the actual act of throwing in the towel doesn’t matter or signify anything, it has to touch the ground without anyone interfering? I don’t know. He gets dragged into the ring and threatened with a beating, so Sting slides back in and for the (womp womp) distraction rollup finish. Luger and Sting are cheered as beloved faces, and I feel like I’ve missed a lot.
The best part: conniving white people stealing a victory from two hard-working black guys is brought to you by THE GREAT WHITE HYPE.
Best: The Steiners Vs. Two Anthropomorphic Trucks With Legs
Real quick, I just want to type an excited paragraph about how much I love FIRE & ICE. If Glacier and Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller didn’t exist, they’d be my favorite inconsequential mid-90s WCW tag team. If you’ve never seen them before, they’re Ice Train and Scott ‘Flash’ Norton. Ice Train is Big E Langston, but bigger, faster and more dangerously sloppy. I don’t know how that’s possible, but whatever. Scott Norton is basically a character from Over The Top. They’re both as wide as they are tall and could lift full-sized sedans with one arm. They are AWESOME.
They run into the Steiner Brothers, who (if you’ve followed the Steiner Brothers) excel at finding bigger, stronger, faster guys and dumping them on their f*cking heads. Watching them wrestle Fire & Ice is like watching them wrestle Steve Williams and Terry Gordy, if Williams and Gordy were driven into mindlessness by Bane venom. The match is an exaggerated version of Sting/Luger vs. Harlem Heat, with neither side selling anything and everyone just going WELL, WE’RE GOOD AT THROWING SHIT, LET’S THROW SOME SHIT.
The finish fits right into that motif; Scotty Steiner tries to double-underhook powerbomb Ice Train because he’s OUT OF HIS MIND, so Norton runs in and stops him. They go tumbling out of the ring, so Rick pops up out of nowhere, Steinerlines Ice Train to death and keeps him down for three. At 3.5, Ice Train just kinda rolls over and makes a disappointed face and shrugs off 100% of the damage. The Steinerline didn’t hurt him, necessarily, it just stunned him for 3.4 seconds and that’s enough to lose a wrestling match.
I know this reads like I don’t want wrestlers to ever pretend like they’re hurt, but sometimes you’d rather watch a bunch of monstrous weirdos go crazy on each other. Compare it to the same week’s Raw’s 10 minutes of Bart Gunn slowly punching and you’ll know why it’s a viable alternative.
Best: Ric Flair Might Not Be Paying Attention
So, on last week’s episode, Ric Flair and The Giant teamed up. Flair was in trouble and tried one of his special moves — a woman arbitrarily hurling a hot cup of coffee into his opponents’ faces — but accidentally coffee’d The Giant. That caused the big man to realize he was THE ONE TRUE COFFEE-FACED GIANT, and now they’re wrestling for Flair’s World Heavyweight Championship. As reasons for matches go, it’s at least better than “Mean Gene drew an envelope at random.”
Flair’s pre-match promo is WONDERFUL, because he establishes that The Giant is a literal fairytale giant who can breathe fire, then immediately discredits it because of his own awesome sex life. Flair’s like, “YEAH THE GIANT IS HUGE AND POWERFUL AND COULD KILL ME WITH HIS PINKIE FINGER BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, NOBODY CARES ABOUT THAT BECAUSE I’VE GOT TWO SMOKING MILF GIRLFRIENDS AND THEY HAVE SEX WITH ME AND THAT’S SO GREAT. MEAN GENE, CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW GREAT IT IS THAT I PORK NOT ONE BUT BOTH OF THESE LADIES?” And then Mean Gene’s like, “huh-ho!” I love this version of Flair. I want to see him in other situations. You could point a gun at him and he’d yell ME AND ELIZABETH DO BUTT STUFF, WOO!
Best: Regal And Finlay Beat The Christ Out Of Each Other With Cars
I’ll put it to you this way: The Belfast Bruiser slams Lord Steven Regal’s face into a car bumper until it falls off, then picks up the bumper and tries to stab him with it.
It’s Regal and Finlay wandering around in a parking lot hurting each other as much as possible and getting slowly covered in blood from nonspecific locations. It’s the evolution of their Uncensored match, and at some point it’s like, sure, you’ve got to choke a guy out with a seatbelt and piledrive him on a car. It’s just what has to happen.
The only downside (which you can hear if you watch the video) is Eric Bischoff’s weird “nobody watch this” sales pitch. He tells the camera man to zoom out and stay on a wide shot because he “doesn’t want to see this,” and won’t shut up about how he’s going to petition WCW to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. It’s like, bruh, I know the match doesn’t have Hulk Hogan or Brutus Beefcake in it but could you shut up and let us watch it? He also calls a seatbelt a “safety strap” at one point. Maybe his wrong names for everything aren’t limited to karate kicks.
The main event is great for one reason: The Giant figures out how to beat Ric Flair.
I mean, a lot of people have beaten Ric Flair, but The Giant skips all the work. Mongo points it out after the match: usually when you wrestle Flair he’ll drag things out and the Horsemen will get involved, or Woman will throw coffee in your face or Miss Elizabeth will take off her shoe and use it like a machete. It becomes more and more complex and difficult the longer it goes, and if you don’t have magical Hulk Hogan powers you can’t win. Even Hogan loses to it sometimes.
The early part of the match is Flair’s offense doing no damage and him going AHH GADD when he realizes he’s gonna get beaten up. Eventually he builds some momentum and cheats to win with The Giant’s biggest weakness, the Floyd Mayweather Special. If you didn’t watch WrestleMania 24, that’s a running punch to the jaw while wearing brass knucks. Flair thinks he’s knocked the BIG STINKY GIANT out and struts around for too long in celebration, then goes for a figure four to add insult to injury. The Giant INSTA-RECOVERS, chokes Flair and just chokeslams him for the pin. Just a straight-up 1-2-3 out of nowhere. The reaction of the crowd is GREAT, because they knew for sure some dumb shit was gonna go down. That’s the best kind of reaction in wrestling, I think … when you’ve got a crowd unanimously not buying your finish, and then you finish them. It’s like Lesnar/Undertaker at WrestleMania 30. Everybody in the building knew Taker was kicking out of that final F5. Everybody in this building knew someone was gonna run in and hit the Giant with a damn stiletto full of Guatemalan blend or whatever and ruin the match.
But, uh, nope! The Giant skipped the extra steps and just put Flair away with authority out of nowhere to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. Mean Gene rushes into the ring to help him celebrate, and to say “Hulk Hogan” into a microphone as quickly as possible.
Best: The Giant’s Amazing Victory Catchphrase
“HULK HOGAN! STING! MACHO MAN! COME ONE, COME ALL, AT THE HANDS OF THE GIANT YOU DOGGONE SURE ARE GONNA FALL! AAAHHHH!”
I also would’ve accepted, “I’M THE GIANT AND I’M HERE TO SAY, I’M THE WORLD CHAMP IN A MAJOR WAY, I SAID A MAAAAJOR WAY!”