– In case you missed it, the retro Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw column has jumped ahead to 1996. The episode that aired against this one (and is suuuuuper boring) will be up on Friday.
– Share the column! These shows are 19 years old, so I need your help getting large groups of people involved in reliving the minutiae of Disco Inferno storylines.
And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for June 24, 1996.
This Week In Things Tony Schiavone Thinks Are The Biggest In The History Of Our Sport
1. Bash at the Beach ’96: “But now fans as we head to Sunday, the 7th of July at Bash at the Beach, truly the most important event in WCW history.”
2. The Bash at the Beach main event: “Yeah but Brain, this is unlike any wrestling match in the history of our sport!”
It’s not as good as an ongoing chronicle of Pepe costumes, but it’s just as ridiculous. Who knew I got my writing style from Tony Schiavone?
Worst: Team WCW Is Wearing Sting Facepaint Because They’re About To Get Swerved And Made To Look Stupid
In preparation for their match in … uh, two weeks, the members of Team WCW — Sting, Lex Luger and the Macho Man Randy Savage — have decided to all wear Sting’s facepaint in a show of solidarity. As you may know from any wrestling moment that’s happened since July 7, 1996, Team WCW gets swerved and made to look like fools. In retrospect, adopting the signature look of the wrestler most famous for blindly trusting people who immediately turn on him may not have been a great idea.
One nice touch, though: before the nWo, Sting’s facepaint was the symbol of “WCW.” After the nWo, they second guess and distrust the symbol of WCW until it vanishes up into the rafters for a year to mope and cosplay The Crow.
A supplemental Worst goes to Sting shortening Lex Luger’s “The Total Package” nickname to just “The Package,” because it gives his promos a weird, unnecessary sexuality. “MACHO MAN IS FROTHING AT THE MOUTH AND SO IS THE PACKAGE!”
Best: Lord Of The Dance Steven Regal
The Blue Bloods (yay) wrestle The Public Enemy (boo), and the finish is so bad I can’t even process it beyond real-life shrugging. Johnny Grunge is still wearing a cast on his hand, right? He hits the ropes, gets tripped by Jeeves and falls onto his own cast. He no-sells it for a second, gets to his feet, remembers he’s supposed to sell and is suddenly “knocked out.” Regal and Flyboy Rocco Rock fight to the outside, Dave Taylor turns around and knocked-out Johnny Grunge blasts HIM in the face with the cast to win. So … they have managerial interference leading to a slapstick injury spot leading to nothing (??), and that’s it. Grunge rolls out of the ring, holds the cast up for the cameras and announces, “LODI DODI, WE LIKES TO PARTY!”
Anyway, none of that matters because the match gives us Lord Steven Regal doing condescending dances, and they are the best. I can’t tell which is better: Regal dancing, or Regal thinking this is what hip-hop dancing looks like.
I love you, Lord Steven Regal. I’m not even playing.
Best: Kip Abee Eats Fresh
The Taskmaster and Giant are facing Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit at Bash at the Beach as a followup to Taskmaster and Benoit wandering into a bathroom and punching each other for real at The Great American Bash. As a warmup, Taskmaster stomps to the ring and almost literally takes poor Kip Abee to the woodshed. He beats him up the arena steps, tries to assassinate him in the women’s restroom, tosses him face-first into a Subway kiosk and beats him back down the steps.
If you aren’t familiar with ‘Monty’ Kip Abee, he’s a spectacularly obscure jobber that once teamed with a young Chris Kanyon (who bettah?) and specialized in getting shit-kicked with no response. Here’s a match he had against Ric Flair that’s just him getting whomped to death from bell to bell. Sadly I don’t think he ever won a match, thereby robbing us of his wonderful catchphrase I’m making up, “this is an ABEE match … so see your way out of it!”
Best: Poor, Poor Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko defends the Cruiserweight Championship against Hard Work Bobby Walker, which is kinda like the San Antonio Spurs playing a middle school wheelchair basketball team. Imagine Ronda Rousey defending the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship against Malala.
The good news (?) is that Disco Inferno shows up for no reason to brag about getting a gold record for selling “a million CDs,” which isn’t even how it works. Disco demands they play his entrance theme, and he just gets into the ring and starts dancing on the turnbuckles while the match is happening. Bobby Walker is upset that Disco isn’t working hard enough (I’m assuming), and Malenko capitalizes by dropkicking him into Disco’s asshole and Northern Lights Suplexing him for the win.
Disco will challenge Malenko for the Cruiserweight strap at Bash at the Beach, because WCW knows the Hogan swerve is all anybody’s gonna talk about anyway, so the rest of the card is a straight-up trash barge.
Update: Our World Is Still About To Change
Sigh. Maybe it’s the Biblical definition of “about to.” You know, like how in the book of Genesis it says God “created the world in seven days,” but the definition of “day” might not mean 24 hours, and could actually mean millennia? Glacier can’t debut until they’ve figured out lights and weather and stuff, so it’s exactly like The Bible.
Best/Worst: Eddie Guerrero vs. The Barbarian
Eddie Guerrero’s back from an international tour and takes on The Barbarian, who is still right on the cusp of being a huge babyface sensation. Seriously, for like two months every Barbarian appearance involved him doing something awesome, non-chalantly raising his arm and the crowd going BONKERS. It never amounted to anything, but it would’ve been cool to see a 40-year old Tongan dude as one of WCW’s top faces.
Anyway, the match starts off really well, with Guerrero using his speed to stick and move and the Barbarian repeatedly catching him and throwing him at the ground. At one point Barbarian hits a belly-to-belly suplex off the top rope that legitimately throws Eddie across and OUT OF the ring. It’s awesome. Barbarian keeps trying to pin him with one hand, and Guerrero shows heart by repeatedly kicking out. It all goes to shit at what I assume was the finish, with Guerrero trying to adjust on Barbarian’s shoulders and hurricanrana him over into a pin. One or both of them can’t figure out what they’re doing, and for like 20 seconds they just awkwardly hold each other and roll. Guerrero’s visibly pissed off, and they redo the finish with Eddie countering a second top rope suplex attempt into a flash pin.
To make matters worse, they ask Eddie to cut a promo after the match. Here’s something revisionist history doesn’t tell you: while Eddie was a great promo and one of the most charismatic WWE Superstars of all time, he wasn’t always good at everything. Early WCW Guerrero promos are brutal. He’s visibly uncomfortable on the mic, is trying too hard to be a polite babyface and rambles on so much that Mean Gene cuts him off mid-sentence to send it to commercial. I’m saying he was Benoit bad on the mic, and the most advantageous thing he ever did was cutting that shit out and being himself.
I’m imagining this as a Scott Pilgrim thing where Arn’s rocking out on a bass, and Benoit has to dragon suplex the monsters it creates. Or, I don’t know, the Horsemen jumping KISS backstage at Nitro and breaking their hands.
Best: Everybody Hates Joe Gomez
Tony explains the stipulations for the upcoming Dungeon of Doom vs. Horsemen showdown at Bash at the Beach: if Arn and Benoit can defeat The Taskmaster and Giant, a member of the Four Horsemen — presumably Ric Flair — would get a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship on Nitro. As a warmup, the Horsemen wrestle the Rock n’ Roll Express, and just like the first time, it’s better than it should be. You could put the Rock n’ Rolls in the ring with The New Day or whoever in 2015 as 90-year old men and they’d work a competent tag match. The Rock n’ Rolls are doing well here, too, until Steve McMichael deathblows Robert Gibson with his Mongo In The Bank briefcase. As Tony puts it, “YOU’RE NOT GONNA SURVIVE THE HALIBURTON IN THE NOGGIN FROM MONGO MCMICHAEL.”
For whatever reason DESPERADO JOE GOMEZ shows up to avenge the loss. Mongo blasts HIM in the back with the briefcase and the crowd ERUPTS WITH APPROVAL, because f*ck Joe Gomez forever. The Horsemen hold him down while Mongo slaps him in the face a bunch, and it’s this wonderful subversive babyface thing before Macho Man and Kevin Greene show up to run them off. I’m telling you, if WCW had picked up on these audience cues, the Horsemen could’ve ridden that “anti-hero” thing Stone Cold Steve Austin’s about to make household-popular and been the coolest faction in wrestling. The crowd is so ready to love them, and WCW’s reluctance to pull the trigger sends most of that KILL THE SHITTY BABYFACES love to Hall and Nash. Que sera sera, or whatever.
Best: Diamond Cutter, See You Later
DDP wrestles Alex Wright, who has been blinking in and out of existence since that time the Loch Ness Monster fell on him. It’s once again about putting over the Diamond Cutter as the deadliest move in wrestling, and to establish that in two weeks, because trash barge, Page will defend his Battlebowl ring against Jim Duggan.
The worst part is that TRIFLIN ASS CHEATING ASS JIM DUGGAN has convinced WCW officials to make it a “Taped Fist” match, which is kinda like Flair going to WCW’s front office and demanding an ELIZABETH’S SHOES match against Hogan. Jim Duggan is basically Angelica from Rugrats at this point. Veruca Salt in the body of Ray Jackson from Bloodsport. Page earns forever points from me by saying Duggan will have to tape his fists, his mouth and his “whole body” if he wants to win the match. He also becomes the first WCW star to point out that there’s a conspiracy brewing in WCW management, which turns out to be true: Bischoff has been orchestrating this hostile takeover all along, and Page will be one of the only pro-WCW voices from beginning to end.
Jim Duggan will one day find the WCW TV title in a garbage can and defect to Canada.
Best: The Best Excuse To Not Continue A Feud
To recap, announcer and former football player Steve McMichael had gotten upset and picked a fight with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson over Flair’s creepy advances on his wife Debra. That set up McMichael and “any of his football buddies” against the Horsemen in a tag match at The Great American Bash. Mongo picked ‘Mean’ Kevin Greene of the Carolina Panthers, and they trained for weeks at the WCW Power Plant. Greene looks like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast had a baby with Vincent from the Linda Hamilton TV version of Beauty and the Beast and has the enthusiasm of a small child. They team up and things are going well until the Horsemen buy out Mongo with a t-shirt and a briefcase full of Macho Man Randy Savage’s Cartoon Network money. These are actual plot points. Mongo turns on Greene, becomes a Horsemen and throws the match.
Wrestling etiquette says Greene has to stick around for a singles match against Mongo, but he can’t: he’s gotta go play football. WHOOPS, LIFE STUFF. He swears that when the season is over he’s “going on a Mongo hunt,” and makes Mean Gene daintily cover his mouth in exasperation by saying “ass” on TV.
Don’t worry, though, he’s got a parting gift:
Best: Don’t Tug On Kevin Greene’s Braided Rat Tail
Macho Man (still in Sting face paint) has Greene in his corner for a match against V.K. Wallstreet. Wallstreet looks like he’s wrestling in Richie Rich’s pajamas, complete with a pocket on the front of his singlet with a dollar sign on it. Wallstreet keeps screwing with Greene at ringside and eventually takes a shot at him, forgetting that Kevin Greene is SUPER EFFECTIVE against pro wrestlers. Greene ducks, shoves Wallstreet into the ring post and dumps him back in for a Savage elbow.
If you’d like to jump ahead in the timeline, Greene would return to get his revenge on Mongo at the 1997 Great American Bash, but only after interference from JEFF JARRETT. Enjoy how TNA-ly that sentence ended.
Worst: WORST FINISH EVER
WORST FINISH IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT.
The main event is a triple threat tag match for the Tag Team Championships, with Sting and Luger defending the titles against the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat. The match is kinda pointless but fine up until the finish, which is so bad it actually makes me physically angry 19 years later. Hall and Nash show up in the crowd, so all the cameras cut to them and the ring fills up with cops. WCW doesn’t want a repeat of what happened to Eric Bischoff, you see, and the Outsiders have baseball bats. As you might remember from WrestleMania 32, WCW baseball bats are sharp enough to cut sledgehammers in half.
Anyway, the ring is full of cops and all the wrestlers are looking at Hall and Nash, so Booker T rolls up Lex Luger. Luger’s legs are in the ropes and Stevie Ray’s holding him down in clear view of the referee, AND ALSO THE RING IS FULL OF COPS AND THE MATCH HAS STOPPED, but it gets three. That screencap is the clearest view we get of it, lost in the bottom lefthand portion of the screen while Important Things happen on the right. Luger no-sells the pin to keep looking at Hall and Nash and even Bobby Heenan doesn’t realize the match has ended, but whoops, new tag team champions. They try to show a replay from a reverse angle, but the cameraman stops filming it around the one count to see what’s happening elsewhere. This is seriously the main event of the show, and seriously how they handled a title change.
Hall and Nash creep backwards up the entranceway holding bats, and the stars of WCW “stand united” while Harlem Heat scurries away with championship belts nobody cares about and nobody noticed they won. NAILED IT.