– 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 Nitro should be up on Monday.
– Share the column! Remind your friends of a time when Hulk Hogan was making us hate him on purpose.
And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for July 15, 1996.
Best/Worst: Fire & Ice Are Breaking Up
This week’s opening match is the Steiner Brothers vs. Scott Norton and Ice Train, and it’s a sad occasion. Fire & Ice are breaking up, which you never would’ve expected from a team named “Fire & Ice.” Maybe if they’d been named “Fire & A Big Pile Of Shredded Paper” they would’ve lasted longer.
Norton tries to hold Rick Steiner down for an Ice Train splash, but Steiner does a sit-up, pulling Norton into the way. Train splashes his own partner, a puddle ensues and the Steiners win the match. Teddy Long shows up to make peace because he wants to preserve the team — because nobody in the history of wrestling loves tag teams more than Teddy f*cking Long — but it’s no use. Fire & Ice are on a collision course, and it’ll be a lot like these Steiner Brothers matches, minus the “people who are good at wrestling” parts.
Best: Dean Malenko Murks Billy Kidman
Speaking of people who are good at wrestling, DEAN BY GOD MALENKO.
Stinko Malenko’s still sore about losing the Cruiserweight Championship to Rey Mysterio Jr. and gets to take it out on the pre-Crisis, Paul from The Wonder Years version of Billy Kidman. Poor, poor Kidman.
Unlike the Regal match, this one gives us a glimpse at the wrestler Kidman would become. Two moments in particular:
1. Jump to the 1:50 mark in the video. Malenko tries to powerbomb Kidman on the floor, but it gets reversed. I don’t know if you were a wrestling fan on the Internet between 1997 and his retirement, but “you can’t powerbomb Kidman” is one of the most enduring tropes of the Attitude Era. Kidman lived or died by people trying to powerbomb him. You’d get him into matches with Rey Mysterio, and this little-ass dude would try to Liger bomb Kidman for no reason, just so it could be reversed. It was the ancestor of guys who never do the Stinger Splash running and jumping into Samoa Joe in the corner.
2. Kidman busts out the shooting star press for the first time on Nitro. He used it as a finish and called it the “Seven-Year Itch,” because he ends up in Raven’s Flock with a scratching gimmick. He scratched himself a lot. I think he had lice? I don’t know. Tony Schiavone calls it, “a backflip, almost a reverse somersault through the air,” because he gets paid to talk about wrestling.
The best part of the match is the finish, with Malenko dodging the shooting star and going nuclear, absolutely wrecking Kidman with like 1/3 of his 1000 moves, all in a row. He murders him with a clothesline, hits a sick brainbuster, plants him with a powerbomb (because it’s 1996 and Kidman hasn’t evolved into his next form), hits a double-underhook powerbomb and transitions it into a Texas Cloverleaf for the easy, emphatic victory.
Also important: Jimmy Hart propositions Dean before the match, because when you think of The Dungeon of Doom, you think of a little Jewish dad who knows a lot of armbars.
Worst: ROUGH & READY
Straight from the $5 bin at Little Caesars comes ROUGH & READY, Colonel Parker’s unbeatable team of Dirty Dick Slater — a man brave enough to refer to himself as a “dirty dick” for decades — and Mean Mike Enos, whose name sounds like “anus.” DICK AND ANUS ARE ROUGH & READY, YOU GUYS.
Their opponents? Harlem Heat, managed by a woman who almost married Colonel Parker in a Las Vegas drive-thru, and promoted by … uh, Colonel Parker.
Worst: Sherri Sucks (Face With) Dick
That doesn’t work out well for them, surprisingly, as a distraction from Parker allows Sister Sherri to climb into the ring and French Dick Slater. He’s so shocked that a woman would put her mouth on Dirty Dick that he gets an arm jammed between his legs and held down against his will. Pro wrestling sounds really awful when you remove all the terminology, doesn’t it?
I think this entire Harlem Heat tag titles run is based around a bet somebody made in the front office that they could give every single tag match a terrible finish, and nobody’d notice because it’s “just wrestling.” Next week, Harlem Heat pins the American Males after Skylab falls out of orbit and crushes Scotty Riggs.
Best: Hey, Women’s Wrestling Is Still A Thing! Or,
Worst: The Dreaded Hour Two Strikes Again
Remember when Madusa showed up and threw the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash, announcing that she’d returned to where The Big Girls Play to get some competition? Remember how the only thing she’s done since then was be The Other Woman in a manager love triangle and have a food fight in a drive-thru wedding chapel?
She gets a match with Malia Hosaka here, and the announcers explain that she’ll be facing Bull Nakano (!) in a “winner gets to destroy the loser’s motorcycle” match (what) at a Sturgis motorcycle rally (WHAT). It’s been 19 years and I still don’t want to remember a bunch of barely-interested bikers reacting to black tag champs and a Japanese lady in a women’s wrestling match.
Anyway, the match is pretty fun, but falls victim to the awful Hour Two Stick Of Dynamite. If you aren’t a regular reader of the column, WCW decided that announcing the middle-point of their two-hour TV show was so important that it needed a fireworks display every time, and that whatever was happening in the ring needed to get the f*ck out of the way. They shot off fireworks during the Rock n’ Roll Express returning, made poor Greg Valentine sell his own back-bodydrop to lose in time, and send Madusa/Hosaka home so fast it blows their house down. Hosaka misses a crossbody, Madusa Germans her for three with Hosaka’s feet all in the ropes and they vanish without a trace like they’re in the f*cking Foot Clan.
Best: Hall & Nash Are Here With A Passive-Aggressive Takeover
Want to know how serious the beef between WCW and the New World Order’s gotten in two weeks? Scott Hall and Kevin Nash bought a set of bed sheets, spraypainted “NWO” on them and climbed a structure in Disney MGM Studios to drape them over the big W, C and W.
Bobby Heenan refers to them as, “a couple of interior decorators.” Everybody’s outside.
Worst: The Dungeon Of Doom Is Outsmarting The Four Horsemen
Here’s an underrated gem for anyone looking to put together the worst matches in Nitro history. Meng spends 11 plodding minutes with Arn Anderson while Hall and Nash distract everyone by standing and waving, and a fireworks show happens in the background. I don’t care how much you like wrestling, if there’s a Disney fireworks show happening above you, you’re looking up. You aren’t gonna keep your eye on Meng as he applies the match’s fifth nerve hold.
The finish is terrible, too, with ring general Arn Anderson being outsmarted by the Dungeon of Doom. Seriously, how can you let these guys out-cheat you? Jimmy Hart’s only understanding of cheating is “get on the apron and hop up and down.” He does that, Barbarian clotheslines Arn in the back of the head and Meng Mafia Kicks Arn for the win. Nobody in the Four Horsemen shows up, despite Benoit and Mongo appearing in the next two segments. Couldn’t you bring Woman out here and have her stab Barbarian with a loafer? Come on.
This Week’s Pepe Costume: Safari Guy
Kevin Greene shows up still mad at Mongo for turning on him at The Great American Bash, which Hulk Hogan putting on a black shirt made everybody forget about. He confronts Mean Gene and is all, HAS ANYBODY SEENT MONGO, IF YA SEE HIM, SEND HIM MY WAY SO I CAN WHOOP HIS TAIL. Greene puts no effort into looking for Mongo beyond half-removing his Carolina Panthers polo in front of Gene, and eventually has to leave to catch a plane. He has to be at training camp, and won’t be back until February. But when he gets back, we will all definitely still care about his beef with Mongo, and HEADS WILL ROLL.
Mongo hilariously shows up as soon as Greene’s gone, accompanied by his aging, beauty pageant wife and a cosplaying dog. I’m guessing Pepe showed up here after the announcers buried him at Bash at the Beach. The highlight is honestly Debra, who is slowly morphing into the version of Debra I loved more than any character on the show for like a year. She cuts a long, rambling, Designing Women-esque promo on why Mongo rules and Kevin Greene drools, and Gene corpses throughout the entire thing because he can’t believe they gave this woman mic time.
The best quote:
“This is the WCW, where the … big … boys play, so you need to pack up and go back to lil’ Carolina where all the lidda-bitty … farm … boys are.”
Five stars. A supplemental Best for Mongo going full-’90s and insulting Greene for playing for an expansion team.
Best: Benoit Vs. Guerrero Forever And Always
One of the benefits of Sting, Ric Flair and the Macho Man all missing the show is that we get lots of time for stuff like Malenko vs. Kidman, or Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero. If you need me to tell you Benoit vs. Guerrero is dope, you have never watched wrestling.
Benoit powerbombing Guerrero is always an event. Every single time he does it it’s a masterpiece. Eddie goes up and Benoit whips him down like he’s trying to throw him to China. I guess he eventually did.
The finish is Dean Malenko running out and tossing Benoit into the ring post, which “scrambles his brains” according to Bischoff. Yeah. This sets up the two very best wrestlers in WCW at this point to get 27 MINUTES at the pay-per-view, which would be something we’d still be talking about today if it hadn’t happened in front of thousands of the wrong kind of redneck.
Best: The Inaugural nWo Beatdown
Lex Luger steps into the ring with Big Bubba for our main event, and it’s just an excuse to set up the grand return of Hulk Hogan and the very first nWo beatdown. Your lasting image of Nitro may be a dozen nWo guys standing around in a pile of trash while two or three helpless babyfaces crawl around and get spraypainted … if so, this is the attack that set the precedent. Enjoy this for the next three years, everybody.
Hall, Nash and “Hollywood” Hogan (dressed all in black, like that time he lost his mind and hung around in a graveyard brandishing a broadsword) attack Luger, then lure future nWo member Big Bubba into a false sense of security before attacking him as well. The ring starts to fill up with trash, and Hogan cuts the kind of awesome heel promo you can’t really do on TV anymore. He blames parents for booing him after he worked so hard to put their kids on the right path — which is amazing — and says that the “new blood” (cough) will take over WCW.
The crowd boos him SEVERELY and can’t stop thumbs-downing him, whereas today everybody’d be on their phone either chuckling to themselves about how good he is or chanting “what.” There’s something to be said for the innocence of a Disney crowd feeling truly betrayed by a heel turn.