– In case you missed it, the retro Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw column has jumped ahead to 1996. Battleground messed up the timing this week, so we’ll double up with vintage Raws on Monday.
– Share the column! Hulk Hogan’s coming back soon and I need all the support I can get.
And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for July 1, 1996.
Worst: WCW Had A Branding Meeting Before This Episode
Before this episode, everything happening with the nWo had been vague. They were “interlopers,” a pair of invaders from “up north” who for legal clarification purposes do not work for the World Wrestling Federation but kinda-sorta represent them anyway. So far it’s been mostly announcers going “WHO ARE THESE GUYS,” and Hall and Nash going, “hey everybody, it’s US.”
Bash at the Beach ’96 happens in six days, so by now everyone in the company knows what’s happening and where it’s going. “Kevin Nash” is referred to by that name for the first time, he and Nash are repeatedly called a couple of “outsiders,” and right at the top of the show Larry Zbyszko is pointing at the screen and saying THIS SUNDAY I PROMISE YOU, THERE WILL BE A NEW WORLD ORDER OF WRESTLING.
It’s fun to go back and watch once you know what’s going to happen. They won’t stop talking about “the third man” and how this is definitely the pay-per-view where wrestling history’s gonna change, and I’m surprised the main event wasn’t “HULK HOGAN’S TURNING ON SUNDAY, ORDER THE SHOW” in skywriting over the arena.
Worst: One Of Two Terrible Top Rope Interference Finishes
Last week’s show ended with one of the worst title changes in the history of our sport. Sting and Lex Luger defended the tag titles against the Steiners and Harlem Heat, but the match stopped when Those Interlopers showed up in the crowd. Hall and Nash jumped the security railing with baseball bats and the ring filled up with security so you’d think that’d be the end of it, but nope! Harlem Heat rolls up Luger together, in the ropes, in plain sight of the referee in a ring full of cops and win. Luger no-sells it to stand back up and look at Hall and Nash, and Harlem Heat celebrate somewhere offscreen.
This week opens with a solid match between the two teams that care about the tag titles — Harlem Heat and the Steiners. It’s what you’d expect. Scott Steiner doesn’t give a f*ck, Stevie Ray has the wrestling acumen of a pile of laundry and 70% of the moves are guys being picked up and thrown at the ground. The finish, though … does Harlem Heat work exclusively in terrible finishes?
Colonel Robert Parker returns from exile on Saturday nights and lurks around the ring, assumedly to coerce Harlem Heat into being his friends long enough to get food thrown at them during his next drive-through wedding. Rick Steiner goes for a top rope bulldog on Booker and connects, but decides to go for it again because WHOOPS, WE FORGOT THE FINISH. He goes back up top, Rob Parker comes around and trips him up, bashes him in the head with a stick and costs the Steiners the match.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it was the only time on the show the referee got distracted, allowing someone to attack their opponent with a weapon and get a cheap pin. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was the only finish like that in the first 15 minutes of the show. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was the only finish like that to involve a guy getting knocked off the top rope by a foreign object, either. Haha, it’s like they wrote one match and decided to have the entire roster cover it.
Best: Disco Inferno With The Worst Cheating Of All Time
The second match on the show is Disco Inferno vs. a returning KURASAWA, and real talk, I would happily watch 20 minutes of Manabu Nakanishi just beating the living Christ out of Disco. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Nitro. QUICK, GUESS THE FINISH!
Kurasawa’s about to win the match when Disco Inferno’s music starts playing. He stops and looks around confused, then notices a guy in an Elvis jumpsuit (note: not disco) walking down the ramp doing disco moves. This shouldn’t affect him at all, but it distracts him long enough for Disco to summon his disco ball from the ceiling like a round, glittering Sting and smash him in the back. The ball slowly raises back up and the referee somehow misses ALL of this, and Disco gets the cheap win.
As funny as Mr. Kennedy’ing a disco ball from the roof of an arena to use as a weapon is, the best part is Kurasawa’s sell. It gets funnier the more you watch it. Dude gets hit in the back with a hollow party decoration and collapses like a sniper shot him in the chest.
Supplementary Best to Tony Schiavone for his analysis of Disco’s friend: “”For crying out loud, don’t wear a jumpsuit with that type of body!” I assume the next line was, “wear a KISS t-shirt under a Hawaiian shirt!”
Best/Worst: The Ballad Of Diamond Dallas Page’s Lost Battlebowl Ring
I wasn’t sure to give this a Best or a Worst, so I’m gonna recap it and let you decide.
Diamond Dallas Page starts off the show by confronting the announce team, saying his Battlebowl ring has been stolen. He spends most of the show frisking people and threatening them if they don’t give it back. He wrestles Scotty Riggs, harasses the crew on the way to the ring and checks Riggs’ boots after he’s knocked him out with a Diamond Cutter.
Meanwhile, the show features MULTIPLE backstage interviews with Hacksaw Jim Duggan. In the most important one, Duggan reveals to Mean Gene that he went to take a shit — I’m not kidding you — and found the Battlebowl ring in the toilet. Gene calls it the “King of the Ring” and Duggan buries it for being gay, for some reason. Page barges in and demands it back, so triflin’-ass, cheating-ass, awful-person-ass Jim Duggan throws it on the ground, tapes up his fists and Page is bent over and punches him in the face when he stands up.
As terrible as that is, here’s the worst part: it’s already been announced that Jim Duggan’s facing Diamond Dallas Page at Bash at the Beach in a taped fist match. The reason for that to happen is Duggan taking Page’s ring and punching him in the face with a taped fist … two things that happened AFTER the announcement of the match. Secondary problem, am I the only one who thinks Duggan found the ring in the toilet because at some point he’d accidentally eaten it, then shat it out?
Our World Is Still Changing At Some Point
Glacier still being three months away from his debut gives me a chance to write parody song lyrics for Alan Jackson’s ‘Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning.’
♫ I’m just a writer of simple jokes/I’m not a real political man
I watch TNT but I’m not sure I could tell you/the difference ‘tween Meng and Barbarian ♫
(It’s a work in progress.)
Worst: GREG VALENTINE IS THE THIRD MAN
The announce team is suddenly, deeply obsessed with the identity of THE THIRD MAN for the New World Order Of Wrestling at Bash at the Beach. When Disco Inferno brings out an Elvis impersonator, the first thing they say is, “is it the THIRD MAN?” Macho Man Randy Savage gets the most lay-up, placeholder match of all time against a 600-year old version of Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine that looks exactly like my Aunt, and the announce team’s all, “isn’t it funny that Greg Valentine would come to Nitro NOW, while we’re trying to figure out the identity of THE THIRD MAN?” I expected Nitro to end with Harry Lime showing up and cutting a promo about the f*cking Swiss.
The best part of Valentine/Savage is that little stick of dynamite in the bottom righthand corner of the screen. That’s the countdown to hour two. Remember when The Rock n’ Roll Express returned to Nitro and fireworks went off during their match? They’ve got a fix for that now, see? They keep the fireworks, but when they’re about to go off, the referee loudly announces END THE MATCH RIGHT NOW so it looks like a victory celebration.
Seriously, Valentine’s in control of the match with about 35 seconds left in the hour. The referee John Cena’s it and yells for them to take it home, so Valentine hits a backdrop and “knocks himself out.” He just does an offensive wrestling move and lies there motionless, totally ignoring everything that’s just happened so Savage can hit his elbow before the fireworks. Two questions:
1. Is it THAT important to fire off those flea market-ass fireworks to celebrate the middle-point of a two-hour show?
2. Wouldn’t it have been way cooler if Savage had hit the elbow IN the fireworks? The pictures alone would’ve been incredible.
Anyway, Savage gets the win, and in six days Greg Valentine changes the course of wrestling history by joining the nWo.
Worst: The Giant Can’t Beat The Damn Shark Without Three Guys Interfering
MORE INTERFERENCE, MORE, MORE!
Giant is the WCW World Champion, so of course he’s wrestling John Tenta in the middle of the show and needs three dudes to beat him. Jimmy Hart gets on the apron, causing Tenta to wander over and bring him into the ring. With the referee distracted, The Taskmaster and Big Bubba run out. Bubba misses his cue so Tenta just holds Sullivan in the ropes forever, and the referee turns around, sees it, and is like, “sure, this seems fine.” Giant kicks Tenta in the back and chokeslams him for the win. This is somehow less prestigious than that time he used a Himalayan ice mummy to buttf*ck Hulk Hogan as revenge for attempted murder following a rooftop monster truck sumo battle.
After the match, Bubba shaves off half of Tenta’s beard. I changed my mind, THIS is where the fireworks should’ve been.
Best: Baby’s First Attica Reference
Eric Bischoff has returned from medical leave with a stern message for These Outsiders: he will not be afraid of them. The Outsiders show up, so Bischoff and Bobby Heenan cower in fear of them for like ten minutes and have a wall of security and half the roster keep them away. I’m doing the Bill Clinton thumbs up at Eric Bischoff, in case you can’t see me.
Best: The Four Horsemen, Or
Worst: Joe Gomez And Renegade Shit The Bed
“I don’t want to say anything bad about Joe Gomez, but he’s been getting hammered in there.”
Uh, I’ll say some stuff.
The main event of the show is the Four Horsemen at full strength in a rare 8-man tag against Desperado Joe Gomez and his crack team of Anti-Horsemen: the Rock n’ Roll Express and The Renegade. The Horsemen may as well have been wrestling Heenan, Schiavone, Bischoff and Mean Gene.
What’s especially awful about it is that Joe Gomez wrestles the ENTIRE THING. You’ve got Joe Gomez, a guy who doesn’t know how to take a spinebuster, taking 12 minutes of heat while RICKY MORTON stands on the apron. Ricky Morton, the man who INVENTED the face in peril. Gomez just keeps screwing up and making Chris Benoit madder and madder until Benoit’s just straight-up punching him in the face and trying to break his legs. Even Mongo’s pissed, and drops these big, awesome elbows that Mongo will basically never do again. Eventually Arn has to tag in and be like, “okay guys, let’s have a wrestling match” and pull some dopey bullshit so Gomez can make the hot tag. TO THE RENEGADE. You’ve got ROBERT GIBSON on the apron and you’re tagging in The Renegade. As an added bonus, Joe Gomez falls out of the ring trying to make the tag.
If you’re like, “hey Brandon, don’t be so hard on The Renegade,” here’s the finish. Renegade goes up top and Mongo’s supposed to hit him in the legs with the Haliburton briefcase. Renegade’s supposed to fall off the ropes, and Flair’s supposed to put him in the figure four (because his legs are hurt) and win.
Instead, this happens:
Okay, new plan, guys: when you’ve got Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, Arn Anderson and the Rock n’ Roll Express in a match, don’t rely on MONGO and THE RENEGADE for the finish. Also part of the plan, throw Joe Gomez in a hole and cover him with dirt.