The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 7/29/96: The Lawn Dart

Pre-show notes:

Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. If you’d like to read about previous episodes, check out the WCW Monday Nitro tag page.

– 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 Friday to compensate for all the NXT and SummerSlam stuff this weekend.

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And now, the vintage Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for July 29, 1996.

Worst: One Of The Most Important TV Wrestling Episodes Ever, Full Of The Worst Wrestling You’ve Ever Seen

Welcome to arguably the most influential and essential episodes of WCW Monday Nitro in The History Of Our Sport™. We’ll get to that in a minute. Right now all you need to know is that Mike Enos — the “anus” part of Rough & Ready — is opening the show with one of the worst matches of all time, against cheating-ass Jim Duggan.

This honestly might be the worst match I’ve ever seen where nothing dramatically bad happens. Like, it’s not Sharmell vs. Jenna Morasca bad where it’s technically and professionally a pile of garbage, and one or both of them shouldn’t be allowed in the ring. It’s also not Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus bad where a booking decision robs you of something you wanted to see, and you feel cheated out of the hundreds of dollars you spent on flight and hotel and WrestleMania tickets. Still not over that one. It’s just … let me put it this way. Imagine you take two competent but aimless and boring pro wrestlers, one from California, one from New York. You have them sit in a car and drive to Oklahoma without talking to each other. They get out in Tulsa, walk directly into a ring without any information on where they’re wrestling or what the crowd wants, and the bell sounds. The match they’d have is Mike Enos vs. Jim Duggan.

They start and stop and start and stop, and Enos cuts off Duggan when you think they’re building to a finish, and it just repeats. Mike Enos and Jim Duggan go for TRIPLE HEAT in the opening match of a Nitro at f*cking Disney World, and the payoff for all of this is (you guessed it!) Hacksaw wrapping his hand in tape and throwing one punch.

Welcome to a 1996 nightmare world where WCW is TNA, never found a competitive hook and just did a worse version of whatever the WWF was doing.

Best: Tell Me About The Rabbits, Hulk

The match is 115 minutes long, but we have time for a post-match interview before we go off the air. In it, Hacksaw cuts a wonderfully dopey promo about how Hulk Hogan betrayed him, even after they’d gone to the Special Olympics together and had dinner at his house. Hogan held Duggan’s little girls in his arms, and therefore he knows what’s in the Hulkster’s heart. It sounds exactly like people defending Hogan’s racist stuff in 2015, only make-believe and filtered through the eyes of Simple Jack.

The best part is when Duggan drops this bombshell: “Hulkster, you’re a great technical wrestler.”

Man, I’ll believe Hogan was a UFC fighter and the bass player for Metallica before I’ll believe he was a “great technical wrestler.”

Best: This Is The Scariest Nitro Screencap Ever

It’s like a scene from It Follows.

Flair, Chris Benoit and Mongo have a six-man tag against Macho Man, Sting and Lex Luger. At one point Flair decides to bail on a Macho Man attack and walks back toward the entrance, expecting Macho to be right behind him and catch him. He walks too fast, though, and ends up just kinda awkwardly loitering by the entrance tree until Savage can “stop” him. Man, I’m gonna miss these MGM Studios shows. They give me the opportunity to type things like, “the entrance tree.”

Anyway, the match is actually incredibly fun until the finish, which is Jimmy Hart running to the ring in a panic and telling everyone about Hall and Nash going trailer-park buck wild backstage. We send it to:

Best: Hall & Nash Take Out WCW, Little League Style

In the back, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash have arrived with baseball bats and attacked Arn Anderson and Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Scotty Riggs runs out of his trailer, does a great “WHA HAPPEN” take when he sees Bagwell’s corpse and catches a stage light to the face. Rey Mysterio Jr. shows up and tries a high crossbody to Nash, because that’s what you’d do in a fight. Nash catches him and throws him headfirst into the side of the trailer. It’s such a famous bump that “lawn dart” became part of the wrestling fan lexicon. The match is ruled a double count-out and Savage sprints to the back just in time to leap onto the nWo’s limousine and get driven away with his legs hanging out the sun roof.

What that video clip I posted doesn’t show you is the aftermath, which is like 20 minutes long (no joke) and just full of guys laying on the ground grimacing while the announce team tries to keep it together. Woman’s clutching Arn Anderson and screaming like he’s been disemboweled with a bayonet, and Scotty Riggs might legitimately be in a coma. Dude got hit in the face with a light and he’s out like one for half an hour. Everybody gets taken away in ambulances — Alex Wright is so concerned he rides with them — and Mysterio repeatedly insists that there were “four” attackers. The suggestion is that it was Hall, Nash, Hogan and an unidentified fourth man to build drama, but, like, we saw most of the attack. Aside from Arn getting a little-league bat to the elbow, we saw everything. When Mysterio showed up, it was just Hall and Nash. Did Rey look just off-screen and see two dudes hanging out in the shadows between Nash’s shoulder and the oncoming trailer wall?

It’s hard to overemphasize how much this segment changed the game, though, especially going back 19 years later and trying to deal with how boring they try to make it. I’m talking multiple commercial breaks, zoom-ins on crying faces and concerned-whisper voices. The fourth-wall-breaking stuff Pillman was doing turned into this, and the attitude that everything you’re seeing is fake, except this part, which is real. The nWo attack wasn’t part of the show … it compromised the show, and forced them to run a bunch of stand-by matches instead of doing all the stuff they’d planned. These were legit “outsiders” who weren’t a part of the company, weren’t interested in being part of the company and were just showing up to vandalize the process because nobody could (or would) stop them.

Also, did anybody check on the Macho Man? They just drove away with him dangling on the hood of their car.

Best: Oh God, The Steiner Screwdriver

After the attack, everything’s chaotic and everybody’s freaking out. Bobby Heenan bails on hour two, so Larry Zbyszko and Tony Schiavone have to hang out and help Bischoff call the matches. All the upcoming matches are ruined and the Steiner Brothers are distracted, so rookie team HIGH VOLTAGE tries to use that to their advantage and score an upset. It, uh, doesn’t work. It super doesn’t work. They end up pissing off the Steiners something fierce, and poor Robbie Rage gets dropped on his head with the STEINER SCREWDRIVER, the most brutal semi-regular use wrestling move in f*cking history. Just watch it, man. Who the f*ck would take that?

If you watch this compilation video of all the times it’s been performed, you can kinda see how it evolved. When Scotty Steiner was using it to crush WWF jobbers, it was a regular vertical suplex thrown into a piledriver. That usually resulted in guys coming down headfirst on his thigh and kinda flopping over, which is dangerous as hell in its own right, but not the direct “return to sender AND THE SENDER IS GOD” affair it is here. The Steiners went to Japan, where their opponents (mostly Hiro Hase) saw the move and were like, “no, drop us directly on our heads, it’ll be fine.” I imagine a lot of mid-’90s puro booking meetings were like that. They came back to the U.S. with the move in Scott’s arsenal as the ultimate killshot, and it was only used a handful of times. Robbie Rage’s ass took it TWICE. It got a little safer when Scott got older and stopped being able to hold people all the way up in the suplex, but still, Jesus Christ.

Too bad Scotty Riggs needed two ambulances to take him away after that light shot. Robbie Rage needs a f*cking undertaker.

Worst: There Shouldn’t Be Bad Eddie Guerrero Matches

As I mentioned earlier, the wrestling on this show is the drizzling sh*ts. It’s not important, because it’ll forever be remembered for the trailer-park attack anyway, but still. The match was supposed to be Eddie vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. for the Cruiserweight Championship but Rey was taken out by 8-12 MYSTERIOUS INVADERS, so it becomes Eddie vs. Big Bubba. Talk about a downgrade.

Every Dungeon of Doom match has to have a finish revolving around Jimmy Hart hopping up and down on the apron, and this is no exception. After like 11 minutes of looking like they have no idea what to do, Hart stops jumping up and down and throws a megaphone into the ring. Bubba bobbles it, Eddie counters with a sunset flip and gets a surprise win. Everything between the bell ringing and that was a chinlock. For 11 minutes. Maybe this Nitro was an art project, and the matches were meant to recreate the feeling of being confused, upset and attacked?

Best: The Following Announcement

Three big firsts here:

1. The Nitro debut of the nWo logo, which is still easily the best faction logo ever conceived.

2. The Nitro debut of the nWo entrance theme, which is somehow still great even after years and years (and years) of signaling some of the worst and most frustrating parts of the show.

3. The first “paid announcement” from the nWo, used to explain how guys who weren’t WCW employees could keep getting WCW TV time. They just bought commercials. How they were able to afford them is revealed a little later, although Hogan was probably rich enough to do it himself. They’re all filmed in black and white with wacky editing and a floating nWo logo drifting back and forth across their chests, and it was the right kind of anarchy for a show whose previous biggest villains were an aging, irrelevant gentleman’s club and a gang of Party City super villains dressed like pigs and sharks.

Nash’s “WHATTA YA BENCH” to Lex Luger is still great, too. You can absolutely see why this was about to blow up and become the most important thing in wrestling. It’s a shame WWF still has their next big thing doing color commentary on Marc Mero matches.

Worst: And Now, The Thrilling Conclusion

The main event is Greg “Mama Fratelli” Valentine challenging the Giant. Greg and his Aunt body are the replacement for Arn Anderson, who was tragically eviscerated earlier in the night. It’s 90 seconds of The Hammer trying double axe-handles off the ropes until Giant grabs him and throws him at the ground. Thanks for making Greg Valentine vs. The Giant happen, nWo, you f*cking heels.