– In case you missed it, the retro Best and Worst of WWF Monday Night Raw column has jumped ahead to 1996. We doubled up this week, and the episode that aired against this Nitro should be up on Monday.
– Share the column! If you’re going to read and share anything about episodes of Nitro, it should be these.
Up first, let’s bash some stuff at a beach.
Before We Begin
Here’s what you need to know about Bash at the Beach ’96: The Hostile Takeover. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash go to Holland, and instead of renting a bed and being chill like everybody else, they barge in and act like they own the place …
Two Fat Guys Had A Pole Match With The Tallest Pole In Human History
See that thing on the right side of the screen that looks like Avatar Korra opening a Spirit Portal? That’s the pole WCW hung a sock full of change from for the “Carson City Silver Dollar Match” between a 300-pound guy and a 400-pound guy. They would’ve had an easier time climbing up to the rafters of the arena and reaching down.
Basically what happens is that Big Bubba and John Tenta have to 1. follow a Rey Mysterio Jr./Psicosis match, and 2. fart around doing fat-guy jazz until Jimmy Hart gets the bright idea to shimmy up the pole and grab the Sock Of Death. He shimmies back down, where Tenta (not his client) punches him in the face and steals the sock. One swing later and a pinfall in a wrestling match via money in a f*cking sock avenges a month of wandering around with half your head shaved, or whatever.
Triflin’ Ass, Cheating Ass Jim Duggan Gets His Comeuppance
I think the concept behind Bash at the Beach is WCW creating the worst match types they can, then trying to think of satisfying finishes. A Carson City Silver Dollar Match, a Taped Fist Match, Disco Inferno challenging for the Cruiserweight Championship, etc.
Jim Duggan manages to get an extremely biased Taped Fist Match — remembering that he comes from a long line of “taped fist champions” and wins all his matches by pulling athletic tape up from some cubbyhole in his taint, wrapping it around his hand and punching people — against recently homeless Diamond Dallas Page. It answers my longstanding question, “if all Duggan needs is tape around his hands to win matches, why doesn’t he come to the ring with his hands taped?” DDP knocks Duggan down, tapes his feet together around the ringpost like he’s John Cena in a Last Man Standing match and cuts off Duggan’s tape. It’s great. The match sucks, but Page Diamond Cuts him and wins, so there’s that.
If you need confirmation that Jim Duggan is the worst guy in the company right now, he no-sells the Diamond Cutter after the pin, finds a new roll of tape and punches Page with it. Triflin’ ass, cheating ass, sore-loser-ass Jim Duggan.
The Benoit/Sullivan Feud Is About To Get Concerning And Weird
WCW has a bunch of stories on this show that are negated over the next month by more important things, and one of them is Woman revealing her real-life marriage to Kevin Sullivan via leaving him to be with Chris Benoit. Perhaps you’ve noticed Sullivan and Benoit punching the shit out of each other for the past month. Three terrible things:
1. It ultimately goes nowhere, because pretty soon alignments don’t matter
2. It involves Woman actually leaving Sullivan in real life, because nobody in the company knows wrestling’s fake, and
3. It involves lots of Woman begging Chris Benoit not to hurt people, which is retroactively macabre as f*ck and not something I need to be reminded of when I’m trying to enjoy how much I hate Jim Duggan matches, or whatever
Mongo Has A New Dog
Tony Schiavone jokes that Pepe has been “put on the shelf.” Bobby Heenan says Pepe’s not on the shelf; they use him to hold open their screen door. I hate everyone involved in this conversation except for Pepe himself.
Ric Flair Is The New United States Champion
In a final bit of Horsemen news, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair gets Elizabeth to distract Nick Patrick for like 12 minutes so Woman can sneak up on Konnan and attack him with the deadliest weapon in wrestling, the LADIES’ SHOE. Konnan of course instantly perishes, and Flair’s able to pin him and become the United States Champion for the first time since the damn Carter administration.
An Aging Racist Ruins Wrestling
You might not remember this, but the “Third Man” teaming with The Outsiders turned out to be Hulk Hogan (gasp), fresh from filming Thunder In Paradise: Assault On 3 Ninjas and ready to tell the fans to stick it (brother) for the first time since Hulkamania became a thing. He shows up, drops a leg on Macho Man and announces the formation of the “New World Organization Of Wrestling,” aka the New World Order, aka the nWo. Aka “every single thing that happens in WCW for the next three years.” The ring fills up with trash, and a prescient Mean Gene compares Hogan’s future to it.
If you’ve never seen it, here you go.
I’d rant about what it all means and where it goes, but … sigh, I guess I’ve got three years-worth of Nitros for that. Welcome back, Hulkster. I’m excited to watch you breathe life into pro wrestling just to slowly stab it to death. Again.
And now, please enjoy the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro.
Bets: We’re Going To Disney World!
The next three episodes take place at Disney-MGM Studios, now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, down in central Florida. Nitro location shoots are always great, whether they’re convincing Jushin Thunder Liger to wrestle in a Minnesotan mall or giving The Outsiders an excuse to get drunk and jump in a swimming pool at Spring Break.
The fact that WWE tours the world and homogenizes the show in spite of it has always driven me crazy. If you’re going somewhere with a personality, why not use it? Impact Wrestling would be 1,000 times better if they pulled it out of that warehouse and moved it into the center of Universal Studios. How much better would Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards be if Megatron was in the crowd somewhere? Give me Bram cutting promos about how hardcore he is while Minions wander around in the background.
Best: Rey Mysterio Gets Three In The Pink
This week’s opening match is Dean Malenko defending the Cruiserweight Championship against Rey Mysterio, Jr., and that’s my favorite sentence. This is probably their most famous match, aka “the one where Mysterio’s hot pink and they’re outside.” In my opinion it’s nowhere near as good as their Great American Bash match or even the rematch on Nitro the night after The Bash, but the worst Malenko/Mysterio match is still pretty great.
A couple of major botches bring it down. I hope you know I’m not the kind of guy who throws out, “there were minor botches, *** 3/4!” like I’m some kind of authority, but it’s hard to stay in the match when Mysterio airballs an Asai moonsault and hits concrete, and Malenko’s still gotta topple over to the side like a Jenga to save face. That’s prefaced by a really bad inside-out headscissors takedown, which is forgivable because it was 1996 and they hadn’t yet worked out the technology. There’s actually a blown move I really enjoy early on, where Mysterio’s supposed to swing around Malenko and catch him with a sunset flip pin, but he loses his grip and just kinda falls over. You can see Malenko’s wrestling brain working like The Terminator, and he goes from “whoops, we blew the move” to “LATERAL PRESS, TAKE ADVANTAGE” in like half a second. It’s fun watching him adjust on the fly.
Also, Mysterio gets brainbustered on the floor and is quickly back to flipping around like it’s nothing. I don’t want to sound like a grandpa or whatever, but if you get brainbustered on the floor, the next five minutes should be you deadman’s-floating on the damn ground.
That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy. The finish makes a lot of sense, with Mysterio getting a hurricanrana out of nowhere and basically Alligator Clutching it to hold on for three. Mysterio had lost to Malenko twice already, so there was no point in holding back. Malenko’s second-rope gutbuster (the greatest move in wrestling history) looks better than ever. Mysterio’s so light, Malenko can launch him on the way up and be casually waiting on bended knee by the time he comes down. Beautiful stuff.
Glacier Is Still Tentatively Scheduled To Change Our World, Please Hold
Last week, Glacier’s video said he would arrive in July 1996. This week, the date mysteriously disappears. I guess removing the date and not mentioning it again was a better call than adding “THE NWO HAPPENED AND IT’S ABOUT TO ACTUALLY CHANGE THE WRESTLING WORLD SO WE REALIZED A BUNCH OF MID-CARDERS DRESSED LIKE MORTAL KOMBAT GUYS PROBABLY WOULDN’T SET YOUR WORLD ON FIRE” at the bottom.
I still wish they’d tied the stories together. Like, Hulk Hogan’s injuring Lex Luger and Randy Savage and forcing Sting into seclusion. Who can save us? How about this gym teacher with karate ice powers?
Worst: Big Bubba’s John Tenta’s We At It Again
The second match on the show is supposed to be The Blue Bloods vs. Hugh Morrus and Big Bubba of the Dungeon of Doom, but they stall for like 2 minutes until John Tenta lumbers out and reignites the summer’s hottest feud. You’d think pinning a guy after hitting him in the face with a sock full of loose change would’ve been enough to settle a lifetime of debts, but nope, there’s still clubberin’ to be done.
Once that happens, the Blue Bloods dump Hugh Morrus on head and pin him. Pretty soon Bubba will be a vital member of the nWo (cough), Tenta will head back to WWF to hold a Cartman doll and dance with the Insane Clown Posse, and Hugh Morrus will be terrible. Hey, one of those things already happened!
Best: Womp Womp
Speaking of the Dungeon of Doom, they get a great promo where they stand around complaining about how they put so much effort into destroying Hulkamania when they could’ve just waited a few months and let it destroy itself.
That’s one of the hilarious, unspoken aspects of the Hogan heel turn … these enormous group of comical wrestling heels banded together to finally end this guy, going so far as to empower the son of Andre the Giant in a mystical, cold-water cave and unearth a buttf*cking Himalayan ice mummy from the north face of Mount Kilimanjaro, to orchestrate rooftop monster-truck sumo battles with explosives and triple-decker cage matches in near darkness, and all they had to do was point him in the direction of some young guys and say, “hey, those guys are gonna take your spot if you don’t pretend you’re their friend.” That’s all you needed to do. The secret to destroying Hulkamania was convincing it Hulkamania was almost over.
The best part is the Giant standing in the background of the promo all, “hey, this New World Order thing doesn’t sound half-bad.”
Rey Mysterio Jr. is the Cruiserweight Champion, which means a bunch of guys who know him from Mexico get to show up and try to take it from him. The best of those (not counting the fat, dancing skeleton who’ll be showing up in November) is PSICOSIS, Mysterio’s blood rival.
If you aren’t familiar with Psicosis, imagine that Jushin Liger and El Torito had a baby. If that doesn’t work, imagine that the Phoenix Suns gorilla learned lucha libre. He’s great. He’s a mixture of Rey Mysterio’s daredevil grace and Konnan’s “I barely know what I’m doing and might accidentally kill you for real,” and that’s always fun to watch. This is his first match on Nitro, and about halfway through it he does a twisting dive onto Eddie Guerrero that practically implodes Eddie’s ribcage. For a fuller understanding of Psicosis, his two signature spots were:
1. A top rope guillotine leg drop, sometimes from the top to the outside, even though you aren’t supposed to jump from high places and catch yourself on concrete with your f*cking assbone, and
2. A running dropkick in the corner that always missed, and ended with him slamming his assbone into the top turnbuckle and flipping backwards onto his head.
If Psi had ever adopted Mojo Rawley’s ass-based offense, he would’ve been unstoppable.
Worst: There Is No Way You Can Tell What’s Happening By Looking At That Screencap
What you need to know is that the Steiner Brothers and Nasty Boys both want a shot at Harlem Heat and the WCW Tag Team Championships, and that amusement-park crowds can take about an hour of free wrestling before they lose interest and want to go on the Tower of Terror.
The match is that special brand of Nasty Boys awful. Remember back in January at the Clash of the Champions when Harlem Heat were managed by Col. Parker and Sister Sherri, and it was compromised to a permanent end by revelations of infidelity at a drive-thru wedding and a food fight? Well, we’re doing that again, except now we’re pretending Madusa doesn’t exist. Parker and Sherri are back in charge of the Heat, so they monitor the match and try to help the Nasty Boys win. Sherri distracts the ref, Parker tries to hit Scotty Steiner with his cane but whoops, he accidentally hits Jerry Saggs! Oh no!
After the match, the Nasty Boys cut a promo about how they’re gonna join the nWo. They never do. The nWo let Virgil and V.K. Wallstreet join the group, but not the Nasties. NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, the hosts of ‘Dinner & A Movie’ on TBS and Hulk Hogan’s 6-year old son all joined the nWo, but they were like, “sorry Nasties, you didn’t make the cut.” Oh well, at least Brian Knobbs got to loiter at Hogan’s house during his reality show.
Best: Ric Flair Gets His WrestleMania XXIV Entrance 12 Years Early
At WrestleMania XXIV, Ric Flair walked that aisle for his career-threatening match with ‘Mr. WrestleMania’ Shawn Michaels with fireworks exploding in the sky behind him. It was beautiful, and the kind of grand spectacle you can only get at WrestleMania … or during his Nitro match against Jim Powers at Disney World.
Yep, Flair gets the fireworks treatment as he walks to the ring to face Mr. Armpit Vascularity. The best part of the WCW Disney set is that they have a palm tree in the middle of the entrance, so guys have to walk around it. Man, I want this set in a video game. Anyway, Flair does what Flair does best: give his opponents way, way too much shine en route to figure-fouring them to death and celebrating in a Scrooge McDuck money bin of hot moms. Jim Powers will also continue doing what he does best: jamming a Thighmaster under his arm and going to town on it.
Best: Secret Ace Craig Pittman
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m super into Sgt. Craig ‘Pitbull’ Pittman. Put him in the ring with the insane, punching-Kevin-Sullivan-as-hard-as-possible version of Chris Benoit we all fell in love with and you’ve got 2 minutes of another secret Pitbull gem. Dude starts off the match dumping Benoit on his head with a deadlift German suplex, what’s not to love?
It’s less flattering now that he’s a shoot murderer, but NOBODY in wrestling could match Benoit’s intensity. When he starts wrecking Craig Pittman (or Desperado Joe Gomez, or whoever), you’re just like god damn, Chris Benoit. He kicks, and his entire body does it. His head goes down, his arms go out, his torso contorts. When he chops, winds his entire body back and snaps it forward. It’s like getting hit by a car, every single time.
The match ends way, way too soon when Benoit locks in the then-unnamed Crippler Crossface and Teddy Long throws in the towel. They’re starting to drop in all the pertinent Benoit branding information, like how he “cripples” people and is “like a wolverine.” In contrast, Pittman tapping out by giving a thumbs up is the adorable awkwardness I was talking about. He just never quite figured out what pro wrestling’s supposed to be.
Worst: Sting Beats Arn And Nobody Cares
Dot dot dot because The Outsiders show up in the middle of the match, distracting everyone and causing the cameras to mostly miss the big finish of the match. Arn goes for a DDT, Sting hangs onto the ropes and turns it into a Scorpion Deathlock when Arn hits the ground. It was more important to see street-clothes Kevin Nash standing near the ring yelling, “hey!”
The major problem with this episode is that they’re building to a Hogan appearance, but he’s not around. The Outsiders promise he’ll be here next week, so the entire roster has to toot around in circles going, “that Hulk Hogan, I swear!”
Best: Sting Delivers The Promo Of His Life
Sting’s a lot like the Undertaker in that his promos are style over substance. If you take away the Undertaker’s goth trappings, he’s a confused Texan who can’t really remember his lines and doesn’t know what he’s saying. If you take away Sting’s enthusiasm and war howl, he’s just kinda rambling. Here, though, Sting cuts the promo of his life and maybe the best WCW promo of the year. Jump to the 4:00 mark in the video.
Mean Gene asks him about what happened with Hogan, and Sting’s not surprised. He mentions Hogan being a weirdo all year, calling him and Luger and Macho “little dogs” — thank God he referenced that — and sows the seeds that’ll make Hogan vs. Sting such a big deal in 1997. Sting responds to the formation of the nWo with “I’M GOING TO KICK THEIR ASSES FOR BEING JERKS,” and not, “I dunno, seems like we’re all f*cked, guess we’ll wait and see.” The fact that he’s so clear and well-spoken about his motivations makes the next few months even more confusing, with WCW doubting him and turning their backs on him. It’s enough to make a guy want to give up and go live in the roof.
The best part is that he says what needed to be said to cement Hulk as the worst person in the world. He didn’t just “turn heel,” he let down an entire generation of kids that’d looked up to and patterned their lives after him. Who would know better than the closest thing WCW ever had to a Hulk Hogan? I love this promo so much, and it’s probably the only time you’re ever going to see Sting out-promo the Macho Man.
Next Week: The debut of Hollywood Hogan, the first-ever nWo beatdown and the arrival of GLACIER! Okay, two of those things.