Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: The nWo promised a birthday party, but they didn’t mention that the hosts of a TBS original would be providing it. Also, James J. Dillon gave Sting until the end of Thursday night — this show — to let him know what he wants, because I guess holding up a sign that says STING VS. HULK while 10,000 people chant HO-GAN HO-GAN is too vague.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the best and worst of WCW Clash of the Champions XXXV, originally aired on August 21, 1997.
Worst: The New Face Of America
You know Clash of the Champions is on some Additional Nitro shit when it opens with Jeff Jarrett vs. Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael. Here’s a quick recap of their story, in case you haven’t been paying attention.
The Four Horsemen got scared that they wouldn’t win a tag team match against two football players, so they gave a metal briefcase full of money to one of them to turn on the other. That led to former football star, former Nitro color commentator and notable wife and dog-haver Steve McMichael joining the crew. A little later, a former WWF guy who might as well have THE AMERICAN SOUTH written across his forehead showed up and was like, I AM ALSO HORSE MAN. They’d spend the next several months accidentally hitting each other with Steve’s briefcase. Eventually Steve’s wife was like, “I’m going to leave you for a man in half a dozen chest suspenders” and left the Horsemen with Jarrett. So then they started hitting each other with the briefcase on purpose. This angle existed long before humankind, and will continue long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.
The other story going on with the Horsemen is their obsession with former WWF heel Curt Hennig, the Minnesota Jeff Jarrett, and how he’s definitely joining THEIR team instead of the one made up of former WWF heels. If Hennig’s going to turn on the Horsemen, it gives the … I don’t know if it’s a “swerve” if the car’s driving in a straight line, but it gives the swerve gravity to have him take something from them. So you have Mongo beat Jarrett for the United States Championship, and you put Hennig over Mongo. The matches would be better if you did it with Chris Benoit, but Hennig’s not in the Dungeon of Doom so Benoit isn’t allowed to wrestle him. Although now I hope I’m remembering things wrong and War Games ends with Hennig joining the Dungeon and Ric Flair getting his head smashed in by a mummy’s pelvis.
Imagine the critical response in 1997 to Mongo McMichael beating Jeff Jarrett for what’s supposed to be WCW’s second-most prestigious singles title, though. Think about SummerSlam ending with Rob Gronkowski returning and pinning Jinder Mahal to win the WWE Championship. Except Gronk is 20 years older and carrying a dog dressed like the Chiquita banana lady.
Worst: Speaking Of Curt Hennig
Hennig teams up with Ric Flair to take on Syxx and Konnan, which is kind of like playing the “Los Angeles Dodgers” and only having to pitch against Austin Barnes and Logan Forsythe. And he almost ruins it for them by “accidentally” throwing Syxx into Ric Flair while Flair was trying to put the figure-four on Konnan. He then scoops up Konnan with a “Hennig Plex” — great name, guys — and gets the win by himself.
So really, the drama isn’t, “is Curt Hennig in the Four Horsemen,” the drama is, “is Curt Hennig going to turn on the Four Horsemen to join the nWo or because they’re complete idiots.”
Best Worst: Alex Wright And The Worst Joke Ever Told
The highlight of the final Clash of the Champions has to be Alex Wright executing what might sincerely be the worst executed joke in the history of professional wrestling.
After some THIS IS A CHRISTIAN NATION WE SPEAK THE LORD’S ENGLISH HERE shit from Mean Gene Okerlund, Wright tells Gene a great joke about his opponent for the night, the Ultimate Dragon. “You know why they call him Dragon?” The punchline is supposed to be something in the ballpark of, “because I’m gonna be DRAGGIN’ him around Nashville.” Instead, Alex says, “because … I! Gonna carry, and drag his butt, from one corner of Nashville, to the other!”
He tries to stop it seconds later with, “you know what they got in common out here, all those people, with the Ultimate Loser? All you people are LOSERS!” I’ll be honest, if I had dick game like Alex Wright I probably wouldn’t have to know how to finish jokes, either.
Best: Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon
If you’ve been wondering when this transition would happen, the final Clash of the Champions is where we finally figure out that Ultimo Dragon’s wrestling name is “Ultimo Dragon” and not “The Ultimate Dragon.” You’d think lucha libre expert Professor M. Tenay would’ve overexplained that like 5,000 times by now, since dude outs the secret identities of the Villanos every time they wrestle, but it gets explained to us in video package form.
First of all, I love the “last student of Bruce Lee” gimmick for Ultimo Dragon, since he was born in 1966 and Bruce died in 1973. The image of Bruce Lee training a masked 7-year old is pretty great. “Right now I’ll teach you how to backflip off a rope and do a headstand on a turnbuckle. We’ll learn the rest of it when you’re older.”
Second of all, look at those adorable Dragon Gate babies in the background! Unless my eyes are deceiving me (and they’re blurry and far away) that looks like the Toryumon first class of CIMA, Magnum Tokyo, SUWA, Don Fujii and, presumably, Dragon Kid. We’ll see most of them on Nitro pretty soon. Also, how much cooler is Ultimo Dragon instantly when his video package contains “he runs a dojo in Japan” and “Bruce Lee taught a third grader how to kick your ass?”
Best: Hey Man, It’s Alex Wright, The German
Do not look directly at this bridge. If you have to, poke a tiny hole in a sheet of paper and look at the bridge through that.
Despite the new Actual Name, the penis mightier than the sword as Alex Wright’s able to German him and win the WCW Television Championship. The highlight of the match is probably Dragon doing the Great Muta handspring back elbow and Wright blindly drilling him in the back of the head. The finish is pretty fun, too, with Wright and Dragon trading signature suplex attempts, getting countered, ending up trying to counter each other’s victory rolls and big lanky-ass Wright managing to roll up to his feet and throw the Mark Curtis-sized Dragon with the German. Pretty good stuff, although we’ve yet to find anyone but Mysterio and Malenko who know what to do with Dragon’s style. WCW should’ve jumped on WWF’s failure to launch and brought in Sasuke to work him all the time.
Worst: The WCW Power Plant
I guess they ran out of power?
Best: Raven Murks Stevie
It’s hard to remember, but there was once a genuine novelty in seeing ECW talent on WCW and WWF television. This was before YouTube and The Network, so you either got ECW (unlikely), were into tape trading, or you read a lot of PWI and used your imagination. I didn’t get ECW where I lived, but I did the other two. And while I’m thinking about it, shout-out to all the adults who sent the child version of me VHS tapes through the mail and kept it 100. Tape trading is my favorite “oh God, why did my parents let me do that” thing.
But yeah, this is WCW Main Show debuts for both Raven and Stevie Richards, who are feuding because they’re friends (?) who both recently signed contracts to wrestle (?). This is also the debut of “Raven’s Rules,” which explain that he’ll only wrestle if it’s no disqualification and anything goes. For a while I really wanted to pitch Raven’s Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter to ABC. They totally should’ve replaced John Ritter with RAVEN.
Raven wins, of course, because he’s the important one, and Stevie’s just a means to an end to get him there. Stevie’s out of the company a few months later, when he gets the awkward pleasure of returning to the independent promotion he retired from due to a career-ending neck injury to sign with WCW. Whoops!
Best: Everyone Gets Through An Atomicos Match Without Losing Their Neck
Incredibly, Super Calo teams up with Juventud Guerrera, Hector Garza and Lizmark Jr. to take on Psicosis, Silver King and Los Rays Mendoza (® Mike Tenay) and nobody goes ass-over-end and almost dies. In fact, none of the worst botches on the show happen in the crazy-ass Atomicos match. I think the closest we get is the general unsafeness of Super Calo ending the match by Emerald Flowsioning himself off the top rope.
If you’re looking for the worst move of the night, that award goes to Chris Jericho.
Worst: Chris Jericho Eats It
note: if he tried that pin against Alex Wright, he’d spend the next eight months wrestling in an eye patch.
So Chris Jericho wrestles Eddie Guerrero again, which is never as good as it should be. I think it has to do with how Apollo Crews the Lionheart version of Chris Jericho is, and how he doesn’t seem confident doing ANYTHING at this point in his career, so even Eddie’s heel charisma can’t get much out of it. This is one of Jericho’s worst WCW matches, I think, as he’s out of breath for most of it, can’t quite figure out what he’s doing, can’t stop dropping Eddie on his head (with a particularly nasty powerbomb and a huge release German*) and brutally botches a springboard to the outside:
Jericho wins, and I really can’t wait until December when he stops being blonde Lance Storm and becomes Chris Jericho.
*Yes, Alex Wright is definitely a huge release German.
Best: The War Games Commercial
I love the commercial for Fall Brawl, which answers the question, “what if we had a jobber War Games, and the entire match happened during Wrath’s entrance?” So you get Public Enemy, Hardbody Harrison and Scotty Riggs vs. High Voltage, Wrath and Lord Steven Regal. Firstly, I’m shocking into both of those teams as factions. Secondly, I might not have those teams right because (1) the entire thing is happening in jump-cuts and Blood Runs Cold mood lighting, and (2) Public Enemy actually spends most of the clip beating up Harrison.
I’m telling you though, they should promote a War Games match on pay-per-view by having an actual jobber War Games on Nitro. I would be SO INTO lower-card guys stepping into a situation like this, like when they let Carlito and Chris Masters into an Elimination Chamber. That was the best one! Imagine if on Smackdown they were like, “tune in this Sunday for Kevin Owens and AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Up next, a six-man ladder match featuring Breezango, The Ascension, Chad Gable and like, Sin Cara.”
Best: The Epic Dinner & A Movie Swerve
The final Clash of the Champions, the series that began with Ric Flair and Sting wrestling to a 45-minute draw, ends with a bird attack — more on that in a minute — and a multi-promotional swerve featuring the hosts of a cable cooking show. From our Too Sweet ranking of the original 33 nWo members:
I’d honestly forgotten about this until recently, but the hosts of TBS’s Dinner & a Movie — a random movie with a movie-themed cooking show in the commercial bumpers — turned heel and joined the nWo at the final Clash of the Champions in 1997. Paul Gilmartin and Claud Mann apparently hated wrestling tradition and were swayed by the Macho Man Randy Savage to make nWo-themed food instead of WCW food. I know, right? This pissed off Mean Gene, especially when they removed their aprons to reveal nWo Macho Man shirts.
They got their just desserts moments later when Diamond Dallas Page showed up, wrecked their studio, ruined their food and killed them with Diamond Cutters. They never got their revenge, unless you count anchoring a bad cable movie show for 16 years.
WCW: where the big boys of what you watch when nothing good’s on play! I’m really sad the WCW Invasion angle didn’t include Claud Mann and Paul Gilmartin teaming up against Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear.
Best: Two Nitro Parties In The Same City!
Lee Marshall has been in Columbia, South Carolina, all week on what I can only assume is a week-long festival-style Nitro Party. Give me Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas but with Lee Marshall driving around looking for Nitro parties.
Anyway, on Monday Lee mentioned the “weasels of Dixie,” and now he’s talking about how Columbia’s gardeners won’t win gardening awards until they can get rid of the smell of “weasel weed.” In classic, understated Bobby Heenan style, Heenan’s response is, “He should be in the ground. Six feet.” I will never get tired of that entire feud being, “you’re a weasel!” “YOU SHOULD DIE.”
Worst: The Big Boy Shopping Network
Please enjoy this WCW merchandise commercial that is also Public Enemy doing a parody of the Homeboy Shopping Network from In Living Color, a reference that in 1997 was already seven years old. I wish Nitro had gone all-in with the In Living Color gimmicks, just for the image of Alex Wright in clown makeup telling people HOMEY DOEST NOT PLAY WITH THAT. After the break, it’s Please Mongo, Don’t Eat The Government Cheese.
Best/Worst: Oh No, WCW Is Finally Making Mistakes In Their War Against The nWo
If you were like, “it doesn’t feel like the nWo has triumphed very much between their total victory at Road Wild, the followup Nitros about how great they are and now, here’s the main event of the final Clash of the Champions.
For some reason, Macho Man Randy Savage is now the Xavier Woods in the Outsiders’ version of The New Day, and can defend Kevin Nash’s WCW Tag Team Championship under Freebird rules. This is the kind of advantage you get when the leader of your team is also the President of the enemy. It’s actually a pretty good match while it happens, probably because Kevin Nash isn’t around, but ends with Diamond Dallas Page getting poked in the eye and doing random Diamond Cutters to anyone near him. That causes Lex Luger to get hit, and Scott Hall’s able to get the pin. It’s a rare mistake for World Championship Wrestling, who have stomped forward through this angle with the grace and intelligence of a cross-eyed linebacker carrying a plank of wood and stuffing his underwear full of office supplies.
Now that that pesky wrestling is over, it’s time for them to celebrate the birthday and/or anniversary of the New World Order, which technically celebrated both a month ago. I hope no WILD ANIMALS invade it!
Best: Bird Is The Word
Things are going well for the New World Order until the Inception music interrupts them, and we get the debut of Crow Sting’s The Crow music, a threatening poem and VULTURE TAUNTING.
I don’t know which thing distracts me more, Sting having to suddenly drop his hand every 20 seconds to get the vulture to open its wings and look menacing, or the fact that it’s 1997, somebody brought a laser pointer to the wrestling show and won’t stop trying to blind a bird with lasers.
The poem, for posterity:
When a man’s heart is full of deceit, it burns up, dies, and a dark shadow falls over his soul.
From the ashes of a once great man has risen a curse.
A wrong that must be righted.
We look to the skies for a vindicator.
Someone to strike fear into the black hearts of the same men who created him.
The battle between good and evil has begun.
Against an army of shadows comes a dark warrior.
The purveyor of good with the voice of silence and a mission of justice.
This is Sting.
It should’ve ended with the little kid saying, “he’s just trying to be your friend, stop turning on him, and also wearing black and white doesn’t automatically make you friends with everyone else who wears black and white, Larry.” The best part of all is that the lights go out after the poem, and when they come back on, a ring full of adult professional wrestlers have been asked to look terrified of a clearly restrained bird:
Nash acting like he’s going to hit it in the face with a championship belt is pretty priceless. I want to do an oral history of what was going on in everyone’s heads when they had to stare at a non-threatening bird while it was tied to a post and act scared until the live feed ended.
And hey, how fitting is it that the final image of the final Clash of the Champions is a vulture perched on the logo?
The last Nitro should’ve ended with a shot of a skeleton wearing Ric Flair’s robe still half-buried in the desert. Never stop being accidentally poignant, WCW.