The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 4/20/98: The United States Of Goldberg

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spoiler alert

Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: WCW held a Spring Stampede that saw Macho Man Randy Savage win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and Raven win the United States Championship. Long may they both reign!

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 and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.

Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. If you don’t tell them how much you like these, nobody’s going to read them. These are my favorite things in the world to write, and we’re only a pay-per-view cycle away from Chris Jericho’s all-time best WCW moment.

And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for April 20, 1998.

Worst: Grumpy Old Men

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The Nacho Man won the WCW Championship against the Huckster’s wishes at Spring Stampede, so of course we can’t get through the first five minutes of a 3-hour Nitro without Hollywood Hogan showing up and cutting a promo about how he’s God and Randy Savage is, and I quote, “the scum that crawls in the river in Hell, brother.”

Hogan — who I’m pretty sure is just making this up as he goes along and forgot what he was trying to say halfway through the first sentence, so he just says “nWo-ites” over and over until it makes sense — calls out Savage for a match tonight and announces via cupping gesture that the nWo has officially split. He also keeps calling Kevin Nash Savage’s “big sexy girlfriend,” and does this thing with his hands to suggest Nash is shaped like a POM Wonderful bottle.

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After Hogan’s done, the new WCW Champion is allowed to speak. Savage says that since he has a live microphone he can say whatever he wants; Ted Turner can’t stop him, Hollywood Hogan can’t stop him, Eric Bischoff can’t stop him, The Disciple can’t stop him, and even “the big Macho Man in the sky” can’t stop him now. How terrifying would that be if you died, and when you walked into Heaven there was God wearing a fringe jacket and cowboy hat, eating Slim Jims and rapping about how Hulk Hogan’s a pussy.

The smaller Macho Man on the Earth’s declaration:

“The worst kept secret in the world is that I hate Hollywood Hulk Hogan in life, in death, in life, in death, I don’t like you at all, brother, and it’s not the fact that I’m the nWo World Heavyweight Champion, it’s the fact that you’re not, that’s the BOMB, BROTHA!”

No diggity! As a reminder, a lady psychiatrist says Macho Man is OCD … one cool dude!

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ride it, his pony

No conversation between homophobic elders would be complete without an appearance from Sometimes Commissioner Rowdy Roddy Piper, who does everything in his power to give his blood rival Hulk Hogan an easy title victory by making the match with Savage no disqualification and saying nobody will run down to the ring because Hogan’s “got no friends.” They should’ve gone to commercial with a graphic of Piper looking surprised with the words, “whoops, someone unexpected turns out to be Hollywood Hogan’s friend” underneath.

Piper quotes the shittiest ZZ Top song ever recorded, and the main event is set. I’m honestly surprised Piper didn’t bust out the followup line of, “Have mercy, Miss Percy, I done put the coon tune on this bet.”

More on the main event at the end of the column. I bet you can’t guess how it ends!

Best: The Great Malenko

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Chris Jericho has a Cruiserweight Championship defense against Juventud “Air Quasi” Guerrera, so he opens by bringing out a framed publicity photo of Dean Malenko, setting it up on a goddamn tripod, and updating the fans on Malenko’s (lack of) career. I can’t improve upon it, so here it is verbatim:

“You know, I’ve erected this shrine to Dean Malenko, because I respect this man more than any other, and I have an update on the status of Dean’s career, and it’s a good-news bad-news situation. The bad news is that Dean has definitely retired from pro wrestling; he will never, ever step into the ring again. But the good news is he’s got a job interview at Harry’s Burgers in Tampa, Florida, tomorrow, and as soon as he finds out if he’s got the job, I’ll let you guys know. So Dean, this one’s for you, little trooper.”

Juvy kicks Jericho’s ass to thunderous applause — just wait until Slamboree — but forgets that the more times you jump and put your legs on Jericho’s shoulders, the more opportunities he has to catch you, bend you in half at the neck, and kneel on your head. Juventud “never surrenders,” but loses when he passes out in the Liontamer. Jericho’s reaction after holding a guy in a painful submission hold for like a minute and a half is another all-timer:

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I’ve typed it before, but the best part of going back through these Nitros for UPROXX has been validating my decades-old belief that 1998 WCW Chris Jericho is the most entertaining wrestling character of all time. It was like watching 8-year old Mozart going from polyphonic to monophonic in the middle of a symphony. Imagine if WCW had ever realized that they should build the show around people who weren’t already popular in 1988.

Best: 75-0

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The reason you’re going to want to watch this episode is the United States Championship match between Raven and his grace William Scott Goldberg, which I’ve long considered the best five-minute match in the history of wrestling TV. A lot of it lives or dies on how you felt about Goldberg in 1998, but unless you’re too young or weren’t into wrestling at the time or you fell and hit your head on the coffee table, you loved Goldberg in April of ’98.

The best part about it is that finally there’s a guy who can single-handedly dispatch the entire Flock by himself, because he’s just so quick and so powerful they don’t have time to regroup. My favorite moment has to be Horace Hogan making his second appearance, hitting Goldberg in the face with a stop sign, then turning around to pose triumphantly. I know you’re Lenny to Hulk Hogan’s George, Horace, but YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN.

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The most iconic moment, though, happens when Raven realizes he’s in the ring with a Mack Truck shaped like a man and tries to escape into the crowd. Goldberg’s got so much power, however, that he’s able to empower the audience that watches him, and a group of “fans” tosses Raven back in.

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In a company where everyone runs in to cheat from everyone or runs away from fights the second they get exciting, it feels almost triumphant to see an arena team up with a wrestler for a second to make sure an ass-beating happens as scheduled. Goldberg spears and Jackhammers Raven, goes up to 75-0, and is your new United States Champion. Plus, it’s a blueprint for what would end up being WCW’s biggest match of all time — on free TV, no less — a few months later. Fantastic.

Best: Things Are Getting Sexy In The TV Title Division

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dont let piper see that

Chris Benoit gets a disqualification victory over Proud Boy Curt Hennig — that’s a joke about the “okay” hand signal getting appropriated, but he does join an anti-rap cowboy group in the future, so we’ll come back to that — and gets beaten up by the nWo until Booker T makes the save.

Benoit doesn’t like being saved by someone he’s had competitive matches with recently and kinda got cheated by at Spring Stampede, so he gets into Booker’s face … really, really into Booker’s face … and they fight on the stage. You’d think of all the people in the company, a former member of the Four Horsemen would realize he should get some people he trusts to help him fight off Curt Hennig and the New World Order, but I guess not.

Booker returns later in the episode to get another solid title defense against Psicosis, because he’s the one guy under 40 not named “Goldberg” WCW realizes is a good part of their shows.

Best: Buff Bagwell Hates Public Enemy As Much As I Do

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Muscle Pals Buff Bagwell and “Superstar” Scott Steiner have a pretty dull match with the Public Enemy, because:

  • all Public Enemy has to offer is table spots, and
  • Steiner seems like he doesn’t know how to wrestle with muscles yet, and is weirdly tentative and ginger with everything instead of just double-underhooking motherfuckers and spinning them upside down onto their heads like he did in the Steiner Brothers

I’m giving it a Best, though, for Buff Bagwell’s pitch-perfect shading of Johnny Grunge.

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LOL, assassination via Cabbage Patch.

Also On This Episode

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Konnan defeats Gentleman Chris Adams, because pro wrestling in 1998 is no place for gentlemen. Remember that weird thing a few years ago when everyone was suddenly a “gentleman” character, and everything was about mustaches? I’m glad that’s over. You can see Chris Adams here missing a charge on Konnan and crotching himself on the top rope, and if you know anything about how fast Konnan is, you’ve got to be pretty committed to the jump to miss him.

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The Barbarian defeats Wayne Bloom in this week’s Castrol GTX® Engineered For Greater Protection Against Breakdown of the Week. Meanwhile, people who know and choose Valvoline decided to flip over to Raw to see what Stone Cold’s doing instead of watching Barbarian vs. Wayne Bloom.

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I haven’t gone back and watched all of them, but I think it’s safe to say the concept of Nitro Parties peaked at Clemson University’s Hillside Jam with (not) Dr. Wagner Jr. hanging out with (not) The Beautiful Brenda and the Clemson Tiger hitting a Diamond Cutter on a dude on a football field. It certainly beats the normal college Nitro Party scene, which is either “40 people crammed into a living room to scream wrestler names at a camera” or “frat guys try to brush up against a Nitro Girl boob while Mean Gene shits on them for being losers.”

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good to see Alex Wright came to Nitro and brought a sign

Ultimo Dragon faces La Parka in the shadow of THE BIG WEENIE and loses when Los Guerreros show up, and Eddie once again emotionally cuckolds Chavo into shoving Dragon off the top rope. La Parka picks up a big win, but it doesn’t seem that big, because La Parka seems more like the Patchface of the WCW universe instead of a main character. UNDER THE SEA, THE LUCHADORS HAVE SCALES AND THE NWO RUNS IN ON ITSELF, I KNOW, I KNOW!

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Lex Luger wakes up the neighbours by defeating Brian Adams, and continues his quest to comically Torture Rack everyone in the New World Order and let me screencap it. Brother, if you’re the type of wrestling fan who’s excited about Lex Luger vs. Crush in 1998, here’s your New Generation fix. If you’re the type of wrestling fan who wished I’d write a longer and more critical paragraph about Lex Luger vs. Crush from 1998 in 2018, thank you for letting me know our website has fans at the psychiatric hospital.

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The Saturn vs. Hammer feud continues for some reason, and is so exciting that the announce team spends most of the time laughing about how the wrestlers are too stupid to know they’re supposed to get into the ring. As soon as they do, they powder again and fight up the aisle to the back. Saturn’s great, and Saturn’s insurrection against Raven that they’re building to produces probably a dozen good-to-great matches, but man, if you were basing it solely on how much weight Heavy Metal Van Hammer can handle in “exciting brawls” you’d think the entire faction was up a shit’s creek.

I said “shit’s creek,” not “Blitzkrieg.” He shows up later.

Worst Possible: And Now, Your Main Event

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Macho Man Randy Savage is wearing an enormous knee brace here and is working through an injury from Spring Stampede, and Hulk Hogan is Hulk Hogan, so this is as good as you’re expecting. It’s a lot of Savage taking heat by lying on the ground while Hogan slowly walks around him, back-raking him or whipping him with a weightlifting belt or whatever. As good as Savage was in his prime (and as good as he still is here, despite falling into a lazy sort of match layout), even the WrestleMania V main event with all its build and theatrics only dragged about two and a half stars out of the Hulkster. Savage wrestling a mannequin probably would’ve gotten three. Three and a half maybe, because they wouldn’t have had to do that finish.

Anyway, let’s get to what you came for: nWo run-ins.

Remember how Roddy Piper said that he was gonna put on his cheap sunglasses and tune in from La Grange to make sure there were no run-ins during Savage/Hogan? There are three. Four, really. The first is the Disciple, who just accompanies Hogan to ringside anyway and helps him out like normal. GREAT JOB, ROD. The second is Kevin Nash, who shows up late in the match to try to help Savage. Bischoff runs down and grabs his leg, giving us a second-and-a-half run-in. Nash manages to break free and Jackknife Hogan, pulls Savage on top of him for the pin, and tries to revive a referee who should’ve just knocked himself out before the match began.

Then, [surprise fanfare], here comes Sheriff Bret Hart.

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He’s the hero of WCW, who came into the company by swerving the nWo, making them think he was on their side when he wasn’t! Then he sorta sat backstage and talked about how he’d been “screwed” by Vince McMahon over and over, and how he wasn’t going to let that happen in WCW. He’s here to

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Yep, Bret Hart shows up, hits Kevin Nash in the face with the title belt, and pulls Hogan on top of Savage. The referee is revived, counts the three, and once again Hulk goddamn Hogan is the World Champion.

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This is FINALLY enough to bring Stringent Rule-Enforcer Piper out of the back to complain, and Bret tries to leave without explaining himself. When Piper keeps getting in his way looking for answers, Bret punches him in the face. Bret’s turn doesn’t make sense, there was no build to it, everybody swerved everybody, the splintered-off “new” nWo are already losers, Sting’s an ineffectual putz and nowhere to be found, WCW’s babyface army apparently has better things to do, Piper’s in charge but can’t enforce anything, and Hogan’s the champion again.

Hashtag WCW.

Next Week:

Nitro gets split into two episodes, aired on back-to-back nights, and gets stitched together on WWE Network. Bret Hart attempts to explain himself, Goldberg defends his newly won United States Championship against his arch-nemesis JERRY FLYNN, and a pre-taped Nitro means the WWF can send D-X to the show’s parking lot and screw around without anyone at WCW being able to address it for a week.

But hey, at least this guy’s back:

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