Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: It was the Biggest Night In The History Of Our Sport® at Starrcade ’98, featuring the end of Bill Goldberg’s undefeated streak (via cattle prod) and a new World Heavyweight Champion for a week.
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.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 28, 1998.
All We Ever See Of Starrcades Are Their Old Photographs
Best: The Ric Flair Vs. Eric Bischoff Match We Should’ve Gotten At Starrcade
Remember a few weeks ago when Ric Flair appeared to have a heart attack on Nitro and everyone on the show treated it like an upsetting, real-life event, only to pivot to “Eric Bischoff is mean to Ric Flair’s family” and barely mention it? WCW finally does!
This week we meet Dr. Charles Brock, Ric Flair’s personal cardiologist (woo!), who brings it via satellite to commit a pretty heinous HIPAA violation and read Slick Ric’s test results out-loud on national television. The verdict? Surprise! Ric Flair never had a heart attack:
“After further studies of Mr. Flair’s electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and blood tests, which included a multi-channel survey of electrolytes, complete blood clotting studies, and a baseline CPK, I have determined that Mr. Flair did not suffer a mild cardio infarction.”
What he did find out, however, is that Flair’s blood contained, “a high level of a toxin called digitalis; digitalis contains four glycoside of which three are cardiac stimulants. The most powerful is digitoxin, which is extremely poisonous.” So there you have it, folks, someone snuck into Grand Maester Pycelle’s chambers and slipped The Strangler into Ric Flair’s Fuel in a Bottle. For any wrestling fans reading this who aren’t also big A Song Of Ice And Fire nerds, “The Strangler” was basically the Ed Lewis of Westerosi poisons.
You don’t have to be a master detective to figure out who’d want to poison Ric Flair ahead of Starrcade, so unless Rugged Ronnie Garvin‘s been playing the long con, it was Bischoff. Or, more likely, one of the New World Order’s leading chemical engineers. So, Vincent. Unsurprisingly, Flair wants to kick the shit out of Bischoff about it.
Longtime pro wrestling fans know Ric Flair can only express anger by getting furiously naked and dropping elbows on phantoms. He’s as mad as he’s ever been about being poisoned, so he not only takes off what he’s wearing to express anger, he brings out EXTRA LAUNDRY he can throw everywhere and get pissed about. He will give Bischoff anything for another match tonight: his $2,000 alligator belt, his $30,000 gold Rolex watch, or any of the loose cash he’s got stuffed into the pockets of his dress pants. He then starts breaking federal law by ripping up $100 bills, giving us a great image for the next time he gets divorced or owes somebody a shitload of money.
Flair’s final expression of rage comes when he’s down to his boxer shorts and black socks (pulled up all the way) and decides to handcuff himself to the top rope until Bischoff accepts the match. Please enjoy this shot of the most beloved wrestling champion in the history of the sport hanging upside down on the ropes in his underpants like he’s a comedy act on Ninja Warrior.
Bischoff, empowered by what happened at Starrcade and believing his wall of nWo Hollywood interference will just help him win again, agrees to both the match and Flair’s most high-stakes stipulation: if Flair wins, he gets to run WCW for 90 days. If Bischoff wins, he gets Flair’s money as well as his hopes and dreams — specifically stated — because Eric Bischoff became an anime villain at some point and we missed it. Maybe it happened on Thunder.
“You’re a man who’s gonna die of a heart attack if you don’t settle down.”
“When I die of a heart attack, it’ll be on your girlfriend, pal!”
The match is everything the Starrcade version should’ve been, from the set-up and stipulations to the presentation and result. Bischoff, now getting paranoid and realizing he’s going to be implicated for trying to literally kill Ric Flair with poison, tries to bail on the match at the last minute and leave the arena. He even gets into his limo, but the Horsemen are waiting inside it and carry him all the way back to the ring. The Horsemen being awesome and getting one-up on the nWo? When did I fall asleep and what fantasy version of December ’98 did I wake up in?
This time around, Flair WHOOPS Bischoff. Zero offense from Bischoff, which is how it should’ve happened originally, because he’s a non-wrestling karate boss and he’s in a wrestling match with Ric Flair. The nWo shows up to help, as they do, but the Horsemen return and head them off at the pass. As the teams are brawling, nWo Hollywood plays its trump card: The Giant. But as the Giant’s heading to the ring, a familiar face follows him out.
It’s the return of the Macho Man Randy Savage, now officially entering the final era of his career with more muscles and less hair for his Be A Man look. That’s his new girlfriend, former cam girl and exotic dancer “Gorgeous George,” beside him. We’ll learn more about her (kind of?) in the coming weeks.
Anyway, Savage gets into the ring to stop The Giant from chokeslamming Flair and shows off his nWo Hollywood shirt. The Giant is like, “yeah bro, nice colors,” and Too Sweets him.
At no point is The Giant like, “hey, wait a minute, weren’t you in the Wolfpac the last time we saw you? And weren’t you injured because we trapped you inside a steel cage are part of a 15-on-3 beatdown and destroyed your knee? Ah well, good to see you’re suddenly on our team now.” And then, of course, Savage punches him in the big nuts, because why would he be in nWo Hollywood now?
With the nWo officially dispatched, Flair finishes off Bischoff, taps him out to the figure-four, and wins the match. The Horsemen and WCW fill the ring to help him celebrate. It would’ve been cool to see a feel-good moment like this on pay-per-view, especially on the card where Goldberg’s streak ends due to sneaky electricity, but WCW doesn’t really do those. And it would’ve been good to pay off like nine months of story at your biggest show of the year, but WCW cares more about getting a slightly higher rating than Monday Night Raw right now than they do show quality of creative fulfillment, so here we are. Flair is in charge of the company for 90 days, and next week you can start expecting things to be fair, happy, and constructive.
SPEAKING OF THAT …
New World Heavyweight Champion Kevin Nash is upset that his match with Bill Goldberg ended in controversy, so he’s giving Bill another shot at the belt next week. Whew, for a second there I thought Starrcade was going to be the point of no return and disenfranchise WCW fans forever! I can’t remember what happens in next week’s big rematch, but I’ll poke around and see what I can find.
On the topic of Starrcade, Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Tom Atchison — identified as, “one of the WCW security people,” and, “sergeant of the SWAT team,” presumably in the WCW Special Forces — about how stun stick “confiscated backstage.” Atchison explains that it was designed to cause a motor dysfunction, interrupting electrodes in your mind and shutting down your muscles. Between digitoxin and interrupted cow electrodes there’s a hell of a lot of science and chemistry on this week’s Nitro.
Okerlund, having seen the finish to Nash vs. Goldberg and learned that a cattle prod can cause permanent damage to the human body, asks the difficult question:
“Officer, would you agree with me that the use of this cattle prod, this stun stick, by Scott Hall may be the reason that Goldberg is no longer the WCW World Heayvweight Champion?”
That’s preposterous. Clearly Goldberg lost because he speared Disco Inferno’s chiseled abdomen and injured his shoulder. No way it could’ve been due to getting unexpectedly attacked by a club made of lightning.
It’s a bad week to be a member of the nWo black and red. Most notably, Konnan loses the Television Championship to interim nWo Hollywood leader Big Poppa Pump when Lex Luger botches trying to save him from Buff Bagwell interference. The story is that Steiner and Bagwell have been trying to lure another Muscle Friend onto their team, and nobody’s friendlier, more muscled, or more willing to betray their friends at the top of a kangol hat than Flexy Lexy. By the way, Scott Steiner defeating Konnan for the TV title is another one of those things they probably should’ve done on Nitro, but I guess Chris Jericho needed another 10 minutes of pay-per-view emasculation for his resume.
Also in Wolfpac news, Kevin Nash personally blames nWo pledge Disco Inferno for the controversial finish at Starrcade, so he books him in a match against Bam Bam Bigelow where if Disco wins, he’s officially in the Wolfpac. Spoiler alert: Disco does not win. Also, Kevin Nash’s character has the power to book matches because of Kevin Nash in real life, and it’s never explained.
Best: Revenge, Of The Nerds
Sure, WWF No Mercy is the objective “best” of the legendary N64 wrestling games, but my favorite will always be WCW/nWo Revenge. It took the already extremely fun WCW vs. nWo World Tour and improved the graphics, added the best roster in the history of non-Fire Pro wrestling games, and allowed me to approximate the No Mercy experience with the company I preferred. Playing as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock is fun, but have you tried La Parka and Glacier?
WCW/nWo Revenge can be yours for the low, low price of $69.95 plus $8.95 shipping and handling, and you have to wait six weeks to get it in the mail. Hey, remember back in the dark ages when everything that ever existed in the history of entertainment wasn’t available to us at the push of a button for like 10 bucks a month? Ha, remember blowing into cartridges to make them work? Remember basic human interaction?
Best: Great Out-Of-Context Images
The best part of Starrcade was the triple threat match between Billy Kidman, Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera that led directly into a second, also great singles match between Kidman and Eddie Guerrero. So it only makes sense that they’d do some version of that the following night on Nitro, and we’d get Kidman and Mysterio in a tag team match against Guerrero and Guerrera. It’s really great, as you’d expect, and a forgotten gem of Nitro you should seek out and watch if you get the chance. It feels like a modern day NXT tag team match, but in 1998.
It’s also notable for a much sadder reason: it’s the unofficial end of the Latino World Order story, as Eddie Guerrero would be involved in a serious car accident on New Year’s Day in Tampa and miss the next six months of TV. It’s scary to even read about. Guerrero fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, leaving him with a fractured pelvis and a lacerated liver. The worst part? Guerrero only survived the wreck because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The force of the crash sent him flying up and out of his sunroof, throwing him about a hundred feet away (onto sand!) instead of mangling him inside the car. Imagine how different things would’ve been if we’d lost Eddie way back in 1999? He died too young as it is, but those glorious final six years of his career only happened due to a mistake transitioning into a miracle.
Also On This Episode
Raven is finally back at his mom’s house in sunny Florida for something approximating rehab, which so far is just him complaining that the TV doesn’t work and that he can’t wear his leather jacket when it’s hot outside. These eventually get truly ridiculous and kind of great, so I won’t spoil them for you here.
For reasons that are never totally explained, Chris Jericho volunteers CIMA — identified here as “Shiima Rama-lama-ding-dong” — to “do some karate” against Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller, because he’s Asian. CIMA’s not exactly a martial arts master, though, and doesn’t speak enough English at this point to know what Jericho’s recommending him for. Cat defeats him quickly with a spin kick that misses by like half a foot.
Booker T goes over Fit Finlay in a match that might make you nostalgic for their TV title feud if you’re one of the three people on Earth who watched those matches and wasn’t like, “why isn’t Benoit in this?” You know when you’re a kid and you watch Lord Steven Regal wrestle and hate him because you think he’s boring, but when you get older you realize he ruled? Finlay’s like that, except without the second part. He’s like Scut Farkus, the wrestler. His hair’s even started looking like Scut’s hat.
This match was brough to you by 10-10-321. Need to save 50% on your call to grandma to ask her to buy you a $70 video game off TV? Dial 10-10-321!
Barry Windham defeats Prince Iaukea in a battle between a guy past his prime, and a guy who never had one. Windham wrestles the entire match in his entrance vest and isn’t even breathing hard at the end, which is how most Prince Iaukea matches should go. Here’s where I remind you that the Prince got 11+ minutes of TV time at Starrcade.
The man who defeated Prince Iaukea at Starrcade (and on two Nitros before it), Norman Smiley, fares a little better. He gets a win over Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a match that has two major highlights:
- Larry Zbyszko, of all people, refers to Norman’s butt-fucking dance as “the Big Wiggle” in passing, and Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay love it so much they make it the official name of the gesture. Commit that to memory, everybody. When you get the “pro wrestling” category in Trivial Pursuit and they ask you who christened Norman Smiley’s aggressive cock-jiggling the Big Wiggle, it was Larry Zbyszko.
- Near the end of the match, Smiley makes a point to violate Chavo’s hobby horse, turning Pepe into Pee-Pee:
There are few images from Nitro more crucial than Norman Smiley approaching a propped up hobby horse in the corner and screaming, “TIME TO DAHNCE, PEPE!” in its face. Also, people who’ve never had sex doing the Big Wiggle during Norman Smiley’s entrance is the new people not knowing how to disco dance during Disco Inferno’s.
Finally, Scott Hall reminds us that he ruined the main event of Starrcade and set WCW down a path from which it will never recover by wearing a Goldberg shirt on his way to wrestle Brian Adams. That really says it all, doesn’t it? The highlight of the match is Brian Adams applying a nerve hold, and then just letting it go after a while because the crowd’s dead and even he’s bored with it.
Hang on, let me bring up the Network and check to see what happens next week …