Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Ric Flair defeated Eric Bischoff to gain 90 days of control over World Championship Wrestling and right a wrong from Starrcade, and WCW asked you to buy their cool new video game before next week, when you won’t want to watch WCW anymore.
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. It’s almost time … oh no, it is time. Welcome to 1999.
And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for January 4, 1999.
Prologue: Ric Flair’s First Day In Office
Things are going to get better now that Ric Flair’s in charge.
Flair shows up with his entire crew of Horsepersons and family members — yes, that’s a 13-year old Charlotte Flair behind Ric, because she’s an Attitude Era Original — to announce his first executive orders as 90-Day President Of World Championship Wrestling. These include:
- returning Eric Bischoff to his original role as a member of the Nitro announce team, working under Tony Schiavone for half the pay
- rehiring shamed referee Randy Anderson at double the pay, to make up for how management treated him
I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to politics lately, but the worst thing a Presidential candidate can do is take money from the super rich to help the poor, especially those with preexisting conditions. That’s going to make all the rich people team up to destroy you, to preserve their way of life. Especially if you ask them to do work because of it. Ric Flair cut the pay of a multi-millionaire for like two and a half hours so an aging, working class guy who had cancer could feed his family and got his power and authority usurped almost immediately. More on that in the main event. It’s weird that the most accurate piece of precognitive social satire is the worst-ever episode of WCW Monday Nitro.
Also during this speech, Flair decides to book himself in a handicap match against both Barry Windham and Curt Hennig at WCW (emphasized) Souled Out. Flair’s rationale in giving himself a 1-on-2 disadvantage: “Two against one, that means I kill one of you, or you kill me, and that’s the way it’s gonna be.” Sure, I guess. Charlotte’s just swaying back and forth in the background listening to her dad plan his own murder with a face that says, “he is literally always like this.” David Flair chimes in and offers himself as Flair’s tag team partner in the world’s least effective and emotional cover of The View Never Changes, which Flair accepts after Arn Anderson assures him David’s ready. Looking back, Ric really should’ve teamed with his daughter. I’m not sure Barry Windham would be able to stop her.
So things are getting better, and we’re ready for a great three hours of Monday Nitro headlined by the Heavyweight Championship rematch between Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg.
Chapter 1: All Lebetskis Are Off
As Bill Goldberg arrives to the arena, he’s quickly swarmed by police officers looking to take him “downtown” on unspecified charges. Goldberg, being Goldberg, starts in on a rant about how he CAN’T be arrested, because of all the good he does for the community. “I do all of the things for kids!” The accidental social satire continues. In an especially interesting bit, Goldberg refuses to comply with police and openly tells them they’re going have to spray him with all their mace simultaneously and SHOOT HIM TO DEATH WITH THEIR GUNS because he is absolutely not going downtown under any circumstances because whatever it is it ain’t true. The one of the cops is like, “c’mon, Goldberg,” and Goldberg’s instantly like, “all right, fine, do what you have to do.” The line between “I think there’s been a misunderstanding” and “I WILL DIE IN A HAIL OF BULLETS AND JACKHAMMER YOU INTO YOUR GRAVES” is razor thin, apparently.
Bill quickly finds out that an “Elizabeth Lebetski” is the one who filed charges against him, for aggravated stalking. Goldberg says he doesn’t even know an Elizabeth Lebetski, and is shocked when he finds out they’re talking about Miss Elizabeth. New World Order member and Eric Bischoff makeout buddy Miss Elizabeth. That’s not even her name, by the way. It’s Elizabeth Hulette. She’s working the cops!
She claims that everywhere she goes, Goldberg is there. At the arena, at the hotel, even at the gym. Goldberg tries to point out that, you know, he’s always in the same place as Miss Elizabeth because they are co-workers who work for the same traveling pro wrestling show, but detectives are determined to figure out some other angle. After multiple instances of questioning and cross-examination over two hours plus, they realize Elizabeth’s got holes in her story and she might not be on the level. She can’t remember what color Goldberg’s tights are — a difficult question for someone who travels with a gang of wrestlers who all wear black, feuding with a bunch of wrestlers who also wear black — and can’t remember if she drank Pepsi or Coke, or if she got it from a vending machine or a water cooler. It was definitely Goldberg in red panties standing behind you and breathing heavily while you got Pepsi out of a water cooler, Liz.
The particulars don’t matter, though; this was simply a way to get Goldberg out of the arena for the remainder of the show. Why? Well, let’s see who Goldberg passes as he’s initially being escorted out of the building by police:
Chapter 2: Once Upon A Time … It’s Hollywood
Yep, that’s right, “Presidential Candidate” Hulk Hogan has once again used his super power of suddenly showing up and making everything about him to show up in the middle of Goldberg’s arrest and make it all about him. Kevin Nash runs by — well, briskly walks by — and gets in the cops’ faces about how they can’t arrest Goldberg, he’s got a WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH TONIGHT! Surprisingly, local police don’t view title shots as making one above the law. Hogan wanders out into the parking lot to laugh at them, call Goldberg guilty, and condescendingly say he’ll appreciate Kevin Nash’s vote. Little did we know.
Because of this interaction, Nash declares that he doesn’t care if Hogan is retired or not, he wants a match with him right here tonight. He’ll even make sure to still give Goldberg his World Heavyweight Championship match afterward, should Goldberg be able to escape policy custody before the end of the night. President Ric Flair shows up in all his wisdom and begrudgingly decrees that if Goldberg can’t make the match tonight, Hogan can take his place.
This is going to surprise you, but Hulk Hogan accepts an offer to be suddenly inserted into a World Title match without doing any work to earn it. He says he’s disgusted by whatever Goldberg has done (because he already knows what that is), and is mad at him for spoiling what was supposed to be Hogan’s opportunity to canvass the crowd and announce his Presidential running mate. Poor Brutus Beefcake, he was almost Vice President. But yeah, Hogan will wrestle for the fans, because they deserve to see him have one last retirement match. He then howls in an unconvincing manner, and I start daydreaming about how awesome it would’ve been if Hulk Hogan had actually stopped wrestling forever in the ’90s.
Chapter 3: Jailbait And Switch
While this is all going on, color commentator Eric Bischoff doesn’t say a word. He just sits at the announce table moping with his feet up, while Tony, Larry Zbyszko, and eventually Bobby Heenan crack jokes about him and call him “Mike Tenay.” Damn, guys, that’s harsh.
It’s not until late in the show that Bischoff finally speaks up, unable to keep the Grand Northern Conspiracy of the New World Order under wraps for very long. During a Wrath vs. Bam Bam Bigelow match (that ends in a no contest when both guys just aimlessly brawl to the back like it’s a house show in 1987), Bischoff gets his mouth all the way up to the microphone so it’s distorted and deadpans, “Goldberg is jailbait.” I’m … not sure that means what you think it means, Easy E.
You’d think Bischoff would be the one to make the biggest commentary blunder of the night, but that honor goes to Tony Schiavone. In fact, and I can’t stress this enough, it might be the greatest commentary blunder in the history of our sport.
Chapter 4: Tony Schiavone Butts In
Late in the episode, Schiavone decides to remind everyone that WCW Monday Nitro is the only live, he repeats live, wrestling program on Monday night. This was during the era when Raw taped two episodes at a time, so one week would be live, and one week would be taped. WCW could spoil the results of taped shows on live Nitros, and this week’s was a big one. Here’s Tony’s quote, which will live in infamy:
“If you’re even thinking about changing the channel to our competition, fans, do not. Because we understand that Mick Foley, who wrestled here at one time as Cactus Jack, is going to win their World Title. Huh! That’s gonna put some butts in the seats. Heh!”
A little while later, he repeats the line but adds a putridly condescending, “ha, HA!” after it. I feel like I should note that Tony Schiavone is shitting on a Mick Foley vs. The Rock match featuring the return of Stone Cold Steve Austin during a TV title match between Scott Steiner and Konnan that ends in a run-in disqualification, wherein Konnan can’t even hit Brie Bella’s finisher without fucking it up. It’d be like Ronald McDonald putting his dick in a Big Mac in front of you and laughing about how gross Whataburger is.
It’s important to note that maybe the dumbest actual thing WCW did was preface one of their worst-ever in-ring decisions by telling fans not to tune in to the beloved workhorse fan favorite winning the championship in a feelgood moment anchored by the current and future most popular stars in professional wrestling as a payoff to months of good matches and cohesive storytelling. It’s been documented that when Tony said this unbelievably disconnected and up-its-own-ass line, hundreds of thousands of people actually changed the channel to see what he was talking about. Almost all of them would’ve had no idea what was supposed to happen in the main event if WCW hadn’t informed them, and probably would’ve kept watching Nitro. And now it’s set up so that they turn away to watch the really good ending of Raw, and then change back in time to see the undisputed worst ending in Nitro’s 288-episode run.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Chapter 5: Poke A Man
Our main event of the evening, as suddenly advertised, is a WCW World Heavyweight Championship retirement match between the champion and head of nWo Wolfpac Kevin Nash, and the challenger and head of nWo Hollywood Hulk Hogan. Removing Goldberg’s arrest from the equation, it’s a match that WCW has been more or less building to since the Wolfpac split off from the New World Order back in April. It could have actually been a good way to do something constructive and important for the ongoing nWo story if you wanted to keep Goldberg busy and away from the Heavyweight Championship for a while. Nash could’ve dispatched Hogan here and drawn the ire of, oh, I don’t know, new nWo leader Scott Steiner? Hogan could’ve continued his “Presidential run,” and Goldberg could’ve started targeting all the lesser nWo guys who were presumably instrumental in setting up this Liz ruse.
It was … not that.
Hogan and Nash get full Michael Buffer entrances for the match, and the Atlanta dome crowd is hot watching Hogan do his normal pre-match stalling. After about 90 seconds of this, Hogan and Nash go to tie up for the first time, and this happens:
Fingerpoke, doom, and a three count. Hulk Hogan is your WCW Heavyweight Champion again, Eric Bischoff explodes on commentary, and we learn at last that this has all been a big swerve. A three-hour swerve, at the end of a nine-month swerve. Nash, Hogan, Hall, and Steiner hug in the middle of the ring just as Bill Goldberg returns from police custody and starts his mad dash through the back of the arena and out to the ring. Goldberg’s going to MURDER EVERYBODY for this, right?
Chapter 6: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves
Have you not been paying attention?
Goldberg starts off well enough with some bad karate kicks and a suplex to Scott Hall, but gets incapacitated by Hollywood Hogan and some of the saddest looking belt shots you’ve ever seen in your life. I wouldn’t buy Prince Iaukea selling those, much less Goldberg. Goldberg starts fighting back as the rest of the nWo starts to recover and/or hit the ring, but thankfully the one healthy and good dude in the Wolfpac, Lex Luger, slides in to help Goldberg keep them at bay and Jackhammer Hogan.
Wait … [checks notes] Lex Luger? OH NO
In a swerve nobody could’ve possibly seen coming, Lex Luger betrays Goldberg and officially joins the actual New World Order for the first time. Well, I guess they’ve always been the real New World Order. One of the most bewildering parts of this whole thing is that it negates nine months of storytelling. The Wolfpac’s split from the group, and all the resulting matches? Part of the swerve. Injuring Macho Man’s leg? Part of the swerve. The entirety of the primary angle on every single show WCW produced between late April ’98 and early January ’99 is instantly rendered pointless, because it’s all just been fake, and you’re stupid for believing it, fans! And if you want to believe that it wasn’t the plan all along and was just put together recently somehow, it still contradicts everything that happened before it because the driving force in separating the New World Order from Hulk Hogan was like, “actually, Hulk Hogan’s good.”
And on top of that, the Heavyweight Championship is now worthless. Kevin Nash ended Goldberg’s streak and won the title with three run-ins and a cattle prod just to hand it over to garbage-ass Hulk Hogan via fingerpoke eight days later. If Nash doesn’t want the championship, why should anyone else? Especially if all roads just lead back to Hogan. If you take this Nitro with its three-hour long fake arrest angle to set up a 1:40 main event with a non-match, an insulting “swerve,” and a lengthy post-match beatdown that reminds you that all your favorites are dicks and you’re dumb for expecting any of this to go well or make you happy with Eric Bischoff’s win over Ric Flair at Starrcade, where it actually mattered, WCW is absolutely, definitively not in the business of making anyone who watches WCW feel good about WCW.
Plus, they had their lead announcer repeatedly remind everyone that there’s a wrestling show on the other channel that just had their top stars do really well against the bad guys and create a memorable moment in front of a rabid crowd that still gives you goosebumps 20 years later.
Goldberg gets handcuffed to the bottom rope, repeatedly shocked by Scott Hall’s cattle prod, and gets spray-painted from his butt to the top of his head. The nWo poses in triumph, spray-paints “nWo” on the title belt again in red, and that’s the show. And you might be thinking, “this actually might be the beginning of a really good finale angle for the group, as they’ve finally gone too far in the eyes of EVERYONE, and now Goldberg and presumably a returning Sting are gonna team up and dismantle the entire thing from top to bottom in a year of righteous WCW violence.” And I might respond, “motherfucker what show do you think this is?”
They could’ve done something positive with it, but they didn’t, and every wrestling show ever could have done something good instead of something bad no matter how disappointed you were in a specific moment. It felt like a complete betrayal of trust and a massive middle finger to the audience when it happened, and it still feels like that 20 years later. From Eric Bischoff’s standpoint or whatever it wasn’t the “turning point” everyone says it was, but to us, the people who had no financial stake in ratings or pay-per-view revenue or whatever, it was. It was a bridge too far, after all this time. After all this bullshit. WCW is officially in the free-fall now, and while the Fingerpoke of Doom didn’t push them out of the plane, it damn sure ripped off their parachute.
Goldberg gets his revenge on Kevin Nash, though, don’t worry. Four months later, at Spring Stampede. And then he takes the summer off to film a Universal Soldier movie, and by the end of the year he’s punching out limousine windows and almost losing his arm. Hogan would lose the championship two months later to Ric Flair, the guy we just watched get pinned by Eric Bischoff, and makes sure to win it back in the summer so he can take it off Randy Savage within 24 hours of him winning it. Because that’s how Hogan rolls. Nash gets back into the title picture in May, and it’ll never matter again because the first time he won it he just gave it away for the sake of being an asshole. Thanks to injuries and a variety of other issues, the nWo reunion only lasts until the summer, when Nash and Hogan start feuding again. Which, again, will never matter again.
Maybe I’ll just watch Raw next week instead, said everyone.
Also On This Episode
Hugh Morrus opened the show with a win over Glacier. Hugh shaved his head now, which has improved his stats. I think that little nose-hair ponytail on the top of his head was holding him back. I continue to be the only person who loves Glacier.
Booker T is somehow able to overcome the incompetent onslaught of EMERY HALE, who is basically Matt Morgan if he was raised in the forest like Nell from Nell.
Chavo Guerrero Jr. gets a surprise win over Norman Smiley, which I wasn’t expecting because I assumed Norman was at the beginning of a Goldberg-like undefeated streak where all the matches are against Prince Iaukea. The highlight as always is Norman himself, who is starting to lose matches because he just can’t stop having sex with the air.
Chris Benoit returns to the ring for a relatively easy submission victory over Horace Hogan, because I guess “give Horace a match” is on Hulk’s rider. After it’s over, Benoit tries to headbutt the camera lens, and I’m stuck somewhere between “don’t do that, man,” and, “I wish literally everything Benoit did on these old episodes didn’t make me uncomfortable.”
Chris Jericho, who is a genius, butters up referee Scott Dickinson and convinces him that if Perry Saturn ever puts his hands on him again, he should be disqualified. Dickinson, who I assume has never had anyone say something nice to him in his entire life before this, agrees. So when Jericho blatantly pokes Dickinson in the eye during his match and pulls him in the way of Saturn’s quebrada, Dickinson gets bumped and decides to DQ Saturn instead of the guy who openly assaulted him. Jericho emphasizes this with a kick to the dick, as you do. Boy, I can’t wait for that blowoff match between Perry Saturn and referee Scott Dickinson.
Eddie Guerrero got into a life-threatening car accident on New Year’s night, and three days later WCW stil has no idea what to do with the Latino World Order while he’s gone. Thankfully there’s some lengthy lWo party footage (pictured) featuring Eddie organizing a big bash with hot girls and cards, then taking all the hot girls for himself and making the lWo run errands for him instead of playing cards. It’s pretty funny, at least if you’re like me and enjoy watching La Parka dance around in white jeans.
Later in the episode, Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio lose a match to lWo members Juventud Guererra and Psicosis when Kidman accidentally dropkicks Rey in the back of the head, because Kidman and Rey aren’t going to get to feud with Eddie anymore and need something to do.
Finally, Diamond Dallas Page defeats Brian Adams, who definitely should still be having high profile matches on every single episode of WCW television, with a jumping Diamond Cutter off the second rope. It’s billed as another “new variation” of the hold, mostly because Adams doesn’t know how to fall straight down without making it awkward. Page is just kind of treading water at this point, waiting for a bunch of injuries to happen so he can get back into the main event and do good work until everyone WCW thinks is important gets well.
He also returns later in a commercial to show off the WCW Mastercard. He says he picked the Nitro Girls design (instead of the DDP design, because I guess you don’t want your face all over your own credit cards), and shows off the one the Prince of Saudi Arabia used to pay for Super Showdown:
SEE YOU THEN.