The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 7/20/98: Hollywood Nights

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Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: We’ve entered WCW’s Post-Malone period as Hollywood Hogan does everything he can to get his heat back by any means (Gene) necessary.

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. We’re almost to The Biker Rally Featuring Pro Wrestling With Jay Leno.

Up first, let’s talk about a WCW show that only happens when it’s raining.

The One Page Thunder Recap For July 16, 1998

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You can watch this Thunder here.

The most important bit from this week’s Thunder is that Dean Malenko, presumably fed up with trying to win back the Cruiserweight Championship from the weird Machiavellian Canadian Jeff Spicoli currently strangling it to death, wants to reform the Four Horsemen. Mongo and Chris Benoit have been throwing up the four fingers for a few weeks now and trying to get Arn Anderson involved, but he keeps blowing them off.

Malenko gets to the bottom of this and, in his best Christian Bale Batman voice, tries to get Arn’s support. In response, a defiant and passionate Arn cuts one of the under-the-radar best promos of the year about how he wants to still go out there every night and be a Horseman, but neck surgery put him on the shelf permanently, and no matter how badly he wants it, his body just won’t work the same way anymore.

An absolutely killer moment that sets up some wonderful Horsemen stuff in the future, even if it never culminates in that “the Four Horsemen regroup and finally get WCW’s shit together so they can rid the company of the New World Order once and for all” conclusion we probably needed. I would also have accepted, “the Four Horsemen regroup and finally get WCW’s shit together so they can rid the company of the New World Order once and for all, and then beat up Sting for trusting them.”

Also On This Week’s Thunder

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  • Kevin Nash is very depressed about Scott Hall pretending to be his friend and then swerving him, noting, “when we touched tonight it was magic, and I thought we had it, and then for him to do what he did, it just [exasperated sigh] I don’t know.” Did I accidentally base my dating life on The Outsiders?
  • The Roadblock, the fattest Ned Stark you’ve ever seen, is back just in time to lose a match to Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Can Duggan now defeat Rick Fuller and Hugh Morrus three times each? Stay tuned!
  • Bret Hart says he’s taken care of Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, and Booker T, and that nobody in WCW is safe. Please enjoy what happens when an aging Canadian dad starts doing impressions of black people on a wrestling show:

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

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Jobbers Of The Week

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Up first this week is Johnny Boone, who looks like Randy Orton if he’d decided to become a blogger instead of a wrestler. You may remember him as Bore Us Malenko from a Chris Jericho bit from a couple of months ago.

WCW, a wrestling company with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, opens their flagship, prime-time pro wrestling show in the middle of the hottest days of 1998, arguably the hottest-ever year for pro wrestling, in the middle of pro wrestling’s hottest-ever era with a Television Championship match between Stevie Ray and Johnny Boone, neither of whom are Television Champion. We’re starting off great!

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Big Scott Norton returns this week, and (after a tough victory over CICLOPE on Thunder) his first Nitro opponent is the mighty Jim Powers. If you read these columns and somehow aren’t yet familiar with Jim Powers, brother’s on so many steroids that his steroids have veins. Norton and Powers are a great look at what looks the most powerful, and what actually is. Scott Norton looks like Donkey Kong and a barrel had a baby and is probably the strongest person in the entire promotion. Jim Powers looks like he was sculpted out of marble to honor the Gods of Olympus and probably couldn’t lift an ink pen without blowing out a tricep. That’s not a singlet he’s wearing, that’s just a big rubber band to keep his body from exploding.

Scott Norton also shows up to powerbomb the Disco Inferno for fun after the extremely Fire Pro Wrestling tag team match pitting Disco and Alex Wright against Masa “My Hero” Chono and a very Pepe the Frog looking Great Muta.

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feels good, man

Worst: nWo Black and White Leave The Wolfpac On Red

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Now that we’ve briefly talked about the wrestling on the wrestling show, let’s get back to what matters most: Hollywood Hogan looking as strong and unstoppable as possible at all times.

In case you missed last week’s column, Hollywood Hogan is using the fact that he took one pinfall loss to Goldberg in the Georgia Dome as leverage to explain him beating the shit out of everyone for three months to “get his heat back.”

This week’s show starts with Scott Hall making fun of Kevin Nash for having emotions on Thunder, noting that while Hollywood Hogan might not be perfect, at least he’s a man. And also he’s perfect. Later, Hall shows up at the announce table to explain that Hollywood Hogan taught him that “action” was the top seller in Hollywood, so WCW’s forbidden from showing “that sequel to Kevin Nash in Tears Of Endearment.” Hall suggests Monistat for Nash’s yeast infection, and makes friends with everyone in the booth.

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when Blockbuster says you returned your tapes late

When WCW tries to show the Nash clip anyway, “technical difficulties” interrupt the video. It turns out Hall has gone to the production truck and stolen their one VHS tape of last week’s Thunder, which in WCW archival footage terms is like burning down the Library of Alexandria. This leads to a big used RV lot brawl between the Wolfpac and nWo Hollywood, leading to one of Tony Schiavone’s all-time greatest calls:

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It truly is.

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While the brook is being donnied, we find out that Diamond Dallas Page has been mysteriously attacked in the back. We discover him along with Konnan, who helps by screaming GET SOME HELP at Page’s body. Who could’ve perpetrated such a heinous assault while most of the nWo was busy? Probably not Bret Hart, who said that no one was safe life five days ago, has been attacking fan favorites with chairs ever since, and is supposed to wrestle Page later tonight for the vacant United States Championship.

Hart eases suspicions by walking out to the announce booth during the nWo donnybrook to be like, “if we’re supposed to have a match, let’s have a match RIGHT NOW!” He even goes to the ring to start it, but Page is still passed out by that enormous milk crate room backstage, so J.J. Dillon has to wander out and drag him to the back. I’m guessing this is a two-pronged attack to confuse the WCW executive committee — not a difficult task — and in the confusion, Kevin Nash and Sting end up agreeing to defend the Tag Team Championship against The Giant and Scott Hall.

Study Question: Will this sudden decision involving a bunch of nWo guys work out well for Sting?
Answer: what’re you, new?

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When Sting’s about to put Scott Hall in the Scorpion Death Lock, [fanfare] Bret Hart shows back up to distract Sting with some light shoving. Presumably over Sting stealing the “Hart Family Sharpshooter,” which Bret got from his father, Riki Choshu.

Sting, who is stupid, shoves Hart out of the ring and, instead of turning around and putting Hall in his finishing move, decides to stand on the second rope and aggressive point at Hart. Sure enough, this allows Hall to recover, hit the Outsiders Edge on a totally bewildered Sting, and secure the Tag Team Championship for nWo Black and White. The best part is that this is to further a feud between Hall and Nash, including Nash’s old blood rival The Giant, and the only person not directly involved is Sting, who takes the pin. BECAUSE OF COURSE STING HAS TO LOOK WORSE THAN EVERYBODY ELSE.

Sting’s corporate loyalty is honestly really fascinating in hindsight. Imagine if Shawn Michaels had spent his entire career letting the Hart Foundation and Hulk Hogan embarrass him every week and was still like, “I’m gonna stick around, this is about to turn around for me!” And then he only wrestled one WrestleMania match, lost to Triple H, and somehow cut a sledgehammer in half with a baseball bat*.

*which is still the dumbest shit that ever happened

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Other wrestling matches happen, but do not involve Hulk Hogan.

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Randomly in the middle of the show we see a crashed car in front of a sign reading, “STAR OF THE SHOW,” which I think is supposed to be a burn on Jay Leno for liking cars? It’s not really explained beyond Tony Schiavone saying, “that thing was about Jay Leno” on commentary during the next match. Are we sure no killer dolls from soon-to-be-released horror movies were driving?

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To tie this all together, we need to mention the next edition of Eric Bischoff’s Tonight Show Parody Project, which keeps changing names and only showing up in edited form on the Network, I’m guessing because of the right reverend of rock and roll Billy C. Wirtz.

In this week’s episode, Bischoff steals a monologue full of jokes from Jay Leno and tells them word for word on Nitro to canned laughter. What’s funniest is that the jokes sound like a bad writer making fun of Jay Leno jokes more than actual Jay Leno jokes, but nope, he’s actually that bad. A real joke:

“I mean, it was so hot today, get this, Charlie Sheen actually paid the iceberg from the Titanic 500 bucks … for a lap dance!”

Also, so many chin jokes. “There’s nothing wrong with Jay Leno’s chin that a few hundred years of evolution won’t fix!” “Is he taking it on the chin tonight, or what!” The worst one is, “the state of California is putting a new tax on oversized vehicles. I hear they’re going to start with JAY LENO’S CHIN!” Is Jay’s chin a vehicle? Oh, this one isn’t about chins, but is somehow pitch-perfect for both Eric Bischoff and Jay Leno:

“But really, seriously folks, you know, Hollywood Hogan bought me a couple really cool Harleys. And one thing that really gets under my skin, is Jay Leno, you know, trying to be a biker … I mean, come on, this guy is to a Harley-Davidson what Monica Lewinsky is to a swimsuit calendar!”

“Monica Lewinsky” plus “my friend Hulk Hogan and I love motorcycles” is the ultimate threat level for this feud.

Speaking of Hogan, when Hulk Hogan’s not on screen, all the other characters should be asking, “hey, where’s Hulk Hogan?”

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The orange goblin finally emerges from his Silverdome of Wonders in hour three to cut an unbearable “victory lap” promo, featuring him:

  • pronouncing “nWo-ites” as “n-dub-bub-YO-ites”
  • asking for a round of applause for the new Tag Team Champions, for making Sting look like total shit again
  • saying there’s only one word that can make a man turn cheek, can make a man bear his soul: “Hollywood almighty, brothers”
  • advising Jay Leno to “take a back seat, jack” to Eric Bischoff, the new king of late night, which is at like 9PM in the middle of one of two cable TV wrestling shows in this one Monday timeslot
  • trying to get over “The East/West Connection” as a team name for the Japanese guys, who he calls “Chon-a and Muta”

The payoff here is definitely DDP storming out to the ring like a hero and saving the day for WCW, right?

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Nope! Because they’ve done more writing on nihilism than Albert Camus, Monday Nitro’s creative team follows up a night of non-stop nWo Hollywood victories by having Page stagger out injured for the main event only to get his ass completely handed to him by Bret. Bret Hart is the new United States Champion, and Page gets taken away on a stretcher, face-down, so nWo guys can slap him in the back of the head on his way out.

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Humiliating. At least this is the last time a babyface looks like a helpless idiot in the face of nWo Hollywood on this one episode, right?

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Oh, remember how for the past few weeks, super heel Buff Bagwell has been showing up in a neck brace and wheelchair to tell the fans how he’s had a change of heart and loves each and everyone one of them? And how weird it’s been that he keeps trying to make peace with the man who injured him, Rick Steiner, but keeps getting interrupted and put into dangerous situations? Hey, guess what, it turns out Buff’s actually totally fine now and just wanted to work the world’s most elaborate three-week distraction hug.

Scott Steiner attacks Rick from behind with a chair, Buff reveals his nWo Hollywood shirt, and Mike Tenay christens it, The Ultimate Swerve. This experience prepared him to call the 3-5 also ultimate swerves on every episode of Impact Wrestling between 2002 and 2015.

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And if all that wasn’t enough, you see this happy fan moment of Lex Luger Torture Racking Rick Rude? That’s immediately followed by Curt Hennig attacking Luger from behind and pinning him with the Pefect Plex while Rude held Luger’s leg down.

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In fact, the only positive thing that happens for the Wolfpac all night is the Konnan match. To show you how damning with faint praise that opening sentence was, the match sees Konnan get help from Serviceable NBA Hand Antoine Carr and only defeat Eddie Guerrero when Eddie’s crazy nephew shows up dressed like Konnan and interferes. So the one match the Wolfpac gets to come out of looking strong involves someone openly mocking how they look and act. Hey, why are these scripts covered in burnt sienna-colored self-tanner?

Note: this is actually one of two disguises for Chavo on the night, as he shows up earlier dressed as the Lone Ranger to reveal that Stevie Ray’s been lying about Booker T giving him power of attorney over the Television Championship. Chavo Guerrero’s actually getting closer to “Pepe” than his hobby horse.

Best: A Couple Of Good Things From This Episode

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You can only really find joy in Nitro when you get outside of the nWo bubble, which has expanded to include almost everyone and every story on the show. So while you might have to sit through 2 1/2 hours of Hollywood Hogan and the “real stars of entertainment” Brian Adams and Vincent taking the entire WCW roster to the woodshed, you’ll get a couple of minutes of, say, Kanyon absolutely murdering Billy Kidman with a piledriver off the ropes.

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Note: This is at the end of a Yuji Nagata vs. Perry Saturn match, if you wanted to know how structurally sound this episode is. There’s also a Mongo vs. Sick Boy match with Mongo winning 2-on-1 if you were interested in updates on how threatening The Flock has become.

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Finally there’s Chris Jericho, who doesn’t get to do much this week but DOES set up a Cruiserweight Championship match for next week. He’s decided to give Malenko one final shot at the championship, and if Dean loses, he can’t get any more title matches. It’s a stipulation that would work a lot better if (1) Jericho hadn’t been obsessively avoiding Malenko at all costs for several months in an effort to keep his championship, (2) Jericho had an actual plan instead of hoping things happen to go his way — more on that next week — and (3) WCW hadn’t started a big “Dean Malenko wants to reform and join the Four Horsemen” story that has nothing to do with Jericho, making the finish pretty obvious. Still, Jericho’s a gem.

Next Week

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Wait, is that seriously it?

Anyway, join us next week for:

  • Hollywood Hogan and the nWo beating the hell out of Diamond Dallas Page again, because reasons
  • Dean Malenko getting his last Cruiserweight Championship match eh-eh-eh-eh-ever
  • another edition of nWo Nightcap that’s sure to be just as good as the first several
  • Goldbert speaks!
  • the Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone match from Bash at the Beach in its entirety, three weeks after the pay-per-view (?)