Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW: We made it through WCW/nWo Uncensored, regularly WCW’s worst show of the year, for a bunch of run-ins and the latest in an endless string of ill-advised Sting betrayals. Man, by the time he’s old, the only people who are gonna be his friends are the enemies who love beating him up. LOL, whoops.
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 March 16, 1998.
Best: Welcome Back To Spring Break
Welcome back to Panama City Beach, Florida, and spacious Club La Vela, the “largest nightclub in the USA,” for another edition of Spring Break Nitro. Spring Break Nitros are always fun, but keep in mind that nothing will ever top the absurdity of the inaugural 1997 edition. That episode featured Rowdy Roddy Piper’s “family” being replaced by the Four Horsemen, a sex slaver being thrown into a swimming pool, and naming a future statutory rapist as Miss Nitro. Seriously, go read about it again if you’ve forgotten. It’s one “Macho Man getting turned on by Grimace from McDonald’s in a wrestling match at Harvard” away from being the weirdest Nitro of the golden age.
This year’s Miss Nitro (1998) doesn’t have any lengthy police reports written about her on the Internet, which is good, so apparently the worst she gets is Disco Inferno trying to dry-hump her while they shill chewing gum on the beach before Nitro. We also don’t get anything from Roddy Piper — spoiler alert, he returns next week — and THREE (3) people go into the pool this year, all people of note.
The first person to take a dunk is White Thunder, who shows how important his character is on WCW’s creative pecking order by being clotheslined into the drink mid-match by Big Bubba. Bubba can’t go into the pool because he’s wrestling in leather pants, I guess, and it’s just not good for them. Steiner’s still in the middle of a real Eat Pray Love mid-life crisis here, trying to find himself, showing up to spring break looking like a gamma-radiated version of Truman Capote in a fur hat and sunglasses.
Steiner manages to recover and still win the match, becoming the first (and I believe only) person to all into Nitro’s deadliest Mortal Kombat environmental fatality and still come out on top. I really wish he’d thrown Bossman into the pool when he was done, so I could make the “big bubbler” joke. Anyway, Buff Bagwell takes off his belt, whips Traylor with it a few times because how dare he appear on television without any muscles, and measures Scotty’s biceps at an astounding 27 inches. Somewhere in the back, Hogan watched this segment, wrote “next year, Steiner goes into the pool twice,” and slid it to Bischoff.
Later in the night, a clearly drunk Kevin Nash and Scott Hall show up in Hawaiian shirts to insult the Giant a little and tell everyone at Spring Break to “be nice to the fat girls,” because “they need a lil’ lovin’ too.” Hall looks like he could Animorph into a 6-foot-7 bottle of Tito’s at any moment.
When The Giant finally shows up, The Outsiders bail. Giant follows them around the ring, so Nash does the only thing he can: take the bullet for his team, declare himself the “1998 Spring Break Cannonball Champion,” and do the most athletic move of his entire career:
Hall at least gives The Giant a little bit, selling a comedy wedgie before being military pressed into the pool. Probably the best example of backstage poolitics in the history of our sport.
Worst: Yes, There’s Wrestling On The Show, And Yes, Spring Break Hates It
The Attitude Era is in full swing now, and with more and more people watching wrestling, you’ve got more and more people who think wrestling is the worst part of wrestling. I’ve never been that guy, but I’ve also never made any movies equating orcs to black people, so what do I know? All I know is that this Nitro gets two (2) “boring” chants, possibly the first I’ve heard on a Nitro, where even the shitty stuff is rarely boring.
One comes during a Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom vs. Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart match, which, sure, yes, but is also funny because the match starts with Tony Schiavone talking about how a family — not college kids, he emphasizes, but a FAMILY, with SMALL CHILDREN — drove 600 miles to be a part of Nitro. God bless the six-year old with the speaking skills necessary to convince their parents to drive from West Virginia to Florida to see the Outsider version of the Beverly Brothers. I couldn’t convince my dad to change the channel from football to wrestling if I wanted to.
The other chant comes during Ernest Miller vs. Yuji Nagata, which at the time was also very boring, but if it were announced on an indie card today I’d drive my dorky ass 600 miles to see. The highlight of that match is the botched leap frog that I’m pretending was an on-purpose leaping cock thrust.
Best: My Favorite Nitro Girls Dance Move
The Nitro Girls have been dancing on the show for like two years now and they’ve never updated their moves. I don’t have any other place to put this, but (1) the Nitro Girls are dressed like Peeps, and (2) my favorite dance move they do is the “kneel in front of your partner for sexy times but WAIT NO THEY’RE SLAPPING YOU” (pictured above).
Maybe the Nitro Girls weren’t a “dance troupe,” per se, but an interactive art project expressing the futility of love and relationships in the modern world. Mean Gene Okerlund represents a grand observer, or creator, who stands by and comments but ultimately does nothing to help. Tony Schiavone represents the free will of humanity, who are driven to extremes of emotions like betrayal and thinking things are the “greatest in the history of our sport” in a sort of endless fight or flight. Larry Zbyszko represents shitty old people.
Best: Mine Too
A lot of people remember Chavo Guerrero Jr.’s “Eddie Guerrero Is My Favorite Wrestler” t-shirt (currently available in reprinted form on Pro Wrestling Tees), but did you know that gag started with an airbrushed shirt on a Spring Break Nitro? Eddie interrupts Chavo before a match with Booker T and makes Chavo wear the shirt, which reads the slightly different, “MY FAVORITE WRESTLER IS EDDY GUERRERO,” with informal “Eddy.”
Chavito loses, of course, because 1998 Booker T is OP af, but the stage is set for his transformation into the insane, anti-hero jobber heeldom that would keep him on television until WCW’s demise, get him a WWE job for years thereafter, and keep him a fixture on wrestling TV and Netflix prestige originals to this day. It would also explain why he would be crazy enough to randomly become, say, an Amway salesman, or a member of a paramilitary group with dangerously half-assed pun names.
Also Becoming Himself On This Episode: Fit Finlay
Fit Finlay, who has spent the entirety of his time in World Championship Wrestling looking like J. Jonah Jameson with a curly mullet, shows up to Spring Break and a match with Ultimo Dragon cleanly shaven, with short, blonde, spiked hair. It’s the look you associate with Finlay if you came up watching him in WWE, so it’s kinda hilarious to hear an announce team of three guys spend five minutes breathlessly talking about how they can’t believe this is Fit Finlay, he just looks so weird.
As a side note, Finlay vs. Ultimo Dragon at a Spring Break show is another one of those matches that is pretty boring and uneventful while it’s happening in 1998, but if Joey Janela booked it in 2018, I’d be in the front fucking row. To their credit, it’s probably hard to get reactions out of the crowd with catch-as-catch-can exchanges when you’re surrounded by swimming pools in the middle of an outdoor night club in March. It’s like when promotions try to run shows at Minor League Baseball parks. It just doesn’t work.
Best/Wost: Chris Benoit Is Stupid, In The Bad Way
Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Benoit, and Raven have been locked in a shocking cockle of Flock schlock for the past few months, and Benoit finally gets another one-on-one shot against The Birdman on Nitro. It’s Raven’s Rules, as always, which means anything goes. Sadly there isn’t a spot where Benoit puts Raven on a pool inflatable, floats him out into the middle, then hits a big diving headbutt off the top rope to the center of the pool — please build a time machine and let me book these 20-year old Spring Break Nitros –but it’s Benoit vs. Raven, so it’s pretty good while it lasts.
The reason I’m giving it a Slash Worst here is because the finish makes Benoit look like the stupidest man in the world. Raven sets up a chair and tries a drop toe-hold onto it, the Scotty Riggs Eyeball Death Special, but Benoit reverses it. He tries to take Raven down to the mat with a Crossface, but doesn’t seem to notice that there’s an OPEN STEEL CHAIR BETWEEN HIM AND THE MAT, so he straight-up dives face-first into it. For real, look at this:
If you need evidence that Benoit had brain damage way back in 1998, there you go. Brother was like, “it’ll be fine, I’ve played WCW vs. the World, my upper body and head will clip through the chair.”
Note: Raven is also openly referencing his past with Diamond Dallas Page under a mysterious mentor known only as “The Snake” in promos, which is of course supposed to be Jake Roberts. Only Jake never actually signs with WCW and shows up again, so now I’m going to pretend they got in shape for wrestling by using Jimmy Tango’s Fat Busters. [whispers] ride the snake
Best: The Yeti Goes To Spring Break
Speaking of the Page/Benoit/Raven hate triangle and me needing a time machine to go back and book these 20-year old Spring Break Nitros, Diamond Dallas Page defeats Reese with a Diamond Cutter in two minutes that a billion percent should’ve included a Himalayan Ice Mummy’s first trip to Spring Break. That’s like a fake movie The Simpsons would’ve gone to. And even if you want to say he’s past his mummy stage, how do you resist having a SEVEN-FOOT TALL BLACK NINJA show up at a chewing-gum themed bikini contest?
So many missed opportunities. Somebody give me a Hulu original where I fill in all the creative gaps between Nitros. Vincent D’Onofrio as Diamond Dallas Page, Liev Schreiber in his long rumored role of Chris Benoit, Mickey Rourke as Raven, you know you’d watch it.
Best: Buff Bagwell Is Stupid, In The Good Way
I don’t have a lot to say about the Scott Norton vs. Chris Adams match besides, “LOL,” but I want to give a +1 to the WWE intern stuck closed captioning these shows who can’t understand Bagwell’s Georgia accent and thinks he’s looking at the guy in the Union Jack panties and saying, “this ain’t eaglin’.” I really hope there’s a followup Nitro I’m forgetting where Don Henley and Glenn Frey show up to confront Vicious and Delicious.
Also, anywhere within 10 feet of Scott Norton should be considered a splash zone, pool or no pool.
Best: Goldberg Vs. Lodi Goes About How You’d Expect
Or, “this is what happens when you botch an Irish whip against Goldberg and he decides to make you pay for it.”
Best: Chris Jericho Learns His 1,005th Hold
Now that Chris Jericho (and Mean Gene) have sent Dean Malenko home with his head in his hands, Jericho is promising to “keep the Texas Cloverleaf alive” by making it the 1,005th move in his moveset. It’ll now be known as the “Jericho Maple Leaf.”
He ends up in a match against Never Surrender Juventud Guerrera, and is forced to smash Juvy in his Quasimodo face with the Cruiserweight Championship because he just won’t surrender. After the disqualification, Jericho puts on the worst Texas Cloverleaf you’ve ever seen someone do on purpose, then loudly complains that it’s a shitty move that could never beat anybody and how he’ll never use it again. That’s what was so good about WCW Jericho … he didn’t just create a heel mindset and point of view; he created an entire UNIVERSE of people who operated under his hele mindset and point of view, so even if you weren’t there with him, he could have entire conversations and interactions with you. Because in his head, you’re just living in Jericho’s world. He’s still like that.
Best: WCW’s Helicopter Parent
The main event of the show — perhaps the BIGGEST MAIN EVENT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR SPORT — is supposed to be a tag team match between nWo bros Hollywood Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage, and WCW’s Goofus and Also Goofus, Sting and Lex Luger. Macho Man is still saying he hates Hogan, but he hates Sting more, because EVERYBODY hates Sting more. Hogan seems confident that Sting can’t get the jump on them tonight, because they’re in an outdoor arena (bar) and there are no rafters for him to hook up his bungee jumping equipment.
What he’s failed to notice throughout the show is that the helicopter circling the bar for aerial shots has a gigantic scorpion decal on the side. It turns out the passenger of that copter is the Man They Call Sting, and he makes one of the coolest wrestling entrances ever (after three straight months of looking like wrestling’s lamest and most ineffectual dude). Still though, how cool is this, and how badly do you want The Shield to make this exact entrance the next time they do an outdoor WrestleMania?
The match is nowhere near as good as that entrance, though, because it’s an nWo-related match in the final hour of a WCW show, guaranteeing it a disqualification finish. It’s The Disciple again, still tricking people into thinking he isn’t Brutus Beefcake by wrestling as Biker Santa, and this finish (of all finishes) is enough to make the WCW executive committee realize they need to bring in a special consultant to get things under control. And they’ve got just the guy to handle it already on speed dial.
Join us next week for … say it with me, folks,