Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Thunder: Scotty Steiner was rechristened “White Thunder,” which only lasts for a few weeks because people call into Time Warner complaining about white supremacist connotations. A simpler time! Also, Chris Benoit tried to push Diamond Dallas Page’s nose bone through the back of his skull.
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 2, 1998.
Best: Macho Man Randy Savage Honored By Harvard (?) (??)
Look, there’s three hours-worth of wrestling to talk about and some of it’s very good, but before we talk about anything, I have to catch you up on the most bizarre, forgotten lore from WCW Monday Nitro history: the time Macho Man Randy Savage was honored by the Harvard — actual Harvard University — as their “Real Man of the Year.” This is all true and I need to stress that I’m not making up a single word of it. Here’s Savage’s name on the Harvard Crimson in case you think I suddenly got good enough at photoshop to do something besides put meme text on Brad Armstrong’s torso.
Early in this episode, the announce team tells us that Savage has been honored by the Harvard Lampoon as their Real Man of the Year for 1998. A quick Google search sent me down an incredible rabbit hole and revealed that it’s not an actual award Harvard gives out … they give out a Man of the Year award, and gave it to actor Kevin Kline that year. But because Harvard is a college and it’s 1998, the Lampoon (an undergrad humor zine that’s been around since the mid-1800s) decided to be funny and name a guy from wrestling as the real Man of the Year. Via the Crimson from ’98, with a h/t to Neal Pruitt’s Secrets of WCW Nitro podcast for archiving it:
Whether by design or by chance, the Lampoon’s event was scheduled for the same day as a ceremony honoring the Hasty Pudding Theatrical Society’s Man of the Year, Kevin Kline. Seizing upon this coincidence, Savage challenged Kline to a wrestling match in the Lampoon’s ring, questioned his courage and insinuated that Kline and Savage’s estranged tag-team partner Hollywood Hulk Hogan were “dating.” Lampoon officers even provided Savage with a telephone, inviting him to call Kline at the Hasty Pudding to issue his challenge directly.
In the ensuing dialogue between Savage and a voice that purported to be Kline, the wrestler called the actor out, saying “take your beating like a man.” Kline, however, did not present himself.
Later that evening, at a news conference held at the Hasty Pudding Theatre, Kline initially professed ignorance about Savage’s challenge, but then assented to it, saying, “I’m Man of the Year. It’s sour grapes. I will accept his challenge, but I won’t wrestle him.”
Despite this clearly being a joke, WCW put together some video packages and … kinda sorta made it look like Savage was actually winning a real, serious Man of the Year award from Harvard. The best of these is the version that airs on Thunder a few days after Nitro, which you can watch here. As you’re watching, you may notice something strange: while a very nerdy, very identifiable Harvard wrestling fan is asking Savage about the unrest in the nWo, it looks like Grimace from McDonald’s is looming in the background. Why? Because Grimace from McDonald’s is looming in the background. Of Macho Man Randy Savage being given an award from Harvard because Kevin Kline wouldn’t fight him for calling him gay. AND IT’S NOT EVEN LICENSED GRIMACE. IT’S BOOTLEG GRIMACE.
I can’t find any footage of what happens next — someone please, please find it — but hold on to your butts, because it sounds like a total acid trip. Or a Chikara show. OR BOTH.
In lieu of Kline, the Lampoon staged a tag-team bout that pitted Savage and Grimace, a McDonald’s character, against a group of costumed spectators culled from the audience. These included a cowboy, a ninja, the philosopher Socrates, a cadre of Revolutionary War soldiers and the Grim Reaper.
Without Savage’s assistance, Grimace dispatched his adversaries with seeming ease. But when the purple-clad mascot turned against his own partner, Savage felled Grimace with one blow, opting for an arm hack to the head rather than his signature move, the “flying elbow from the top of the ropes.”
To recap, Macho Man Randy Savage wanted to beat up Kevin Kline for having sex with Hulk Hogan, and when he couldn’t, went to Harvard University and teamed up with Grimace to defeat a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure phone booth full of opponents. And also death itself. AND THEN GRIMACE SWERVED MACHO MAN AND GOT HIS ASS KICKED. AND SOMEHOW THAT IS NOT THE FUNNIEST PART OF ALL OF THIS. You know that trophy he’s holding up in the video package?
The afternoon’s proceedings came to a climax when Lampoon President Matthew J. Murray ’99 and Narthex Nicholas A. Stoller ’98 handed Savage the silver cup that represents their Real Man of the Year Award as well as a self improvement cassette Savage identified as “How to Have Sex Up to One Time a Night.”
Savage, apparently touched by the recognition,expressed his appreciation and said he would use the award as an incentive to, “really get serious and kick ass from now on.”
That’s not the funny part, either. IT JUST KEEPS GOING. The funny part is that, you guessed it, as soon as the video package ends, Hollywood Hogan comes to the ring to explain that he’s extremely not jealous of an Ivy League college bringing in a pro wrestler to make fun of him to his face and giving him a sarcastic award and it not being him. He calls Savage a “piece of crap,” says the award is the “biggest joke he’s ever heard of,” and then starts shooting on Savage NOT BEING ABLE TO STAY MARRIED. He also calls it a “stinking” marriage, because he’s Hulk Hogan.
He then threatens to “pull that phony wig” off the Macho Man’s head, because he’s not only mad that he didn’t get to get turned on by a McDonaldland character, he’s upset that Randy Savage’s bald spot has a small amount of hair in the front and his doesn’t. This would be really amazing heeling if it wasn’t also transparently a billion percent true, and if Hulk Hogan wasn’t precisely one of two notable orange motherfuckers in the WWE Hall of Fame to need everything, even the stupidest shit, to focus on them. And even the other guy got to hang out with Grimace before him.
Serious question: why is this not considered one of the formative moments of the Attitude Era?
Best: And Yet, That Might Not Be The Most Ridiculous Thing On This Episode
Still not covering the wrestling parts yet, because we also find out that tonight will be the world television debut of the new music video from Stuck Mojo, ‘Rising.’ Why is this weird? Because (1) the video features Stuck Mojo as “world champions,” (2) it guest stars Diamond Dallas Page, and (3) according to the announce team, Raven’s Flock made an unscheduled appearance during the video shoot and tried to ruin it, but were wrestled away by DDP and Stuck Mojo, and now “you interrupted my music video” is the core conceit of the DDP/Raven/Chris Benoit feud.
WHAT IS THIS EPISODE.
The best part is that the video is preserved in HD on the WWE Network, as even the official upload from the record label looks like it was transferred to YouTube video via VHS tape. Please watch it in all its 480p glory here.
Now that’s what I call a Mojo rally!
A hidden highlight (besides all of it) is an appearance by Ron Reis as a member of The Flock for what I believe is the first time. You may know him as “Reese,” or as Big Ron Studd, or (if you’re nasty) the Himalayan ice mummy turned giant ninja who tried to fuck Hulk Hogan to death on Halloween. Hulk’s just getting reamed from all sides in this episode.
DDP keeps him from humping Stuck Mojo by smashing him in the chest with a guitar.
Do we even need to talk about the wrestling? Chris Benoit’s still stuck on a career progression treadmill trouncing random members of the Flock like he’s been doing for months (TALK ABOUT THE FLOCK), Page is doing the same (against their gamma-radiated Sammy Hagar, Van Hammer), and Raven’s getting thrown around by the Disco Inferno before they all come together and three-way punch. It’s going to be a good match at Uncensored, but we sure are taking a lot of TV time to get there. HAVEN’T YOU HEARD CREAM RISES TO THE TOP? I HOPE YOU KNOW WE AIN’T NEVER GONNA STOP*.
*fun note: Stuck Mojo did stop for a while between 2008 and 2014, because their two most prominent members had teamed up with WCW’s Cruiserweight Champion and found a lot more success there than in being Worse Sevendust.
We’re Already 1,600 Words Into This So Let’s Talk About Some Of The Wrestling Matches
This week’s worst decision is [fanfare] another push for Prince Iaukea, aka “what would’ve happened to The Rock if they’d kept him as Rocky Maivia and he never tried.” His match with Psicosis isn’t terrible, but it’s full of little Prince moments that will drive you crazy … for example, he counters a top rope hurricanrana (which Tony Schiavone is now angry he has to call a “Frankensteiner” because of Scott’s sudden but inevitable betrayal) with a victory roll, and you’re like, “okay.” And then he decides to hook the legs and crank all the way back so that both he and Psicosis are totally in the ropes, for no reason, and the referee has to ignore it and count to three anyway.
To make this match even less enjoyable for anyone watching, it immediately follows Juventud Guerrera vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr., which is not only a lot more fun and technically superior (because duh), but is Juvy’s first televised match without his mask and structured with an actual narrative involving characters who’ve been developed beyond, “wrestles without shoes, sucks.” WCW did so many random pairings they’d accidentally send out a worse version of a match you just watched as soon as you were done watching it. Chaos theory, or whatever.
Juventud returns later in the episode to keep Konnan from stealing Super Calo’s mask. Konnan says Juvy is “no longer raza” (gasp) and a punk for losing his mask, and offers to get him “an audition with the Nitro Girls.” This sets up a singles match between them for Uncensored.
And no, I’m not going to let you down. I can’t comment on a Super Calo match without pointing out something he or his opponent did dangerous slash impossibly wrong. BEHOLD, THE MIGHTY OFFENSE OF SUPER CALO:
TOO STIFF, BROTHER.
Remember the past month of British Bulldog feuding with Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael, and the entire thing being them showing up, awkwardly clubbering each other and wandering up the ramp brawling to the back? Now that Mongo’s arm is broken — please consult last week’s Thunder recap for more important details about that — Bulldog’s doing the exact same thing, but with Scott Norton. It’s an upgrade, at least.
You and everyone else who has ever watched wrestling before may be asking, “hey, where’s extremely anti-nWo Bret Hart while the nWo is beating up his brother-in-law? One of two brothers-in-law who loved him so much they jumped ship when he got treated badly by his former employer?”
Ric Flair’s wondering that, too, about five minutes into a 2-on-1 beatdown from Rick Rude and Curt Hennig, Bret’s pay-per-view opponent at Uncensored. I guess Slick Ric should’ve considered not bailing out Bret in a previous attack due to the fact that since arriving her three months ago, Bret has been a referee once, wrestled one pay-per-view match, and only appeared on Nitro or Thunder to wear a leather jacket without a shirt like the mid-life crisis Canadian road dad version of Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Bret’s so late making the save for Flair here that Flair’s gotta lie motionless in a Perfect Plex for 11 seconds while Rude calmly removes his jacket, slowly gets to his knees, and counts a sarcastic “3.” 11 damn seconds. The only explanation is that Bret’s busy getting ready for his Nitro debut match (he showed up in December) against CRUSH. Yes, they waited two months to have Bret wrestle on TV, and his first appearance is the very worst guy from the company he just left. Take me back to the time when wrestling booking made sense, like when Grimace turned on the Macho Man in their match against the Grim Reaper at Harvard.
Ignore the mixed messages in the crowd (and that guy who wishes he was somewhere watching Titanic) as William Scott Goldberg makes something mushier than minced meat out of Sick Boy. They’re gonna have to change his name to Intensive Care Unit Boy after this one, between his constant springboard fuck-ups and Goldie absolutely, brutally ending his life with one of the sickest spears in history.
The Pounce version of the spear is so good. Sick Boy goes down like the kid in the Move Bitch Get Out The Way vine. If he’d hit Super Calo with that, someone in the front row would’ve caught a rib cage.
Here’s Public Enemy defeating what’s left of the Dungeon of Doom in a finish that sees Hugh Morrus’ jelly-donut-filled ass breaking the table before someone can even jump on him. The crowd boos this, despite happily clapping and na-na-nana-na’ing with the dirt mall hockey Nasty Boys for the entire first 90% of the match. Those guys were so inexplicably over. ECW’s a hell of a drug.
Public Enemy also appears in one of the Nitro Party winner video packages, showing up at St. Joseph’s University to never look up while signing autographs for people who have almost certainly never heard of them. One thing I really appreciate about modern WWE Superstars is that even if they don’t give a shit about the event, they’re gonna make eye contact with you and at least attempt to say a few words in your 15 second interaction with them. Nearly every WCW guy I met as a kid had their head down like they were taking a test. I’d make more jokes about this being the first time either member of Public Enemy has gone to college — and the hilarity of Mean Gene Okerlund trying to do his job from the middle of a frat party with the cheap ’90s version of The Hawk looming over him — but this episode’s already beaten me into submission. AND WE HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO BRUTUS BEEFCAKE YET.
The best of this endless onslaught of filler is a rematch from Thunder: Booker T and Dean Malenko vs. Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. WCW didn’t know what to do with any of these guys at this point, not even Jericho, so they just tagged them up like WWE cruiserweights. Harlem Cold (or whatever) get their win back, and hey, did you know one of Dean Malenko’s 1,000 moves is Kenny Omega’s One-Winged Angel?
They should’ve teamed up Malenko with Yuji Nagata in WCW and called them the Golden Working Relationship.
Best: The Giant’s Powerbomb Is So Much Better Than Nash’s
Aside from Hollywood Hogan’s never-ending superiority complex over the Macho Man, the nWo has two stories going on:
- “White Thunder” Scott Steiner betrayed WCW and his brother Rick, but claims he joined the nWo with the intention of bringing Rick with him, and
- Kevin Nash almost broke The Giant’s with a severely botched powerbomb at Souled Out, the powerbomb is now banned with a $50,000 fine every time he uses it, and now The Giant’s back and ready to kill him for realsies
Both of those stories are addressed in one of the better promo segments of the night, in which Rick shows up Too Sweeting everyone in the nWo to lure them into a false sense of security, and so that punching may begin. When the nWo attacks him en masse, smooth street clothes Big Show wanders out and lights them up, finishing the save with a MASSIVE powerbomb on Kevin Nash. The Giant secretly throws one of the best powerbombs in wrestling, and it’s a shame he never used it as a regular move. Look at this thing (in toaster quality, sorry). That’s a perfect video game animation powerbomb.
Worst: White Thunder Debuts The Steiner Recliner Against The Perfect Opponent
Yep, that’s trifling-ass, cheating-ass Hacksaw Jim Duggan making his awkward human Okja way back onto our television screens in time to take the first-ever Steiner Recliner. We’ve had 20 years to get used to that move, but if this is your first time seeing it, yes, it’s an absolutely terrible camel clutch with all the leverage taken away. It’s really just a guy resting his thigh muscles against your armpits and making a fist in front of your throat. He’s not even pulling back on it. It’s the worst.
Also the worst: WCW decides to continue their terrible plan to get Scott Steiner over as a powerful heel by having Jim Duggan kick the turd out of him for several minutes. JIM DUGGAN, in 1998, is taking super muscular future WCW World Heavyweight Champion and brand new nWo powerhouse Scott Steiner to the damn woodshed in his first match on Nitro as the new character. If I’m booking this, I’m having Steiner open the match with 15-35 belly-to-belly suplexes, digging into the front of Duggan’s trunks and choking him out with his own hidden wrist tape.
Worst: And Now, The Match That Will Change The Wrestling Business By Doing Not Even Kind Of Doing That
If you read last week’s Thunder report, you know the big selling point for this Nitro was the main event tag team match pairing up Hollywood Hogan and #1 contender Scott Hall (per World War 3, from several months ago) against Harvard’s Very Serious Man Of The Year Snicker Snicker Macho Man Randy Savage and Sting. It’s supposed to be game-changing because a member of the nWo is teaming with a member of WCW. It’s so important, in fact, that they have Sting walk to the ring early in the show and cut a promo, his first since his legendary “you got no guts” quip. He does a bad approximation of Scott Hall’s survey, and everyone’s kinda like, “oh, that’s why he didn’t talk for two years.”
As a bonus, the entire time he’s talking, this sign is in the crowd behind him. OUCH.
The actual match ends in … wait, are you sitting down? I don’t want to startle you. It ends in a disqualification when the nWo runs in. You doing okay? You need to me to call you and talk you through the news?
The major event that will CHANGE WRESTLING FOREVER turns out to be Brutus Beefcake dressed like Dog The Bounty Hunter, now going by the name “The Disciple.” Hulk Hogan’s big idea for a game-changing new nWo member wasn’t Scott Steiner as Big Poppa Pump, no, feed that guy to Jim Duggan. Hogan’s idea is a version of Brother Bruti that literally worships him. COOL IDEA. Disciple’s supposed to rush the ring, hit some impressive moves and spirit Hogan away, but because he’s Brutus Beefcake he does a goddamn DIAMOND CUTTER for some reason, and lingers with Hogan at ringside so they can get uncomfortably close to the camera when the attack’s over and tell the camera his name.
You know, WCW’s going to get a lot worse and more bizarre than this (somehow), but this is legit one of the funniest episodes of a wrestling show I’ve ever seen. Highest possible recommendation, especially if you’re drinking or smoking too much weed. Or if you’ve just walked under a low clearance and bashed your forehead into a wall. Either/or.