Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: The final Clash of the Champions went down, and it was mostly about Sting threatening the New World Order with birds. I don’t know, man, go read it.
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And now, the best and worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on August 25, 1997.
Best: Why So Superstation?
On last week’s episode of Nitro, WCW’s Executive Head Of Literally Nothing James J. Dillon gave Sting an ultimatum: he wanted Sting to talk to him, with words, and tell him the match that would get him back into the ring. If Sting didn’t give him a verbal answer by the end of Clash of the Champions, negotiations were over. No more games. So at the Clash, Sting stood in the rafters holding a bird while audio of a child reading a poem from a Crow: City of Angels deleted scene played, then I guess got a vulture to stand on the top rope and scare the nWo. On Nitro, Dillon calls in to tell Eric Bischoff that he somehow, somehow heard Sting loud and clear and will do everything in his power to give Sting a match with Hollywood Hogan.
I guess the plan at Clash was for the vulture to be holding a picture of Hulk Hogan in its talons, but in the darkness and confusion and ridiculousness of a handler having to put a living vulture on some ring ropes to scare an evil wrestling faction, the bird dropped the picture and nobody knew what to do. If you watch it, you can see Bischoff getting close to it, looking for the picture. Of all the things WCW did, I think “trusting an actual bird to work a wrestling angle” is one of the strangest. And like, this is the company that had Rick Steiner feud with a murderer-possessed doll and got Hulk Hogan elaborately butt-fucked by a 7-foot Himalayan ice mummy as the payoff to a rooftop monster truck sumo battle.
Mean Gene turns into a Lizard Person as he listens, which is an unexpected highlight. Bischoff is clearly upset by the news, and his tantrum allows Sting to walk to the ring and sneak up behind him. A terrified Bischoff drops to his knees and starts begging, so Sting puts a Hollywood Hogan shirt on dude’s head and shoves him in the face with his foot.
Once again, keep an eye on Gene in the background. He’s cracking up. Oh, and we’re like ten minutes into a Nitro without Larry Zbyszko getting over his “shitty uncle who had too much to drink at the family dinner” character, so when Bischoff hits his knees, Larry screams, IS HIS PROPOSING??
Sting smiles, kind of, and that’s enough for the announce team to decide that the tide has finally turned in WCW’s favor. If you just heard Ron Howard’s voice saying, “it hadn’t,” congratulations, you’re paying attention. I think the weirdest thing about the entire bit is that Sting has grown a giant mustache, and is covering it with white paint like he’s the Cesar Romero Joker.
Hey look, he was doing Joker Sting back in the ’90s!
Best: Basically A Game Of Thrones Episode
Up first this week is Glacier and Ernest Miller vs. La Parka and Psicosis, which when you break it down for a newcomer reads as, “a guy with ice powers and a martial arts warrior battle an insane bull man from south of the border and an evil skeleton with an enchanted weapon.” If you assume the Westeros analogue for Mexico City is Dorne, that’s definitely a Game of Thrones jam.
But yeah, the bloom is off the froze for Glacier at this point, and he and Miller lose to the luchadors when referee Mark Curtis spends like 90 seconds trying to physically escort The Cat through the ropes and misses La Parka whaling on Glaish with a wooden chair. Twice! To make things even more Thronsey, a dragon suddenly comes to their rescue.
Ultimo Dragon hits the ring because he hates Sonny Onoo and doesn’t want him to get away with cheating … which brings out Silver King, THE KING OF SILVER, who we’re gonna pretend is what, the Iron Bank? They get into it, a 4-on-1 attack becomes 5-on-3 when Glacier and Ernest Miller recover, and we do the classic ECW “one match bleeds into the other” bit. They should’ve added Brutus Beefcake to the mix as a Faceless Man. And Alex Wright as an EXTREMELY SULLIED.
Dragon vs. Silver King is pretty good, as Silver King is suddenly super into impressing every time he goes out. He goes on a streak here for a few weeks where he looks like he’s working twice as hard as everyone else, possibly to compensate for the fact that even in 1997 he looked like Texano’s grandpa. The only hangup is that Silver King won’t stop doing the Lex Luger “torture rack” ram flap before he takes a hurricanrana, so he keeps accidentally catching Dragon’s leg in his armpit. They do it twice; once in the middle of the ring, and once off the top.
Despite the pre-match beatdown, Dragon pulls out a submission victory with the Dragon Sleeper, which I’m retroactively naming the “Smaug Trap.”
Best: The Hypest, Fastest 3-Minute Match Ever
This week’s best match is Chris Benoit vs. Jeff Jarrett, which moves at such a cracking pace I actually had to check my WWE Network feed to make sure I wasn’t somehow watching Nitro at 1.5x speed. They are HUSTLING. I guess they knew they only had three minutes, so Jarrett’s wearing sprint shoes (and high jump boots, pictured) and Benoit’s hitting everything like he’s trying to chop through a brick wall. That screencap is actually my favorite moment of the match, in which Jarrett absolutely SKIES over Benoit Vince Carter-style with a leapfrog, yelling “I GOT ‘IM” as he jumps and rolling backwards for a monkey flip when he hits the ground. Benoit stops in his tracks and stomps Jarrett in the face. It rules so hard.
Jarrett ends up winning by countering a Benoit superplex — again, at only three minutes into the match — by utilizing Benoit’s tendency to land at the wrong angle, hooking his feet and getting a quick three. After several months of total apathy, Jarrett got booed out of the racist field at Road Wild and has been one of the most reaction-inducing wrestlers on Nitro. Maybe he’s just happy to be done working Mongo.
Best: Suicidal Mean Gene And The WCW Nitro Party Pack
Oh God, this is the greatest. Mean Gene Okerlund and the No-Fly Zone Fly Girls take a moment to remind folks of the America’s Funniest Home Videos-style request for homemade Nitro Party footage on VHS, with the best party clips getting an in-house appearance from the Nitro Girls. When I die, I want my tombstone to be nothing but a video screen playing this segment.
If your tape is selected, you get:
- an appearance from the Nitro Girls
- an appearance from the Macho Man-looking version of Wild Cat Willie, which is like winning a chance to meet Hugo the Hornet and getting the guy in the morphsuit and sunglasses they used when they needed somebody to dunk
- a satellite crew at your home, which causes Eric Bischoff to ask, “who’s PAYING for that?”
- a WCW Monday Nitro shirt, featuring a passive-aggressive top 10 reasons to hold a Nitro Party
- WCW “Ringo,” which is bingo based on who’s wrestling that night
- WCW “digit wrestling”, which is just stickers you put in your thumbs for thumb wrestling. You get three Stings, but only one of everybody else. Sorry, fourth person at the Nitro Party, you have to be Stevie Ray!
- a WCW Monday Nitro hat, which Mean Gene says he’ll wear to the golf course so someone will shoot him
God, I wish I’d been one of the people who won a Nitro Party. If you were and are reading this, hit us up. I have so many questions. And I wanna buy those stickers from you.
Best: Cool Spot
And now we get to the most important part of the episode, and one of the best and most emotional promos ever delivered on Monday Nitro. One of the best promos of that year, and probably of that era. It’s also a reason you’ll get very upset next week, but that’s jumping ahead.
Ric Flair brings out Curt Hennig and for like the 9th week in a row asks him whether or not he’ll join the Four Horsemen. Hennig is still like, “I don’t know if I want to join the Four Horsemen, especially since I’m wearing this nWo shirt under my polo … I mean, since I’m not wearing an nWo shirt under my polo, er uh,” so Flair pulls his trump card: a returning Arn Anderson, who explains his career-ending injury, officially retires from pro wrestling, and offers Curt Hennig his spot in the Horsemen. Not “a” spot in the Horsemen. His spot.
Here’s the complete transcription from DDT Digest (who, fun fact, gave me my first online wrestling writing gig like 20 years ago):
“Well, Gene, all I can tell you, to get a response like this makes what I got to say tonight mean that much more. You see, I’m a realist. As everybody knows, I’ve got average size and speed and average ability. But I’ve parlayed that into what I would call a very successful career. And I did that on sheer will alone. But another reality is four months ago they took four vertebrae out of my neck. Consequently, I’m left with a hand, my left hand, too weak to hold a glass, too weak to button a button.
But I thought in my mind, I knew in my mind I could overcome that too through sheer will. And I was doing just like that. I think I’ve come back a long way. But the other day I had something happen in the gym that was like a cold slap in the face of reality. A guy about your size Gene came up and he slapped me on the back and he said, ‘Double A, where ya been? We hadn’t seen you on TV.’ And just that slap sent a jolt through me and I dropped the water I was drinking and just for a second my system shut down. And it became crystal clear as I watched the few little drops of water draining out of that bottle the symbolism that was involved. It was like someone had turned an hourglass over and the sand was running out on the career of Arn Anderson.
Now the fact of the matter is not only do I put myself in a suicide situation by trying to wrestle again, I endanger these two men’s careers and I respect them too much for that. And rather than being anything other than the Enforcer in my best friend’s eyes, I’d rather walk away. And for all of you people out there that have ever bought a ticket to see Arn Anderson wrestle, whether you loved me or you hated me, you know that when that bell rang you got all I had that night. Whether I won, whether I lost, I gave you everything I had. And you knew that. And when you did this to me [four fingers] that was your acknowledgement.
Well, the fact is I got nothing left to give. And I want you to remember me as I was, not as I am. But being the man that I am, my last act formally as a Horseman, I got one last challenge. And that is to you, Curt Hennig. And don’t misunderstand me. It’s not for a fight. You got something special. I’ve seen you in this ring. Your skills, your maturity, your commitment to excellence make you something special. And what my challenge is to you, Curt, is stand beside my best friend, Ric Flair, and lead these two men back to the glory and the prominence that the Four Horsemen once had. And I’m going to tell you what your prize is. It’s not a spot in the Horsemen. This is worth a lot more than that to me. I’m going to give you the only thing I got left. Not a spot. I’ll give you my spot.”
Obviously this is incredible, incredibly moving stuff. Flair fighting back tears in the background makes it real. Hennig can’t turn that down, and says it’d be a privilege to be the new Enforcer of the Four Horsemen. He does a great job, too, for almost three weeks!
That promo leads directly into Steve McMichael vs. Eddie Guerrero, which is maybe the best Mongo Nitro match ever because of (1) the powerful Horsemen segment that came before it and gave it weight, and (2) Eddie Guerrero is Literally A Wizard. Mongo counters a moonsault into a tombstone to get the win, and promises folks that it’s “not gonna be easy anymore.” R.I.P. Halliburton briefcase, 1996-1997. You were the real MVP.
Best/Worst: What A Dick
Eddie returns a little later in the episode to mess with another future Horseman, Dean Malenko, and help Alex Wright retain his Television Championship by disqualification. It’s important to keep a belt on Alex Wright, because otherwise they’ll have to make the show TV-MA. Jarrett is also here to help with the beatdown, as the literal and figurative biggest dickbags on the show, non-nWo division, officially band together.
They hit Malenko with their ultimate finisher combo, which is a figure-four from Jarrett, a frog splash from Guerrero, and Alex Wright dropping a top rope knee and trying make it look like he uncontrollably rolled into the ropes on purpose:
It’s a shame these guys didn’t stay together long, as Jarrett was out of the company by October, but at least it opened the door for the epic antiquated dance bromance between Alex Wright and the Disco Inferno.
Best: Skullduggery Continues
The feud between Mortis and Wrath and the Faces of Fear continues this week. I’m still not totally sure what they’re feuding about, but it’s either about the Dungeon of Doom wanting to acquire rare oddities, or Mortis being offended that Meng and the Barbarian wear skull faces on their pants. Skull and crossbones has gotta be like Chief Wahoo for skeleton guys.
But yeah, they continue the very modern WWE-style build of Mortis and Wrath vs. the Faces of Fear at Fall Brawl by doing Mortis and Wrath vs. the Faces of Fear over and over. This week, Meng catches Mortis jumping off the top and Tonganly death-grips him. These teams are great together, and I wish there was some undiscovered Japanese show where Kanyon and Brian Clark went strong style against Meng and Barbarian for like 29 minutes.
Note: Mortis and Wrath losing this match becomes important later, because …
LOL Harlem Heat
Members of Harlem Heat show up to officially add a new member — Jacqueline, who I assume they found in The Neighborhood — and to complain about, get this, the Steiner Brothers being number one contenders to the WCW Tag Team Championship. I think this is the only story that’s been going on longer than Jeff Jarrett’s been southernly gentlemanning Mongo’s wife. The Steiners come out to complain about the complaining, which brings out Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton to complain about complaining about the complaining. The three teams brawl, and the stage is set for some kind of triple threat to determine the true number one contenders. Again.
The best part? The Outsiders defend the WCW Tag Team Championship on Nitro in few weeks. Against Mortis and Wrath. The team we just saw lose. Good luck with everything, Harlem Heat!
Best: 1-800-COLLECT Goes Hard
Somewhere in hour two, Eric Bischoff shows up and replaces Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan at the announce table. He’s feeling emasculated by the Sting segment, so he has to sit in for like an hour of TV time and repeatedly insist that he’s great. He calls Tony Schiavone “fat head,” laughs at the anti-WWF signs in the crowd, and so on.
So when Lee Marshall called in with the On The Road report for 1-800-COLLECT, I figured he’d either hit a weasel joke for the sake of familiarity or do the call straight. Instead, he goes HAM on the nWo:
You come at 1-800-COLLECT, you best not miss. Lee Marshall should’ve been the Oracle that helped WCW ultimately defeat the nWo. I mean, he was literally always one town ahead of them. If he put 50% as much effort into setting traps as he did penning weasel jokes, they’d have been out of the company by ’98.
Worst: The Castrol GTX Climax
Yuji Nagata vs. Chris Jericho isn’t that bad, really, but Nagata’s not sure what to do on WCW TV, and Jericho’s more in need of a heel turn and/or a personality than anyone in WCW history. He just doesn’t fit or connect, which is crazy to say, because he’s Chris Jericho and because my favorite wrestlers on the show are an ice-themed karate guy nobody liked, his martial arts sidekick, a couple of evil skeletons and a Mexican guy who wrestles in sunglasses so he can’t see and keeps hurting himself.
All I could think of watching the match is how much better it would be in 2017. You can’t say that about a lot of WCW matches, but how great would it be to see modern “The List” Chris Jericho taking on cagey veteran on his last legs Yuji Nagata? Throw that match into a G1 Climax and it’d be hot. Instead, we get two talented guys who haven’t found their hook trying to get over while Eric Bischoff screams about signs in the crowd.
Worst: BUT CAN THEY COEXIST?
At the Clash of the Champions, Diamond Dallas Page accidentally cost WCW a tag match with the nWo when he was blinded and hit a Diamond Cutter on his own tag team partner, Lex Luger. This week, the nWo shows up like, “CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE NWO, DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE,” which nobody with a functioning set of eyes or a thought process believed was true. Page shows up and tells Mean Gene he wants to talk to Lex, but Lex doesn’t show up.
The main event of Nitro is Savage vs. Luger, which has happened so many times I can’t even count it. And like always, the match is pretty good, but indistinguishable from the other 400 matches they’ve had exactly like it. This one ends in a no contest when, get this, the nWo interferes. This is the Nitro where that happens!
Hall gets on the apron to interfere, Luger pushes Savage into him, and Savage and Luger accidentally bonk heads on the rebound. Diamond Dallas Page runs out to even the score, but a disoriented Luger puts him up in the Torture Rack. This is going to be an extremely difficult interpersonal situation to resolve, assuming neither of them has access to tapes of Nitro and/or works for a company full of people who are at and/or watching the show!
- the nWo does one of the best heel segments of all time and ruins everything for everybody
- Two random Dungeon of Doom guys return!
- Mongo and Jeff Jarrett square off! Shit!
- Buff Bagwell tries karate
And more. Reserve a spot for next week!