Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: World War 5 happened and Scott Hall earned a WCW Heavyweight Championship match for February. Which is extremely helpful, because the nWo already have a contractual, in-canon ability to wrestle for championships whenever they want. You’re gonna want to orchestrate a false ending to a 60-man battle royal to make that really pop.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network, and click here to watch the pay-per-view. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 1, 1997.
Worst: WCW Is Putting Up Monday Nitro As A Stipulation In A Match Involving The President Of The Company And A Color Commentator
Over the past several weeks, Larry Zbyszko has been trying to stand up to the New World Order while getting picked on and beaten up. Last week, he finally managed to double-talk Eric Bischoff into a verbal agreement for a match. This week’s show opens with Bischoff coming to the ring and saying it’s not going to happen, because his challenge was for “right then, right there” and it didn’t happen. He says the only way he’ll ever face Zbyszko in a match is if Zbyszko puts up WCW MONDAY NITRO ITSELF as collateral. Since he knows Larry doesn’t have the authority to do that, wrestling will never happen.
Later in the episode, sure enough, former corrupt CEO of Tully Blanchard Enterprises and current head of the WCW executive committee James J. Dillon shows up to say that yes, Larry doesn’t have the authority to give a WCW show to a bunch of people who want WCW to die, but HE does! So he’s making the match: Larry Zbyszko vs. Eric Bischoff, with ownership of Monday Nitro at stake.
A couple of talking points here:
- why on Earth would you do that, especially considering that 100% of nWo matches end in the other nWo guys running out and beating everyone up, often without a disqualification and exclusively without consequences
- why would you entrust the future of your primetime television show to a color commentator who hadn’t wrestled in three years?
- Bischoff is still in charge of WCW and the nWo at the same time, and no amount of yelling “YOU GOT NO STROKE!” or “YOU HAVE THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF STROKE!” at authority figures changes that reality. It’s like when Raw faces Smackdown for “brand surpremacy.” Y’all are the same brand, stop playing.
- isn’t the nWo in charge of Nitro already anyway? They can show up at the announce table whenever they want and change the branding, they interfere in whatever matches they want to interfere in, they ruin almost every WCW event, they got their own pay-per-view with their own beauty pageant element and, as mentioned, they can challenge for and defend WCW championships whenever they want. So what does “owning Nitro” get them? The ability to film the show in black and white instead of color?
Plus, isn’t it kinda weird that the whole point of Starrcade is Sting (WCW) vs. Hogan (nWo) in the long-awaited climactic battle to establish dominance in this two-year company vs. company vs. off-screen third company wrestling story? Why be like, “before we do that match, let’s do a match between two non-wrestlers where the fate of the company is literally on the line?” Why would WCW ever, ever agree to give the nWo their show? So Eric Bischoff could get an old man beaten up once?
Y’all deserve to lose.
Worst: A Week Of Upsets Nobody Asked For
The most egregious of these is, and I can’t even believe I’m typing this, Prince Iaukea defeating Yuji Nagata. CLEAN. He just jumps on him from the top rope and that’s the match. This is one of those results you’d get in Fire Pro that’d make you pause the simming and adjust your sliders. Prince Iaukea over Yuji Nagata? Seriously? And this late in 1997? What, did WCW see The Rock finally catching on over on Raw and think, “oh, we have one of those, everyone will like ours, too,” without doing any of the work Rock did to get better?
Also somewhat gregious is Hugh Morrus defeating Wrath. The idea is that Wrath has the match won, but James Vandenberg is doing a bad job of managing his men so Mortis gets up on the apron with a chain without orders and tries to get Wrath to toss Humorous into it. They miscommunicate, of course, and Mortis accidentally kicks Wrath. That allows Hugh Morrus, a man whose last victory I couldn’t name if you held a gun to my head, to win the match.
Just like the Prince Iaukea win, this goes nowhere. I guess if I’m looking for a positive in this, it’s that WCW created enough of a “real sports league” feel that guys who weren’t feuding would wrestle each other because that’s how the matches are scheduled, and when two low-level guys get into the ring together you don’t automatically know who’s going to win, even if one of the two is getting pushed?
If I’m looking for a negative, stop giving Hugh Morrus wins, he is “humorous” “the laughing man,” that isn’t a character, that’s at best Mr. Peanutbutter-level wordplay.
The final upset of the week is Members Of Harlem Heat defeating The Faces of Fear, which shouldn’t be an upset, really, but is because Meng’s in the middle of one of his indestructible monster periods and Harlem Heat couldn’t get a WCW Tag Team Championship shot if they tried to have a number one contender match with a pile of laundry.
It’s a similar bit to the one they did in the Booker T vs. Meng singles (mengles) match. Meng grabs Stevie Ray in the Tongan Death Grip, but Booker T’s able to roll up Barbarian first and win the match. Afterwards they try to do the “Meng is impervious to wooden chairs, because who isn’t” gag with Meng “punching through” the chair to Death Grip Booker, but he just ends up opening the chair instead of breaking it. And then I think Jacqueline is supposed to do something to break it up, but she’s busy choking the life out of Jimmy Hart on the floor, and Meng and Booker have to like, crawl to the edge of the ring in the Death Grip to get her attention.
(It’s not great.)
(Jacqueline and Jimmy Hart are in the WWE Hall of Fame but Meng isn’t.)
I’m Still Mad My Nitro Party Didn’t Win
How great is it that WWE is like, “remember, whatever you do, please, don’t try this at home,” and WCW was like, “check out this funny video we got of a college frat screaming their shirts off and trying to powerbomb each other through tables.”
Best: Ospreay And Ricochet Destroy The Business
This week’s opening match is actually Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera with Eddie Guerrero on commentary, which is about as good as five minutes of Nitro can get. They don’t get much time, but they hit everything with ABSURD quickness and impact, as Rey’s clearly still buzzing from that amazing Halloween Havoc performance and the following month working with Eddie.
There’s also a really unfortunate moment in the match where Rey experiences the most painful thing a short wrestler can experience in a wrestling ring: trying to bounce off the middle rope off an Irish whip like you always do, but your head going under/behind the top rope when you do it. So you end up with something like this:
Still though, everything else in the match looks crisp, and Juventud Guerrera’s pretty close to catching on as the Second Best Rey Mysterio, which carries him pretty far in the WCW Cruiserweight Division. When he starts being the Second Best The Rock, not so much.
Best: Billy Kidman’s Coming Out Party
Last week, Chris Benoit began his feud with Raven by having to face Raven’s contractually-approved substitute, Sick Boy, and eventually the entire Flock. This week he gets the same treatment with Billy Kidman, who gets to really wrestle as “Billy Kidman” for the first time.
Say what you will about Kidman’s weird late-era WWE run where he decided he should gain 100 pounds and cut his hair to look as much like Paul from The Wonder Years as possible, and say what you will about how he only hit about 70% of his attempted shooting star presses because he didn’t have “agility” as much as “a willingness to try to flip like that whether he hurts himself or not,” but in the right environment with the right opponent, the guy could GO. Plus, putting him in the ring with Benoit is great, because he weighs like 100 pounds at this point and Benoit is very, very good at picking dudes up to about shoulder-height and throwing them the fuck at the floor.
Kidman also breaks out a shooting star press off the apron to the floor, previously only seen by about 1/4 the crowd and only about half of one camera in the middle of a battle royal. Benoit once again ends up having to take on the entire Flock, and kicking their ass until Hammer runs interference and clears up Raven for a sneak attack. Raven DDTs Benoit, and they follow the same beats as the Scotty Riggs story; namely, Raven thinks he can control anybody if he overwhelms, hurts and double-talks them enough. Little does he realize that Chris Benoit is a lot tougher than Scotty Riggs, and his brain is … what’s the most delicate way to put this? It’s not a good idea to ride an elevator to the top floor if the building is on fire, you know?
Worst: Eric Bischoff For Cruiserweight Champion
Ultimo Dragon defeats Psicosis in another nice little match, but you wouldn’t know it, because it comes right after the Bischoff announcement so that’s all they talk about. Seriously, Ultimo hits a Dragonsteiner off the top and locks in the Dragon Sleeper to knock Psicosis out, and the announce team’s all, “IS THIS A PREVIEW OF WHAT WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN LARRY ZBYSZKO AND ERIC BISCHOFF AT STARRCADE?” Yeah Tony, Larry Zbyszko’s gonna hit a Spanish Fly and then lock in the Red Ink for the win. That’s what’s going to happen at Starrcade, not “stalling” followed by “run-ins.”
Worst: Poor Disco Inferno
Using “poor” loosely.
In an alternate universe, Disco Inferno has that Triple H spot of “guy who was brow-beaten during the Attitude Era but did every embarrassing thing we asked of him, so now he’s tough and powerful and gets to do whatever he wants, and also he runs the company and is married to Eric Bischoff’s daughter.” Instead, he came back from trying to get a WWF job to (1) get his ass beaten by Jacqueline for several weeks, (2) lose to her on pay-per-view, (3) somehow become Television Champion just to lose a bunch, (4) get four elbows dropped on him in a match against Macho Man last week and now (5) get totally squashed by Scott Hall. And now he’s still just the Disco Inferno.
Yeah, the best part of this match is Hall and Nash celebrating like they’d just won the main event of WrestleMania.
Best: Tony Schiavone Calling Vincent An Idiot
Future members of Totally Buff (and also possibly calf implants) EXPLODE as Lex Luger takes on Buff Bagwell, with Vincent. If you like extremely basic pro wrestling performed by very muscular guys, this is the match for you! Pretty sure the most dangerous thing they do here is trying to get down for and up from the lateral press without tearing an entire side of torso.
The finish of the match is built around Good Brother Vincent, who is so bad at interfering that Tony straight up calls him an “idiot.” Vincent gets on the apron and kinda vaguely waves, so Luger punches him down. Instead of rolling to the floor, Vincent stands up and tries to CLIMB THE ROPES, which gets him thrown into Buff. The match gets called off, Luger wins by disqualification, and Flexy Lexy gives the crowd what they came to see: the image of him holding someone horizontally across his shoulders and bouncing up and down for a few seconds before dropping them. Imagine being a WWE fan and the most popular move in the world being the first half of an Attitude Adjustment, but not the second.
Best: Hollywood Picks A Fight
And now, the very best part of the episode: Hollywood Hogan getting so mad at all the Sting masks in the crowd that he tries to fight an old woman.
In case you weren’t aware, this “stunt granny” was actually Bouncin’ Beulah Boshers, a woman instrumental in popularizing local pro wrestling TV in the 1950s. She was so into the matches and had so much personality that they actually put her on the shows, and she ended up not only befriending most of the wrestlers, but training to wrestle herself and becoming a promoter. She’s was the first “super fan” of pro wrestling, and maybe the first “smark,” long before that was a thing.
And one time on Nitro she threatened to scratch out Hulk Hogan’s eyes, because she ruled.
Worst: Everything Else Hogan Does
Sing along if you know the words.
♫ The main event of Nitro is supposed to be Diamond Dallas Page vs. Curt Hennig for the United States Championship, but when Page hits Hennig with the Diamond Cutter, the entire New World Order attacks and causes a disqualification. The entire crowd is chanting “WE WANT STING,” but Sting never shows up, and instead Hollywood Hogan puts a Sting mask on DDP and Diamond Cuts him onto the World Heavyweight Championship. And the show goes off the air with the nWo celebrating, and nobody trying to stop them. Yeah, girl. ♫
The most notable thing here is exactly HOW Hogan does a Diamond Cutter. Watch in amazement as a professional athlete has trouble with “hold someone’s head,” followed by “fall down.”
I mean, it looks fine, I guess, but it also looks like it was mo-capped by some kids play wrestling at a public pool. I think he was worried about taking a bump, because he hadn’t taken one in like a year and a half.
The question remains: Where is the real Sting, and when will he arrive to strike down upon them great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy his brothers? The answer would probably surprise you more if they hadn’t done a Nitro about how Sting filmed a movie and isn’t super into his non-wrestling wrestling job right now.
Act three begins, and the nWo finally follows through with the Chekhov’s Sting dummy they introduced in act one. Plus, Disco Inferno wins the Television Championship again for some goddamn reason, and Konnan finally collides with Ray Traylor. It’s, uh, not the best episode. But hey, thanks for reading!