Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Buffalo Bills legends Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith helped Hugh Morrus take on the Macho Man Randy Savage in a real sentence I just typed.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 15, 1997.
Worst: Bret Hart Is Here, And We’re Devoting Three Hours To It
From the Best and Worst of Nitro two weeks ago:
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.
Also in that column are the correct responses to the announcement, which include “why would you put the show on the line when nWo matches always end in run-ins and the nWo either winning, or losing and getting what they want anyway,” “why would you trust the future of your flagship television show to a semi-retired color commentator who hasn’t wrestled in three years,” and “doesn’t Bischoff already own everything anyway?”
That story gets even more insane this week, with Bischoff pulling the “I’M NOT GOING TO WRESTLE UNLESS YOU GIVE ME WHAT I WANT” gambit for the second time in three weeks, and J.J. Dillon again agreeing to it. First, Bischoff wants to make sure closed fists and kicks to the head are legal, because he doesn’t know how to wrestle, but he knows karate. Dillon is like, “yes, that’s fine,” instead of like, telling Bischoff he already agreed to the match multiple times and has already gotten what he wanted. Bischoff then demands a SPECIAL NEW WORLD ORDER REFEREE, and Dillon AGAIN agrees to it, on one condition: he gets to pick which nWo guy refs the match. His choice? The debuting Bret Hart.
I could spend the entire column writing about this, but even 20 years later it doesn’t make sense. So basically a month removed from Survivor Series ’97 and the Montreal Screwjob, with Raw still losing their minds about it and mentioning it every week, WCW debuts the most talked-about star in pro wrestling with a spot on their biggest show ever as the special guest referee for a match between a non-wrestling front office type and a 46-year old color commentator. On top of that, the logic they use is that Bret Hart has already decided to join the nWo instead of WCW, meaning the nWo wasn’t lying when they said he had, and the acting head of the WCW executive committee is putting that guy in charge of the match with the company’s only, multi-hour prime-time show on the line.]
Then, to make it EVEN MORE COMPLICATED, Bischoff is afraid of Bret being the special guest referee (despite him being in the New World Order) because Bret just got “screwed” by a ref and wants to call the match down the line. Bischoff then repeatedly brings up the fact that Bret has agreed to a contract for “$7.5 million of Ted Turner’s money,” and should do what he says.
So WCW took one of the biggest stars ever at the peak of people talking about him and stuck him into their WrestleMania as a special guest ref for a match involving two NPCs, had him more or less turn on WCW (by joining the nWo) and the nWo (by saying he won’t help them) at the same time, and established that the World Wrestling Federation and Shawn Michaels are 100% correct about Bret only being in this for the money.
what the shit, everyone
Best: Vincent With Binoculars
There’s a lot going on in this episode and the show-opening nWo promo is mostly a chance for Hollywood Hogan to say Sting’s a coward five more times (and for Curt Hennig to remind Charlotte, North Carolina, how he personally murder-disbanded the Four Horsemen in front of them a few months ago, but I’m giving it a Best for the unexpectedly funny image of Wrestling Superstar Vincent in the ring with binoculars looking for Sting.
Look at him back there. The only thing that would’ve made it funnier is if he’d had his sunglasses down while he was looking through the binoculars.
Note: The opening also has a random appearance from Eric Bischoff’s favorite nWo member Masa ‘My Hero’ Chono. He appears in non-nWo street clothes and doesn’t wrestle on the episode despite it being three hours long, so I’m picturing him showing up to the show as a guest, walking out with the nWo and Bischoff noticing him while they’re like, in the ring, mid-promo. 99% sure this is how Jeff Jarrett ends up joining them anyway.
Best: If You Pause Ric Flair While He’s In The Middle Of A Woo, He Becomes Enzo Amore
WCW attempts a brief rehabilitation of the Four Horsemen in Charlotte by having Ric Flair and a returning Arn Anderson (who gets a HUGE reaction) present a check for $15,000 to the Charlotte police force for a memorial to fallen police officers. We also get a little Doug Dellinger: Origins as we find out WCW’s head of security is retired Charlotte PD. It’s a nice moment, at the very least seeing Arn again.
I said it was a “brief rehabilitation” of the Horsemen because before the episode is even over, they’ve managed to humiliate Flair in front of the Charlotte crowd again.
Worst: Again? Seriously?
The main event of the episode is supposed to be Ric Flair vs. Curt Hennig — the match you’d want to book for this crowd, when the last time they saw them Hennig was giving Naitch brain damage with a cage door — and the crowd is SO INTO IT. Hennig even starts the match by coming to the ring and challenging anyone to hop the rail and fight him. Note: this becomes important later.
Then Flair gets in the ring to actually start the match, and it ends (I shit you not) ten seconds in with a Scott Hall double axe-handle from behind and a disqualification. The entire nWo hits the ring to beat up Flair again and crushes the leg he injured at World War 3. Hennig puts Flair in the figure four (again, in Charlotte) until WCW guys make a rare save, and the payoff to months of North Carolina seething for Flair to get revenge for War Games is “the nWo hurts him again, and he’s carried away crying.” Jesus Christ, WCW.
Best: Randy Anderson Breaks Bad On A Fan
With Flair injured and taken away, Diamond Dallas Page sticks around and challenges Hennig to another United States Championship match. Before the nWo has a chance to respond, two fans try to do a run-in and get stopped cold in the most hilarious fashion since Mark Curtis Kinshasa’d and guillotined a dude.
The guy in the white shirt gets yanked out of the ring by the foot by ring announcer David Penzer, which is hilarious. The other guy in black joins the Embarrassing Fan Run-In Hall Of Fame by getting chokeslammed to the ground by Randy Anderson, a referee barely tough enough to pretend to beat up Nick Patrick, and (apparently) kicked into unconsciousness. Anderson then PICKS HIM UP BY THE SHIRT like he’s garbage and starts trying to TEAR OFF HIS FACE. Or suffocate him, I’m not sure. Either way, brother gets taken to the fucking woodshed by Pee-wee Anderson, and even the guy Mark Curtis rocked is laughing his ass off.
Best: The Night Sting Danced Atop The Independence Arena
Haha, so yeah, Page challenges Hennig to a match for the U.S. title. Hollywood Hogan and the entire nWo wander back out to attack Page, who smartly bails into the crowd to avoid a beatdown. With nothing else to do, Hogan starts calling Sting a coward again … until Sting appears, like the monster in It Follows, on top of the entrance.
It’s a great visual, honestly, destroyed almost entirely by the production team not ending the show on it and keeping the cameras rolling until Hogan’s standing around waiting for something to happen and Sting’s doing monkey bars to get back down.
Kinda hurts the “avenging gothic angel” image when the camera catches you in the middle of threatening pull-ups.
Best/Worst: They’re Still Building To Lex Luger Vs. Buff Bagwell At Starrcade By Doing Lex Luger Vs. Buff Bagwell Every Week
Over the past several weeks, Buff Bagwell has been getting cheap victories over Lex Luger (by count-out and disqualification). As you might expect from Buff, he’s now declaring himself “The New Total Package” and is a billion times more overconfident about his ability to beat Lex than he needs to be. Buff tells Lex he can’t beat him, Lex reveals that he’s set up another match for them tonight, and after like five excuses, Luger just smacks Buff in the face and it’s on.
Then a few seconds later it’s off again, because Scott Norton and Vincent have tried to interfere and Luger accidentally hip-tossed Bagwell over the top rope, which is (believe it or not) still a disqualification. Pretty crazy they held onto that on a show with this much lucha libre, but whatever.
The WCW vs. nWo “Did Anything Even Happen?” Lightning Round
Might as well get the rest of these out of the way, because there are a lot of them.
The show opens with Ray Traylor vs. Vincent. The world was never meant for one as beautiful as he, so Vincent loses to the Boss Man Slam, now known as “Traylor Trash.” Which is weird, because that’s what I’ve been calling every Ray Traylor match.
Later in the episode, the Steiner Brothers take on Vicious and Suspicious, aka Scott Norton and Konnan. In a match where Vincent definitely should’ve caused a disqualification by blasting Rick Steiner in the face with binoculars, Vincent just kicks Scott in the stomach (pictured). You’ve gotta pay off those ‘nocs, man. The nWo beatdown commences, until Ray Traylor jogs back out to make the save. This sets up the Steiners and Traylor vs. Norton, Konnan and fucking Virgil for Starrcade.
Note: One of those three nWo guys doesn’t actually make it to Starrcade, and amazingly, it’s not Vincent. Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio Jr., Ultimo Dragon and more don’t make it onto WCW’s biggest show of the year, but VINCENT does.
Macho Man Randy Savage vs. Booker T is almost every Macho Man Nitro match: Savage getting beaten up for the entire match until it’s time for him to win with one (1) offensive move, the elbow drop. Here, poor Booker is in control until Miss Elizabeth touches him on the ankle, causing him to lose 99% of his HP and get immediately defeated.
Incredibly, this four-minute match made it onto WWE’s “Best of WCW Monday Nitro vol. 2” DVD set, because sometimes WWE’s interpretation of “best” is “features someone we currently employ, and we don’t have to edit anything out of it.”
It’s a three hour show, we’ve got a lot of time to kill.
A little over a month before this, Chris Jericho got an extremely random win over Scott Hall on Nitro. According to Hall on the Sam Roberts podcast (and in various other places), he was actually supposed to WIN that match, but changed it on the fly to put Jericho over. I mean, kind of. It pissed everyone off backstage:
“The storyline then was we were going to bring Larry Zbyszko into the pay-per-view at Halloween Havoc as a special [guest] referee against Lex Luger and I. And so, I was just supposed to keep hitting Chris with the Razor’s Edge, just keep dropping Jericho on his head until Zbyszko came down. And I said, ‘Chris, but that’s not going to get a reaction.’ I said, ‘think of some way to beat me out of my finish and get with me later,’ so he came up with the idea to kick his feet off the turnbuckle and small package me and I said, ‘don’t tell anybody. I’ll take all the heat.’ So when I came back through the curtain [after the match], Arn Anderson’s there at the Gorilla position just shaking his head, going, ‘you’re too much’. So now I’m walking back towards the locker room and I pass Eric Bischoff and he looks at me and he goes, ‘didn’t I tell you to go over?’ and I’m going, ‘you’re telling me you didn’t like my segment?’ and he’s going, ‘no, no, but weren’t you supposed to win?’ and I said, ‘does it really matter?’ and he just throws his hands up in the air.”
So this week, Hall gets his rematch against Jericho and beats the shit out of him, winning easily. Jericho’s still desperately in need of a refresh (which he gets after Starrcade, and the rest is history), and Hall’s still out here doing facetious Giant taunts to further a feud between a guy who’s not on the show much lately (The Giant) and a guy already planning to be “too injured to compete” at Starrcade (Kevin Nash). The “Battle of the Giants” is basically Scott Hall doing sassy taunts at nobody, and the match doesn’t happen.
Best: One Of My Favorite Nitro Matches Ever
It’s Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera vs. Psicosis and “haunted block of cheese” variant La Parka, and it’s the greatest “fuck you” to the World Wrestling Federation’s “light heavyweight division” of little Memphis-ass white dudes and Not The Great Sasuke.
I absolutely adore this match, as it ends up being a tornado tag that’s so lucha libre it can barely contain itself. Usually WCW’s lucha libre matches are still peppered with a more palatable “American” style, with way more selling than we’d normally get, and more of a standard, southern wrestling structure. It’s either that, or Rey Jr. getting beaten within an inch of his life and having to fight from underneath. While those can also be good-to-great, there’s something wonderfully pure about four of the most talented luchadors on the planet at the time going bonkers for five minutes and throwing everything at the wall. It’s so good even WWE’s YouTube channel randomly uploaded highlights from it.
My favorite moments (besides the general existence of Piss Christ La Parka) are either the hot-as-Hell finish with Rey hitting a huge springboard headscissors to the floor while Juvy hits the 450 splash, or Juventud countering a top-rope bodyslam with one of the sickest counters I’ve ever seen. This shit is GLORIOUSLY out of its mind, and almost single-handedly justifies the show being three hours.
This has been your Valvoline People Who Know Wonder Why La Parka Wasn’t The Biggest Star Ever™ of the week.
Best: Eddie Guerrero On Commentary
There’s also a Dean Malenko vs. Fit Finlay match that should’ve set my brain on fire, but fails to because it’s built around the very WWE booking trope of “guy’s about to win the match, gets distracted by a guy he’s having a match with later, and suddenly loses this one.” Malenko is about to lock in the Texas Cloverleaf when Eddie Guerrero runs to the ring, so Malenko forgets to wrestle, knocks him off the apron, and gets Tombstoned by Finlay. Super disappointing.
I’m giving it a Best, though, because Eddie Guerrero on commentary is the greatest. The best bit is when he rags on Malenko’s selling, saying he reacted to Finlay kicking him in the face ““like his wife told him they were going to have twins.”
Worst: This Is The Episode Where Disco Inferno Pins Yuji Nagata Clean With The Stone Cold Stunner
Ultimo Dragon can’t seem to defeat Yuji Nagata, but the DISCO INFERNO can. The difference? Disco has started using the Stone Cold Stunner, because WCW and the WWF used to be really passive-aggressive about each other and would name their worst wrestlers after the other company’s best (see: WWF naming Virgil “Virgil” after Dusty Rhodes, and WCW re-naming him “Vincent” after Vince McMahon) or give their worst wrestlers the other company’s best wrestlers’ signature moves.
But yeah, here’s your Mad Lib of the week: Disco Inferno (noun) defeated Yuji Nagata (noun) with the Stone Cold Stunner (random wrestling move). Join us next week when … [checks notes] Desperado Joe Gomez defeats Giant Baba with a Canadian Destroyer.
Best: The Benoit Vs. Raven Story Continues This Week With A Win Over Scotty Riggs
Don’t worry, Chris, you made sure we wouldn’t be able to.
Finally This Week, Goldberg’s Streak Is Over Again, Kind Of
In case you missed it, Steve McMichael kinda sorta ended William Scott Goldberg’s legendary winning streak at 7-1 at Halloween Havoc when he attacked him backstage with a lead pipe and Goldberg either forfeited the match, or had Alex Wright sub-in for him and lose in his place. Either way, it was a match he had scheduled and didn’t win. Goldberg more or less disappeared from television for a while after that to make sure we’d forget about it.
He’s back this week, attacking Mongo backstage before Mongo can head to the ring to wrestle Meng. As you can see by the closed captioning, Goldberg tries to say “you mess with the bull, you get the horns” and mangles it so badly they don’t let him cut another promo for like a year and a half. He then announces that he’s heading to the ring to fight Meng in Mongo’s place. As he tries to do this, Mongo runs back out and attacks him from behind, causing a pull-apart brawl and another “no contest.” So at best, Goldberg is currently 7-0-2. The best guy ever at winning sure is bad at winning right now.
And that is three hours of WCW Monday Nitro!
It’s the go-home show for Starrcade ’97, aka “the final time anyone’s this into Sting,” and the infamous “Hogan’s head in a box” Nitro. Don’t miss it, brother.