The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 1/12/98: Thunder Rolls


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Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: The New World Order is falling apart! And in more believable news, John Nord debuted and wore an iron-on t-shirt about how if you don’t like him [see back] there’s something wrong with you.

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. Follow along with the competition here.

Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. If you don’t tell them how much you like these, nobody’s going to read them. And be sure you’ve read about Starrcade ’97, which is more or less the company’s series finale.

First up, a show write-up that only happens when it’s raining.

Before We Begin

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Until someone at WWE Network uploads these, here’s your “pay-per-view where not much happened”-style recap of the debut episode of WCW Thunder, Thursdays 20 years ago on TBS, The SuperStation™. Just imagine I wrote several paragraphs about Atlanta Braves baseball and Captain Planet and the Planeteers before it.

Gentleman Chris Adams Won The First Ever WCW Thunder Match, And Then He Didn’t

While not really “noteworthy” in the classical sense, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how the very first match in the history of WCW Thunder is total bullshit.

It’s Macho Man Randy Savage versus ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams. Sadly his gimmick isn’t that he’s a floating fairy-tale demon in a suit who steals your voice and eats your heart, he’s just a polite guy from England. If you aren’t familiar with Adams’ work, he’s probably most famous for two lasting contributions to professional wrestling: training Stone Cold Steve Austin and popularizing the superkick in America. Can you imagine how different things would be if Adams hadn’t done that?

It’s a normal Macho Man TV match until the finish, which sees Lex Luger enact a small amount of revenge for last week’s attempted murder by bopping Savage in the face with a steel chair. Adams scores the surprise win, and the first match on Thunder will forever be remembered as one of the biggest upsets In The History Of Our Sport®. That is, of course, until after the first commercial break when WCW officials show up and are like, “we just said on Nitro we have to fine you if you cheat, so Luger’s in trouble for cheating and actually Macho Man won the match.” Yep, after a year and a half of letting the New World Order do whatever they want, WCW’s new plan for survival is “punish anyone from WCW who fights back.”

The Real Chris Jericho Is Soary

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Chris Jericho’s mental break continued thanks to a loss to Ric Flair, and poor David Penzer got his brand new suit jacket ripped off. Jericho is very “soary” for what happened and promises it will never happen again, which is why it happens again, and why it’s going to keep happening until he buys a single spritz of hairspray and starts leaning into it.

Juventud Guerrera Is The New Cruiserweight Champion

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Juventud Guerrera, seen here about to execute his dreaded Top Rope Dick Drop, defeats new Cruiserweight Champion Ultimo Dragon to become the new new Cruiserweight Champion on Thunder. This is so Thunder can have a big title change on the first episode and feel important. Spoiler alert, he loses it next week so the second Thunder can have a big title change and feel important.

It’s the first of five Cruiserweight Championships for Juvy — three in WCW, two in WWE — which is impressive sounding until you realize he held the championship for a grand total of 113. 110 if you’re going by WWE’s calendar. To put that into perspective, it’s about 20 fewer days than Spike Dudley’s one comedy run.

Vacant Is The New WCW World Heavyweight Champion

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Remember how mad we were when it looked like Hollywood Hogan pinned Sting clean at Starrcade, after like a year and a half of build? Remember how confused we were when they had a rematch on Nitro and the show went off the air in a middle of a ref bump, before they could do a finish? Behold WCW THUNDER, which reveals two important notes:

  • during that Nitro match WCW swears the nWo doesn’t want you to see (because Sting is still the champion), Nick Patrick slides in to replace the bumped referee and COUNTS STING’S SHOULDERS DOWN AGAIN. Hogan at least has a handful of tights this time, but Patrick still slow-counts the hell out of it, and Hogan has now pinned Sting twice. They do the same “uh uh, WAIT A MINUTE” non-finish they did at Starrcade, but still, we have eyeballs
  • because of this, the WCW Executive Committee (which is still technically run by the leader of the nWo) decides nobody is the champion, James J. Dillon vacates the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, and Sting’s title reign we’d been waiting all year for ends in 11 days with, for all intents and purposes, an 0-2 record

How unbelievably sad is that? If you want to be even madder about it, remember that Hollywood Hogan was originally WCW World Heavyweight Champion for almost a year — 359 days — lost to Lex Luger on Nitro, then won the title back 5 days later. He was champion for 141 more days before losing to Sting, and now Sting has to forfeit the belt 11 days later. Between 1996 and the beginning of 1998, Sting and Luger were champ for 16 days. Hogan was champ for 500 goddamn days. The next two champions combined reign for 57 days, and then Hogan wins it back for another 77. Maddening. Mark maddening.

And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for January 12, 1998.

Best: The Black Cat Is Here, And You’ll Want His Jacket

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This week’s big news, following up on last week’s “wait, what” debuts of Rick Martel and John Nord, is the WCW debut of Black Cat. Not to be confused with Ernest Miller, who is black and a cat, but not a black cat. Black Cat is a Mexican guy who looks like an aging Japanese hardcore wrestler and wears the world’s best jacket to the ring. That shits would make La Parka jealous. If SUNGLASSES CAT JACKET wasn’t enough to sell you, perhaps you’ll enjoy the back, which depicts a winged cat in sunglasses and a singlet with “cat” written across the chest. This tops Stevie Ray’s BOXING number as the best jacket ever seen on Nitro.

I guess WCW just had a pile of expendable puro talent available this week, as the first episode of Thunder had Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Michiyoshi Ohara and now suddenly the Kuroneko is out here wrestling MARTY JANNETTY. I don’t know what kind of dark-ass Fire Pro hellpit THAT match came from, but here we are. Tenay insists that Black Cat trained The Great Muta, Jushin Thunder Liger and Masahiro Chono, but since he’s not Hiro Matsuda or Antonio Inoki or Yamamoto or Fujiwara or even Stu Hart, we’ll assume Tenay saw “works at the New Japan dojo” on dude’s resume and Hulk-jumped to conclusions.

He loses to Janetty, which is bullshit, because have you even seen his jacket?

Best: Psst

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This week’s other big debut is the new Nitro Girl, Whisper, whose name you have to say very quietly. You may know her best as the Nitro Girl Shawn Michaels married, and the one Chris Jericho punched in the face. There’s no much else to say unless you want me to riff on Spice for 20 minutes, just wanted to point out that she’s here now.

Best: WCW’s Greatest Rivalry Begins

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From way back in the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro from December of ’96:

Up next is the WCW debut of one of the most memorable losers of the Attitude Era, “Lightning Foot” Jerry Flynn. He’s like Jerry Lynn if he was a local karate instructor your mom is dating. If you watched wrestling during this period, you probably know him best as about 75 of Bill Goldberg’s 173 consecutive victories. Goldberg LOVED to murder Jerry Flynn. Just loved it.

He shows up looking like a Will Ferrell character and a Danny McBride character mated, telling fans to “get outta his face” in breezy Taekwondo pajamas and I love him so much.

This week, we finally get Goldberg V Flynn I. It’s a less exciting version of Goldberg vs. Glacier, as Glacier is a mystical ice ninja and Flynn is a karate uncle in danger of choking on his own chest hair, so lots of weak spinning karates to the stomach and then BOOM RUNNING TACKLE JACKHAMMER SCREAMING SCREAMING. Willy Scott Goldberg and his love of tackling and jackling Jerry Flynn are the Tristan and Isolde of WCW mid-card programming.

Worst: “Kevin Nash Will Wrestle This Time, We Swear!”

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Notorious pro wrestling workhorse Kevin Nash was supposed to face The Giant in a Battle Of The Giants at Starrcade ’97, but no showed due to a legitimate health scare, not wanting to job, or some combination of the two, depending on who you ask. Therefore, the rematch has been set up for Souled Out, with a “we’re following the rules now” caveat: Nash must put up a “$1.5 million performance bond” to ensure that he’ll actually, you know, show up and do his job at the pay-per-view. WCW executive Nick Lambros also mentions that Bischoff is “cut off” from Ted Turner’s money going forward, which is a plot point they definitely remember later.

Bischoff and Hogan show up to dispute the performance bond, and they’ve got a special weapon: famous (?) Hollywood attorney Henry Holmes, who fingerwags WCW into accepting his counter-offer. Try not to notice that he looks like what Owen Hart would’ve looked like as an older man.

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They’ll put up the $1.5 million, but WCW and The Giant must match the offer, and if Giant puts his hands on Nash before the pay-per-view, the match is off and they lose all their money. Giant agrees. And not to spoil too much, but let’s be happy The Giant had three million dollars lying around after that match to help with his hospital bills.

Oh, and speaking of Nash, LOL

Worst: The Stupid Outsiders Are Tag Team Champions Again And The Steiners Are The Saddest

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Remember how it took the Steiner Brothers a year and a half to win the Tag Team Championship from The Outsiders, and by the time they actually got to the real championship match Kevin Nash was injured and they had to just pin Syxx instead? Nash is back now, so his first order of business is teaming with Hall to challenge the Steiners and win back the Tag Team Championship, putting a pretty large pin in that whole “Hall and Nash are carrying around fake belts and just calling themselves the champions” thing. Good to know the nWo’s “get a title shot whenever we want and win whether or actually lose or not” thing is still going strong.

The Steiners have been having problems as of late due to the monstrous Freakzilla lying dormant in Scotty’s brain, and the Outsiders capitalize on that by … well, having Macho Man interfere because he’s mad at Nash for hitting him last week, accidentally miss him trying to drop an elbow and hitting a Steiner instead, then rolling out of the ring to have a tense conversation with Hollywood Hogan about what’s going on while we should maybe have the cameras on the finish and/or the new tag champs. I’m not a producer, I don’t know. This is after a segment on the same show where Macho finds out he’s being fined $5,000 for hitting Eric Bischoff last week, and gets out of it by threatening Dillon until Bischoff intervenes and offers to pay the fine for him. These rules are working out great for everyone!

But yeah, long story short, the epic story of the Steiner Brothers more or less ends with them working forever to get a shot at a team, never getting that fair shot, beating a sub, then losing as soon as the actual team is together again. I mean, it could be worse. They could be members of Harlem Heat and NEVER get a title shot.

Best: Rick Martel Saves The Day

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In a rare example of WCW attempting to build up a mid-card babyface by having him do something noble and nice, ‘Das Wunderadult’ Rick Martel shows up during Booker T’s Television Championship defense against Perry Saturn and alerts the referee to Saturn’s cheating, saving the title for Booker and getting the match restarted. In response to him being a Good Dude, Booker offers Martel a title shot whenever he’d like. Martel is like, “that sounds fine, yes,” and I would have to be a much better writer than I am to draw something exciting out of Regular-ass Rick Martel. At least the character motivations make sense, and some of the smarter guys are trying to figure out how to turn WCW’s obsessive “punish WCW guys for everything and let the nWo do whatever they want” attitude from a negative into a positive?

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The Flock also gets handsy with Chris Benoit after a GREAT little match with Dean Malenko, because you could blindfold Benoit and Malenko and put them underwater and they’d give you at least three stars. Raven and his hired Hot Topic goons attack both men the second it’s over, leading directly into an interview with J.J. Dillon about how Lex Luger is gonna get in trouble for using a chair on Randy Savage despite there being a lot of evidence to support his decision and also J.J. ain’t doing SHIT about this band of Gadzooks-ass motherfuckers showing up in Switchblade Symphony t-shirts and ruining half the matches. It’s in his contract, and the contract is iron-clad™!

Maybe The Giant should look into getting one of those.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what Luger’s response was, it was to tell Dillon that WCW guys are gonna start acting like nWo guys and he doesn’t give a hoot, not a single dang hoot. He proves this by beating up and Torture Racking Hugh Morrus, who is probably real nervous to log onto the Dungeon of Doom chatroom and tell the guys what happened.

Best: Chris Jericho Is Getting Progressively Crazier

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Up until now, Jericho’s mental breakdown has been him being a bad loser and having to repeatedly apologize for it. On Thunder he escalated that a little by actually trying to attack David Penzer, and on Nitro he shows he’s more and more broken by upping his “I’m a good guy wrestler so I shouldn’t do bad stuff,” talking point to, “I know I am your role model and being an idol to millions is hard.”

He loses to Mongo McMichael via Tombstone, and the production team moves on to a video package about Juventud Guerrera winning the Cruiserweight Championship. Juvy’s supposed to defend against Rey Mysterio Jr., but when they’re done with the video and go back to the ring, Jericho’s STILL THERE, screaming at the fans for not appreciating how much effort he puts into entertaining us. He hits all of the future WWE promo talking points, from you people to mentioning that he’s here each and every week. Ultimately he tries to collect himself and promises that this will never (ever) happen again.

Rey Mysterio shows up for his match (claiming he wants to “defend the Cruiserweight Championship,” because Rey isn’t exactly Chris Jericho on a microphone), so Jericho gets pissed at the interruption and elbows him in the back of the head. He then proceeds to completely eat his lunch and Liontamer him to death so Juventud can score a quick, opportunistic win.

Jericho vs. Raymond Stereo has officially begun, and is the gift that keeps on giving.

Worst: Bret Hart Has A Posse

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Best: Way To Go, Anvil

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The week’s “biggest” in quotes debut is the arrival of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart, the former Hart Foundation member who briefly agreed to feud with D-Generation X at Survivor Series only to completely sell out his relatives and join them, only to be IMMEDIATELY shit-kicked out of the group and company. A guy with that kind of prestige carries a lot of weight, so his first role in WCW is to tell Mean Gene he thinks Bret Hart’s better than Ric Flair and get his ass beat by the Nature Boy. How great does the ring post figure-four look when you’re wearing khakis, loafers and grey socks?

Bret has to make the save for Anvil, which is always hilarious because Anvil’s supposed to be the “muscle” of the group, the “enforcer” if you will, and his only real job is to say Bret’s great before getting beaten up. You’ve gotta love Ric Flair, though, going from “I’m gonna read what a wrestler writer wrote in the paper” to “I AM GOING TO CRIPPLE YOUR FRIENDS” in like two weeks. This program is so good.

Next Week:

Another new champion on Thunder, Jerry Flynn and Ernest Miller have a karate fight that feels like it should’ve happened during the Kumite montage in Bloodsport, and Hogan mysteriously pins another top WCW guy clean due to people “missing their cues.” Be there!

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