The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 11/3/97: This Means War

Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Glacier fought La Parka in an extremely Brandon Stroud match, the main-event scene got weirdly sexual, and Hulk Hogan declared himself God. Also, Hogan and Sting signed a contract at a Las Vegas hotel in the middle of a TV movie.

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.

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And now, the best and worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on November 3, 1997.

Worst: Everyone Is Bracing For The Montreal Screwjob

Now that Halloween Havoc is over, there are three major things affecting the WCW pay-per-view cycle:

  • We’re on the road to World War 3, which used to be a thing you could call a big battle royal because we weren’t all terrified of it happening in real life
  • Hogan and Sting have signed a contract to face one-another at Starrcade, which looks to be the biggest and most definitely not disappointing match in The History Of Our Sport™
  • The World Wrestling Federation is about to hold Survivor Series ’97 and say goodbye to Bret Hart, but nobody’s quite sure how they’re going to do it, so everyone’s in a holding pattern. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go the way anyone is expecting

So everyone in WCW’s brain is on Starrcade, but they’re building to a different pay-per-view before that, meaning every single angle boils down to, “why don’t we both get in that big battle royal that needs 60 people?” Plus, Eric Bischoff’s calling in to say they’ll have a “big surprise” next week — the night after Survivor Series — which we’ve learned from Impact Wrestling is what you say when you think you’re gonna sign a big new star, but nothing’s final yet. So it might be Bret Hart, it might be “Jim Duggan joins the nWo,” who knows?

Best/Worst: WCW Returns To Philadelphia

WCW was in Philadelphia back in April, and in 1997 that meant pandering to the local ECW faithful but also stealing everything you can from them while they clap. More succinctly, WCW’s plan was, “put a lot of the recent ECW signees on the show,” and, “put Public Enemy in a PHILADELPHIA STREET FIGHT that ends with a really dangerous double table spot.” We’re back in Philly this week, so that means putting the recent ECW signees on the show and putting Public Enemy in a Philadelphia Street Fight that ends with a really, really dangerous table spot.

The best thing to come of this is that we have new Television Champion, Perry Saturn, who becomes a champ in his WCW debut by defeating Disco Inferno. Disco’s entire run was supposed to be a setup for him to lose the belt to Jacqueline, but the Nevada Athletic Commission said no to that at the last minute, so he lost to Jackie but still had to be champion for a few weeks. Last week he got thrown into the Earth by Goldberg before the bell even rang, and this week he gets creatively suplexed into what we learned in the 2000s was real, lasting dementia by Saturn.

WCW never really figured out if they wanted Saturn to be Raven or Taz, so they kinda made him both. It’s certainly better than the gimmicks the rest of The Flock got, which ranged from “sexy pirate” to “guy on heroin” to “named after a character from Trainspotting.” Even Raven was just mid-90s Eddie Vedder with a love of getting quotes wrong, the wrestler.

Worst: Public Enemy Almost Kills Rick Steiner

This looks like a totally safe spot that won’t endanger anyone’s life, right?

Last week, Public Enemy returned from months of not being on the show to get a random WCW Tag Team Championship match against new champions the Steiner Brothers. They lost, so this week they get … [checks notes] another title match against the Steiners, this time in a “Philadelphia Street Fight,” which means (1) it’s in Philadelphia, and (2) they won’t get disqualified when they fuck up a table spot at the end.

So! Rick Steiner gets positioned between the tables like the marshmallow in an extremely reckless s’more. The idea is that Ted DiBiase’s supposed to pull Rick to safety at the last minute, causing Grunge to fall through both tables and lose the match. What actually happens is that Grunge jumps too early or DiBiase’s not fast enough, so Rick’s head is still between the table when Grunge goes smashing through them, turning the top table into a plateau of splintered, stabby shards.

DiBiase’s “oh SHIT, SHIT” mince really sells it:

It’s accidentally a payoff for the past 10 years of Rick wrestling in that headgear, because if he hadn’t been wearing it he probably would’ve gotten a table spike jammed in his ear. I mean, look at him. Maybe next time you’re in Philly don’t put wrestlers of value into weapons fights with Pennsylvania’s store-brand Nasty Boys?

Best: Natures Big And Small

This week’s opening match pairs up Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero against Rey Mysterio Jr. and Lord Steven Regal in a “mismatched tag partners” affair to put over the “every man for himself” aspect of World War 3. That might’ve been great if they’d given it more than a few minutes between nWo promos and Halloween Havoc highlights about Roddy Piper having “nerve damage in his face” from Hulk Hogan’s slow punching, so the most notable thing to mention is (I believe) the WCW Monday Nitro debut of referee Charles Robinson.

Yep, that’s the littlest available version of Lil’ Naitch you’ll see on primetime WCW programming. You may know Charles as one of the best referees of all time, and or from his epic WrestleMania sprints and occasional cartwheeling.

In case you’re wondering, the all-time NWA/WCW referee power rankings sit at:

1. Mark Curtis, in a walk
2. Charles Robinson
3. Evil Nick Patrick
4. Randy Anderson
5. Good Nick Patrick
6. all other referees
7. Teddy Long
8. Tommy Young

As for Regular Sized Naitch, he cuts a Philadelphia-friendly promo about how he’s Eric Lindros and Curt Hennig is Jaromír Jágr. Although given Jágr’s longevity, laundry list of records and multiple Stanley Cup wins, Flair is clearly the Jágr. Jágr’s gonna be playing in the NHL long after we’re all dead, and Ric Flair’s recently proven he’s an immortal who’ll still be making guest appearances to put over Charlotte when she’s 80.

Later in the show wet get the battle between a man who’s had sex with 10,000 women and a man where having sex with him once makes you feel like you’ve had sex with 10,000 men: Ric Flair vs. Alex Wright.

First of all, Mr. “Greatest Abs in WWE History” Finn Bálor wishes he looked that good. Second of all, I apologize for getting you fired from your job for that picture of Alex Wright’s package showing up in your browser history.

Worst: Worst Torture Rack Ever

Flair returns later to be 1/4 of the impossibly awkward main event finish, which I think is supposed to be Lex Luger trying to Torture Rack Curt Hennig, Hennig countering by going over the top rope and flipping Lex to the floor, and the referee getting caught in it and knocked out so Flair can interfere. They don’t do it right, though, so Randy Anderson kinda awkwardly climbs over the ropes and falls onto the apron totally fine, so they have to improvise.

Hennig wanders around to the other side of the ring where I guess the referee won’t be able to turn and see him when commotion starts and everyone’s cheering, so Flair runs out and starts beating him up. Hennig escapes back into the ring, so Luger racks him again. You’d figure Flair would at least wait for Luger to win the United States Championship and humiliate Curt with the assist, but nope, he follows dude into the ring and punches him while he’s being Torture Racked, causing Luger to get disqualified. To make matters more confusing, they ring the bell the entire time and the announce team has to argue among themselves about when the match ended.

I like the idea that Flair wants to kill this guy so bad he won’t stop sprinting at him and throwing hands, but it doesn’t really work if you let the guy wrestle 10 minutes of his announced main event before you get mad and you’re so suddenly enraged about it you help him win.

Worst: A Bad Week For Lucha Libre

You know how WCW’s spent the last month airing videos on the history of lucha libre featuring Mexican wrestling legends, information about the various high-flying moves and a deep understanding of what masks mean to the sport? The payoff for all of that is The Giant showing up and beating up eight guys by himself, before challenging Kevin Nash to a match. I’d say “that’s the most WCW thing ever,” but I think I’ve started saying that about something every week. The best part is that Nash’s response next week is just, “why don’t we both be in the battle royal at World War 3.”

But man, what a bummer. There aren’t many match concepts that make me raise my ears like an excited Mr. Peanutbutter more than, “a battle royal of mid-90s WCW luchadors.”

In addition to that (and Rey Mysterio Jr. tapping out during the opening tag team match), Sonny Onoo brings out a bunch of pesos as “severance pay” for Psicosis, and the announcers joke about how it amounts to about $13 U.S., and how you can live off that in Mexico for years. Onoo says the pesos are for Psicosis and his “whole family.”

Psicosis loses to Yuji Nagata when Nagata discovers the secret to defeating a luchador: sit still and don’t do a big jumping forward flip every time they do something to you.

Real talk, there should be an unwritten rule in high-flying wrestling where if the guy doing a headscissors to you don’t close his legs enough to look like he could believably throw you around by your head, you should be able to stand still and let him fall on his face. Close the legs, guys. There’s nothing worse than when a guy does a big bow-legged rana off the top and there’s a second delay between him falling and the opponent somersaulting 3/4 of the way across the ring.

Also Appearing On This Filler Episode

Fit Finlay takes on Squire Dave Taylor in a match that (1) is the opposite of high-flying wrestling, and (2) would’ve been good if it’d lasted more than two minutes, with 90 seconds of that devoted to them doing nothing while Philadelphia lost its mind watching Raven and the Flock walk to their seats.

One thing I like about Finlay is that he’s got a very limited selection of opponents, because when you sign to WCW in 1997 one of the questions on the application is, “if asked, would you let the Belfast Bruiser punch you in the face for real?”

The beef between Scott Hall and Larry Zbyszko gets furthered with one of those bits where Hall loses clean to a guy you’d never expect him to lose clean to, then spends five minutes after the match brutally destroying the guy to make sure you know it was a fluke. Here, it’s poor 95% injured babyface Chris Jericho. See also: Hector Garza. At least Garza got to escape to the back and look like a functional wrestler for a week before Hall negated the gracious thing he did. Jericho takes repeated Scott’s Edges until he’s bailed out by a color commentator.

Finally this week we have an appearance from William Scott Goldberg, who shows up on the ramp with Steve McMichael’s Super Bowl ring to cause a very Current WWE distraction and cause Mongo to lose a match to Ray Traylor.

I think my favorite thing about Goldberg’s first WCW angle is that it started because Jeff Jarrett left the company and got replaced with Alex Wright, and continues at World War 3 with him getting knocked out and replaced by Alex Wright. Wright’s the one that should’ve gotten a huge push and a monster truck, although it’d be hard for a truck to drive with a muffler that large.

Next Week:

Lex Luger and Ric Flair wrestle over the finish to this week’s match, Diamond Dallas Page challenges for the United States Championship, and Hollywood Hogan beats up and humiliates Sting to help set up their match at Starrcade where he also beats up and humiliates Sting. Also, the New World Order is suddenly suspiciously super pro-Canada. I wonder why?

(Have you listened to the McMahonsplaining podcast? Check our latest episode with Kris Wolf.)