The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 10/20/97: Hell In A Sell

Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Two of WCW’s longest-running angles ended simultaneously, as the Steiner Brothers defeated something resembling the Outsiders for the WCW Tag Team Championship, and Jeff Jarrett left the company, ending his seemingly endless feud with Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael.

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. If you’re a fan of the vintage reports, make sure you check out the ill-advised and somehow still going NWA TNA weekly pay-per-view recap series.

And now, the best and worst of WCW Monday Nitro, originally aired on October 20, 1997.

Best: WCW Actually Gains Momentum

This week’s show starts out with a crime scene, in which various members of the New World Order have been attacked and are lying around the ground in an orgy of spray paint and evidence. There’s a bat on the ground, a Rowdy Roddy Piper “I.C.O.N.” t-shirt on the ground, and the letters “DDP” with a diamond over them spray-painted on the concrete. WHO COULD’VE DONE THIS?

An irate Hollywood Hogan, Macho Man and Eric Bischoff hit the ring and demand satisfaction, claiming that they want to face DDP and Piper right here, right now, and that nobody will leave the building until they get what they want.

So, here’s where we get our first supplemental Worst. Hogan wants to have the cage match set for Halloween Havoc tonight, and conveniently enough the Havoc cage is hanging above the ring. But it’s not the normal WCW cage. You uh, remember how the World Wrestling Federation had just done their first Hell in a Cell match with two of its best wrestlers to great fanfare and acclaim? Well, WCW was like, “our cage is now big as shit too! And flimsy as hell because we can’t figure out how to get a roof on it. But it’s THE SAME!”

As a reminder, the NWA/WCW had straight-up cage matches (and War Games matches) that blew away everyone else’s. They got what a cage was for. For an example, see Magnum T.A. versus Tully Blanchard in an ‘I Quit’ match from Starrcade ’85. Brutal, visceral, unforgiving and palpably violent. When they stray away from NORMAL CAGE, though, they’re so comically bad they barely qualify as wrestling matches. See the Doomsday Cage, or the Chamber of Horrors match where the only way you could win was electrocute your opponent to actual death, or the triple decker cage they used for Ready to Rumble-based feud blowoffs.

If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for an absolute treat with WCW’s Dollar Store chicken wire Hell in a Cell. It’s really only there to blow out the knees of anyone who tries to climb it and make sleeper holds 10% more visually stimulating.

Hogan, Bischoff and Savage show up twice more throughout the show to reiterate their demand for satisfaction, shill Assault on Devil’s Island as hard as possible, and I’m sure stagger the competition with lines like, “No heart, no soul, no will to win. No, I’m not talking about Vince McMahon!”

At the end of the night, The Army Of Stings™ shows up again. The first one shows up on the ramp. The second and third Sting hit the ring from behind, reveal themselves as Diamond Dallas Page and Roddy Piper — who knew? — and light Hogan and company up. Hilariously, ramp Sting is revealed as nobody, and just gets knocked down when the rest of the nWo runs to the ring. I hope that was like, Kyle Petty trying to help out his good brothers. This pier-six brawl triggers the lowering of the cage for some reason, and Shoot Sting descends with it.

This visual is probably the only good thing the giant cage ever did in WCW:

The show ends with Sting clearing house and the nWo unable to escape … except for Hogan, Savage and Bischoff, who all escape through the cage door. Is it an extremely, extremely WCW thing to introduce a new, inescapable steel cage, set up a match featuring it, show it off too early on free TV and then show how easy it is to escape? At least the WWF had the piece of mind to say there had to be some bullshit or you had to be a 7-foot tall fire demon to rip open the door.

Still, though, this gives WCW true momentum for … maybe the first time ever, heading into Halloween Havoc. Sting has clearly chosen sides, Hogan is scared to death of Sting, Piper has Hogan’s number, and Diamond Dallas Page is once again wrestling smarter, not harder, to beat the nWo. Feel free to guess how this translates into Halloween Havoc!

At least nobody’s getting their head crushed in that coat hanger-ass cage door.

Worst: All The Referees Are Horrible

Don’t worry, WCW doesn’t have that much momentum.

That’s thanks to this mysterious hooded figure who counts the three for Scott Hall over Scott Steiner after the referee’s been knocked out. Hall is all, “GUESS THERE’S MORE THAN ONE SPECIAL REFEREE,” and to this day we have absolutely no idea who this black referee with a bag over his head could be. I would give you like, a handful of fanned money if you could tell me who it was. I’d even take you to Olive Garden!

In a completely unrelated story, nWo Vincent helps Scott Norton defeat Ray Traylor in a match from last week by spraying paint in his eyes. The referee watches everything happen and does nothing, because I guess spray-paint operates under Great Muta mist rules? I always thought Muta got a pass on the mist because it appeared to be produced in a gland in his throat, so it’d be like disqualifying someone for spitting, but apparently it’s free reign for all cloudy substances.

Also a fun note: after the match, the rest of the nWo B-team shows up to put the boots to Traylor. Instead of anyone coming out to help him or even the announcers giving a shit about a six-on-one attack, they send it to commercial. People who stomp the Big Boss Man with their friends choose Valvoline®!

Finally, in a screenshot that will make you wonder if the entire goon-squad of refs wasn’t on the take after weeks of taking a pounding from Scott Hall, here’s a ref definitely not seeing Dean Malenko’s shoulder like a foot off the mat, directly in front of him.

How do you miss that? You could’ve fit an entire Sonny Onoo between Malenko’s shoulder and the mat.

Best: Eddie Guerrero Is My Favorite Dirtbag

In happier news, this is the go-home show for Halloween Havoc and Eddie Guerrero is in top form. He starts off the program with a great little match with Chris Benoit; one of those sprints that only gets a few minutes, but the crowd is molten and the guys in the ring are hitting everything with impact and severity. The one thing Chris Benoit did better than any wrestler before or after him is make every single second of offense look intentional. It’s beyond “no wasted movement.” He was little, so he put every goddamn thing he had behind every goddamn thing he threw.

The finish is great, too, with Guerrero inadvertently sending Benoit face-first into the middle turnbuckle. Benoit is down and looks like he could be injured, or at least momentarily too shaken up to compete, so while the referee is checking on him Eddie Guerrero goes up top and hits a frog splash. It’s so great. Look at the referee’s face. He can’t believe what a dickbag this guy is. Guerrero gets an opportunistic win that he earned, but LOL, not really.

Later in the episode, Guerrero sneaks back out to yank Rey Mysterio Jr. off the ring apron mid-springboard, costing him the Television Championship in a match with Disco Inferno. It’s a pretty stupid move, honestly — why not let Mysterio beat this can of a champion, so you can take his mask AND the TV title at Havoc? — but Eddie’s more concerned with putting the fear of God into Rey and reminding him he can take his mask at any second to think logically. The good news is that it takes a lot of the focus off of Disco Inferno vs. Jacqueline, which is still happening, and is absolutely not Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.

Join us six days from now 20 years ago for the best WCW cruiserweight division ever, one of the best junior heavyweight matches ever held on American soil, one of the top five matches in WCW history and the match of the year in any year not also containing the submission match from WrestleMania 13.

Worst: The Flock Is Here To Distract You From A Very Good Match-up

Pictured here is the ever-growing Flock, now featuring Sick Boy (and a cameo from Stevie Richards, who I thought was gone by this point). If you’re not familiar with Sick Boy, he made an appearance on Nitro earlier in ’97 as “Lance Ringo,” a man who bought Kimberly’s issue of Playboy Celebrities and got Diamond Cut for doing so. He’s now named after Jonny Lee Miller’s character from Trainspotting, because everyone in the Flock who isn’t Raven is supposed to be on drugs.

What you’re not seeing here is Yuji Nagata vs. Juventud Guerrera, one of the first matches you’d play in Fire Pro. U.S. audiences aren’t sure what to do with Yuji other than WCW’s stalwart stance of “all Japanese people are sneaky and evil,” and Juvy hasn’t yet developed the following that would make him a multiple-time Crusierweight Champion. So as of now, the crowd is like, “this match is boring, HEY WHAT ARE THOSE DRUG ADDICTS DOING?” This is surprisingly on brand for pro wrestling.

Yuji wins thanks to a distraction from Sonny Onoo, which brings out Ultimo Dragon. Dragon gets beaten down, too, which sets up the opener for Halloween Havoc.

Worst: At Least Juvy’s Doing Better Than The Other Luchadores On This Episode

Damien and Dos Villanos show up for what you assume’s going to be a lucha six-man and end up getting mauled 1-on-3 by The Giant. Damien admirably tries to stand up to him and gets dropped by the W.M.D. prototype weapon. Giant then cuts a promo with a Villano crammed between his legs, because it’s not like we were going to take five interchangeable Pink Panther dudes seriously as a threat anyway.

Best: Good Egg Booker T

I forgot how organic Booker T’s face turn was. He never really had that moment where he turned, we just started liking him, and eventually WCW was like, “sure, you like him now.” Here, he’s got a match with Lex Luger that he prefaces by telling Jacqueline not to get involved, out of respect for his opponent. And he loses, sure, but he manages to put up a better singles match fight that Lex was expecting, including escaping Luger’s nigh-inescapable Fire Up and dodging a Torture Rack.

Luger shows him a little respect after the match, too, which I’m glad to see after he turned dude inside out with a running clothesline (pictured). I’d call it a lariat, but I’m not sure Luger can move his arms forward and backward. He’s like an LJN action figure, just stuck in place all the time. That bird flapping gesture isn’t him calling for a Torture Rack, really, he’s just moving his arms. He’s one of those guys you make punch by turning him at the waist.

Worst: Blood Runs Cold My Friend

Now that the Faces of Fear mini-feud is over, we’ve entered into No Man’s Land for the Blood Runs Cold angle. Glacier isn’t really around anymore, the Cat had his first singles match a couple of weeks ago and hasn’t been seen on Nitro since, and Mortis and Wrath are mostly here to job out to the important characters. For example, watch through gritted teeth as Mortis loses in short order to Steve McMichael, a man who wouldn’t earn a white belt in marital arts, much less martial.

The match is only really here to give Debra an excuse to show up and insist that the “Debra leaves town” match at Halloween Havoc will still happen. She says that Mongo’s worried because he doesn’t know who his opponent will be, and Mongo expresses said emotion with the same “pace back and forth and point fingers” LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING he uses to express everything else.

Things are much, much worse for Wrath, by the way.

Best: The First True Goldberg Match

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy Bill Goldberg vs. Wrath, the first (but certainly not the last) Goldberg match you can fit into a single GIF.

It can’t be understated how revolutionary this felt, as we hadn’t seen someone plow through opponents like this since at LEAST Magnum at his height. Watching this today I’m like HAHA YEAH GET HIM. Wrath didn’t even get to take off his helmet.

After the match, on his way back to the locker room, Goldberg banters at the camera and, in a very “suplex city, bitch” moment, shouts the phrase that would give his character a real hook.

Everybody. Everybody is next.

Who’s Next (Week)?

It’s time for Halloween Havoc, featuring:

  • Hogan vs. Piper in the world’s most dangerous “steel” “cage”
  • Savage vs. Page in a “Las Vegas Sudden Death Match,” which means guys dressed as Sting are legal
  • Luger vs. Hall with Larry Zbyszko as special guest referee, with flashing lights around and arrows pointing at him
  • Ric Flair trying to literally murder Curt Hennig
  • The best WCW Cruiserweight match ever, and that’s not even hyperbole
  • Disco vs. Miss Jackie in a match definitely for not for the Television Championship
  • Yuji Nagata vs. Ultimo Dragon because of a businessman who won’t stop doing karate and taking selfies
  • Steve McMichael vs. the intentions of the wife he hates