Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: We revisited Fall Brawl ’97 for the sudden but inevitable betrayal of Curt Hennig, Ric Flair getting his head bashed in by a cage door, and Mark Curtis getting told to suck Scott Hall’s dick. All in all, a banner night for WCW.
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 September 15, 1997.
Worst/Best: Curt Hennig May Have Killed Ric Flair
To refresh your memory, this is how Fall Brawl ended:
Nitro starts off with macabre footage of what looks like a dead Ric Flair on an operating table, and honestly they could’ve opened the show with a smashed watermelon surrounded by a glittery robe and I would’ve bought it as Flair’s head.
I mean, those markings look more like the beginnings of a rhytidectomy than, say, brain surgery, but if you’re taking time off to get a face lift, “the bad guy I trusted for three months like an idiot destroyed my regular face” is a solid reason.
Tony Schiavone is an absolute mess at the top of the show, refuses to call the action and walks off the set, because despite Flair spending the 1980s braggadociously ruining people’s lives and the early ’90s using magic tricks and evil voiceovers to psychologically manipulate Sting, Tony and Naitch were always buds. Flair would like, give him money and boost his confidence to make shitty points about Dusty Rhodes.
As a result of all this, the New World Order have actual heel heat for the first time since, what, Bash at the Beach ’96?. At least since that Nitro a month later where they ruined Rey Mysterio’s day at Disney World.
You know what it took? Curt Hennig turning on the Horsemen, nearly killing Ric Flair, taking a shit on Arn Anderson’s legacy and wearing Ric Flair’s robe to the ring for a condescending promo in Flair’s home town. Oh, also he’s getting a United States Championship match tonight in the main event against Steve McMichael, who thanks to a Chris Benoit concussion is the only member of the Four Horsemen still standing. Cool.
Hennig gets smashed in the head with a beer as soon as he starts talking. Here it is in glorious slow motion:
Nash picks up the empty cup and pretends to drink out of it, and I’m surprised he didn’t show up dressed as Old Man Arn, give his liver spot to Virgil and commit harikari in the middle of the ring.
So with all this heat and only one member of the Horsemen remaining to fight off the entire nWo for the honor of the Nature Boy in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mongo either flattens Curt Hennig in the main event and triggers a big New World Order run-in, or WCW decides to stand behind him to prevent another near-manslaughter like this from happening, right?
You know? It’s good that the nWo was getting real heel heat again, especially if the ultimate payoff of the angle was Sting finally stepping in, eradicating them forever for the good of the company and rejoining World Championship Wrestling, but (1) LOL, like that was actually going to happen, and (2) rewriting this on the fly as an “nWo scheme” is pretty ridiculous. The announce team puts it over like this was the plan all along, but really?
Your big plan to attack Ric Flair and win a secondary championship was to bring in Curt Hennig, have the Horsemen court him, have him refuse them for several months, get into a War Games match against WCW, rely on Arn Anderson retiring and finally getting Hennig to join the team, relying on Lex Luger and Diamond Dallas Page having problems heading into War Games, relying on Hogan to injure J.J. Dillon and the WCW Executive Committee to bring back Rowdy Roddy Piper, rely on Piper to remove Luger and Page from War Games at the last minute and replace them with the Horsemen, execute a pretend backstage attack to make people think Hennig wouldn’t be in the match for some reason, then have Hennig show up pretending to be injured so he can bring out a bunch of handcuffs on the down low which are technically legal in a War Games match anyway and turn on the Horsemen? Really? You couldn’t have just walked backstage and kicked Ric Flair’s ass?
Worst: In Other News, We Still Have No Idea Who The Number One Contenders Are
One of the strangest things about Hennig getting a title shot (and winning) is that Mongo’s blood rival, Jeff Jarrett, tapped out Dean Malenko to become the number one contender to the United States Championship. Guess what? That’s not the only time they do that. On this episode.
At Fall Brawl, the Steiner Brothers defeated Harlem Heat for the seventh or eighth hundred time to become the number one contenders for The Outsiders’ World Tag Team Championship. Also on that show, Mortis and Wrath defeated The Faces of Fear in a grudge match that had nothing to do with the tag titles. So what’s the tag title match on Nitro the next night?
You guessed it, The Outsiders vs. Mortis and Wrath. As much as I’d like to play this match in a video game, I’m having trouble putting into words how counterproductive it feels to (1) have a number one contender match and then give someone else a title shot first, (2) pit two heel teams together on the first night since August Hall and Nash have had heel heat, and (3) not only running heel vs. heel, but doing “cool realistic heel” vs. “the cartoonish karate bad guys from the Glacier angle.”
The Outsiders win, of course, but only after Syxx helps them cheat. Because dot dot dot question mark question mark question mark a JPG of me throwing a vase against a wall.
Don’t worry though, Harlem Heat is here to lose again, this time to the Faces of Fear because they can’t tell Meng and The Barbarian apart. The Steiners aren’t on the show at all.
Here’s a fun fact: The Steiner Brothers do end up getting a tag title shot in October and win, but not against Hall and Nash, and not on a pay-per-view. They get to beat Hall and Syxx, who gets Freebirded in, I guess, on Nitro. Harlem Heat don’t get a pay-per-view title shot or even pay-per-view match as a team until August of 1999, almost two whole years later, when they win the belts from The Triad at Road Wild ’99. Number one contenders forever!
Best: There’s Good Wrestling, At Least!
The upside to this episode, which I can’t say for all of them, is that despite the futile nihilism of the systematic Audition-style murder of the Horsemen in Horsemen Country, Nitro’s got some good wrestling on it. I think my favorite match of the night is Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera, which practically STARTS with Juventud powerbombing Rey from the apron to the floor.
The highlight for me is the finish, which is Mysterio hitting one of the smoothest through-the-legs hurricanranas I’ve seen him hit.
It’s one of the best moves in wrestling history when the timing’s right and he doesn’t swing into someone’s leg or the height differential doesn’t spike the guy. Sorry, Psicosis.
You wouldn’t think North Carolina would be into in-dire-straits Lord Steven Regal, but if you let him slap the Christ out of Alex Wright in front of them, you’ve got a cult hero.
This is the best Alex Wright match I’ve seen in … maybe years? Because it’s built around them doing World of Sport-ass wristlocks and waiting for the exact moment the crowd starts to lose interest, then boom, Regal smacks Alex in the face. And Alex just stumbles around selling it for like 30 seconds. The crowd starts chanting for Regal, so he turns face in the middle of the match, then turns heel again and everyone loves him more because even a British Lord with a drug problem is more identifiable to a Southern crowd than a beautiful German teen adult with Randy Orton’s body and the pimmel of all three Legacy members combined.
Wright retains with a flip into the buckles and a German suplex, because WCW can’t leave a single person in North Carolina happy.
Also On The Show
WCW’s big idea for this leg of the tour was, “what if we HATED you?” so outside of the main angle, there’s a hell of a lot of filler.
The Giant obliterates Konnan in about a minute with a chokeslam, because Nitro has to acknowledge that WCW has an unstoppable 7-foot tall supernatural monster man who hates the New World Order, but not really do anything about it until it’s time for him to turn on a dime and like them again.
The match they choose to run after showing Ric Flair dying on an operating table is Dean Malenko vs. Disco Inferno, which is depressingly hilarious. Malenko needs to be in the Horsemen sooner rather than later, and/or he needs Chris Jericho to get his shit together and figure out how to be amazing so he can have a rival other than “whichever heels or faces aren’t injured or doing anything right now.”
Early in the night, Diamond Dallas Page delivers a promo about how he has a disease, and that disease is Macho Man Randy Savage, and also the cure for that disease is Diamond Dallas Page. The crowd reacts to it with murmurs, possibly because of the paradox of a man having to fight a disease for which the man himself is the cure, and Page visibly pauses and awkwardly wipes his mouth because you know he thought it was a badass line and nobody popped for it.
Later, he squashes Stevie Richards. After the match, Raven shows up and pushes Stevie around for no real reason. It’s notable for being the first run-in between the Raven character and main-eventer DDP, which becomes a thing later, but it’s also not notable because it’s a Stevie Richards Nitro match.
Finally, Eddie Guerrero defends the Cruiserweight Championship against Ultimo Dragon in a match that’s nowhere near as good as it sounds. It’s one of those nights (like WrestleMania XX) where Dragon can’t seem to do anything right, as he can’t even get over on a headscissors without twisting halfway through and sending Eddie flipping over in the wrong direction. Eddie and Mysterio both won, though, and we can’t start that Halloween Havoc program soon enough.
That’s it for this week’s show. Hope you don’t like any of the Four Horsemen, or anyone from WCW, or tag team wrestling or not seeing weird surgery footage!
(Who’s) Next Week:
The number one contenders to the Tag Team Championship lose a tag team match, the Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper feud gets slightly weirder than usual, and Silver King eats one of those wrong Rey Mysterio hurricanranas I wrote about.
Oh, also, Hugh Morrus faces a pretty impressive debuting wrestler who brings his legendary winning streak to 1-0.