Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: We witnessed Fall Brawl ’98, one of the worst pay-per-views of all time, main-evented by the 20-year death of the War Games concept.
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 and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for September 14, 1998.
Best: Flair And Balanced
Way back on the April 9 edition of Thunder, Tony Schiavone announced that Ric Flair wouldn’t be able to make it to the tapings because of, “bad weather.” In actuality, he was bailing on WCW’s already-forgotten B-show to see his then 9-year old son, Reid, compete in a wrestling tournament. Flair was contractually obligated to show up to every Nitro and Thunder, but figured he was Ric By God Woo Flair, and a Thunder of all things would be fine without him. There was also the issue that Flair’s contract was up around this time, and he’d only signed a letter of intent to re-up. He’d made arrangements to see the tournament, but apparently not far enough in advance for management’s liking, and when he said “no” to being tacked onto a Thunder, shit hit the fan.
Eric Bischoff, (again, “reportedly”) upset that he had to push a planned angle back a week so a guy who’d literally and figuratively broken his back for the industry could support his family, sued Flair over it. Bischoff pursued the lawsuit throughout the year, which kept Flair off TV despite crowds across the country spending months chanting, “WE WANT FLAIR.” With the legal fees piling up and Flair unable to even talk to the competition because of the lawsuit, he had to make a deal and go back to what one might call an unsatisfactory work environment. Still, with everything resolved and dropped, it was time to answer those chants.
As a side note, given how soon Ric lost Reid, I think we can safely say he made the right call.
Anyway, everyone thought Flair’s return would happen at Fall Brawl — especially when one of the matches ending with Best Friend Arn Anderson and Four Horsemen booster club President Dean Malenko getting beaten down by Curt Hennig in goddamn North Carolina again — but it didn’t. So it had to happen on the following Nitro. Mike Tenay, seen above harassing a pilot and below jogging backwards to get into perfect position to point a microphone at some passing limousine windows, is on the case.
Mean Gene really wants some answers as well, asking a suspiciously tuxedoed James J. Dillon whether or not Ric Flair’s in the building, and if he can have the first interview with him as WCW’s leading journalist. I’d argue that Lee Marshall was WCW’s leading journalist, as he actually had to be on sponsored vocation across the country for years and always got stuck interviewing people backstage at pay-per-views for Dot Com, but maybe his inability to stop calling his co-workers weasels held him back.
Throughout the night, we get teases. Then, a little over midway through the show, everyone from the Four Horsemen ends up in the ring in tuxedos to talk about how important the group’s history is, and how imperative it is that they continue to exist. He puts over Benoit, Mongo, and Malenko before telling WCW fans to be careful what they wish for, because now they have it. The Horsemen aren’t nice guys, they don’t wear white hats, and heads are gonna roll. Then, right before the segment ends, he drops the bomb:
“Ah! WHAT A GOOF! WHAT A GOOF! You know, I get accused of getting racked in the head a few times and having a little touch of Alzheimer’s. My God! I almost forgot the fourth Horsemen, RIC FLAIR, GET ON DOWN HERE!”
To say this is the most memorable and talked-about moment in Monday Nitro history is probably an understatement. It’s honestly amazing that after 25 years of being the best talker in the industry and holding the World Championship more times than anyone else, this might’ve been Ric Flair’s crowning achievement. There are a lot of fun catchphrases, funny improvisations, intense moments, and great storytelling in Flair’s treasure chest of promos, but this might be his “Hard Times.” It’s the closest a character like Flair ever comes to having hard times, I guess.
The money is in the deep sincerity he feels for the reaction South Carolina gives him, and in how quickly and believably he goes from “beloved hero” to indignant rage monster in charge of tradition. The camera even gives him Replicant eyes, accidentally, to drive the point home. That’s part of what made Flair so great, really. He’d pretend to be calm, cool, and collected, but if you got under his skin — which you could do, if you just kept at it — he’d flip this switch and turn into a shouting, bloody wound of a man. It’s why the older version of him cries so much. He just can’t hold in that emotion the way he used to, anymore.
“Is this what you call a great moment in TV? That’s wrong, because this is REAL! This is not bought and paid for! It’s a real life situation! Just like the night in Columbia, South Carolina, when you looked at me, tears in my eyes, and said ‘God, that’s good TV,’ it was real! Arn Anderson passed the torch, it was real, damn it! You think Sting was crying in the dressing room like I was on TV, if it wasn’t real? This guy, my best friend, is one of the greatest performers who ever lived, and you, you squashed him, in one night. Then you get on the phone and tell me, ‘disband the Horsemen, they’re dead.’ Disband the Horsemen, me? You know what, I looked at myself in the mirror the next day and I saw a pathetic figure that gave up and quit! And for that, I owe you, the wrestling fans, I owe these guys an apology. Because it won’t happen again!”
Things really escalate when Bischoff shows up to try to shoo Flair out of the ring. There’s a dumb angle they’re setting up where Bischoff has challenged Arn Anderson to arm wrestle him (arn wrestle?) with his nerve-damaged left hand for Flair’s job, but none of that’s important. All you need to know is the incredible one-two punch of ABUSE OF POWER and FIRE ME, I’M ALREADY FIRED.
“Bischoff, whatever you think … no, you’re an overbearing asshole! That’s right! You’re obnoxious, you’re an obnoxious, overbearing asshole! Abuse of power! You! Abuse of power! Cut me off! Come on! It’s called abuse of power! [throws down jacket] You suck! You, I hate your guts. I hate your guts. You are a liar, you’re a cheat, you’re a scam, you are a no good son of a bitch. Fire me? I’m already fired! Fire me! I’m already fired!“
If this is the bar for showing believable, intense emotion in a pro wrestling promo, only a handful of them have touched it. It was real! You know a promo is effective when you finish watching it and walk around for the next 20 years randomly screaming parts of it. FIRE ME, I’M ALREADY FIRED!
A great goddamn moment in wrestling history. If only the rest of the Horsemen story was as exciting and hopeful as this.
LOOOOOOL, Worst: Who Is That Mysterious Laughter, You Think?
Speaking of Jojo Dillon, he shows up earlier in the night to make an announcement regarding that whole “Buff Bagwell pretending to be paralyzed again so Scott Steiner doesn’t have to wrestle his brother” thing from Fall Brawl. The rule they announced said that Steiner would be banned from WCW forever if he didn’t step into the ring to face his brother, but he technically “stepped into the ring to face his brother,” so they can’t do anything about it. What they CAN do is make sure Scott wrestles Rick at Halloween Havoc. Except that ends up being a tag team match, not one-on-one, so they have to do it again at World War 3. And that one involves the nWo beating up Rick before the match, and ends with a no-contest when Goldberg runs in and beats everybody up. So they’re doing a great job here, as you can see.
The important thing to note is that at the end of Dillon’s announcement, the lights start flickering and MYSTERIOUS LAUGHTER fills the arena. At the time, this became the big mystery on everybody’s minds. Is it a new heel showing up? Maybe they just repackaged Hugh Morrus as something interesting, and that’s why the laughter’s happening? I’m so excited for anyone who doesn’t already know where this is going and can resist googling it long enough for me to reveal it, so you can experience the same unbelievable disbelief and disappointment as the rest of us.
I love that this happened on the same episode as the Ric Flair return.
As for Scott, I guess someone backstage finally realized they shouldn’t make the Steiner Brother who has so many muscles he looks like a Castlevania testicle monster look like a helpless dork all the time, so they rehab him by having him choke out the all-star duo of Silver King and Norman Smiley in a double Steiner Recliner.
I feel so badly for the wrestler sandwiched between the guy doing the move and the guy taking it. Imagine if you were stuck in the middle of a Human Centipede and weren’t actually sewn to anything, but still had to sit there pretending to eat shit. It’s better, I guess, but it also poses so many questions.
Best, With A Little Worst: Bret Hart’s Face Turn
Bret Hart had a terrible Fall Brawl. As Team nWo Hollywood’s leading Hollywood Hogan fanboy he was tasked with starting the War Games match and wrestling the entire thing, unaware that Hogan and Stevie Ray had teamed up to create a master plan: have Stevie hit everybody in the face with a shoehorn, and then let Hogan pin them. When The Warrior did his teleportation act, Hogan abandoned their plan entirely, escaped the inescapable cage somehow, and ran to the back. This left Bret to carry Stevie Ray’s weight, and eventually get “accidentally” “hit in the face” with Stevie’s death weapon. Bret had to lie there, injured and betrayed, while Stevie lost the match.
On Nitro, an injured Bret finally shows up and lays his soul bare: he came into WCW trusting the wrong people, realizes he’s been conned (like so many other people) by Hulk Hogan, and wants to make things right. Roddy Piper then shows up and talks him through it in a beautifully phrased act of forgiveness framed around how proud Stu Hart would be if he were in the arena to hear Bret talking to the fans like a real person again. Piper’s known Bret since he was six, so there’s a real feel of family between them. Plus, as much as I (rightfully) dislike the late-era WCW version of Piper, he’s RODDY PIPER, you know? He’s one of the greatest talkers ever, and when he’s motivated and has something to work with beyond Monica Lewinsky jokes and YOU ARE GAY, he’s an ace. Piper tells him to live up to the mistakes that he’s made, but to move forward, and not make them again. It’s good advice.
Then, because WCW Roddy Piper, he ends the promo with, “If we in America can find it right now in our hearts to forgive Bill Clinton, we sure in the heck can find it to forgive Bret Hart!” The crowd goes, “weeehhhhh,” because that’s the best reaction a line like that should ever get.
Worst: Warrior Rides The Horsey
Hogan, on that segment:
“You know something nWo-ites, the two things that all the nWo-ites can’t stand, that worship the ground that Hollywood walks on, are cowards and sissies. So as far as that sissy Bret Hart, why don’t you take you and your little puppy dog Piper and sit on the porch, sissies, ‘cause you weren’t in the same league as the big dog anyway.”
You can’t be gay if you want to compete in the dog league!
Hogan uses the remainder of the promo to challenge the ULTIMATE coward and sissy, The
Ultimate Warrior, to a match at Halloween Havoc. He definitely didn’t angle to bring back the Warrior and stooge to him in segments for a couple of months just to get back his win from eight years ago, nope! Warrior responds by filling up the ring with smoke and kidnapping The Disciple. As you do.
Later in the program, Warrior returns and accepts Hogan’s challenge by riding The Disciple like a horsey.
Just want to take a second to say that this is one of the Warrior in WCW segments you probably don’t remember, because it’s only the fifth or sixth dumbest thing that happens involving these two over the next month and a half.
Best, Then Worst: SORRY AGAIN, STINGER
These stories converge, for some reason, during the night’s main event: Sting vs. Goldberg. As a lifelong Sting homer, very few matches in wrestling history have made me as mad as this one. You’d think I would’ve learned from years of watching WCW and the past like, year and a half of Hogan making Sting look like a pile of shit every time he tries to accomplish anything, but here we are.
The match is short, but pretty great while it lasts. Goldberg’s still undefeated and Sting’s managed to hang on to a reputation somehow, so the crowd’s split, with a little bit of a lean toward Sting. Sting drops him with like five Stinger Splashes, avoids a spear to send Goldberg into the corner, and even uses future Goldberg’s greatest weakness against him: the Tombstone Piledriver.
Sting manages to get Goldberg into the Scorpion Death Lock, hurt only slightly by Goldberg not having any idea how to be in submission holds and accidentally “powering out of it” before he should’ve. Sting holds on, though, sloppy as it is, and Goldberg appears to be toast. Bill’s even nodding his head up and down screaming “yes,” which in the Magnum and Tully days would’ve been a submission.
Before anything can be resolved, infinite ruiner Hollywood Hogan strolls into the ring, kicks Sting in the back of the head, and somehow escapes before the referee or Goldberg can see him. I guess the referee’s peripherals couldn’t pick up a 6-foot-5 man with burnt sienna skin kicking one of the wrestlers he’s staring at. Anyway, Goldberg pops up and wins the match with his two moves, and Hogan jumps in to overshadow THAT by kicking GOLDBERG’s ass. He’s only stopped when Bret Hart hobbles out on one leg and chases him away.
So now we have a Warrior who hasn’t wrestled a full match in years and almost injured himself throwing three punches and climbing out of a cage in the dumbest way possible against the most insufferable, unstoppable-for-no-reason version of Hulk Hogan. It’s going to be SO GOOD, YOU GUYS. Just don’t look at yourself in the mirror between now and Halloween.
Worst: Scott Hall Is In No Condition To Compete
With the runaway success of the Drunk Hawk angle over on Raw, WCW has decided to play up Scott Hall’s real-life drug addiction and alcoholism issues for laughs on NItro.
He’s supposed to have a match with Lex Luger, but he walks out drinking (with Vincent carrying a suspicious brown bag) and spends the entire match goofing around instead of wresting. He mocks Luger’s posing, pretends he can’t lock up with Lex because of all the body oil (note: Lex Luger invented Michael Nakazawa), and ultimately farts around doing nothing until Eric Bischoff shows up to pull him out of the match.
This brings out the Wolfpac as well, and the announce team really emphasizes how this has moved away from “what we see in the ring” into real life. Pro wrestling has never been able to decide which parts we’re supposed to think are real and which parts we’re supposed to think aren’t, or why we’d ever want to stop going along with the entertainment and start thinking about how 90% of the show is “fake,” but whatever. Hall ends up puking all over Bischoff, and yep, the incredible Ric Flair return Nitro also features the mysterious Halloween laugher, Warrior going doggy on Brutus Beefcake, and alcoholism-induced projectile vomiting.
Worst: British Bulldog Is SERIOUSLY In No Condition To Compete
At Fall Brawl, Davey Boy Smith took a couple of bad bumps onto The Warrior’s dumb trap door and is developing a spinal infection that’ll put him in the hospital for six months, threaten him with the loss of his limbs, and get him fired via FedEx. It’ll also lead to a painkiller addiction that contributes to the heart attack that kills him at an early age. But WCW doesn’t know all that yet, so the next night they have him out here trying to wrestle The Barbarian.
For an illustration of how much pain this dude is in, see the above picture, or this GIF of the “powerslam” that ends the match.
I’m sure wrestling injured less than 24 hours after a career-threatening accident helped a lot!
Best/Worst: A Goodbye To Grunge
Perry Saturn “set the Flock free” at Fall Brawl, but most of them don’t know how to handle it. Midway through the episode, Raven tries to get them to come back to him, and Saturn has to intervene and use the English words he can say without complete mental collapse to convince them otherwise. He pep talks the various members, and everyone (except for Lodi, who tries to climb over the barricade and is only stopped when Kidman drags him away) accepts their freedom.
Some members are doing better than others, though. For example, Heavy Metal Van Hammer is a hippie now, for some reason.
Eventually he’ll find a new group of like-minded individuals who are into wearing tie-dye and naming themselves after weed and dick jokes, but for now, he’s stuck getting his ass kicked by Alex Wright, of all people. Their match ends abruptly when Hammer gets hilariously blindsided by Ernest Miller, which I’m proud to have taken the time to GIF for your enjoyment.
The Cat gets taken away by ACTUAL POLICE for interrupting a Hammer vs. Alex Wright match, which has got to be in the running for dumbest reason anyone’s ever been arrested. Reason for arrest: “didn’t let the people see Alex dance.”
On a more positive note, Billy Kidman is now the Cruiserweight Champ! He wins the title from Juventud Guerrera, fair and square, in a really good TV match with too many 2-counts for a 1998 wrestling crowd. Still though, it begins the next chapter in Kidman’s career — the best one, unless you were really into 250-pound WWE Kidman with his cockeyed shooting star presses and fake DMX theme — and sets up Kidman and Juventud as Malenko and Mysterio-esque rivals for the next phase for the WCW Cruiserweight Division.
Also On The Episode
Jackie Chan randomly makes a pre-taped appearance to pretend he knows Larry Zbyszko and introduce us to a clip from his new film, Rush Hour.
You know, if WCW was so into doing cross-promotions with movie stars (real and inanimate, spoiler alert), they should’ve had Jackie Chan be the mysterious laughing man and show up at Halloween Havoc to kick Scott Steiner’s ass. Can you imagine how easily Jackie would win a tables, ladders, and chairs match? Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?
Eric Bischoff is tired of hearing about how Eddie Guerrero doesn’t want to work for him anymore, so he’s sending him to Japan. Little does Eric know Eddie will be spending most of his time in Mexico, convincing his countrymen to form a team with him and find a place that’ll give them a good deal on screen-printed parody shirts.
An under-the-radar great moment on this Nitro is the one-on-one match between The Giant and The Monster Meng, wherein both guys just stand in place and hit each other while the other no-sells. It’s literally the Bart vs. Lisa “I’m gonna start kicking” fight in a wrestling ring. With neither man willing to give an inch, they get into wrestling’s only TEST OF REACH ever, with Giant’s chokeslam arm being long enough to keep him out of the Tongan Death Grip.
It’s not a “good match,” really, but it’s creative, and goes for something other than a squash or the nWo running in. So I’ll give it points.
Finally, to leave you on an unfortunately somber note, Wrath defeats The Renegade in what would end up being Renegade’s last match ever. I guess it was his thanks for playing the fake Ultimate Warrior in the teleportation bit at Fall Brawl. Wrath no-sells his gymnastics elbow and puts him down with the Meltdown.
As you might already know, WCW releases The Renegade soon after this match. In February of the following year, depressed about being released and not getting any interest from the WWF, Rick Wilson, the man who played the character, kills himself. He was 33 years old. I just wanted to mention that in a paragraph without dumb jokes so you can spend a minute thinking how fucking horrible it is to lose somebody to suicide at any age, much less at 33. Rest in peace, Renegade.
It’s back to jokes next week with another epic Ric Flair rant, the One Warrior Nation gets a second member, and The Ultimate Warrior gets some trim (get it) up in the rafters.