The Best And Worst Of WCW Monday Nitro 9/7/98: Portal Combat

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Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: The Ultimate Warrior is making the nWo so mad with his smoky teleportation tricks that they’ve got to beat the shit out of Sting about it. Also, Roddy Piper says Bret Hart needs Preparation H, Kevin Nash says he’s a wolf that will eat a sleeping Warrior under a tree, and Diamond Dallas Page is giving shout-outs to the Little League World Series Champions.

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.

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. War Games isn’t going to ruin the idea of WCW pay-per-views for everyone!

Up first, let’s see what happened on (thunder, Thunder,) THUNDER!

The One-Page WCW Thunder Report For September 3, 1998

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You can watch this week’s Thunder on WWE Network here. Don’t!

The major story from this week’s Thunder is that Dean Malenko wants a cage match against Curt Hennig. Malenko’s been working overtime to try to convince Arn Anderson to bring back the Four Horsemen concept, possibly so Malenko has a reason to be seen hanging out with Steve McMichael in public, and Arn’s resistant. Meanwhile, nWo black and white member Hennig is the guy who more or less single-handedly destroyed the Horsemen in the first place by joining them, swerving them, and then smushing Ric Flair’s head in a cage door.

On Thunder, Malenko’s supposed to have a catch-as-catch-can’t match against Brian “Crush” Adams and gets attacked from behind by Hennig and Rick Rude. They say no cage match will happen, so they beat him down and cover him with a small section of fencing. You know you’re doing pro wrestling wrong when you say NO CAGE and attack someone with a cage. It’s like trying to avoid a ladder match by repeatedly attacking your opponent with ladders. Self-fulfilling prophecies, guys.

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I hope my use of Disorderly Conduct here lets you know how important the rest of Thunder was. Also, I wish WCW would’ve named more tag teams after minor crimes. I want to see High Voltage take on the team of Drunk In Public.

Also On This Episode:

  • Saturn is about to defeat Kanyon, but Saturn’s temporary Master Lodi gets up on the apron and demands to see a Flatliner. Saturn has to just stand there like an idiot and get dropped on his face, because he’s got integrity, and needs to be a good role model to the evil Pearl Jam he’s feuding with
  • The main event of Stevie Ray and the Giant vs. Diamond Dallas Page and Konnan (?) ends in a run-in disqualification. I know that may come as a shock to you, so I’ll give you a few minutes to recover
  • The Armstrong Brothers of Scott and Steve Armstrong are trying out a new gimmick where they’re the different colors of Alex Wright’s bulge come to life, apparently. Also, when Konnan says “eses,” this is what he’s talking about. SA and SA
  • Also competing on this blockbuster episode: Rick Fuller, Marty Jannetty, Lenny Lane, Barry Horowitz, and more. I’d go into it in greater detail, but I don’t want to ruin the opening bit for Nitro for you

And now, that opening bit. The Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for September 7, 1998.

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Worst: A Star-Studded Third Birthday Celebration

It’s hard to celebrate exact birthdays on a weekly television show, but this week’s WCW Monday Nitro marks the show’s third birthday: September 5, 1995 through September 7, 1998. Firstly, can you believe we’ve officially made it to the halfway point of Nitro’s lifespan in these columns? It feels like just yesterday I was trying to pause the earliest episodes to get the best shots of Mongo’s cosplaying chihuahua.

With the World Wrestling Federation and Raw firing on all cylinders and regaining sustainable ground in the Monday Night War you’d think WCW would go out of their way to make this Nitro a truly special occasion, with some returning stars or big matches to keep people tuned in. Only … you know, the U.S. Open has moved Raw to Saturday for a couple of weeks, so Nitro’s just like, “hey, like this barrel? I bet you’ll love spending three hours staring at the very bottom of it.”

“Nitro Reunion” stars include:

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Looking back, it’s kind of amazing that a pro wrestler who looks this much like a 6-foot penis in a variety of cock rings would call himself something this close to “ball pain,” but yeah, here’s Bull Pain, S&M destroyer. Does he cause bulls pain, or is he representative of the pain bulls feel? We’ll never know, because we’re barely able to register that his clothes say “daddy likes leather” before Konnan slowly kicks him in the stomach and slowly Bella Busters him to win the opening match.

After the match, Bull Pain returns to the back of the arena to be the place where the relief pitchers warm up.

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If you saw Bull Pain and were like, “wow, I can’t believe that guy didn’t lose a World Championship match to Goldberg,” it’s because that spot was already taken by smush-faced pirate Scott Putski, the second-generation star with a face like it was rendered by PS1.

Yes, folks, at the absolute height of the Monday Night Wars, not very long after Stone Cold Steve Austin battled the Undertaker for the World Wrestling Federation Championship in Madison Square Garden, Scut fuckin’ Putts got a big leagues world title match on live, primetime television. WCW had a roster of like 300 great wrestlers from around the world representing four decades of American pro wrestling history, put Eddie Guerrero in a “hates pencils” gimmick, and gave Ivan Putski’s malformed Renn Faire son a shot at the gold. Y’all could’ve run Goldberg vs. Silver King here and it would’ve been 500 times better.

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Lenny Lane is in your ears and in your eyes as he heads to the ring to lose to Wrath.

Wrath is in an odd retooling stage between Blood Runs Cold ninja and pot-smoking APA ripoff where he’s … kinda Goldberg? And it’s working, too, because they have him out there trouncing jobbers and leaving without long promos or constant nWo run-ins. WCW really didn’t understand that so much of Golderg’s push and character worked because he was atypical of WCW programming, and promised segments with beginnings, middles, and ends. We were just desperate for some stuff to happen that didn’t feel like treading water until next week, when we’d get our hopes up again and end up treading the same water.

Anyway, here’s Wrath whipping Lane to the ground so hard I’m surprised dude’s intestines didn’t come flying out of his butt.

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Hope you didn’t think this bit was about to end, because seriously, WCW devoted three celebratory hours to (1) The Ultimate Warrior having super powers (more on that in a bit), and (2) the worst wrestling you’ve ever seen.

For example, who better to take a loss to a newly-healed-by-Rastafarian-bodybuilding-magician Scott Steiner than future 3 Count member Evan Karagias. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect WCW had lost all their Japanese and Mexican wrestling stars in a luggage mishap and had to staff this episode of Nitro with random assholes from the local gym. Did Evan Karagias always look like Katt Williams got really into the bench press?

Evan courageously loses to the Steiner Recliner, happening during peak Scott Steiner vascularity. Viewer discretion advised:

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Seriously, I don’t know how Steiner’s body even had blood in it at this point. His body was just wads of muscle pooting out sawdust. Brother looks like Guy Fieri made his entire body out of testicle.

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Speaking of looking like testicles, here’s High Voltage member Kenny Kaos YEAH C’MON’ing his way to the ring to lose to The Cat.

If you read last week’s column, you know The Cat has started his, “I’m the greatest, I’m a three-time World Karate Champion, I bet I could kick anybody’s ass, why don’t we lock the doors and let me kick everybody’s ass” thing, which is great. It’s simultaneously a good and terrible idea to put actual athlete Ernest Miller in the ring with a pro wrestling athlete like Kaos, who looks like he could squat a thousand pounds but somehow also looks like he’d break both his arms trying to carry a bag of groceries up a flight of steps. Kenny’s partner, Bobby Bullet Club, is nowhere to be found.

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You know Nitro’s out of ideas when Gentleman Chris Adams shows up. No shade to Adams, really, but by 1998 he’s already a relic of another time and place. Like, imagine if you tuned into NXT this week and Shane Douglas showed up in a sparkly jacket with zero fanfare just to take an embarrassing, 90-second distraction loss to Damian Priest. You’d be like, “really? Shane Douglas?” That’d kinda what it’s like watching Chris Adams job to Stevie Ray’s nerve holds.

On a Stevie Ray sidenote, one of the most unintentionally funny bits from the episode is how Hollywood Hogan is mad at Bret Hart for trying to be friends with Sting, and attempts to replace him in War Games with The Giant. J.J. Dillon has to show up and explain that the contract is already signed and Bret will remain in the match, and at no point is anyone like, “hey Hulk, maybe you should’ve picked Bret Hart AND the goddamn Giant for your War Games team instead of two-week nWo pledge and total garbage wrestler Stevie Ray?”

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Hey look, Hector Garza is back from injury! Please enjoy this GIF of a fan’s reaction to high-fiving Hector Garza, which I think says everything.

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That’s gotta be the funniest and saddest GIF I’ve ever made. Like, I get it, but if you don’t like Hector Garza or know who he was, why’d you stick your hand out there? There are very few things more awkward than being at a show and having a fired-up babyface gallop around the ring trying to high-five you.

Also awkward: Hector Garza using his first match back from injury to almost drop Juventud Guerrera on his head. Garza just got back from knee surgery, so I’m sure it was helpful to have Juvy swinging back directly into his knee like that and almost knocking both of them off the top rope.

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How’s this bit working out for you? Good?

As The Flock Turns continues this week as Kanyon vs. Riggs (?) turns into Saturn vs. Riggs, because honor. Dusty Rhodes clearly informed us that there is no honor among thieves anyway, but I guess we’re still under a Texas Gag Order.

The rub here is that Saturn’s trying to save the Stoned Temple Pilots from Raven’s influence, and Raven’s playing it so Saturn has to either hurt one of them or be embarrassed about it every time they show up. So after he’s forced to defeat Riggs and pin him, Raven orders Saturn to break Riggs’ fingers. If he doesn’t, they’ll break his. Saturn gives an awesome, melodramatic, Sylvester Stallone-style deliver of BREAK EMMMMMMM, so Raven gives him the Marty Scurll treatment. Saturn sells broken fingers by whoop whoop whooping on the ground in a circle like Curly Howard.

I joke, but this (like a lot of Raven’s angles) is at least a narrative you can follow, and not just loosely associated run-ins and disqualifications leading to nothing. It helps me contextualize why my read of Nitro for most of the late ’90s was, “yeah, the main event sucks, but I like the cruiserweights, and whatever the Flock’s doing.”

Worst: You Can’t Bend An Anvil

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While I don’t want to include him in the jobbers of the week section, I need to give a special shout-out to Jim Neidhart for wrestling Chris Jericho and taking the all-time worst Liontamer. Look at that thing. If you ever wondered why Jericho stopped trying to do the classic Liontamer all the time and adopted a bad-looking Boston Crab against most of his opponents, this match is why.

It’s a perfect storm of Neidhart’s body being shaped like a garbage can and not really being able to bend in the first place, and him being an “old school” wrestler who either doesn’t want to “tap out” to submissions and look weak, or thinks we’re still in the era of the referee just pretending you said you give up. So Jericho puts him in a bad looking Liontamer, Neidhart wriggles around in it for like 30 seconds like an upside-down walrus, and the referee waits for the tap. Jericho can’t hold it, so he has to lock it back in, but even worse, and the referee finally calls it.

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Neidhart then acts like he didn’t tap out and is angry about it, despite spending the last minute and a half looking like someone hit a fucking manatee with an air boat in the middle of the ring. Jericho’s face after the match says it all, I think.

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Let’s Talk About This War Games Build

Sam Raimi’s WCW Monday Nitro

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The episode opens with this Evil Dead homage that races through the halls of the arena and into the nWo locker room, which has been vandalized by the ONE WARRIOR NATION. When we finally reach the room, we’re greeted by Hollywood Hogan and what is without a doubt the greatest opening line to an episode of professional wrestling in history:


Whatta you mean, indeed. While they’re trying to figure this out, they hear sirens in the distance, and rush outside to see an unnamed member of the New World Order being whisked away in an ambulance, presumably having been attacked by Warrior from beneath his airbrushed Invisibility Cloak. nWo Vincent is the only witness, who insists that the victim was, “laid out.” He keeps saying it, but can’t seem to answer anyone when they ask him WHO was laid out, because I’m guessing nobody let Vincent know who it was supposed to be before the cameras turned on. “HE WAS LAID OUT, MAN.” “Who was??” “I don’t know, but he was laid out.” I wanted Vincent to be like, “don’t worry about it, Hulk, the cops said not to worry about it because it didn’t matter AT ALL. It wasn’t even a real person.”

Hogan and the nWo spend the rest of the show looking for the Warrior, which is going to be difficult. The two things Warrior knows the most about: queering, and light refraction.

Big Trustworthy

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On the other side of the War Games match, Kevin Nash is trying to get Diamond Dallas Page to join the Wolfpac and solidify his efforts. Nash is like, “hey Page, you’re our friend and we want you on the team, but if you politely refuse us please know that we will Animorph into actual wolves and kill you for real. But you know, it’s just between bros.” Page, who is not a complete idiot, explains that Nash is maybe the least trusthworthy person in the history of wrestling, mentioning that he hates ultimatums and can’t believe Sting or Luger trusts Nash either. Sting, who is a complete idiot’s complete idiot, chimes in with, “hey man, you can trust him. I do!” COME GET YOUR MANS, NASH.

This sets up Lex Luger and Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page and Rowdy Roddy Piper for the night’s main event, with Fairplay Kevin Nash at ringside in a position where he can prove his trustworthiness. Yes, Kevin Nash isn’t going to do anything bad to anyone, especialy not in a few months when it’s revealed that he’s been bullshitting everyone this entire time.

Back To Alcatraz

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Jail-addled homophobe Rowdy Roddy Piper responds to being added to a tag team match against his will in a company he doesn’t actually work for by making fun of Diamond Dallas Page’s name for sounding gay. Diamonds are for women! He agrees to participate in the match if he has to, but clarifies that he’s not Page’s wife, because he’s very straight, and that he’s also not Page’s “midget.” So he’s tall and straight? Did people used to have little people servants or something? Does Piper think he’s wrestling on Fantasy Island?

He also makes sure to call Eric Bischoff the “Bill Clinton of the wrestling world,” which should give at least one of you Piper Promo Bingo.

On a positive (but actually very negative) note, Piper also points out how stupid it is to say that the War Games match has “teams” if it’s every man for themselves, and that only the person who gets the decision wins the title match. It’s nice that someone understands how bad the rules are, but probably bad that you got this far into this many segments without telling the people in your dumb match how dumb it is.

You Can Trust Kevin Nash

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Also, that Wolfpac vs. Diamond Dallas Page and Roddy Piper match ends with Kevin Nash powerbombing everybody.

In a related story, Sting shows up to test the trustworthiness of Hollywood Hogan fanboy Bret Hart by giving him a baseball bat and then turning his back on him, Crow Sting-style. This is all going to end so well for you, buddy. You’re doing great.

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So be sure to listen to Sting when he tells you who you should or shouldn’t trust, everybody. Up next, Sting asks his friend Shawn Michaels to explain how thick the windows are at the barber shop.

Despite All My Rage I Am Still Just A Horse In A Cage

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The Dean Malenko vs. Curt Hennig steel cage match ends with an nWo run-in and a disqualification, BECAUSE OF COURSE IT DOES. That’s the kind of sentence that should still have some kind of incredulity attached to it, but WCW’s really beaten us to death with their ability to end ANYTHING in an nWo run-in. WCW could set up a lemonade stand in your front yard and you wouldn’t get through half a jug before Brian Adams and Vincent showed up to stomp your children.

Hennig’s about to smash Malenko’s head in the cage door like so much Ric Flair until aging cage daddy Arn Anderson shows up looking like he just finished mowing his lawn to kick some ass. Arn has finally been compelled into action by the parallel visual of his best friend being brain-damaged with a cage door, and the stage is finally set for next week’s Nitro from Greenville, South Carolina. Get your hopes up, but only for a week. It might be the last truly great Nitro moment, non-“Bret Hart making Goldberg look stupid” division.

Now You See Me, Ho Kogan

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With the steel cage established, we can move on to our final segment of the night: Hogan and The Giant having the cage lowered around them so they can challenge Ultimate Warrior to walk down to the ring like a normal person, step through the cage door to be locked inside with them, and let them beat him up 2-on-1. Instead, Warrior decides to teleport into the cage in his smoke tornado, somehow silently incapacitating The Giant in the process, Metal Gear Solid-style.

Hogan is once again terrified by Warrior’s combination of apathy and ILLUSION and flees the cage, but he won’t be able to escape the cage at War Games! Except he will, because Hogan’s never met a cage match he didn’t want to fight outside of. Looking back, I really wish Warrior had just started popping up out of giant top hats in a rabbit costume to throw playing cards at a sobbing Hogan.

Also On This Episode

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Eddie Guerrero hates pencils. This is the direction they chose to go with this story. He hates pencils.

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Here are the Nitro Girls with their latest, complex, “just lie down on the ground” routine to intro this week’s Nitro Party winner, the Mountainside YMCA. The reason I wanted to mention this, besides their bad-ass graphics, is because the party involved every kid dressing up as a different wrestler. There’s a DDP and a Hogan and a Goldberg, sure, but eventually you run out of top-tier talent and somebody ends up dressed like prepubescent Alex Wright.

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Kid, if you’re out there, reach out to us and let us know you lived this down. I’m honestly surprised this isn’t my origin story.

Next Week:

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It’s finally time for Fall Brawl ’98, one of the worst WCW pay-per-views of all time. How bad it is? So bad that I went to it live, and then chose to never go to another WCW pay-per-view again. Oh God, see you then!