Previously on the Best and Worst of Nitro: We got to see one side of the heated Tonight Show with Jay Leno vs. nWo feud, Buff Bagwell became an obedient dog, and Travis Tritt says he’ll see us in Sturgis.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for August 10, 1998.
Before We Begin
Welcome back to scenic South Dakota and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for year three of WCW’s biker rally wrestling show, originally “Hog Wild” but changed to “Road” due to a dispute with the Harley Owners Group. It’s also why the sequel to Wild Hogs was called Wild Roads. It wasn’t, but now your search history thinks you’re interested in mid-2000s Tim Allen comedies. Enjoy those Christmas with the Kranks targeted ads!
This year’s biker fashion is subdued compared to previous years, with Tony Schiavone dressed as The Terminator, Mike Tenay cosplaying … Dean Ambrose? And Bobby Heenan presumably wearing the only hat he could find between backstage and the announce booth when someone told him a t-shirt wasn’t biker enough. Weasel looks like he drove to Sturgis on a hoverboard.
The winner, as per usual, is Gene Okerlund. He gets to sit on a motorcycle at the bottom of the ramp they made look like a road — get it — and tells us to stay tuned for the Travis Tritt concert immediately following tonight’s show. It’s like you’re getting TWO pay-per-views for the price of one, assuming you’re in the fandom overlap between southern wrestling and believing Joe Diffie is too intellectually complex.
As for Tritt’s post-show performance, this is all that seems to remain. The WWE Network version ends with the wrestling show, of course, and none of the available bootleg VHS tape versions of the show or torrents have it intact. I guess only those 8,500 bikers who made the Travis trip to Sturgis and sat through three hours of terrible wrestling got to hear the ethereal live arrangement of ‘Tell Me I Was Dreaming.’
Worst: Seriously, This Is The Worst WCW Pay-Per-View Of All Time, Until The Next One
Brother, where to even begin?
They start off the show with Meng vs. The Barbarian, which on paper isn’t a terrible way to start a show for non-wrestling fans who just happened to wheel up to your event to get a choice spot for Tritt. It’s two “monsters” beating the shit out of each other for five minutes. Unfortunately those monsters also look exactly the same, still wearing their matching tag team tights, and (aside from the Tongan Death Grip) do the exact same moves.
They’re also trying to power up Meng to take on Goldberg, which nobody on the planet earth thinks is gonna go Meng’s way no matter how many random assholes’ digastric triangles you let him pinch to death. They’re also running an angle where Meng and Hacksaw Jim Duggan are like, cross-eyed subspecies frenemies, which in WWF terms is trying to write a buddy comedy for Kamala and Sgt. Slaughter. Meng gets the win here and gets beaten down 3-on-1 by Barbarian, Jimmy Hart, and Tony’s favorite wrestler HUMOROUS, and Duggan makes the save. But not before high flyin’ Jimmy Hart drops a Tamina Snuka-quality Uce on Tonga.
The rest of the roster spends the night trying to top this daredevil feat.
Par exemple, here’s Mack Daddy Flyboy Rocco Rock (esquire) dropping an elbow on Disco Inferno off the lighting scaffolding through three tables. It’s a cool looking spot, but seriously, if you’re a professional wrestler and you’re doing so badly in a match that your opponent’s able to drag you up a ladder and leave you lying prone and unconscious on the top of three stacked tables by some metal scaffolding at a biker rally, you might need to take a step back and reassess your career. Not like he got caught off guard with a surprise roll-up or something. All he’d have to do is not let the hockey jerk ride him through a building to the ground like Aquaman does in Justice League.
Here’s the spot in GIF form. All you really need to know other than “Public Enemy won” is that Tokyo Magnum’s still here trying to help the Dancing Fools win, and is more of a liability to them than anything. It’s one of Newton’s laws of motion. The more dancing guys you add to a team, the less effective they are at fighting. See West Side Story or the ‘Beat It’ video for additional examples.
We’re not done with the scaffolding yet!
I don’t know if they had a pre-show meeting and were like, “if you’re gonna jump off the set, do it during daylight hours,” or what, but all the big stage spots happen in the first few matches. In match three — Kanyon vs. Saturn vs. Raven in a Raven’s Rules triple threat — Kanyon climbs up a la Rocco Rock before him and … falls like two feet onto the stage instead of the ground below the stage, really taking away the impact of that visual.
The whole thing makes him look like that guy who tries to do a cannonball into a frozen pool.
This is one of the better matches on the card, but it falls victim to the same thing as everything else at Road Wild: the wrestlers clearly understand that they’re performing for an audience that doesn’t really know or care who they are and just wants to see ’em do stuff, so they just do stuff, and none of it really goes anywhere. For example, this match ends with Perry Saturn giving Raven a Death Valley Driver and going for the pin, only for Lodi to interfere. Then Horace, now “Horace Boulder,” shows up and tries to hit Saturn with a stop sign, but accidentally hits Raven. Saturn takes them both out and … hits a Death Valley Driver on Raven for the pin. Lord loves a Flock interference segment, but like, did we need it?
I guess I’ve gotten to the point where I’m openly asking WCW why it needs to get several dudes involved in even its most basic match endings. “Shawn Michaels said ‘I’m sorry, I love you,’ then superkicked Ric Flair. As he was going for the pin, Triple H interfered. Michaels fought him off, but Randy Orton distracted the referee and Batista accidentally hit Flair in the face with a mailbox. Michaels then hit four low blows on Flair and rolled him up. Both of Flair’s feet and one of his arms was in the ropes, but the referee counted three anyway, because that was the finish.”
Mid-Card After Dark
Once the sun starts going down, things cool off. That’s science AND the wrestling business!
Here’s Chavo Guerrero Jr., whose idea of “biker attire” is a leather vest and a Civil War-style leather cap. If you haven’t been following the story, Booker T is the Television Champion, but Bret Hart injured him. T’s brother and fellow member of Harlem Heat, Stevie Ray, started telling people Booker had asked him to defend the TV title on his behalf, but nobody really believed him. So he showed up with a “notorized note” from Booker PROVING it. Chavo Guerrero randomly went through his stuff and found a notary stamp, proving him a liar.
At Road Wild, Chavo shows up with the stamp and a newly typed-out announcement of his own: that HE is now legally the Television Champion. It’s stamped and everything! Chavo runs away from Stevie for about two minutes and then gets his ass kicked. That’s the entire thing. Chavo’s Uncle Eddie making the save is the only interesting part, and it sadly doesn’t lead to any Los Guerreros vs. Harlem Heat tag team bangers.
Think WCW’s above bait-and-switching 8,500 bikers who didn’t even pay to watch the show?
Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner have been feuding since Scott’s heel turn, and they’ve yet to have a real match about it. They’re supposed to here — it’s one of the marquee matches, after all, especially for casual wrestling fans — but Buff Bagwell shows up in a neck brace and wheels out Scott on a full hospital bed in multiple casts and an oxygen mask. Bagwell says that since Steiner heinously attacked them with a steel chair, they’re too injured to compete. J.J. Dillon, who misheard “dress like a biker” as “dress like a blogger,” says that okay, yes, the match is off, but you’re DEFINITELY going to have to wrestle each other at Fall Brawl!
Important note: I was live at Fall Brawl ’98, and I can say without hyperbole that it’s the actual worst WCW pay-per-view of all time. I was also live at Unforgiven ’99 for the Kennel from Hell, so that was a pretty spectacular year and two weeks in heart and brain-breaking pay-per-view event attendance.
So to recap, the pay-per-view so far has featured:
- Evil Tag Team Man #1a vs. Evil Tag Team Man #1b
- Public Enemy defeating Disco Inferno via video game table spot
- a triple threat match highlighted by Horace Hogan interference
- a Television Championship match between two guys who aren’t the Television Champion
- a bait-and-switch to remove a match people might want to see from the card completely
- a crowd of 8,500 bikers described as upwards of “36,000” from Mike Tenay
Pretty bad show, right?
The crowning achievement of Road Wild ’98, and one of the very worst pay-per-view wrestling matches you’ll ever see between two guys who have professionally trained to wrestle and are being paid tens of thousands of dollars to do so, is — hold on to your butts — Steve McMichael vs. Brian Adams. Every vintage column I’ve ever written has been building to Mongo vs. Crush, hasn’t it?
This is … so bad, guys. I can’t even make it flowery. Here’s Mongo breaking through a clothesline, one or both men botching a shoulder block on the return, and then Mongo to recover and improvise by shoot-DDT’ing Adams. Take careful note of nobody in the crowd reacting to any of this.
This is seriously a bout between two veterans who don’t understand that when you get clotheslined, you’re supposed to fall down. Here’s them fucking up a clothesline spot again. You know you’re failing tremendously when VIRGIL is on the outside trying to keep it all together.
This culminates in a ref bump spot that I had to GIF, because putting it into words wouldn’t have done it justice.
Incredible. Hey ref, maybe you shouldn’t have gotten mule kicked in the sternum if you hadn’t tried to ride Mongo’s behind while he was about to get picked up in a piledriver.
Unhappy with the spot, Adams calmly walks over and stomps the referee. This culminates in nWo Vincent trying to use a steel chair to help Adams win and missing by such a country mile that Mongo’s barely on-screen when the chair connects. Mongo wins the day, and we definitely needed a ref bump and a heel miscommunication finish for THAT living tribute to hot garbage.
Best: Oh My God There’s A Best
The only thing approaching a “good match” on this pay-per-view is the Cruiserweight Championship match between Chris Jericho and Juventud Guerrera, with Dean Malenko as the special guest referee.
This is a relative “best,” of course, illustrated by this screencap of Jericho kicking the referee in the face for no reason. He does this a lot during the match, and it ends up backfiring when Malenko gives Juvy a booty-boost and tosses him into Jericho for a surprise hurricanrana off the ropes. Malenko knocks Jericho out after the match for bonus comeuppance.
The other good thing here is that you assume Jericho’s going to get the Cruiserweight Championship back the next night because, you know, he should’ve been disqualified for hitting the referee a bunch of times and the match should’ve been thrown out when the ref started attacking HIM, but the WCW Executive Committee works in mysterious ways, and Nitro actually (smartly, for once) comes up with a creative way to elevate Jericho and move him away from the cruisers completely.
It’s The Only Good Thing On The Show Though, For Reals
You’d think some of the other stuff on the card would be good too, like the Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Psicosis match from earlier in the night — when is Rey vs. Psicosis ever not good? — but nope, it’s like watching festive paint dry. You can kinda gauge how “on” Psicosis and Rey are by how Psico takes the West Coast Pop. If Rey goes through the legs cleanly and wraps him up in the pin, it’s going well. If Rey swings down and smashes into Psicosis’ leg, causing him to jackknife into the ground face-first (pictured), not so much.
Maybe The Main Event Scene Will Save Us?
Oh definitely. Remember when Goldberg won the World Heavyweight Championship from Hollywood Hogan in the Georgia Dome? Remember how Hollywood Hogan still main-evented the next pay-per-view in a tag team match involving two non-wrestling basketball players? Well, Road Wild is ALSO main-evented by Hogan in a tag team match involving THREE-non wrestlers — the guy who runs WCW, a popular late night talk show host, and a late night talk show band leader — while the WCW Champion participates in an nWo battle royal. Despite not being in the nWo.
The battle royal’s story amounts to, “Goldberg doesn’t really seem to care about anything,” followed quickly by, “GOLDBERG IS BETTER THAN EVERYONE IN EVERY nWo,” followed quickly again by “CAN GOLDBERG GET THE GIANT UP FOR THE JACKHAMMER?” The answer is yes, of course he can, and we’ll enjoy watching it while every possible next challenger to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship besides Hulk Hogan loses the match. Hall, Nash, Luger, Sting, Giant, all of them.
Man, I really hope a ghost from Hogan’s past shows up between now and Fall Brawl so he doesn’t get a rematch, and can still go on after the WCW Champion to make sure everybody knows who the best and most important character is.
Worst: Super Jay Cup ’98
Finally we’ve reached our main event: Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff in track pants versus Diamond Dallas Page and his most recent non-wrestling tag team partner, Jay Leno. You know, getting Malone involved was clunky, but at least they had actual wrestling fan Dennis Rodman involved in previous years and had an in to get one of his basketball rivals to show up for a wrestling match. With Leno, the feud is just, “a really annoying guy on a wrestling show thinks he can do Jay Leno’s show better than Jay Leno, but can’t, and now they’re gonna fight about it.” That’s the whole feud. What were the chances that average people were gonna tune into The Tonight Show the next night and find out that Leno lost the rights to host the show because he got pinned by Hulk Hogan? WCW’s out here showing their entire ass to get mentioned for a few seconds on a show people watch.
If you’re wondering how well a 5-foot-11, 49-year old non-wrestler would do in a match against HULK HOGAN, here’s Leno nearly submitting the Hulkster with a vicious wristlock. Who does he think he is, Shane McMahon?
The best part of the match is that they couldn’t come up with a finish actually involving Jay Leno and his Saitama-style death punches — ALSO very Shane McMahon — so Mr. JL slinks into the background while band leader Kevin Eubanks slides into the ring, drops Bischoff with a Diamond Cutter, and gives the Tonight Show team the win. Let the record books state that Jay Leno is undefeated in pro wrestling and holds a victory over Hulk Hogan.
That’s not the end, though. The nWo tries a beatdown on the winning team, and in one of the most blatantly transparent moments of attempted cross-promotional advertising I’ve ever seen, Goldberg makes the save … while wearing the WCW Heavyweight Championship. I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody who has already wrestled show up at the end of the night in their full gear with a title belt fastened around their waist to do a run-in, but hey, that’s what happens when you need to get your champ in the still photo you think Leno’s going to show on network TV the next night. Goldberg HAS seen about this, and HAS heard about this.
That’s the show. Seriously, that’s the entire show. Since I can’t find the Travis Tritt footage anywhere, watch the following video and pretend it cuts to the ugliest people you’ve ever seen revving their motorcycles and waving their arms in the air every 30 seconds or so.
On the next Nitro: the fallout from the Travis Tritt concert. Two Nitros from now: DESRUCITY. Stay tuned.