The Best And Worst Of WCW Thunder 2/26/98: A Whiter Shade Of Pale

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Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Scott Steiner re-debuted with blonde hair, bad sunglasses, and a bloody eyeball after turning on his brother at SuperBrawl and trying to suplex a mannequin claiming to be Lex Luger. Also, The Giant is back, and he’s looking to beat up Kevin Nash between prison stints.

If you’d like to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network, click here. In the coming weeks you’ll be able to read all the Thunder recaps on its UPROXX tag page, and of course if you’re reading these, you’re hopefully reading the corresponding Nitro bits as well.

Note: This is still a relatively new vintage column in the rotation, so if you like it, please make sure to comment below and share the column on all (or at least some) of your social media. It helps, especially for shows most people didn’t even watch 20 years ago.

And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Thunder for February 26, 1998.

Worst: Thunder Isn’t Important, Let’s Talk About Nitro

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If you’d like an example of how unimportant Thunder is eight episodes in and why I should probably just fold it into the Nitro columns, this week’s A-story on Thunder is about how the announce team can’t believe how exciting Nitro’s going to be, and they stop paying attention to about 40 minutes of the show to talk amongst themselves about the main event. Remember when the brand split wasn’t a thing in WWE, and Smackdown accidentally spent like two years being a developmental territory for Raw angles? Same idea.

According to a piece of paper they’ve just received, Monday’s main event will be Hollywood Hogan and Scott Hall teaming up to take on Macho Man Randy Savage of the nWo, and Sting, the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. An understated Tony Schiavone insists that this will have “the biggest impact of any match ever,” and will be the first time since the formation of the New World Order that a member of the nWo will team with a member of WCW. Note: not counting the several times it’s happened, all the times someone from the nWo was pretending to be in WCW and teamed with them (like Curt Hennig in the Four Horsemen), or matches like the one literally four days before this where one of the Steiners was 4 Life and the other wasn’t. I BET YOU CAN’T GUESS HOW MONDAY’S MAIN EVENT ENDS.

Best: Buff-er And His Friend, Economically Anxious Scotty Steiner

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Joining the long list of things WCW did first that the WWF would later claim they made up because they’re cool and creative, here’s Buff Bagwell doing a fake Michael Buffer intro, complete with the “are you ready” prompt and a parody “let’s get ready to rumble.” Buff’s version is “let’s get ready to rumba,” because he won’t start telling people to suck it until much later in his career.

Buff’s here to debut the nWo’s newest star, Scott Steiner, now known by his new name. Drumroll, please …

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It’s White Thunder, debuting the name on a show called … uh, Thunder. Too bad Johnny Nitro wasn’t around to team with him, I guess. Steiner’s got the look of our beloved Big Poppa Pump but none of the swagger, as he’s still speaking in his normal Scott Steiner voice instead of that weird high-pitched shriek-squeal he’d start doing, and his promos are about how his opponents — in this case, Lex Luger — are jealous of him because he got into the University of Michigan and they didn’t. Yes, that’s his character. Lex Luger is mad that he couldn’t get into Michigan. Are you surprised this didn’t get over until he started threat-shouting about how he’d done so many push-ups he could Fuckensteiner any hooker in the world? Steiner pins Marty Jannetty in like 90 seconds.

As a fun aside, the “White Thunder” name doesn’t last long. He becomes “Superstar” Scott Steiner pretty quickly due to a bunch of calls made to Time Warner about how it was an allusion to white supremacy. Imagine how over he’d be in 2018!

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Steiner returns later in the night to join the announce table during a Jim Neidhart match, making him an instant babyface in my eyes. Whitey insists that the announce team is Fake News for saying he turned on his brother at SuperBrawl and WCW/nWo sold out to the New World Order. He says the idea was always for Rick to jump sides with him, and he encourages Rick (who he knows is at home watching) to, I guess, dye his hair white and start calling himself the Imperial Wizard or whatever.

Look at Lee Marshall over in the corner, wondering if Caucasoid Weather’s gonna call his brother using 1-800-COLLECT.

If you’re the one person in the world who read that paragraph and were like, “heeey, *I* want to know what happened in the Jim Neidhart match,” he wrestled Curt Hennig, the nWo interfered, and the British Bulldog ran out in jeans to save him. Nothing like the Hart Foundation without any Harts in it! In retrospect, I’m actually kinda mad they didn’t formally put the Hart Foundation back together with Bret in WCW and feud them against the nWo, with all that good will coming off the Montreal Screwjob and Canada’s desperate need to cheer for someone who’s from there. They could’ve subbed in Benoit and Jericho for Pillman and Owen like it was nothing.

Best: Eddie Guerrero, Wrestling Genius

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Speaking of Jericho, he’s teaming with Eddie Guerrero in a show-opening tag match against Dean Malenko and Booker T, who are basically Trading Places the tag team. If you can’t tell what’s going on in that picture, that’s Jericho realizing he’s about to miss his cue to break up a pin and ruin a finish, so he springboards across the length of the ring (to almost zero reaction, oddly) to break it. It’s like when a mom gains super strength and lifts a car to save her kid. It’s a good match, certainly the best match on this episode, but it’s not as good with Booker subbed in for Benoit. You can tell why WCW thought Booker T was the main-event talent instead of the other guys here, because he’s like a foot taller than everyone and has more muscles than the three of them combined.

The highlight here is the finish, which shows what a mindful wrestler Eddie Guerrero was. He’s climbing to the top rope to hit a frog splash on Booker, but notices Malenko putting the Texas Cloverleaf on Jericho. He realizes he and Booker are the legal men, so he drops down to the floor and waits for Malenko to turn over the hold … thereby turning his back on the action, allowing Eddie to climb back up and come off with the splash for the win. Benoit had more intensity, Malenko had more technical know-how, Jericho was more of a showman, but Eddie’s probably the smartest wrestler WCW ever had.

Worst: The Worst Commentary, Maybe Ever

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And speaking of the British Bulldog, he takes on Squire Dave Taylor in a match that (1) has the crowd chanting “U-S-A” despite both guys being from England, and (2) maybe the worst commentary I’ve heard, at least in this WCW calendar year.

The major problem (besides Bobby Heenan going full Jerry Lawler with the tea and crumpets jokes) is the announce team discussing Bulldog’s match with Mongo McMichael at SuperBrawl, which ended in submission when Mongo punched the ring post and Bulldog put him in an armbar. According to Lee Marshall, that ended up breaking Mongo’s arm. That’s important because Mongo held (and still holds) the all-time Chicago Bears record for most consecutive games played, with 191. Mongo never got injured playing pro football and never took a day off, but the Bulldog was strong enough to put him on the shelf. That’s great. Lee spends like two minutes putting Bulldog over, and then in the very next breath Tony Schiavone adds, “actually I found out Mongo had a broken arm BEFORE the match, and wrestled with a broken arm, and Bulldog didn’t actually do anything.” Lee should’ve whopped him in the nose with a phone book.

Don’t think Stagger Lee gets praise, though, because he makes me almost as mad during La Parka’s entrance with the statement, ““I’ve seen people play air guitar, but air chair??” Motherfucker, the chair he’s playing like a guitar is tangible, and how do you not make the “chair guitar” pun? Phone books to the nose for everybody.

Best: Sonny Onoo’s Underrated Stunner Sell

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The strange La Parka/Yuji Nagata/Disco Inferno jobber hate triangle continues on Thunder with Sonny Onoo sliding a chair into the ring to help Nagata, Disco jogging out to stop him (despite the fact that he was wrestling La Parka on pay-per-view four days ago), the Chairman getting to the chair first, and Nagata kicking it back into his face behind the referee’s back for the win. This Fire Pro Wrestling-ass match-up is less important than Sonny Onoo’s sell of Disco Inferno’s Chartbuster, which I think is deeply underrated and deserves to be in the conversation with the Rock’s wacky backflipping, Scott Hall’s moon shoes, and Shane McMahon’s beer geyser.

Here it is in GIF form, slowed down so you can see Onoo losing his sunglasses, but still somehow keeping them attached to his face. Behold:

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Outstanding. Can we go back in time and book Onoo vs. Super Calo in a “first man to lose their sunglasses loses” match?

Best: Fuller Gets Housed

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William Scott Goldberg spends about thirty seconds of his 50-minute work year squashing Rick Fuller, whom you may remember as the really big guy WCW sends out to lose like a chump when they need to show how a top Superstar can beat a really big guy. We’ve seen him lose handily to Lex Luger, eat shit for Diamond Dallas Page, and team with fellow massive loser Roadblock to lose a handicap match to The Giant. Fuller really pisses the bed when he gets into the ring.

Also of note, fans are starting to erupt and give standing ovations when Goldberg’s Viking death march starts up, so we’re deep into “Da Man” territory and will be upping his quality of opponent from “LOL” to “eh” pretty soon. And hey, speaking of Goldberg opponents and “eh,” two of the best, Fitness Finlay and Brad Armstrong, go one-on-one in a battle of who could care less to see which number on Bill’s list is stronger than the other. Since one guy shows up in a leather jacket with a single shoulderpad and the other has an airbrushed t-shirt about how much his family sucks, guess who wins!

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Commentary briefly redeems themselves in this match when Heenan asks what the “Armstrong Curse” is, then deduces that it’s “being an Armstrong.” Surprised Tony didn’t chime in with, “actually I found out earlier today that Brad Armstrong’s last name is Jones, so he doesn’t even have an Armstrong Curse.”

Note: The “Armstrong Curse” is when people find out you did a bunch of drugs to be better at bicycles after years of saying you’re just naturally good at bicycles.

Worst: Robbing Me Of The Match I Wanted To See

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I have a good memory, but I’m not a robot, so sometimes I’ll look at the cards for these episodes I’m recapping and mark out for something like, say, “Kevin Nash vs. Raven in a Raven’s Rules match.” Don’t you want to watch that? Even if you don’t like either guy, that’s the kind of match you revisit years later. I spent the first hour and a half of Thunder excited for it, somehow forgetting my entire life of watching ’90s wrestling shows announce matches only to not do them at the last second.

Before Nash even shows up, Raven gets on the mic and announces that this will not only be Raven’s Rules, it’ll be “battle royal rules,” which … yeah, means Nash gets to stand still and backdrop Flock guys over the top rope as they run at him until it’s time for him to powerbomb Lodi a couple of times and get sent back to Wrestling Jail. That’s it. Raven doesn’t even get involved.

Also something I’m not sure I totally understand: Lodi, who has an extremely classy PAMELA FEARS TOMMY sign for a timely domestic abuse joke, has “πr2” written on his chest in magic marker. That’s the area of a circle. If you can drop down into the comments and explain how that’s a wrestling joke, you’ll win this week’s No-Prize.

Oh No: Chris Benoit Tries To Sabu DDP

Remember back in ECW when Chris Benoit purposefully flapjacked Sabu onto the top of his head and broke his neck, earning the “Crippler” nickname by shoot temporarily crippling somebody? Remember how the only time Benoit ever seemed to do that move was when he was trying to break a dude’s neck? He does it to Diamond Dallas Page in the main event of Thunder, and the result is more or less the same.

Benoit flapjacks Page up and down directly onto his nose, apparently instantly breaking it and busting him open. Here it is in super slow motion, so you can see Page catch 100% face on the way down. Woof.

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When Benoit rolls him over for a lateral press, you can see a pool of blood on the mat. The camera smartly pulls back to a wide shot, but when Page turns over you can still see that he’s a total, gruesome mess.

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Page can barely continue, so Raven shows up a little early and attacks them both, drawing a disqualification and furthering the issue for their upcoming triple threat match at Uncensored. Remember back in the day when stuff like this made Benoit seem cool and tough, and not like a secret sociopath? Those were the days.

Next Week On Thunder:

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also Scott Hall cut a promo on this episode but you could probably quote it from heart without ever hearing it

WCW brings out the big guns for an all-star Thunder, featuring Ciclope, Chase Tatum, The Renegade, and nWo Vincent. See you in the Nitro report, probably!