So back in Turner’s World, a couple of hot shows by the WWF weren’t going to slow them. Ratings were through the roof, and they had a clear new star on their hands in one Diamond Dallas Page. Dropping Hall and Nash was just the beginning; does he set his sights higher and take a crack at Hogan?
jabroniville: I HATED DDP when I was younger, but the brilliance of that moment cannot be denied. There can be debate about whether or not he'd get that rocket push without being Bischoff's pal, but THAT is how to properly book a midcarder you want to see a huge name- just have him be the ONE FREAKING GUY to shove the nWo's attitude back in their face and look good against them. DDP may in fact be one of the only guys to actually get one OVER on the nWo without being immediately pummelled and humiliated by WCW's reigning Cool Heels- this left him relatively immune to their popularity-destroying ways.
WChilders49: DDP's cigar-chompin', Booty Man-feudin', lower mid-card act never gave me any reason to believe he would be anything other than a perennial 'WCW Saturday Night'er for life ( or is than an nWo "4 Life"?). Though I am sure DDP's friendships with Bischoff and Scott Hall likely helped open doors that would otherwise have remained shut inasmuch as ascending to the upper echelon of main event talent, one would be hard-pressed to argue against DDP's tireless work ethic and commitment to get over that really paved the way for his success. Unfortunately, given today's climate and culture, I think it would be virtually impossible for a rookie to enter the business in their mid-30's, start out as a color commentator, transition to being a manager and segueing into eventually becoming a main event wrestler.
bj2745: I've never understood why people insist on bringing up his friendship with Bischoff as though that's illegitimate or something. Ok, so maybe that got him an opportunity he wouldn't have otherwise got? And? It's not like he kept getting pushed even though no one gave a shit about him. He was the definition of red hot with the crowd after this show, had a GREAT feud with Savage, and put on a bunch of 4* matches. Bischoff didn't hand him any of that.
While we’re watching the rise of Steve Austin on the other channel, the booking of DDP to this point has actually been even stronger; crazy as that seems with the benefit of hindsight. The nWo has been untouchable since May of 1996, where not a single person (save a beating from the Faces of Fear that one time that I will never ever let ANYONE forget) has managed to get over on Hall or Nash, and only Roddy Piper has been any kind of a problem to Hogan. The easy route would have been to have Giant or Luger do this, but it wouldn’t have been the same; the beauty with DDP was the surprise that holy shit, the old guy with the cool finishing move is freakin’ awesome! The only people who took issue with the Bischoff stuff are the negative nellies who need reasons to nitpick anyone’s success as a means to bring them down. It’s best to direct ones inner annoyance to where it really belongs: Kevin Sullivan.
LIVE from the United Center in Chicago, the fans are allegedly “packed to the rafters” if TONY SCHIAVONE or LARRY ZBYSZKO are to be believed. If that’s the case, does that mean the nosebleeds are getting personal time with Sting? To anyone up there; can you just remind the man that a little conversation goes a long way and might help alleviate his rage? Lex Luger still loves you man, he just wants you to call.
RANDY SAVAGE leaps out of the crowd, hey where the hell did HE come from? He hasn’t been seen since disappearing after Halloween Havoc. Reality was, his contract had come up and there was a belief he’d be headed back to the WWF, welcomed with open arms. However, right before it came to fruition, Vince’s attitude completely soured and ordered his staff never to mention his name again. The fantastic book “Titan Sinking” details this further, but the belief is that Stephanie McMahon approached her father with Randy’s return imminent, and confessed a teenage affair with Mach that took place inside the McMahon home. Vince, a father first and a businessman second despite what he’d have you believe, loaded the proverbial shotgun and made sure he never set foot on his property again. As a result, he was forced to re-sign with WCW, bringing us to tonight.
So, back to the actual show; Savage tells the hot crowd that he’s been blackballed, and isn’t leaving until he gets to speak to someone with some stroke. To Bischoff: Kiss his ass. Tony, worried about the bigger picture, asks what of Maxx vs Chavo Guerrero Jr. As if on queue…
CHAVO GUERRERO JR. vs. MAXX
It may shock you to learn, dear reader, that neither Chavo Guerrero Jr. nor Maxx have “the stroke”. Of course, if you’ve been following the story of Maxx, you’d know he, more often than not, can’t even find his way out of the Dungeon of Doom, and tonight is no exception, as Chavo is left alone to try and reason with Randy Savage. In fact, you’d be led to believe that based on Chavo’s passion, that this match with Maxx is a #1 contender’s match for some sort of title, and it cannot be missed under any circumstance. Eventually Savage stands, and Tony applauds Chavo for managing to persuade Savage to leave and get Nitro on the road … and, Guerrero is promptly knocked out and tossed over the top rope. Maxx finally remembers the activation key to the portals (up down up down left right left right b a start) and moseys on down. He too faces the wrath of Savage, as does poor SCOTT DICKENSON. DOUG DILLENGER makes his way in, and gets shoved through the ropes; yeesh, and here I thought he was the guy secretly in charge. ALEX WRIGHT is next, despite having absolutely no reason to be here at all, and he too is given a beating. THE AMAZING FRENCH CANADIANS head out to ask Maxx what this is all about; and what I wouldn’t give to have them mic’ed up right now. THE STEINER BROTHERS lurk, but don’t get too close. Suddenly, STING descends from the rafters – holy crap! Larry starts screaming about this being the leader of the nWo, as Sting makes his way towards the ring. Savage refuses to move from the chair, as Sting circles him, bat in hand. Sting starts poking him with the bat to the chest, and threatens to knock his block off … before handing Randy the bat and turning his back to a LOUD Chicago crowd. Savage gives the bat back, and Sting, satisfied, leaves with Savage through the crowd. Tony decides this means Savage has joined the nWo.
CHRIS JERICHO vs. ALEX WRIGHT
The last time these two fought, Jericho had a chance to score a cheap win but decided he didn’t want it “that way”. This time, Wright has just been pounded by Savage, and Jericho doesn’t seem to care. Thattaboy! Now that Savage’s interruption has been taken care of, Larry and Tony move ahead to focusing on what’s important: Randy Savage. Jericho hits Wright with Sweet Chin Music and gets 2. Wright fires back with a spinning heel kick, and the fans erupt in a “BORRRRRRING” chant. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong going on here, but it’s a sign that the booking is starting to backfire. Because so much is typically going on, matches are becoming harder to focus on because it’s not what we’ve been conditioned to accept as Important. Thankfully for their sake, it’s ended quick with a roll up from Jericho at 2:27. *
NWO STING vs. SCOTTY RIGGS
Sting promises to “take care of this one for ya, Buff”. Who the hell is Buff? Does Marcus Bagwell know that Sting is taking care of this “Buff’s” dirty work? They’re still recently split up, and new friends or not, don’t be shocked if Marcus takes this attack personally. A little time apart and a little conflict might just be what they need to make up; anyone can see it’s hurt, not hate. Just look at last week when Bagwell started posing in front of Riggs, to show him just how hard he’s been working on himself since the separation. Riggs leaves no question to his long-term plan; during his walk to the ring, he promises at Souled Out that he’ll be putting Bagwell on his back. Sting takes Riggs out with a Stun Gun, and follows with a backbreaker to a shockingly strong amount of crowd support. Da fock? Larry calls him “Stink”, while MARCUS BAGWELL starts flexing in the aisle, completely taking Riggs out of his element as he stops to digest and plan his next steps. Eventually, he settles on hitting Sting with a flying jalapeno, and that draws in VINCENT, M WALLSTREET, NICK PATRICK, BIG BUBBER, and SCOTT NORTON to break things up at 2:55. Bagwell orders DAVE PENZER to announce Sting as the winner by countout, and he complies. Glad to see the nWo send out the big guns to handle this critical business.
Meanwhile, RIC FLAIR and BOB PROBERT (may he rest in peace) promise to take it to Hollywood Hogan. In fact, if Probert wasn’t tied up with that darn hockey career that’s taking him to Buffalo during Nitro, he’d go beat up Hogan himself.
ARN ANDERSON and MONGO MCMICHAEL (with Debra McMichael) vs. EDDIE GUERRERO and JEFF JARRETT
Arn goes right after Jarrett, which should come as absolutely no surprise. Eddie tags in, and as Mongo comes in, he gets a heroes’ welcome from the Chicago crowd. No joke, that is one of the loudest pops I’ve heard for a midcarder in ages, even trumping the DDP noise from a week earlier. Off a shoulderblock, they start losing their collective shit, fist pumping and screaming. Say what you will about Mongo, but he was a GOD to these people. Both guys trade off, and Jarrett slams both Horsemen, drawing mad heat. Eddie beats it to the back for some reason, leaving Jeff alone. Tony tells us that Syxx apparently had shown up at the entry. That’s the most disappointing story of the year, I think I would have died later if Mean Gene tried to get the scoop and was told “bro, I gave it all I had; but about 30 seconds into the match I suddenly felt the pangs of the green salsa two step if you hear what I’m sayin’.” Spinebuster from Arn has the crowd combine their chi and orgasm as one, and a half crab is locked on while Mongo stomps Jeff. Debra throws her sash, and the referee accepts it as a submission as 3:42. I’ve got to get into this pro-wrestling business, I guarantee you I’d never lose a fight. Arn and Mongo give Debra the business. *1/2
RIC FLAIR is welcomed to the stage to join the rest of the present Horsemen and “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND. As he soaks in the crowd, CHRIS BENOIT and WOMAN join the crew. Flair promises he’s just about recovered. He’s a little saddened the Horsemen aren’t the unit they used to be, however. He asks Mongo and Benoit to re-focus on being HorseMEN before worrying about the ladies. Arn promises as long as he and Flair are involved, the name “Horsemen” will never die. Benoit says that he and Mongo are winners, and he recognizes that Debra’s a winner in beauty pageants, but this is pro-wrestling and the wrestlers need to do their thing. Mongo screams at least he just beat Jarrett, unlike Chris on at least two other occasions. The interview breaks down as the crowd lets out a giant “OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH”. I hope this drags on another 6 months, this isn’t remotely boring to re-live week after week.
DEAN MALENKO vs. THE ULTIMATE DRAGON (with Sonny Onoo) (in some sort of match, either for a title or not)
Neither guy gets an entrance or and sort of distinction regarding what’s good, because we were too distracted with replaying Eric Bischoff’s wank-fest from last week. Malenko hits a brainbuster for a 2, and Dean moves quickly to a rear chinlock. Tony asks us to tune into the Clash of Champions tomorrow night if we want to see great stars in action, like Dean Malenko or Ultimo Dragon. I am not kidding. You know, I’d like to know what’s going on right NOW, but I don’t matter. Dragon hits Malenko with a handspring back elbow, and Dragon heads up. Malenko goes for an electric chair, but Dragon rolls backwards in a sunset flip type move. Malenko sits down for 2. They battle back up, and Dragon wins that spot with a super rana getting 2! Dragon wants a powerbomb, but Malenko wiggles loose. Dragon turns to La Majistral, and scores the pin at 4:18. Apparently Dragon retained the belt, so there’s your answer. You’d think the former two time champ getting a title shot would be worthy of a mention or entrance, but it’s not nWo so no one cares. **
Hour #2 kicks off, with MIKE TENAY and “SOBER” BOBBY HEENAN joining Tony in the booth. The fans remain hot, collectively chanting for WEASEL. Tony wears a Blackhawks jersey because he’s a suck up.
JACQUES ROUGEAU (with Colonel Robert Parker) vs. “LORD” STEVEN REGAL (possibly for a belt)
The lack of respect for anyone making less than 7 figures continues, as the entire Savage segment is replayed while these guys presumably make their ring entrances. It’s cool, I don’t need to see Steven Regal get into it with every filthy American he meets on his way to the ring; I don’t look forward to that at ALL. Again, no clue if the TV title is up for grabs, because DID YOU SEE SAVAGE LEAVE WITH STING? Rougeau actually sings the National Anthem on key AND in sync with the music, so naturally Tenay accuses him of ad-libbing the entire thing because he has the audacity of singing in French. Anyway, they wrestle or something, then because the freakin’ Mountie can’t lay down (what, we’ll find out he once travelled through Chicago as a young child and losing would be a disgrace to the nice couple on the bus who paid his parents’ toll because their hands were full?), Colonel Parker rushes in and hits his guy by mistake for the DQ at 1:55. Regal kicks the Colonel’s ass, and that’ll likely set up a program between them since the last time I checked, Colonel was undefeated. Also, tonight’s show SUCKS. I’ll let you choose the number of negative stars this segment gets.
KEVIN SULLIVAN (with Jimmy Hart) vs. CHRIS BENOIT
Benoit zips in and attacks in the aisle, and both guys, with the energy of a hundred young men entering a strip club for the first time, start brawling through the crowd and all the way into the concourse. SECURITY led by DOUG DILLINGER try to contain this, but they’re rapidly in the bathroom, as usual. WOMAN goes too, and a parade of fans who are legitimately in there are bouncing around in excitement. Yes, they’re using a very real bathroom and rolling around in front of the urinals. Dillinger tells them that’s enough, and gets piefaced into the ground in front of the sinks, so he’s now covered in water, loose paper towels, and thousands of unidentified short curly hairs. Woman removes her shoes and starts whacking fans to make her way back into the arena with the boys. Sullivan tosses Benoit down the stairs, and keeps right after him. In the aisle, Benoit steals a beer from a fan in the front row and launches it into Benoit’s face, getting it all over the camera! Another fan throws beer all over BOTH guys, so Benoit, getting into the spirit of things, grabs another beer and splashes it into Sullivan’s face. In the ring now, we FINALLY ring the bell to “officially” start this. Sullivan ties Chris to the tree of woe, but Benoit slides right off immediately and hits Sullivan with some of the hardest chops you’ll EVER see. Chris tries for a side Russian legsweet, but Sullivan kicks him square in the balls, and both guys fall head first into each other. Benoit’s up first, but Hart slides the ring bell into Sullivan’s hands just as Benoit comes off the top – and Chris NAILS that beauty. The bell flies about 8 feet off Benoit’s impact, and all Sullivan has to do is roll over to score the win at 1:58! Holy shit, entire show is REDEEMED. ****1/2 Sadly, this isn’t up on the Network yet, and there’s only a really crappy version on Youtube with a couple of dorks talking over it, but if you HAVE the means to seek it out go find it. It’s the loose template of the GAB match, but the anger and hatred here is palpable.
KEVIN NASH, TED DIBIASE, and ERIC BISCHOFF take over the announce booth, flanked by … a lot of guys. Hell, I recap this weekly, and I’m not even sure I could tell you how many people are in the group at this point.
CARL OUELLETTE (with Colonel Robert Parker) vs. JIM DUGGAN
Ouellette tries the anthem, but they cut his microphone off about 2 seconds into it to bring out Duggan, waiving the purple and yellow WCW flag in the nWo’s face, which MIGHT not be the smartest thing he’s ever done. (Which is unfortunate, it wouldn’t be hard to top his list of brilliant moments.) The announcers tell us that Scott Hall is making his Nitro in-ring debut tonight, and … they might be right? Is that possible? He’s been with WCW since May, how the hell has he gone without wrestling on Nitro even once? I can’t decide if that’s positively brilliant marketing, or wasted opportunity. JACQUES ROUGEAU lumbers down to ringside, which brings in THE STEINER BROTHERS for some reason. They attack, including a belt to the back of Ouellette’s head. Duggan tapes up his fist RIGHT in front of the referee, who responds to the punch by selling it with Ouellette, and deciding it’s perfectly legal while counting the pin at 2:01. What the hell was that?
“BEE KEEPER” DAVID TAYLOR vs. MASAHIRO CHONO
I have been waiting for this moment for like a year now. Why Taylor has decided now was the time to trade the Union Jack for the wardrobe of Dr. Livingstone is never explained, but it’s alright by me. You just be yourself, Dave Taylor. The nWo, realizing the ominous threat posed by Taylor and his combination European uppercuts and now heightened likelihood of using a poisonous blow dart to his advantage, send in NICK PATRICK to level the playing field a little. Nash questions if Taylor’s channeling Sherlock Holmes, which is ridiculous. Sherlock, after all, wore a full trench coat due to the cold London weather. Chono hits a shoulderblock off the second rope, but Taylor quickly rolls him up for a half count. You know, I’m really wondering how Patrick blew that “slow” count later this year that we know nothing about because it hasn’t happened yet. The guy has been taking roughly 38 minutes between counts for all WCW guys for 6 months, did he suddenly FORGET? I’ll stop, I have 11 months before I need to get good and worked up about that. Taylor whips out the nuclear weapons; the European uppercuts of death. Patrick ignores it, giving Chono ample time to put on an STF and score the tap out victory at 2:47. *
BOOKER T (with Sista Sherri) vs. SCOTT HALL
Booka promises to hurt someone OG style, just like they do back in the hood. What exactly is the “hood” in Houston? Do troubled youths break into local homes and steal their calories? Do they count their scores in McDonalds extra value meals? Nick Patrick remains the referee here, while Hall tosses his toothpick in the eyes of Booker which is one of the three funniest things he’s EVER seen. Booker smacks him, and it’s on like neckbone. Hall starts paintbrushing his opponent, and takes a vicious Harlem sidekick for it. He misses an elbowdrop, but spinaroonie’s up to his feet right away and another Harlem Sidekick gets a nasty slow 2 count. Hall fires back with a fallaway slam, as the fans explode. Booker retaliates with a crossbody off the top, and gets a 2 count that takes about as long as 9. Booker attacks Patrick cuz he done had enough of THAT, and the Outsiders Edge is right there for the win at 2:50. MARCUS BAGWELL chats it up with Sherri, but she’s NOT in the mood, no matter how wild her cougar oats need to be sewn. *
STEVIE RAY (with Sista Sherri) vs. LEX LUGER
Nash: “Didn’t this guy just get beat up by … oh, that’s the other one.” Holy balls, how did Sonny Onoo not just take a recording of that and play it on a continuous loop in the court room? Nash: “What exactly is neckbone and is there anything on there you can actually eat?” Flexy Lexy takes on Hall tomorrow night at the Clash, so I guess because Booker and Stevie are both black, they’re equal warm-up material. Inexplicably, Nick Patrick remains in the ring, so I have to think they’re gonna try and screw over Luger, but he doesn’t like Stevie either, so this could go a number of different ways. Luger beats down Stevie in the corner, while Patrick reminds Sherri to shut up because he’s trying to do his job peacefully. They head to the floor, where Luger’s thrown into the guardrail. Nash: “I get so tired of WCW throwing out that Horsemen material just so it gets on TV, nobody’s buying it.” Heels or not, THAT was probably unnecessary because they’re burying their own brand with nonsense like that. It only hurts the bottom line, of both WCW, and ultimately the guys who rely on those merchandise sales; but what does Nash care, right? The nWo is hot as hell and will be hot forever, and everything they touch turns to gold and nothing could EVER go wrong. Also, Luger wins at 2:22. DUD
HOLLYWOOD HOGAN saunters out with VINCENT and TED DIBIASE. Bischoff gloats about how cutting edge they are, while Hogan plays air guitar. One fan holds up an appropriate “FUCK OFF BISCHOFF” in the front row. Hogan starts talking about some mechanical problem their plane had on the way into Chicago, but he saved the day by punching out the First Class windows and using his pythons as wings. Also, he met The Giant’s mother at some point, back when he was using The Giant, and … who cares, THE GIANT is headed right for the ring and WE ARE OUT OF TIME! Tune in to Robin Hood to … no, not this week? How will I find out what happens?
Total one segment show, this was about as bad as it gets, big win to the WWF this week. The Clash is tomorrow, and if this was any indication of what’s coming, we ain’t exactly riding a wave of momentum. In fact, they're doing the complete opposite by leaving off the guy who was anointed king last week, in Diamond Dallas Page. They're still large and in charge, but 1997 ain't off to a promising start.