The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 07.29.96
True story: I have a friend who named his son LeBron James. Man I bet he feels dumb tonight.
Live from Orlando, FL, one last time before they switch back to regular arenas again.
Your hosts are Tony & Larry
Mike Enos vs. Jim Duggan
Amazingly, not only is Enos using a terrible (TERRIBLE!) ripoff version of The Ecstasy of Gold (which should be one of the all time great heel entrance pieces) as his entrance music, but apparently they're already breaking up Rough & Ready after less than a month as a team! Thank god the Faces of Fear are still around. Duggan dumps him with a clothesline right away and slugs away, but gets low-bridged because he's a moron and Enos takes over. Legdrop and Enos goes to a chinlock, then blocks a blind charge with a boot for two. Well, as his chaps say, he is “Ready”. I wonder if he recycled those chaps from the time when he was the Mysterious Masked Skyscraper with Mean Mark? What a team that was. Hey, more chinlocks and choking from Blake Beverly, that's great. Collision for the double KO, but Duggan comes back with a sunset flip (called a backslide by Tony) for two, but Enos turns this around again with a neckbreaker for two. Enos goes AERIAL and misses by a mile, allowing Duggan to make the comeback, but Enos actually cuts him off and pounds him down in the corner. Finally Duggan has had enough of this terrible fucking match and finishes with the taped fist at 7:30. This was everything you'd expect out of a Jim Duggan vs. Mike Enos match and then a little less. -**
Sting, Lex Luger & Randy Savage vs. Ric Flair, Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael
So after leaving Flair off the show last week to tease his possible defection to the nWo, he's right out here and they just drop that thread cold. Everyone gets into a crazy brawl immediately and we take a break...but not before some GLACIER KARATE ACTION first. Back with the match under control and the ref just restarts it. Sting gets a backdrop on Benoit to send him running away. I should note that the combination of Sting's primary colored gear and Savage's neon green might actually rupture my poor plasma TV. Come on, WCW, I've had this thing for like 5 years now and they're not made anymore! Flair attacks Savage by the VIP table (is that gag STILL going?) to take over, but Savage fires back with the 10 punch count in the corner and Flair actually walks behind the bleachers to hide. Holy cow, if he had done a Flair Flop after taking that walk this would be the only six-star match not involving Joe Gomez. Back to the ring for the showdown of suck between Luger and Mongo, and thankfully Flair comes back in for his usual match against Luger. Luger throws him around and yells a lot, and a suplex gets two. Benoit comes in and the Horsemen sucker Savage into the ring to tie up the referee, allowing them to beat on Luger in the corner. Luger no-sells it and it's over to Sting, however, and he does the usual with Flair. Superplex gets two. Flair tosses him and blocks a sunset flip to finally make Sting the face-in-peril. Benoit with a back elbow for two and a backdrop suplex (called a “back body drop” by Tony as the cracks in his commentary start to show already) gets two. Sting slugs it out with Flair and they do the pinfall reversal sequence before Benoit saves. Flair goes low and gets the figure-four, but Sting reverses it. So it's over to Benoit with a snap suplex for two and a Liontamer, but Flair comes back in and suddenly Jimmy Hart runs out and pleads with the cameraman to come with him. Jimmy screams at everyone in the ring to stop fighting and come with him, and the match just ends at 13:00. Really fun before the non-finish. ***
So in the back, the Outsiders have laid out the American Males and Arn Anderson, and Rey Mysterio dives on Nash from a trailer and gets LAWN DARTED into the side as a result in one of the most famous bumps of all time. The Outsiders leave in their limo and Savage dives onto the roof and hangs on like an action hero as it drives away.
We take a break and return with everyone going nuts and calling for medical attention while Rey yells about FOUR GUYS laying him out. We get a very extended segment of chaos and minimal commentary, while everyone gets treated by paramedics...including Rey having his mask removed while covering his face with his hands. That shit is SERIOUS. In discussing the show in the Observer at the time, Meltzer notes that although this stuff might have been flaming ratings death in the short-term (which is was), it would absolutely have a payoff later on. Which it did, a thousand times over. In fact, I don't think it's overstating things to say that this one episode of Nitro changed the business forever and basically created the Vince Russo Crash TV format, where sometimes the script gets thrown out and Everything You See Is Fake Except For What You're Watching Right Now, Which Is Real.
Speaking of which, back from another break with the second hour, and Bobby Heenan has a frank discussion with Eric Bischoff and walks off the set because of his history of neck injuries and his fear of getting another one. So...
Your hosts for the second hour are Eric, Tony and Larry.
And you'd think they would try to go right back to the ring, but NO, the segment continues unabated while the fans turn on the show, and now the Males get loaded into the ambulance. It's kind of like the theory of comedy where you have the joke that's initially funny, then goes on too long and becomes unfunny, and then goes on even LONGER and becomes hilarious as a result of going so long. They just kept riding out the crowd's boredom and let the angle go to the super-serious extremes that it needed to without undercutting it by immediately jumping back to some fake match in the ring.
The Steiner Brothers vs. High Voltage
Finally back to the ring with the clash of future tag team champions Rick Steiner and Kenny Kaos. Everyone's all distracted but not High Voltage! They're amped up on horse steroids and Red Bull (was Red Bull a thing in 1996? I didn't start mainlining energy drinks directly into my heart until about 2005) and excited to be here! These two aren't exactly streets ahead. Although they don't mention it here, for some reason the Steiner Brothers ended up with a random tag team title reign between the last show and this one, trading the belts with Harlem Heat on a pair of house shows in a switch reminiscent of their WWF run. So Scott distractedly slams Kaos around while there's a fireworks show in the background. I'm reminded of The Naked Gun every time they do the fireworks at these Orlando shows while the fans are supposed to be paying attention to the match. High Voltage beats on Rick in their corner while Bischoff is basically like “If these two geeks beat the Steiners no one is seriously going to count that as a win anyway” and Rage gets a nice flying shoulderblock for two. The Steiners finally wake up and start beating on Rage at will, and OH SHIT it's the Steiner Screwdriver to finish him at 4:45. I feel like they might have been in a bit of a mood here. Maybe they're Cleveland fans? **
Standby Contest: Big Bubba vs. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie dropkicks him out of the ring and ponders a dive, but Bubba comes back in and overpowers him to take over. Bubba pounds away with a variety of thrilling stuff and gets a clothesline for two. Bubba chokes like he's from Cleveland and goes to a bearhug that turns into a spinebuster for two. Bubba continues taking the whole match and goes to a chinlock as this match seemingly goes on longer than that entire nWo attack segment did. Finally Eddie comes back with a rollup to win at 10:45. DUD
THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER!
So yeah, this is the first black and white nWo promo, featuring Hogan rambling for hours and somehow getting cut down to 5:00 or so by the editing team in something of a minor miracle. This marks the Nitro debut of the nWo logo, the porno music, Nash cackling “WHAT DO YA BENCH, LEX?”, the crazy camera angles, and poor Scott Hall trying to hold it all together on his own.
THE PRECEDING ANNOUNCEMENT WAS PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER!
Tony and Larry discuss the doin's that have been transpirin' and replay the initial attack from what feels like hours ago.
WCW World title: The Giant vs. Greg Valentine
Valentine is subbing for Arn Anderson, who fell in the Battle of the nWo earlier in the show. Hammer attacks and gets nowhere, as Giant casually beats him down, chokes away in the corner, and finishes with a pair of chokeslams at 1:35. DUD
As a show this was complete and utter garbage, but it was incredibly historic and immensely influential in a million ways, so take from it whatever you wish.