Date: January 8, 1998
Location: Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Florida
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Lee Marshall, Bobby Heenan
Date: January 8, 1998
Location: Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Florida
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Lee Marshall, Bobby Heenan
Reviewed by Tommy Hall
Due to the success of 1997, WCW decided to add another show to it's TV schedule so here's their new idea. Tonight is a souped up show as debuts often are, as we have a Cruiserweight Title match, an update on the world title situation after the debacle at Starrcade, and the Larry Zbyszko vs. Eric Bischoff match from Starrcade in full, which I'm sure wouldn't get on the nerves of the fans who paid for the show. Let's get to it.
The announcers talk about how they're sure Sting is the world champion.
Randy Savage is supposed to be in the opening match but he isn't here yet. Instead, here's a clip from Nitro of the NWO arriving in two different limos. We also get Bischoff saying there are no problems.
Tony shows us a clip of the attorney from Nitro (a week ago according to him, which is Tony speak for three days ago) saying that anyone, either WCW or NWO, who violates a WCW policy will be fined and/or suspended. Nick Patrick was suspended at least until tonight to show us that WCW was serious.
Now we see the end of Nitro with the NWO getting in a fight to end the show.
Chris Adams vs. Randy Savage
Adams is a British guy who trained Steve Austin and brought the superkick to America. That's more or less the extent of his major accomplishments but he's in the first match ever on Thunder for some reason. Savage jumps him from behind as we hear about WCW never losing Nitro in the first place. Adams is sent to the outside so Savage can drop him on the barricade. Chris comes back with a whip into the post and gets back in which distracts the referee, allowing Luger to come out and cave in Savage's head with a chair. Adams gets the pin to open the show with a huge upset.
JJ Dillon comes out but we go to a break before anything can happen.
Here are Hogan and Bischoff with something to say. Something I forgot to mention earlier: the set is a big stone wall that had an opening broken into it by some lightning earlier. Shouldn't the show be called WCW Lightning then? Actually Thunder is perfect: it's a bunch of noise with nothing of substance. It's perfect for WCW at this point.
Hogan and Bischoff take forever to get to the ring where Bischoff introduces Hogan as the world champion. Apparently every good looking woman on the beach said that Hogan was the real world champion and tonight we'll see the tape proving it. Hollywood is the only heavyweight champion in the world and he's just too big and too tanned.
Here's JJ again to say that Randy Savage wins the match because of Luger's interference. Luger comes out and rants against JJ because only now is WCW doing anything after a year and a half of the NWO doing whatever they want. He says that WCW is going to band together and do whatever they want. Point for keeping continuity at least.
Louis Spicolli vs. Rick Martel
Louis cranks on the arm to start but is quickly sent to the floor with a clothesline. Back in and a few dropkicks send Spicolli right back to the floor. They get back in again and Spicolli pounds him down as the Flock heads to their seats. Martel fires off a cross body for two and a left hand to the ribs to stagger Louis. Another dropkick misses but Martel punches Spicolli down and hooks the Quebec Crab for the win.
Rating: D+. For a guy who hasn't been around in years, Martel really does look smooth out there. At first I wasn't wild on him coming back as he was just Rick Martel: guy in leather jacket, but they're pushing him as someone with ring experience who can beat guys with relative ease, which is actually working for him.
We get a clip from Starrcade of Hall saying Nash wouldn't be there, earning a beating from Giant in the process. I still don't get why they didn't just have Hall be a replacement as he would be more than adequate to fill in.
Tenzan vs. Ohara
Tenzan is a guy from Japan who is apparently part of the NWO. Tenay talks about how Ohara is like Ray Traylor as he was thrown out of the Japanese NWO and is now a freedom fighter. He pounds away on Tenzan to start but gets slammed down. The fans don't seem pleased as Tenzan hits a spinwheel kick for no cover. Ohara comes back with a clothesline and powerbomb for two but gets caught in a middle rope chop. Tenzan hits a swan dive to end a quick match.
We get another clip from Nitro of the very good Bret and Flair segment where they argue over who is better and say each others' catchphrases.
Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho
Before the match, Jericho apologizes for his recent behavior and to present Penzer with another new suit jacket. Flair takes him into the corner to start and there's our first WOO. Jericho takes it to the mat with a headlock and a monkey flip sends Flair down. Chris takes too much time though and gets poked in the eye by the master, giving Flair control.
A clothesline puts Flair back down though and there's the Flair Flip in the corner. Jericho dropkicks him off the apron before Flair can run to the top but the Lionsault misses as Flair gets back in. Flair asks for the time and hits a low blow before stomping away a bit. Jericho hits a quick backdrop and a top rope elbow for two but a missile dropkick misses. Figure Four ends Jericho quick.
Rating: C-. This was a glorified squash for Flair but he looked very smooth out there which is a good thing for Jericho. At this point, Jericho was nowhere near what he would become so a match with Flair was one of the best things that could happen to him. That's what veterans are supposed to do and Flair did it more than almost anyone.
Jericho freaks out again post match.
Giant vs. Meng
As Meng comes out, Tony announces Flair vs. Bret for Souled Out and yes, he says it might be the biggest announcement in the history of our sport. Meng hits a clothesline but gets caught in a powerslam to put him down. A backdrop puts Meng down and Giant vs. Nash is announced for the PPV as well. Tony basically says that it'll actually happen this time, which is a pretty pathetic way to push a match. “Remember last time when we said it would happen and it didn't? Well this is nothing like that and we'll actually do what we say!” Meng avoids a splash and fires off some strikes, only to be chokeslammed down for the fast pin.
Goldberg vs. Steve McMichael
It's just Goldberg now. Mongo goes after him on the floor to start and whips Goldberg into the steps before heading in to be stomped. A gorilla press powerslam puts Mongo down and there's a rolling leg lock for good measure. Mongo gets to the rope and goes after the leg as well before hitting a middle rope clothesline for two. McMichael calls for the tombstone but gets caught in the spear and Jackhammer for the pin. Heenan points out that Goldberg is undefeated.
Tag Titles: Steiner Brothers vs. Buff Bagwell/Konnan
Scott and Buff start things off and it's time to pose. Buff takes him down with a hiptoss but Scott drills him with some clothesline and a tiger bomb. Konnan is knocked to the floor as well and it's time to stall. Off to Konnan vs. Rick with Konnan being rammed stomach first into the buckle, only to take Rick down with a clothesline. Back to Buff who jumps right into a belly to belly and it's a double tag to bring Scott back in. Everything breaks down and Rick loads up the bulldog, but Scott goes to the other corner for the Frankensteiner for the pin to retain.
Rating: D+. Nothing to see here but the main idea is the Steiners having issues. That's probably the best move as the Steiners had been a big deal for about nine years at this point, so there wasn't much else that could be done with the team. Scott had been the one WCW wanted to push for years anyway so it really isn't surprising when you think about it.
Here's Larry Zbyszko vs. Eric Bischoff from Starrcade to tick off the fans and fill in time, because if there's one thing WCW doesn't have, it's a roster big enough to fill in a full show.
Bret Hart comes out to be guest referee. There's no pyro, there's no big entrance, there's nothing but generic music and Bret casually walking to the ring. The theory is that he's in the NWO but that's never been confirmed yet.
Eric Bischoff vs. Larry Zbyszko
This should have been Hall vs. Larry, as those two had been talking trash to each other for months. However, Larry only gets Hall if he beats Eric here tonight. If Eric wins, the NWO controls Nitro. Larry is in good shape here considering he's 46 and hasn't wrestled regularly in about five years. Bret checks them for weapons and we're ready to go. Bischoff has the body of a 15 year old girl. He is however a black belt in karate so you can expect a lot of striking.
Bischoff hits a quick shot to Larry's head and immediately celebrates. More strikes follow and Eric heads out to the floor for consultation with Hall. Back in and Larry hits some shots of his own and Eric is scared. Larry goes after him again and Eric hits a spin kick to the side of the head that knocks Larry down. That's enough for Zbyszko and he charges at Eric and takes him down to the mat. Bret admonishes him for pulling Eric's hair, so Larry puts on a sleeper and a headscissors, both of which are broken up for being chokes.
Off to a standing figure four but Eric quickly makes a rope. The damage is done though and Larry goes after the leg. Makes sense against a karate guy. Bret keeps Larry away from Eric and the announcers PANIC. Imagine that: a referee following the rules. Eric is sent into the steps and takes a brief walk around the ring. Back in and Bret blocks a right hand from Larry, allowing Eric to get in a kick to the head. Bischoff fires more kicks with Larry on the ropes, although Bret is fine with them.
Eric is starting to kick himself out though as the kicks are getting weaker and weaker each time. Now he fires rights and lefts in the corner as Larry is just covering up. Eric can barely move now and Larry shakes everything off. A suplex puts Bischoff down and Larry ties him in the Tree of Woe. Hall pulls something out of his pocket and loads it into Eric's shoe, WITH BRET LOOKING RIGHT AT THEM. I mean, he knows what's going on so why not LOOK THE OTHER WAY???
Anyway, Eric kicks him in the head with the loaded foot and the piece of metal goes flying. Bret isn't supposed to see it, despite watching it fly through the air. Eric celebrates, so Bret hits both Bischoff and Hall before putting Hall in the Sharpshooter, which is Bret's version of the Scorpion Deathlock. Larry chokes Eric for a bit and is declared the winner, presumably by DQ.
Rating: F. This was in the second to last spot on the biggest show of the year and featured the boss of the company who has no skill whatsoever in the ring. Larry did fine all things considered, but to waste this spot on this match and to waste BRET HART's in ring debut on this match is absolutely ridiculous in every sense of the word.
Back on Thunder now here's Larry to talk about his match with Hall at Souled Out. Larry talks about how he understands why Hall hates his guts after Larry took Hall so far ten years ago. Now instead of being a world champion, Hall is on the ship of fools heading towards Larry Land. Larry can still bench press 405lbs, drive to the golf course and shoot a 73 and then beat Hall from one side of the ring to the other. He's wrestled in front of royalty around the world and just like he did in 1980, he'll change the NWO at Souled Out. This was actually a pretty decent promo and I remembered it from when I watched this live.
We recap Ray Traylor being thrown out of the NWO and beaten down by Hogan.
Ray Traylor vs. Scott Hall
Traylor shoves him down to start but Hall comes back with the driving shoulder blocks. He slaps Ray in the back of the head and gets sent into the corner and pounding away for his efforts. A corner splash crushes Hall and it's off to a bearhug to waste some time. The referee takes a shot to the eye so we head to the floor for a bit with Hall hitting Traylor in the face with his NWO tag title belt. That's only good for two and the middle rope bulldog gets the same for Hall. Scott heads to the floor to grab a chair but Larry comes out to stop him. The distraction lets Traylor hit the Boss Man Slam for the upset pin.
Rating: D+. The match was barely anything but it did advance the Larry vs. Hall feud so I can't complain all that much. I'm not sure how many people wanted to see Zbyszko vs. Hall but at least it was a feud that had the time to build up for a few months. Speaking of having the time, can we get a match to last five minutes tonight?
Cruiserweight Title: Juventud Guerrera vs. Ultimo Dragon
Dragon is defending. Apparently Scott Steiner has been fined $5000 for hitting the referee during the tag match. The announcers didn't even notice it so it's likely a bit extreme. Feeling out process to start with both guys hitting some quick strikes until Juvy hits a springboard spinwheel kick for two. Guerrera misses a splash in the corner and gets stomped down as we actually talk about the match for a bit. Actually scratch that as it's time to talk about Starrcade a bit more.
Dragon misses a handspring elbow in the corner as the fans think this is boring. Juvy loads up a top rope rana but gets crotched to the floor instead. Dragon hits a moonsault to the floor but injures his knee in the process. They head back in and Dragon hits a release German suplex for two but the top rope rana is countered again. Juvy knocks him to the mat but dives into a dropkick fro Dragon, only to come back with a quick DDT. The Juvy Driver sets up the 450 for the pin and a new champion.
Rating: C. Pretty slow paced stuff here as their high spots weren't connecting all that well. Dragon only held the belt for about eight days here so it's kind of hard to care about the title changing this fast. It's not a bad match but again at just under five minutes we didn't have time to get invested in it at all.
Here's Bret Hart for a chat. Bret says that he's called himself the best there is, was and ever will be and he means it and he's meant it every time. He's accomplished a lot over his career but now he has to prove himself all over again. Bret isn't going to stop calling himself the best ever....and here's Flair with a rebuttal. Ric talks about how he's heard from a thousand people since last week (what's with that? It was three days ago, not last week but people have been saying it all show long) that they want to hear Bret say his catchphrase to Flair's face.
Bret does just that, sending Flair into a rant about how Bret used to sit in the front row with a box of popcorn wanting to be like Ric Flair. Bret has been a five time WWF Champion, but while he was doing that, Flair was wrestling Brody in Singapore for an hour. Not exactly but Flair is on a roll so I can forgive him. Flair yells about how he's been around the world but Bret says he'll have to beat the man to prove that he's the man. Ric says it's not just beating the man, but it's staying the man. More good stuff here, questionable history aside.
Lex Luger vs. Scott Norton
Norton jumps him on the floor to start before heading inside for a clothesline. A backbreaker puts Luger down but a splash misses in the corner. Luger vs. Savage is announced for the PPV and here's Buff for a distraction. Norton hits the shoulder breaker for two but Luger comes back with the forearm. The Rack ends Norton quick in a rare loss for him.
Bagwell gets Racked too as Savage comes in, only to be chased off by Luger as well.
We get the video from Starrcade of the “fast count” and it's just not fast no matter how they look at it.
We get the long awaited footage from Nitro, which shows the referee going down and being replaced by Nick Patrick (who was suspended earlier on Nitro), who counts three on Sting as Hogan rolls him up with a handful of tights. Hogan and Sting keep fighting because that's just what they do, so Sting makes Hogan give up in the Scorpion, which counts now because the original referee never called for the bell, which is the exact same thing that happened at Starrcade but this is almost over so I'm not going to think about it that hard. JJ comes out and gets decked by Bischoff, causing a huge brawl between WCW and the NWO.
Back live again with JJ in the ring for his decision. Before the decision is announced we need Hogan in the ring. Naturally he brings out about five guys (to no music for some reason) for the big meeting. JJ also asks Sting to come to the ring and bring the belt. The official decision is that the title is vacant until they can make an official decision. Sting says JJ has no guts and that Hogan is a dead man, which is the first thing he's said in a year (ignoring what he said at Starrcade of course). Heenan swears this is a victory for the NWO because that's what you do when anything happens in WCW.
US Title: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Kevin Nash
Hogan comes out with Nash (despite both guys being in the ring for the previous segment) as Tony swears that we'll stay with the show no matter what, a mere ten minutes after we saw footage from a match that ended after Nitro went off the air. Page cranks on the arm to start but Nash elbows him down. The champ gets two off a swinging neckbreaker but Nash goes to Page's eternally injured ribs to take over.
A clothesline in the corner has Page down again and the side slam gets two. Nash pounds on him in the corner and sends Page outside for more very slow pounding. Page is sent into the steps as Hogan tells him to give up. Back in and Nash hits Snake Eyes and an elbow drop for two. Page fights out of another Snake Eyes attempt and loads up the Diamond Cutter but Hogan hits him in the ribs for the DQ.
Rating: D+. We were clearly just killing time until the DQ here which is the case in almost all WCW main events anymore. Hogan being out there was kind of surprising as it could have been any WCW goon for the same ending. Also any bets on there being no mention of a fine to Hogan for doing the same thing Luger did earlier?
Post match Giant comes out to break up a Jackknife and brawls with Nash to end the show.
Overall Rating: D+. Take everything that was good about Nitro from this week and throw it out the window. Let's see: short and mostly meaningless matches, the title situation is a mess (and will get messier) and the NWO's problems aren't even mentioned. In other words, the focus is all back on the NWO being some kind of a threat and WCW needing to pull together, which is exactly what it's been since like March. This show wasn't terrible, but man was it frustrating.
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