It’s been a week in our 1996 WCW timeline and this time around it’s all the Horsemen, Sting and Luger’s fractious relationship and a Hogan main event. But will we get to see the Man Zebra and why is the dog on commentary wearing a bomber jacket?
Different town, same WCW
Good evening everybody and welcome to Charleston South Carolina where we get a very quick history lesson as Eric Bischoff points out that right here the first shots in the Civil War were fired. And if that isn’t a stunning tourist draw for the whole family, I don’t know what is. We’re getting ready for another live edition of WCW Monday Nitro where we’re going to see Hogan. We’re going to see Flair. And you’re going to hear more of the least subtle digs in the world at the WWF (now WWE obviously) ever created. Yes more shade is thrown than the world’s tallest tree come mid afternoon as the wrasslin attention war really heats up.
But before we get turnbuckle deep into the action, let’s go back to our commentary team where it’s not Tony Schiavone, Mike Tennay and Larry Zybysko as I remember from those days but the familiar grouping of Eric Bischoff, Bobby The Brain Heenan and McNugget. Once again it’s bring your dog to work day but also unofficially dress up as something else day which is why Eric is sporting a biker jacket, McNugget has gone as a Native American and Bobby came straight from the golf course. Oh and Pepe the dog is wearing a bomber jacket:
Mongo McMichael/McNugget explains the wardrobe choice:
He’s got the bomber jacket on because he’s ready for the flak to fly!-McNugget
He then apologises to anyone who took that word the wrong way which I found hilarious for some reason, because who uses ‘flak’ for anything let alone find it offensive? But hey, this is 96 prime WCW and we’re always courteous. As well as live. And a far better option because we give you lots of free stuff or something, shots fired, take that WWF. As we take a quick breath to refill the rival wrestling insult tank, let’s head to the ring!
MATCH ONE – CHRIS BENOIT (W BRIAN PILLMAN) VS ‘DAS WUNDERKIND’ ALEX WRIGHT
Now there’s a blast from the past, the dancing machine Alex Wright! He popped up back in the day across a few matches where when things were going well, he’d pause for a moment to bust out what I guess was some kind of German techno dance? However there’s no time for that kind of 96 hot stepping here as he’s barely in the ring before the Canadian Crippler Chris comes over for a friendly handshake..in the form of planting a fist right on Alex’s chin.
‘Oh good, another pasting for the Horsemen.’ I mumble to myself as Chris puts on another excellent display of why he was crisper than fresh celery in the ring and Brian plays cocky annoying heel outside the ring sticking his craw in whenever he can and working the crowd. But no, ‘Das Wunderkind’ gets some moments to shine and brings a bit of aerial malarkey to Chris’s always on mat work, seemingly at ease with flying around like only a 19 year old back then could.
As Chris falls over the top rope, I’m suddenly reminded (thanks to Bobby mentioning it) of that old WCW rule: If you throw someone over the top rope, it’s an automatic DQ which I think was a Bill Watts hangover from years ago. When this ended I have no idea but here Chris goes over but the announcers put it down as unintentional and things carry on.
Unfortunately, there’s still no dancing in the middle of it like the Alex I knew, which would have confirmed the thought I had about him as soon as he walked down the isle, that being that WCW was so far ahead of things in 1996 that they actually (or more likely accidentally) created an early version of Flula Borg, head of Das Sound Machine in Pitch Perfect.
However after a really good match, Alex gets hit with one hell of a pinning suplex and the Crippler wins the day, saving us from Pillman having to give him another sermon in the middle of the ring like last week. Obviously Chris has taken the previous lesson on board and while Alex drags himself away for an ice pack and maybe a Munich Helles to cool off with, we’re up to match number two.
4/5 (and I never thought I’d be impressed with an Alex Wright match to this level but he was great here.)
MATCH TWO – LORD STEVEN REGAL VS EDDIE GUERRERO
He lies, he cheats, he steal- No wait, this is WCW where he isn’t ready for that level of cunning hilarity we came to love him for just yet. No here he’s the young underdog, ready to snatch victory from the cagey veteran than Stevie plays so well.
There’s no bouncing low riders, no horns, just Eddie being happy. Even if it looks like he dressed up ready to represent Mexico in the winter Olympics figure skating event rather than coming to wrestle:
Interestingly even though there was just 3cm between Eddie and Chris Beniot’s height back in the day, Eddie matching blows with Regal here really made Steven look more like a monster in this match. Up until now I’ve never noticed how tall Steven was because they’ve obviously put him in with superstars his height or greater. But at 1.9 towering meters, Steven William Regal is actually taller than:
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Most pot plants
And while it wasn’t your classic David vs Goliath battle like say Spike Dudley versus anything over five feet, the height difference really worked well here. Every time Eddie built up some momentum, Regal would shut him down. And every time Stephen thought he had a handle on him, Eddie would find a way out. Which meant after a time you couldn’t help but cheer on the smaller guy hoping he’d find a way to outsmart the arrogant blue blood.
Two things are very apparent in this WCW clash and that is that both men can really wrestle. Lots of great moves, lots of Regal being the awesome shitheel he plays so well. It was well paced, it was exciting and I was genuinely happy that Eddie won this one as a sign of how good he was yet to be.
(And how sorely missed he is today.)
And not that you need another example of how good the late great EG was, but here’s one anyway. The Diamond Cutter Eddie takes here was actually his idea and he told Dallas to get him up there where he’d do the rest. It looks all Page, but that’s Eddie getting into position.
(4/5 for this Regal match by the way, it’s nice to have a clash with a bit of emotion in it.)
However that ‘Well I cared about that one..’ is soon to fade with what’s up next..
INTERVIEW TIME – STING AND LEX LUGER WITH MEAN GENE
So remember last week when Sting and Lex Express worked really well together against the generic assassins, even though through most of the match the commentators were hell bent on pointing out how rocky their friendship was?
Well obviously WCW didn’t because Sting’s got a question he wants to put to Muscles McGee publicly and luckily the Genester happened to be nearby with mic in hand on his way to the after show bar. And the question revolves around why the Buffcake held him back at Starcade for the win, which happened at the end of the last year. And proving how incredibly prepared he is for anything, Gene’s got some footage of the incident ready to roll!
Thank god for that date imprint which makes plotting this timeline so much easier.
December 27 – Lex holds Stinger back costing him the world title due to count out.
Jan 1 – The buddies team up, completely forgetting that Lex has been dodgier than a 3am kebab on the way back home from the strippers recently.
Jan 8 – Stinger suddenly remembers what happened and wants answers now.
Moving past the fact that we’ve just skipped a whole week and a bit in a move that would make Dr Who writers proud, Lex rambles something about being injured and reaching out for help. Stinger doesn’t buy it, Gene doesn’t buy it (way to be impartial there), Bobby tries to sell it as only he can (and he’s so good at it too ala ‘The coward jumped through the window!’ moment involving Marty Janetty) and Lex concludes things by showing that he’ll prove his friendship soon enough and how about they become a tag team?
Wait, weren’t they a tag team last week already? No wait, that clearly didn’t happen. Move on. There’s so much obvious writing on the wall here, there’s no actual wall left. The crowd doesn’t seem to care much here until the Lex Flex which gets more of a reaction than anything he said during this promo. Oh. Gene’s mood here sums up the entire spot:
The two friends wander off to high five again or something which leads to:
MATCH THREE – STING VS DALLAS PAGE
No no, not Diamond Dallas Page, just the DP of the artist soon to be known as DDP.
According to the story line he’s recently lost the TV title, he’s lost Diamond Doll to Johnny B Badd (his former wife outside the ring) but after a trip to Vegas he came back a millionaire and now he can afford to pretend to smoke a stogey on the way to the ring. According to Bobby people have been calling him Diamond Dollless now which is a riot.
Anywhoos after convincing the ref that Sting might be holding a weapon (oh come on, the only carrying Sting’s been doing is making Lex look semi capable) the ref pats Stinger down and Dallas jumps him with a half chewed cigar to the face. Lovely. While Page starts pummelling Sting, the announcers point out how good a tag team Sting and Flex would make even though I grunted at the screen that it already happened last week. But this is wrestling, this is WCW and nothing happened the way it did unless we tell you it did! Also WWF bad, WCW good allegedly.
On a positive note, Page gives us the intriguing move of the night a minute or so into this one.
Sting reverses an Irish whip, hits Page with a double ax handle to the back as he runs past and then Page is flung in between the top and second rope where he hangs there until captain courteous helps him out by drop kicking him through. What do you call this? Classic Page really.
It doesn’t explain how Sting gets hurt when he goes for a leapfrog over Dallas a few moments later though. Was there an elbow no one saw? Did he get a nut shot from Page’s head from mistiming the man’s height? If you meet either man, can you ask for me? Thanks in advance.
Either way it gives Page plenty of time to showboat while McNugget raves on about him being discombobulated and I’m starting to wonder if that was his word of the night. Can’t wait for next weeks then!
Page plays dirty whenever he can, Sting powers back eventually and while the first Scorpion death lock doesn’t work, the second one does and it’s Sting for the win without a dubious friendship in sight!
3/5 It’s okay but not as good as the other two so far.
Next we cross back to the team to chew up some time where Eric reminds of the history lesson we started the show with and Pepe looks on complete unamused. Once again I’m wondering the why since the dog doesn’t do anything but stand there.
Speaking of dogs, where’s Pitbull? Or because that was last week, it didn’t happen? Move on? Okay then!
FINAL MATCH – HOGAN AND SAVAGE VS RIC FLAIR AND ARN ANDERSON
Yes Arn and Macho might have opened up the show last week but here they are in the main event, ‘Which would be a pay per view anywhere else on the planet’ (thanks Eric!)
As Hogan and Savage twirl down the aisle, McNugget adds his own wisdom with this gem:
Any place on the planet don’t have these wrestling gods wrestling for em, they got has beens and chokeholds(??) baby!-McNugget
Interesting side note: While in 1996 WWF did have a few on their current roster that had forged their careers decades earlier (Backlund, DeBiase and Dok Hendrix spring to mind) there were quite a few now hugely familiar household names such as a young Rock, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin starting to cut their teeth (not to mention that Pillman himself turns up later in the year.) A lot less has beens than Mongo believes. But why let that get in the way of anything?
(Also Pillman shows up in ECW in the same year too hilariously.)
As benefits a main event, there’s a lot of posturing, flexing, pointing of fingers and gnashing of teeth from all parties first before anything happens. The Madness and the woodwork teacher kick things off but then interestingly Flair wants in and wants Savage to tag in Hogan, throwing in a bonus WOOOO to get him to stop dreaming of his bank balance and step between the ropes. Which he does, which gets the slightly warm crowd slightly warmer and off we go, a clinic of ’86 wrestling at its best (no that wasn’t a misprint) as we get everything from chops to tests of strength to Hogan shrugging off said chops.
Meanwhile Savage spends a bit of time launching elbows off the top rope like he was famous for, Hoge’s almost pulls Ric’s undies off (thanks but no thanks!) and in an incredible moment of ‘Hogan knows a move’, he applies a figure four to Anderson (but not before he watches Macho do it to Ric). A double tap out?
Madness gets tossed over the top rope and we’re reminded of that rule that no one has used yet (ref didn’t see it apparently) Arn works on him for a bit before that most famous of wrestling moves…an ad break!
And we’re back and somehow Randy got himself trapped and boy are his abdominals getting stretched!
Macho gets out soon enough and applies a sleeper (it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those) but is back into Flair’s corner and we know that never ends well. They continue the heel beat down until Randy ditches Arn, Flair runs in to stop him making the hot tag and accidentally pushes him into making the hot tag and here comes Hogan. Everyone eats a clothesline until Ric plants him in the back but Hogan gets his revenge by clothes lining them both over the top rope.
(Still not a DQ – I guess there has to be a sizeable air gap between body and top rope going over..)
Arn gets thrown in and shows off what he’s famous for, a canvas shaking spinebuster. Which of course Hogan bounces right back from, shaking it off like he’s Taylor Swift live. It’s big boot time…
…and Hogan gets the 3 count, just as Pillman and Beniot hit the ring. Only they don’t get to get into the ring on account of the Dungeon of Doom pulling them back down. Yes the Zodiac has appeared (thankfully not in an interview spot) and while things brawl up outside, the Giant steps into the ring, knocks some skulls and makes Jimmy Hart proud by putting Hogan closer to the ring lights.
Savage gets a turn on the chokeslam train and then Kevin rolls in (Sullivan, not Nash) in his bathrobe and yellow undies look wanting the Giant to continue to bring the pain. Strangely Zodiac does not and with his limited language skills, somehow stops the smackdown from happening. Good god, will you look at that, we’re out of time after all that madness, goodnight everybody and see you next week! (How much this reminds of me of classic Tony Schiavone quotes from the nineties ‘We’ll be here for as long as it takes’ coupled with the ‘We’re out of time, bye bye everybody!)
Look, I’ll be brutally honest here – I don’t care for anyone in this match save for Savage (and possibly Arn). I’ve never been much of a Hogan man, nor Flair and it was so obvious that this was going to descend into WCW chaos from the get go. Undercard was good with moments of great, main event was pretty much expected of WCW of the time. Maybe with 1996 eyes this was hugely exciting but now…well…nah.
And Kev, why that awful outfit choice? (Although it seems normal next to the Zebra..)
Sigh. Good start, dud end.
Can we get less predictable next week maybe WCW?