The SmarK Rant for WCW Monday Nitro – 03.26.01
It was twenty years ago today…
So here on the 20th anniversary of the end of the wrestling wars, I guess it’s as good a night as any to finally review the final Nitro, since I had done the RAW going on at the same time back when it happened but never actually got to the WCW side. I know there’s a lot of retroactive nostalgia and sadness about WCW dying now, but for me at the time, my feeling was strongly on the “PUT THE PATIENT OUT OF HIS DAMN MISERY ALREADY!” side of the argument.
Of course I have since come to regret that stance.
Much like the day dubbed Black Saturday another 15 years before this, Vince McMahon opens the show, announcing that he’s purchased WCW. And the whole Invasion went downhill from there.
Live, for one last time, from Panama City, FL
Your hosts are a checked-out Tony Schiavone & Scott Hudson
Ric Flair joins us to start, reeling off names from the past and denying that Vince is holding them all in his hands. Ric takes us back to 1981, when Vince was trying to become an announcer, and Vince Sr. was voting for Ric to be World champion. This is so exciting to Ric that he has to run the ropes and slam his jacket to celebrate. Actually Vince Jr. had already been an announcer since the 70s so I’m not really sure what his point was there. Ric goes even more nuts, asking when the last time Vince “wrestled for an hour and cut himself 5 times” was. And WCW is the greatest company in the world and always will be. So tonight, he’s challenging Sting to one more match to close the show. This was a rather rambling promo from Flair to say the least. And by the end of the year he’d sure change his tune about never wanting to work for the WWF again. And man, the drunk spring breakers in the audience did not care AT ALL about his whole passionate speech.
Unification match: WCW World champion Scott Steiner v. US champion Booker T
Interesting that once he got to the WWF, they were actually able to find the better catchphrase to kick off Booker’s entrance music. “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” never made much sense. They slug it out to start and Booker hits him with a sidekick for two, but Steiner beats on him in the corner to take over. He misses a charge and Booker clotheslines him for two and slugs away in the corner, but Scott takes him down with a powerbomb for two. They fight to the floor and Scott misses a shot with the lead pipe, apparently trying to murder Booker and failing at it, and back in for some pushups. Scott with a belly to belly for two and he goes to a surfboard, but Booker fights out of it and comes back with a dropkick. Booker with the axe kick and flapjack to make the comeback, and the sidekick sets up the Bookend, but Scott reverses to a suplex for two. Scott tries a powerbomb, but the Bookend unifies the titles at 5:00. That was a weirdly unsatisfying end to Scott’s incredibly dominant title run, but it’s the last show, so what can ya do? ** Also the unifying of the titles certainly didn’t last very long once they became WWF property, although oddly they were un-unified and then the poor US title got unified with a DIFFERENT title instead!
Meanwhile, Vince is on the phone bitching about Florida.
3 Count (Shannon Moore & Evan Karagias) v. The Jung Dragons (Jimmy Yang & Kaz Hayashi) v. Rey Mysterio & Kidman
Winner of this gets a shot at the Cruiserweight tag team titles later in the show. Everyone comes out firing off highspots right away and we get a pileup on the floor, which leads to Kidman hitting everyone with a shooting star press. Back in, Rey tries the bulldog on Yang and gets dropped on the turnbuckle, and Jimmy hits Yangtime for two. Shannon Moore hits Kidman with a Playmaker for two, and the Dragons hit a double-team powerbomb on Moore for two, but Karagias saves. Evan goes up with a 450 on Kaz for two, but Kidman saves and takes Evan to the floor. Rey tries a broncobuster on Moore and lands on his foot, but Rey recovers with a guillotine legdrop for the pin at 3:30. Just a bunch of spots smashed together in 3 minutes. ** I feel like the 3 Count gimmick is one that could still have some legs in it if they wanted to try it again with young guys in NXT.
Meanwhile, Trish Stratus offers some champagne to Vince to celebrate and he decides to go in for some gross old man makeout action instead. Why can’t Peacock have edited THAT out?
Cruiserweight title: Sugar Shane Helms v. Chavo Guerrero
I presume there’s some music weirdness that was edited out because the announcers went silent during Helms’ entrance and the music seemed pretty generic here. Shane quickly hits a neckbreaker for two and Chavo clotheslines him to the floor. Back in, Chavo with a backdrop suplex and they fight on top, but Helms gets a sunset flip for two. Chavo with a clothesline for two and they fight to the apron, but Helms gets a flying bodypress for two. Chavo with a suplex for two and a northern lights suplex for two. Sunset flip is blocked by Helms for two and they trade suplex attempts, but Helms hits the dreaded SUGAR SMACK kick and finishes with the Vertebreaker at 4:31 to retain and then we continue RUSHING to the next segment. Another one that was all action but just a bunch spots with no real story. **1/2
Meanwhile, Booker does his last WCW promo and promises to keep proving himself.
Meanwhile, Michael Cole interrupts Vince and Trish, relaying fan concerns that WCW might never be seen again. Vince tells him to get the hell out.
WCW World tag team titles: Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo v. Lance Storm & Mike Awesome
Not sure how Mike Awesome figures into Team Canada. Because WCW I guess. The champs don’t even have the belts with them here in one last WCW moment. They quickly double-team Storm in the corner and Palumbo hits a fallaway slam, but Lance superkicks him and Awesome slingshots in for two. Mike gets an elbow out of the corner and Lance comes in for a seated dropkick and both guys are down. O’Haire gets a hot tag at 2:00 and cleans house, hitting a slam of some kind on Awesome for two. It’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA and Chuck is double-teamed, but he escapes the Awesomebomb and hits the superkick to set up O’Haire’s swanton bomb at 3:15 to retain. Another rushed trainwreck of a match. *1/2
Bam Bam Bigelow v. Sean Stasiak
If Stasiak loses he gets tattooed. Bigelow attacks right away and Stasiak clotheslines him, but he goes up and misses a bodypress. Bigelow goes up with the diving headbutt, but Stacy Keibler takes the ref and Stasiak gets a neckbreaker for the pin at 1:23. DUD
Meanwhile, William Regal models the new Wrestlemania X7 shirt for Vince and warns against buying WCW because “it’s a bloody awful place”.
Meanwhile, DDP reflects on the end of the company and thanks the fans for believing in him.
Meanwhile, Vince is just about ready for the simulcast.
Cruiserweight tag team titles: Elix Skipper & Kid Romeo v. Rey Mysterio & Kidman
Did Kid Romeo even do anything after WCW? The Animals quickly double-teams Skipper for two, but he comes back with a belly to belly on Kidman and Romeo comes in with a senton. Blind charge misses, but he recovers with a release powerbomb. Kidman gets a bodypress on Skipper for two, but they double-team Kidman again until Kidman dropkicks Romeo and makes the hot tag to Rey. Rey with the springboard senton and a DDT on Romeo for two. He takes Romeo to the floor with a rana and the Animals double-team Skipper in the corner to set up the broncobuster. Romeo saves and gets a facebuster on Kidman for two, but Rey gets a diving headbutt on Romeo for two. Skipper with an electric chair drop on Rey for two, but Kidman hits an Unprettier on Skipper for the pin and the titles at 4:30. And that was the last we saw of the Cruiserweight tag team titles. **1/2
Meanwhile, all the kids on the beach are talking about America Online 6.0!
Ric Flair v. Sting
And finally, Nitro comes to a close with this, the same place where it opened. Poor Flair has to work in a t-shirt here, and he trades shoulderblocks with Sting to start and then pokes him in the eye to take over. We get the chops in the corner, but Sting fires back and dropkicks him out of the ring. Back in, Flair begs off in the corner, but of course Sting gets the press slam and slugs away in the corner and we get the last Flair Flop on Nitro. He goes low on Sting to put him down and throws more chops in the corner as the crowd is more legitimately into this one than anything else on the show. Flair drops the knee and continues throwing chops, but he goes up and Sting slams him off and makes the comeback with clotheslines. Dropkick misses and Flair gets the figure-four and uses the ropes, but Sting pulls him to the middle and reverses it to force the break. Sting makes the comeback and no-sells the chops as they fight to the top rope, where Sting hits a superplex. And that sets up the Scorpion Deathlock to end their feud for good at 7:20. And they share a hug and say goodbye as we cut to RAW for the simulcast with barely even a second to take a breath and grieve. ***
And we head to RAW in Cleveland, with Vince triumphantly announcing the purchase of his competition, as he brags about Time-Warner begging him to buy WCW, and he’ll sign the contract at Wrestlemania when Ted Turner personally delivers him the contract. Also “WWF” is bleeped out so this is the 24/7 edit of the show. So we get the surreal speech where Vince ponders “putting WCW on the shelf” so he can watch the tapes back over and over, like Hogan’s ridiculous posing, which proves supremely ironic because he ended up making back his WCW purchase price many times over by monetizing the tape library over and over. And he just made another billion doing exactly that! Anyway, he polls the fans about what to do with WCW and who he should acquire. Hulk Hogan? Not much support for that. Lex Luger? No dice. Buff Bagwell gets a big reaction that actually earned him a job for a while, as does Booker T. Scott Steiner gets a giant reaction but didn’t come in for another year and a half. Vince laughs off WCW’s last show being in a “beer hall” and promises to line up all the stars that the fans want to see and telling them YOU’RE FIRED. But then Shane pops up on the screen, and he’s at Nitro, and announces that he’s bought WCW and then it all goes to shit for the next six months.
I wasn’t particularly sad at the time, just kind of in shock, but watching this 20 years later made me pretty sad. Especially with all the guys out there terrified for their livelihoods, busting their ass in rushed matches and trying to win jobs when no one knew what was going to happen. I guess it’s tough to classify a show like this one as “good” or “bad” because it’s so crushingly historic and ultimately all the action was meaningless anyway. Especially when we couldn’t even have 30 seconds to reflect and allow Tony Schiavone to say goodbye before throwing to Vince wallowing in his victory for TWENTY MINUTES and shilling a match with his son. Obviously my love-hate relationship with WCW veered more violently towards “hate” in the dying days, but watching this again you could see the potential that might have been there if they had been allowed to live, and then you had to watch Vince gleefully snuffing it out and basically telling all the fans to go fuck themselves. And then they wondered why all the WCW fans disappeared and didn’t migrate to the WWF after the war was over.
And that was Nitro. Ending not with a bang, but with a Because WCW.