Mike Reviews – WCW Monday Nitro (4th August 1997)

Greetings Friends!

Another Nitro review today, as we cover one of Lex Luger’s greatest moments.

WCW was riding high during the summer of 1997, with the New World Order storyline continuing to be a hot hand for them, with a big Hollywood Hogan Vs Sting match still on the horizon for when they decided to pull the trigger on it.

It wasn’t just Sting gunning for Hogan though, as Lex Luger had been looking for a Title shot with The Woodster for most of the summer and he was due to finally get it on a 3 hour special of Nitro (Nitro hadn’t made the permanent move to 3 hours yet).

Interestingly this show was due to take place at The Palace of Auburn Hills, which was the site of one of Luger’s most infamous “chokes”, where he had failed to win the WWF Title from Yokozuna but still celebrated like he had, thus looking like a chump in the process.

Would he be able to shed the “choker” label for one night? Let’s watch on and find out!

The event is emanating from The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan on the 4th of August 1997

Calling the action are Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Bobby Heenan & Larry Zbyszko

Michael Buffer jazz’s up the crowd at the start of the show, whilst Tony says it’s the 100th episode of the show (although CageMatch.com seems to think it was the 99th)

The Nitro Girls dance.

WCW World Champ Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff join us for some promo time to start us out. Hogan says that he was supposed to fight Luger at Road Wild coming up at the weekend, but WCW have instead booked it on Nitro without telling Hogan. Good, it’s about time WCW put the nWo up against it for once.

Opening Match
Mortis w/ James Vandenberg Vs Curt Hennig

Mortis would perhaps be better known by his other name Chris Kanyon, but during this period he was doing a masked Mortal Kombat inspired character who had been feuding with Glacier, himself also an MK styled competitor. Hennig was pretty much a Heel here by this point but they would tease a babyface turn for him with The Horsemen in the autumn. He was currently feuding with DDP and was scheduled to face him at Road Wild.

Hennig works this one as the subtle face, getting distracted by the manager (who would go on to become The Sinister Minister) which allows Mortis to cut him off and work some heat. Hennig sells that well of course, but does get some offence of his own in as well. Eventually Hennig is able to weather the storm and puts Mortis away with The Spiffy-Plex

WINNER: CURT HENNIG
RATING: **

This was fine. Just a match

Tony thinks that win means Hennig is ready for DDP at Road Wild now.

Some plants, oh wait sorry, some “fans” rip up a Monday Night Raw sign and that leads us to a video package covering Sting’s journey from being Sgt. Pepper all the way to being The Crow, due to people in WCW not trusting him. However, he’s now set his sights on Hogan and seems to be fully on Team WCW again.

Match Two
Chavo Guerrero Jr and Hector Guerrero Vs WCW US Champ Jeff Jarrett and Dean Malenko w/ Debra McMichael

Jarrett had been kicked out of The Horsemen due to nicking Mongo McMichael’s bird, and he will be teaming with Malenko against Mongo and Chris Benoit at the Road Wild pay per view. This is a good tag team match, with all four guys being able to work a bit and Jarrett being hated enough that the match has some heat from the crowd as well. Chavo was still pretty green here, but he was good for a guy with his experience period and Hector could still mostly go despite being near the end of his in-ring career.

Los Guerrero’s shine for a bit in the early going with some nice stuff and that eventually leads to Hector getting cut off and worked over in the Heel corner. I honestly have no memory of this Malenko Heel run, as I thought he turned face to feud with Ultimo Dragon in 96 and essentially stayed a face up until 1999 when The New Horsemen eventually went Heel to back up Heel owner Ric Flair.

Hector sells the heat well and has a number of opportunities to tag out, but he decides to keep fighting and that proves to be his undoing as Malenko catches him in The Texas Cloverleaf and Jarrett takes out Chavo to allow for the submission win.

WINNERS: JARRET & MALENKO
RATING: **

Another decent match

Jarrett struts following that, but Malenko isn’t interested in doing the same.

Mean Gene Okerlund tries to have a discussion with Raven, who spent large chunks of 1997 sitting in the front row refusing to wrestle. Stevie Richards shows up though and annoys Gene, saying that he’s negotiated a good contract for Raven to officially join the WCW roster. Raven spits in Stevie’s face though and then clocks him for good measure, drawing a babyface reaction from the crowd who seem to be on his side. That wouldn’t last of course, and he’d be a full Heel by the close of the year. Stevie actually stands up to Raven following that, which leads to Raven smiling and walking off. Stevie stuttered over the promo a bit there, but it ended up being a strong angle by the end, especially with Raven’s excellent facial expressions.

Match Three
The Giant Vs Joey Maggs, Lenny Lane and Scott D’Amore

Giant was booked to face Randy Savage at Road Wild, so this is a squash to make him look good as he destroys three guys. Maggs was a long-time enhancement talent who was well known for making people look good. Lane ended up getting a bit of a push in 1999 by doing an homophobic Adrian Street inspired gimmick and D’Amore would be both on-air and backstage talent for NWA:TNA. All three sell Giant’s stuff well and the crowd gets into it, so the segment is a success.

WINNER: THE GIANT
RATING: SQUASH

Randy Savage and Elizabeth (Looking darn fine here) show up on the ramp following that and taunt Giant, who just stares them down. I’d be interested in buying the pay per view to see the cocky Savage get creamed following that, so kudos to all three for playing their roles well.

We get a video package for Lex Luger, with one of his excellent WCW themes playing over it. Luger always did really well for himself when it came to entrance music in WCW actually. I even liked his theme from 2000-01 as well. This was a good video that made Luger look like a star.

Match Three
High Voltage (Kenny Kaos and Robby Rage) Vs The Public Enemy

High Voltage were two heavily muscular lads from WCW’s Power Plant training facility. They weren’t especially good in the ring, but they had good physiques at least. Kaos actually made it onto the WCW Mayhem game for the Fifth Gen consoles. TPE originally broke out in ECW in the early 90’s and eventually attracted the attention of WCW, who brought them in to the company around 1996. They weren’t especially good wrestlers either, but they had charisma and were willing to take sick bumps in order to get over with the crowd. They fall into the “guilty pleasure” category for me.

TPE shine for a bit with basic stuff, and it actually doesn’t look too bad, but Rocco Rock gets cut off via a Rage cheap shot (although Rage kind of botched it). Rocco sells the heat reasonably well, although the offence from High Voltage doesn’t look especially good. High Voltage strike me as team that might have had a chance to be decent with more seasoning, but it just didn’t really happen for them. Grunge gets the hot tag, and runs wild with hip tosses of all things, and that leads to a double bulldog from TPE.

TPE decide they’d rather put Rage through a table than pin him, but that leads to Kaos pulling him out of the way and Rocco crashes and burns. High Voltage double up on Grunge but make the mistake of not pinning him, and Heel Miscommunication leads to Grunge catching Rage with a school boy for the last gasp win.

WINNERS: THE PUBLIC ENEMY
RATING: *

It wasn’t a particularly good match, but it told a coherent story of the more inexperienced team not putting TPE away when the chance presented itself, which is something at least

High Voltage beat TPE up post-match to get their “heat” back.

The Nitro Girls dance again, but this time Alex Wright interrupts and dances with them. In a funny moment, the girls have a go at trying Wright’s wacky German techno dance. Mean Gene interviews Wright following that, who cuts a stilted Heel promo where he taunts Chris Jericho. Wright wasn’t a good promo but he definitely had a goofy charisma to him.

Match Four
WCW Cruiserweight Title
Champ: Alex Wright Vs Scotty Riggs

Wright beat Jericho for the belt the previous week and will defend it against him at Road Wild should he successfully defend it here also. Riggs was still a generic babyface here, but he’d end up going Heel later in the year as a member of Raven’s Flock. Wright mostly works Riggs over, and Riggs doesn’t even get to take his entrance jacket off until well into the match.

Riggs does get a few flurries of offence in, but Wright takes the lion’s share of the match and it’s almost a squash at points. Riggs does eventually get a bit of a comeback and Wright bumps around well for it. Wright was a solid mid-card worker, but he definitely had a ceiling as an act. Riggs tries to put him away with a superplex, but Wright fights him off and gets a Missile Dropkick for three.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: ALEX WRIGHT
RATING: *1/2

Wright looked decent there and he’d even win the TV Title later in the year as well

We get pyro to signal the start of Hour Two.

Mean Gene does an interview with Lex Luger in the entrance way. Luger says he wasn’t expecting to face Hogan tonight, but now he is he’s going to make it a defining moment in his career by winning the World Title. This was a good fired up promo from Luger and the crowd responded to it.

Match Five
Syxx Vs Chris Benoit

Syxx was the former 1-2-3 Kid and would go on to become X-Pac in the WWF. Benoit gets a gigantic pop from the crowd, as they really missed the window with him by not moving him up the card when he was at his hottest. Benoit is clearly fired up by the crowd reaction and works with his usual level of intensity, with Syxx selling all of his offence really well. Benoit even dives out onto Syxx outside of the ring at one stage, so you know he’s amped up!

Syxx manages to tie Benoit up in the Tree of Woe at one stage and he works some heat from that, whilst the crowd yells homophobic slurs at him. Syxx tries heading up for a flipping senton splash, but Benoit dodges it and makes the comeback, with Syxx again pinballing around for him in impressive fashion. We get some near falls out of that, with the timing of both men being on point, but sadly we get a rubbish finish when Jeff Jarrett runs in to attack Benoit for the DQ.

WINNER BY DISQUALIFCATION: CHRIS BENOIT
RATING: **1/2

Fun TV match prior to the crappy finish

Benoit/Mongo and Jarret/Malenko have a fun post-match brawl and the crowd is INTO it!

The Nitro Girls dance once again to one of the most 90’s sounding tracks ever. Seriously, that could have played on the menu screen for a PlayStation sports game.

Match Six
Wrestling Superstar Vincent Vs Booker T w/ Stevie Ray

You could always tell the less important members of the New World Order as they’d come out to the B-Team music. Booker and Stevie were scheduled to face Scott Norton and Buff Bagwell at Road Wild, so this match is an excuse for Booker to beat on one of the nWo fodder members in order to get himself over, which he dutifully does with a side kick.

WINNER: BOOKER T
RATING: SQUASH

Stevie gets some cheap shots in following that for good measure.

Mean Gene has another interview segment in the entrance way, this time with Diamond Dallas Page. DDP will be wrestling Ric Flair later on in the show. DDP says he busted his backside to get where he is, and the crowd chants for him as a result. He puts Ric Flair over in the promo, because they both hate Hogan and Savage, but because he’s friends with Hennig as well that means DDP now has to fight him. That was a fun promo with DDP and the crowd liked it. I’m interested in seeing how that match with Flair goes later, as I think Flair has buried DDP in shoot interviews before.

Match Seven
The Barbarian Vs Wrath w/ James Vandenberg

Barbarian was tagging with Meng as The Faces of Fear and they would end up having a bit of a feud with Mortis and Wrath, so this could potentially be where that issue starts. Wrath had previously been Adam Bomb in the WWF before jumping to WCW in 1997. He would actually get a decent singles push in 1998 for a bit until Kevin Nash defeated him on Nitro to build heat for his eventual match with Goldberg at Starrcade 1998.

The crowd doesn’t really know who to cheer for here, but the match itself is a decent big man collision, with Wrath even coming off the top rope with a clothesline at one stage. The match is back and forth for the most part, with both men trading momentum. It’s super impressive to see these two big men flinging each other around with comparative ease. Eventually Wrath catches Barbarian with a Uranage Slam and that’s enough for three.

WINNER: WRATH
RATING: **

Fun battle between the two big blokes there

Meng runs down to confront Wrath following the match, but they don’t end up coming to blows. The crowd seems intrigued by the prospect though.

Michiganders Rick and Scott Steiner join us for some promo time in the ring with Mean Gene, and they bring Ted Dibiase with them. Dibiase had originally been a Heel manager with the nWo, but now he’s on Team WCW again after feeling that the New World Order had been just too gosh darn despicable. Dibiase tries hard to do a good promo here, but he accidentally forgets which company he works for and almost calls the WCW tag belts the WWF ones. That was a shame as the promo wasn’t bad until Dibiase forgot what the three digits on his pay cheque were. The gist of the promo is that The Steiner’s are going to defeat The Outsiders for the tag belts at Road Wild, and that leads to the Champs joining us for a retort. Threats and insults are exchanged, although The Outsider’s doing their usual “too cool for school” shtick hurt it a little bit. It’s okay for you to sell that you’re worried that The Steiner’s now have an advisor who can help coach them to victory over you due to that advisor being one of your former stablemates. It would have helped the angle immensely.

The Nitro Girls dance again, because we have to justify their salaries somehow.

Lee Marshall does the road report from Denver, where he makes a terrible pun about Bobby Heenan, which he usually did at the time.

Match Eight
Psicosis w/ Sonny Onoo Vs Konnan

This Psicosis/Onoo partnership never really made much sense to me, with Onoo being a much better fit as The Cat’s manager in 1998/99. Konnan had recently joined the nWo and was going after all of the other Luchador’s. This is mostly all Konnan, as he beats Psi down and then locks him in the Tequila Sunrise for the submission victory.

WINNER: KONNAN
RATING: N/A

Rey Mysterio Jr, Konnan’s opponent at Road Wild, joins us on crutches and hits Konnan with one to heat that issue up.

Match Nine
Silver King and Damien 666 Vs Glacier and Ernest Miller

I LOVE Glacier’s music. Miller was a legit karate star, so they thought he was a natural fit as a partner for Glacier in the wacky Mortal Kombat styled “Blood Runs Cold” division. Neither Glacier or Miller were that good in the ring, but their Luchador opponents are talented and bump around to make them look good. Damien without his face paint looks like just a guy.

Miller and Glacier get a shine in the early stages, with Miller’s stuff being pretty sloppy but Glacier looks okay. It’s a bit of a styles clash obviously, and the crowd doesn’t really care. Things breakdown and Miller stumbles around for a bit before putting Damien away with a kick off the top.

WINNERS: GLACIER & MILLER
RATING: ½*

This was pretty rough when Miller was in there, but Glacier held his end of things well enough

Eric Bischoff joins us. In an unrelated noted, Iceland in the UK do a fantastic Biscoff flavoured Vienetta that’s 100% worth a purchase if you like that kind of stuff. Bischoff is annoyed because The Giant and Larry Z embarrassed him the previous week. Believe it or not they would actually build this issue between Larry and Bischoff for the remainder of the year and they would face one another at Starrcade. Bischoff calls out James J. Dillon, who was the WCW representative and authority figure, and tells him that if Giant ever touches him again then he’ll sue him for everything he owns. I certainly hope he doesn’t try to take away his beanstalk! As for Larry, if he tries anything again then Bischoff is going to knock him out with a kick. Dillon laughs off the idea of Bischoff beating up Larry. This wasn’t a great angle or anything, but it was decent enough and set the stage for further storyline advancement.

The Nitro Girls dance over at the commentators table, with Bobby trying to join in with them.

Match Ten
Diamond Dallas Page w/ Kimberly Vs Ric Flair

DDP must have had next level confidence and charisma to pull a bird like that. Flair shakes hands with Curt Hennig during his entrance to further tease Hennig eventually joining up with The Horsemen. DDP bumps Flair around a bit in the early going, but it sounds like the crowd are more behind Flair than they are Page, with them even popping a bit when he pokes DDP in the eyes. DDP gets a sit out powerbomb on Flair and that brings Hennig down to the ring as take a break.

Outsider’s commercial.

Back from the ads, Flair is working over DDP with chops in the corner, with DDP selling that all well. DDP makes the occasional attempt at a comeback, which Flair bumps and feeds for in his usual excellent manner, and eventually DDP gets a spinning neck breaker to seemingly set up the Diamond Cutter. A distraction from Hennig allows Flair to tackle DDP’s leg out from under his leg though, leading us into the finishing stretch.

Flair tries to win it with the Figure Four, but DDP makes the ropes to break the hold, although he sold the hold big prior to getting there. Flair tries to suplex DDP out to the floor, but DDP counters with a suplex of his own back into the ring before applying his own Figure Four. Hennig tries to help, but DDP catches him in a small package to pop the crowd, but this allows Flair to make the ropes. The ref had been poked in the eye so he missed all of that.

DDP gets his prototypical Styles Clash move that he liked to call “The Pancake” and that’s finally enough for Hennig to run in again, which leads to the ref calling for the bell this time. BOOOOOOOOOOOO. Why not have Flair pin DDP via a Hennig cheap shot or something? It protects DDP, builds more heat for Road Wild, advances the story AND also gives us a pin fall finish.

WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
RATING: **3/4

This was a fun match but the finish left a sour taste

DDP faces off with both men and sends them packing with a double clothesline, getting a monster pop from the crowd in the process. Hey, when you don’t make babyfaces look like chumps they get over. Who knew?

Match Eleven
Los Villano’s (IV and V) Vs Hector Garza and Lizmark Jr

Los Villano’s were a regular part of my WCW viewing in 99-00 as I didn’t have TNT, so the only way I could watch any WCW over here in the UK was on terrestrial station Channel 5, due to them showing 3-4 month old episodes of Worldwide. Los Villano’s featured quite heavily on that, and I remember one week we were treated to an epic battle between Villano IV and Jerry Flynn that truly had to be seen to be believed.

This is a decent match, but the crowd doesn’t really care. Lizmark Jr has a rep for being awful for whatever reason, but I’ve never really seen that. Yeah, he’s hardly a great worker or anything, but he’s always seemed capable of doing the basics at least from what I’ve seen. Garza is the best wrestler in the whole match in my opinion, and I enjoyed his work in TNA from the 00’s. Los Villano’s are a solid Rudo team, and they work over Garza for a bit, with Garza selling it well.

In one ridiculous moment though Los Villano’s actually whip Garza into his own corner, which means poor Lizmark has to just stand there looking stupid for not tagging himself in whilst Garza is forced to fight off both of the Rudos by himself, as that’s what the already agreed match plan involved. Goodness me, Los Villano’s were an experienced team by this stage, how the heck did they make a mistake like that?

Lizmark decides he’ll just come in anyway, and Garza then steps out, so maybe Lizmark was supposed to make the tag and he just didn’t? It still doesn’t explain why the Rudos would send one of their opponents into their own corner though. The action is good following that, with some nice dives from the Tecnicos, including an incredible spinning body attack from Garza. Man, that dude was a freaking prodigy. Los Villano’s use Twin Magic back inside though, and that’s enough for the pin on Lizmark.

WINNERS: LOS VILLANO’S
RATING: *1/2

The almighty screw up with the hot tag aside, this had some exciting action in it

Mean Gene does an interview with James J. Dillon. JJ has a plan to get Sting back into a WCW ring, by offering him a contract for a match with Curt Hennig. Sting doesn’t want a match with Hennig though, as he clearly wants a match with Hogan instead. This would go on for months, with Sting outright pointing to “Hogan Vs Sting” signs at some points like a tortured mime whilst JJ tried to work out what he wanted. This was done to stretch the story out because they wanted to have the eventual match between Hogan and Sting at Starrcade. Honestly they would have probably been better off to just have Sting work his way through the nWo, with him beating Hall, Nash and Savage on consecutive pay per views on his way to winning the World War III battle royal to get a match with Hogan, and that would have at least kept Sting in ring shape as well.

Main Event
WCW World Title
Champ: Hollywood Hogan Vs Lex Luger

Hogan takes a lot of the match, with Luger being forced to sell almost right from the start. Luger does a decent job at that and Hogan’s offence looks okay, but it’s kind of weird that they’re having him clobber Luger like this without really giving Luger a shine. I mean, I KNOW why they’ve done it this way (To appease Hogan because of what the finish is going to be) but it isn’t necessarily the best formula for these two sorts of guys to work from.

Luger getting the big babyface shine, only to then be cut off by Hogan doing something dastardly, would have not only made for a more entertaining match but it would also have suited the two men’s respective characters more. After a certain point you think that Luger almost HAS to win, because otherwise this is pretty much a burial job. It doesn’t really give the crowd much to get their teeth into either, as the babyface has just been pummelled and showed no sign of life.

Eventually they do let Luger do something that doesn’t make him look like total and complete chump by having him kick out of The Leg Drop of DOOM™, which leads to the nWo running down to help their boss. Normally this would be the cue for a lame DQ finish, but Luger manages to fend them off and the referee decides not to call for the bell because none of the interfering guys actually successfully attack him. Luger gets Hogan in the Torture Wrack following that and that’s enough to win the Title for the monster pop.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: LEX LUGER
RATING: *

The pop for Luger’s win was great, and it was good to finally see WCW win a big one like this, but the match itself was pretty much just a squash in order to appease Hogan for having to lose. Some of the shine is taken off the match in general as well due to Luger losing it straight back to Hogan at Road Wild. I mean, would it have killed them to let Luger have it until at least Halloween Havoc before dropping it back just so he didn’t look like such a plum?

Faces and Heels alike from the WCW roster come down to celebrate with Luger following that.

Luger and the WCW guys un-deface the World Title belt.

Meanwhile, Hogan is angry backstage.

In Conclusion

A strong episode of the show with a great moment to close things on, but this was kind of the beginning of the end for WCW and their hot streak, as taking the belt off Luger so quickly essentially turned him into just another guy and it rammed home the point that even if WCW were to gain some kind of momentum, it was always to just be for a fleeting moment until the nWo crushed all before them to get their heat back. They would of course continue to control the ratings war until 1998, but the WWF was starting to get hotter and when they happened upon Austin Vs McMahon then it was curtains for WCW.

By this stage they should have been winding the group down and chipping away at them until they finally fell apart after Starrcade, but sadly that wasn’t on the cards. Not only did they leave Road Wild unscathed but they also got to kill off The Horsemen right in the middle of Flair Country at Fall Brawl too, with Hogan then destroying Sting at Starrcade because he wasn’t tan enough. In some ways this was one of the last pure truly happy moments that WCW enjoyed before the WWF finally got back in the game with the Austin/Tyson stuff.

For the moment alone, and some good wrestling as well, this is a recommended show.