Seeing as Mike is reviewing the episode of Raw that ended the winning streak that WCW had maintained for 83 weeks (“Chat me up on that…” “I can’t recall the details…”), I thought I’d look at the episode of Nitro that finally took the loss. Was it Kevin Nash beating Goldberg or was it Ludvig Borga beating Tatanka? Let’s find out!
My ranking system for this will be my prior WCW ratings of “The Greatest…”, mirroring Tony’s excessive hyperbole, which is good, and “Because WCW”, which is bad.
Last Week… Hollywood Hogan went into “the outer limits” and Roddy Piper is coming for him and when he’s done with him he’ll be auditioning for Rupaul… I have no idea! Because WCW.
From the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hosted by Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko and Mike Tenay.
The Nitro Girls, including Hall of Famer Sharmell, start in the ring. White boots and hot pants work for me. The Greatest…
Fit Finlay vs. Scott Steiner
Weird heel against heel booking to start off the night. Incongruous, but both guys are ones I wouldn’t like to meet in a dark alley or a bright one. Scott wins out with some on the mat stuff and takes Finlay across the ring with his belly-to-belly, then pops out to harass Larry Hennig in the front row, who’s not up for taking his s---. Back in, Finlay gets a double stomp and a Kamikaze Crash, but misses a shoulder. Scott just about gets him up on top for a superplex, then quickly finishes with the Steiner Recliner. Could’ve gone longer, but was a fine, if weird, start. The Greatest.
A “special look” at Bret Hart, who’s tired of crying about getting screwed over by a promoter and he’s gonna step in if he sees anyone else getting screwed over. Last thirty seconds.
Scheme Gene puts the heat on Mike Tenay this week by promoting his insider report.
Lenny Lane vs. Ultimo Dragon
Lenny is playing heel here as I think he’d stooged for Chris Jericho already at this point. He looked great and had a good push going in 1999, but the gay angle he and Lodi were playing was just too close for comfort. Dragon looks great in all gold and gets a dropkick, but gets pulled down by his mask. Dragon tries for a victory roll but gets necked on the top rope and choked. Pretty sharp clothesline for two. I’m kinda surprised that WCW didn’t repackage him as a Jeff Jarrett ripoff given their facial similarities. Lenny loses his focus when the crowd, knowing him from the local independent scene, start chanting “Lenny sucks!”, but dumps Dragon after a missed spinning heel kick and then gets kicked in the gut off a plancha. He manages to slam Dragon outside and powerslams him for two back inside. Full nelson attempt of all things, which doesn’t work out, but a bulldog gets two. Dragon reverses out of a suplex and almost gets a Dragon Sleeper with the wrong arm, so releases it and adds a kick to the back, then hooks it for the submission with the right arm. Was threatening to be dull and disappointing early on, but got better and much more heated quickly. The Greatest.
More, like, personal, ya know, stuff with Bret, who just wants a fair shot. Ten seconds, maybe. Why not just let him wrestle?
The commentators have been babbling about everything and not a lot during and between the matches, none of which makes sense to me, including a “bat match” I remember nothing of. Does the loser get infected with Covid?
Scheme Gene, without his jacket, so an obvious pre-tape, talks to Roddy Piper, who’s putting Hogan and Nash together in a match tonight, then he’s going to get rid of Hogan. Hogan attacks from down the corridor, flanked by the Disciple, who gives Piper the Apocalypse, which is of course a ripoff of the Stone Cold Stunner. Piper doesn’t know how to take it, so that’s a bit awkward. At least the camerawork was fairly chaotic and realistic, as the cameraman scrambled to get around to see what was going on. Not good, but far better than how they’d do it today. Because WCW.
Back in the ring after a break, Scheme Gene with his jacket back on and no glasses brings out the Giant. Is no music for the Giant better than his Big Show song? Weird to see him with a big red kneepad on. Giant is down to tag with Hot Rod at Spring Stampede next Sunday in the bat match against Hogan and Nash. He’s pretty charismatic and cool here despite how deep his voice is, so it’s all the more weird that they turned him heel soon after this. He gets a few innuendos in about turning the nWo into popsicles, holding back a laugh pretty well. The Greatest.
Johnny Grunge vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Chavo was being positioned as Uncle Eddie’s bitch boy at this point before pretending to go crazy and then actually going crazy. Of the Public Enemy, this is not the one you want out having singles matches. Johnny kicks and punches, but runs into an armbar. Grunge was apparently a very funny guy but was in terrible shape and not any good in the ring. He’s sweating and huffing and puffing a minute in. Chavo rams his head into the turnbuckle multiple times and gets a neckbreaker to set up a sunset flip off the top, which Grunge sits down on and gets the win with. That was surprising, seeing as there was no active push for Grunge and Chavo was in the middle of an angle. Because WCW.
Bret thinks Nash is scum and Hogan is worse. Soon after… Bret Hart: member of the nWo. Because WCW.
The Nitro Girls throw out candy while dressed in Easter bunny ears while Larry pervs on AC Jazz. The music they’re using sounds like it might’ve been in some video game at the time. Then the nWo music kicks in, but gets cut off for the road report. Because WCW.
Interview with Kevin Nash, still part of the original version of the nWo, hence the music playing previously. Apparently Hogan has left the building rather than face him. Also, Piper’s having as tough a time as his buddy George Michaels (sic) did last week, which has to date this to the week where he got caught by the pretty police cottaging in a toilet in Los Angeles. Nash fluffed the gag, but he got a laugh anyway. In the absence of Hulk, Piper and Randy Savage he suggests a rematch for the world title with Sting, who runs out and accepts despite the protestations of ineffective authority figure JJ Dillon. Between running, talking and screaming, Sting lost so much of the aura he’d built up as the Crow within months. JJ shakes like a shitting dog about how they can’t just have the match right now, it has to be later. Sting even says that Nash can use the outlawed powerbomb too, so it’s on.
Glacier vs. Chris Benoit
Questions to keep you awake at night: was the ring wet after the snow had dropped down on it during Glacier’s entrance? I’d forgotten that the Wolverine nickname had originated in WCW. Benoit throws a chop first, catches some kicks, turns one into a dragon screw legwhip, then stomps a mudhole. He bumps on a kick that barely hits and the crowd jeers that. More kicks to the front and back, with the crowd being hot enough for even Glacier to get a “Glacier sucks!” chant. I’d also forgotten that Tony was as bad as Eric with the “back leg front kick” s---. Glacier’s like Triple H with a knee with his kicks, so switches to chokes and a snap suplex, then seems to go for a victory roll but instead just leapfrogs over for another kick. Larry uses this opportunity to talk himself up as tougher than Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee, which I’m sure would only be true if he wore them down with stalling and self-aggrandizing. Benoit gets the Crippler Crossface out of nowhere for the submission. Wasn’t actively bad, but was all Glacier kicking. Weird to see Benoit with long hair too. The Greatest.
Playback of an interview from last week’s Thunder with Buff Bagwell talking about his five (cheap DQ/count out) victories over Lex Luger to Luger’s one (clean and dominant) victory over him and wanting to make it six, then another bit where Scott Steiner came out and attacked Luger while Eric Bischoff was talking about Ric Flair not turning up, with Arn Anderson in the background, which led to Rick Steiner suplexing Bischoff on the floor. Played for laughs, but real s--- was about to go down with Bischoff threatening to sue Flair into bankruptcy. He need not have done that, Flair would do that himself enough times.
Buff Bagwell vs. Lex Luger
This is probably the peak of Buff’s career as an arrogant heel, as not long after he would suffer the broken neck that would send his career (and life) into a spiral that hopefully DDP can pick back up now. Bagwell’s labelled as a goof generally, but you can see he was looking like and showing the charisma of a top level heel. Eric takes the mic to excuse Hulk’s departure as down to an appearance on Jay Leno’s show, which would lead to another Because WCW moment later in the year. Posedown to start when Luger gets out, which Luger wins on, but Bagwell gets a dropkick quickly in response. Luger with slams and clotheslines, his strong suit at this point, in response. Luger mocks Bagwell’s pose and facial expressions in a gif that’s waiting to be made, then it’s an exchange of slaps that Luger wins out on until Buff necks him on the top rope and chokes away. Slam to set up the Blockbuster, but Lex ducks out and gets more clotheslines and the steel forearm to set up the rack. Eric tries to break it up with his weak kicks, causing a DQ, then gets caught in the rack himself. Scott Steiner breaks that up, with Luger making his own comeback until there’s too many for him, bringing Rick Steiner out to make the save. Nothing high level, but perfectly fine. The Greatest.
Bret suggests that Randy Savage gets rid of Hogan, Nash and the nWo and to “be your own man” – maybe Randy listened to that advice when he came up with “Be a Man!”. “If you play with pigs, you’re gonna get dirty.” I think that’s supposed to be “If you play with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas”, Bret.
Super Calo vs. Chris Jericho
Calo didn’t get over in this era, but I feel like he probably would’ve if he was in AEW. “Break the Walls Down” replaces the Even Flow knockoff. Jericho’s cheesy now, but the “Darn tootin’!” and “Prince Nakamaki” and “pidgin Spanish” lines were brilliant at the time. Jericho insists Calo is his Spring Stampede opponent Prince Iaukea and attacks from behind when Scott Dickinson (son of his later stooge Ralphus) goes to check. Early suplex and arrogant cover for two. Bobby Heenan has replaced Larry on commentary, so at least the comments will be drunken rather than smug. Slingshot splash for two. Calo whiffs on a dropkick but gets (just about) a single leg one off the top. “Great execution!” says Tony, doubtless sarcastically. Jericho takes a tumble outside and Calo swoops in off the top rope to take him down. Back in, Jericho crotches Calo on the top rope and tries a superplex, which is reversed. Calo again whiffs on a flying headscissors off the top and Jericho locks in the Lion Tamer for the submission. Got more energetic towards the end, despite Calo struggling to get things going. The Greatest.
Bret Hart respects Chris Benoit, the Giant, DDP and Sting most of all. Not soon after… Bret turned heel after DDTing Sting while he had Hollywood Hogan in the Scorpion Deathlock.
Hammer vs. Saturn
This is one of the better periods in Van Hammer’s muddy career, as a Flock member with a pierced nipple. Saturn has given growing his hair out one last try, dyed as black as his boots. Saturn was a Flock member too, but was on the outs. Kidman, in his scratchy heroin addict period, tries to talk sense into both, but gets flung aside by both in a funny bit before they slug away. Saturn does a Marty Jannetty flip off an elbow and bounces on a clothesline. Hammer with an impressive choke lift off the top rope, which technically is on Saturn to bump for, but when Bobby is impressed on commentary you know it’s decent. Saturn comes back with a clothesline and kicks. Armbar for a bit until Hammer gets a back suplex. Weird bit as Saturn goes for a double arm suplex, which Hammer reverses as if going for a backslide (more like a Gory special), then spin around into a shot, before missing a charge and walking into a superkick. Gargoyle-plex sets up the Rings of Saturn for the submission. The match actually had me believing Hammer might’ve been decent for a moment. The Greatest.
Rocco Rock vs. Goldberg
In contrast with his partner, the Flyboy looks emaciated. As it’s Goldberg, Bobby has woken up, seeing as it’s one of his favourites. 71 and 0 at the moment. Tenay is adding in details of Goldberg’s history. Rocco tells Goldberg to charge him from the left, so he feigns it and just nails him, then chokes him in the corner and throws him across the ring by his neck. Rock runs, then ducks a punch and dropkicks him against the stairs. The table comes into the ring, so Goldberg of course just slides back in and spears him through it. Jackhammer for the win. I wasn’t getting excited about this with the disparity between the star quality, but Goldberg doing his Terminator deal was great. He invites Saturn back out, but Raven pulls him back, so instead Kidman and Sick Boy take the beating in his place. Riggs is smart enough to just stay outside and pick up the corpses. The Greatest.
60 Seconds with Goldberg – a minute of him wrecking people, including Wayne Bloom at one point. Wouldn’t it make more sense to show this before his match? Because WCW.
Some kid at college has sent in video of a Nitro Party. Nothing particularly inspired, but I love a TV network having to show a tape with visible tracking lines, the timer and SLP on it. The Greatest.
Yuji Nagata vs. Curt Hennig
Heel against heel again, as Nagata has Sonny Onoo with him and Curt has a clean shaven Rick Rude with him. Despite fellow nWo member giving Larry the Ax s--- earlier, dad is still clapping for his son. We also get a cameo from Rick Rude’s dad, who’s sat right next to him and looks pretty much like you’d expect Rick Rude’s dad to look. Rude apparently has a running gag I didn’t remember where he always boots Tenay off commentary to take over, but he spares him for today so he can go and hang with the folks. Nagata drags Hennig in by the ponytail, but Curt blocks a kick and turns it around so he can get a dropkick. Rude pulls him over so they can slap him around in front of their dads. Hennig walks into a suplex from Nagata, but gets distracted with Rude again. Curt telegraphs hitting the Ax, which he does. He abandons a Perfectplex attempt so they can pull him out for Larry to reveal a Hennig Rules t-shirt, then rolls him back in to hit it. Pretty fun match. Gets nasty after as they handcuff Nagata to the ropes to beat him up more until Jim Neidhart of all the people runs them off. Was Ray Traylor on the bog or something? The Greatest.
La Parka vs. Booker T
La Parka was a case of them giving someone just a totally random entrance theme and it ending up fitting. Booker is TV champion at this point as part of his ascension. Parka gets the first blows in, but gets backdropped. Flying forearm for two. Much preferred Booker with the short hair and long tights. Booker was a case of having so much stuff in his arsenal that they never had trouble filling out his moveset on the N64 games. To the outside, but Parka crotches Booker on the ropes coming back in, which they really don’t work that much. Double collision off the ropes. Spinebuster makes it look like something off Parka’s costume goes bouncing into the crowd. Scissor kick, flapjack, spinaroonie, Harlem sidekick and a missile dropkick finishes off La Parka. Accelerated pace, but was fine. Parka goes to extract revenge with the ever-present chair, bringing out Chris Benoit, Booker’s opponent, to make the save and then get into a shoving contest with Booker ahead of their match at Spring Stampede. The Greatest.
Recap of the current Raven/DDP issue, with allusions to their brief association in ’92 when Raven was Scotty Flamingo as well as their real life friendship without being explicit about it, which would only make most people go “Huh?” while the nascent internet crowd creamed over the inside baseball references.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Rage
All the people on the roster and we’ve got tag team wrestlers doing singles matches tonight? Rage is the mini-Rick to Kaos’ mini-Scott Steiner. I say mini, they’re both juiced up beyond compare. Dallas is doing the jeans look with loose boots, seemingly to match Raven’s look. Tony works out it’s Rage against Page and says as much. Rage gets a powerslam and goes to finish with a springboard splash of all things. Contesting it, Page almost pulls his SINGLET down so far it exposes his arse on a roll-up. Slip through the legs to crotch Rage on the post and give Kaos a shot. Kaos tries to top the Diamond Cutter, so DDP knocks him down and gets one running off the ropes for the win. Raven and the Flock come down after, with Raven bitching about having to spend three years in ECW due to DDP keeping him down. That’s an interesting bit of revisionist history. Then an even more interesting little shoot-like angle, as Raven had been attacked on camera by a fan from the crowd at the last Thunder, so they have someone attack him again here in civvies. Not identified at this point, but it’s actually Chris Kanyon, who had been under a mask for a year as Mortis, working an angle where he’d been rejected by the Flock and was out for revenge. Putting it all together, quite fun. The Greatest.
Konnan vs. Rick Steiner
Poor Ted Dibiase, sticking around after the Steiner split to continue managing Rick, but looking as ineffective as ever. He’s pretty much here to counter Vincent, flanking Konnan, for a flashback moment. Steiner infamously beat up Konnan on TV late in the WCW days just because he didn’t like him and he’d hurt other guys by being sloppy. Dibiase pulls Vincent off when he teams up with Konnan on the floor. Back in, Konnan gets the rolling clothesline and seated dropkick. He was never incredibly good as a worker in the US (or Mexico for that matter) but had enough to get himself over, but he certainly got in his own way as soon as his glory days were over. Rick catches and powerslams Konnan off a leapfrog and sets up for the top rope bulldog. Vincent tries to interfere and Ted goes for him again to allow Rick to get it. I’m pretty sure that was Ted’s only bit at this point, getting Vincent in the Million Dollar Dream here and there. Not that great, but the crowd was still hot for it with the WWF references. The Greatest.
Flashback to last week, where Randy Savage was found beaten up on the ground with a red and yellow Dodge Viper speeding off and the Disciple and Vincent bragging about it being nWo business. This was preparing him eventually to be written off TV due to nagging injuries, especially his bum knee, before he came back in ’99 with his pimp gimmick. Storyline-wise, Hollywood was trying to eliminate anyone that could stir up dissension in the nWo so that he and Nash could keep things together, but Nash was doing a lesser version of the Batista turn where he was aware of all the manipulation and would eventually form the Wolfpac.
Kevin Nash vs. Sting
Michael Buffer’s doing the ring announcements, so we get a lot of extraneous details. “He’s wearing black with red print. He’s one half of the Outsiders. He’s seven feet tall. He’s banged Johnny Depp’s wife.” OK, maybe not the third one. Sting ducks the initial shot and gets mounted punches in the corner. Nash catches Sting in Snake Eyes and then gets the straddle on the ropes. Speaking of video games earlier, did any ever find a way to do that move. One of my closing remarks will be about how this show no longer (nor ever) needed to be three hours long, but fair play to the Minnesota crowd who have stayed with it and aren’t burned out. Kneelifts in the corner, followed by elbows. Sting tries a comeback and goes for a slam, but Nash falls on top of him. Sting wasn’t a Flair-level worker, but he had his spots he knew to work in at different times. Rare gutwrench from Big Sexy, which even Tony and Bobby comment on being a baby version of the Jackknife. Kev signals for that, but goes for the side suplex instead for two. Bearhug now, which is pretty needless as they’re close to the end of the show. Stinger claps the ears, then gets the Stinger Splash twice, then a dropkick and one to the back before an injured Randy Savage limps out, with Elizabeth running ahead to distract the referee. Randy bashes Sting with the cast, but Kev only gets two. Jackknife set up, as the ring has already been pelted with cups and rubbish and Charles Robinson is having to kick them out. Jackknife hits, but Bret Hart comes out to pull out Robinson and attacks Nash, putting him in the Sharpshooter before the B-team hits the ring. Nash gets another Jackknife on Sting and runs off while Bret almost atomic drops Scott Steiner out of his shorts. Bret kicking ass is cool, but one against ten or so is a little bit unbelievable. And that’s the show.
Melting it down: Well… it was a show that was good throughout, but nothing in it was ever going to be as good as the best thing that was on the opposite channel, hence why it lost that night. At this point, WCW had burnt through the best stuff they could do and nobody was really that keen on a good nWo vs. bad nWo feud. They’d wanted Sting, and his mute, emotionless reinvention had already been dropped except for the look, plus he’s looking like a loser on top as the champ, regardless of where his head was at. They never got started properly with Bret Hart, hence why he wasn’t moving the needle with what they had him doing. Goldberg was the hot, can’t-miss prospect. Then we get to Starrcade…
So, how did the WWF win the war? By being better than the best. Given a choice of the two, even with prior feelings of ill will, it was only going to be one that won in the end, and they did.