By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WCW Monday Nitro
February 19th, 1996.
Hello and welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton Years, a totally tubular nostalgiagasm of radical proportions. Hot on the heels of the last episode’s shocking defeat of Hulk Hogan by Arn Anderson, the Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom’s war on Hulkamania continues as Hogan gets his rematch with “Double A” and Randy Savage seeks to regain the World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair amid the champion’s campaign of psychological warfare against “The Macho Man”. Those two marquee matches are given an analysis by Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Steve McMichael, clutching as always the ever fashionable Pepe, clad this time in an adorable bobble hat and scarf combo.
With the intro done it is soon time for Hogan’s revenge match against Arn Anderson of the Horsemen. Hogan is greeted upon his entrance with scores of cheering kids in the crowd and an ever-increasing amount of indifferent adults, a sea of stoic faces sat arms folded as The Hulkster makes his grand display.
Poor Anderson is little more than a pinball for Hogan as he beats the hardened “Enforcer” in and out of the ring, choking Arn not once but twice, first with Anderson’s own ring jacket and secondly with a Hogan T-Shirt “borrowed” from a fan in the crowd and despite these blatantly villainous tactics, referee Nick Patrick does little except lightly chastise Hogan even when Hogan chokes Anderson before biting him in full view of the crowd as Bischoff tells us that Hogan is getting “a big mouthful of Arn Anderson”. Urgh.
As Hogan continues his unanswered assault upon Anderson’s person, a brief but extremely loud chant of “Hogan Sucks!” echoes throughout the arena before Arn manages a little bit of a fightback, hitting a few punches on the invincible Hogan. Despite the cheers for Arn his momentum is short-lived as Hogan reverses a DDT attempt by simply not falling over. No rope-grabbing, no elaborate reversal, Arn Anderson’s deadliest manoeuvre is rendered completely ineffectual by Hogan to compound Hogan’s superiority. After this Hogan blasts Arn with his signature big boot and instead of ending this farce with the legdrop, Hogan opts to apply an appalling figure four leglock that would make even The Miz laugh at its ineptitude.
The end of the match comes as Hogan has Arn trapped in his laughable hold as Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan storms the ring closely followed by Randy Savage who halts Sullivan’s rescue attempt as they enter the ring. Savage manages to eject Sullivan but is still in the ring when Nick Patrick finally notices Randy’s presence and calls for the bell, disqualifying Hogan and awarding Anderson the match, based on Savage’s “interference”. The heels scamper backstage as Hogan and Savage still celebrate like Hogan had won anyway.
What an absolute joke. Anderson was made to look like an absolute clown, getting relentlessly beaten down with little answer to Hogan’s dominance. Anderson’s “win” was even more of a fluke than last time, as Savage’s mere arrival was the catalyst for Hogan’s disqualification. Truly terrible.
“This won’t be pretty” says Bischoff as the next contest begins and he’s right as Alex Wright is the poor unfortunate soul tasked with facing the monstrous Loch Ness. Wright starts the match literally wrestling rings around Loch Ness, who spends most of the “match” standing still as Wright does all the heavy lifting so to speak, rocking Ness with many dropkicks and a surprise sleeper hold until he is easily thrown off by Ness. Wright’s spirited challenge is finally quashed by Ness who raises a boot as Wright recklessly charges at him before a final elbow drop by the “700lb” mammoth seals the fate of “Das Wunderkind” and gifts the former Giant Haystacks another victory in a match that was far more entertaining than perhaps it should’ve been and was much better than Scotty Riggs’ match with Ness on the last episode. That said it still wasn’t even close to a good match, just inoffensive.
The international flavour of the show continues with the Nitro debut of The Belfast Bruiser (better known as Dave “Fit” Finlay) as he takes on Brad Armstrong representing the good old US of A.
This was a much better display than either of the previous matches as Finlay brutalises Armstrong, using his technical wrestling prowess and mean streak to twist Brad in all manner of painful directions, including a great sequence where Finlay tries to make Armstrong submit with a succession of fluid holds, transitioning seamlessly between single leg crabs and STFs. Despite Armstrong’s valiant fightback with a desperate bulldog and back suplex, Finlay wins the match after he catches a charging Armstrong with a tilt-a-whirl slam that gets him the pinfall victory in a hard-fought match that although short, was very entertaining to watch thanks to the talented personnel involved.
That brings us to the main event of the show, a World Heavyweight Championship rematch between Randy Savage and Ric Flair.
The bad blood between the two opponents is palpable as Savage resorts to spitting at Flair after more taunting by Ric before the bell as he flaunts his title belt and Elizabeth by his side, even singing “I’ve got the whole world in my hands”.
Savage’s anger wins out as the match begins as Savage wails on Flair, rocking him with punches until an ill-advised sequence of punches in the corner get turned into an atomic drop by the champion. Flair’s momentum carries on to the outside of the ring as Ric blasts Savage with chops and whips into the guardrail. Savage does manage a fightback as he and Flair exchange punches and chops until Savage’s resilience wins out, culminating in Savage hurling Flair from the top rope and even trapping Flair in a figure four leglock that trounces Hogan’s attempt earlier. Flair manages to escape the hold though after much agony on his part.
A sleeperhold by Savage is turned into a back suplex by Flair and a knee breaker sets up Savage for the original Figure Four leglock that Savage spends an age trapped in before managing to turn himself and Flair over and reversing the pressure of the hold before Flair escapes.
After some more back and forth action and near falls, Elizabeth hops up onto the apron to cause enough of a distraction to allow Woman to try to pass Ric one of her shoes to use as a weapon somehow Savage gains possession of the high heel and blasts Flair but can only garner a two count. Chaos erupts as Taskmaster appears again quickly followed by Hogan and a brawl ensues. In the melee Arn Anderson returns to drill Savage with a DDT that gives Flair the opportunity to cover Savage and retain his championship once the referee regains control. Post match Hogan enters the ring and batters all three heels before they take over and begin to attack the Hulkster. Savage and Hogan are soon saved however by an unnamed figure clad in white and covered in tassels who in a whirlwind of activity sends the villains scarpering.
Flair once again makes a quick stop at the announce booth to grab a microphone, ranting and raving about how him and Arn are “the new kids on the block” before they are again chased off by the mysterious man in white (who does a great Ultimate Warrior impression it must be said with all his tassels and flailing). Hogan and Savage eventually join our new friend as Hogan takes point to introduce us to the all-new, all-different Bootyman, or possibly BootyBootyBootyBootyman, Hogan does tend to ramble during these segments. In among all the incoherence and Savage threatening to knock Bischoff out because he won’t hand Savage the title belt left abandoned on the announce desk by Flair when he escaped the wrath of the Bootyman, Hogan issues a challenge for a six-man tag match pitting himself, Savage and Bootyman against Flair, Anderson and The Taskmaster next week. Bischoff agrees to the demands of Hogan and makes the match for the next episode of the show as another garbled and chaotic ending to Nitro draws to a close.
Flair and Savage did manage an entertaining match before all the shenanigans but overall the Nitro “fustercluck” template is starting to wear thin. Finlay’s Nitro debut was of more interest to me as I’ve been a fan of Finlay’s for some time. Of much less interest was the debut of the BootyBootyBootyman who is still Hogan’s friend Ed Leslie in yet another garish outfit that seemed intentionally designed to trick the audience into thinking that WCW had finally snared the Ultimate Warrior from under the WWF’s nose. Overall this was a fairly standard show that although not offensively bad, was just too light on thrills even with a world title match on the show. Still, there’s always May 27th…
Once again dear readers thank you for taking the time to view this and until the next time, keep it radical.
The original ass, man.