WCW Monday Nitro February 26th 1996.
By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton Years, the Bloodborne of retro wrestling blogs in that the crazier you are, the more you see. The infamous WCW Uncensored 96 pay per view looms on the horizon and new a new player has emerged in the War on Hulkamania and after saving Hogan and Savage last week, The Booty Man joins the Mega Powers to face the combined threat of WCW World Champion Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and “Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan in a six man tag match announced last week but beyond that, the show is a mystery so in a world where “anything can happen” let’s see what WCW can offer this time out.
Knoxville, TN is the site of this particular Nitro and as always Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and a disturbingly leather-clad Mongo and Pepe are on hand to attempt to give the viewers some aural pleasure. The trio reveal that Harlem Heat will face the Road Warriors later and the WCW Tag Team champions Lex Luger and Sting will each have a singles match too amid Sting’s growing frustration over Luger’s increasingly shady behaviour. Sting’s match is up first as he takes on Big Bubba, the once and future Big Boss Man.
Big Bubba’s entrance here is one of the more famous moments in Nitro history as it’s most often used by modern WWE to illustrate Bischoff’s revealing results of Monday Night Raw, something WCW did with varying degrees of success throughout the Monday Night War, for those unaware Eric delights in proclaiming “I’m letting the fans know with remote controls in your hand over at the “World Whining Federation”, here’s how it goes down: DQ, Yokozuna in a handicap match, Jake the Snake Roberts over Isaac Yankem and Diesel over Bob Holly (he’s still around?!). Okay you are where the action is and the action is LIVE!”
With Big Bubba’s WCW tenure burned into immortality, Sting’s awesome “Man called Sting” theme blares and he makes his entrance amid ridiculous cheers from the crowd. Sting remains incredibly popular with the fans despite his reduced stature amid the Hogan invasion and his lack of presence in the main event mix is deeply frustrating to me as a viewer given his track record for compelling matches.
The match begins with Bubba attempting to appeal to the fans, posing as boos rain down from the fans. Sting gets a much better reaction when he appeals to the fans, cheers thundering throughout the arena once more. This is a classic time-filling technique to engage the fans without much (if any) physical activity from the wrestlers, some may call it stalling or even time-wasting but I’m in agreement with British Wrestler Alex Shane, who once wrote about basic match structure and how a simple sequence like this can do just as much to rouse a crowd than a perfectly executed series of moves. That’s not to say that either method is wrong but variety is the spice of life.
The match proper begins as the two opponents lock horns with Bubba backing Sting into a corner where the referee demands the two break the hold and separate. Despite being the designated heel of the match Bubba surprisingly backs away from Sting without being tempted to sneak in an attack amongst the confusion. Bubba also appears to be an honourable man by offering Sting a handshake before resuming the match but Sting is uncharacteristically cautious of the offer, normally Sting will blunder into situations that will end up harming him (usually involving Ric Flair), no instead Sting becomes proactive and gives Bubba a hard slap across the face. Incensed at the slight, Bubba charges at Sting only for him to sidestep and trip Bubba with a drop toehold sending the massive man from Cobb County, Georgia face first to the mat. Sting follows this with a face buster as Bubba struggles back to his feet, clutching his face.
Sting leaps at Bubba with something that almost looks like a Thesz press but is caught in mid-air and after a struggle is brought crashing down to earth by Bubba with an inverted atomic drop and an uppercut sends Sting reeling and he ends up draped across the middle rope. Bubba sees this and charges, bringing his leg crashing into the back of Sting’s head, crushing Sting’s throat against the middle strand. Bubba’s agility belies his massive frame as he deftly slides out of the ring to drill Sting with an uppercut from the floor as Sting lies helpless across the rope. Bubba returns to the ring to attempt to pin Sting but can only garner a 2 count before applying a side headlock to keep Sting in his clutches. The resilient Sting soon fights his way out of the hold with a series of elbows and punches to put some space between himself and Big Bubba.
Insanity can be defined as attempting the same tactics in the hope of a different outcome and sure enough Sting once again leaps at Bubba only to be caught in mid-air again and splattered onto the canvas with a beautiful spinebuster. 3 subsequent pin attempts from Bubba can only get 2 counts from before a rear chinlock gives everyone time to rest and recuperate for the time being.
Sting blocks his head being rammed into a turnbuckle and instead rams Bubba into the corner pad instead and tries for an Irish whip to an opposite corner but his momentum is reversed and Sting is thrown into the buckle instead. Bubba then utilises his momentum and weight advantage, crushing Sting with a corner avalanche and another hard uppercut that drops the tag team champion.
Bubba invites the crowd to “kiss my ass” in a very visual display before resuming his attack, punishing Sting with a hard lariat off the ropes before casually throwing Sting out of the ring for more punishment. Bubba gets a bit distracted however, getting drawn into a brief tete á tete with a particularly enthusiastic old lady in the crowd who becomes a presence all throughout the show. The distraction does help Sting though as he is allowed the opportunity to blast Bubba with a desperate punch but his respite is short-lived as Bubba is still too strong and throws Sting into the ring apron and back into the ring.
Sting eventually counters a backdrop attempt with a sloppy looking piledriver that Sting has to turn into a tombstone version half way through that causes the top of Bubba’s head to crash into the canvas in sickening fashion. To his credit though Bubba is back on his feet in no time with very little ill effects to show from the botched piledriver the moment before as he and Sting exchange blows with Sting eventually winning out as Bubba crumples to the floor.
Sting climbs the ropes and attempts a Vaderbomb but Bubba still has the wherewithal to raise his knees as Sting descends causing him to crash and burn. Bubba again throws Sting out of the ring and climbs to the top rope, aiming to leap off and deliver a coup de grace to Sting on the arena floor but Sting recovers in time to halt Bubba’s plan and throw him from the top into the middle of the ring. Sting then climbs up himself and leaps off, crashing into Bubba with a crossbody that keeps him down for a pinfall and sealing victory for “The Stinger” and ending a fine match full of charm.
Sting vs Big Bubba was a fine match although simple, still told a story and had enough action to keep me entertained. Bubba/Boss Man and Sting have a certain chemistry and although not a classic is well worth a watch if only to see that famous clip of Bischoff giving away WWF results in some context.
After an ad break Mean Gene Okerlund attempts to grab a few words with Sting and his tag partner Lex Luger before his singles match that is up next. Before anyone can speak the Road Warriors appear to confront the champions about Luger’s recent actions and also calling Luger out on his Chicago heritage, calling him a fake. Luger blusters and rants at this slight, challenging the Road Warriors to a match of their choosing. The Warriors of course choose a Chicago Street fight and without confronting his partner Sting, the headstrong Lex blindly accepts the challenge before hilariously revealing that he has no idea what a Chicago Street Fight actually entails. Sting is understandably irritated by his idiotic friend and leaves Luger to prepare for his match. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I am falling rapidly in love with Luger and his hilarious antics.
Lex Luger’s opponent for the next match is none other than The Renegade, here making his WiTCY debut. Renegade was perhaps Wrestling’s greatest punchline, a cruel trick played by WCW who the year prior would tease an “Ultimate Surprise”, a new arrival that fans genuinely thought was the Ultimate Warrior, sadly WCW viewers didn’t get the Warrior they wanted but perhaps the warrior they deserved as The Renegade ran into the company to complete apathy. With all the trappings of the Warrior (who soon will be making his return to the WWF in the timeline) Renegade really does come across as a knock off with his primary colours, facepaint, tassels and with all the Warrior mannerisms intact although with none of the crowd reactions. Renegade gets absolutely no reaction from the crowd as he sprints to the ring, actually faster than his entrance music that only kicks in as he reaches the ring meaning he runs in complete silence to compound his low-rent aura. Luger may be an idiot but at least he knows how to hold a title belt, checking that he’s holding his tag title correctly before holding it to the camera in an awkward display as he makes his way to ring. God I’m so ashamed that I’m finding Luger so entertaining.
The match begins with a lock up between the two as we see that Luger is in much better shape than Renegade but Renegade gets the upper hand quickly, dropping Luger with shoulderblocks that send Luger out of the ring to regroup and perhaps rethink his life choices.
The sneaky Luger uses a thumb to the eye of Renegade that allows him to reenter the ring and begin to brutalise his opponent with signature dull Luger offence but Renegade soon fights back with clotheslines and a backdrop to Luger that nearly gets a pinfall but Renegade soon channels Sting from earlier in the show by leaping wildly at Lex who ducks sending the painted fool ricocheting off the top rope. After another Luger beat down Renegade begins to power up, no selling Lex’s moves before hitting a powerslam that can only get a 2 count as Heenan throws out the same lines he no doubt used to say about the real Ultimate Warrior years ago.
Following a bulldog Renegade climbs to the top rope only for Jimmy Hart to sprint to the ring and shove Renegade from his perch to the floor, knocking out the “Penultimate Warrior”. A wry smile creeps across Lex’s face as he retrieves Renegade and locks him in the Torture Rack leaving the referee with little option but to end the match. Luger and Hart begin to celebrate as Sting storms to the ring to confront Lex and Jimmy over the rampant cheating. Hart quickly absconds and begins to chew Lex out. Lex hilariously attempts to play dumb throughout this, even offering to give Renegade the victory and comedically illustrating this by raising the limp arm of the lifeless wannabe as Sting grows increasingly frustrated and angry. Eventually Sting snaps, calling Lex “pathetic” over his repeated cheating and running his mouth with the Road Warriors before leaving Lex with his thoughts, or possibly thought. Special praise has to be heaped on Mongo here for his epic line “Luger deferred to ignorance” as well. This was a full match but all the post match shenanigans were hilarious and cement this as my favourite Nitro storyline so far.
The next match sees Harlem Heat tackle the Road Warriors who are once again clad in red and black, with a new gunmetal grey motif to make them look like a terrifying force once more. I was no fan of the light blue the Roadies sported upon their debut so I’m pleased to see them in something more traditional.
The bulk of the match sees Harlem Heat dominate the Road Warriors with even Hawk selling for Booker and Stevie for extended periods as Mongo reveals that Pepe has a concealed baseball bat in case of a booth invasion like in weeks prior. I probably like you would pay any amount of money to see Pepe the Chihuahua let loose with a doggy sized weapon on Flair and Arn.
The tag match is plodding and bereft of any noteworthy action until the finish where Booker T lands the impressive Harlem Hangover on Hawk but the referee is out of position, allowing Animal to blindside Booker with a kick to the head that saves his partner and gives the Road Warriors the win that does Harlem Heat somewhat of a disservice as they lost due to circumstance more than anything. Sadly the match was rather pedestrian too with little of the spark shown early on as the two teams went face to face.
Last and by all means least is the main event pitting Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and “That Little Deviant” Kevin Sullivan (as described by Bischoff) against Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and their new/old friend the Booty Man (or Bootyman, I’m not sure).
The match starts as it means to go on as the faces charge the ring and decimate the heels, sending them packing from the ring. “This is like the Knoxville Chainsaw Massacre” screams Bischoff in between bouts of metaphorically fellating Hulk Hogan as he and his pals (predominantly Booty Man) easily beat all three villains by themselves one after another repeatedly. The clear highlight of the match is the old woman from the first match who does the Flair strut up and down in front of the camera throughout the match. Also of note is the surprising appearance of The Diamond Doll (the lovely Kimberly Paige) who gazes at the match from the entranceway with a bunch of flowers in hand, apparently enfatuated with someone in the main event. Clearly the plan was to remove Booty Man from the feud as soon as possible and I for one am glad.
The match comes to a merciful end as Hogan and Booty man massacre poor Arn Anderson before Hogan hits his legdrop and pins “The Enforcer” to win the bout. Flair attacks Hogan immediately after the bell and pushes him into a corner where Elizabeth fumbles for ages to handcuff Hogan to the ring post. An ice age passes before she manages to trap Hogan and Flair whips Hulk with a belt before all three villains flee. Booty and Savage desperately try to free Hogan as the show fades to black and ends.
This match was awful with little structure or story and more like a series of things that happened and did sour the show overall as once again I’m subjected to Hogan et al beating everyone in front of them. Instead it’s left to Lex Luger of all people to save this episode and I really can’t comprehend that I’m typing that. I think I’d better go for a lie down.
Once again thank you for reading and hopefully you’ll be back for more wrestling in the Clinton Years. Until next time folks.