By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WCW Monday Nitro, April 15th 1996.
Hello reader and welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton years, once again dredging the past to entertain the present. “Forget that kids stuff, this is real” screams Eric Bischoff as the show begins with Hulk Hogan on his way to the ring to compete in the opening match. Hogan’s opponents (victims?) here are once again Arn Anderson and Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan in a handicap match that should have been a tag match featuring the Booty Man as announced on the last Nitro, but the dastardly heels’ attack on Booty Man on WCW Saturday Night leaves The Hulkster without a partner. It turns out that Hogan doesn’t need a partner as once again he demolishes both Sullivan and Anderson with ease. Hogan refuses to sell chair shots and a good portion of the heels’ attacks before blasting Sullivan with a legdrop to win the match. As per the stipulation of the match Hogan’s win allows him “5 minutes alone with a manager of his choice”. Hogan looks to have chosen Woman as his intended victim, forcefully bundling her into the ring along with Elizabeth but while he intimates attacking women he instead chooses to attack Jimmy Hart instead. Jimmy tries to defend himself by throwing powder in Hogan’s eyes but he misses and is stripped to the waist and recieves a boot to the face as a result. Salvation for Hart arrives in the form of the Giant who saves his manager by delivering a chokeslam to Hogan. Of course Hogan doesn’t sell this thunderous move, standing straight back up to give Giant another big boot. As Giant stumbles and wobbles Hogan picks him up for a bodyslam that evokes his slamming of Andre 9 years before. My only enjoyment of this entire segment comes as Gene Okerlund enters the ring to interview Hogan only for the Hulkster to mistakenly hoist him up for another bodyslam believing him to be Jimmy Hart. Despite Bobby Heenan’s cries on commentary Okerlund is spared as Hogan realises who he is and gives a brief interview about wanting to be World Champion again before posing along to his theme. Aside from Gene nearly getting bodyslammed this was interminable to watch Hogan’s tired act rear its ugly head once more. I look forward to his absence ahead of Bash at the Beach.
Pepe is dressed as a cowboy.
Before the second match Eric Bischoff, Bobby Heenan and Mongo debate the increasing instability of Randy Savage, who in the wake of his storyline divorce with Elizabeth and the incessant mind games of Ric Flair and his estranged spouse.
The second match itself sees the Nasty Boys attempt to get a measure of revenge against The Public Enemy in a tag team Street Fight after their doppelganger interference last Nitro that cost the Nasties a tag team Championship match. This wild brawl begins quickly as Knobbs and Sags attack The Enemy with trash cans and chairs in the aisleway. The quartet fight all around ringside with all kinds of available plunder as the camera has to resort to a terrible split screen to keep pace with the wandering melee. Tables are soon introduced to the match by the Nasties as Sags puts Rocco Rock through one with a hiptoss to loud cheers. These cheers soon die down however as each weapon shot is met with less and less enthusiasm from the crowd that does detract from what is a fun brawl. The end comes as Johnny Grunge attempts to splash Knobbs through a table in the ring. He misses and ends up crashing though it himself and among the wreckage and bodies, Knobbs pins Grunge to win the match. The Nasties victory is bittersweet as Public Enemy attack the victors afterwards with both Grunge and Rock splash Sags through another ringside table, injuring his ribs.
Earl Robert of Eaton finally makes an appearance on Nitro as he takes on Randy Savage in the next segment. The increasingly wild Savage immediately blitzes Eaton with punches and elbows with a backdrop over the tope rope sending Eaton out of the ring. He gets no respite as Savage is soon outside as well to ram the Earl into a ring post. Just after this we see a fan in the audience dressed as Fred Flintstone to which Bobby Heenan amusingly quips “I see Mrs Okerlund made it here”.
Eaton and Savage exchange blows back in the ring with Eaton finally getting the better of the Macho Man. As he stands over a fallen Savage Eaton begins to ape Ric Flair, Woo-ing to the crowd and strutting like The Nature Boy.Eaton even utilizes a figure four leglock on Randy, holding up a Four Horsemen shirt passed to him by his manservant Geaves as he has Savage locked in the hold. Predictably this causes Savage to fly into a rage, escaping the hold, bodyslamming Eaton and chasing Geaves away from ringside. Another hard slam to Eaton precedes the ever impressive top rope elbow that gives Savage the victory. After the match Savage climbs the ropes again for a second leap but wrestlers including Jim Duggan and Alex Wright rush the ring and stand over Eaton as they try to talk Savage down. Savage leaps over the group anyway and delivers the move leading to Savage being restrained before being led away in handcuffs by police.
Although the match was brief and basic I enjoyed Eaton’s antagonising of Savage and his incredible leap over the group trying to calm him down was a fun end to the segment.
Following this is the main event of the show pitting Sting and Lex Luger against Ric Flair and the Giant. Sting and Flair start the match but Flair seems content to pose and preen instead of locking up with the tag team champions. Eventually he and Sting begin to lock up only for Ric to kick Sting in the gut, doubling him over. Flair grabs Sting’s wrist and in an un-sportsman like manner drags Sting down to the mat by his hair but Sting quickly kips up and the balance is restored between the two teams. A side headlock by Flair precedes him knocking Sting down with a shoulderblock but an attempt at a second leads to Sting lifting Flair over his head in a press slam. Sting kicks Giant off the apron too for good measure. Pressing Flair into the air again Sting throws Flair over the top rope into the waiting arms of the Giant, who deposits Ric back into the ring rather unceremoniously and to the Nature Boy’s great displeasure. An angry Flair hurls a few choice words at his gargantuan partner. After this Ric’s focus returns to the match at hand and as he spins around he is immediately confronted by Lex Luger who has tagged in and again Flair is thrown through the air into Giant’s clutches. The ever helpful Giant again returns his teammate to the ring but Flair is literally hopping mad at Giant, leaving the ring to chop Giant over his actions. This doesn’t go well as the angry Giant chases his own partner backstage leaving a bewildered Sting and Luger to themselves and the show takes a break for some commercials.
During the break Ric and Giant appeared to have figuratively (or maybe literally if they swing that way) kissed and made up and are back to not only continue the match but dominate Lex Luger as both men tag in and out frequently to deal more punishment to the Total Package with even Woman digging her nails into Lex’s face when the referee is distracted. During this extended beatdown Mongo chooses to make a Rodney King joke that everyone rightly sandbags. After Ric gets into a shoving match with bad referee Nick Patrick Luger finally gets to tag Sting who runs over Flair with a top rope superplex and the Scorpion Deathlock as Luger tangles with the Giant. Once again Woman tries to throw hot coffee in Luger’s face but Lex is wise to her this week and ducks the airborne liquid. Luger may be safe but Sting isn’t as the coffee hits him in the face,freeing Flair. Giant drills both faces with chokeslams as the ref disqualifies him and Flair but the damage is done and the two leave the tag team champions laying broken in the ring. Thankfully Giant looked monstrous again despite his humbling at the hands of Hulk Hogan earlier on.
The show closes with Heenan brandishing a pair of handcuffs (I just assumed that he keeps these on him at all times) and joking about Savage. Somehow Bischoff surreptitiously manages to close the cuffs on Heenan’s wrists leaving him struggling to free himself much to the amusement of Eric and Mongo who gloat as the show ends.
This wasn’t a bad episode at all, Bobby Eaton’s first appearance in the series was something that was an enjoyable surprise. The street fight was a fun brawl on the whole and the main event was very well done, especially with the antics of Flair and the Giant. I can’t call this essential viewing but it was far from being as offensive as some episodes so far.