By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Hello, good evening and welcome to Wrestling in the Clinton years, the only wrestling blog that genuinely believed Kofi had a chance against Brock Lesnar. With Slamboree looming on the horizon and at this point with all the company’s champions embroiled in the Battlebowl tournament it seems that the title matches are taking place on this Nitro. Ric Flair must face the Giant who is still angry over the hot coffee incident last week and Harlem Heat challenge Sting and Lex Luger for the tag team titles too. Despite this episode only clocking in at 44 minutes there are 4 matches still scheduled, with The Steiner brothers against Fire and Ice (Scott Norton and Ice Train) as well as the baffling reveal of a parking lot brawl between Lord Steven Regal and The Belfast Bruiser! The promise of some unsanctioned violence between Regal and Finlay is mouth-watering so I couldn’t wait to get to watching. Here’s what I saw.
WCW Monday Nitro, April 29th 1996.
Pepe is dressed in a multicoloured vest and party hat.
The tag team titles are up first with Harlem Heat facing Sting and Lex Luger who always seems surprised by their pyro despite them having it every week.
Sting and Booker T start the match but are very evenly matched meaning that no man gains an advantage over the other as the two exchange wristlocks amd counters. Despite getting kicked in the face by Booker Sting rallies with 2 clotheslines and a bodyslam allowing him to tag Luger into the match and join Sting to level Book with a double back elbow. Booker is still fresh enough to tag brother Stevie Ray in and he uses his massive frame to beat Luger up for an extended period of time until a double clothesline by the champs turns the tide back in their favour with Sting tagging in to take control of Stevie with a wristlock.
A heelish rake of the Sting’s eyes frees Stevie and allows him to tag Booker for a few attacks but just before an ad break Luger is back in to rain clubbing blows on Booker. We don’t learn what went on during the break but when the show returns Booker is in the midst of levelling Sting with a side slam and a leaping kick to the face. The action slows once more as Stevie tags back in for a chinlock to keep Sting off his feet.
With the crowd chanting his name Sting fights back to his feet but cannot break Stevie’s hold on him as Booker joins the match again. Sting’s opportunity to escape comes as he and Booker knock each other down with simultaneous clotheslines and Sting manages to crawl over to tag Luger. Lex enters the ring like a wild man, blitzing both of Harlem Heat with clotheslines. All four men start to fight in the ring but Sting has too little energy to have an effect and he is thrown from the ring leaving Luger at the mercy of both his opponents.
Harlem Heat look to have the championships in the bag after hitting a combination of a powerbomb and elbow drop on Luger but his bacon is saved as Jimmy Hart appears once again to throw a white towel into the ring, creating confusion around the arena. Stevie Ray grabs Hart as he stands at ringside and lifts him over his head, dumping him into the ring via the top rope. As Booker T motions to attack Hart Sting creeps back into the ring and rolls Booker up with a schoolboy pin. We are led to believe by the announcers that Sting is unaware of Hart’s presence as the referee counts the final pinfall that retains the belts for Sting and Luger. Luger celebrates in grand fashion after the match as him and Sting leave.
This wasn’t a bad match at all but as the timeline creeps ever closer to May 27th I’m becoming aware that the saga of Lex Luger’s duplicitous nature won’t be paid off in any significant way and that is beginning to preclude my enjoyment of something I’ve found incredibly entertaining throughout the year so far. I’ll have to enjoy what little time I have left with this story.
The second match sees the Steiners face Fire and Ice in a hoss fight dream match. With 4 huge and powerful wrestlers colliding the power moves come thick and fast with Ice Train hitting Rick Steiner with a powerslam almost immediately. Train also crushes Rick with a running avalanche in a corner but when attempting a second, Train is tossed through the air by Rick with a huge German suplex. Scotts Norton and Steiner both tag in and try to shoulderblock each other but as they collide with a thunderous sound of meat slapping against meat, neither man budges. Undeterred Scott simply throws Norton like a sack of potatoes with first a t-bone suplex and then a belly to belly suplex that sends Norton out of the ring.
Scott retrieves Norton and rolls him back into the ring before climbing to the top rope. Leaping through the air turns out to backfire for Scott as he is caught in mid-air and slammed to the mat by Norton.
Following dropping Norton onto the top rope after lifting him up Scott tags Rick into the match and he bounces like he’s made of rubber after trying to hit Norton with a running elbow. Ice Train takes over to assault Rick with clotheslines and a hiptoss. Scott’s attempt at saving his brother is stopped by Train with another clothesline as Norton joins the fray to dump Rick out of the ring leaving Ice Train and Scott to brawl.
Scott counters an attempt at a backdrop by Train and tries a double arm powerbomb but eats a clothesline from Norton who re enters the ring to save Train. As Scott tumbles over the top rope Rick (the legal Steiner) reappears to level Ice Train with a leaping clothesline that keeps Train down for a 3 count and a surprising win for the brothers.
There was absolutely no finesse or subtlety here and I loved it. The spectacle of big dudes knocking the stuffing out of each other with power moves was entertaining as all hell and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Following a break Mean Gene grabs a few words with Ric Flair ahead of his title defence. Flair says that he “isn’t worried about a 7 foot ignoramus” before once again taking a multitude of shots at Randy Savage before taking his leave, arm in arm (in arm) with Elizabeth and Woman.
Following the interview a rather stylish Stargate-esque vignette ominously informs the audience that “Our world is about to change” and “Blood Runs Cold” in between scenes of a mysterious portal opening to fill the screen with snow. This is the first hint of Glacier and a deeply ironic smile crept across my face when I saw this flash up on-screen.
The live show joins the “Parking Lot Brawl” in medias res as Regal and Finlay are already duking it out in what is actually a sectioned off part of the arena with 4 vehicles positioned at the cardinal compass points. Almost immediately Finlay puts his foot through the gimmicked window of one of the cars attempting to kick Regal in the head as he rests against it.
The pair brawl all around the set, throwing each other into and onto each car in turn as all the while Bischoff decries the violence being perpetrated, constantly urging the camera crew to revert to wide shots to avoid showing something too graphic. Presumably Eric is worried about blood being seen which undercuts the whole concept of the fight. The finish comes after a steady escalation of violence that sees Finlay hitting Regal with a car bumper and a spare wheel and sees Regal drive Finlay into a car roof with a sickening piledriver to keep him down for a pin. This was brutality personified as both men are no strangers to stiff wrestling and the setting allowed for some truly painful looking spots including both men punching the metal frame of the cars. I personally loved it but I’m in no hurry to see anything like it again too soon as it’s out of my viewing comfort zone.
With little time to let that display of über-violence sink in it is soon time for the main event. Sadly stalling is the order of the day as despite the short length of the match (somewhere around 8 minutes) it takes an age to get going as Flair poses and Giant stands looking imposing. Flair finally kicks the match off by trying a shoulderblock on Giant but he harmlessly ricochets off the massive challenger. Flair’s chops also have no effect either and Flair retreats out of the ring to rethink his strategy.
Flair returns to try a second shoulderblock but again meets with the same outcome and all he ends up with is being lifted high into the air by Giant and slammed to the mat. Giant then throws Flair into a turnbuckle, the force of which sends Ric spiralling out of the ring. Giant then gives “chase” and ambles after Ric around the ring as he tries to use his comely entourage as human shields before they both return to the ring.
Back inside Flair invites Giant to a test of strength but it turns out to be a ruse to get Giant into a position for a sneaky thumb to the eye that does finally faze him. Flair’s subsequent chops and punches still have no effect though and Flair is soon met with the prospect of being squashed in a corner by a charging Giant. Luckily for him he avoids being compacted in the nick of time and Giant finally shows some pain as he hits the buckle back first. Flair’s idea of capitalising on the situation is less than stellar as he opts to climb the ropes and I’m pretty sure you know how this goes..
Following a (ahem) gigantic suplex Giant tries to hit a chokeslam and put this match to bed but Flair is wily enough to grab the ropes to prevent being hoisted into the air. Woman and Liz use this opportunity to climb onto the apron to distract the referee and allow Ric to nail Giant with a low blow that cuts the big man down to size. Flair retrieves some brass knucks from his trunks and with Nick Patrick still otherwise engaged, he blasts Giant with them, knocking Giant flat on his back.
Sensing victory, Flair struts and applies a figure four leglock on the fallen Giant but it seems that Giant is not so easily bested as he soon snaps back to life and while still in the hold he wraps his massive hand around Flair’s throat. The hold is broken and Giant stands up with Ric in his grasp and finally lifts The Nature Boy high into the air, driving him to the canvas with his devastating chokeslam. He covers Flair as Patrick counts to three and wins the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to much surprise (the crowd seemingly didn’t expect that to be the finish). Jimmy Hart leaps into Giant’s arms as he is presented with the title belt as Flair lays decimated and Woman screams in anger at Flair’s defeat. Mean Gene appears to interview the new champion who still resorts to ranting and raving as he calls out all the top babyfaces (and Luger) in typical Giant fashion.
Back with the annoucers to close the show Mongo remarks at the clean finish to the main event (which is a true rarity on Nitro) as Heenan looks despondent at Flair’s defeat. With Flair no longer champion it means that the World title isn’t now tied up in Battlebowl meaning that Slamboree has a title match as Bischoff recieves word that Sting vs Giant for the belt is now on at the PPV.
The main event wasn’t very special but the outcome was. Not only was there no interference at the end but the title changed hands when all too regularly title matches end in some kind of non-finish. The lack of call back to the frequent coffee shenanigans was surprising but very welcome and means that overall this episode was pretty great and one I can highly recommend checking out. More please WCW.
So as always a big thank you if you made it this far, I’ll be off then.