By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WCW Monday Nitro, May 20th, 1996.
Hello and welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton years, the little wrestling blog that could (but often didn’t). Nitro’s mini golden age rolls on, free from the dark influence of Hulkamania with this special 90 minute post Slamboree edition. In the fallout of the show Steve Mcmichael is sadly absent from commentary as he is away “training” with fellow NFL star Kevin Greene ahead of the duo’s tag match against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson at the Great American Bash,which was announced at Slamboree. Flair and Anderson have a full schedule tonight themselves as Arn has the opportunity to become World Champion against the Giant and Ric is challenged by Eddie Guerrero after the latter being eliminated from Battlebowl thanks to Horsemen shenanigans. The new “Lord of the ring” Diamond Dallas Page is scheduled to appear following his big PPV win and despite both being unsuccessful at Slamboree, Sting and Lex Luger still are the tag team champions and defend against the Faces of Fear. Lastly, Fire and Ice once again face the Steiner brothers in the opening match.
No Mongo means no Pepe. Boooooo!
Ice Train and Scott Steiner start off with Scott drawing first blood from the lockup with an armdrag but can’t keep up the pressure as he fails to hiptoss the huge Train after two attempts and ends up falling victim to a hiptoss himself. A side headlock and shoulderblock drop Scott once more but he does manage to get that elusive hiptoss as Ice tries for a second shoulderblock followed by a clothesline. Whipping Train into a buckle Scott is levelled as Train charges out of the corner upon impact with his bulk crashing into the younger Steiner. Train hits a belly to belly that looks to shake the arena’s foundation but Scott shows him how it’s done with a massive overhead belly to belly of his own that possibly defies the laws of physics.
It’s all change as Rick and Scott Norton each tag in and begin to brawl with Norton’s power winning out with a hard lariat and second rope splash all keeping Rick on the defensive. After a pair of clotheslines by Norton, Rick manages to get back into the match as he sidesteps a third and as Norton sails past, grabs him around the waist and brings him crashing on the back of his head with a German suplex. A groggy Rick struggles to his feet to deliver a leaping clothesline that earns him a near fall and time to reach over and tag his brother who sets about Norton with relish, hitting several boots to “Fire” before a full nelson suplex brings Norton crashing onto his head again. After throwing his opponent through the ropes Scott takes to the skies with double axe handle to Norton as he stands on the floor but as they both return to the ring, Norton hits a desperate Samoan drop that allows him to finally tag Ice Train back into the fight but as soon he lays hands on Scott he is again thrown overhead with a suplex and Rick tags back in.
Both men hit each other with clotheslines and as they both struggle to their feet, Train backs Rick into hos team’s corner and they knock him out of the ring. This is the cue for everyone to brawl around the ring where Scott eats a shoulder breaker courtesy of Norton and Rick and Train fight towards the entrance. As the melee continues the bell sounds as the referee counts both teams out and declares the match a no-contest, much to Norton’s dismay. Dodgy finish and familiarity aside (these teams met very recently) this was fun, for 4 lumbering masses this was brutal and beautiful and served as a pleasing appetizer for the show ahead.
The main course of this wrestling smorgasbord is up next as Eddie Guerrero tries to get revenge on Ric Flair over his actions at Slamboree. Knowing that Randy Savage is still being denied entrance to arenas gives Flair confidence to antagonize Randy further during his entrance, perhaps displaying some underestimation of his opponent.
Eddie makes sure that he has Ric’s undivided attention when the match begins as he snatches “the Nature Boy” in a side headlock that he tenaciously holds on to, dragging Flair to the canvas and even walking up the ropes for another takedown that proves that Flair is in for a long night. Forcing a rope break is Ric’s only option to free himself and as Guerrero lifts him off the mat, he shoves the man from El Paso into the ropes and drops him with a shoulderblock. Whipping Eddie into the ropes again Flair fails to capitalise on his advantage as Eddie leaps over him and blasts Ric in the face with a dropkick before returning to his trusty side headlock to keep Flair at his mercy.
Woman looks on concerned as Flair struggles to his feet where a well placed knee to the gut frees Ric and he tries for another shoulderblock on the stunned Eddie. The wily Guerrero once again frustrates Flair as he counters this with a drop toehold and once again Ric finds his head lodged deep in Eddie’s armpit.
The ropes once again come to Flair’s aid to escape the hold and in a brief window of opportunity he fires off a wicked chop to Eddie’s chest but this only increases Guerrero’s resolve and he retaliates with punches. Chops and blows are exchanged as the hate intensifies with Eddie winning out as Flair is decked with a right hand. More strikes are swapped between them until another beautiful dropkick dumps Flair out of the ring. Frustration is etched all across Flair’s face at his repeated inability to gain an advantage over “only” Eddie Guerrero and he storms over to his VIP area that is once again set up and lavishly laid out in the aisle. Ric grabs a chair and a shoving battle begins with the referee as he refuses to let Flair take the weapon into the ring. All through this exchange Ric has a great bewildered expression and takes to Wooo-ing at members of the crowd before finally returning to the match as thunderous “EDDIE!” chants fill the arena.
With Flair once again within reach Guerrero charges Ric with a shoulderblock and rains punches down on him as he lies on the canvas. An incensed Flair chases Eddie from the ring where Guerrero finds time to mock Ric with a very competent Flair strut to the crowd’s delight and Ric’s chagrin.
Eddie’s performance is acknowledged by Heenan as he does a great job of getting across Eddie’s skill and family lineage and that Eddie has been surrounded by wrestling all his life “but now he’s up against a 13 time world champ” he says, expertly selling the prowess of both men.
Eddie keeps his momentum going as they lock up again, chopping away at Flair’s chest like an aggressive lumberjack that has Ric begging for mercy but this is just a ploy to get Eddie in the right position for a thumb to the eye that finally gives “the dirtiest player in the game” the upper hand just before a break for some ads. Flair is still in command as the show resumes, keeping Eddie grounded in a chinlock. Guerrero fights out however and lands a few clotheslines and a top rope sunset flip for a close near fall but Ric regains control with an atomic drop followed by a few elbow and knee drops.
Another exchange of chops and punches is once again won by Guerrero as he gets more near falls from a backslide and small package. Flair comes back with a backdrop that leaves both men laying from their exertions of this great match. Ric is the first to his feet and attempts a figure four but Eddie rolls Flair up with another small package for another 2 count but more chops keep Flair on top.
As Ric tries to kick Eddie his leg is seized and Flair looks like he may fall victim to his own hold as Guerrero locks him in a figure four of his own. Flair screams but will not submit and eventually reaches the ropes to escape. He slinks out of the ring but Eddie is quick to climb the ropes for a dive but Ric manages to move out-of-the-way just in time to cause Eddie to crash into a guardrail and injure his knee. Flair is uncharacteristically brutal afterwards as he hits a suplex on Eddie on the ringside mats.
The crowd will Eddie to his feet as a most odd exchange begins on commentary with Heenan starting with Flair being a 15 time World Champion if you count “you know what” in reference to Flair’s 2 WWF Championship reigns. Bischoff cuts Heenan off with “those aren’t wrestling championships!” in perhaps the most petty thing I’ve heard Bischoff say about the WWF so far but on balance, the “Billionaire Ted’s Rasslin’ War Room” skits on WWF tv are still much more petty than this.
Eddie struggles back into the ring but Flair is quick on the attack with another suplex but Eddie is not ready to quit despite the pain in his knee and he reverses a backdrop into a pin for an agonizingly close 2 count. A flying crossbody and a dropkick off the apron put some distance between Flair and Guerrero. Flair reverses a sunset flip with a simple punch to the face but can’t avoid a tornado DDT from the second rope but this only gets Eddie another 2 count. Guerrero keeps up his assault with a huracanrana after walking along the top rope that pops an already hot crowd. Eddie follows this with a bodyslam and a climb to the top rope for his signature Frog Splash. Sadly the impact of the move hurts Eddie’s knee as much as Flair and he isn’t able to cover Ric. A groggy Flair attempts the figure for again and is successful, holding the ropes to prevent Eddie from turning over and escaping. Eventually the pain is too much for Eddie and he slumps to the canvas where the referee counts his shoulders down for 3 and Ric Flair is declared the winner in an outstanding match.
With Nitro being 90 minutes long this week, thankfully the temptation to cram the show with a whole load of short and unsatisfying matches was resisted and this match was allowed time to breathe and Eddie and Flair had an absolutely killer match that I only hope I captured even a fraction of its brilliance in my recap. Guerrero looked like a superstar babyface which makes his WCW career trajectory all the more frustrating as he falls into the trap so many mid card talents fell into in WCW’s existence but on its own merits this was excellent.
Mean Gene interviews Flair after his win over at his VIP table and Ric utters the most attitude era thing ever, telling Randy Savage “Macho, I’m teaching your wife a new way of life”. What a villain! Flair jokes that the only reason Mongo isn’t there is that he’s scared of Arn Anderson, cuts a classic promo on Kevin Greene and finally grabs a bottle of champagne from the table and dragging Woman and Elizabeth backstage. This was awesome stuff from Ric.
Flair’s night isn’t over as he joins Eric and Bobby to help with announcing the show, along with several plates of food from his table and amusingly, a silver candelabra. Flair claims that he is there at the request of Ted Turner’s wife Jane who is a “big fan of the Nature Boy”. Ric’s slimy delivery here is great as he basically intimates that he’s having an affair with her too.
Vague “Oriental” music heralds Meng and the Barbarian as they prepare to challenge for the tag team titles. Flair calls Meng “the human Veg-o-matic” presumably for his chops rather than his wipe-clean finish.
Lex Luger once again brings the comedy as he looks deeply annoyed at Sting’s superior flexing during their entrance as Ric reveals that Elizabeth has a crush on Lex. Given their real life relationship later with hindsight this becomes a fascinating bit of unintentional foreshadowing.
Luger and Meng begin the match with a lock up and Meng lives up to his billing with a vicious chop to Luger’s chest but a kick and shoulderblock cut Meng down to size. Luger falls prey to a drop toehold as he tries for a second just like Flair earlier and Meng begins kicking away at Lex. A powerslam gets Luger a near fall but a backdrop from Meng allows him to tag Barbarian. Sting soon tags in and balance os restored as Ric uses his mic time to take more verbal jabs at Debra Mcmichael, even dropping a “Debbie Does Dallas” reference as the show takes another break.
The action resumes with Sting flipping both of his opponents with a double armdrag, he next grabs Barbarian in a brief bearhug but misses a dropkick and Meng tags in to take over. He traps Sting in what could almost be Chris Jericho’s Liontamer. Sting doesn’t quit but the subsequent headbutt to the small of the back probably makes him wish he had. Luger’s attempts at saving his partner only serve to distract the ref and allows the Faces of Fear the chance for a little cheating. They drill Sting with a combination of an atomic drop followed by a boot to the face but Lex actually gets to help as he breaks up the following pin.
Sting lands very awkwardly on his hip as Barbarian hurls him from the top rope with a belly to belly suplex but still manages to kick out. Both Barbarian and Meng climb to the top rope and hit Sting with a pair of diving headbutts but the referee is too concerned with Lex’s attempt to enter the ring to count Meng’s pin and Sting once again kicks out. The Stinger mounts a brief comeback but cannot tag Luger and instead is hit by a backbreaker by Barbarian. Barbarian climbs the ropes for another dive but Sting rolls out of danger and with Barbarian stood between him and salvation, makes a desperate leap. Barbarian catches him in mid-air but Sting is close enough to reach over and finally tag Luger and he enters the ring with a fury, attacking both heels and hitting Barbarian with his “loaded forearm” for a near fall. Luger saves Sting from another belly to belly suplex as all four men fight in and around the ring. With Barbarian flat on his back Sting takes flight and hits a splash allowing Luger (the legal man) to pin Barbarian and win another satisfying match. It’s a shame that Luger’s questionable alignment has been dropped with no real resolution as he is seemingly a fully fledged babyface at the moment. The only hint of a conclusion I can grab onto is Luger being put through a table by the Giant last episode and that must’ve been the end of his association with Jimmy Hart and the Dungeon of Doom.
Once again Randy Savage can’t get into the arena and is in full wrestling attire. Okerlund is there to tell Randy that the shadowy WCW Championship Committee is meeting to decide Savage’s future with WCW. Macho gets paranoid, accusing Gene of deliberately making him angry so he’ll get fired before making a dash for the door and being restrained by the assorted police and Doug Dillinger. One of the police officers has a huge grin on his face as I think would I as this segment was more gold on Savage’s part.
Glacier is still on his way.
The new Lord of the Ring and Battlebowl winner Diamond Dallas Page returns to Nitro to face Brad Armstrong. Dressed in hot pink gear and chomping a huge cigar DDP looks like the sleaziest man alive against Armstrong with his Stars and Stripes jacket.
The match begins with the two exchanging hammerlocks with Page resorting to scrabbling to the ropes to escape Armstrong. Once free Page swings wildly at Brad but misses and is taken off his feet with an armdrag. Page retaliates with an arm wringer and this begins a series of headlock takedowns. Brad uses a very innovative escape technique as he almost gives himself a reverse suplex in order to hit a very modified snapmare. A dropkick sends DDP onto the apron but he is soon back in control as Bischoff announces Nitro’s 2 hour length next week and the show takes another commercial break.
Back from the ads, Brad fights out of DDP’s chinlock and reverses a hiptoss into a backslide but cannot keep Page down and gets rocked with a short clothesline. After rallying back and bouncing Page’s head off the turnbuckle like a basketball (apt as the NBA Playoffs are still going on at this time), a crossbody from the top rope nets Brad a near fall but a swift elbow to the mouth by Page leaves Armstrong vulnerable to a Diamond Cutter that seals his fate and Page is victorious. Nitro is treated to its first “Self High Five” as DDP gloats into a camera.
His night is about to get a lot worse when Gene appears to tell Page that although he won Battlebowl, he won’t be receiving his match against the Giant at Great American Bash for the World title. It seems that Page’s feet came into contact with the floor during the battle royal as we see a flip book recreation of the incident the previous night (or possibly Royal Rumble 1995, as the two look identical). Understandably Page is angry and who wouldn’t be, instead he loses out to Lex Luger who exited Battlebowl in the first round but will still face the Giant at the PPV. Page comes off as a huge babyface at the end of this which is clearly not the intention but being blatantly screwed out of a title match he earned isn’t ideal in making him into a sleazy heel. Poor guy, did I mention I’m fan of Page’s? The match was fine but Page was electric in his promo afterwards. I’ll look forward to see more of DDP going forward.
Lastly, Arn Anderson challenges the Giant for his world title surprisingly with Kevin Sullivan in tow, odd given his status as leader of the Dungeon of Doom and his affiliation with The Giant. Jimmy Hart is confused too and he asks Taskmaster just why he is there accompanying Anderson. Sullivan’s answer is somewhat confusing as he states that Arn has been “true to his word during the Pillman situation and the Benoit situation” and is there making sure that Arn gets a fair chance against Giant, presumably he’s there to stop thr Horsemen interfering but it isn’t made very clear nor is it left deliberately vague.
Anyway the match begins with Arn having little success taking Giant off his feet with a rear waistlock. Giant looks unimpressed before easily breaking Arn’s grip and sending Anderson reeling after thrusting his posterior into “The Enforcer”. Arn avoids a boot to the face but can’t avoid a bodyslam nor can he avoid being bounced around the ring like a pinball before being sent high into the air by a backdrop and rolls out of the ring.
Arn manages to use the top rope to his advantage, hoisting it into Giant’s crotch to stun the massive champion in order to land several double axe handles to the small of the back that drops Giant to a knee. Arn calls for a DDT but Giant is far too strong and wraps a hand around Arn’s throat lifting him out of the DDT and into a chokeslam that retains Giant’s championship. Flair absconds from the announcing booth as Giant gloats. A clean finish on Nitro is a very rare thing indeed!
Eric and Bobby wrap up the show as Heenan is eager to leave himself and join Flair in his after party, he steals a bottle, some of the fruit on the desk and even the candelabra on his way out leaving Bischoff alone to say the goodbyes. Nothing is revealed about the next episode but that doesn’t matter at this point as the 27th of May episode is already infamous enough.
This was another great show from top to bottom that again showed that WCW could get things so very right when not at the mercy of outside factors. The only fly in this soup was DDP losing his title shot immediately after earning it, rendering the previous night’s PPV and the whole Battlebowl tournament completely pointless.
As always thank you for reading if you made it this far. It was a bit long wasn’t it? Next time promises to be something special though, as all Hall is about to break loose! Until next time folks.
Goodbye Roddy, thanks for everything.