By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Hello and welcome to this 70th edition of Wrestling in the Clinton years. Yes, 70. The hostile takeover is in full swing as everyone in WCW is on edge anticipating another attack by the Outsiders ahead of Bash at the Beach. Eric Bischoff is still absent nursing his injuries and all three of the men chosen to defend WCW’S honour are in action on this episode emanating from the heart of Flair country, Charlotte, NC. It should be noted that despite the location and the constant chants of “We Want Flair” from the crowd we will see very little of the hometown hero over the next hour and a half (minus ads). Oh well, on with the show.
WCW Monday Nitro, June 24th 1996.
Larry Zybszko is starting to outstay the warm welcome I gave him when he first appeared at commentary as he twists and mangles a metaphor trying to liken WCW’s rise to Alexander the Great’s conquest of the ancient world. It was a nice attempt well delivered by Larry but was so out-of-place it occupied a different plane of existence. Tony tries to recap the invasion thus far but is drowned out by “We Want Flair” from the fans. Gene interviews Sting, Luger and Randy Savage about Bash at the Beach and understandably they’re not happy about it. All three are decked out in Sting’s face paint and Savage cuts a great promo before leaving to prepare for his match later. Sting is upset about not knowing who the third man is and Luger forgets where he works, unless “WWWCW” is the company’s trading name. The Steiners and Harlem Heat crash the interview and are all angry at each other. Much shouting occurs as we learn that all three teams will compete in a triangle match for the tag team championship in the main event.
The first match sees the Blue Bloods of Steven Regal and David Taylor with Robert Eaton and Jeeves in tow. Thankfully Jeeves is now spelt correctly after being called “Geaves” previously. Their opponents are the Public Enemy who are surprised by their own pyro. As the Enemy make their way to the ring an inset promo airs with the two challenging the Nasty Boys to a Double Dog Collar match.
It should be said that at this point the show is 8 minutes old and the phrase “where the big boys play” has been said so many times the words have lost all meaning. It should also be said that the brief glimpse we see of Regal dancing to the Public Enemy’s theme is one of the greatest things I’ve seen on Nitro.
Rocco Rock shows hitherto unseen technical wrestling ability as he and Regal exchange holds with consummate skill. Regal even shows off some more of his body popping but his gloating is short-lived as a dropkick to the face sends him out of the ring. Rocco takes a little time to mock the signature pomposity of the Blue Bloods as they regroup.
David Taylor takes over for Regal and he is in no mood to dance as he assaults Rock with kicks and uppercuts. Sadly the two’s attempts at fast and fluid action comes off a little clumsy as they end up tangled in the ropes before another dropkick sends Taylor sailing out of the ring just like his partner.
Regal and Rocco exchange full nelsons (!) and a missed moonsault gives Regal the upper hand as he and Taylor stomp Rock into the mat with more dancing by Regal for good measure. Regal and Rock clothesline each other to allow Rock to finally tag partner Johnny Grunge who attacks both Blue Bloods. As all four men brawl in the ring Grunge is tripped by Eaton and knocks himself silly on the cast on his left hand (Grunge had suffered a broken wrist on a house show weeks earlier). Grunge is down but not out as he comes to in time to hit Taylor with the cast as the referee is busy admonishing Rock and Regal as their fight spills out of the ring. The ref turns as Grunge makes a pin and despite the shady tactics, the Public Enemy win a match that really surprised me as I only know PE as hardcore brawlers. It was fun, funny and surprisingly technical and was a very satisfying way to start a show.
I can only assume Kevin Sullivan had a restaurant booked for Nitro’s second hour as he wastes no time running to the ring to figuratively murder a poor enhancement talent by the name of Kip. Sullivan beats Kip through the crowd to the arena concourse. Security prevent Sullivan from taking the brawl into a ladies’ toilet so he has to settle for ramming Kip’s head into a nearby Subway stand. His destruction complete Sullivan is led back to the ring by his hair by the referee where Gene is waiting to interview him. Sullivan boasts about being in Horsemen country and surviving but when Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit face him and the Giant in Daytona Beach, Florida which is his domain, the Horsemen will not be so fortunate. I had no idea that “The Iron Gates of Fate” were located in Florida.
Glacier is STILL on his way. I can only assume the delay is down to a bug found in the beta test.
In the grand tradition of WCW knock-off theme music, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” is next to be plundered to provide “Hardwork” Bobby Walker with entrance music as he faces Dean Malenko, the Cruiserweight champion.
One thing I will say is that Walker does sell the beating Malenko gives him rather well and looks sharper than he did the last time he appeared on Nitro. Granted he isn’t tying anything too flashy and that serves him in good stead. As always Malenko is superb with no wasted motion as he moves easily from one hold and move to the next, then it all gets weird.
As Malenko locks Walker in the Texas Cloverleaf he is distracted by the sight of Disco Inferno heading to the ring holding a gold record. As Dean watches Disco parade his award Walker attacks with a backdrop that earns him a near fall. Disco grabs a mic and demands his award-winning theme be played as the match continues. Disco even enters the ring and climbs a turnbuckle to dance to add to the oddness. The sight of a fool dancing as a serious wrestling match happens feet away. Disco’s tomfoolery ends when Dean dropkicks Walker into Disco, Walker’s head hitting Disco right in the posterior and sending him tumbling out of the ring. Dean then hits a northern lights suplex to win the match. What insanity!
Afterwards Gene interviews Malenko as Disco stands looking on behind them. Disco looks at his record, looks at Malenko, looks at his record, looks at Malenko and goes to wallop Dean with his trophy. Dean spots him before he can strike and warns him off. Disco takes the mic and calling Malenko boring, ending with “you may have a thousand holds but I’ve sold a million records”. Malenko retorts with the boast that he will need only one hold to beat Disco when they clash as Bash at the Beach. I loved this segment if only for the crazy antics of Disco Inferno. The no-nonsense Malenko and the wacky Disco make for an interesting pair.
“The Horsemen of the 90s are more vicious than the Horsemen of the 80s” says Arn Anderson in a brief pre-ads promo that is hard to argue when Benoit is in the mix.
Eddie Guerrero returns from Japan and his welcome back gift is an absolute pasting thanks to the Barbarian. Early on Eddie’s speed frustates Barbarian but soon enough he gets his hands on Eddie as he catches Guerrero as he flies off the ropes with a crossbody and is rammed into a turnbuckle.
Eddie is drilled with perhaps the most vicious powerbomb I’ve ever seen but kicks out of a cocky one-handed pin.
Eddie is drilled with perhaps the most vicious Pumphandle Slam I’ve ever seen but kicks out of a cocky one-handed pin.
The crowd begin to cheer Eddie’s name as begins a comeback with a horrible looking huracanrana and a back suplex. He gets crotched on the top rope however and is thrown clear across the ring with a top rope belly to belly suplex. Barbarian attempts a top rope superplex but Guerrero shifts his weight and lands on top of Barbarian, pinning him and winning against the odds. Poor Eddie must’ve felt that in the morning.
The newly-heel Mongo accompanies Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit on their way to the ring to wrestle The Rock N Roll Express who enter to a chorus of boos as the Horsemen recieve a hero’s welcome. Somehow the Express look even more dated than the last time they appeared.
The two teams engage in a spirited match that sees some rampant cheating by Arn and Benoit being cheered wholeheartedly by not only Mongo but the entire crowd. Eventually all four begin another brawl in which Mongo blasts Ricky Morton with his metal briefcase and Benoit makes the match winning pin. The Horsemen rule in Charlotte as they begin a beatdown of the fallen Express. Jor Gomez attempts to help but he too is lamped by Mongo’s briefcase and humiliated with a series of slaps. This poor guy can’t catch a break. It takes the Macho Man and Kevin Greene (whom Mongo betrayed at Great American Bash) running to the ring to send the Horsemen running backstage.
Time for the only instance of Ric Flair and his harem on this episode backstage with Mean Gene who is WCW’s narrator. He says nothing of note before being joined by the rest of the Horsemen. Mongo screams at Gene for a while and the scene ends with more “We Want Flair” chants.
Diamond Dallas Page continues to impress as he faces Alex Wright in a match that sees DDP look foolish at times and a badass at others. Page eventually wins once more with a Diamond Cutter that pops the crowd after Page counters a moonsault by “Das Wunderkind”. After the match Gene is back to talk to Page about his upcoming “Taped Fist Fight” with Jim Duggan at Bash at the Beach. Duggan’s name is rightly booed as Page performs a great promo about a conspiracy holding him back. The man has a point as so far he has been screwed out of a world title match and now has to fight Duggan in his new signature match. Poor guy.
After yet another Glacier promo (seriously he’s taking so long appearing Ed Boon will have his lawsuit all ready to go at this rate) Kevin Greene is interviewed by Okerlund. Understandably he’s rather upset with Mongo as he delivers a great promo about once the NFL season is over, he’ll be back in WCW for some “Mongo Hunting”. Greene was pretty good here and it’s a shame he didn’t give wrestling a go full-time. He had the look, delivery and enough aptitude to be a success I think.
Time for a rematch from 1994 and the first volume of Witcy as Randy Savage wrestles the former IRS, VK Wallstreet. Greene is back to cheer on Savage from the sidelines too. The bout starts with Randy jumping Wallstreet at the bell and repeatedly ramming his head into a turnbuckle. Wallstreet escapes out of the ring and shoves Greene leading to a chase around ringside Wallstreet’s comeuppance is swift though as he re-enters the ring straight into a roll up by Savage for a two count but Wallstreet manages to gain the upper hand soon after with a backdrop and suplex.
Back in 1994 IRS countered a dive by Savage by raising his foot and catching Randy in the jaw, here Savage gets his revenge as he does the same to Wallstreet, and it only took him 2 years. Macho tries for his top rope elbow but Wallstreet rolls out of harm’s way and out of the ring, straight into the path of Kevin Greene. VK takes another swing at Greene who ducks and he gets his revenge by shoving Wallstreet head first into a post, he rolls Wallstreet back into Savage’s clutches and he hits his incredible elbow and wins a very fun match. I know Greene technically cheated but Wallstreet swung first so turnabout is fair play for my own slightly twisted moral compass. More good stuff from the Macho Man who can do no wrong it seems. Except be Ric Flair as the match was littered with more “We Want Flair” from the fans.
Personally I intensely dislike multi team tag matches so I’m not sure about this three team triangle match for the tag team championship pitting Harlem Heat against the Steiners against Sting and Lex Luger. The reason I hate these is down to the huge leaps of logic required by the audience especially in a match like this where only two men wrestle at any one time. If that is the case why would anyone tag the other team? Sadly this comes to pass as Sting gets tagged in by Scott Steiner almost as an afterthought. Sting spends the majority of the match being beat down by Harlem Heat in turn with the Steiners barely registering beyond the first couple of minutes. After an age Sting manages to tag Luger who runs wild on both Booker T and Stevie Ray but the fans suddenly erupt as the Outsiders race down the arena steps and hop over the guardrail. The match grinds to a halt as police and security rush the ring to put a barrier between the WCW wrestlers and the metal baseball bat wielding Hall and Nash. Amid this confusion Booker rolls Luger up for a pin and Harlem Heat win the titles! Quite how this decision stands is beyond me but this is the thin end of the wedge as far as confusing WCW endings go. After a protracted stand off the Outsiders begin to withdraw before Tony and Bobby Heenan wrap up the show’s shocking end and somehow suggest that should the Outsiders win at the PPV they could lose their jobs. How that will come to pass is again beyond me.
A clusterfull ending to be sure but a powerful image to end on as the Outsiders cause yet more havoc and disruption that actively affects WCW’s title picture and keeps the momentum up on the march to Bash at the Beach. The rest of the episode was fun too as Rocco Rock surprised me with his technical prowess against the Blue Bloods, DDP continues to entertain, Eddie Guerrero making Barbarian look like a monster as he looks like a talented babyface and the Horsemen reigning supreme. Ric Flair being mostly absent from a show in Charlotte was not only baffling but disappointing as well as we the audience are robbed of the pop he would receive. I can only surmise that WCW didn’t want the dastardly heel Flair to be the recipient of a babyface welcome by the fans. I hope the live crowd got a dark match involving Ric to send them home happy.
A lack of Flair aside this was a very good edition and is one I can recommend wholeheartedly.
Thanks for reading and this one goes out to Al Snow’s dear departed chihuahua.