By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
WCW Monday Nitro, July 1st, 1996.
Yes it’s that time again, time for another scintillating edition of Wrestling in the Clinton years, a better slice of 90s nostalgia than the New Age Outlaws getting a title run in 2014. Bash at the Beach is a mere six days away ans Eric Bischoff has returned after being powerbombed through a stage at the last pay per view event. His return means that poor Tony Schiavone and Larry Zybszko are relegated to commentating at ringside like paupers. Their intro is interrupted by an irate Diamond Dallas Page who is upset at the apparent theft of his Battlebowl/Lord of the ring er, ring. He demands everyone in the arena be strip searched until it is found before storming off in a huff. With DDP gone, Larry and Tony can continue to recap last week’s confusing ending and wonder aloud just who “the third man” really is. Larry even drops the phrase “New World Order” before the group even exists. Geez Larry, don’t spoil things ahead of time.
The fallout from last week spills into the first match as Harlem Heat, who won the tag team titles with a little help from the Outsiders, face the Steiner brothers who were also involved in the match, but not involved in the pinfall. A mystery unfolds as Booker T is talking on a mobile phone during his entrance but the recipient of the call is unknown.
The match begins with Booker blocking a hiptoss by Scott Steiner but falls prey to a belly to belly suplex and press slam by Scott that delights the Maryland fans in attendance. The four Horsemen are shown enjoying the hospitality of the VIP table as Stevie Ray finally gives Harlem Heat the upper hand as he clubs Rick Steiner into the mat but he too is sent flying thanks to a german suplex by “the dog-faced gremlin”.
As the match unfolds we possibly see who Booker was on the phone to as Colonel Robert Parker wanders down to the ring, still full of love for the Heat’s former manager Sister Sherri. It seems that Parker has taken over the managerial duties of Booker and Stevie now they are the champs.
His help proves invaluable as the Steiners look to upend Harlem Heat as they attempt a double team top rope bulldog. As Rick is perched on the top rope, Parker leaps onto the apron and whacks Rick with his walking cane, Booker T escapes Scott’s shoulders and pins Rick among the confusion as Stevie deals with Scott. The referee counts Rick’s shoulders down and Harlem Heat keep hold of their championship. This was a spirited opening match and a decent way to kick off a show.
After the opener Gene Okerlund joins the Horsemen at their VIP table for a little chat. With two talented orators in front of him Gene’s decision to stick his mic in Debra Mcmichael’s face to begin the segment is borderline offensive. One thing clear to all is that Debra was not put upon this Earth to deliver dialogue. Thankfully Arn Anderson’s turn to speak goes far better, as does Flair’s. The interview ends with this baffling piece of wisdom courtesy of Steve Mcmichael; “money makes the monkey dance’. Whatever you say fella.
Glacier sure is taking his sweet time.
Next up is one of those “really?” moments in wrestling as Disco Inferno faces Kurasawa, better known as Manabu Nakanishi, that’s former IWGP heavyweight champion Manabu Nakanishi in a most bizarre development.
Disco is his usual cowardly self but sadly the crowd care little for either man and his antics play before a cacophony of silence. The theme of this match is that Kurasawa easily outclasses Disco and beats him black and blue until he becomes distracted as Disco’s hit entrance theme blares throughout the arena and what can only be described as a “bargain basement Elvis” dances his way down to the ring and a glitterball decends from the rafters. Zybszko wins the evening’s commentary with the stunning line “maybe this is the third man” as Disco’s mystery accomplice appears. With all eyes on discount Elvis Disco grabs the glitterball and swings it into Kurasawa, knocking him out and down to the mat for a count of three. I can’t believe I get to type this but your winner via glitterball: Disco Inferno. Disco’s comedy antics are becoming somewhat of a highlight of these longer Nitros, he has a clear role and he’s playing it to the best of his ability and is utilizing every aspect of his gimmick and that is something to respect.
DDP still can’t find his Battlebowl ring and as he makes his way to the ring to fight Scotty Riggs, he accosts a poor stage hand forcing the poor guy to turn out his pockets. Page continues to impress me with each passing episode and he continues to do so here in this match as a visibly angry Page takes his frustration out on poor Riggs as he is subjected to a Pumphandle backbreaker by DDP along with an abdominal stretch that brought back some disturbing IRS flashbacks. Riggs does try to begin a comeback with a moonsault onto Page but as he tries to follow it up with a bodyslam, Page counters it into the ever-impressive Diamond Cutter to earn him yet another victory.
After the match Page is still upset during his interview with Mean Gene, even accusing Okerlund of stealing his jewellery and checking his pockets too. The rise of DDP is another high point of Nitro now that Lex Luger’s questionable motives seem to have been resolved and it’s nice to have something else for me to latch onto.
The 1980s return again as Greg “The Hammer” Valentine makes his WCW Monday Nitro debut. Yes Greg Valentine, in 1996! He’s here to face Randy Savage and it becomes clear that Valentine is very much a product of a different time with his slow, plodding “clubbering” (to borrow a phrase from the late, great Dusty Rhodes). To Savage’s credit he does his best to make Valentine look like a threat before finishing him off with his top rope elbow just as the countdown to the second hour of the show ticks down, meaning that Savage’s win is accompanied by a ridiculous amount of fireworks. That was some great timing to cap off a poor match.
Hour two sees Eric Bischoff return to the show after his assault by the Outsiders and his first order of business is to cut a little promo on Kevin Nash about how Eric isn’t scared by him. Of course he isn’t, he’s in on it! (Spoilers).
A sudden commotion in the crowd signals the arrival of the aforementioned Outsiders as they make their way through the stands to two empty seats with popcorn and drinks in hand. Doug Dillinger and his security drones try to eject the pair but Oh No! Those dastardly villains have bought tickets! Everyone knows that you can’t remove someone with a ticket! Hall and Nash gloat as a fan steals some of Hall’s popcorn. Well done that fan.
The rematch no-one wanted is up next as John Tenta challenges the Giant for his world title for a second time which is galling as DDP didn’t get the one he earned at Slamboree.
“This crowd is stunned!” cries Bischoff as the clearly bored crowd struggle to sit through a deathly dull beatdown of Tenta by the Giant, even Hall and Nash at ringside look bored as the “action” unfolds. Tenta does get a bit of a fight back with some clotheslines and a dropkick but a distraction by the Taskmaster allows Giant the chance to hit Tenta with a chokeslam to win an awful match. Afterwards Big Bubba appears to shave half of Tenta’s beard off as he did his hair to lead up to their Carson city silver dollar match at Bash at the Beach. “Never trust a horse” screams Giant in an interview with Gene as the Dungeon of Doom leaves triumphant.
A Rey Mysterio Jr hype video is interrupted as the Outsiders make another attempt to derail Nitro. Nash somehow has his hands on a microphone and is throwing jibes as Bischoff over the arena’s sound system. As security go to stop them Nash is caught on mic saying “get the f*ck off me!” as security escort them away. The locker room empties to help see off the invaders as the crowd chants “Diesel!” throughout. I bet that really got under Vince McMahon’s skin. This whole thing was really well done and looked a million miles away from any storytelling wrestling was doing at the time and did wonders to build to the hostile takeover match at the ppv.
After all that mayhem, Gene Okerlund is backstage with Hacksaw Jim Duggan who will face DDP in a taped fist match at BATB. Earlier in the show he said in a promo that he didn’t steal DDP’s ring. He failed to mention that he found it in a toilet however and produces it and sure enough, Page appears and understandably wants it back. Being the nice guy that he is Duggan drops the ring and as Page bends down to pick it up, he pulls a roll of tape from his trunks, wraps up his hand and KO’s DDP. What a hero. Remind me again why I should boo DDP?
The main event of the show sees all four Horsemen team up to wrestle the superpowers of Joe Gomez, Renegade and the Rock N Roll Express in an 8 man tag team match. This isn’t very good at all save for the brief stints where Joe Gomez faces Chris Benoit. Mongo is thankfully used sparingly as is Renegade but those two combine into the perfect botch at the match’s conclusion. As the ring fills up with all eight men in a huge brawl, Renegade takes to the top rope aiming to leap onto Ric Flair. What was supposed to happen was that Mongo would throw his metal briefcase at Renegade to knock him off. What actually happens is that Mongo misses Renegade and the briefcase flies past him, leaving Renegade with little option but to leap anyway despite him having no chance of hitting Flair as he stands across the ring. He leaps and crashes on the mat where Flair hurriedly locks in a figure four to end the match with some dignity left. After the match we learn that Flair will wrestle Konan for the US title on the ppv. Announcing a major title match on the go-home show is a very suspect move. In fact the US champion hasn’t been seen on Nitro in ages.
To close the show we see the Outsiders finally being ejected from the building. “See ya in Daytona” they boast before speeding off in an expensive sports car, looking extremely cool doing so. This wasn’t the best way to hype Bash at the Beach but good enough in context of the storyline as a whole.
Once again I’m left looking to the lower ends of the cards for enjoyment in the absence of a satisfying main event and thankfully the Outsiders,DDP, Harlem Heat and the Steiners brought the fun but even they couldn’t stop this being a dull episode overall. It’s weird that a company standing on the precipice of something so game-changing as the imminent reveal of the third man and the birth of the nWo would have such a low-key lead in such as this, but maybe the best surprises come when you least expect it.
See Ya in Daytona!