RETRO EXPRESS: WCW NITRO #17 (DECEMBER 25TH 1995) – RANDY SAVAGE AND RIC FLAIR BATTLE ON CHRISTMAS DAY

Welcome to the Retro Express. This is where we’re taking a stroll down memory lane at wrestling history. This post is part of an ongoing series where we’re reviewing every episode of WCW Nitro from start to finish. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this post. We hope you enjoy.

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We had a rather excitable edition of Nitro featuring a great, old-school Eddie Guerrero vs Ric Flair match, Sting and Lex Luger picking up victories going into Starrcade and Randy Savage retaining the World title against The Giant following interference from a wild Hulk Hogan. The show ended with Savage agreeing to give Hogan a title shot after Starrcade 1995.

Now we’ve got the go-home edition of Nitro as Starrcade is just a couple of days away… literally. This episode of Nitro, taped beforehand, aired on Christmas Day of 1995. Then on the Wednesday, WCW were taking on NJPW at Starrcade. A Wednesday PPV of all things which seems really peculiar. I mean WWE did do Taboo Tuesday on a Tuesday but it just really surreal to have a PPV two days after an episode of their flagship show.

 

Date: December 25th, 1995 (Taped the week before)

Brand: WCW

City: Augusta, Georgia

Rating: 2.5 (WCW was unopposed for this week’s Nitro as there was no Monday Night RAW on this week)

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby Heenan

 

Lex Luger w/Jimmy Hart vs Scotty Riggs

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Last week, Luger squashed Marcus Bagwell from the American Males in a rather bad match. This week, he had a match with Bagwell’s partner Scotty Riggs…. this was slightly better and more competitive.

Luger hammered away at Riggs. We got a repeat of Luger’s horrible dropkick selling from last week as he tumbled to the ground with each bump while his arms were in the air. Scotty did an arm drag and actually worked on the arm, demonstrating ring psychology at the very least.

Scotty draped Luger’s arm over the top rope. Scotty did an arm drag and Luger immediately hit his hand on the match 3 times… shouldn’t that have counted as a submission?

Scotty got some offense in before Luger sent him crashing into the barrier. Riggs fired back and hit a backbody drop. Riggs got a small package. Riggs missed a top rope dropkick. Luger did a horrible powerslam and locked on the torture rack to a big pop and to win the match.

 

Mean Gene Okerlund did an interview Sting and you’ll never guess what Mean Gene asked? You’ll never guess….

…he asked about Sting’s friendship with Lex Luger.

Sting flips out and says that “enough is enough” as he’s tired of being asked about it. He said Luger was a friend of his and he’s doing everything he can to straighten him out. Sting does actually say that maybe Luger snapped for a reason. Sting does talk about Ric Flair and NJPW but then Mean Gene can’t help but ask right after the interview.. “so what’s up with you and Luger?” He asks this question and Sting is not happy… that part I loved.

 

 

Sting vs Big Bubba Rogers

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I loved the touch added to Sting’s entrance as they had light up scorpions on the ramp as he came down to the ring. That I liked.

Big Bubba actually whipped out an enziguri on Sting. Big Bubba got the heat and locked on a chin-lock. The announcers bantered about this and that but then it’s revealed that Hulk Hogan has been suspended… UNTIL THE END OF 1995!

Now let’s all remember that this episode is being shown on CHRISTMAS DAY. So Hulk Hogan has been suspended FOR A WEEK! In case anyone is wondering why he got suspended for a week, it’s because he ran wild last week with chair shots towards The Giant, Taskmaster, the referees etc. And after all of this, he’s suspended for a week? Hogan seemed more than willing to do the time for the crime!

At the very least, Heenan did say that the suspension was under review so it could be longer. With that being said though, spoiler alert, but Hulk Hogan is wrestling on next week’s episode of Nitro! I cannot wait for the explanation!

The finish to this match was Sting actually did a small package from the top rope for the win as Big Bubba looked stunned. That was actually a creative finish from Sting and the thing I like about Sting was that he had more than one way to beat somebody. It wasn’t just locking on the Scorpion Death Lock. I believe he beat IRS with a top rope crossbody before, he probably beat somebody with a Stinger Splash, he had the Scorpion Death Drop and now he’s got the small package from the top rope.

I liked that as it makes you believe that the match can end at any time and not just to zone out until the guys start hitting their finishers. This was a basic match but effective in getting Sting over. Sting and Luger both getting wins two weeks in a row is effective in building them both up for Starrcade so I was happy with this.

 

Speaking of Luger, Mean Gene interviewed him and Jimmy Hart. It turns out Luger’s got another match against NJPW as well at his Starrcade triangle match for a shot at World Champ “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Luger said there’s no deal between him and Sting. He said they’d been friends for 10 years. He said we couldn’t ask for a more premier match in the triangle match with himself, Sting and Ric Flair. Luger said he’s the uncrowned world champion and that’s the way its gonna remain until he becomes the champion… no shit? By that logic, I was also the uncrowned WCW Champion when I was one year old at the time! You’re the uncrowned champion until you win the title… what a concept.

Sgt. Pittman comes down, interrupts the interview and says he’s got no problem with Luger. Pittman wants Jimmy Hart to be his manager. Jimmy makes Pittman take off his shirt. Then he tells Pittman to now look at Luger and ask himself why Jimmy should wanna manage Pittman? He told Pittman to look for a different manager.

 

Dean Malenko vs Mr JL

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This was a very unfortunate match for Mr JL, better known as Jerry Lynn. He came in as part of the cruiserweight push from WCW. He got in the ring with Dean Malenko and his arm got broken during the match.

Now I watched this match again during this review to try and pinpoint where he actually broke his arm. At what point did he do it? There’s a few spots which I figured he might have done it in.

The match goes along fine. Dean hits a beautiful t-bone suplex. We got some great stuff. Then Mr JL tries a monkey flip but falls right on his back. I wrote in my notes that he fell on his head but after a rewatch, that doesn’t look like it was the case. I thought if he hurt himself, it would have been at this point. I say that because after JL drops to the mat. Dean went over for the bridge pin. Referee Nick Patrick counts one and then just stops despite JL’s shoulders still being on the mat. Patrick is frozen like he just doesn’t know what to do. JL seems to be trying to push Dean to the air to the air to reverse it into a backslide. Its like a 10 second struggle until he somehow pushes him up and finishes the spot.

I thought it was that spot because that spot looked so screwed up that the only thing I can conclude was that JL was hurt then because he landed HARD on the mat. However, JL keeps on going. He even hits a beautiful sit-out powerbomb for a near fall. They keep going and then Dean hit JL with an Alley-Oop which launches JL into the top rope. He kinda looked like he smashed his arm on the top rope but he still kept on going.

Then I read from somewhere that he broke his arm during the finish. Dean goes the top rope with JL on his shoulders. He presses him up and drops him down onto his knee for the gutbuster. Mr JL SCREAMS and grabs his arm as Dean quickly goes for the “Malenko Leg Lock” for the win. It seems more likely that this was actually when it happened and that when JL landed, his arm got trapped in between his body and Dean’s knee. I assume that’s when it actually happened and Dean rushed to the finish.

It’s a shame because JL is gonna be out of the picture for a while because of this.

 

Mean Gene is doing an interview with Ric Flair. Ric says Savage is about to wrestle Ric Flair on this show and that the great one cannot be denied. Jimmy Hart then walks up to him. Jimmy apologises for what Taskmaster did last week for interrupting the Horsemen as Kevin Sullivan has a short fuse. Jimmy says he owes Ric one after Savage grabbed Jimmy by the tie a few weeks ago. Jimmy asks to go down to ringside tonight with Flair as Flair becomes champion. Ric says if Jimmy wanted to be ringside when he beat Savage, he told him to knock himself out brother.

 

Randy Savage (c) vs Ric Flair w/Jimmy Hart for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship

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This was easily Savage’s best match since this Nitro series started. EASILY. He and Flair went in there and had a good old scrap for the strap. An old-school fight to be the world champion and then of course… the finish happened which we’ll get to.

Savage actually spat at Flair at the start of the match which only fired up Flair. Flair missed a knee and then Savage worked on Flair’s legs with assistance of the ring post. Savage locked on a Figure Four Leg Lock of his own. Then Flair got his hands on the ropes but the referee kicked the hands away. I think possibly this was because Flair had somehow turned the tide in the Figure Four which was not really obvious during the match or even pointed out on commentary.

Jimmy kept getting shots in at Savage. He stomped away at Savage on the floor and even choked him with his tie or something during the match. Flair got the heat and Irish-Whipped Savage into a metal barricade. There was one moment I loved where Savage is laying on the barricade gasping for breath and like 5 kids in the crowd that happen to be behind the barricade all can’t help but try to touch him from a distance! It was tremendous!

Savage hit a big clothesline for a near fall. I always love how whenever anyone does like a basic move to Flair but Flair can’t help but scream at the top of his lungs! Savage goes for a backslide but Flair simply goes “AAAAAAAAAA!” It was the best. Ric Flair was and always will be the best seller of all-time, by a country mile. This backslide seemed like torture for him and that’s what wrestlers should be doing. It was great.

Flair does a low blow when the referee wasn’t looking. Bobby Heenan’s brilliant explanation is that it was accidental as it was a reaction move for his leg. Heenan explains that when Flair gets his leg in that kind of nerve position, his leg goes up in a north angle! Bobby Heenan was the man.

Savage fires back and does a backdrop. Savage locks on a sleeper hold but Flair counters it with a knee breaker. Flair locked on his own Figure Four Leg Lock and THIS TIME grabbed the ropes for leverage blatantly. Bischoff said: “We’re running out of time but I really don’t care.” I’m sure TNT executives were thrilled with that….

…they actually probably were if these over-runs were doing great and their ratings were going up every week. So who knows…

Savage runs wild and goes to work when LEX LUGER runs down for the DQ.

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OK… I know WCW had this reputation for DQ finishes on Nitro main-events but this was one which really grinded my gears. We had a great match as a main-event for the World Title.  This was the best match Savage has had in months. This was the best Nitro main-event we’ve had in months. Savage could have gotten a big clean title victory right before his big title defense at Starrcade and Luger runs down for the DQ.

EVERY ONE OF SAVAGE’S TITLE DEFENCES HAS ENDED IN A DQ. Now granted, this was at least an improvement on the Luger and Giant matches as at least Savage was about to win this time when Luger ran down. However, why did Lex Luger run down to attack Savage?  What does it matter to him if Flair gets beat? My only explanation is that possibly Jimmy Hart came up with a plan with Luger, to make peace with the Horsemen, that if Flair was in trouble Luger should run down to help him. That’s the best explanation I have for it.

I was also literally kidding when I joke for the Episode #16 review that this match would end in a DQ. I fully expected Flair to win but it really was for the best that Savage defended his title clean at least one time. If Savage drops the title at Starrcade, this must go down as one of the worst world title reigns in history. Right?

Sting runs down for the save as he beats up Flair with Savage beating up Luger. Sting clocks Savage. Sting and Savage slap each other to fire themselves up and they stare each other down as we close Nitro.

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I have to admit. With the exception of the WCW vs NJPW element of it, I’ve not really been that enamoured by this Starrcade push. Luger and Sting have both been booked strong going in, Savage has been booked weak going in and Flair just seems an outsider in this whole thing with Luger and the babyfaces. Hulk Hogan’s not even there and I’m not even sure if The Giant will be there. Both men weren’t even on this episode of Nitro. So lord knows what the WCW title picture is gonna look like after Starrcade.

Oh yeah, and no follow-up to the infamous Madusa angle from last week when Alundra Blayze put the WWF Women’s title in the trash can. What a waste of an angle…

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We’ll be doing a full review of WCW Starrcade next time. WCW vs NJPW is going down, Sting, Lex Luger and Ric Flair in a triangle match. The likes of Sting, Savage and Luger all in the multiple matches. Despite the lacklustre build to Starrcade, I’m very much looking forward to certain aspects of it. Not gonna lie. We will see you with the Armbar Express review of WCW Starrcade 1995.

 

WCW Nitro Reading Order

 

 

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