RETRO EXPRESS: WCW NITRO #32 (APRIL 22ND 1996) – LEX LUGER AND STING VS THE GIANT AND RIC FLAIR FOR ALL OF THE BELTS

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’ve officially hit the period of WCW Nitro where things just don’t add up and make sense anymore. These last few episodes have closely resembled WWE 2019 now more than ever, where it is very clear “plans change” as things are completely turned on their heads. Yes, I did copy those words from my last review of Episode #31 of Nitro.

The Booty Man was pulled from his tag match with Hulk Hogan against Taskmaster and Arn Anderson. Hulk Hogan went at it alone and overcome the threat of six heels who all tried to destroy the Hulkster. Hogan won a handicap match against Arn and Taskmaster, he got his hands on Woman, Miss Elizabeth and Jimmy Hart after the match and then he overpowered The Giant and sent him packing.

In the main-event, The Giant teamed up with Ric Flair to challenge the WCW World Tag Team Champions Sting and Ric Flair. The match-ended in a disqualification when Sting got coffee thrown at him and the heels kicked the arses of the champions at the end of the show.

 

Before we get into the review, Episode #32 of Nitro was a massive improvement on recent Nitros. I don’t even think this episode was actually that much better than previous weeks but it felt completely different. There was more room for things taking place to hype up the PPV in May, we had different wrestlers on the show and different matches on the show. It felt fresh and different and it was also a show without Hulk Hogan. It’s not necessarily a good thing that Hogan was away from TV but in this instance, it’s a much needed break from his usual shenanigans.

Eventually, there’s gonna be a more permanent break from his usually shenanigans when the New World Order comes around but now I appreciate the change to the system. Just to see the show change up a bit is better than the show become repetitive and stale. This gets my endorsement for now.

 

Date: April 22nd 1996

Brand: WCW

City: Albany, Georgia

Rating: 2.7 (Down from last week)

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

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With the show changing up itself, we also got the return of Eric Bischoff’s WWF RAW results reveals during the show. To kick off the show, he mentions that the World Whining Federation had “the transvestite” Goldust beating Savio Vega, Makind beating Aldo Montoya and Vader beating Fatu. To all of this, Bischoff just goes “oh boy” in a sarcastic manner.

To be fair to Bischoff, that sounded like a god awful episode of RAW! I looked up that episode of RAW and I’m not sure if Bischoff mentioned this but there was also a match between the Godwins and the tag team of Yoshihiro Tajiri and Ken Patterson! That’s a bizarre match to say the least!

 

“Public Enemy” Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock vs “The American Males” Marcus Alexander Bagwell and Scotty Riggs

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I was unsure how I felt about this match. The tag match itself did nothing for me as the American Males’ tag team matches were very formulastic by nature. All they’ve been shown to be able to do is dropkicks and punches. All Public Enemy were shown to be capable of doing is hardcore stuff. You got a very basic match by those standards here but… this beats Public Enemy’s match from last week against the Nasty Boys!

The heels Public Enemy jumped the males before the match. They beat on Riggs in the corner. Bagwell takes out Public Enemy with a double top rope clothesline which didn’t actually looked too bad. I thought it looked pretty decent in execution actually.

Bagwell did a dive to the outside as the Males did some clapping with the fans. Bischoff wished Pillman well after a car accident. There were dropkicks by the Males to Grunge and Rocco. Riggs went for a cover and Nick Patrick was busy chewing out Bagwell for god knows what reason. This completely disrupted the flow of the match.

For months during these Nitro reviews, I’ve been watching Nick Patrick and he looked horrible as a referee. He had a few matches where he was out of position or he called a rope break when he shouldn’t have called for a rope break. I was mostly trying to figure out what it was about Patrick that made him such a bad referee in my eyes. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts related to these Nitros where the podcasters buried Nick Patrick and I’ve heard people bash Patrick in the past.

It really hit me during this match what the problem was with Patrick. AEW’s Aubrey Edwards is so great as a referee because she only plays a part in the match where it is necessary to do so. He will get in Chris Jericho or Pentagon Jr’s face to get heat on the heels or to actually show rules being enforced. She never does anything that takes me out of the match as it just flows as normal.

Nick Patrick went out of his way to chat to Bagwell as Riggs made the cover so he was not available to make the cover. I don’t see this as Patrick just doing a spot to get the heat on the heels because I’ve seen Patrick do this so many times before and it sucks. Pay attention to the match but don’t bring attention to yourself if you don’t need to. I’ve heard someone mention this before in an interview or something but the best referees in the business are the ones where you don’t even notice them. They don’t stick out like a sore thumb and Nick Patrick stuck out like a sore thumb during this match.

Public Enemy take over. Rocco pulled off a moonsault during this heat which seems rare nowadays. He doesn’t just punch the guys in the ring or go for a long chin-lock. He does a moonsault! They get the heat on Bagwell for a long time.. Rocco goes for a big senton bomb but completely missed which led to the hot tag which the fans went nuts for.

Riggs fired away with punches and dropkicks. Bagwell goes to save Riggs from the interfering Rocco Rock but he gets tossed over the top rope to the outside. The Public Enemy then throw Riggs over the top rope and it’s a disqualification. It was such a weird sight that of all the things to lead to a disqualification, it’s a rule about throwing people over the top rope which they mentioned once in a while since Nitro began. Seeing it in practice is so weird when it’s PUBLIC ENEMY of all the teams getting DQ’d for this. They didn’t use a weapon to get DQ’d. They threw a guy over the top rope!

Public Enemy did the same table spot they did last week to take out Riggs. So again, Public Enemy put a guy threw a table and there’s no repercussions for them from the Board of Directors or whoever is running the show in storyline. Keep that in mind when we get to Randy Savage later.

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Mean Gene Okerlund is with two women as they have the first round drawings for the WCW Slamboree Lethal Lottery. So after my big rant from the last episode where they never mentioned the Lethal Lottery once, it is suddenly all over this episode of Nitro as they did drawings for the tournament!

They introduce Emily and Cherry who were the women by Mean Gene’s side. I’m pretty sure when they came out again later, Mean Gene called Cherry “Terri” later on!

The rules of this lottery was that there would be names in a hat being pulled out and wrestlers would have to team together in the first round and then the winners of the tag matches would go into a battle royal later on in the night for a future title match. Those are the rules of this tournament anyway.

Mean Gene explained that they did some drawings before they came out. The first two matches certainly lived up to the expectation of these matches being “random!” The first two matches drawn beforehand were  the “weird combination” of Hugh Morrus and Meng facing The Barbarian and Hardwork Bobby Walker! Of course, there’s the “irony” of the Faces of Fear facing each other in a tag team match so that’s one thing. Then they announce Stevie Ray and Big Bubba vs Scott Norton and Ice Train. What a random tag team match for a possible shot at the WCW World Heavyweight title!

Emily does a horrible job in shuffling the cards up for Mean Gene as they actually pick names out of a hat. In this totally random drawing, the match is revealed to be Ric Flair and Randy Savage TEAMING UP to take on Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero!

Not only is it RANDOMLY decided that mortal enemies Savage and Flair are teaming up for this tournament, the WCW World champion is in a tournament where a WCW title shot is on the line!

It is possible that Ric Flair could lose the WCW World title before this tournament takes place but I love the idea that Ric Flair could have won this whole tournament and then face himself for the WCW World title!

 

Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero

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This was one of the breaths of fresh air I was talking about earlier. We’ve not seen the likes of Chris Benoit on Nitro for months and now we’ve got Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero on Nitro once again and it seems fresh. This is a pairing we’ve seen before on Nitro but this felt so different to what we’ve been getting with Hogan and the Booty Man in the last few weeks.

Benoit and Eddie start the match by playing a game of one-upmanship as they wrestle into the corner gently and then slap each other. Eddie ran wild with arm drags. Benoit won the first bit of chain wrestling. He then takes over with an eye rake OVER the referee. Benoit hits a back suplex.

Benoit goes for a chinlock and Eddie responds by doing some tremendous headscissor takedowns. Benoit hits a beautiful German suplex with a bridge for a 2 count. They reveal Savage is doing an interview after this match as Benoit throws Eddie to the floor. Eddie did a hurricanrana off the top rope but Benoit had his legs own tangled in the rope as Eddie went for the cover.

Benoit reversed a sunset flip and grabbed the ropes for the win. A decent match but I have two nit-picks which doesn’t even have anything to do with the match itself. It’s to do with WCW.

  1. I went back and checked the times for the matches for this episode of Nitro. Benoit vs Guerrero and Public Enemy vs American Males got the same amount of time. However, there was a commercial during the Benoit vs Guerrero match instead of the Public Enemy vs American Males match from earlier? From those two matches, the one match we had to see in full was Public Enemy vs The American Males? Why you’d cut from a 7 minute Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit match is mind-blowing in its own right but the timing on this show was just weird.
  2. Chris Benoit defeated Eddie Guerrero but Chris Benoit himself is revealed later to NOT be in the Lethal Lottery. Eddie Guerrero was but yet Chris Benoit just beat him on Nitro. How is Chris Benoit NOT in Lethal Lottery after this? I mean… it’s possible that he’ll be added to the tournament later but as of now he’s not in the tournament.

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Mean Gene is with Vice President of WCW Rob Garner when “Macho Man” Randy Savage interrupted them. Mean Gene said Savage has been out of control. WCW in storyline were concerned about the mental well-being of Savage and that he’s out of the control, but are OK with the likes of Public Enemy putting geeks through tables? They were OK with Woman throwing hot coffee in the eyes of the wrestlers during matches? They were OK with The Giant running wild in WCW? They were cool with all of that and yet RANDY SAVAGE is the one on their radar here? Yeah, this storyline has some plot holes in it!

Garner said they were concerned with Savage’s actions. He said they understood his circumstances with Ric Flair but if the actions didn’t cease immediately, the ramifications would be severe. Savage responded that ramifications was such a sophisticated word for a man in a tie! Savage said he was the partner from the hell. Savage said he was gonna do what he wanted and he even got in Garner’s face. Garner responded that if Savage could not control his behaviour, he needed professional help. Savage said Garner needed a psychiatrist for being a stupid little man! Savage’s comebacks were so petty and sounded so pathetic but he delivered it so well that I laughed my head off!

I actually liked that he stands over Garner who, despite Savage’s comments, must have be quaking in his boots when facing an angry Savage cutting an angry promo. Savage was a tall, big guy and when he was looking down at Garner, it must be the most terrifying thing for this lad in a suit. This worked in making it clear why the WCW executives are so afraid of Savage. They brought out the Vice President of WCW and Savage towered over them and is about to explode. That I loved.

Mean Gene yelled at Savage. Savage said he’s gonna electrify WCW and walks off after teasing an open-hand slap to Garner. I actually thought this was a great segment.

 

 

Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs Meng

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Another match where it just felt different to me. We haven’t seen Hacksaw Jim Duggan wrestle on Nitro in so long. Meng we haven’t seen much of in recent months either. In this match, they had a fight that was just different to everything else on the show. It was a welcome change at the very least.

Meng had an awesome robe on as he marched down the ring. It was very colourful with Hawaiian colours. This was the best Meng has looked in the series so far! Hacksaw beat up Meng as Meng got into the ring.

Hacksaw pounced on Meng as Meng got into the ring and stomped him away. Hacksaw was beating up Meng when Meng was trying to get into the ring so the babyface Hacksaw wouldn’t allow for a fair fight which was weird!

Bischoff explained Hogan was “travelling” and he would back on Nitro soon so I guess Hogan is gone for a while, maybe until Bash At The Beach. Meng and Hacksaw got into a fight with headbutts and chops. This was ugly brawl between an old-school patriot and an Samoan savage! Hacksaw smacked Meng’s head into the turnbuckle and then Meng bounced his own head into the turnbuckle to show it had no effect. Hacksaw went for a heatbutt which Meng no-sold to get the heat! Hacksaw was the cause of his own downfall!

Meng tried a nerve hold. Hacksaw tried to fight back but Meng knocked him down again. Meng and Hacksaw traded missed elbow drops. Hacksaw did an atomic drop and a big scoop slam to get back into the match. Hacksaw ran at Meng but smacked his own head off the turnbuckle. Meng batters at Duggan relentlessly and after pushing the ref away twice,  Hacksaw tried to use his 2×4 but Meng booted him in the face! Hacksaw got the foot on the rope at two when Meng went for the cover.

Hacksaw then used the loaded tape, hit Meng and pinned Meng! I felt Hacksaw Jim Duggan was a strange babyface constantly trying to do whatever it took to win, including cheating, but there was something admirable about the fact that Duggan did whatever it took to win! Meng is a savage but Hacksaw must do all that he can to win this match which was important to him and to America! I actually thought this match wasn’t too bad. This was something different at the very least and that’s all I ask!

 

Mean Gene was back out with the girls for more match drawings. Mean Gene asked if the girls had any plans for this evening and they responded: “Yes with you Mean Gene!” Mean Gene couldn’t help but mention that had a little money if they get a little short! This all happened during an official WCW lottery draw to determine the teams for this important tournament! Mean Gene just flirts outrageously with the girls as he’s presenting this lottery!

They revealed the other matches in the lottery to be Alex Wright and Disco Inferno vs Earl Robert Eaton and Dick Slater along with Steven Regal and The Belfast Bruiser vs VK Wallstreet and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Yes, future tag team and fellow dancers Wright and Inferno were randomly teamed together and rivals Regal and Belfast Bruiser were teamed together!

 

 

Sting © and Lex Luger © vs The Giant and Ric Flair © for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, WCW TV Championship and WCW Tag Team Championship

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I feel that maybe I’ve dropped a ball a little with not mentioning this match earlier on. It is the title of this blog post but they actually mentioned this match throughout the episode on Nitro. They discussed it at the start of the show, they threw around all of these scenarios about what could happen and it was so complicated. In the end, all of this speculation by the announcers led to nothing which we’ll get to.

The match was Sting and Lex Luger facing The Giant and Ric Flair in a rematch from last week. Sting and Lex Luger were defending the WCW Tag Team titles, Lex Luger was defending the WCW TV title and Ric Flair was defending the WCW World title. The stipulation I guess was all the titles were on the line with Arquette Rules in place although David Arquette didn’t appear in WCW until years later which is kind of ironic.

If Luger was pinned or submitted, he’d lose the WCW TV title. If Flair was pinned or submitted, he’d lose the WCW World title. I guess if Sting or Luger was pinned or submit, they’d lose the WCW tag titles to Flair and Giant. However, the announcers also mentioned the possibility of The Giant pinning Ric Flair to win the WCW title or Ric Flair holding all of the titles. I was so confused that I just to had to pack all of this in for this match review at the very end of the episode review! There’s a lot of ground to cover!

Flair hits on Mongo’s wife yet again and kisses her on the hand this week. Again, Mongo on commentary does nothing and just threatens Flair again. This isn’t exactly on the level of the Rusev/Bobby Lashley/Lana stuff on RAW in 2019 but Mongo watching RIC FLAIR kissing the hand of his wife and flirting with her every week on Nitro was somewhat distributing.

Savage appeared out of nowhere and goes after Flair again before the match. However, the POLICE handcuffed Savage as Flair then proceeded to stomp away at Savage as he is being arrested. HOW did Ric Flair not get arrested himself for assaulting a handcuffed man? Savage was defenseless after he was handcuffed and Flair got a few shots in, with no repercussions! I will give them credit that it came off as realistic like when the wrestlers would probably stomp away at a fan if the fans did the same thing. A general rule among wrestlers is that if a fan enters the ring, the wrestlers can proceed to kick their ass when they get in the ring. So Flair attacking Savage as he was handcuffed… it felt somewhat like it was a shoot so I liked it.

The Giant got Sting in the corner to start the match and Giant then just rested his ass on Sting’s cock and just stood there until the referee broke it up. I swear on a stack of bibles that is exactly what happened. I’m not trying to be lewd or anything. Everything I just explained went down exactly as written down! Don’t look at me.

Sting tried a few dropkicks and clotheslines to little effect. Luger and Sting worked together to clothesline Giant over the top rope to a roar of approval by the fans. Sting Gorilla Pressed Flair which will never not be able to get over with a WCW crowd. Sting and Flair somehow screwed up a clothesline over the top rope. It took Sting twice to do it.

Flair got pissed off in the corner. Flair chopped Luger to no effect. Luger beat up Flair and a Sting Mongolian Chop from apron sent Flair crashing face-first into the mat!

They then randomly announce Sting vs The Giant for Slamboree. It felt like this program with Sting and The Giant just came out of nowhere. They had a weird angle to kick off Nitro a few weeks ago and now they’re having a match at the PPV.

Sting hit a big superplex which sent Flair crawling on the floor on the outside as he was in that much of dire straits. Sting went for a Stinger Splash into the guardrail but Flair moved and Sting crashed and burnt. Luger rushed onto the scene to the aid of his friend on the floor. Woman clawed at Sting on the outside. The Giant stood on Sting, piling of his weight into the gut of Sting which caused Luger to be irate on the apron.

Flair did a vertical suplex to no affect. Woman had the cup of coffee in her hand again as Luger ran wild on Flair. Luger went for the cover on Flair but but then Luger got up to taunt and flex. I assume Luger forgot a spot somehow as he had Flair covered for a pin but then he just taunted. I guess possibly The Giant was out of position maybe to break up the pinfall. Either way, something got screwed.

Giant goes for a chokeslam but Sting tries to break it up by going for two top rope chop blocks to drop Giant to one knee. Sting tries to punch Giant off of Luger and finally Giant is floored to a massive pop from the crowd. I actually loved this spot where Sting and Luger tried for a solid 30 seconds to get Giant off of his feet and when The Giant finally fell down, the fans lost their minds as the good guys overcame The Giant!

Jimmy Hart got floored and Luger and Sting cornered Flair. Flair was given the coffee but he accidentally threw it at The Giant… and it’s another disqualification main-event finish on Nitro.

What happens after this is possibly my favourite moment in the Nitro series so far. Ric Flair realises that he just threw hot coffee at a seven foot Giant and so Flair runs for his life! He moved so fast to get up that ramp as Giant is near tears in the ring initially! Then he looked incensed and outraged as Flair eventually gets back in the ring.

Flair has this big bi-polar frenzy where he begged off Giant and then he switches from getting in Giant’s face and then dropping to his knees again begging for forgiveness! He  switched on and off like a switch trying to assert himself and then being reduced to his knees and being a coward!

Flair left again! Mean Gene interviewed Giant. The Giant was NOT HAPPY. He bellowed that “THE COFFEE BURNED BUT IT LIT A FIRE IN MY SOUL!” He vowed to win the WCW World title next week. Flair grabbed the mic and said he tried to apologise but now he was mad! He also added that he didn’t like how Giant’s been looking at the women anyway. Flair said Giant had until the end of the night or next week to apologise. Otherwise, Flair said he was gonna kick his big ass! I damn near choked on a drink I was drinking at the time as Flair threatened to kick his “big ass!” The delivery was tremendous and then Flair ran for his life again as Giant left the ring to chase after him. Flair literally ran at the speed of The Flash to get away from this angry Giant. This segment ruled!

I cannot wait for next week where The Giant, one week removed from Ric Flair throwing coffee on him, is going to get his hands on Flair after Flair also said he was gonna kick his big ass! There’s some strange great dynamic between The Giant and the dastardly Ric Flair characters and it is great.

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This was the best Nitro I’ve seen in a while. This was not the best Nitro I’ve seen yet I don’t think but it was so different to Nitros in the past few months and I loved it. Things were different on this show and sometimes, things being changed up is just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you enjoyed my review of Episode #32 of the Nitro series. Don’t forget to follow @ArmbarExpress on Twitter for tweets from yours truly an update whenever Express posts are uploaded. Alternatively, follow us on WordPress for updates too! I will be back with my review of Episode #33 of Nitro from April 29th 1996.

 

WCW Nitro Reading Order

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