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.
WCW Slamboree 1996 saw the Lethal Lottery battle bowl tournament to determine the Lord of the Ring and the number one contender for the WCW World Heayvweight title. Despite the likes of Lex Luger, Randy Savage and Ric Flair in the mix for this tournament, the final battle bowl battle royal to determine the winner did not include either of those gentlemen. A battle royal filled with the likes of Public Enemy, Ice Train, Dick Slater and Earl Robert Eaton was won by Diamond Dallas Page who went from being “homeless” to being the Lord of the Ring.
The Giant also defended the WCW title against Sting and retained the title after seemingly botched interference from Lex Luger and Jimmy Hart.
This episode of Nitro I’m about to review was 90 minutes long and is the very last one before Nitro goes two hours. It was sort of a test if you will to see how an “over-run” or an elongated episode would play to the WCW audience. It turns out that the fans weren’t particular turned off by this change-up of the episode length as they beat RAW in the ratings this week.
As far the show goes, I think it dragged in places because of the change but otherwise felt OK to me. They got the extra time and gave it to the likes of Eddie Guerrero vs Ric Flair, which I was so happy about. It feels like they’ve changed their minds again on the Luger/Sting tension angle as I don’t think it was brought up at all. However, the show I didn’t really have much of a problem of a whole. Anyway, let’s get into the review…
Date: May 20th 1996
City: Monroe, Louisiana
Commentators: Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan
You read that correctly. Steve “Mongo” McMichael is away from the announce booth. It was just Eric and Bobby this week as Mongo was in “serious training” with Kevin Greene for their upcoming match with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. The match was booked for The Great American Bash.
They showed a replay of Ric making the challenge at Slamboree and I didn’t realise this before but they got the smallest security guards possible to hold back these big football players. It’s ridiculous on paper but by forced perspective, it made Mongo and Greene look like bigger stars when putting these puny security geeks in between them and Flair.
“Fire and Ice” Scott Norton and Ice Train vs “The Steiner Brothers” Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner
Up until the finish, this was a better version than their last tag match on Nitro. I believe they got more time and there was more of a structure to it and then the finish just happened, which led to the fans getting screwed out of a decent finish which we’ll get to.
Some guys in the crowd actually went through the trouble of having their tops off with letters painted on themselves where they spelt out N I T R O together. I laughed about it but I was also very envious of this period of wrestling when I saw that. Wrestling used to be so popular that people would do crazy stuff like this to have fun and be a part of the show. Nowadays, nobody does this kind of thing ever. They don’t do it for RAW, SmackDown! and I’ve not heard of an incident with NXT or AEW. It’s just not that popular where people would think to do this and that sucks.
Scott and Ice Train wrestled for a bit. It was very similar from their match from a few weeks ago where hey slammed each other all over the place. Norton was screaming a lot during this match as he went to work on Rick. Norton ran wild with clotheslines but Rick turned this momentum against him and slammed him with a massive German suplex. I actually really liked that spot and I felt they pulled it off well.
Rick went for a clothesline and got a one count, from the move that got the win the last time these two teams wrestled each other. One could argue that this showed that Ice Train and Scott Norton were more prepared for Rick’s clotheslines after the last time so I could at least buy the explanation that they learned from their last match.
The two Scotts wrestled in the ring. Scott Steiner pulled off a dragon/full nelson suplex on Norton. I was surprised he pulled it off on such a broad, built guy in Norton. This was very impressive by Steiner.
Scott Steiner did double axe handle to the outside. Norton eventually got back into the match with a Samoan Drop of his own. I wrote down that Scott did a Northern Lights Suplex and I’m pretty sure that was Scott Steiner but it’s very much up for grabs with two Scotts in this match!
Ice Train and Norton really pushed Rick out of the ring with a double shoulder tackle. Scott Norton dropped Scott with a shoulder breaker on the outside. Then the referee called for the bell as Rick and Ice train brawled and apparently things got out of control. Scott did a German suplex to Norton as the referee Nick Patrick separated them.
A lame finish to a match that was looking like it was gonna be better than their last match.
Ric Flair w/Woman and Elizabeth vs Eddie Guerrero
This match was excellent. This match I think single-handedly made up for the quality of matches from Slamboree. If you read my Slamboree review, you’ll recall I mentioned that not one of those matches went longer than 10 minutes. A third of the matches were actually good and the rest of them were just absolute nothing matches or worse. On this episode of Nitro, they gave us a near 20 minute match with Eddie Guerrero and Ric Flair and it was great.
Eddie got royally screwed at Slamboree when he was the geek that was DDT’d by his own partner which led to him being eliminated from the tournament. Here, Ric was determined to get this Eddie Guerrero over. Eddie came off as such a star. Ric had a unique ability to transform mid-carders and make the fans believe that they had a chance against him in the ring. Do you remember when VK Wallstreet was briefly out-wrestling Ric Flair during one of their matches and had him on the ropes for a little bit? This was exactly the same and Eddie gained a lot more from this TV match than anything he’s been given in the last 9 months or so.
Eddie wrestled Ric down to the mat early on. Ric, realising he couldn’t out-wrestle Eddie, went for the chops and punches to take control. Eddie himself eventually went wild with punches in the corner with Eddie showing that he could trade hands with Flair.
Woman screaming on the outside was unbearable. In times, this screaming is effective, if you remember my review of Flair vs Giant from a month ago, but here it was totally not the time for it. She was screaming at a head-lock from Eddie for example and it drove me up the wall as a viewer. It didn’t add to the match and if anything, it made me want to mute my TV. I don’t want to think about doing that as a wrestling fan.
Eddie backdropped Ric and ran wild with dropkicks and dropkicked him over the top rope. Ric eventually walked all the way to his personal fancy table from and grabbed a chair. The referee eventually pushed Ric back to disarm him with the chair. Ric was so mad that he stomped on the entrance ramp. He did a massive double foot-stomp and constantly had this big-eyed look on his face with his eyes popping out of his face!
Woman stopped screaming enough to attend to Ric on the outside. The fans chanted for EDDIE to the shock of Ric Flair. Eddie punched away at Ric and Eddie then started running away from Ric to screw with him, and even did the Ric Flair strut to Flair’s disgust and anger!
Eddie dropped Ric with some chops. I loved that Ric’s only means to get back into the match was always a poke to the eye. No matter what, Ric Flair matches are always structured the same way. The babyface will beat him in every turn and when he realised he’s outclassed, HE CHEATS and it worked every time for like 30 years or so. Ric Flair really was one of the all-time greats.
Eddie got Ric over for a sunset flip after a brief struggle for a two count. Bobby said this was 50/50 but I strongly disagreed as Eddie was shown out-classing Ric at every turn! I’m not sure if this was just Bobby being the heel or not as he usually put Eddie over a lot on commentary.
Ric turned the punches in the corner into an atomic drop. I loved Eddie putting everything into a backslide attempt, and showed intensity and determination in his eyes and Woman screaming actually did play into this struggle. Eddie eventually got him over for a two count. Eddie did his own Figure Four Leg Lock and Ric got the ropes to get out of it. Eddie went for a dive to the outside but crashed into the guard rail. Ric suplexed Eddie on the outside.
Eric Bischoff then refused to acknowledge the WWF titles as “wrestling championships” for some reason. I don’t know what was up with him on this show but they were talking about Ric being a 13 time champion I think by this point and Bischoff talked about the WWF titles not counting. I understand he wanted to bury the titles as meaningless but when Ric Flair is involved, they should count to show off that everywhere he went he was the champion. He didn’t even have to mention the WWF to get that point across.
Ric did a long vertical suplex for a 2 count. Eddie fired back and dropkicked Ric to the floor. Eddie tried a sunset flip but Ric got out of it with a simple punch. Eddie hit a big tornado DDT for a near fall. Eddie somehow just pulled off a tight rope walk hurricanrana but when he came down, he grabbed his leg.
Eddie hit a frog splash but Eddie’s leg was hurt from the hurricanrana spot as the fans urged Eddie to go for the pin. Ric tried to lock on the figure four leg lock that Eddie initially blocked but Guerrero eventually got locked in the hold. Ric grabbed the ropes for leverage to get the pin on Eddie.
This match was so awesome. This was better than anything on Slamboree. It told a great story and although Eddie was beaten, it wasn’t like he was buried like he was at Slamboree. He took Ric to the limit in this match and Ric escaped with the victory and it could be argued that if Eddie had pinned Ric after that frog splash, he could have beat him. This match was so great and it sets up a rematch nicely in my eyes.
If you liked Ric Flair in the ring, then you were going to get a lot more of him on this episode of Nitro! Mean Gene interviewed Ric with his women. Mean Gene mentioned that Savage is in the building and the fans go crazy. Ric responded that he’d been told that Savage is locked up. Ric told Savage that he was teaching his wife a new way of life. Speaking of Elizabeth, she looked petrified on this show. She always looked nervous, even when she was with Savage in the WWF, but her nervousness wasn’t not nearly as obvious as it was here. She was grabbing her arm and looked so uncomfortable with this angle.
You know what this reminded me of? It reminded me of the angle with Matt Hardy, Edge and Lita. Every time Edge was cutting a promo or there was a segment, Lita would grab her own arm or just looked distant. She looked so uncomfortable. There was a ByteThis episode with all three people from 2005 and Lita looked like she didn’t wanna be there. This Elizabeth stuff was very similar. Obviously, Elizabeth didn’t actually cheat on Savage with Ric Flair. She and Savage divorced in 1992 and Elizabeth just was doing an angle where she was with Flair.
However, this was also a time where things like “the internet” was not attainable and not many wrestling fans could have figured out that Elizabeth wasn’t actually dating Ric Flair in real life. This isn’t like WWE with the Lana, Rusev and Bobby Lashley angle where it’s clear from the get-go that Lana didn’t actually cheat on Rusev with Lashley in real life. No, the lines between fiction and reality weren’t that clear in 1996. I assume Elizabeth must have had a hard time with keeping up this angle.
Ric said the reason Mongo isn’t here tonight is because Arn Anderson is here tonight. The fans chanted for Mongo. Ric Flair said the footballers are making a mistake thinking they can cross trade wrestling and football like he cross traded the girls. Ric basically hyped up the tag team match and takes a few glasses and left with the women.
They come back from the break and Ric Flair had joined the announce booth, with a fancy set up and Bobby setting the candles. Ric is all robed-up and said Bobby could touch the girls but told Eric to keep his hands off them! Eric says Ric was actually invited which meant that yes, we got Ric Flair on commentary for the rest of the night.
His performance on commentary was so great. It’s possible that he was actually drinking real champagne with Bobby at commentary as he was really just having a ball during this show. He went from wrestling a 20 minute classic to calling the rest of the show with likes of Bobby Heenan! This was all great!
Sting © and Lex Luger © vs “The Faces of Fear” The Barbarian and Meng for the WCW Tag Team Championship… I think
I don’t know if you remember this but early on in the series, I cut a big promo saying that I didn’t wanna see Meng vs Lex Luger again. We did technically get Meng vs Luger again in this tag match but it felt like a better match in the confides of a tag match.
Flair called Meng the King of the Samoan Islands. Ric was actually putting everyone over and is just having a grand old time on commentary. Ric did a better job putting people over for less than an hour than WWE announcers on commentary in 2019. He was on fire. Flair started singing Get Down Tonight by KC & The Sunshine Band!
Sting ran wild on the Faces of Fear but Barbarian evades a dropkick to start the heat. Meng locked on a Boston crab and then just stopped applying the hold… and just stomped on Sting! I love how when it was clear Sting wasn’t giving up, Meng just decided to stomp the crap out of him.
Bobby claimed Sting would have had to relinquish the tag titles if he won the WCW title at Slamboree when I believe Lex Luger is still the TV champ and one half of the tag team champions. I find that very difficult to believe that Sting would relinquish the belt.
Barbarian did a belly-to-belly suplex from the top rope and Sting got catapluted high in the air. Sting went up big time for it and launched himself into near orbit for the Barbarian! I screamed at how high Sting went up here for the spot.
The Faces of Fear did a double headbutt and they went for the cover but the referee was arguing with Luger for some reason and delayed the count for the Faces of Fear. Eric was appalled at Ric and Bobby drinking champagne on commentary. I loved how Eric said that Ric was too much and Ric responds with: “that’s what they all say!”
Sting almost got the tag to Luger but Meng pulled him back to his corner. Luger eventually got the hot tag and ran wild with clotheslines and forearms. It broke off into a four way. Meng battled with Luger on the outside. Luger sends Meng into the ring post.
Sting hits a top rope splash and Luger got the pin as Sting threw himself into Meng to stop him from breaking up the pin. I enjoyed this tag match. I think Ric Flair’s commentary gold overshadowed it but for the most part, all four guys worked their asses off and I respected their effort. This gets a thumbs up and Flair’s performance on commentary gets about 16 thumbs ups!
Eric broke the news to Flair that Savage was here.
Mean Gene interviewed “Macho Man” Randy Savage outside of the arena, who was being stopped by police from getting in. Mean Gene says they’re not letting him in the arena and WCW officials are meeting about Savage’s future. Macho Man asked for the WCW officials to be real careful about his future. Savage told them to make the right decision and thought Mean Gene was conspiring against him! He’s so paranoid that now he’s questioning poor Mean Gene for his involvement in a grand conspiracy! Mean Gene told him that he’s not getting through the gentlemen blocking him from getting in and Macho Man goes: “is that a challenge?” When Mean Gene said that he’s not getting through, I knew where the joke was going.
It’s like if someone tells you can’t do something, your instinct tells you to prove them wrong. Someone tells you not to press the button, you can’t help but press the button. Even when Mean Gene told him he’s not getting through the police, Savage is determined to prove him wrong because he’s THE MACHO MAN! Macho Man tries to get in of course and they push him away. Flair laughed his arse off and woos away at Savage being unable to get in! I actually liked this segment a lot too.
Brad Armstrong vs DDP… aka Diamond Dallas according to the nameplate on the screen
Ric and Bobby are laughing and having a ball talking about Savage’s money as DDP and Brad Armstrong come out. DDP wrestled Brad into a dragon sleeper position and Brad rolled out of it somehow.
Bobby requested another drink as they went to a commercial. Brad got a backslide pinfall attempt in and then DDP got up and hit an explosive clothesline. DDP ran into the ring post and Ric actually put over Brad Armstrong. Brad did the ten turnbuckle smash spot and Ric said he used to do that to Savage when he got into the building to wrestle! Him and Bobby were just hysterical about this line to the point where I’m 25% of the belief that they were both actually hammered by this point!
DDP hit an awesome Diamond Cutter for the win. It was the most “RKO” looking cutter I’ve seen from Page and Brad but it looked better to me than a lot of Randy Orton’s RKOs. They both moved and jumped across the ring to hit this cutter. It was a short but decent match I think.
Mean Gene interviewed DDP in the ring. DDP said he shocked the world at Slamboree as he beat the Steiners, Road Warriors, Fire and Ice, Flair, Sting, Luger and everyone to become the Lord of the Ring. He thanked himself and gave himself a self high five. DDP said The Giant was his and Mean Gene then said he just got off the telephone. He revealed that the WCW championship committee were discussing the fact that one of his feet was on the floor earlier on in the battle royal from Slamboree. For those unaware, there was a spot where DDP was almost eliminated in the battle bowl battle royal and Tony Schiavonie was certain he was eliminated I think was being referenced here. He said the committee will not reverse the decision of the referee and won’t take the lord of the ring away from DDP but they won’t give him the WCW championship match. They have awarded the shot to Lex Luger instead as DDP was outraged.
Only one of DDP’s feet hit the floor so if you’re going by the Royal Rumble 1995 rules established, DDP was never eliminated. However, I guess WCW ruled that one foot was enough for DDP to be considered eliminated. Now I do have to question why Luger got the title shot. If you’ll recall, at Slamboree, Lex Luger was one of the first people eliminated from the Lethal Lottery as he got himself counted out. He got a title shot last week on Nitro where The Giant kicked his arse and put him through a table. Now he’s getting another title shot? What?
Shouldn’t The Barbarian be given the title shot instead since he was the runner-up of that battle bowl battle royal? They also mentioned at the PPV that Konnan could be considered the number one contender as he’s the US Champion, so why wasn’t he considered for the title shot? Either way, this feels like a daft ruling in storyline.
The Giant © w/Jimmy Hart vs Arn Anderson w/Taskmaster for the WCW title
This wasn’t much of a match but it went exactly as I would have expected it to go so I wasn’t really caught off guard.
Taskmaster was with Arn Anderson, the show after the PPV where I made the comment about Jimmy and Taskmaster being together for Slamboree!
Him and Jimmy talked on the outside about it. Taskmaster said he’s with the Dungeon of Doom, but Arn had always kept his word. All he wanted was for Arn to get his chance “horsemen-style” so I guess he wanted a fair fight.
My mind assumed that there must be some kind of screwjob. I didn’t expect Arn Anderson to win the title but I expected one of two things. Either Taskmaster was gonna screw the Dungeon and attack Giant for the DQ, leading to a beatdown, or him and the Dungeon were gonna screw Arn. I figured a double cross was coming somehow and Ric was talking on commentary as if there was a plan in place.
Eric said Taskmaster was a homewrecker like Miss Elziabeth and even Ric Flair said that was very strong. Ric’s plan as he mentioned on commentary was take over WCW and then the NFL! Arn went for The Giant but Giant pushed him literally to the other side of the ring with such force. Giant scoop slammed Arn.
Giant backdropped Arn over his shoulder. Arn took over but was unable to take The Giant down with a double axe handle. He gets Giant to one knee. He tried a DDT but Giant evaded the drop and hit a chokeslam for the pin. Jimmy celebrated The Giant and Ric Flair left the booth. Eric then mentioned that the Four Horseman had a plan… what plan? Arn got a fair match and got his ass kicked and pinned, I have no idea what the plan was supposed to be for Flair, if any.
The one time where you’re almost expecting a double cross, they do a clean finish where Giant pins Anderson with a chokeslam!
Bobby left the booth as well to go to the party with Flair, taking candles, bubbly, bananas, a box of ice and champagne!
I enjoyed this episode of Nitro. This dragged in places but overall I was OK with it.
Next time, we get a historically significant episode of Nitro. We get the first two hour episode of Nitro as well as a historic debut in the history of World Championship Wrestling!
WCW Nitro Reading Order
- #1 – September 4th 1995
- #2 – September 11th 1995
- WCW War Games 1995 – September 17th 1995
- #3 – September 18th 1995
- #4 – September 25th 1995
- #5 – October 2nd 1995
- #6 – October 9th 1995
- #7 – October 16th 1995
- #8 – October 23rd 1995
- WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 – October 29th 1995
- #9 – October 30th 1995
- #10 – November 6th 1995
- #11 – November 13th 1995
- #12 – November 20th 1995
- WCW World War III 1995 – November 26th 1995
- #13 – November 27th 1995
- #14 – December 4th 1995
- #15 – December 11th 1995
- #16 – December 18th 1995
- #17 – December 25th 1995
- WCW Starrcade 1995 – December 27th 1995
- #18 – January 1st 1996
- #19 – January 8th 1996
- #20 – January 15th 1996
- #21 – January 22nd 1996
- #22 – January 29th 1996
- #23 – February 5th 1996
- WCW Superbrawl VI – February 11th 1996
- #24 – February 12th 1996
- #25 – February 19th 1996
- #26 – February 26th 1996
- #27 – March 11th 1996
- #28 – March 18th 1996
- WCW Uncensored 1996 – March 24th 1996
- #29 – March 25th 1996
- #30 – April 1st 1996
- #31 – April 15th 1996
- #32 – April 22nd 1996
- #33 – April 29th 1996
- #34 – May 6th 1996 (Nitro)/May 6th 1996 (RAW)
- #35 – May 13th 1996
- WCW Slamboree 1996 – May 19th 1996