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.
In thelast episode, the change in momentum of WCW Nitros continued. After what felt like months of lacklustre Nitros, we had another decent Nitro in the bag which felt fresh. We had Chris Benoit vs Eddie Guerrero, Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs Meng and we had a tag team main-event for the WCW World, TV and Tag Team titles. The main-event ended in a disqualification which meant none of the titles changed hands. The finish saw Ric Flair accidentally throw coffee in The Giant’s face. This led to The Giant vowing to beat Flair for the title and Flair saying he was gonna kick Giant’s “big ass” before the show ended.
I don’t have much complaints about this week’s show either. The show felt fresh and different to what we’re used to seeing on Nitros. We got fresh faces, we got fresh matches, we got fresh match types and we got a CLEAN VICTORY in the main-event of the show which we’ll get to later on. That is the short version of my review but there’s a lot more to appreciate and we might as well get started with the review of Episode #33 of WCW Monday Nitro.
Date: April 29th 1996
City: Albany, Georgia (It’s listed as Albany, Georgia which was the same as last week so I’m assuming this was a taped edition)
Rating: 2.1 (Down from last week)
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby Heenan
Sting © and Lex Luger © vs “Harlem Heat” Booker T and Stevie Ray for the WCW Tag Team Championship
I initially groaned at the idea of this match happening again but you know what, this was actually a really good match this week from these two tag teams. The fans were into it, I was into it and the chemistry was on point for the majority of the match.
Before I get into the match, two other matches announced for the Lethal Lottery tournament were Lex Luger and Road Warrior Hawk vs Road Warrior Animal and Booker T and The Taskmaster and Chris Benoit vs Public Enemy. The irony of those two matches are just astonishing. The Road Warriors were booked to face each other. Lex Luger and Booker T, who were squaring off on this episode and actually teamed up to BEAT UP the Road Warriors at the last PPV, are facing each other. Public Enemy were RANDOMLY teamed together and yes… CHRIS BENOIT AND KEVIN SULLIVAN were teamed together. To anyone reading this who knows who Chris Benoit was, I’m sure you know where this angle is going when it regards to Kevin Sullivan and his wife…
Apologises forlast week saying Benoit wasn’t in the Lethal Lottery as I guess they maybe changed their minds. At least Benoit beating Eddie Guerrero last week led to something for Benoit. Also, they also kept calling the Lethal Lottery tournament the… LORD OF THE RING. I’m sure J. R. R. Tolkien was thrilled about that.
Anyway, back to the opening match of Nitro. Sting and Booker feel each other out to try and get the upper hand, and then Booker just hits a side kick. Booker does this fantastic sell from a clothesline where he came very close to doing a mid-air spinaroonie to sell this move! This big man moved like a Beyblade in the sky!
I didn’t write down in my notes who said this, but one of the announcers said it was “not gonna be a pretty picture” as Lex Luger and Stevie Ray battle in the ring! I kinda laughed at that line knowing how below average these two wrestlers were but you know what, it wasn’t too bad between them in this match minus Lex Luger getting super gassed quickly. Lex Luger punched and stomps away at Stevie Ray at a ridiculous pace and got blown up because of it.
Lex and Sting actually worked really well as a tag team, especially in this match, where Luger is just getting better as he worked with Sting. The chemistry was there most of the time for tag moves. Booker hit a side kick which Bischoff called a “jump wheel kick” at least twice. Isn’t the “jump wheel kick” what X-Pac used to do?
Stevie Ray did a crappy looking crane kick as he stumbled and lost his balance and then just fell down on his backside. Sting and Booker dropped each other with a double clothesline in the middle of the ring. In the middle of all this, the announcers also talk about Booty Man and Rick Steiner vs Scott Steiner and Craig Pittman also happening in the Lethal Lottery.
The fans went nuts for Luger getting the hot tag. Luger hit some sloppy clotheslines as he “ran wild” which is being generous. Harlem Heat eventually overpowered him and Sting and actually took control of the match. They did a powerbomb/elbow drop combination when Jimmy Hart threw in the towel as Booker grabbed the towel to intercept. I assume this had nothing to do with Luger as Jimmy’s not really been involved with Luger since the PPV.
Stevie threw Jimmy into the ring and then Sting got the roll-up on Booker for the win. Harlem Heat ran after Jimmy Hart. A fine tag team match. I was a little uneasy going in but they put together a decent TV tag match. This gets a thumbs up.
“Fire and Ice” Scott Norton and Ice Train vs “The Steiner Brothers” Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner
We’re not even at the Lethal Lottery yet in this series, but this felt like such a bizarre match to happen in the middle of the show. We got two big men in Scott Norton and Ice Train against two other big men in the Steiner Brothers. They went in there and had a tag team hoss match and it was great. They had a three minute match where they just threw each other around in that ring. It was fun to watch, regardless of how short it was.
Mongo was more concerned that Norton and Ice Train weren’t pro American footballers because all Mongo knows how to do is put over the NFL footballers more than the professional wrestlers… during a professional wrestling television show.
Ice Train put on some decent flashes of athleticism. He had a sequence where he did a leapfrog, a powerslam and a big splash. Rick hit a beautiful German suplex on the big man Ice Train which was… GLORIOUS. Scott Steiner did a great T-Bone suplex himself and followed up with an awesome belly to belly suplex.
Norton caught Scott Steiner off the top and did a a big Gorilla Press which was really impressive.
Norton ran wild with clotheslines but Scott Steiner caught him and dropped him with a stun gun. Rick tried a spinning elbow but just ran into the brick wall that was Scott Norton. Ice Train did a big boot but lost his footing a little bit. Scott Steiner got clotheslined over the top rope by Norton but then Rick hit Ice Train with a clothesline in the ring for the pin. A weak finish with a clothesline but a fun tag team match. I very much enjoyed it. This felt like a proper wrestling match between four of the baddest dudes they found backstage.
Ric Flair came out with Miss Elizabeth and Woman. After all of this time on screen, Elizabeth still looks nervous as hell on TV. I’m not sure where this Miss Elizabeth angle goes but if it turns out that she was a double agent for the babyfaces, it’s perfect that she’s acting all nervous around Flair!
Mean Gene did an interview with the three of them. Ric wanted Mean Gene to look at Woman and then Woman stroked Gene’s face and Mean Gene is immediately smitten! Mean Gene was such a gem on these Nitros!
Ric Flair basically cut a promo saying The Giant is a little man compared to Ric Flair, at least he got Woman to say that. Ric Flair doing this gimmick of having his women talk about how great he is is fine on paper but with these girls, they weren’t really charismatic enough to pull this off especially not Miss Elizabeth. As good as Ric Flair is, he probably should not throw it to the girls to talk about how great he is. I’m pretty sure Ric Flair can cut a good promo talking about how great he is!
We got a “blood runs cold” promo as someone is coming to WCW. I believe this maybe for Glacier. This was such high quality and had such dramatic music like this was going to be a big-time star… and then it turns out to be Glacier! If you think about guys like Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Rowdy Roddy Piper that are going to be on WCW soon, this big time promo is for GLACIER of all people! It’s kinda surreal.
The Belfast Bruiser vs Steven Regal in a parking lot brawl
I got so giddy when I realised this was happening again. This match happening again with The Belfast Bruiser and Steven Regal, and the fact that they’ve raised the stakes with it being a parking lot brawl, tells you how so far ahead of 2019 WWE that even WCW were in 1996. They did this match on PPV and it got over, so they did it again on Nitro to try and pop a rating because they realised this got over. WWE flat out told the audience that Baron Corbin was the reason the ratings were going down and one year later, they are still pushing the guy when it’s shown and proven that he’s not connecting with the fans.
In WCW, they at least recognised what worked and they kept going when the fans were still into it. It was great to see this again. At least in 1996, they were able to figure out what was working well and what wasn’t.
The guys are shown fighting in the parking lot. Belfast Bruiser tried a big boot early on but ended up forcing his foot through a car window. This was literally one of the first things we saw in this match was Bruiser kicking out the window of a car.
Regal rubbed Bruiser’s face on the pavement. Bruiser beat Regal up with a tyre. Bruiser even ripped apart the bumper of a car and smacked Regal with it! Bruiser did a scoop slam on a car which Regal followed up with an elbow drop of the bonnet of a car. This match far surpassed the Public Enemy stuff we’ve seen as of late on the grounds that Regal and Bruiser were actually doing wrestling moves in the middle of all of this brawling. No matter how nasty they were, they were still wrestlers at heart and wanted to out-wrestle the other guy when they could.
Bruiser strangled Regal with a seat belt and then dropped Regal on the guard rail that the fans were stood behind during this. They fought up to a pick-up truck. They got to the top of it and then Bruiser just threw him off of it! I think Regal got smacked into the wing mirror of a car during this. Regal broke another window by smashing Bruiser into it.
Bruiser tried a tombstone on the pavement but thankfully Regal got out of it. Regal tried a piledriver ton the car but Bruiser reversed it. Regal hit a low blow and eventually hit a piledriver on the roof of the car to get the pin for the win. I was fine with this until Bruiser got back up RIGHT AWAY after the match and threw a bumper into another car. Other than that, this was a hell of a parking lot brawl.
Bobby Heenan eventually realised that one of those cars were one of his rent-a-car cars!
Before I move on, it tells you how much money WCW had to blow in money when they could just destroy 4 cars in a random parking lot brawl. Cars weren’t cheap back then either! Like if I went out there and I bought 4 £500 cars for a wrestling show just so I could destroy them, that would be one thing. I’m pretty sure they must have spent a fortune on these cars and Regal and Bruiser ripped them to shreds!
Ric Flair © w/Woman and Miss Elizabeth vs The Giant w/Jimmy Hart for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
There was a lot of good stuff on this episode by this point. I think I liked every match they put on up until this point. Then we got my favourite match of the night and possibly my favourite wrestling match in the WCW series so far. This was Ric Flair defending the WCW title against The Giant in the epic rematch from their post-Uncensored match that ended in The Giant laying waste to all.
The reason why this match was so great was because The Giant and Ric Flair were booked perfectly based on their characters. The Giant was booked perfectly as an unstoppable Giant and Ric Flair was booked perfectly as the dastardly, cowardly heel paying for all of his crimes. It was one of the most perfectly booked title matches I’d ever seen. Not the best technically but one of the best booked in how this match was put together.
Ric Flair’s initial shoulder blocks fail as he falls down but The Giant remained standing. He does a chop and flees as The Giant yells “GET IN THE RING”. Flair tried again with a shoulder tackle but it doesn’t work. This was great because as a fan, you start to question: “What could possibly have made him think this was gonna work?” Ric Flair was a desperate man willing to try anything, even if he knew that wasn’t gonna work!
The Giant did a big Gorilla Press. Flair got Irish Whipped over the top rope and to the outside. The Giant chases him as Flair hides behind the girls. Speaking of the girls, Woman was absolutely outstanding with her performance screeching for Flair’s life on the outside which we’ll get to as we discuss the finish.
Flair does a leaping eye poke! Ric Flair had literally jump up at the chance to cheat in his match when he could! Flair tried chops again but Giant just lurched on and no-sold them.
The Giant missed Flair as he charged at him and ran into the corner. Flair saw his opportunity to dive off the top rope but Giant cut him off. The Giant does a SUPLEX… to Ric Flair! The Giant tried a chokeslam but Flair grabbed the rope to prevent himself from going up.
As the girls distracted the referee, Flair low-blowed The Giant for the “heat.” Ric punched him twice but Giant pushed him away twice! Jimmy distracted the ref but Flair took advantage and dropped The Giant with the brass knuckles. This was actually a clever little spot because Jimmy almost caused The Giant’s downfall and this clearly demonstrates that Jimmy is holding The Giant back with his performances in the ring. If The Giant turns on Jimmy, this was a clever and subtle way to start telling that story.
Flair goes for the Figure Four Leg Lock on Giant but Giant rose up like a zombie and grabbed Ric by the throat. Woman, who screamed during the entire match. pulled off one of the most perfectly-timed horror-movie-like screams during a wrestling match. The Giant grabbed her man and Woman screamed like she’d just witnessed Godzilla invade Albany, Georgia. Her performance in selling the monstrosity that was The Giant was simply sublime. She knew her man was in deep trouble and sold this better than every manager except Paul Heyman could have done in professional wrestling today.
The Giant then chokeslammed and pinned Ric Flair to win the WCW World title CLEAN AS A SHEET in the middle of the ring as the fans went bonkers! This was such a tremendous moment where Jimmy leapt into the Giant. He ran around the ring and was jumping with joy.
This title change was so great because yes, the status quo on WCW Monday Nitro was disqualifications or counts out to protect everybody in the main-event because nobody wanted to lose. Not tonight. Ric Flair and everyone else involved put The Giant over bigger than Hulk Hogan could have possibly done. This was such a one-sided affair that the fans literally could not believe their eyes when The Giant actually pinned Ric Flair. It was one man beating another man fair and square in the middle of the ring.
It wasn’t even like this was just fair and square. The Giant dominated and beat a 13-time world champion by this point and now he was the new man. I’ve been very critical of the title reigns and WCW title wins since this series began but this was top-notch. It just felt like a perfectly-timed squash match to put over The Giant big as legitimately the new man while Hogan was away. This was not quite Brock Lesnar mascaraing John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 but this was such a decisive finish and it legitimately came out of nowhere after months of interferences and disqualifications in these big matches. This RULED.
Mean Gene gets in the ring and did an interview as Flair was pulled out by the girls!
Jimmy Hart said Flair got to go home with the women but Jimmy said he got to go home with the world champ The Giant. The Giant said he knew that this belt was his since Halloween Havoc. Whether anyone likes it or not, he said he’s the world champion and a fighting champion. He said: “Sting, Savage and Hogan, you’re all gonna come and you’re all gonna fall.”
This was a great episode of WCW Nitro. Up and down the show, we got good matches and fresh new faces and changes to the status quo. We got stars over big in The Giant and it feels we have a lot more direction towards Slamboree. This was a great episode and ranks high on the list of good episodes of Nitro so far, if not the best episode of Nitro.
Anyway, we’ve got more Nitros on the way. The build obviously will continue for the Lethal Lottery/Slamboree with a new World Champion in The Giant. The review for Episode #34 I’m hoping to upload some time this week before Sunday so stay tuned. 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 #34 of Nitro from May 1996.
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