RETRO EXPRESS: WCW SLIM JIM’S HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1996 (OCTOBER 27TH 1996)

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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The threat of the New World Order has grown larger and larger as the members of the group have grown larger and larger. In the last two months, The Giant, Ted DiBiase, Syxx, Vincent and a fake Sting have joined Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall’s conquest to take over the world. This included NASCAR racing and movie sets as shown in the last few months on Nitro.

A surprising new addition to the group was Miss Elizabeth, who it was revealed signed with the nWo which also messed with the psyche of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. In the week before Halloween Havoc and his title match against Hogan, Savage talked about life being fragile with an ominous threat heading into the big title match.

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Yes, we have made it to Halloween Havoc 1996. We’ve entered the unstoppable reign of New World Order at the top and that was not made any more clearer than this pay-per-view. We’ve had Nitros where the nWo took over the show and we’ve had the nWo win impossibly handicapped situations but this was the big one where the nWo DOMINATED.

It wasn’t even just the New World Order that dominated to show either. If you look at WWE booking in 2020, all WWE cares about is getting heat for the heels. There are so many few babyfaces that get organically over as main-eventers in that company because the mindset is constantly to beat the good guys I guess because they did that to Daniel Bryan and he got unintentionally over.

However, I think I have found a source of inspiration for modern day writers of WWE television. This was a WCW PPV where there were no happy endings whatsoever. None. Every heel on the show was victorious in this PPV except Lex Luger. Even when Lex Luger beat Arn Anderson later on in the show, he refused to let go of the hold (which is a heel move) and the heel got a sympathetic stretcher angle. So there was no happy endings during this show at all.

However, if you’re not really obsessed about the booking of the show, this was a good pay-per-view. The opening match for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship was awesome. The match was worth the price of admission and it wasn’t even the only good match on the show. We had some good matches across the board as well as the historic debut of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper at the end of the show. A notable and enjoyable pay-per-view.

 

Date: October 27th 1996

Brand: WCW

City: Las Vegas, Nevada

Attendance: 10,000

Commentators: Tony Schiavonie, Bobby Heenan and Dusty Rhodes

 

One of the first things I heard was a massive beep which scared the death out of me as the show started. I had to pause the WWE Network because I thought it was something else but no, it was some horrible in-show sound as the show started. It was some kind of horrible beeping.

 

Rey Mysterio Jr. © vs Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship

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For those who need a recap, Rey won this title from Malenko on the Nitro after Bash at the Beach. Malenko then beat up Rey and took his mask from him, carrying it down to the ring with him as a trophy. Here, we had the big rematch with the championship on the line. Rey had been the champion for 111 days heading into this match. Mike Tenay was on commentary for this one as is the case for seemingly every cruiserweight title match on WCW PPVs.

Dean attacked Rey before the bell and slammed him right on his shoulders with a back suplex. Dean hit a hard spinebuster and tried a Texas Cloverleaf but Rey spun out of it. There was about 90 seconds of awesome spots with some moves I wasn’t able to take down in my notes as it all happened at such a high pace. Dean did a snapmare but Rey landed on his feet. Rey did a springboard moonsault and Dean CAUGHT HIM in mid-air in a powerslam position. The fans were in bewilderment over these spots and words do not give it justice. If you go back and watch the first two minutes of this match, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking.

Malenko grabbed the mask he stole from Rey but Rey dropkicked him off the apron. Rey did a dive and then took off his own mask and replaced it with the mask Malenko stole from them and worked the match with a new mask on. I actually think that’s a cool concept that plays into the stolen mask storyline. Rey at least got some level of revenge.

Rey tried a headscissors but Malenko did a side-walk slam in a clever spot. Dean stopped him in mid-momentum and just dropped him with a slam. It looked sublime. There was one dangerous spot where Malenko got Mysterio in a suplex position but he threw him at the ropes. However Rey landed legs first on the ropes and he looked close to crashing head-first into the mat. It’s the curse of being so small that guys are able to throw you all over the place as Dean launched this man through the air and it nearly backfired in an ugly way.

Dean locked on a half-crab like submission. Malenko pulled on the leg and arm of Rey while putting his foot into the back of Rey for a further submission as Rey yelled about his back. Dean hit a back suplex from the top rope for a two count.

Dean locked on a neck scissors submission and it was clever because it didn’t look like he was squeezing Rey’s throat. Dean had his knees on either side of Rey’s head and looked he was squeezing his head with his knees like a vice grip. There was a different way to apply the hold other than just choking him with his legs. I liked that.

Dean missed a punch and Rey almost got the pin with a small package but Dean kicked ou.. Dean went back to work and did a backbreaker submission. Dean transitioned this into a camel clutch. Vintage fabulous submission wrestling from Dean Malenko being displayed. Dean did a slick looking tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Dean drove Rey’s back into the ring apron and threw him back into the ring after the match spilled out of the ring. Dean locked on a rear naked choke. Dean followed this up with a standing sleeper hold.

Rey fought back to his feet but Dean knocked him right back down with a kitchen sink. Dean did the quickest looking Northern Light suplex I’ve ever seen. It was a quick flip for Rey as he slammed down to the mat hard. Rey fired back to his feet. They battled on the top rope and knocked each other down to the floor.

I love how Rey got on Dean’s back and then he clobbered Dean’s face with big forearms to the face of the challenger. It looked great. Rey fired back with a springboard summersault senton.

Rey did a springboard corkscrew to Dean which Dean appeared to almost not be ready for as he briefly walked away from the ring. However, he was able to recover the spot. Rey did a West Coast Pop but Dean kicked out as the announcers noted no-one had ever kicked out of that move. Rey tried it a second time but Dean but him off with a sit-out powerbomb for a near fall which the fans bought as the finish. I bought this as the finish to be honest. A great near fall. Dean eventually got the victory with a gutwrench powerbomb from the top rope. That was an awesome match.

It was a great because…. THE BETTER MAN WON. It was not like they went back and forth or Rey was dominating him but Dean got a cheap win. Dean beat him outright clean and it was tremendous work. Go out of your way everybody to watch that match.

Match Rating: ****1/4 (Same rating as Wrestling Observer Newsletter and I totally agree)

 

Lee Marshall interviewed Jeff Jarrett. Jeff said the nWo didn’t impress him with monster trucks and jumping Flair. He said they haven’t done anything in the ring and he vowed Giant wouldn’t chokeslam him. Ric Flair walked in. Flair was on vibrate as he cut this promo about Savage and Jarrett taking out the nWo “all night long”.

 

Eddie Guerrero vs DDP in a battle for the ring

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Nick Patrick was the referee for this match. This match revolved around the lord of the ring title, which Eddie defeated DDP for at Clash of the Champions. Eddie never actually had the ring as DDP stole it and walked away despite not actually being the lord of the ring anymore. Now, DDP was claiming he didn’t know where the ring was. However, the ring was still on the line for this match. I hope that catches everybody up if you’ve not been reading the WCW Nitro series for this blog and you happened to find this review on its own.

Things were heated as DDP spat at Eddie and Eddie punched away at DDP on the floor. They wrestled for a bit. Eddie took over DDP with a headlock takeover. DDP did a front face lock. DDP got stuck in the middle of the ropes and despite Patrick’s warning, Eddie pushed Patrick away and kicked DDP down to a big pop.

Eddie did a springboard senton. Eddie chopped DDP with sweat hitting the camera which is a trope with television and wrestling I’ve always enjoyed! The action was so intense that sweat was thrusted into the camera lens!

DDP tried a pin with his feet on the ropes but Patrick stopped him. DDP threw Eddie into the air and Eddie came right back down on his stomach with a “nose dive”. DDP did a waist-lock gutbuster. DDP did an abdominal stretch but Eddie got out it. DDP did a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.

DDP actually pushed Patrick and Patrick pushed back to a ridiculously huge pop and Eddie tried a pin but got a two count. That was crazy to me that Patrick was monstrously hated during these WCW shows as of late but following one tease of a babyface turn, the fans lost their minds! These fans had hope for Nick Patrick!

Patrick chewed out DDP as DDP begged him off. Page shuck Patrick’s hand as he and Guerrero traded punches. DDP and Eddie traded roll ups. DDP missed a lariat as Eddie dodged but then DDP came back across with another lariat which the fans popped for. DDP did the slip-on-a-banana peel spot and almost landed right on his neck with even DDP feeling his head afterwards.

Eddie did the 10 punches in the corner and an uppercut to floor Page. Eddie did a top rope crossbody to the outside. DDP did the “flapjack” Styles Clash facebuster for a 2 count. DDP hit a spinning sit-out powerbomb for another 2 count.

Some fan I think yelled that DDP was nothing and DDP responded: “your mother’s nothing”. DDP hit the Diamond Cutter and Tony said that Eddie may have blocked it with his hands coming down, because I guess Tony believed Eddie was going to kick out and so he was covering DDP’s tracks. But then, DDP got the pin anyway! That was an awkward call from Tony! Eddie somehow blocked a DDP and got pinned in Tony’s eyes!

Patrick then went into his pocket to get the ring, gave the ring to DDP as he regained the ring. It turned out Nick Patrick had the ring all along.

This was a fine match. I’ve kinda changed my mind on the rating of this match a few times. A part of me thought it was great and another part of me thought it was a nothing match. It felt that the match didn’t really have a structure a lot of the time but there was some good drama near the end of the match. I liked the Nick Patrick hope spot and a lot of the moves were done really well. Therefore, I will give this three stars out of five. Not an exceptional match, but a decent enough match to watch in my eyes. Feel free to disagree but I didn’t see a lot of problems with this match.

Match Rating: ***

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THIS WAS SOMETHING ELSE. Mike Tenay interviewed “Macho Man” Randy Savage to reveal the winner of the Slim Jim Sweepstakes for Halloween Havoc. The last time we saw “Macho Man” Randy Savage on WCW Nitro, he alluded to wanting to end the life of Hollywood Hogan at Halloween Havoc. He said life was precious,  he was all disturbed, very not Macho Man like and he was dressed in black. He was a changed man heading into this match.

Now we’re here at the PPV, with the main-event of the show centred around a blood feud and, because they have a Slim Jim advertisement deal, Savage started acting like typical Randy Savage. He’s all amped up and goofing around, 6 days after being morose and threatening to kill Hulk Hogan! This was quite a change of tone for the Macho Man. It’s funny what money will do to a man!

He was goofing around as he pulled out a name from this paper mache.  Joan McChellick was apparently the winner. Savage wanted to go on a date with the winner of the monster truck! It’s crazy that he’s making his moves on random women he’s never met before after like 2 months of this angle where Savage was obsessed with Elizabeth! I get you’ve got to do promotions with the sponsors like Slim Jim but give me a break. They sacrificed two months worth of storylines just so Savage can promote Slim Jim and give away a monster truck! This… was bullshit. 

 

We got a whole bunch of time-wasting angles between the DDP vs Eddie match and the next match. They plugged the WCW website and Chris Jericho doing CompuServe. I will be honest, I totally forgot that Jericho was wrestling on this show at this point. I say this because Jericho was in his ring gear doing the CompuServe thing and my notes read: “I’m assuming Jericho worked a pre-show because he was in his ring gear!” This was already promoted to me last week but he was wrestling Syxx on this show! I apologise to Chris Jericho from 23 years ago but surely Jericho would have a shirt on at least before his big match or when coming down to do CompuServe. He didn’t need to do this CompuServe thing topless!

Mike Tenay interviewed Dean Malenko after his big victory. Malenko mentioned that he said he was gonna be more focused than ever and he was not gonna leave this building without the title. He was a man of his word and Malenko said this is what he wanted, this is what he got and this is what he’s gonna keep. He said he was gonna take on all comers. This was a solid promo. I know Malenko has this reputation of not having a personality but he did a fine interview here. He got straight to the point as he told everyone to bring it on! A great way to hype up the new Cruiserweight title reign for the Man of 1000 Holds!

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Ted DiBiase cut a promo with The Giant from the crowd. He cut a promo about Jeff Jarrett as The Giant was posing with the WCW United States Championship despite not officially being the champion. The Giant said he was gonna stick Jarrett to the wall, the ceiling, the floor and he was gonna chokeslam him right in the middle. He said when it’s all over, they’ll be no Jeff Jarrett or Horsemen. I wrote down “Everyone was gonna go to the glue factory” but I have no idea who said that line!

Remember a few months ago when The Giant was the WCW World Heayvweight Champion and he was cutting all of these great promos? He had such personality, he roared and he came off as a big deal. He’s now with the nWo and he’s cutting bland promo after bland promo and it’s not really The Giant’s fault. He’s the big man backing up Hogan but he has no direction or not character other than being Hogan’s bodyguard. He couldn’t do his Dungeon of Doom material and he couldn’t do “shoot” promos or clever promos like Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Now he’s in a position where he can’t showcase his charisma which we knew for a fact he had based on those promos from before. This was a let down of a promo.

 

The Giant vs Jeff Jarrett w/Ric Flair

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Going into this match, I didn’t expect much and the match very much met my expectations. You have Jarrett who is new to the company versus a green Giant. It’s the same Giant match we always see whenever he has to work a long match with a decent-enough worker. This did not need to go 10 minutes and Jarrett was not going to get a good 10 minute match out of the guy. It was also not gonna even lead up to a clean victory either way so what’s the point?

Tony explained his disgust in Nick Patrick for holding up the United States title that Giant was carrying to which Bobby responded that if The Giant told Tony to raise the belt, Tony would raise it. This was a solid point.

Ric Flair came out and they cut to the entrance ramp, and the first gravestone shown on camera as Flair comes out is a gravestone is called “Rick”. You cannot tell me that wasn’t just an elaborate rib on Ric! The FIRST GRAVESTONE they show and it’s Rick! I couldn’t tell you what the significance of these graves were as part of the Halloween Havoc set and I didn’t spot a pattern.

One of the commentary highlights of this show was Bobby explaining something and Dusty Rhodes yelled “I just said that” and Bobby responded, “yes but I’m doing it in English”. I love the chemistry between Dusty and Bobby during their exchanges. The fact these two only did PPVs together for WCW is a crime! Tony actually chime in saying: “That’s a good thing about your guys working together – it’s in stereo.” Bobby responded: “One in English and one in Cowpasture.” Tremendous banter.

Ric Flair was going crazy on the entrance ramp as Jarrett was out-manoeuvring Giant. Jarrett tried a head lock and then Giant lifted him high in the air threw him across the ring! Giant got some distance with this throw too and it looked very effective. Tony questioned why Jarrett would try a headlock on The Giant.

Giant threw Jarrett across the ring. Jarrett tried a sleeper hold on Giant’s back and Giant was struggling to get Jarrett off his back but he eventually crashed into the turnbuckle to get Jarrett off of him. There were big nWo chants. Giant was wobbly because of Jarrett but he eventually cut Jarrett off with a big boot to a big pop. It was a pretty decent looking big boot from The Giant too.

Ric Flair got in the ring and attempted to get a chair in the ring but was thwarted. Giant did a headbutt to the groin of Jarrett but referee Nick Patrick did not call it. Giant did a backbreaker submission.

Ric Flair grabbed a mic and commanded Jarrett to kick his nWo ass. Giant caught Jarrett in mid-air and did two backbreakers while staring right at Flair. This was a pretty boring match to be honest. Giant tried a bearhug, which was the moment where this was confirmed to be a boring match!

Jarrett tried a scoop slam but Giant was too big. Jarrett was able to floor Giant with a top rope crossbody but Giant threw Jarrett off of him when he went for the cover. Jarrett tried a Figure Four Leg Lock but Giant kicked Jeff out of the ring.

Giant tried to charge at Jarrett but Jarrett moved and as Jarrett moved out of the way, Giant crashed into the ring post. Jarrett did a Figure Four Leg Lock on the outside but Giant reached across to Jeff with a hand for the chokeslam but before he could deliver, Flair took off his jacket and did a low blow for the disqualification.

I hate this type of booking. WCW threw in two guys they were trying to protect but because of this, they didn’t want anyone to lose. Therefore, they did a disqualification despite it being clear that The Giant was the better man. If you have such a problem with picking a winner and a loser, why bother doing the match? This did nobody any favours. What the heck did Jarrett get from this match? Giant kicked his ass for ten minutes and he was saved by Ric Flair, who is INJURED! Why couldn’t you have just let The Giant get the win?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, The Four Horsemen ran down afterwards to help Flair and Jarrett from The Giant. Jarrett and Ric had a two-on-one advantage against The Giant and then more men came out to help those two guys. Keep in mind, Ric Flair and Jeff Jarrett were supposed to be the babyfaces. Jarrett came off like such a dork and The Giant came off as a monster babyface beating everybody up! Then Tony had the temerity to berate Giant for running away… from an unfair fight! The nWo, despite being heels, were booked as so superior to these WCW geeks.

HUGE THUMBS DOWN for everything about this match. On the bright side, at least both men tried and worked hard to try and get something out of nothing. Therefore, I will give them that credit.

Match Rating: *1/2

 

Ted DiBiase was with Syxx and Vincent. DiBiase said the Horsemen knew the post-match save was the only way Jarrett was gonna get out of that ring. He admitted Jericho was a great athlete but he was a great athlete at the wrong time. He was in there with the best cruiserweight in Syxx tonight. Syxx said Jericho would be crucified for the sins of WCW which is straight out of Stephanie McMahon’s vocabulary. He yelled the nWo is 4 life. I was not a fan of Syxx’s verbiage but Ted DiBiase cut a hell of a promo here.

 

Syxx vs Chris Jericho

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Bobby Heenan talked about Syxx making his wrestling debut and I swear Syxx wrestled on that nWo take over show a month ago.

Syxx and Jericho wrestled for a bit fighting speed with speed. If you have two quick guys in there and if they can keep up with each other, you’re very likely going to have a good match and this was a good match when the smoke cleared. Konnan, Taskmaster and Big Bubba were at ringside. Jericho ran wild with a monkey flip and arm drags for a while. Syxx dropkicked Jericho off the top rope and onto the floor.

Jericho tried again to get in the ring but Syxx dropkicked him off the apron and then did a dive to the outside. Syxx stomped at Jericho in the ring and did some kicks in the corner. Syxx did a rest-hold. Syxx tried a spin kick but Jericho caught it, so Syxx kicked him with the other leg which I actually think was really well executed.

Syxx did an elbow drop from the top rope onto Jericho, who was draped on the apron. Syxx missed a dropkick in the corner. Jericho ran wild for a bit to some boos from the crowd as they loved the nWo.

Jericho did a top rope crossbody to the outside. Jericho did a top rope back elbow for a two count. Jericho caught Syxx off the top rope with a dropkick. Jericho went for a cover and Patrick ran around for like 5 seconds before eventually went down to count the pinfall.

Jericho did a lionsault and a bridge pinfall and got a one count which the fans and the announcers disputed as a slow count. When they showed the replays of the slow counts, the slow counts didn’t even look that slow which is a problem with this storyline. If you are told to do a slow count, make sure the count is slow. Don’t do a regular count as it flies in the face of the storyline you’re trying to tell. Just wait for Starrcade 1997 as Nick Patrick’s will get a big moment when it comes to the speed of his counts!

Jericho did a springboard moonsault and again Patrick did what was supposedly a slow count. Syxx did a side kick and Patrick counted down the pinfall as normal for the win. Jericho chased Patrick out of the ring as Patrick carried Syxx to the back. A good cruiserweight match with not a lot to complain about. Jericho and Syxx worked pretty well together in this match.

Match Rating: ***

 

Lex Luger was interviewed by Mike Tenay. Luger said it didn’t need to come down to this but Arn pointed the finger at Luger for WCW’s loss at Fall Brawl. Luger said he accepted the blame but Arn wouldn’t accept that. He said Arn questioned his fortitude but now he’s gonna see a torture rack you’ve never seen before. He’s sick and tired of everyone running each other down in WCW. Luger said he’s gonna beat Arn, rack him and take him out and hurt him.

 

Lex Luger vs Arn Anderson

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This was a match that was saved mostly by the finish because this was a boring match. Arn tried all he could and it didn’t work but they did deliver a poetic finish in the confides of the story and it turned the heel shenanigans against the Four Horsemen.

Tony talked about Luger losing but not quitting at Fall Brawl when I seem to recall Luger tapping out after Hogan and Sting locked on a double submission in the War Games match. How that is not considered quitting, I don’t know.

They fight for a bit. Luger powered up Anderson and dropped him with a Gorilla Press. They followed up with a double axe handle from the apron. The Dungeon of Doom was cheering Luger to rack him which was an interesting dynamic. Luger used to be a Dungeon of Doom member but the Dungeon hated Arn and they were feuding with the Four Horsemen in Chris Benoit and Steve “Mongo” McMichael.

That’s actually a great aspect of WCW’s use of stables at this time. The Dungeon and Horsemen had been feuding since Brian Pillman feuded with Taskmaster back in February and after all of this time, they still hate each other and there’s still feuds going on between the groups. That’s great for the members of those groups and there’s a lot of layers to the program.

Arn got hung upside down and the fans are going crazy as Luger had him in peril. Just imagine what Luger was gonna do now that Arn was defenseless. Instead, Luger just throws a few slow punches and then after, the buzz just went away from this match. A better worker would have gotten so much more from this spot and that is frustrating.

Arn hit a spinebuster. Arn beats on Luger for a while. This was a boring match and some fans start to boo because nothing was happening for a long time. Arn tried a DDT but Luger grabbed the ropes to keep himself standing.

Luger started fighting back. Arn shoved Luger into the referee to knock him down. Arn grabbed a chair and tried to use it but Luger dodged. Arn tried a piledriver but Luger catapulted Arn into the ringpost. Luger suplexed Arn on the floor.

The referee Mark Curtis was still dazed. Luger then hit Arn in the back with a chair multiple times as the referee was still unable to see it. Arn was limp as Luger called for his finisher and Luger secured the submission victory with the Torture Rack. Luger refused to let go of the hold as the referee tried to break the hold.

So yes, after Arn yelled at Luger for giving up at Fall Brawl, Arn was the one that gave up from the Torture Rack himself. This was retribution for the babyface and when you’re able to make a heel eat his words, that’s a thumbs up in my eyes. One of the stronger finishes of the show to an otherwise boring match. However, this match did not need to be 12 minutes long.

Match Rating: **

 

Arn was being attended to as Jarrett and Flair both came out. They actually brought out the stretcher. Arn grabbed the arm and “rib cage” as he was being taken out.

 

Lee Marshall played Mean Gene and hyped up the WCW Hotline to apparently have the scoop about Sting. He interviewed Harlem Heat, Sister Sherri and Col Robert Parker. Parker talked about how the Outsiders needed reprimanded. He said they were riding on the coattails of the greatest tag team in WCW. Sherri said this is what the Harlem Heat lives and breathes for. Booker said the nWo were a couple of wannabe thugs and they were gonna jump them Harlem Style.

 

“The Faces of Fear” The Barbarian and Meng w/Jimmy Hart vs Chris Benoit and Steve “Mongo” McMichael w/Debra McMichael and Woman

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I will start of this review by talking about our main man Steve “Mongo” McMichael, I’ve really liked his character as part of the Four Horsemen. I don’t rate him as a wrestler but there were times where he at least knew how to carry himself as a star. The example I will provide was from the Four Horsemen’s ring entrance. Benoit came out with Woman by his side and Mongo came out with his wife Debra by his side. They both get on the apron, Debra and Mongo both took off their jackets off and a random woman was outside catching these massive jackets and coats almost effortless. I loved that!

Meng tried a kick but Mongo evaded it by cowering the corner. They locked up but smashed into a each with shoulder tackles. There was a great spot where they Meng and Mongo both roared crashed into each and Mongo did a tremendous shoulder tackle to floor him and send him flying. He jumped high in the air and Meng went flying in the air backwards to sell the pure force of Mongo. It was so cartoonish but I loved it. It was as ridiculously and over-the-top as it needed to be!

Benoit and Barbarian got tagged in and fought. Benoit hit a northern lights suplex for a 2 count. Benoit tried a headbutt but this was a mistake as Barbarian no-sold it and took him down!

In another great spot involving Mongo was when Meng challenged Mongo to a sumo match. Mongo obliged and then they had a full-on sumo wrestling battle slapping each other! They slapped at each other and they wrestled with Meng winning! Think of it as E. Honda from Street Fighter, who did these slaps to palm away his opponent! This was a better sumo match than the WrestleMania 21 match between Akebono and Big Show which included a LEGITIMATE champion sumo wrestler!

Mongo then took out the Faces of Fear with chop blocks for a while but then Meng cut him off. This was Mongo playing to his strengths, acting like an American football player to take down the monsters. I like that.

They did a double headbutt and Mongo just fell to the ground. It was a pretty funny bad sell where he just fell to the ground like this was a trust exercise! Barbarian did a scoop slam to Mongo. Mongo did a dropkick and did it a second time but Meng just moved out of the way and continued with the beat down on Meng.

Meng tried a senton but Mongo moved out of the way. Benoit got the tag. Meng and Barbarian did the back drop/powerbomb combination to a big pop. This was even better than when they did it against the Fantastics. How does no one in wrestling nowadays try that spot? Surely the War Raiders or Authors of Pain should be able to do it?

There was one awkward spot where Meng chopped Benoit and Benoit stood his ground as if to no-sell it and then crashed to the floor after like a delayed reaction. Communication seemed to be off for that spot.

Barbarian did a top rope belly to belly suplex and Benoit got throw HIGH and LONG to the other side of the ring. How a suplex can be so high and so far away is mind-boggling to me. They did really well with that spot.

Faces of Fear did the double headbutt but Mongo broke up the pin. Barbarian did a suplex into a Meng top rope splash but Mongo got involved to break it up. He pulled out Benoit and hit Meng in the face with the briefcase. Benoit hit the top rope headbutt and got the pinfall.

I actually did not see much in this match from watching it but upon writing this review, I realised this match was actually quite great! I think I would have shaved off a few minutes to make it a bit crisper but man, there were some fabulous spots ranging from comedy to full on serious. This match, in a weird way, had a bit of everything. For god’s sake, Mongo had a sumo wrestling match with Meng and it fit right in!

But of course, there were no happy endings on this show. The defacto babyfaces of this feud, the Four Horsemen, were beat up after the match. The Faces of Fear beat up Mongo and Benoit as Benoit made a comeback. Dungeon grabbed Women but Benoit made the save. Benoit however was being fed to the wolves as Mongo was laid out with a piledriver earlier on in the brawl. Benoit fought off everyone by himself briefly but Meng cut hims off with a superkick. Taskmaster beats up Mongo with a briefcase. Barbarian hit Benoit with a big boot. Bubba hit a spinebuster.

Arn was injured and Flair was with Arn and he was injured too so there was nobody to help these guys. Taskmaster went up to Woman. He took off his shirt. Taskmaster said Benoit wasn’t the man, he’s the man. The beatdown itself was actually a solid beatdown. However, in the middle of a show where all the heels were winning and there so much misery, all I wanted was to see was a babyface win a battle. Was that too much to ask, even in the nWo era?

Match Rating: ***

 

Ted DiBiase came out. He says its 2-0 to the nWo. The next match was for the WCW tag team titles but they were soon to be the nWo tag team titles. He said ever since they’ve come in, they had not failed to deliver anything they had set out to do. Ted said they don’t need a second time as they can get it done the first time. Ted DiBiase was a very solid hype man for the New World Order in this role. There was a part of me that felt Ted DiBiase would soon feel out of place for but now, he’s very solid in his role as a hype man. How long that lasts remains to be seen.

 

“Harlem Heat” Booker T © and Stevie Ray © w/Col Robert Parker and Sister Sherri vs “The Outsiders” Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for the WCW Tag Team Championship

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MASSIVE NWO CHANTS broke out during this match. To fan the flames a little bit, Tony said: “there’s a lot of punks in the world and there’s also a lot of WCW fans” when the announcers were talking about the fans in nWo fans. What a way to convince the nWo fans that the nWo is evil by calling those fans punks. Quite encouraging Tony.

Before a title match, it is common tradition where the referee will show the titles to the competitors and hold the titles in the air for the fans to see. When showing the titles to the Outsiders, the Outsiders grabbed the belts to pose with to massive cheers. It’s funny because (SPOILERS) the Outsiders won the titles anyway, so this really accomplished nothing other than get a cheap pop. Once upon a time it was a big deal to hold the titles for the first time. Here, the Outsiders already grabbed the titles literally minutes before winning them!

The fans looked to one side where I guess there was a fight in the crowd. You have to wonder how many fights broke out in the crowd during this period because this isn’t the first time where I see the fans in WCW look to the crowd for seemingly no reason. Some times I see this happen on Nitro because I expect nWo but no, it turned out it was a fan fight. I wonder if the WCW vs nWo storyline legitimately caused fights among fans.

Hall worked on Booker in the ring but Booker reversed the pressure and did a side kick as the fans paid little attention to the first few minutes of the match. Booker tried a leapfrog but Hall evaded it and did a straight up punch to a big pop.

Booker did a hip toss over the top rope which was not a disqualification as “the momentum took him” over the top rope according to Dusty. That it such bad logic. So if I did a powerbomb to someone over the top rope in WCW, that wouldn’t be a disqualification because his momentum took him over the top rope? I just dropped him but gravity brought him to the floor. If you’re going to do the rule at all, at least abide to it or tell your wrestlers to not do over the top rope spots.

A hoss fight began as Kevin Nash and Stevie Ray were tagged in to BIG DIESEL CHANTS. Nash overpowered Ray initially with punches and knees to the gut and in the corner. Ray shoulder-tackled Nash down and then spat at Hall. Ray kicked away at Nash with garbage being thrown in. Sherri raked the eyes of Nash. Booker did a scissors kick. Nash took over and did a side-walk slam to massive cheers, even from some women in the crowd. Hall did a sloppy looking bulldog where Hall didn’t even grab his head coming down.

Booker did a rest hold. Nash took a cheap shot at Booker from the apron to massive cheers as Outsiders gain the advantage. The fans were quite approving of this blatant cheating! Nash did a snake eyes and Hall followed up with a clothesline while the referee was distracted. Razor did a chokeslam with Ray breaking up the pin. Booker tried a crossbody and Hall caught him with ease and did a fallaway slam. It was a very well done spot from both men. Scott Hall had arguably his best performance in a WCW ring so far during this match.

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As I review this show a few weeks after the #SpeakingOut Twitter campaign centred around abuse towards women in the wrestling business, they do a spot in 1996 where Sherri slapped Scott and Scott grabbed her to thunderous cheers and then kissed her for the biggest pop off the night. This would not play well in the year 2020. This big, jacked-up man physically grabbed this woman, imposed his welll and forced himself upon this woman to get a kiss. These fans were very much approving of this at Halloween Havoc. In storyline, Scott Hall sexually assaulted Sister Sherri. If you do not wish to see anymore of this in wrestling, I would recommend probably not watching WCW, ECW or WWF programming from 1996 to about 2009 on the WWE Network! This is just one spot among decades of on-screen abuse towards women.

This does not get any better on-screen in wrestling and when Vince Russo comes along in WCW, you’re really not gonna like this. It’s disgusting enough on the screen and it’s even worse that these wrestlers bring it home with them. No, I am not suggesting Scott Hall also did this but heck this was established as the norm in wresting for years from this point. I’m sure a lot of young wrestlers watched all of this and the Attitude Era and just assumed it was OK, which IT’S NOT.

Right after this, there’s an understated spot where Sherri came off the apron with a double axe handle to Parker as she kicked off about what happened and him not doing anything about it! That was awesome!

Hall dropped Booker crotch-first on the top rope and Dusty goes: “you’re nuts if you think that doesn’t hurt.” Good form Dusty.  Stevie got the tag and ran wild with punches and clotheslines. Ray grabbed Hall of a Gorilla Press and threw him into Nash which I’m actually surprised they were able and willing to do. They put over Ray pretty well here. Nash got clotheslined to the outside. Booker hit the Harlem Hangover.

This was poetically the best possible finish for this match. I’ve ranted and raved for about a year now about these over-booked finishes for Harlem Heat involving managers and all kinds of shenanigans. It happened all the time. This time, the nWo turned the tables on them as they secured the win by cheating for a change. As the referee is distracted I believe, Parker tried to hit Nash with a cane. Nash intercepted him so basically Parker let him have the cane without a fight and then Ray got laid out with the cane and Hall got the pin to win the tag titles to a thunderous reaction.

With Harlem Heat as the babyfaces and the Outsiders as the heels and the Outsiders being cheered throughout, there was some screwed up psychology. However, this finish was perfect in the sense that Harlem Heat got a dose of karma. They got a dose of karma, they were “out-cheated” and now WCW have lost the tag titles too! This was unintentionally great!

Booker’s facial expressions were awesome as he was in shock, mouth agape in awe as he checked for his brother’s breathing as the Outsiders celebrate as they say: “the takeover is just about complete”.

I very much enjoyed this match with the exception of one uncomfortable spot.

Match Rating: **3/4

 

Hollywood Hogan did his pre-match promo with Giant behind him. Hogan had the worst haircut of his life and think of the ground that covered although the truth would be revealed later on in the match. However this Bart Simpson look did not look any good. He mentioned he’s just done with 3 Ninjas and a new film is coming up with Santa with Muscles. Hogan called Savage a long lost love-sick puppy. He said this was nWo rules and it’s time for Hollywood.

 

Hollywood Hogan © wTed DiBiase  vs “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship

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Now I will first address before this reviewing this match that there was a lot usual WCW backstage politics that led to this finish. If you’ve watched everything Hogan did to Savage in the last 6 weeks or so, he almost had to win this match. Hogan had tortured Elizabeth, put her through hell and now this was his time to kill him. There were contracts and a lot of stuff that happened which led to this finish but let’s review this match in a vaccum.

I say that because every other WCW at this time was watching this match in a vaccum. They had to watch it based what had been presented to them in the last three months or so and they had to watch this conclusion to such a deep storyline with Hogan, Savage and Elizabeth.

Michael Buffer did the ring introductions Savage’s theme song cut off Buffer’s ring introductions but then the production team wised up and shut it off as Buffer finished Hogan’s ring introduction.

Savage brought out a “Macho Man” monster truck which actually did look pretty sweet. One of the better looking monster trucks WCW has trudged out in front of the fans. Savage grabbed the mic to tell Hogan to get his “goons” out of here so he can kick his ass. The referee obliged and I guess threw Giant out. Hogan whispered into Giant’s ears as Giant walked out as I guess he told Giant not to fight it.

Hogan still had his sunglasses on in early parts of the match. Savage is just standing there in the ring as Hogan just walked around… RIGHT AFTER an episode of Nitro where he implied killing Hogan. Hogan is doing his thing and Savage is just… STANDING THERE.

Just like The Giant match where Hogan tried to hide and run from Giant, this match startED the same way. They mentioned that the monster truck was the one given away then correct themselves saying they were given a road legal one… in other words a less cool one was given to the winner.

A whole bunch of nothing happened for like 5 minutes. So I’ve seen a whole bunch of matches with Ric Flair and Savage where he and Flair fought and tried to kill each other. They scratched, clawed and chopped the hell out of each other because they hated each other’s guts. Here Hogan hid and run away and Savage did nothing. He just stopped and stalled in a match against a supposedly. crazy Randy Savage.

Hogan beat up Savage for a while talking trash and saying Savage was nothing. Savage fought back and did punches and a double axe handle. He then grabbed Hogan’s sunglasses. Hogan begged Savage off. Savage grabbed Hogan’s hair and pulled the wig off of Hogan and puts it on. Hogan looks around all panicked at the loss of his wig with some incredibly facial expressions! This was quite great.

Hogan headed to the back. Savage cut him off and fed his wig back to Hogan! Savage beat him u[. Savage grabbed and hit Hogan with a chair on the outside. It was established that you can use weapons on the outside because it’s there’s no disqualification on the outside but yet when Savage used it a second time, the referee cuts him off and Hogan blindsided him. Anything can happen on the outside but yet the referee wouldn’t allow Savage to use the chair a second time? Seems like flawed logic to me.

Hogan then used a chair. As Ted DiBiase distracted the ref, Hogan used the chair again. Maybe there’s some one chair shot rule I’m not aware of. Hogan beat him up on the outside. Then Elizabeth, not in black, came out in a fancy colourful dress. Hogan choked away at Savage. Hogan yelled at Elizabeth but Savage gets a roll up for a near fall. Hogan’s turnks are pulled down by Savage therefore showing his bare ass! He has finished his transformation to a slightly more diabolic Ric Flair now!

I love Hogan’s mood changing. He was all about making jokes and cocky at the start of the match but when he got embarrassed, he gets pissed off and frustrated. Great heel characterisation! It’s all jokes and games until the heel doesn’t get what he wants and therefore, the heels pouts like a child! Savage clotheslined Hogan to the outside.

Hogan grabbed Elizabeth on the outside as a human shield. Savage did a scoop slam and knocked Hogan to the floor Hogan again grabbed Liz as boos from the fans rain down. Hogan threw her and takes advantage with a clothesline. Hogan did a big boot but then Elizabeth entered the ring to boos. Hogan went for the Leg Drop but Elizbaeht threw herself on top of Savage.

Hogan grabbed her. Hogan goes for a Leg Drop again but he missesd. Hogan got a weapon from DiBiase, Elizabeth intercepted it from Hogan, the refereee gets taken down with a clothesline. Nick Patrick and Mark Curtis come down. Savage did a clothesline and Savage did the elbow drop. Nick Patrick did the 2 count but then his neck gave out. Savage pushed Patrick and took off the neck brace. Hogan tried to use “the object” but Savage blocked it. He used it. DiBiase stops Savage from doing the elbow drop. The Giant saved DiBiase from Savage. Giant did the chokeslam on the floor. With The Giant clearly in the ring, Nick Patrick strolled over and did the 3 count as Hogan retained the title.

Tony flat out said: “we’ve been ripped off”. 

Match Rating: *

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There was a lot of shenanigans in this match and it was an incredibly over-booked, storyline finish. However, this was one of the better ones where it came off like Savage was fighting to the bitter end. It wasn’t just like a bunch of things happening leading to the finish. The nWo were doing everything in their power to win and Savage and Liz were doing everything could to stop Hogan. In the end, the heel advantage was just too great and Savage was defeated.

I will now talk about the backstage stuff. I read the Wrestling Observer Newsletter from November 1996 I believe. There were a lot of contract negotiations being thrown around at this time. Long story short, Bret Hart had just re-signed with the WWF for a 20 year deal or whatever the situation was in one of the biggest contracts of all time. The WWF wanted to capitalise on this. They supposedly made big offers to Hogan and Savage, so they could continue their feud in the WWF. Savage’s contract was coming up and I think Hogan’s contract may have been expiring as well. WWF probably would not have had the money to attempt to buy Hogan out of a big deal he had with WCW so that’s more likely. The WWF were close to going out of business at this time.

Hogan re-signed with WCW but Savage had yet to re-sign at this time. Therefore, his contract was in limbo and so therefore they took the precautions of having Hogan beat him. Savage was not under contract, although he did work a few commitments after this show including house shows. Acting fast, with no new babyfaces to feud with Hogan, WCW went ahead and signed up a new superstar to feud with Hogan heading into Starrcade. Speaking of which…

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Giant brought down a big jug of ice that he was careful carrying when walking towards the ring. He got to the ring and KNOCKED IT OVER! Poor Giant! He was doing so well not to spill it! He came in the ring and threw ice on Hogan to wake him up as the nWo celebrate. I guess Hogan was knocked out which was why he did that.

Hogan said he’s the king of Hollywood. Hogan is tired of Ted Turner, he’s taking over WCW and anyone who got in the ring with the nWo or Hulk Hogan was going down. Then bagpipes play as Giant prepared to fight. Hogan doesn’t know what’s going on and out comes ROWDY RODDY PIPER!

Hogan rubbed his face with a shocked looked as he’s freaking out as Tony called him a chicken! Piper grabbed a mic. I’m a huge fan of Piper promos, especially watching them back now years after his death. However, what on earth was going here?

My only explanation was that Piper, because he’s Piper, just said whatever he wanted and HOGAN OF ALL PEOPLE had to get him back on track because they were running short on PPV time. Piper rambled on and on about how he’s a millionaire, he made Hulk Hogan and told Hogan to admit he was here because of all these people. Hogan shook his hand and said he and Piper were “neck and neck” and then he made a crack about Piper wearing a kilt. They yell and yell about god know’s what and the PPV cuts them half way through!

This was to build up a world title match between Hollywood Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper! It wasn’t even that Piper was a bad talker during this promo. He wasn’t. He had a lot of fire and passion and that was about it. He just went on about all sorts of things that had nothing to do with the New World Order. Then he and Hogan just argued like they were on The Real Housewives or god know’s what. Just a mess of an exchange to end this pay-per-view.

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To sum up this pay-per-view as whole, they had a lot of good matches and an incredible opening match. No happy endings to be found, with good guys going over, and a bad ending to the show with Piper and Hogan rambling about…. I don’t even know what they were talking about! I would say that the only two matches you should really go out of your way to watch is Malenko vs Rey and Faces of Fear vs Benoit and Mongo because of how wacky it was. Everything else was really passable and even the nWo shenanigans were not that exciting to me. I will give this PPV a thumbs up on the grounds that although there was nothing exceptional, there were some good matches up and down the show which is really I could ask for… and possibly a Slim Jim.

 

 

WCW Nitro Reading Order

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RETRO EXPRESS: WCW NITRO #46 (JULY 29TH 1996) – THE NWO ATTACK WCW DURING AN HISTORIC EPISODE OF MONDAY NITRO

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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The road to Hog Wild 1996 was still in full gear, a show where WCW wrestlers alongside Eric Bischoff would literally be riding into Hog Wild on motorcycles. WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Giant accepted Hollywood Hogan’s challenge for Hog Wild, vowing to chokeslam Hogan for WCW. Ric Flair no-showed WCW Nitro last week, leading to speculation of where his loyalties lied. Sting, Lex Luger and Randy Savage picked up a win in the main-event and declared their intention to fight for WCW and take out the New World Order. Meanwhile, the New World Order were invading WCW’s production truck and literally hijacked Nitro as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall took over the show.

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WCW Monday Nitro. We are two weeks away from WCW Hog Wild and we got an episode of Nitro that was considered a ground-breaking and historic episode with one angle featuring the new bad boys in town in the New World Order. I made the point during the review of thelast episode that everything so far had felt “tame” from the New World Order. Up until now, it was Kevin Nash and Scott Hall spray-painting blanket sheets andplaying around with the production equipment. It was the kind of evil plots Professor Chaos from South Park would have put together. It didn’t particularly come off as cool and edgy, although traditional wrestling fans would argue that heels should not come off as cool and edgy. Solid point.

However, it felt like the nWo storyline completely turned around again in the right direction after this episode. I’m going to change this review up a little bit. See normally, I would just review the show chronologically from start to finish but this time I’m going to tackle it somewhat out of order. The first thing I will review in-depth is this angle with the New World Order attacking World Championship Wrestling. It feels right to discuss the big angle right off the bat, as I have a lot to get through…

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What happened was they were having the rematch from last week’s main-event with a slight adjustment. It’s Sting, Lex Luger and “Macho Man” Randy Savage taking on “The Four Horsemen” Chris Benoit, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Ric Flair, who was replacing Arn Anderson who filled in for Flair last week.

Jimmy Hart interrupted the match as Lex Luger wa running wild. He was up on the apron trying to get everybody’s attention. He eventually gets Lex Luger’s attention. If you’ll recall, Jimmy Hart used to manage Lex Luger on WCW so it would make sense why he would go to Lex Luger first in this matter. Jimmy yelled that the Outsiders are here and the announcers stress that this is not a “Dungeon of Doom” ploy as the wrestlers eventually leave the ring.

They cut to outside at the parking lot where Kevin Nash and Scott Hall from the New World Order were standing above Four Horsemen member Arn Anderson with baseball bats. Arn was clutching his arm as Nash and Hall were looking mean over him and Marcus Bagwell who was also laid out by the Outsiders. Scotty Riggs came out and sees this and he gets taken out too with some kind of video equipment.

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Then WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio got a bright idea and jumped off the top of a trailer onto Kevin Nash. Nash caught Rey and gets him in a powerslam position. Nash then literally threw Rey Mysterio like a dart head-first into the trailer. This was like a spot that could only work in the 1990s. WWE would never attempt a spot like this nowadays and it really wouldn’t work as like a big spot nowadays, especially if you consider all the insane stuff we see from places like CZW for example. Here, it worked really well.

Think of this Rey Mysterio/Kevin Nash spot like Stone Cold Steve Austin hitting Vince McMahon with the bedpan on RAW when Austin visits him at the hospital. Austin was beating up Mr McMahon’s foot as Vince was wailing at the top of his lungs. AHHH! AAAAAAAHHH! He was screaming his head off. Austin then grabbed the nearest thing he could find, a tiny bedpan, and smacked Vince in the head of it. He hit Vince with it one time and it made the best noise in wrestling history. It was like Tom and Jerry in the sense that he hit Vince and it was like a ping sound that came out. It was one hit with a bedpan and Vince was out like a light.

Here, Rey gets thrown into the trailer. Keep in mind, Rey was putting his hands out so it wasn’t like he actually went head first into the trailer. Rey got thrown into the side of this trailer and all you hear is a big thud as Rey dropped to the floor and was down for the count. It was such a spot that was made for television. The sound of Rey hitting the side conveyed the…. I don’t want to say comical, but entertainment aspect of professional wrestling. It’s the sound that put the move over more than if Kevin Nash hit him 20 times with a steel chair. He did this one time and then he and Hall left the building.

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Nash and Hall stepped into a limo that was their getaway car. Rey mentioned later when he was being attended to and the announcers alluded to this as well, that there was four men out there doing this attack. They only showed Hall and Nash so Hollywood Hogan or the fourth man was not on television. Anyway, Hall and Nash enter their limo when the six men that were in the six man tag match all arrive on the scene to make the “save” I guess but it wasn’t really a save as the damage had been done. Everyone attended to the fallen on the floor… EXCEPT for “Macho Man” Randy Savage!

Randy Savage jumped onto the limo as it moved off. Yes, Randy Savage jumped on top of a moving vehicle and got into the sun roof. He gets stuck with his legs sticking out in the air as they drive away from the building. It was such an elegant jump that only “Macho Man” Randy Savage could pull off with such finesse and in such a way that it totally fit the character. He vaulted onto the limo to go after the nWo like a mad man, as he wanted to beat up the nWo, as established last week with his promo. If Sting or Lex Luger had done this spot for example, it would be one thing. Savage going crazy and jumping onto a limo as it drives away… absolute insanity.

In case you are wondering, everything I’ve just described covered about two minutes of real-time as to what actually happened with the nWo and this attack on WCW. This two minutes was such a home run. As I mentioned, WWE could not pull off an angle like this and make it come off important, but WCW did. It was a simple and effective angle where they laid waste to four men and then left. It made the nWo come off as a bigger threat than ever and as alluded too, there are now four men for WCWto deal with from this nWo group. Therefore, the angle had escalated to even further heights as we build towards Hog Wild.

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I have a few things to mention before I move onto what happened next on the show. Eric Bischoff mentioned on commentary that the nWo had taken out “half of the roster” backstage… half of the roster which consisted of four men! In fact, there were at least ten people out there at the ring for the six man tag when this whole attack went down! The maths from this announce booth was not really on form tonight!

The last thing was that Bischoff claimed the National News had been calling up about this. I was going to mock the idea that Bischoff claimed the National News would be interested in what was clearly a wrestling angle. However, Bischoff later claimed on his 83 Weeks podcast that there were people legitimately calling 911 because of what Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had done!

The quote I wanted to mention from Bischoff was: “It is true. It was something that I didn’t think about. It’s not like I was sleeping at the wheel or was too busy, but I never would have anticipated that you could do something on a wrestling show that was so believable where people sitting at home would call the cops in the local market, but that was exactly what happened … Sure enough, we had Orlando cops showing up on set because people called 911. They thought there was a murder going on backstage because they had never seen anything like it. It was so believable, it just didn’t look like a pro wrestling angle. It was everything. You didn’t see ambulances, or anything remotely close to this scene before. You may have kind of in a way similar but not executed like this or produced as well.”

As previously mentioned, this is nothing WWE could pull off in 2020 because the fans would see right through it and no one would call have actually called up 911 after Randy Orton attacked Edge after the Royal Rumble 2020 for example. It was clearly presented as a wrestling angle. This nWo thing was a wrestling angle which came off realistic because how it was presented was different than how everything had been presented in wrestling by that point.

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They come back from the break and Arn is shown grabbing his arm as Woman hugged Arn and was in tears over him. Woman pulled off such a great performance as an actress during this angle. Really, a lot of wrestlers in the back acted very well in looking distant or distraught or pissed off as to what happened. Woman in particular, who hugged Arn as if he were a loved one, was great as you could totally see Woman treating Arn as a genuine friend. Woman was not in a relationship or teased to be in a relationship with him like she was with Chris Benoit. It was not like Woman was consoling Ric Flair who hit on everybody and was a womaniser. Arn was just a guy alongside the Four Horsemen that looked out for his own tribe. So yes, Woman was in bits over Arn Anderson being attacked… I could buy that in storyline and it worked very well.

A big FIRE TRUCK drove in after four dudes got jumped by the Outsiders. Not an ambulance or the police or anything like that… it was the fire department! To be fair to WCW, I don’t find it difficult to believe that if a fire truck knew some major injuries and  big attack went down, that they would not immediately attend the scene even if there wasn’t a fire at Disney/MGM Studios. Heck, if there was a company out there who I could see getting emergency services onto the scene this early at their entertainment park… it’s DISNEY!

Rey grabbed his mask as the they tried to attend him. They eventually take off Rey’s mask as Tony explained the importance of masks in lucha libre in covering up their identities. In reality as well, no matter what the importance of lucha libre masks were, the ambulance staff would have had to take his mask off to see if there was damage to the skull or whatever. Rey did cover up his face but the point is, it was portrayed as new as lucha libre in particular was such a sacred thing in wrestling. Therefore if they were taking of Rey’s mask, the audience would knew something big had went down and it wasn’t just another wrestling angle.

Mongo yelled about how he can’t believe WCW let them come in here. Mongo was just yelling about all of this. Woman was literally in tears and devastated over this… her acting was tremendous. The characters were all in panic, showing great concern whether you were a good guy or a bad guy. They put their differences aside. Benoit was literally in TEARS, as is Elizabeth grabbing her head. Even little details like that was great because if you are in tears and distraught because something went down, you feel like your head was spinning and you feel like you’ve got a massive headache. This… was all insanely great.

Mongo’s face is shown trembling. Meng burst onto the scene mocking everything in Tongan and he and Benoit go nose to nose. They shove each other as Benoit growled at him. Meng wasn’t even speaking in English and Benoit was still all mad at him! That’s how emotionally distraught he was!

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This is where I must address the elephant in the room because Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan arrive on the scene waiting for the hand-over of commentary as it was the second hour. Bobby yelled it’s not worth him coming out there with a history of neck injures and a damaged nerve on his hand. He needed a guarantee that Heenan would not be hurt which Bischoff obviously could not guarantee that so Heenan decided not do the broadcast. Before I get into the elephant in the room, I do find it funny that Heenan had to go home for his own safety and wellbeing as the entire world in 2020 is forced to do the same during the coronavirus outbreak!

Anyway, the elephant in the room. We were just coming into the second hour of this episode of WCW Nitro and this entire segment took up at least 30 minutes of television time. There’s a yin and a yang to this. The yin is that they dedicated so much time to an angle which highlighted the “seriousness” that they wanted to convey to the viewer. That’s great and I appreciate that.

The yang, however, is that this angle went on way too long. They dedicated a third of the show to the aftermath of this attack. Remember, the whole attack was over in about two minutes. The rest of the time was showing Arn, Rey, Bagwell and Riggs being attended to. The fans were restless in the arena as they chanted boring. I personally was begging for a match to happen myself. A theme for the rest of this review is that all these fans wanted from World Championship Wrestling… was wrestling.

As ground-breaking and innovative as this angle was, this kind of stuff would ultimately lead to WCW’s downfall. Wrestling fans want wrestling… which I’m sure will shock some of you reading this review especially if your name is Vince Russo. They weren’t getting it here and they started to get bored.

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The problem down the road is that Bischoff and eventually Vince Russo relied too much on “Crash TV” and lack of attention to the wrestling and it eventually led to the WCW losing the Monday Night War. Really, all wrestling fans, and all these wrestling fans in attendance for this show, would want is wrestling. Even if it was Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs Mike Enos in the opener, they didn’t care. The stuff like this that was intended for a TV audience really doesn’t play well with a live crowd.

By the way, remember when Hogan knocked Giant off of a building at Halloween Havoc and seemingly killed him? There was nowhere near as much time dedicated to that angle as there was to this angle where four guys got attacked backstage. The Giant… DIED and they were back to the ring for another match! I checked my own review of that PPV and that’s what happened! Don’t look at me!

Anyway, that was an absolutely great angle that was certainly innovative and different at the time that got given way more time than it should have. This made it an unpleasant viewing experience purely because of how long it was.

I’m 2,500 words into this review and I’ve covered one angle as part of a two hour wrestling show! I guess I should talk about the rest of WCW Monday Nitro.

By the way… Bischoff mentioned that they did have “stand-by matches” that they were scrambling to put together. The card originally was The Giant defending the WCW World title against Arn Anderson and Rey Mysterio defending the Cruiserweight title against Eddie Guerrero.

 

Date: July 29th 1996

Brand: WCW

City: Disney/MGM Studios at Orlando, Florida

Rating: 3.1

Commentators (First Hour): Tony Schiavonie and Larry Zbyszko

Commentators (Second Hour): Tony Schiavonie, Larry Zbyszko and Eric Bischoff (and Bobby Heenan for about one minute)

 

The first thing they conveniently show is footage from WCW Saturday Night of Hall and Nash filming Lex Luger and Sting. They attacked Sting on his own as Luger was away from the car to make a phone call or whatever. Obviously, a third party was filming this beating alluding to the reveal of a possible fourth member… although it could have easily been Hollywood Hogan!

However, not even the dark lightning could hide the horrible white shorts Sting was wearing. They stuck out like a sore thumb. God, if I was wearing these shorts I would want a bunch of dudes to kick my arse while I’m at my car too! They were that bad.

 

Mike Enos vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan

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I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews of this match. Dave Meltzer described this match as a “worst match of the year candidate” on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter at the time. I didn’t think it was that bad and I would much rather watch this match ten times than the Doomsday Cage match from Uncensored 1996! This match to me was OK.

The announcers noticed there was no Col. Robert Parker, Dick Slater or whoever accompanying Mike Enos down to the ringside. There were USA chants. Enos attacked Duggan. Duggan hip-tossed Enos and then sent him over the top rope with a clothesline.

They get into a shoulder block battle but then they headbutt and punch away at each other. Duggan did the atomic drop but then Enos got the upper-hand by pulling the top rope and sending Duggan crashing to the floor.

Enos did a scoop slam on the outside. Duggan then proceeded to attempt some horrible punches but I guess Enos no-sold them and just took control of the match. These punches would not hurt a fly and would have even put Shane McMahon to shame in terms of their delivery, Maybe these punches put this match on “worst match of the year” level in the eyes of Meltzer!

Enos wore him down with the chin-lock but Duggan fired up to his feet. Duggan threw some better punches and then they tumbled into each other from a double shoulder block attempt. Duggan tried a sunset flip, literally pulling on Enos’ tights and showing Enos’ backside to the world.

Enos went for a top rope splash but Duggan evaded this. This was a very basic match but it’s amazing how much these fans were into this match. Duggan fired up again and fired away with punches in the corner. Hacksaw took the tape out his trunks, hit Enos with it to get the win and the pinfall and then Duggan raised the tape up high in the air for the referee.

It worked with the crowd and… it wasn’t that bad of a match. It was a solid OK but nothing more. They didn’t screw anything up but they did hardly anything of value. Therefore, I cannot put this on worst match of the year territory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In case you are wondering, the Doomsday Cage match from Uncensored mentioned earlier did “win” the category for worst match of the year for the Wrestling Observer Awards in 1996. For my fabulous review of that match, please click on THIS LINK to read about that monstrosity.

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Mean Gene Okerlund interviewed Hacksaw Jim Duggan after this match and Duggan cut a very good promo. This was a dude that had been up and down the road with the Hulkster, being a beloved babyface during Hulkamania where Hogan was a beloved babyface himself. Duggan said the young kids looked up to Hogan and they knew each other for 20 years. Duggan insisted that he knew what was in Hogan’s heart and so questioned why did he turn his back on everything he know? Duggan’s looking directly into the camera as he cut this promo by the way as if he’s talking to Hogan. An effective way to connect to the crowd and captivate you. I was very much hooked into this promo.

Duggan said the first word his little girl said was “Hulkster”. Duggan then claimed that Hogan was a great technical wrestler! HULK HOGAN is not the man I would have considered a great technical wrestler! Maybe compared to Hacksaw Jim Duggan, he was a great technical wrestler!

However Duggan said he didn’t wanna wrestle Hogan and he just wanted to beat him up. This was a fantastic heart-felt promo from Duggan. Hogan had turned on the fans and Duggan was upset. This really made me want to see Hogan vs Duggan… in some capacity. I wonder if WCW ever did this because this would have a been a solid money promo for that match, if they did it on Nitro for example. I guess we’ll wait and see

 

Ric Flair, Chris Benoit and Steve “Mongo” McMichael w/Woman, Elizabeth and Debra McMichael vs Sting, Lex Luger and “Macho Man” Randy Savage

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Yes, I did use a photo from last week’s show. In case you were wondering….

I mentioned this match earlier and when I realised they were doing this match again, I was gobsmacked. It didn’t work last week, so they tried it again? It’s not even like they replaced Steve “Mongo” McMichael with Ric Flair. They replaced Arn Anderson with Flair as Arn was supposed to be in a world title match later. Why? I have no idea why the did this. The worst wrestler in the match last week was Mongo and you’re gonna swap ARN with Ric Flair and not Mongo?

Getting back to Arn Anderson before we get to the match, Arn has lost every Nitro match he’s had in the last 3 weeks. How he got himself a WCW title match on that win/loss record blows the mind.

The men all get into a big brawl as Benoit and Savage batter each other like crazy. Savage and Benoit were a great combination where you could totally believe that they wanted to beat the hell out of each other. As established with the limo spot, Savage was out of his mind and we happen to know for a fact that Benoit became out of his mind in real life. However, their brawling together was really intense and well-done.

Sting worked on Flair in the ring. Savage literally had Benoit squeezed into a front face-lock as Benoit tried to claw at him. The referee tried to get in between them as they cut to a break. The referee eventually restored order and started the match. Sting beat up Benoit for a while and then Ric Flair tagged himself in. Flair took a cheap shot at Savage as the announcers questioned Flair’s loyalties to WCW. Flair and Savage brawled at the “VIP section” as they throw food at each other!

How Sting constantly fell for the finger poke from Ric Flair after all of these years, I’ll never know! Savage spat at Flair from the apron. Savage pointed at Elizabeth and in response, Flair rushed out of the ring to give her a kiss on the lips to infuriate Savage even further.

I love that Savage didn’t even try to wrestle Ric, or lock up with him. He threw hands with him and he just brawled with him. Savage was a mean dude, seeking Ric Flair’s blood at this point! This was another great combination of brawlers. Ric and Savage had some great brawling during their matches as we’re watching the Nitros. It was more old school and less intense as Savage and Benoit but it was great to see.

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Eventually Mongo and Luger get tagged in. Luger was hesitant to go in the ring which I would totally understand if you saw Mongo’s display last week. Somehow, it got worse…

Lex and Mongo locked up… barely might I add. They locked up a second time and it’s not even close to be a proper lock-up. Mongo got Luger into a head-lock and Luger bounced Mongo off the ropes. Mongo lost his footing when running the ropes, he tripped and then fell out of the ring. They cut to Mongo on the outside and Benoit was shown standing on the apron just looking at him as if to say “my god you suck.” Benoit looked at him like you would look at a co-worker thinking “why is he or she still employed?” It was a glare but more a glare of disappointment. Dear god, when Lex Luger is ten times the worker you are, that’s something to indicate that you don’t belong in a ring. This Mongo couldn’t even run the ropes.

Then they struggled to do a headlock together again, and Mongo eventually dragged Luger towards the corner so Flair could get the tag. I guess that was just an audible called by Flair as he could not let Mongo continue in that ring for much longer!

Benoit stomped aware at Luger in the corner. Savage and Benoit get into a brawl. Sting ran wild on Flair… what else is new? Sting slammed Ric with a superplex but Benoit broke up the pin.  Mongo is tagged in and does a clothesline following up with a backbreaker. The heels get the heat on Sting.

Sting eventually fired back and actually tries a backslide but Benoit broke up the pin again. Isn’t there a rule where you’re only supposed to break up the pin once during a tag match? WCW’s rules are strict enough where you can’t even throw a guy over the top rope without getting disqualified (please see my review from last week at this link for further context) and guys are running in with breaking up the pins for the hell of it. Maybe I need to pull up the rule book on that one…

Flair tries a figure four leg lock on Sting I believe but they roll each other over to try and reverse the pressure. Tony Schiavonie claimed referee Nick Patrick was “consistently good”. He’s consistent alright but “consistently good” was not what I was thinking. Jimmy Hart of course ran down and took the camera as the match just stopped. Of course, if you read my introduction to this review you know what happened next.

A rather bland match I didn’t need to see that eventually was a prelude to the real main-event of the show…

 

“The Steiner Brothers” Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner vs “High Voltage” Kenny Kaos and Robbie Rage

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As mentioned, we were waiting around for about 30 minutes as the nWo angle went down. They finally put out a match. Apparently the announcers claimed High Voltage were making their debut which they weren’t. I do recall the Faces of Fear kicking their arses on Nitro previously. Rick Steiner was shown very cautious and paranoid as he made his way down to the ring, looking to the back as Scott was shown trembling as he made his way down to the ring too.

Scott took over Kaos with a Fireman’s Carry and locked on an armbar. Scott tagged in Rick and yelled at him: “let’s go” and “come on” as they’re in the middle of this match.

Rick gets tagged in and get his arse kicked for a while. High Voltage did a double dropkick and a double suplex. Rage did a top rope shoulder tackle. Kaos tried one of his own and Rick was supposed to catch him but Kaos just landed right on his head. It was an absolute horrible bump taken. If I had not re-watched the battle royal from the AEW Double or Nothing show where Joey Janela went head first through the table, that would have been the worst spot I’d seen all day when I watched this!

Scott got the hot tag and ran wild. Scott did a tiger powerbomb. Rick slammed Rage into the corner. Scott dropped Rage with a Steiner Screwdriver for the win. This was… a match with one dangerous botch from Rick and Kenny Kaos.

 

Big Bubba w/Jimmy Hart vs Eddie Guerrero in a stand-by match

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This match basically confirmed that the nWo angle did a tremendous job in getting heat for themselves for their attack. Eddie Guerrero was supposed to face Rey Mysterio for the cruiserweight title. Obviously, Rey Mysterio was no longer available to defend the title. Therefore, they replaced Rey Myterio with BIG BUBBA. It’s quite a change of pace to move from facing the CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPION to BIG BUBBA. Trust me, I was booing the nWo myself for what they’d done! They robbed from me Eddie Gurerrero vs Rey Mysterio on Nitro. -.-

Also, keep in mind the amount of great cruiserweight matches we’ve seen on Nitro in the last month with Rey Mysterio, Dean Malenko, Guerrero, Psychosis etc. We get a Cruiserweight championship match cut from the show in favour of Eddie Guerrero vs Big Bubba. Therefore the first thing Bubba must do is get on his knees to mock the height of Eddie Guerrero. Are you kidding me? You’re picking this show, where the WCW Cruiserweight Champion was easily man-handled by Kevin Nash, to again have a heavyweight basically make the cruiserweights seem like jokes? Come on.

Bubba took Eddie down with a shoulder block and then got the heat for what felt like as long as that nWo angle. They do mention The Giant was still scheduled to defend the title tonight but there was no challenger determined. I have to say that obviously they had a plan for Hog Wild, but this would have been a great time for Hollywood Hogan to interject himself into the match and beat The Giant for the title here on Nitro to pop a rating. If it was like a master plan from the nWo to get Hogan into the match by taking out Arn Anderson? It’d be like the finger poke of doom but having the opposite affect. However, they had a plan so why rush things? Therefore, I’m OK with them waiting.

Bubba choked away at Eddie. Bubba did a bearhug slam for a 2 count. Eddie fired back but Bubba just knocked him back down. Bubba put on a LONG ARSE chin lock which felt 20 hours long. There were big Eddie chants along with some dudes booing. It was probably the same dudes chanting boring due the nWo angle.

Eddie finally hit a tornado DDT as the fans were standing and roaring because finally there would be some life in this match. Jimmy took the referee and threw the megaphone to Bubba. It missed Bubba, Eddie then does a sunset flip as the megaphone slipped from Bubba’s grasp after he finally grabbed it and Eddie got the pin. Larry even mentioned that Bubba didn’t need to use the megaphone to win… CORRECT. Bubba was beating Eddie soundly. Eddie Guerrero came off as a geek to me after this show.

Kevin Nash would infamously use the phrase “vanilla midgets” to describe the cruiserweights of WCW. However, if you watch how Rey and Eddie were treated on this show, they were in fact portrayed as vanilla midgets that didn’t matter. Nash took out the Cruiserweight Champion like it was nothing and this match with Eddie Guerrero. Big Bubba beat his arse for about 21 hours and Eddie got a fluke win because the opposing manager screwed up. After weeks of Eddie getting putting over big with victories over Benoit and Psychosis, Big Bubba smashed him for a long time and Eddie got a fluke win to supposedly set up Eddie Guerrero challenging Ric Flair for the WCW United States title at Hog Wild? This match was way worse than Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs Mike Enos to me. I don’t care what anyone says…

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Then we got more history. They show the first ever paid-for announcement by the New World Order. There was actually a lot of firsts from this episode of Nitro. They showed the famous nWo logo and play the famous nWo theme music. They declared that “The following broadcast is brought to you by the New World Order.” I love how the nWo proceeded to cut a promo on “Billionaire Ted” when it was probably Ted Turner’s organisation in storyline who agreed to put this on the air! Like it must have been a scenario where the nWo must have offered them a load of money to put these videos on the air and Turner Broadcasting were like… “OK.” Even though nWo were trying to destroy WCW!

The nWo members were all wearing sunglasses. Hogan said it’s a New World Order and there’s nothing you can do about it. He said they were new and they were taking over WCW. Hogan said they made the choices and be ready for the call if anyone was set to join the nWo. Hogan roared with laughter so loud as Hall talked quietly about who’s next to join the nWo. Nash said the whole world wanted to know one thing about Lex Luger…. “whaddya bench? Whaddya bench?” I died. Kevin Nash… his comedy is currently on and off with me. It missed last week with the production team stuff but that line I creased at this line about Lex Luger! Tremendous stuff from Nash.

Hogan said he would beat up The Giant and the very best WCW has to offer. The nWo will establish itself as the greatest wrestling organisation in the world. Hall told Sting and Luger to don’t sing it and bring it.

It was all in black and white and even by today’s standards, it came off so innovative that the people wanted to know what they were gonna do next. This also came right after an angle where they smashed four guys like it was nothing. So yeah, these were interesting times if you were a WCW fan as to what the nWo were up to.

 

The Giant © w/Jimmy Hart vs Greg “The Hammer” Valentine for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship

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These fireworks that went off for The Giant sounded like dolphins. If you watch this match and listen to the fireworks, they chirped like they were dolphins in the sea! It sounded so not-imposing despite The Giant being out there! Giant slammed Valentine into the ground off a push. Valentine tried to knock down Giant with clotheslines but then Giant just flattened him with a punchline as I’d like to call it…. it was  clothesline/punch hybrid and it was very funny to see Giant just clobber him!

Valentine hit a double axe handle but Giant caught him off the top rope as he attempted ta second one and hit a chokeslam from the top rope. Valentine was what 40+ years old and he was taking a top rope chokeslam from The Giant! Giant had the straps down as he roared and got hyped up with the crowd. The Giant hit a second chokeslam and got the pin. A short squash match for The Giant.

Mean Gene interviewed The Giant and Jimmy Hart. The Giant mocked Hulk Hogan’s “Mean Gene promos” and Giant said Hogan conned America that easily and he made the fans believe what he believed but Hogan himself never even believed in it. The Giant said he’s beaten the finest athletes and has beaten everybody with as much honour as in his body. I understand The Giant is the big babyface now but I do recall guys like Jimmy Hart running in for The Giant during WCW title matches! Honour isn’t particularly the word for it!

The Giant urged: “If we don’t hang together then we’ll all hang individually.” Jimmy promised that they would take Hogan out.

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There was a lot to love about this show but there was also a lot to despise about this show. Yeah, there were important angles that took place that were really well done and shot. However, the nWo angle made everything else seem so unimportant. Dave Meltzer put it best on the Wrestling Observer Newsletter edition for August 5th 1996 that: “The 7/29 Nitro show was basically a backdrop for a major angle.” Yep, that is a perfect description for this episode of Nitro.

We had boring matches and nothing matches up and down the show and the real highlight wasn’t even a match. Again, there’s a yin and a yang to this kind of stuff. As a show to hype me up further for WCW Hog Wild, this really got the job done. This show gets a thumbs up for hyping up Hog Wild and this nWo angle but a thumbs down for everything else.

We have one more episode to go before we get to WCW Hog Wild. I very much enjoyed writing this review and I know I’ve not been as active with the reviews since the new year started but I’m hoping to try and knock as much of these reviews as I can in the next few months. I think the Coronavirus will give me enough time indoors to get to work on this! Stay inside and be safe everybody! Take care of yourselves and I hope you follow the blog to get updates of all of the Nitro reviews and other posts presented by the Armbar Express!

 

WCW Nitro Reading Order

 

RETRO EXPRESS: WCW BASH AT THE BEACH 1996 (JULY 7TH 1996)

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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After all of this time reviewing WCW Nitro episodes, we have finally arrived at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996. A historic event which culminated with one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history. Although WCW Monday Nitro had recently begun their 83 week streak of beating WWF Monday Night RAW in the ratings, this was really the true event that turned the tide in the Monday Night Wars.

The biggest moment from the show was in fact the main-event, so I’m guessing a lot of you may be asking me if it was worth watching the 2 hours and 30 minutes or so before that building up to the main-event. The response to that question is yes. This show featured a lot of good matches up and down the show as well as a match which may have been the best match I’ve reviewed in the history of the Armbar Express.

However, the biggest thing I loved about this show was the anticipation it built in me around 24 years after the original air date of this pay-per-view. As a wrestling show, even though I knew ahead of time who the third man that would end up teaming with the Outsiders, I was giddy and the main-event was built as a genuine historical event. Then it was the time for the main-event and the fans were buzzing for this huge six man tag team match with Sting, Lex Luger and Randy Savage facing Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and the third man. This entire pay-per-view is worth watching to relive the buzz the entire show created for this main-event.

 

Date: July 7th 1996

Brand: WCW

City: Daytona Beach, Florida

Attendance: 8,300

Commentators: Tony Schiavonie, Bobby Heenan and Dusty Rhodes

 

Psychosis vs Rey Mysterio Jr.

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I understand that people may have busy schedules or may not have the time to sit through and watch this entire wrestling pay-per-view from 24 years ago. However, for any wrestling fan out there, I command that you watch this opening match between Psychosis and Rey Mysterio Jr. This was wrestling at its very finest.

I also understand that the business has I guess “evolved” to the point where it would seem to a modern fan that what Psychosis and Rey did here wasn’t particular special compared to guys like Kenny Omega, Adam Cole and the Young Bucks. In places like NXT, PWG and AEW, it is a much more fast-paced environment where you almost have to have hundreds of spots during the match in a super choreographed manner to keep the fans hooked and engaged.

I’ve gotten annoyed at matches like that Halftime Heat match on NXT last year and the Adam Cole vs Matt Riddle match from NXT in October because those matches were in essence move after move after move after move with seemingly no space for the fans to sit back and appreciate the individual moves. Those matches moved at such a fast-pace and they hit so many big moves one after another that it felt somewhat unauthentic to me.

This Rey Mysterio vs Psychosis was a true wrestling match. These were two luchadors so of course there was a lot of high spots. However, a huge portion of the match was focused on a wrestling battle and every big spot they hit truly felt like a big spot that you would remember. People would remember them because it stood out from the wrestling. They didn’t over-do certain moves because sometimes, less is more. Few matches told the story of less is more quite like this one.

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Mike Tenay joined the commentators for this match. Sometimes, I really don’t give Mike Tenay the credit he deserves. Mike Tenay was so awesome as the professor in this match and was a great voice for putting over Japanese and Mexican talent. When you have Tony as a basic play-by-play commentator accompanied with two characters in Dusty and Bobby, having Mike as a wrestling historian basically is a great asset on the booth. As much as Bobby and Dusty were entertaining, Tenay’s contributions of educating us on lucha libre tradition played into the layout of the match. I thought he was brilliant during this match.

Rey shot for the leg and locked on a single leg boston crab. Psychosis got out of it and went for a surfboard submission.. Rey did the armbar. Psychosis delivered a unique arm scissors as both men showcased some tremendous lucha libre.

Psychosis did a big Undertaker dive over the rope and smashed his head right on the guard rail. It was a nasty landing spot for poor Psychosis. Psychosis took control with a big leg drop for which he got a 2 count and yelled at the referee. They said on commentary Rey and Pyschosis wrestled each other in Mexico the night before! That’s amazing when you think about it!

Psychosis did a guillotine leg drop from the top rope. Rey sold a clothesline like it was death as he completely flipped on his head. It was tremendous looking. Pscyhosis locked on the head scissors. Rey pushed Psychosis into the ring with his legs and followed up with a hurricanrana from the apron. It looked very slick. Rey hit a west coast pop for the near fall.

Rey dropkicked the knee then took Psychosis down and trapped the leg. Dusty kept calling Mike “Iron Mike” which was proven to be correct at how well Tenay was calling this match. Psychosis tried a headscissors and initially grabbed the ropes for leverage. Psychosis threw Rey over his shoulders and launched him into the ropes, with Rey hitting hard and bouncing off the ropes. He dropped Rey onto the guard rails.

Psychosis did an absolute crazy Senton. What it looked like to me was that he tried a leg drop but missed his target so it looked like a senton. However, I did re-watch that spot and I think he did lean his back a bit when coming crashing down and Tenay called it as a Senton. By the way, I would not recommend any wrestler take a bump like this onto the floor. Psychosis fell right on his arse after falling from 10 feet in the air. That could have really wrecked his hip if he wasn’t careful.

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Psychosis was feeling his back and he was proper banged up following that spot.  Psychosis dig an enziguiri for the 2 count. Bobby asked Tony where he got these names for the moves and Tony simply said “if you don’t know it, make it up.” At least on this night, he was accompanied for one match by a man in Tenay who did know all the names of the moves!

Psychosis did a camel clutch. Rey did an awesome cartwheel hurricanrana and the fans popped like crazy. It was fabulous in execution and they probably did the exact same spot from the night before but the fans were blown away by this on American soil.

Rey did a triangle dropkick. Rey hit a top rope hurricanrana to Pyschosis from the apron all the way down to the floor.. Rey hit a springboard moonsault for a near fall. Rey did a springboard dropkick sending Psychosis through the bottom rope. It was all Rey as they were headed towards the finish.

Rey did a springboard corkscrew dive to Psychosis on the outside. Tenay called it an Asai moonsault and Bobby was flummoxed by this as he yelled “an Asai hammer lock?” Rey tried to do a West Coast Pop but Psychosis counted into an awesome powerbomb. Psychosis tried a crucifix powerbomb but Rey somehow hit a tremendous Frankensteiner from the top rope for the pin fall win. That was absolutely tremendous spot in the finish and if you re=watch this match, the way this finish was pulled was out of this world.

This was easily the best WCW match I’ve reviewed so far in the series. Rey and Psychosis put on a wrestling clinic. The fans were into everything for this match. Everything looked fabulous in execution and I loved the finish. This… was glorious

Match Rating: ****3/4

 

Mean Gene interviewed WCW US Heavyweight Champion Konnan. Konnan explained the finish of the Psychosis/Rey Mysterio in case you didn’t just watch the finish of that match a few minutes before this interview! Konnan was defending the title against Ric Flair tonight. Konnan said maybe Ric has the right to be confident but Konnan is cautious. Konnan threatened to clothesline his women, chop block Mongo and cripple the manager. He made good on at least one of those threats which we’ll get to.

 

Big Bubba w/Jimmy Hart vs John Tenta in a sack of silver dollars on a pole match

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Tenta chased Bubba out of the ring. Tenta beat Bubba’s arse for while. Tenta tried to get the silver dollars but Bubba cut him off. Tenta did the same to Bubba. Tenta tried again but Bubba cut him off and dropped him with a back suplex to which Dusty called a load. Bubba tried to get the sack but he was too short and drops on the top rope and gets crotched. Speaking of which…

Talk about just booking yourself into the corner with this match. This wasn’t even a match booked by Vince Russo either. WCW booked a match between John Tenta and Big Bubba where one of them must grab the sack of silver dollars from the top of the pole. They booked this match and then I guess realised a few days later that none of these two big men could actually CLIMB up this pole to go get this sack.

Tenta was too big to get up that pole, it was established that Bubba was too big and too short to get up that pole… as crazy and contradictory as that sounds! Figure that one out! Not only did they book this match realising these two men were just too big, I swear they put up the biggest pole they could find and stacked the sack right on top of it.

This sack is on top of the largest pole they could have find so neither man could have reached it even if they tried. They might as well as put this sack up on the moon it was that high in the sky! Tenta realised this so he tried to unhook the pole itself from the ring post. Bubba choked Tenta with the belt from behind. I don’t remember if he was talking about Bubba or Tenta but Dusty even said “I don’t even think he can get up there.”

Bubba tied Tenta to the ropes with tape. He beats him up with a belt. Bubba gets the scissors that he had previously used to cut Tenta’s hair and beard. He goes to cut the rest of Tenta’s hair but Tenta does a low blow to Bubba.

Bubba hit a spinebuster. Bubba instructed Jimmy to get the sack as Bubba realised he can’t get it. Jimmy Hart, who is not a professional wrestler, scaled up this big pole so fast. Jimmy climbed up this pole and grabbed the sack but Tenta powerslammed Bubba as Hart was grabbing the sack. Hart slid down the pole and when he turns around he sees Tenta waiting for him. Tenta took the sack and knocked Hart down. Tenta smashed Bubba in the head with the sack and got the pin.

As absurd as the concept of this match was, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was the right shade of so bad it’s good. It’s stupid that they did a match where Bubba and Tenta had no way of getting the sack without Hart being involved. However, I enjoyed the comedy of it all. I enjoyed Tenta getting a big babyface win after months of being humiliated by the Dungeon of the Doom and he overcame the odds.

Match Rating: ** 

 

Mean Gene interviewed “Team WCW” in Lex Luger, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Sting. Savage said he didn’t care who the third man was but they’re gonna get hurt and they were gonna take the heels down with them. Luger said these outsiders have made a lot of noise and he and Team WCW would represent WCW to the best of our ability. Luger certainly did not live up to his own hype if you see what they did WITH him in this main event!

Luger said actions speak louder than words. Sting said the unknown gave him chills up and down his spine and goosebumps and it did the same to Savage and Luger. He said they’re a team and they were ready. They were all excited and all ready for Hostile Takeover. A very fired up promo by the good guys. The announcers noteD that there was no sign of Eric Bischoff at Bash at the Beach.

 

DDP vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan in a taped fist match for the Lord of the Ring

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Calling this a “taped fist” match was pure false advertising. There was not one taped fist actually used DURING the match and this was the most basic bland match you could think of.

Duggan did the USA chants as DDP freaked out. Duggan shoulder-blocked DDP to the outside as DDP was agitated by USA chants. DDP spat at Duggan and dropped him with a jaw breaker on the top rope.

DDP taped Duggan’s feet on the ring post. DDP punched away at Duggan while he was stuck. Keep in mind, this was the only spot in the match where the tape was actually involved. DDP’s used the tape to tie up Duggan because per the stipulations of the match, you can use the tape. The referee Nick Patrick, the worst referee in the history of the world, then proceeded to free Hacksaw Jim Duggan from this tape…. IN A TAPED FIST MATCH. The ONE SPOT they had involving tape and Patrick ignores it and helped Duggan out of this predicament. Could Patrick do anything right?

Duggan did punches where DDP was stuck in the middle of the ropes and teeter-totted as Duggan repeatedly punched him with DDP selling like crazy. Duggan threw him into the guard rail.. Duggan suplexed DDP into the ring

DDP dropped with him an arm breaker. DDP went up to the top rope but Duggan dropped him on the top rope crotching him. Duggan bounced DDP’s head all over each turnbuckle. Duggan, like a dick, yelled at a cameraman to “get out of my way.” DDP hit the Diamond Cuter for the clean win…what was the point of the taped fist match stipulation?

I guess the point of the stipulation was that Duggan then hit DDP with the taped fist anyway after the match and after he lost FAIR AND SQUARE. Bobby Heenan even called it a cheap shot… AND HE’S RIGHT.

Match Rating: *1/2

 

Mean Gene brought in “the little twerp” Jimmy Hart, The Giant and Taskmaster for an interview. Taskmaster and Giant were wrestling Chris Benoit and Arn Anderson of the Four Horsemen on this show. Taskmaster said they can bring all four horsemen out but there was something burning in his heart. The Giant said he’d never consider the Taskmaster the weak link as Taskmaster brought The Giant into WCW. The Giant said again about the horsemen saying they were the elite but he’s the champion. The Giant said he was gonna have horse stew.

Lee Marshall interviewed Benoit and Arn on the ramp. Arn briefly talked about the Outsiders and says they’re gonna find Sting, Luger and Savage rougher or something like that. Arn talked about Taskmaster. Benoit said the Horsemen had tolerated the Dungeon for far too long. He said they were gonna finish off what they started. Benoit eerily said he was gonna leave Taskmaster for dead.

 

“Public Enemy” Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock vs “The Nasty Boys” Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags in a four man dog collar match

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I don’t know if this is the first time I’ve noticed it but The Nasty Boys had a shocking WCW theme song. If you want to listen to it on YouTube, it’s called “We’re The Boys” and it is rough! Pun not intended, despite this being a dog collar match!

This PPV was just on a streak of horrible match stipulations. Following the sack of silver dollars on a pole match and a taped fist match that wasn’t even a taped fist match, we had Public Enemy and Nasty Boys in dog collar match. Since this is a Nasty Boys vs Public Enemy match, it went exactly like every other match they’ve had together.

Dog collars were hooked around the necks of each wrestler so two opposing team members would be tied up. This match in the middle of a blood feud where all these teams want to do is fight each other ended up staring with all four men just STARING at each other. It was at least 30 seconds after the bell rang before they actually started to fight.

Of course, they get trash cans. Knobbs and Grunge brawled on the set which was made up like a beach. Sags hit Grunge with a rubber shark which I did laugh at. All four men fight up the stage. Sags used the surf board as a weapon (an actual surf board. Not the surfboard submission hold!)

Of course, Knobbs smashed Grunge in the head with a chair. Completely ugly weapon shots. The brawling wasn’t that bad but I’ve seen this so often from these teams in this series. If you see one match between the Public Enemy and Nasty Boys, you’ve seen all of them.

Rocco did a dive from the top of the lifeguard chair with a big senton. The brawl certainly wasn’t that bad but all of this brawling took place on the entrance ramp away from the fans! So the fans could barely see what was going on.  Rocco got thrown off the top of the lifeguard chair as the structure fell down with him.

Grunge whipped Knobbs with the chain that were linked to each other. A table was thrown at Rocco by someone. It was hard to tell with the camera angle. It could have been Grunge for all I know that threw the table at Rocco!

Sags did a piledriver on the ramp. Rocco did a dive off the guard rail, smashing into Sags and going through a table. This was all shown in a split-screen format and it was all an unpleasant viewing experience, which is putting it mildly.

Dusty said “it’s ain’t over as they don’t want it to be over” as all four men kept going for pin falls! This was not Benoit/Taskmaster in their falls count anywhere match from The Great American Bash where there was one pin fall in the entire match. They all wanted to fight each other so bad that there was constant pin fall attempts!

Grunge sent Knobbs crashing face first into the table. As Grunge choked Knobbs, Rocco went up to the top rope  but Sags used the chain to yank him off the top rope and back into the table. However, he did not crash through the table as initially. Rocco BOUNCED OFF THE TABLE. This proved to be one of the most unbreakable tables I’ve ever seen!

Saggs tried to do a double axe handle on Rocco through the table but they still weren’t able to break the table. Knobbs hung Grunge out to dry over the top rope with the chain. Sags Irish Whipped Rocco into the chain, and Rocco smashed into it as the Nasty Boys got the pin.

OF COURSE, Public Enemy beat their arses after the match to complete no-sell the affects of this match. Sags got put through a table and this whole thing sucked.

Match Rating: ¾*

There was 1% of this match that was good and it was actually after the match was over. Of course Tony asked again who the third man was for the main-event and Bobby recommended that the third man should be the table!

 

Mean Gene talked about Hostile Takeover as he was surrounded by security. In every segment involving this Hostile Takeover, there were dozens of security staff patrolling the arena!

 

Dean Malenko © vs Disco Inferno for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship

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I criminally was not looking forward to this match when I realised Disco Inferno was fighting for the title. As the opening match showcased, you have all of these cruiserweights in your arsenal and the most green cruiserweight possible is the dude fighting Dean Malenko? Say what you will about Disco Inferno, but this match put the dude over like a million bucks.

Disco got the mic and said everyone was welcome to his disco dance party. Malenko punched Disco and threw his arse out of the ring, He beat his arse and bounced him off the ring post. Dean hit a brainbuster but Disco kicked out.

Dean did the headscissors and kicked away at him. Dean hit a back suplex. Remember when Sgt Pittman locked Disco in the Code Red a month ago and he tapped out right away? Well here, Dean did a knee bar (the exact same hold) and Disco refused to give up. Disco was locked in this hold for about a minute and the dancer refused to give, even against the cruiserweight champion. He took this seriously and was determined to see this fight to the end.

Dean worked on the leg and locked on a STF. Dean tried a sunset flip but Disco kicked out. By this point, Disco had not done one move… he may have thrown a punch or a kick here and there but mostly, Dean beat the crap out of him. This was essentially an elongated squash match for a while until Disco finally fought back into the match and punched away at Dean.

Disco flapjacked Dean on the top rope. Disco hit a sloppy facebuster for a 2 count. This was a facebuster which was like the Skull Crushing Finale. Dean locked on a long submission.

Disco hit a neckbreaker and goes for the cover but Dean gets his foot on the rope. Disco tried a back drop and Disco hits another neckbreaker. He went to dance but realised what he was doing and went for the cover but Dean kicks out. He started to dance but then realised that winning this title was more important than dancing and cut out the cockiness to try to win.

Dean hit springboard dropkick. Disco tried a small package but was unable to get the win. Dean takes Disco’s head off with a clothesline. Dean then hit a tiger powerbomb and then locked on the Texas Clover Leaf for the win.

This was boring for a long time but it ended up being a really good match. They booked a very simple but effective story of Dean Malenko beating the daylights of Disco with the dancer refusing to give up. There are very few people in WCW at this point that can get the heat on someone better than Dean Malenko and who better to deliver this beating on Disco than Dean? Disco demonstrated that was he was able withstand this beating and made Dean work to retain his title. Honestly this was the best match Disco Inferno has had so far and it’s the most he’s looked as an actual star. This gets a thumbs up!

Match Rating: ***

 

Joe Gomez vs Steve “Mongo” McMichael w/Debra McMichael

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This match DOES NOT get a thumbs up! I’d watched Mongo in two matches before this one since he started wrestling in WCW. Mongo’s had this reputation for years as one of the worst wrestlers of all time and having watched those two matches at The Great American Bash and Nitro, I didn’t particularly see what was so terrible about him. He seemed as good as a man with two matches in the bag would be. He was in tag matches and he did OK in the matches that he was in. This was his first singles match in WCW… and this honestly should have been his last.

Mongo was pretty bad in this match but it was mostly down to whenever he had to sell for Joe Gomez. When he was chopping away at Joe and he was “getting the heat”, he wasn’t too bad. He wasn’t any good but he wasn’t like embarrassing or anything. Mongo barely could sell a thing or simply just didn’t wanna sell anything for poor Joe Gomez.

The best thing about this new heel Mongo character though is that previously, Mongo had a little chihuahua with him at commentary. Now, it has been noted that he’s upgraded to a poodle! It’s a small thing but I loved that.

Mongo barely sold. Gomez did a crossbody for a 2 count. Mongo went from barely selling to not-selling at all at points. The only time he did so I guess was when Gomez forced him to take the crossbody! Gomez does the head-smashing and Mongo just “mule kicked” him in the balls.

Mongo did a camel clutch and had this big grin on his face. Mongo did a sleeper hold to which Gomez got out of with a jawbreaker. Mongo sold this comically by feeling his face and then falling down as if he was just a ironing board falling over. The one time he tried to actually sell and he over-did it!

Mongo hit the reverse neckbreaker. Mongo tried a Figure Four but Gomez reversed it into a small package roll-up. Mongo did a scoop slam. Mongo tried a piledriver and Gomez reversed it by thrusting Mongo over his shoulders. However, Mongo went over too early and Gomez really had to heave and deep down to get Mongo off of him and over his shoulders. Sometimes you forget that Mongo was a massive former American Football Player. Asking Joe Gomez to hurl Mongo off his shoulders was a tall order.

Gomez did some karate chops and dropkicks but Mongo kept getting up. Gomez went for a sunset flip but Mongo fell down, tried to improvise by hooking the legs and then just went over. Mongo hit a tombstone piledriver for the win.

Match Rating: -1/4*

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This next segment had to be the best Mean Gene Okerlund interview segment so far in the Nitro series. I wouldn’t say of all time as we’ve got a moment a few years in the future also involving Ric Flair that will surely be the best! Mean Gene interviewed Ric Flair, Miss Elizabeth and Woman. Mean Gene gazed into Woman’s eyes and was lost at the train of thought. I love this mini-storyline of Mean Gene falling in love with Woman. Mean Gene had a go at Woman for distracting him from doing his job. Mean Gene blamed her for him not being professional! This is the great irony of this! I’ve really turned the corner on Woman during these shows as well. She played this heel seductive manager role very well here with Ric. Her dynamic with the Horsemen was pretty great.

Ric Flair said the Horsemen were going four and four tonight. Ric Flair was dancing and yelling and he was on fire with this promo. He did the la cucaracha. He said Konnan was the man with a 1000 holds but he was facing a man with unlimited knowledge of this business. It was somewhat confusing that he talked about Konnan being the man of 1000 holds, right after a Dean Malenko match!

Elizabeth talked about a great big party. Woman had Mean Gene stuttering as he was saying “at a p…pp… private party.” Ric told Savage to keep looking at the TV as Elizabeth will never be with him again. This was a great Ric Flair promo. Mean Gene admitted he found Woman attractive but he didn’t approve of who she hung around with in a line which didn’t age well with the benefit of hindsight. Woman called him out on it saying he wanted her bad and he didn’t care about who she hung around with. Mean Gene then nearly dropped the mic. This is the BEST! Woman, through seduction and seeming Jedi mind tricks, was able to stop Mean Gene dead in his tracks as he dropped the mic. This was… superb television!

 

Konnan © vs Ric Flair w/Miss Elizabeth and Woman for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship

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Konnan wrestled Ric to the ground to kick off the match. Ric gave Konnan a little shove to the chest and then Konnan slapped him and Ric fell down, stunned at the audacity of this man! Konnan and Ric had a good old wrestle as they grappled down to the mat exchanging holds. Konnan did a woo and a few people booed.

Konnan locked a half-surfboard on Flair, putting his foot in Flair’s back. Ric going all the way up would have been a sight to see but we only got the half-surfboard submission! Konnan was able to Gorilla Press Ric over his shoulders, which is quite impressive since Konnan is not particularly tall but he did possess a broad body at this time.

Konnan hit powerful chops and hit another Gorilla Press slam. Konnan somehow felt the need to do the clothesline over the top rope and send himself and Ric over the top. To I guess prove himself right from his promo earlier, Konnan did a clothesline to Flair from the apron and knocked down Elizabeth in the process! Say what you will about his actions, but at least Konnan followed up on a promise to hurt the women!

Woman somehow shook the bottom rope to send Konnan flying off the top rope. Ric and Konnan battled with chops and punches. Ric distracted the referee and Woman booted Konnan right in the balls and EVERYBODY LOST THEIR MINDS. The fans were going crazy for Woman booting Konnan down below and this was RIGHT AFTER Konnan sent Elizabeth crashing to the floor. To this crowd, Konnan was a complete heel getting his comeuppance by another woman!

Woman clawed at Konnan on the outside as Ric Flair went to kiss Elizabeth on the hand. Ric suplexed Konnan and after four attempts was still unable to put him away with a pin fall. Konnan fired back with chops to the point where even Bobby said that Konnan was showing him something. Konnan did a springboard dropkick to Ric. Konnan tried a sunset flip but Flair punched him down.

Flair tried a Figure Four Leg Lock which led to a Konnan doing a small package for a near fall. Konnan tried his own Figure Four Leg Lock as the fans started to buzz. Konnan did a bulldog for a 2 count. Konnan did a roll-up clothesline for another 2 count. Konnan reversed a hip toss into an abdominal stretch like cradle which I actually think was unique.

Elizabeth went up to the apron to distract referee Nick Patrick. I think Elizabeth jumped the gun a little bit because Woman then got up on the apron and the fans started to buzz again. Elizabeth argued with the referee for about 30 seconds as the dudes just continue wrestling. They don’t notice or react to what the referee, Woman and Elizabeth were all doing which was weird. Konnan continued to work in the ring and Woman was standing there with no attempt by Ric and Konnan to make their way to Woman. Finally Flair went to talk to the referee and THEN Woman made her move and hit Konnan with her shoe. I think Elizabeth was the one that screwed up for jumping her cue so I don’t put this on Nick Patrick, Konnan or anyone else but it just seemed like a complete mess.

Ric got the pin and even had to get his foot on the TOP ROPE for leverage, even after a shoe shot! The fans cheered.

Match Rating: ***1/4 This was close to 3 and a half stars but the finish and certain spots brought it down.

 

Mean Gene was shown ears-dropping on the Outsiders. He claimed he heard the 3rd man. He said he sounded familiar but it muffled! He said it was somebody that we’ve seen and heard before but it was distorted. Mean Gene recognised the voice but couldn’t put the pieces together. When it is revealed later who it is, it’s actually preposterous that Mean Gene wasn’t able to recognise this guy’s voice! This man had a distinguishable voice, which surely MEAN GENE OKERLUND of all people could immediately recognise!

 

Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit representing the Four Horsemen vs The Giant and Taskmaster representing the Dungeon of Doom. If the Four Horsemen won, one of them would get a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match on WCW Nitro

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This was such a well booked tag team match. WCW really went out of their way to put The Giant over. He was the WCW World Heavyweight Champion so he obviously need to be put over big. Well this match in particular did wonders for The Giant as building him up as a big, powerful giant.

The Dungeon jumped the Horsemen before the bell. Taskmaster clocked Anderson with the table. Mongo ran down and smacked Giant with the briefcase but Giant chased him off. The Horsemen used this to their advantage and isolated Taskmaster at ringside. Benoit and Taskmaster fought in the ring as Giant makes his way back to the ring.

I do like that they played Taskmaster up as the supposed weak link but the Horsemen felt the need to double team him before the bell as they did actually him as a threat all along! Subtle but a good way to put over Taskmaster. It’s almost like he booked it! 😉

The Horsemen beat down Taskmaster near and around their corner. The Horsemen did frequent tags to each other to stay fresh and keep Taskmaster occupied. The Giant saved Taskmaster from a DDT with an apron clothesline which the fans popped for. The Giant made his way into the ring illegally. Benoit dove into him and Giant just caught him and threw him at Arn to a thunderous pop. These fans loved The Giant wrecking havoc and destroying the Horsemen!

The Horsemen continued and continued to get the heat on Taskmaster as Giant was just begging to make the tag. The fans are begging for The Giant to make the hot tag. The Giant was such a babyface in this match. Taskmaster got in a low blow as the fans start to buzz and buzz even more at the thought of the hot tag and then Benoit like a dick just cut Taskmaster off!

Taskmaster catapulted Arn into Benoit and finally The Giant got the hot tag. The fans erupted like Eyjafjallajökull this tag was so hot. Benoit and Taskmaster fled the ring as Arn was then left alone with Giant as he was running wild. Benoit and Taskmaster brawled up the ramp and up to the announce table. Giant was suplexing and beating up Arn and eventually, Giant chokeslammed Arn and pinned him as the fans went nuts.

The booking of The Giant was perfect for this match. He was booked as a complete babyface, despite being a heel, and he was charismatic enough that he could pull it off.

I was thinking about this right before I started writing down this review but The Giant in 1996 was exactly like Braun Strowman about 20 years later when he was getting his big singles push. Both of them were shown to be destroyers of men and were basically unbeatable. They got over with the fans and the people were into them and with The Giant, WCW made that count. The Giant was booked as an actual Giant. With Braun though, they turned Braun babyface and I think Vince McMahon and WWE feel the need to book Braun not as the WCW’s Giant but more like WWE’s Big Show.

If Vince spent a bit of time re-watching what WCW did right with The Giant when they first brought him in, he could see matches like this where The Giant just being an all-conquering Giant worked on TV and worked with this crowd. The stuff they’re doing with Braun right now is really tame compared to what he could be capable of doing. I know it’s weird to talk about Braun Strowman during a WCW review but it really struck my mind. This series is also to learn about what worked in the past and see how it could be transitioned into modern wrestling so I think the comparison is justified!

Taskmaster emerged from the fight backstage I guess but then Benoit flew off a structure out of nowhere to attack Taskmaster. The Giant just left as Benoit was kicking Sullivan’s arse. Benoit dropped Taskmaster with a reverse suplex.

Suddenly, Woman came down to stop Benoit as she pleads with Benoit to stop. Woman was uncharacteristically distraught and then The Giant came back down. Benoit grabbed the hand of Woman and left with her as Arn was still laid out in the ring when all of this was going down. I think he may actually have been hurt by this match as he was down for a really long time. Giant literally carried Taskmaster to the back as the fans applauded The Giant.

This worked to get The Giant over and yes, this is the start of the infamous Chris Benoit/Woman/Kevin Sullivan love triangle angle.

Match Rating: **3/4

 

Sting, Randy Savage and Lex Luger vs Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and the third man in a hostile takeover six man tag team match

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Here we go. The hostile takeover match which, to WCW’s credit, they built it up as an historic event. They had this awesome recap video of the whole program featuring the Outsiders from when Scott Hall arrived all up to this point. What was awesome is that the third man is just built up as… a third man. He’s not revealed as the leader or he’s not supposed to be a higher power or whatever. He was just another outsider in this storyline at this point.

This video package was so awesome as the Outsiders music played really hyping this up as a history making event. Michael Buffer did the ring introductions. These Outsiders looked so cool in this gear. There was only two of them in Kevin Nash and Scott Hall without the third man as Buffer apologised as they were only two of them. The fans are going nuts for the Outsiders by the way.

Sting’s music suddenly played as Mean Gene Okerlund came down to ringside. Mean Gene talked to Buffer and then grabbed the mic. He wanted to talk to the Outsiders and confront them as he doesn’t see the third man. Scott said that “Scheme Gene” knew too much already and all he needed to know was that the third man was here and he was ready. Nash confirmed this and claimed they’ve got enough to handle it right now. Mean Gene was ushered to the back. The WCW commentators are taken back at the audacity of these Outsiders! This was all great!

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Lex Luger, Sting and Randy Savage all come out to represent WCW. There’s a WWE Mattel set with these three in this gear from Bash at the Beach. I’m gonna try to find it as I love the idea of all of three of them in matching face paint. They weren’t just three dudes fighting for WCW. They were three true allies that painted their faces to prove it!

Bobby denied being the third guy himself with the though of Bobby “The Hollywood” Heenan rushing through my brain! Hall threw the tooth pick and Luger slapped Hall to get things going.

Luger hit a running forearm and knocked down Nash. Savage and Sting stopped a 2 on 1 assault on Luger. Luger was somehow knocked out as his head was crushed in a Kevin Nash/Stinger splash sandwich. They even bring out a stretcher for Luger as Hall tried to get at Luger. Luger was already out of the match. As a viewer at the time, you would surely be wondering if this is some big swerve by Luger so he can beat up on Sting and Savage later. Is he working for the Outsiders as if you recall, Luger only returned to WCW from the WWF less than a year ago.

It’s a clever way to hype up Luger as the third man. Spoiler alert… the third man was not Luger. With the benefit of hindsight, Luger was really buried with the way this match was booked! He was knocked out in about two minutes of the main-event after claiming that we were going to get the very best of him!

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Hall suckered Sting into the ring. Sting tackled Hall and beat him up on the ground as the fans goes nuts. Sting hits the atomic drop and bulldog. Savage tried a double axe handle but got cut off. Kevin Nash did the snake eyes drop on the top turnbuckle. DUSTY REPEATS RAPIDLY “WHO BE BAD NOW” at the time where Nash was beating up Savage which was strange since Dusty was supposed to be Team WCW!

It’s insane how much the announcers were into this though. Tony, Dusty and Bobby were super pumped, cheering for WCW and calling the biggest match in WCW history! There was one screwed up spot where Nash tried an elbow drop but Savage tried to move but was not fast enough or didn’t know if he was supposed to move because Nash landed right on Savage’s head with this elbow drop.

Sting tried a sunset flip but Nash powered out and choke-lifted him up and slammed him down. Scott did a fallaway slam. Nash hit a big boot as he smashed away at Sting with straight up punches. Sting dropped him with a low dropkick to the knee as Nash mentioned on Nitrohe had “bad knees”. Yeah even in 1996, Kevin Nash had problems with his knees.

Sting tried a small package but only got a 1 count. Hall did the abdominal stretch, and grabbed Nash for the leverage spot. At least this referee Randy Anderson reacted whenever Hall exerted himself to show off the leverage, unlike Nick Patrick during that DDP match on the go-home Nitro.

Sting almost got the tag but Hall cut him off. Savage went nuts and grabbed a chair to use but the referee tried to restrain him and calm him down. Sting sold this beating like he was on the verge of death! He was wobbling, in a drunken-like state, gassed and this beating was executed really well. Sting was such a good seller.

Sting hit a big boot and fired away at Nash. He delivered lefts and rights to Nash. He knocks down Hall and he jumped over seven foot tall Kevin Nash and got to tag in Savage at last! Savage beat up the Outsiders. He fired at Nash and delivered a double axe handle to Hall on the outside. He was going super fast as Savage just exploded onto the scene.

Savage hit a double axe handle but Nash cut him off with a low blow. And then…

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Who should come out but the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan. Hogan had been away from WCW since shortly after the Doomsday Cage match. He walked down to the ring and the announcers were all excited about this. Bobby Heenan then dared to ask the question of which side Hogan was on!

People talk about that line from Bobby Heenan as people believed it spoiled what happened next. The more I think about this, the more it made complete sense for the character of Bobby Heenan to say this. He’s been feuding with Hulk Hogan for what must have been a decade now since the WWF. He never trusted Hogan so when he walked down that ring, he can’t help but question Hogan’s loyalties since he hated him.

Hogan ripped off the shirt as the Outsiders fled to the outside of the ring. They had faces of fear and cowardice at the sight of Hogan fighting for the sake of WCW. Then Hogan walked towards the top left corner (at the least the top left corner in the view of the hard cam) and he put his arms on the ropes. Hogan took a deep breath, and Hulk Hogan hit the Leg Drop on Randy Savage. Hogan stood up with this big smile on his face. The announcers and the fans all realised that Hulk Hogan… was the third man.

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Obviously, I knew everything that was going to happen so I didn’t watch much of what Hogan did as I just watched everyone else and their reactions. The fans, the referee putting his hands up in disbelief and Sting watching on. Hogan delivered a few more Leg Drops and Sting was floored with a punch by Scott Hall. Hogan made “the cover” and Hall did the count as Tony refused to even acknowledge it.

In what seems like minutes after it all happens, Sting was shown concerned for a decimated Savage as he carried him out of the ring, Savage is unmoving after these leg drops of doom as Sting and the referee helped him

The fans threw garbage at the ring as Hogan just smirked. One beer can came inches from hitting Hogan right in the head. It came so close as the trash continued to pour into the ring the fans were that appalled.

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Mean Gene came down and asked what in the world was Hogan thinking. Everything about the promo Hulk Hogan cut here was surreal to hear in all honesty. When I was watching WWE, WCW had been gone for years and Hulk Hogan was always a babyface. I’d heard this promo before but listening to it after months of campy Hulk Hogan babyface promos seem incredible.

Hogan said the first thing Mean Gene needed to do was tell the people to shut up if he wanted to hear what Hogan had to say and the fans boo more. Mean Gene said this made him sick to his stomach. Hogan said that this is the future of wrestling. He said you can call this the New World Order of wrestling. He said these two men (Nash and Hall) came from a great company up North and everyone was thinking who the third man was. Hogan said who knows more about that organisation up North than him!

He said he made people rich up there and when it all came down to pass, the name Hogan got bigger than the whole organisation. He said “Billionaire Ted” wanted to talk Turkey and he promised him millions of dollars, world calibre matches and movies. He said he was bored and the Outsiders are what he wanted as his friends. He said these two men are the new blood.

Hogan said not only were they gonna take over, they would destroy everything in their power. Hogan said all of this crap (the trash) in the ring represented the fans. He said for two years he held his head high and did everything for the charities, the kids and he finally told the fans to stick it. He said if it weren’t for Hulk Hogan, they wouldn’t be here and Eric would still be selling meat from Minneapolis. Hogan said watcha gonna do when the nWo runs wild on you. Hogan mocked the fans with the Hogan ear thing. Tony told Hogan to go straight to hell and that was the end of the show.

Segment Rating: *****

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There’s SO much I could say about all of this. With the way this was executed and the way the stars were aligned for this big reveal to go down, this was a perfect angle. I mean it is possible Sting could have been an interesting third man and there were other names like Bret Hart, Lex Luger… Mabel apparently. However, Hulk Hogan fit the bill better than anybody.

Hulk Hogan desperately needed to turn and he was the perfect man to make this angle work. The problem down the road is that this angle worked TOO well but of course, that’s a story for another time.

This to me was the greatest heel turn of all time on the grounds of the impact of it, the execution, the build towards it and really the historic nature of it. WCW and Eric Bischoff took a MASSIVE risk in turning Hulk Hogan. Vince McMahon was never going to turn Hulk in the WWF but for WCW, they had enough big stars and Hogan was at the perfect time in his career that a heel turn made all of the sense in the world.

Hulk Hogan realised it, Eric Bischoff realised it and like I said, it worked really well. The promo Hogan cut here was really well done for the initial New World Order promo and talking about how he did everything for the kids and he wanted millions of dollars. Hogan now had years with a lot more ammunition as aheel and as a fan, you would have really wanted to know what Hogan had to say after all of this time as the good guy. It was a massive coup for WCW in the ratings and a big move to turn him heel.

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Finally, we are at the nWo era of WCW if you will. It took us a long time but we’ve got a new direction for WCW and a unique changing of the way the show was booked, for better or for worse. Of course, the Retro Express will be continuing with the reviews of WCW Nitro as we get into the meat of this new big angle with the nWo. We hope you continue to join us on this big ride… to Hog Wild. XD

 

WCW Nitro Reading Order

RETRO EXPRESS: WCW THE GREAT AMERICAN BASH 1996 (JUNE 16TH 1996)

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’re creeping ever so slightly towards the big reveal of the third man joining Scott Hall and Kevin Nash for the “invasion” of WCW. Scott Hall arrived and Kevin Nash arrived on the latest edition of Nitro that we’ve reviewed. Both of those men were here to meet Eric Bischoff at The Great American Bash about the possibility of actually setting up an official match between WCW and these outsiders and their third man.

The Great American Bash also featured a stacked card of quality matches, with the WCW, WCW United States and WCW Cruiserweight titles all on the line. We also had a big grudge match in Lord Steven Regal vs Sting, a big grudge match between the Dungeon of Doom’s Taskmaster and the Four Horsemen’s Chris Benoit and we had a rubber match between the Steiner Brothers and Fire and Ice. We also had the WCW vs NFL battle with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson facing Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Kevin Greene.

People have told me that this pay-per-view was one of the greatest pay-per-views WCW ever produced. Compared to every other pay-per-view I’ve seen during this series, this is the strongest one by a huge mile. I’m not really in a position to make a claim as if to call it the greatest of all time or something as I’ve never watched WCW properly up until the start of this series.

However, this honestly felt like a normal wrestling pay-per-view. That’s not to say that it was irregular or not extraordinary but it felt a lot more like a real wrestling show. For the likes of Halloween Havoc, World War III, Starrcade 1995 and Slamboree, there was a gimmick going into each of those PPVs. There was one big aspect that WCW were encouraging the fans to watch like the World War III battle royal or the Doomsday Cage match, while everything else on the show was treated as filler.

The Great American Bash felt like nearly every match on the show mattered. WCW weren’t exclusively promoting one match. They promoted a wrestling show and a lot of stuff was pay-per-view quality stuff. There were some awesome matches on this show. There wasn’t like matches on the level of Okada vs Omega for example but it was mostly very good wrestling and very much enjoyable.

Let’s get into the review…

 

Date: June 16th 1996

Brand: WCW

City: Balitmore, Maryland

Attendance: 9,000

Commentators: Tony Schiavonie and Dusty Rhodes

 

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To kick off the show, a dude came out with the American flag as Star-Spangled Banner played. It was a grand patriotic moment and granted, it was fitting on a show called “The Great American Bash”. This is also a bad show to make this point I’m about to make. As an Englishman watching professional wrestling, I find it to be a very big disconnect to anyone not American whenever they do the National Anthem or do some big USA pride angle before a show.

There’s all of these starts from AAA in Rey Mysterio Jr. and “El Gato” supposedly from South America appearing in WORLD Championship Wrestling, but WWE, WCW, Impact Wrestling or other American wrestling promotions can’t help themselves but play up the patriotic angle to a worldwide audience. That to me doesn’t belong when you’re promoting the product as a global event.

It was just Tony Schiavonie and Dusty Rhodes announcing this show. They discussed at the start of the show about how Dick Murdoch had passed away recently and they addressed it.

 

“The Steiner Brothers” Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner vs “Fire and Ice” Scott Norton and Ice Train in a number one contendership match for the WCW Tag Team Championship with the added stipulation where there must be a winner

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This first match with Fire and Ice facing the Steiners had the announcer Dave Penzer stress heavily that there must be a winner. The storyline going in I believe was that these two tag teams have constantly had matches but they ended with like some no contest or disqualification. I’m pretty sure the Steiners beat Fire and Ice clean one time on Nitro but I do recall they’ve had another match which ended in a no contest.

With that being said, I’ve also seen a lot Nitro main-events and matches where they almost have to have a clean finish but yet there’s shenanigans. Therefore, I was certain that the Road Warriors or someone else was going to run in. But no, WCW were true to their word and there was a clean finish which we’ll get to.

Scott Steiner and Ice Train locked up. Dusty claimed Ice Train and Scott Norton were in Mortal Kombat before they came together. Tony claimed both teams approached this match: “the same way but differently.” So… I guess they both approached the match differently then… but in the same way?

Scott Steiner ran wild with hip tosses as the Steiners took control for the ring. Norton fired away with back elbow and forearms. I love how Norton’s hard-hitting/powerhouse style gels with the wrestling styles of the Steiners. It fit really well and the Steiners were able to sell well for his offense.

Rick eventually fired back with a big clothesline. Rick hit a big belly-to-belly suplex for a 2 count. Scott Steiner dropkicked Norton bringing him to his knees. Norton hit a big Samoan Drop. Dusty criticised Fire and Ice for wasting time and Norton took a cheap shot at Scott as the referee was distracted so I guess Fire and Ice were the heels in this match. I don’t know if they were officially turned heel on Saturday Night or something but they played heels in this match anyway.

Scott hit a belly-to-belly suplex and a clothesline to get back into the match. Scott nearly dropped Norton right on his head with a teardrop suplex. Norton barely caught Scott off the top with a scoop slam. Norton dropped Scott with the shoulder-breaker after Scott I think landed on his shoulder earlier on in the match.

Norton locked on an arm lock to pounce on the wounded arm of Scott Steiner and Rick broke it up. Rick kicked Norton repeatedly in the face to try and break it up but Norton no-sold each kick.

Rick got the tag and ran wild. He hit a massive suplex dropping Norton on his head and threw Ice Train over his shoulder. These four guys were willing put over the other teams during these matches. Ice Train and Norton were willing to take every suplex the Steiners were willing to dish out and they looked like they were landing on their heads and splatting into the mat. It looked ugly but it looked effective too and probably were safer than the moves looked.

Norton hit a powerbomb and Ice Train hit a splash on Rick but Scott Steiner broke it up. Fire and Ice went for the Doomsday Device but it was broken up. Rick planted Norton with a DDT but Ice Train took advantage with a double axe handle. Steiners tried the Steinerizer/diving bulldog but Ice Train broke it up. Scott hit a botched-like Frankensteiner and got the pin.

A great fight and a fun opener. I very much enjoyed it. It was an ugly fight and somewhat a train-wreck at times but what the hell? I loved it. They also delivered on the promise that there must be a winner so this gets two thumbs up. It gets a thumbs up for the match and a thumbs up for the finish, even if it did look a little screwy with the Frankesteiner.

Match Rating: ***

 

Jimmy Hart and Taskmaster were with Mean Gene Okerlund for an interview. Jimmy said they don’t need the Four Horsemen but Taskmaster said this wasn’t an issue between the Dungeon and the Horsemen. Taskmaster said Pillman wasn’t a horsemen and talked about making him quit at Uncensored. He said he knew what a horseman smelt like. He said he wanted to show the Horsemen that they can trust the Dungeon and they were gonna take out Benoit for not being a true Horsemen. Some parts of the promo I wrote down and they didn’t make sense to me so I didn’t include them. Either way, for those unaware, this was basically a continuation of the Taskmaster vs Brian Pillman feud with Benoit taking the place of Pillman.

 

Konnan © vs El Gato for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship

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One of the weakest matches of the show. It is weird saying that because if this match was on Slamboree, the last pay-per-view we watched, it would have been one of the strongest matches on that show! This match was perfectly acceptable wrestling.

Gato started off early with some kicks and a Dragon Screw Leg Whip. Konnan caught the hand of Gator and turned it into a top rope arm drag. Konnan turned Gato inside out with a clothesline which actually looked cool. After a few leap frogs from Konnan, Gato cut him off with a side kick to the face.

Gato tried a submission which I have no idea what it was supposed to be. He wrapped his leg around Konnan’s arm and grabbed the other arm and just laid there. He kept grabbing the rope for leverage but I have no idea what this was supposed to accomplish! It was some crucifix-like headscissors or something.

Gato caught a hurricanrana and hit a sit-out powerbomb for a 2 count. Gato and Konnan traded submission attempts. Konnan’s submission attempts always look so god damn sloppy to me and they just always take me out of his matches. I’d hate to get at Konnan for actually trying some grappling and actual wrestling but it just didn’t look good. If you can’t do something effectively in wrestling, just take it out of your arsenal. Think of an alternative.

Konnan did a roll into a clothesline but was unsuccessful with the pin attempt.

Gato tried the spot where a wrestler would tease a dive to the outside but slip underneath the ropes instead. Instead, he tries to slide under the ropes but he screwed that up. He went under the ropes and then just fell down. He didn’t even land on his feet when he made his way to the floor to prepare for the next spot.

Konnan smacked Gato hard on the floor with a sunset flip powerbomb to which the fans started to get behind Konnan with big chants of his name. Konnan hit an Alabama slam and bridge for the pin to retain the title.

Perfectly acceptable wrestling is the best way to describe this match. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t particular good. It was acceptable where there weren’t many spots screwed up and most of the stuff they did look fine. It’s just that the match met my expectations exactly and that’s exactly the problem. It was a bang average wrestling match at best but when you’re wrestling on pay-per-view, the fans kinda want to see more from you. With that being said, the fans were really behind Konnan and it’s not like they lost the crowd with this match. Therefore, I’d say this match was a success.

Match Rating: **1/2

 

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Mean Gene interviewed Sting and the first thing Mean Gene basically says is that we all know Regal is a “sissy” or “prissy”. I found that line to be funny. However, then Sting cut a weird racist promo against the English. He said you don’t have to stir up the Stinger. Sting made fun of England which pissed me off and talked about Regal and Englishman being sissies. He said Regal’s on US soil and being a sissy isn’t how they do it in the US. Sting said Regal’s a fantastic wrestler but he’s a little iffy and he was gonna beat him.

Again, I understand that the show is called THE GREAT AMERICAN BASH and it’s a celebration of the United States of America. However, this promo wasn’t about fighting for American pride against the English. This was Sting basically calling out English people and calling us Englishmen sissies. This promo would not play well in the slightest in 2020. By the way, Happy New Year to everyone in 2020!

 

DDP vs Marcus Bagwell for the Lord of the Ring

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DDP cut a pre-match promo. He talked crap about Baltimore. I don’t want to keep talking about to the Patriotic nature of this show as a running discussion point in this review. However, doing a promo where the DDP buries the hometown during a show where they’re all about American Patriotism seemed very out of place. If you wanna do a burial of the hometown for heat, that’s OK. However, this would have a worked a lot better if they had a foreign heel deliver this type of promo. DDP calling out the hometown randomly just seemed weird during a hugely pro-USA PPV.

Bagwell chased DDP out of the ring but then DDP jumped Bagwell in the ring as Bagwell turned his back on him before the match started. Bagwell did a snapmare to DDP that sent him over the top rope and to the floor. Bagwell sent DDP over the barricade. DDP cut off Bagwell when he tried to get back in the ring. Bagwell hit a crossbody for a 2 count. Bagwell worked on the arm of DDP but DDP eventually got out of it.

Bagwell dropkicked DDP through the ropes as DDP got stuck in between them. Bagwell did a dive to the outside. DDP tried to cut off Bagwell again as they both got back into the ring but Bagwell was ready for him.

DDP got the heat and hit a backbreaker. DDP locked on an abdominal stretch, grabbing the rope for leverage whenever he could. DDP did it twice successfully but referee Randy Anderson (at least I think it was Randy Anderson) caught him on the third attempt and kicked the rope away from DDP’s grasp.

DDP hit the tombstone slam for the near fall. Bagwell did the atomic drop/reverse atomic drop combination and got back in the match. Bagwell did a springboard clothesline from the apron for a near fall. DDP eventually hit a Diamond Cutter to win the match clean.

There wasn’t that much heat for this match and it didn’t really do it for me. Both men tried hard but they just did moves forever and there was nothing really captivating about it to suggest this should have been a PPV match. This was a decent TV match at best but it just sucked the life out of the PPV for a little bit.

With that being said, if this match was on Slamboree too, this would have also been one of the best matches on that show! So at least it gets that feather it its cap!

Match Rating: **1/4.

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Mean Gene interviewed Jimmy Hart and The Giant. The Giant cut a promo about torture in like a quiet and creepy way. It was like some weird perverted promo which is rare from The Giant, who in 1996 is usually very loud and angry with his promos. Maybe he was trying something out briefly because he did eventually start yelling at Luger during this promo.

He said if Luger thought he was gonna put The Giant in the “rack” he’s sadly mistaken. The Giant said the “rack” is a pure fantasy and said the chokeslam is all he’s going to know. Giant said Lex should have lifted a few more weights before getting into the ring with him. A weird promo with the change in tone from going all quiet to going really loud which took away from pretty good dialogue… minus “the rack” which didn’t age well with time.

 

Dean Malenko © vs Rey Mysterio Jr. for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship

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This is what WCW has been missing so far on WCW Nitro shows. I’ve had about of month of 2 hour Nitros since Slamboree and the shows have mostly felt like a drag in places. They had an extra hour for more wrestling and better wrestling for the fans to stay tuned to watch. They needed more cruiserweight matches in those Nitros and this match was a very good reason why.

This match was so good and so different to anything else on the show and the fans were super into it by the end, even if they did go quiet in the middle. This got the division over big with them and hopefully, this will be transferred to WCW Nitro television shows.

Mike Tenay was on commentary for this match. It was unbelievable how quick Rey was here. It’s hard for me to make notes for the opening minutes for matches like this. It was fantastic lucha libre cruiserweight action. All you can do is sit back, watch and be blown away by it. Lucha Libre done really well is some of the best wrestling you’ll ever see. All I could do was marvel at their athleticism and skill.

Rey hit an awesome springboard dropkick to Dean to send him crashing on the floor. They locked up in the ring but it eventually led to Dean catapulting Rey out of the ring. Dean worked on the arm and started driving the knee in the arm of Rey.

Dean raked Rey’s arm over the guard rail. Rey eventually used Dean’s intention to work on the arm to cause separation with a dropkick. Dean turned Rey inside out with the clothesline, dropping Rey right on his head to immense applause from the crowd. It was such a fantastic sell to the clothesline and the fans appreciated it big time.

Dean worked on the arm again with an armbar. Dean suplexed Rey right on the arm and then delivered the Northern Lights suplex onto the arm.

The great thing about Dean Malenko is that he lived the “man of 1000 holds” gimmick when it came to what he did in the ring. Every move he did to work on the arm was different than the move that came before it. He didn’t do the same thing over and over again. He didn’t chin-lock after chin-lock during his matches. He didn’t do the same type of suplex working on the arm. He didn’t do the same submission. It wasn’t predictable and it worked. Tony flat out said “man of 1000 holds, living to his name” and Dean showed that to be accurate!

Rey hit a like a Boma Ye knee to try and get back into the match but Dean went back to work on the arm. Dean locked on a surfboard with the Romero submission and turned this into a pinfall attempt for a near fall.

Dean tried a somewhat Kimura lock variation right in the middle of the ring. Dean hit a teardrop suplex for the 2 count. Dean followed that up with a butterfly suplex for another 2 count. Dean went to work on the arm again with a wrist lock. The biggest problem with the match was that Dean’s “heat” segment went way too long. I think it took me out of the game watching it and, although it was really well done by Malenko, a part of me just wanted Rey to do something to breathe life into the match.

Rey eventually sent Dean crashing to the floor and hit a baseball slide dropkick to Dean and kicked him further way. Rey followed this up with a springboard somersault to Dean on the outside and Dean was really far away so Rey did well to connect with that distance to the outside.

Rey eventually started a comeback and hit a springboard dropkick. Dean tried an Alley Oop but Rey stopped the impact for a near fall as they traded roll ups. I think I’ve seen Malenko and Liger do that spot before and I really loved it again here.

Rey hit the Frankensteiner pin for a near fall. Dean went for the gutbuster off the top rope and Rey reversed it into a hurricanrana for the near fall. Dean tried a tilt-a-whirl but Rey reversed it into a crossbody. . Dean hit a big powerbomb from the corner with the feet on the rope of the pin.

Fabulous stuff from the cruiserweights.

Match Rating: ***3/4. This was almost 4 stars for me but Dean got the heat for slightly longer than I think he should have. This was still a damn great match from Malenko and Mysterio Jr.

 

Mean Gene interviewed WCW Television and Tag Team Champion Lex Luger. Luger said his mind’s a million miles way and he said he’s not gonna shout and scream about what he’s gonna do to the Giant. I guess this was to hint that he was too focused on the match to cut a promo but then he cut a big promo anyway! He said The Giant changed the landscape of wrestling and The Giant though he was invincible but that was gonna work in Luger’s favour. He said Giant was going to make mistakes and when Luger left the ring, he was gonna have another belt on his other shoulder. I thought this was a good promo.

 

Big Bubba w/Jimmy Hart vs John Tenta

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The worst match on the show but it did appear that the match on paper didn’t actually sound so bad. It was just pretty poor in execution.

Tenta came out with a video playing in the titantron of the head-shaving from a few weeks ago. There was no music for Tenta.

Bubba and Tenta brawled on the outside. Tenta caught Bubba coming from the top rope and then smashed Bubba into the steel steps. Bubba begged Tenta off and then JOHN TENTA did a standing jumping kick the chest! It was one of the most athletic things I’ve seen Tenta do so far in this series!

Tenta slammed his backside into the face of Bubba. Tenta did a running butt-slam into the chest of the heel. Bubba hit a big uppercut to get back into the match. Nick Patrick checked Bubba as I guess Bubba used a weapon when he hit Tenta but I don’t think they ever showed a replay of this. If they did and I missed it, I do apologise.

Tenta kicked out. Bubba ran wild on Tenta for a bit. Bubba tried a pin on the ropes but referee Nick Patrick caught him. Tenta tried a slam but Bubba was too big as they just fell to the ground. Bubba worked on Tenta’s arm. It looked like Bubba tried to do a “fast” paced-match that Tenta was just not built and conditioned for so it just didn’t have the chance to blossom.

Bubba slammed Tenta with a back suplex. Bubba went to the top rope but Tenta caught him and slammed him with a powerslam as Jimmy was distracted with the fans. As Jimmy was distracted, Tenta got the pin. Tenta grabbed the scissors and cut the beard of Bubba and sent him packing.

I don’t think it would have been a strong match on that Slamboree 1996 pay-per-view I keep referencing but it was pretty much what I expected out of these two. It’s a shame because I actually do think these were somewhat decent wrestlers but this match just didn’t show it. At least the good guy was able to get the win in the end after the heel had previously embarrassed him on Nitro.

Match Rating: *

 

Mean Gene interviewed Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Kevin Greene, who were accompanied by their wives. I think Mean Gene mentioned that “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who was coaching Greene and Mongo, had been reinstated into WCW. Mongo said he didn’t care about game plans and that they were coming to get Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. Greene said they were coming hard and coming heavy. He even finished the promo saying they were coming hard. There was something up with the phrasing of Greene from the penetration talk from Nitro 2 weeks to this promo about coming hard and heavy! Savage came in and said they were gonna knock Flair and Anderson into the end zone.

 

Chris Benoit vs “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan w/Jimmy Hart in a falls count anywhere match

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This was such a great falls count anywhere match. The intensity was just there from the get-go and it was a believable, vicious fight to convince the viewers that these two hated each other. Benoit was a great all-rounder as a wrestler but Kevin Sullivan in particular came off really well as a scrappy wrestler. This match was right up his alley and he and Benoit worked wonders together in this match.

There were two referees on hand to count any pinfall or submission attempts. Taskmaster power-walked into the ring as he and Benoit brawled in an out-of-control manner on the ramp. Benoit chopped away at Taskmaster as Taskmaster responded with open hand slaps to the chest.

Fans went crazy as it went into the crowd. I want everyone to understand that everything that I say about Chris Benoit going forward is purely about his in-ring work and not his personality. With that being said, Benoit had a look of such intensity and such rage, looking like he really wanted to beat the snot out of Taskmaster as he gritted the teeth at the sight of Taskmaster. Benoit had tremendous facial expressions when he was in the ring.

They went further and further up the steps. This was a heck of brawl which led them all the way to the men’s bathroom. Taskmaster slammed the head of the bathroom door into the head of Benoit. The fans in the bathroom all huddled in one side of the ring to watch this all go down. They were all squished-up to the back of this bathroom and couldn’t get out from the looks of it!

Benoit fought back with stiff punches to the head. Taskmaster tried to shove Benoit’s face into the urinal.  Benoit responded by smacking bathroom doors into the back of Taskmaster. Dusty couldn’t help but exclaim that there was a woman in the men’s bathroom as he was super excited about this development!

Taskmaster hit Benoit with a sack of towels! Security had their work cut out for them as Benoit and Taskmaster tried to fight into the crowd of people outside of the bathroom! One guy fell over into the sea of people it was so crowded!

Benoit tumbled down the steps back into the arena. Taskmaster flat out threw Benoit down the steps. They traded punches as they got back to the guard rail. Taskmaster crotched Benoit on the guard rail as they made their way back to the ring. Taskmaster unleashed a Sabu-like chair throw at Benoit’s face.

Benoit crotched Taskmaster on the guard rail in retaliation. Benoit grabbed a table and threw it at Taskmaster’s face, I guess in response to the chair throw from Taskmaster! The announcers actually mentioned that it was a callback to Slamboree when Benoit went threw a table because of Taskmaster.

They tried to put each other through the table but both men just bounced off it rather than breaking it.  Taskmaster back-dropped Benoit to the table balanced on the top turnbuckle. They fought on top of the table and Benoit hit a big superplex to a massive pop and for the win. That was a hell of a match. They beat the crap out of each other as the fans, whether it was in the bathroom or sat at their seats, were just going nuts for all of this action!

Benoit punched away at Taskmaster after the match. Arn Anderson ran down as Benoit continued to punch away at Taskmaster. Arn threw Benoit off of Taskmaster and then took a cheap shot at Taskmaster as they beat up Sullivan. The fans became unglued and lost their minds as the Horsemen turned on The Taskmaster!

The Dungeon of Doom chased them off as the fans went bonkers. That was an absolutely awesome falls count anywhere match and a great post-match angle. They brawled all over the place and it was great. I think Malenko vs Mysterio Jr. was a technically better match but I enjoyed this Taskmaster vs Benoit match more as it just worked as a falls count anywhere match. They beat the crap out of each other and although there was possibly ONE PIN FALL in the entire match, this was a blood feud where they wanted to just destroy each other. TWO THUMBS UP!

Match Rating: ***3/4

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Mean Gene interviewed the Four Horsemen. Mean Gene is stood in between Woman and Elizabeth as they both grab his arms. Tony asked Gene if he’d ever seen anything like the match they just watched. Mean Gene said he’s not sure and he’s not sure he’s ever seen and briefly pauses. He pauses and he looks at Woman and Elizabeth and goes…. “well maybe a couple of times!” Mean Gene had to have been the greatest interviewer in wrestling history. Absolute tremendous comedy nearly ever time!

Arn Anderson said there’s people that dreamed of being able to be a Horsemen and Benoit earned the right to be a Horsemen. He said the head of the snake being severed was Taskmaster’s, who you recall kept claiming he was gonna cut the head of the snake who he believed to be Benoit. Arn said Taskmaster tried to poison the Horsemen but Benoit earned his stripes. Benoit said Taskmaster had been severed and he put him in his place. Ric yeleds at Mongo and Greene and Bobby Heenan was paranoid about Savage. When you’re cutting a promo and Ric Flair barely has anything more to add, you’ve cut a hell of a promo. Arn and Benoit cut damn good promos on Kevin Sullivan.

 

Sting vs Lord Steven Regal in a “special challenge” match

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Another superb match. There was a lot of heat from the crowd and the fans were thunderous for Sting throughout, and the action justified the response from the crowd.

Sting fired away with punches and sent Regal flying with an Irish Whip. Regal beat away at Sting with punches and European uppercuts as the fans chanted USA. Sting delivered multiple Japanese arm drags and then Regal went outside to yell at the fans, egging on the USA chants indirectly. Regal tried a handshake but Sting refused, being no-one’s fool. Regal was literally shaking in his boots as Sting cornered him!

Regal locked in a Cobra Clutch and beat away at Sting. Sting tried a sunset flip and Regal tried to punch away at the referee to get out of it! He was swinging for the fences as I guess he’d rather get disqualified than be rolled-up with a sunset flip and pinned!

Regal wore down Sting with a chin lock but Sting reversed it into the back suplex. Regal locked on an arm lock while pressing his knee on the head of the Stinger. Regal tripped the leg and went back to the head lock. Regal wore down Sting, putting his leg on the bottom rope but the referee kicked his foot off the bottom rope.

Sting got an abdominal stretched locked in out of nowhere with his face paint looking to have been wiped off. Regal locked on a head lock with the head-scissors while wrenching back on the arm. Regal did an under-hook submission which looked interesting.

Sting eventually ran wild with clotheslines and dropkicks as the fans burst into life. Regal hit a butterfly suplex from the top rope which he looked to try to do as quickly as possible. I’m not so sure what it was but Regal rushed the hell out of this spot, so maybe he just wanted to prove he was as quick as Billy Kidman was during their match together on Nitro!

Regal locked on the STF but Sting refused to give up which upset Regal. Regal smashed away with elbow smashes. Sting got fired up after a slap from Regal as he punched away at Regal in the corner. Sting went for the Stinger Splash but Regal got the knees up. Sting locked in a Scorpion Death Lock as Regal tapped out right away to a thunderous ovation.

This is a match that worked on paper, worked in execution, worked with the fans and worked in getting both men over with this crowd. Regal was hugely hated as the heel while Sting was hugely beloved as the babyface. This gets two thumbs up! I loved it.

Match Rating: ***1/2

 

They showed a WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 promo, with the show set to take place on July 7th… we’re almost there folks.

 

Ric Flair and Arn Anderson w/Bobby Heenan, Elizabeth and Woman vs Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Kevin Greene w/Macho Man Randy Savage, Debra McMichael and Tara Greene

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I’m going to be fair to everyone in this match. All four men worked their arses of for this tag team match. We all know how good Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are at making their opponents “look like a million bucks” as the old saying goes. How many tag team matches with Ric and Arn have we seen in the last month of WCW Nitro episodes? They wrestled the American Males, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express andLex Luger and Sting. Every one of those matches had the exact same structure and each match was effective in many ways. They were both absolutely phenomenal wrestlers.

Believe it or not, Mongo and Kevin Greene both held up their end of the bargain very well. After this match was over, I was very shocked at how well they did in doing a 20 minute tag team match with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. This is not the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express or even Sting for that matter. These two guys were wrestling their FIRST EVER WRESTLING MATCH at a big WCW pay-per-view and they exceeded my expectations in the ring.

However, I think I disliked this match more than pretty much every one else who I’ve seen do reviews of the match. Dave Meltzer from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter rated this match 3 and a half stars out of fivw and I’ve seen people rate it four stars. I can’t go that high purely because this match seemed like a poor imitation of those matches I mentioned from Nitro.

Of course, Kevin Green and Steve McMichael are not going to wrestle on the same level as the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express. However, these guys worked a little slower than the dudes in the matches mentioned below. It was a little bit sloppy although it wasn’t terrible or embarrassing. I would just never in my life, even with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, never have had Greene and Mongo go 20 minutes on a pay-per-view match. I also hated the finish which we’ll get to.

Bobby Heenan got a big pop coming down to the ring. Kevin Greene, with all of his over-the-top promos where he yelled at the top of his lungs, came down to the ring with no energy about him. He was like a moving scarecrow and he even walked in a wooden manner down to the ring like The Great Khali. For a massive pay-per-view, I expected him to come out with at least an additional 10% of life!

The announcers revealed Savage was back “because of public demand” and would be wresting on Nitro or something. Greene had a shirt on with the back saying: “SACK MACHINE IN THE RING.”

Arn briefly out-wrestled Mongo and Flair cackled with laughter like HA HA HA. Mongo took Arn out with a shoulder tackle. Arn beat up Mongo for a while until Mongo came back into the match with a top rope shoulder tackle.

Mongo and Greene stomped a mudhole on Anderson in the ring to a big pop. Savage punched Arn on the outside as the referee’s back was turned. Heenan pleaded his case but Heenan bounced back off the top rope when he saw Savage staring at him!

Greene got tagged in. I love how Dusty’s advice to Mongo and Greene was not to wrestle them. Far be it for me to question the wrestling advice of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes but it appears not wrestling would be a bad strategy if this was a wrestling match or something!

Ric suckered in Greene and stomped him in the head to applause from the crowd. The fans were about 60% behind the heels and 40% behind the good guys. Maybe it was a bit closer than that between them.

Greene hit two powerful shoulder tackles and then did Flair’s strut in the ring to infuriate the Nature Boy. Savage went after Flair on the ramp and attacked him, throwing him back into the ring… right in front of the referee. Not a disqualification at all when Savage punches away at a tired Ric Flair!

Flair went high in the air for a Kevin Greene back drop. Greene hit a clothesline as the WWE Network buffered and I lost quality. On my screen, it looked like what WCW probably looked like on VHS tapes back in 1996. Of all the matches for the WWE Network to have issues with, it is this one!

Flair chopped Mongo to little affect. Mongo responded with chops of his own and a hip toss. Flair landed almost on his head off a back drop. Mongo locked on a Figure Four on Ric to a massive pop and Greene did his own to Arn Anderson. Mongo and Greene can take some pride in the fact that they could do better Figure Four Leg Locks than Hulk Hogan! These were OK Figure Four Leg Locks compared to some of Hogan’s attempts at the move over the years!

Woman raked the eyes of Mongo and the heel women chased off the footballer’s wives. Elizabeth chased the women away in the least athletic manner possible. I mean she was in a dress so I understand why she struggled but why bother running to try and get the wives? I also was wondering why the babyface women weren’t fighting back as I figured they were there to level the playing feel for their husbands? It made sense at the end I guess…

Heenan kicked away at Mongo as Savage chased him off. Flair chopped at Mongo and Mongo responded by grabbing him. As Arn had the referee’s attention, Ric hit a low blow. The heels did a double suplex to Mongo which I was stunned that they were able to pull of.

Ric and Arn bonked into each other as Mongo eventually made the tag to Greene. Greene ran wild with chop blocks and back drops to both men. Greene hit a powerslam and Mongo hit a big boot to Flair on the apron.

Ric went for a Figure Four Leg Lock but Greene reversed this into a roll up. Flair locked on the Figure Four grabbed Arn for leverage.

Savage attacked Arn as the ref back was turned. Chris Benoit came down to help the Horsemen and he and Savage go on to have an unbelievable brawl on the outside. They were throwing hands and just have a good old scrap in the middle of this match.

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Then suddenly, Debra reappears on stage with a pink dress on and came down with Woman and Elizabeth. Where Kevin Greene’s wife went, I have no idea. Debra went to her husband on the apron as Greene is still locked in this Figure Four Leg Lock. Debra had a briefcase with a Four Horsemen t-shirt and money. Mongo contemplates this offer as Greene is in agony being locked into the Figure Four Leg Lock.

Greene eventually turned over the hold but as he begged Mongo for the tag, Mongo whacked him in the head with the briefcase and Flair scored the pin. After months of Ric Flair hitting on his wife, Mongo sided with Flair and the Horsemen after the Horsemen offered him money.

What’s weird about the money angle of this heel turn is that the announcers briefly mentioned some interview where apparently Mongo went to the Chicago Bears for the money or something like that? It was such a random line to throw in and then Mongo turned on Greene for more Green! So at least that line gave Mongo a storyline desire and when the Horsemen were able to appease his desires, he betrayed his ally Greene.

So Savage went after Flair but then he was swarmed by Mongo, Benoit, Arn and Ric. Mongo puts on the shirt as he is revealed as the 4th Horsemen, replacing Brian Pillman.

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Do you remember when I recapped asegment with Debra and Bobby Heenan from Nitro, and I questioned the tone of her voice when she denied that she had spoke to Flair “all night” as if she was hiding something. I felt for sure that this was either Debra’s accent, bad acting or she forgot a line or something even thought I thought it was weird she said it like that. Well low and behold, Debra was not kidding in storyline. She really was talking to Flair all day in terms of negotiations for Mongo becoming a Horsemen. So there was a plan to put this into place, at least as of last week, to turn Mongo heel and some long-term booking. At the very least, it’s long term booking compared to WWE in 2019.

This match I’ve actually turned the corner on the more I think about it. I could complain about it not looking as good as if it were two other wrestlers in their with the heels but the point of the match is the fact that they were two non-wrestlers in there with Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. Say what you will but they went through a lot of effort to put Mongo and Greene over. Mongo wass showing how tough he is by taking the beating, Greene is running wild and spending about a minute or so locked in the Figure Four  Leg Lock at the end. They did everything to get them over and then they pulled the trigger on Mongo.

As a match, this was booked really well. Therefore, I give this match a thumbs up.

Match Rating: ***

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Eric Bischoff came out on the ramp and talked about Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Bischoff called them out as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall strolled onto the ramp. Bischoff said he was in WCW offices debating about their request for a match and WCW had decided to give Nash and Hall their match. Bischoff said it would be at Bash at the Beach and he flat out asked if they worked for the WWF and they said no. I was reading up the Wrestling Observer Newsletter from the time by Meltzer. I guess this line was a way to avert a lawsuit as I guess WWF were going after Hall for acting like Razor Ramon during his promos. They abandoned the notion that this was WWF invading but this was still treat as an invasion.

Scott Hall grabbed the mic and said to forget about the past, let’s talk about the future. He wanted to know who their guys were that were facing them. Scott told “Billionaire Ted” to get whoever he wanted as they were gonna carve them up. Scott Hall attacked Eric and Kevin Nash hit a massive Jackknife powerbomb on Bischoff through a table. Scott Hall said the real big boys just left the building and then they just… left the building!

For a man who had never entered the ring or took a bump to my knowledge up until this point, Eric Bischoff took a big bump here, even if they did pad the hell out of that table. I give credit to the man as he was willing to put this angle over to such a degree that he took a powerbomb of all moves from Nash off of the stage. That is pure commitment right there.

 

The Giant © w/Jimmy Hart vs Lex Luger for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship

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Luger actually attended to Bischoff as he made his way down to the ring. Giant stomped away at Luger when the match started and Luger responded with punches and clotheslines, even clotheslining Giant out of the ring onto his feet.

Luger tried to get on Giant’s back and locked on a sleeper hold. Jimmy tried to hit Luger with a megaphone but Sting ran down and chased him off. Giant slammed Luger into the corner and hit a big backbreaker.

The commentators sounded very solemn and quiet on commentary which was exactly what LEX LUGER VS THE GIANT needed. We had a slow big man match between Luger and Giant, with the announcers all quiet for this world title match. To be fair, the match wasn’t particular compelling enough to get excited over.

Giant got Luger up for a backbreaker submission for a brief period of time. Luger tried a scoop slam but Giant was too big so they both crashed to the ground.

Giant tried a charge at Luger but Luger moved out of the way as Giant bounced off the rope. Luger kicked The Giant away and Luger hit two big clotheslines, two big forearms and two chop blocks to get The Giant down to one knee. He punched at the head of Giant but Giant pushed him away and was back on his feet after all of that.

Giant went for a splash but got stuck on the top turnbuckle. Luger kicked away and then tried a Torture rack as the fan rose to their feet. The fans erupted as he got him up in the air briefly but he collapsed due to the weight of Giant. Giant hit the chokeslam and got the pin.

Match Rating: *1/2 –  I’ve seen worse WCW main-events than this but this was by no means good or anything. At least they tried their best.

 

That was easily the best WCW pay-per-view I’ve watched so far for this series. Great matches up and down the show accompanied by a lot of other good ones. There was possibly two matches that were less than 2 stars and everything else came close to or exceeded my expectations. This was a great PPV to watch and makes me excited to see what comes next. Bash At The Beach 1996 is a pay-per-view I’ve been wanting to get to for a long time and that will be the very next pay-per-view that we watch.

If my maths is correct, there’s three episodes of Nitro until Bash at the Beach so do check out the Armbar Express for the Nitro reviews building up to a famous wrestling pay-per-view with possibly the greatest heel turn in wrestling history…

Don’t forget to follow @ArmbarExpress on Twitter for tweets from yours truly and updates whenever Retro Express posts are uploaded. Alternatively, follow us on WordPress for updates too! I appreciate you taking the time to read this review and we hope you enjoy more of the content from the Armbar Express.

WCW Nitro Reading Order

 

Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos Review

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Following the successful first season of Lucha Underground, anticipation for the second chapter of this arc certainly ran wild. With the ending of season one tying up loose ends but also preparing the show for a future season, you could tell that something big was on the horizon for these stars.

So far this season, we had our fair share of big moments. The reign of Mil Muetres and Catrina followed by the return of Dario Cueto and the debut of Matanza showed the struggle for power between wrestlers. Rey Mysterio making his way to the promotion also provided the star power that the lucha libre promotion was looking for while new stars like El Dragon Azteca quickly became prominent figures.

For me, the storyline aspect of the show was the most compelling thing about it. However, there were a lot of matches that really stood out during the course of season two. Matanza and Cage had one of the best big man matches I’ve seen in a long time, Rey Mysterio was still able to hang with even the greatest of wrestlers at the promotion while Aztec Warfare II was an incredible episode to sit through as well.

However, this four hour extravaganza would be the culmination of another season of storylines and drama. Pentagon Jr would challenge the monster Matanza, hoping to get revenge for Matanza almost breaking his back in their last match. Prince Puma wanted to prove that he was even better than arguably the greatest luchador of all time. There were a lot of matches that was very much looked forward to by the fans, but could the three part show deliver?

 

Part One

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The first episode in this trilogy saw Dario Cueto’s “Tournament 4 A Unique Opportunity” which saw a four man tournament take place. In the first round, Cage faced The Mack in a rematch from last year’s Ultima Lucha while Son Of Havoc took on Texano. Both matches were hardcore matches, with Cage and Mack having a falls count anywhere match as well as Son Of Havoc and Texano having a bar room brawl. I thought the Cage and Mack match was really good, which was expected when considering how great their match from last year was. I don’t think this match was better than last year’s but it was still good. The Son Of Havoc/Texano match was also not bad but I can’t help but think that it would have been a much better match without the hardcore stipulation.

Let me get the big criticism out of the way. I’m sure that hardcore fans loved all of this innovation with weapons but these stipulations took away from the lucha libre style of wrestling that lucha fans tuned in to see. Not to mention that having so many hardcore matches on the first show left the fans feeling less excited for hardcore angles down the line, like the Death match with Mil Muetres and King Cuerno. Regardless, The Mack and Son Of Havoc won. They faced off in a short falls count anywhere match, which Son Of Havoc won.

Dario Cueto came out with two briefcases and gave Son Of Havoc one of two options. Son Of Havoc could choose between $250,000 or a Lucha Underground title shot at Ultima Lucha Tres. Son Of Havoc then claimed that it wouldn’t matter if there were $250 MILLION in that briefcase, he would want the title shot. Now, I understand putting the title over as if this was the most important thing in the world to a wrestler. However, would anyone really pass up on $250 MILLION just for a title shot? It seemed like a ludicrous claim to me, that the Lucha Underground title was worth more than $250 million. That’s probably more than what Lucha Underground is worth. Heck, I’m sure you could start a very strong wrestling promotion with $250 million and make YOURSELF a champion!

Havoc takes the title shot, which of course sprung a trap. Dario revealed that Havoc would only get the title shot if he won one more match. If his opponent won, that opponent would get the $250,000. Famous B then came out to reveal the opponent, who was his new client. It was a pretty big client for Famous B as it was revealed that Son Of Havoc’s opponent was Dr Wagner Jr.

This was a pretty big reveal. Dr Wagner Jr won in about two minutes, much to the delight of Famous B and his girl Brenda. I liked the whole culmination of Famous B’s quest to find the right client and in the end, he found a client that was already famous. I was kind of let down by the fact that I was expecting him to actually show up with a lesser-known name. I get the reveal that he found a client that was already famous, but Famous B’s whole service was about GETTING people famous. Dr Wagner Jr contradicting that was a little disappointing. I guess that’s a heel for you!

 

Part Two

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The “main attraction” of part two was the Gift of the Gods championship match, which was a seven person elimination match. Cage cashed in his title shot a few weeks before so a new champion had to be crowned. Sexy Star, Marty the Moth, Mariposa, Killshot, Night Claw, Daga and Sinestro de la Muerte were the seven entrants. The one thing which really got to me about the match was that the very best wrestlers in this match were eliminated the earliest. Killshot, Night Claw and Daga are all tremendous workers, so seeing them eliminated before the likes of Sexy Star and Marty the Moth felt like a slap in the face to those talents. Night Claw, who was debuting, looked awesome in this match. He eliminated two men and probably was the most over out of the bunch, before being eliminated.

It was down to Marty The Moth, Mariposa and Sexy Star, with the heels ganging up on Sexy Star. Mariposa was eliminated after Marty accidentally punched her in the face. I love how Mariposa’s origin story, according to Marty, was that she was part of a tribe of great warriors, yet she was eliminated her from a mere punch from her brother. Unless Marty has a punch that is equal in power to the Big Show’s WMD, I find it very hard to believe that Mariposa would be done after just one punch.

Sexy beat Marty to win the Gift of the Gods title. I know Lucha Underground wants to promote the idea of the women being just as good as the men, with two of the final three of this match being women. I’m also not totally against the idea of inter-gender wrestling, although I would go forward with extreme caution when booking such a program. If a woman is over enough and talented enough, she can wrestle the very best male athletes for all I care. That’s if the woman IS over enough and talented enough. Sexy Star wasn’t over enough, I don’t think. Sexy Star is not talented enough either. She’s an OK female wrestler but there’s only a handful of male wrestlers on the roster worse than Sexy Star. Every one else is miles ahead, so the idea that Sexy is supposed to be on par with these men is pretty unbelievable… even for Lucha Underground.

Next up was a “death match” between Mil Muertes and King Cuerno, which was essentially a no disqualification match. There was no murdering going on, but Mil sure did destroy King Cuerno. They brawled, with the heel Cuerno being more of a showboater while Mil was all about bringing the power game. Cuerno took a lot of punishment in this match, including rolling down the stairs. Their fight led them to the stage where the band that was playing were hanging out. Mil no-sold his head being thrown into a window. Cuerno put his hands on Catrina, which was the beginning of the end for Cuerno. Muertes put Cuerno through three tables with powerbombs, hit him with a crowbar, hit a tombstone and won. This was a fun no disqualification match, which did a great job with the two characters. Muertes was allowed to be a big, badass heavy hitter and Cuerno sold like crazy during the onslaught.

During the show, Mr Cisco was wired by Cortez Castro and Joey Ryan to meet with Dario Cueto. Cortez re-assued him by telling Cisco that Dario wasn’t going to kill… all the motivation one needs to meet with an sociopath! Cisco was doing this in order to clear himself of all charges. So Cisco meets with Dario, with Joey and Cortez listening in. Cisco claimed that he wanted to be in on whatever Dario was planning. It almost kind of worked with the storyline, as Cisco was so bad when acting here that Dario saw right through him. He asked if Cisco was wearing a wire and it was revealed. He grabs the mic and asks the cops to come get him. He asks if the cops wanted him for murder, quickly following up by saying if they weren’t before they would now. He grabbed the red bull from his office and killed Cisco with it by bashing him in the head. A very good scene which I’ll get more into later when I discuss the final scene of the season.

 

Part Three

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At the start of part three, Vampiro gave Pentagon Jr some last minute training before his match with Matanza. In a scene similar to the Empire Strikes Back moment where Luke goes into the cave, Pentagon Jr went into a similar cave and fought his own demons. He eventually bested Vampiro, who told him that he was ready.

The two-hour final part began with Drago, Fenix and Aero Star challenging Johnny Mundo, PJ Black and Jack Evans for the Trios Championship. A very fun and action-packed trios match as usual. When you put six wrestlers as good as these six together, a lot of great stuff will happen. I would argue that it was a bit too much, especially with Angelico’s return to get revenge on Mundo, but it didn’t bother me too much. Everyone worked well with each other and Drago, Fenix and Aero Star ended up winning the belts. Fenix became the first person to achieve the Lucha Underground Grand Slam, winning the Lucha Underground, Trios and Gift Of The Gods titles. I think that Fenix accomplishing the feat in two seasons, as well as winning all of the belts in the same season for that matter, hurts the prestige of the titles a little. However, at least there were good stories told in the build up to each of his title reigns. Therefore, I don’t really have a problem with it. It wasn’t like complete title hot-shots or anything. A great opener to the show.

El Dragon Azteca faced Black Lotus. Initially, this was a really weird match. It started off as a normal match and then El Dragon Azteca took control. He was the aggressor in this inter-gender match and the fans died down a little. Trying to promote the idea of a babyface male against a heel female in a match is really hard to do, as how are the fans supposed to root for the heroes in that situation? Heck, El Dragon Azteca was shown to be vastly superior to Black Lotus. Then Pentagon came into beat up both wrestlers, causing a no contest. He broke both their arms, and that was the end of this grudge match between Black Lotus and El Dragon Azteca. No satisfying conclusion to their entire program AT ALL. Ended in four minutes by a man that hadn’t had any interaction with either character up until this point. This led to Vampiro announcing that this was not Pentagon Jr, but now Pentagon Dark.

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Pentagon Dark cut an awesome promo in Spanish, which was thankfully subtitled. Even if it wasn’t, you can tell that Pentagon always shows some serious passion in his promos and the fans hang on to every word he says. He told the crowd that he was Pentagon Dark and wanted to fight Matanza now. Matanza came out, meaning that the Lucha Underground title match was the third match on the five-match card for this final part. I personally would have put this in the main-event although at least the position of the match made more sense with the ending of the show in mind.

This was a really great match to watch and I’ll explain why. The whole idea behind this transformation of Pentagon Dark was to show that this was not the same man as before. After training from Vampiro, he has become a totally different person to the man that fought Matanza and got destroyed. Therefore, the rematch was structured much differently than the first match. It’s not like when John Cena gets angry and the announcers say that this was a new John Cena, even though he wrestles exactly the same. Pentagon destroyed Matanza this time around as the training of Vampiro paid off. He destroyed Matanza, had the match won until Vampiro whipped out a bat wrapped in barbed-wire. This barbed wire bat would end up being Pentagon’s undoing as Dario’s involvement caused Matanza to grab the bat and use it on Pentagon. He hit him in the back with the bat, hit his finishing powerslam and just pinned him. I will criticise the ending just a little, as the series had previously shown Pentagon being able to take Negan-like barbed-wire bat shots TO THE HEAD from Vampiro. He took a hit from the back, was hit with Matanza’s finisher and beaten. I thought, after taking 90% of the match, that Pentagon getting beat like that was rather underwhelming. Other than that, it was a great match. Vampiro, who stopped taking his meds after part two to train Pentagon a little more, went back on them after this match.

Taya wrestled Ivelisse. A decent women’s match which saw Taya win and Catrina attack Ivelisse with a jawbreaker of some type. It appears that Catrina will be wrestling during season three, which I’m a little worried about. Catrina, as Maxine in WWE, was still a part of the worst women’s match I’ve ever seen in NXT along with Kaitlyn in 2010. How far Maxine has progressed in more than five years is unknown, but I do pray to all the Aztec gods that she’s good enough to be able to do decent work with the likes of Ivelisse.

The main-event was Rey Mysterio vs Prince Puma. This was an incredible match, with magnificent chemistry and great story-telling aspects to it. It was the up-and-comer Prince Puma needing to do whatever he could to beat the legend Mysterio. The crowd was into every move and the drama was there. This is a legitimate contender for the best Lucha Underground match of all time. There’s just one small complaint I have and it’s Matt Striker on commentary. He was not suited to call a match like this. Firstly, there were a lot of times when he was calling the match more like a fan than a legitimate commentator. Him calling a particular spot the “I’m sorry, I love you” moment felt so tacky and almost unprofessional if you will. Did you really need to tell the audience what was going on between Mysterio and Puma, when Puma found it hard to find the strength to put away this legend? Secondly, after Mysterio won, Matt Striker made an absurd claim about this being the future of Lucha Libre. If Prince Puma won the match, I could buy that line. However, the veteran Mysterio beat the future in Prince Puma! If Rey Mysterio is the future of Lucha Libre, then Lucha Libre is not going to be great shape should Rey retire in the next few years!

At the end of the show, Pentagon Dark attacked Vampiro. Vampiro was off his meds, so Pentagon just simply beat him up effortlessly. It was a pretty bloody beatdown. He did this because Vampiro introduced the barbed-wire bat in his match when he didn’t need to. Along with that, after telling Pentagon that he was ready, Vampiro introducing the bat proved that he still didn’t have enough faith in him so Pentagon was angry. Pentagon came off as such a star after Ultima Lucha Dos was finished.

The big ending saw Dario Cueto arrested and taken away in a police van. While in the back of the van, Dario simply smiled. And that was that…

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Overall, it was a good four hour event. We didn’t get any really good stuff until the Death Match but we did get some really great matches following that. The Pentagon Dark/Matanza match was great and the Rey Mysterio/Prince Puma match was a wondrous match. I thought the ending of the season fell flat to me, considering how great the finale of last season was as it tied up the loose ends. Following this, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of stuff that needs explaining. Let’s hope that we get some answers in season three, which begins in September.

Retro Express – Unforgiven 2008

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Coming off their first PG PPV in the “PG era” of WWE, the WWE came up with a new concept for a championship match type. This would be a new match that the WWE, World and ECW titles would all be defended in at Unforgiven, promoting excitement and unpredictability as five men would scramble to try and win the championship. The Championship Scramble saw CM Punk’s World title, Triple H’s WWE title and Mark Henry’s ECW title all in jeopardy. How many titles would change hands? Who would capture the gold? And finally, who would win the unsanctioned showdown between Shawn Michaels and the man that punched his wife at Summerslam? Well, let’s get to it….

 

WWE Unforgiven

Date: September 7th 2008

Brand: RAW, SmackDown! and ECW

City: Cleveland, Ohio

Attendance: 8,700

 

Mark Henry (c) vs Matt Hardy vs The Miz vs Finlay vs Chavo Guerrero in the ECW Championship Scramble match

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Matt Hardy and The Miz were the first two entrants in the match. Both of them got surprisingly big reactions. I know that this pay-per-view took place in Cleveland, where The Miz is from, but it was not like Miz was extremely over at that time. This was when he was with John Morrison and was only just starting to make a name for himself. It’s still nice that he got the big reaction here though.

The first five minutes between Matt and Miz were actually pretty good with not much to report on. There were no falls in the first five minutes with Chavo Guerrero being the third entrant. Chavo immediately pinned Matt with the Frog Splash, to become the interim champion. Chavo was able to pull off a rolling heel kick which was done well. What was not well pulled off was the Miz’s double crossbody on Matt and Chavo, which barely got Chavo. I guess that one could be put on Chavo for not being in the right place but it still came off looking sloppy. Matt ran wild and pinned Chavo with the side effect to become the new champion.

The fourth entrant was Mark Henry with Tony Atlas as his manager. Matt, Miz and Chavo all ganged up on Mark Henry but he pushed them all away. He ran wild and pinned Chavo with the World’s Strongest Slam. He beat everyone up. There was one interesting thing to note as the interim champions tried to retain their titles. Matt Hardy did this earlier in the match but the interim champions wore down the other competitors with long submission holds. Mark got the pin fall on Chavo a minute after he got into the match so we had roughly three or four minutes of Mark Henry putting everyone in bearhugs before Finaly came out. It makes sense for Henry to do that but this completely drained the match of life for a long period of time.

As mentioned, Finlay was the last entrant. He kept hitting Henry with DDTs as he took it to the current champion. Hornswoggle’s distraction led to Finlay hitting Mark with the shillelagh. Finlay and Matt were able to dump Mark over the top rope and out of the equation. Finlay then quickly hit Matt with the Celtic Cross and pinned him to become the interim champion. That’s team work for you everybody!

Matt eventually became the champion again, pinning Miz after hitting the Twist of Fate. Then we got a pretty stupid couple of minutes as we were drawing to a close. Mark Henry is killing nearly everyone in the match with World’s Strongest Slams but Matt broke them up each time. It was the case where Mark hit the finisher, Matt broke it up, Mark moved Matt out of the way and then hit someone else with the finisher. As a fan, I had only one thought in my mind… why don’t you turn around and kill Matt Hardy, so he won’t be able to stop you from pinning these other guys? Mark Henry struck me as someone that was just not learning from his mistakes as Matt kept breaking up the pin! It was just amazing.

There was actually a moment where Mark hit the World’s Strongest Slam on Miz but Miz was up again after like 20-30 seconds! Thanks for the no-sell Miz!

There was a big scramble in the last few seconds of the match with everybody trying to get a pin fall on each other. Matt kept trying to break all of them until the clock expired and Matt was declared the winner. There was a big pop when Matt Hardy won the belt which really lifted the crowd after the last ten minutes of the match really took them out of the scramble. I thought this was an OK Scramble match which did not set too great a precedent for other Scramble matches to follow. It started off exciting and then Mark Henry showed up, which took me right out of the match. Then there was the Matt/Mark incident near the end of the match which made the match seem like a total mess at times. In the end, the crowd was happy so I can’t bash this too much.

Match Rating: **1/4

Jeff Hardy congratulated Matt on his big win and Matt wished Jeff luck in the WWE Championship Scramble match later on.

There was a quick shot of WWE Champion Triple H and World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk warming up backstage. They were the champions going into their respective Championship Scramble matches.

Cody Rhodes (c) and Ted DiBiase Jr (c) vs Shad Gaspard and JTG for the World Tag Team Championship

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The announcers mentioned that Shad was once a bodyguard for “Iron” Mike Tyson. Am I the only person in the world that questions why MIKE TYSON of all people would need a body guard? I watched something recently with him in and he still looked like a pretty mean guy. If I tried to jump Mike Tyson in the street, I highly doubt that he’d need Shad Gaspard watching his back!

This match was a nice little tag team match. Nothing too fancy but it was just your slightly-above-average tag team match which was not really messed up at all. There was a funny incident at the start of the match where JTG was pulled off from Cody by the referee and JTG yelled “What are you doing?” Cody went for the moonsault but JTG moved out of the way. Shad got the hot tag. Cody hit the DDT on Shad while the referee was distracted but Shad would kick out of DiBiase’s pin. JTG and Cody became the legal men in the match. JTG went for the small-package on Cody but Ted rolled it over so Cody had JTG covered. The referee made the pin and the champions retained the titles. The two tag teams got into a brawl. Manu, the son of Afa, made his debut by turning the tide in the favour of the champions. They left and were feeling triumphant.

Match Rating: **1/2

Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho in an unsanctioned match

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Shawn Michaels was shown to be taping up his arm for his big unsanctioned fight with Chris Jericho. They showed an awesome video package to recap the feud between Michaels and Jericho. The biggest thing that I took from this feud was that Jericho was justified in nearly all of his actions during this program. He made the point when he turned on Shawn about how the fans were booing an honest man (Jericho) and cheering a lair (Michaels). He did a tremendous job in making Michaels out to be a villain in nearly every scenario, even when he was supposed to retire at Summerslam 2008. Some of the lines thrown in this angle were awesome.

The WWE were actually just starting out in the “PG era” but there was one “we want blood” sign, which was surprisingly not confiscated by security. It is possible that WWE knew that there might be blood in Jericho/HBK anyway so maybe that’s why it wasn’t taken away. HBK attacked Jericho with punches early on. He took off his belt and smacked Jericho with it. They fought in the crowd. Michaels went for a chair shot on Jericho but he missed. Jericho did a DDT to Michaels on the outside, which looked effective. Jericho pulled out a table and hit Michaels with it. Jericho tried a powerbomb but he ended up launching Michaels into the apron.

Jericho beat up Michaels with a chair. Jericho wedged the chair in the corner. They teased Irish-whipping each other into it. Jericho tried to suplex Michaels through the table on the outside but Shawn got out of it. They then showed Michaels flat-out choking Jericho in the ring with a crazed look in his face. I thought that was a nice touch as it shows just how badly Michaels wanted to hurt Jericho. Shawn went for the Superkick but stopped and then just started punching Jericho in the face! The more I think about it, the more of a good spot this became in my mind. I think it’s changed my opinion because the match itself was a totally different type of match then you were used to from Michaels and Jericho. Therefore, these moments make a lot more sense than if Michaels were to have done it at WrestleMania 19 for example.

Michaels locked on the crossface but Jericho was able to hurdle Michaels face-first into the chair. This obviously added to what happened earlier in the storyline, with Jericho injuring Michaels’ eye. Jericho targeted the eye and with the vision of Michaels impaired a little, Jericho turned it into an amateur boxing match for a while! Jericho did the Irish Whip spot to Michaels, where Shawn did a flip in the corner. It was so great because the flip actually helped Michaels out, as it was done to the same corner where the chair was still wedged in!

Jericho went for the Walls of Jericho but Michaels got the ropes. However, Jericho didn’t have to let go as it was no disqualification. Shawn was able to get under the apron and pull out a fire extinguisher. He sprayed Jericho to get out of the Walls and he hit Jericho with the extinguisher. Michaels took Jericho up the ramp and did a nasty looking suplex on it. It honestly looked like it hurt Shawn more than it hurt Chris!

Lance Cade, who was Chris Jericho’s protege at the time, tried a run in but Michaels cut him off. Cade’s response was to TURN HIM INSIDE OUT with a clothesline! Jericho and Cade targeted Michaels’ taped up arm. Jericho slapped Michaels while Cade helped him. Cade brought in a chair and Jericho smacked Michaels in the arm with it. He planned to break Michaels’ arm by wrapping the chair around it and jumping off the top rope with some move. As he went up, Michaels got out of it and superkicked Cade. Michaels took the chair and hit Jericho with it, causing Jericho to crash into the table. I thought Cade’s involvement was really well done and it led to a great spot with Jericho falling into the table. I thought this was all great.

HBK then unleashed a barrage of one-handed chair shots to Jericho which I thought were great additions to the match. It made Michaels look so great while he was in this state-of-mind. He wanted to beat up Jericho with this chair so much that he decided to do it with one arm! Michaels put Cade and Jericho on the announce table and then hit an elbow drop off the top rope through the table.

HBK then whipped Jericho with the belt. In what was a great moment, HBK then started whipping Jericho in the eye! If you’ll recall, Michaels mentioned in a segment on RAW before this about an eye for an eye and Michaels was legitimately trying to take out Jericho’s. He then laid into Jericho with a number of bare-knuckle blows. Jericho was KO’d and the referee called for the bell. Some of the fans booed and a lot of the fans didn’t get the finish but it was still pulled off really well. In a way, they did contradict themselves with the rules by claiming that it could only end via pin fall or submission beforehand. Then again when thinking about the storyline, the referee probably thought that there was no way that Shawn was going to go for the cover and Jericho couldn’t submit as he was knocked out. When factoring all of those things, the referee calling for the bell does make sense.

HBK still continued to beat up Jericho and he even super-kicked one of the referees. More referees came out to stop Michaels and attend to Jericho. This was all splendid.

The match itself was pretty damn great. I know a lot of people didn’t get how the match was put together. To be honest, I was one of those people when I first watched this. There was parts of the matches which I never really understood until I watched it back recently. It wasn’t a match which everyone got but it was still masterfully put together. It’s unfair to compare this match to other Michaels vs Jericho matches as it was obviously not set out to be like those matches that we saw in the past. However, it was still pretty damn great. The match actually gets better and better the more I think about it. TWO HUGE THUMBS UP FOR THIS!

Match Rating: ****1/4

Legacy were backstage. Cody introduced Manu to Randy Orton and Ted asked if Orton was impressed. Orton said he wasn’t and proceeded to cut an amazing promo on Ted, Cody and Manu. He delivered a great speech about talent and ability, berating them for using tactics that people like Cryme Tyme would use on the street. He was not impressed.

Triple H (c) vs Jeff Hardy vs Shelton Benjamin vs The Brian Kendrick vs MVP in the WWE Championship Scramble match

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This was a championship scramble match mostly revolved around two men – Triple H and Jeff Hardy. At the end of the day, the winner of the match was going to be either one of those two. Therefore, this made everyone else in the match seem irrelevant (except for The Brian Kendrick, which we’ll get onto later). I don’t know if I were to have booked it like this, as the whole point of the match is surely to tease that anyone can win. If you were going to book it as they did, wouldn’t it make for sense for Jeff and Triple H to start off the match? That way, you can get the fans into the match early on and also give Jeff and Triple H experience in wrestling 20 minute title matches with each other, which is important as they would go on to fight each other for the title in the next few pay-per-views.

They went with Jeff Hardy  and Shelton Benjamin as the first and second entrants respectively. It was a decent first five minutes. There was one strange clothesline spot where Shelton went down and it appeared that he thought that they were going to do the double clothesline spot, where they both go down. The third entrant was The Brian Kendrick, who was with Ezekiel Jackson at this time. As he was coming down, Shelton was trying to hit Jeff with a  German Suplex off the apron. Kendrick cut him off. Kendrick was pinned soon after by Jeff Hardy with an alley oop.

This was the part of the show where I thought that the wrestlers themselves really didn’t understand the rules of the match. The Championship Scramble was actually a complicated concept but it was made worse by the fact that the interim-champion Jeff Hardy tried getting a pin fall on Shelton Benjamin. Why would Jeff need to bother getting another pin fall? Why didn’t he do what his brother did earlier on and just wear down his opponents? It wouldn’t have been too big of a deal had it not been for the finish, which we’ll get to later.

Shelton hit the Pay Dirt on Jeff and Kendrick followed it up with “The Kendrick” to pin Jeff Hardy. THE BRIAN KENDRICK became the interim WWE Champion. The Brian Kendrick was really the only one, other than Triple H and Jeff Hardy, that stood out like I mentioned earlier. Kendrick got the pin fall and the entire crowd was stunned as well as the commentators! He then served as the best interim champion in the history of the Championship Scramble! He looked like such a star for the next five minutes or so. MVP was the fourth entrant and ran wild. He went for the dive-by but Kendrick cut him off with one of the most beautiful leg lariats I’ve ever seen. Kendrick then started to do a tremendous job in making himself seem like a legitimate threat in this match. He was the best wrestler in the ring for the time that he was champion and was outclassing everyone! Then Triple H came in as the last entrant…

All of a sudden, things went downhill for Kendrick. Triple H ran wild and pinned Kendrick right away after a Pedigree to become the interim champion. All of a sudden it became the Triple H and Jeff Hardy show, with Kendrick playing the same role as everyone else. Shelton Irish-whipped Triple H into the steel steps. As this was going on, Jeff pinned MVP with the Twist of Fate. There were some boos as this happened, with the some of the crowd seeing where this was going.

In a terrible twenty seconds for Kendrick, Triple H pinned Kendrick again with the Pedigree. Triple H turned around to catch his breath, which apparently meant that Triple H had lost his hearing as well. The reason I say this is because as Triple H was turned around, Jeff hit the Swanton Bomb on Kendrick to a big pop. Jeff then pinned Kendrick to once again become the interim champion. There were only two men that were getting reactions at this point and they were Triple H and Jeff Hardy. If the crowd were going crazy, then Triple H surely should have figured out that Jeff was somehow back in the match and going for something big. Surely that should have forced Triple H to turn around and stop Jeff Hardy from getting the pin, which almost cost him the WWE Championship. But no. Hunter turned around with a shocked look in his face as he was no longer the interim champion.

There was an awesome tower of doom spot with Shelton Benjamin, MVP and The Brian Kendrick. All three men were down. In the closing seconds of this match, Jeff hit Shelton with the Swanton Bomb which was followed by Triple H giving MVP a pedigree. Triple H was going for the cover on MVP with Jeff Hardy stood right in front of him. Did Jeff Hardy try to break up the pin? No. He turned his attentions to Shelton and TRIED TO PIN HIM. Once again, YOU WERE ALREADY THE INTERIM CHAMPION! All Jeff Hardy had to do was make sure that Triple H didn’t pin MVP and he would have won the title right then and there. Instead, he allowed Triple H to get the pin fall and the announcers tried to play it up like Jeff was so close to winning the championship. They were right. He was so close but he failed out of his own stupidity. Jeff Hardy came off looking like the dumbest man alive in this match. He tried to pin other wrestlers while he was already the champion and had no clue of how the match worked in the slightest.

They also tried to go with the angle that Jeff was too hurt to recover and do anything. He was too hurt to break up the pin but he was OK enough to go try a pin on somebody else?

So Triple H got the pin fall at the end, which saw him retain the championship as the last man to get a pin or a submission. Other than the ending, this was a decent Championship Scramble. I would go as far as to call it the best scramble in the show but that is not saying much. It didn’t help the match when everyone involved had at least one moment where they did something stupid or was completely squashed. SmackDown! did not come off looking good following this pay-per-view.

Match Rating: **3/4

Shawn Michaels did an interview with Todd Grisham. Shawn said that he was content with what he had accomplished in his match with Jericho but he did not find closure. He said that if he could, he would deliver the same beating to Jericho every single day of his life. He warned Jericho that the worst is yet to come. For the fans, the best was yet to come as those two would go on to have an incredible match at No Mercy in the following month!

World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk was interviewed by Eve Torres, future Divas Champion. Randy Orton interrupted Punk’s interview. Orton called Punk a fluke champion. They had a back-and-forth until Cody, Ted and Manu all attacked Punk. Kofi Kingston tried to help Punk but he was beaten down too. Orton then ended the beating by punting CM Punk in the head. Orton would tell Legacy that this was impressive. They left.

Michelle McCool (c) vs Maryse for the Divas Championship

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This was not great. Maryse could barely run the ropes in this match. Michelle tried to do a flip arm drag off the top rope but was only just able to land on her feet. They fought on the outside, with Michelle giving Maryse a clothesline off the barricade. The match actually did include a good of bit old ring psychology, with Maryse working on Michelle’s leg. Michelle then worked on Maryse’s leg. The big difference was that Maryse was selling her leg injury while Michelle wasn’t! I then was reduced to uncontrollable laughter after Maryse and Michelle tried a sunset flip. Maryse tried this sunset flip but it ended up with Maryse’s momentum causing Michelle to crush her!

Michelle won with a suplex facebuster for the pin fall. You could tell that the announcers barely cared about this match as about ten seconds after the match, Tazz suddenly just went “ooooh” as if he just realised that the match was over! This was slightly worse then your average women’s match. The only major thing that they messed up was the sunset flip which still brought me a fair amount of entertainment!

Match Rating: *1/4

They then cut to a poll that the WWE were running throughout the night. It was whether the Big Show should have been allowed to be in the WWE Championship Scramble. 77% of the fans said that he should have been in the match. I guarantee that if they ran this poll again in 2016 for whether the Big Show should be in the Elimination Chamber for example, 77% would have voted against having him in!

RAW General Manager Mike Adamle cut a promo. He announced that it looked like CM Punk was not going to be able to make it to the World Title Championship Scramble. He said if CM Punk couldn’t compete, he would find someone else to take his place. He guaranteed that a FIVE MAN championship scramble will take place tonight.

You know what’s funny about Mike Adamle is that I wasn’t really watching wrestling at this time period, so I never watched it during the Age of Adamle. If I was, I totally would have loved him as the general manager of RAW and here’s why. The thing is that I really loved John Laurinaitis, when he was in charge with People Power. I’m a sucker for characters that are so bad that they’re good. Even though he messed up a lot of promos and came out with some unintentionally great moments, there was never a moment where I wanted to turn off the television when Big Johnny came out. Mike Adamle had that same effect where you’re just watching him and you’re waiting for him to come out with a beauty of a line!

He never really messed up anything with this promo but I loved the way that he raised his voice at the end of his promo. Apparently John Cena convinced Adamle that the more you raise your voice, the better your promo will be!

Segment with Vickie Guerrero, Big Show and The Undertaker

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Big Show came out. He was in his singlet. I was about to question why Big Show was coming out in his ring gear when he wasn’t scheduled to compete. As it turns out, he was lobbying himself to compete in the main event and take CM Punk’s place. Then again, Big Show didn’t know that there would be an open spot in the match until Adamle just announced it a minute or so earlier! So again… why was he in his gear?

He started his promo by just saying “Hi” which got some laughs. Big Show offered to be in the main event in Punk’s place as mentioned earlier. He said that at least Mike Adamle wouldn’t have left him out of a scramble match unlike SmackDown! General Manager Vickie Guerrero. This somehow led to Big Show encouraging people to vote in the 2008 elections. I have no idea how he was able to segway into this!

Vickie came out. Vickie told Big Show that she warned him not to cause a disruption or else. She had warned him that he’d either be suspended or fined. He then called him a big, dumb giant and told him to leave. When Big Show refused to leave, Vickie didn’t act on her threat. There were no fines or suspensions. She did not fire him. She basically told him to go away!

By the way, Vickie Guerrero does not fit into the category of “so bad that it’s good.” At this point in her career, she could still barely act. She was god awful with her delivery on this show. At least Big Johnny or Adamle had something to make you want to stay and watch. Vickie was just so bad that it made you think that WWE were actually daring you to turn off the show.

The Undertaker popped up on the titantron as druids made their way down to the ring with a casket. Big Show was just laughing in the ring. Taker said that he promised that he would be coming for Vickie at Unforgiven. He said that the coffin would be her final resting place. He asked her whether she wanted to go voluntarily or by force. Big Show kept her in the ring.

Undertaker got a big pop when he was coming out. Vickie tried to exit via the crowd but Big Show brought her back into the ring. This gave me strange deja vus of Over The Limit 2012, when Big Show brought Big Johnny back in the ring after he tried to escape from the crowd. Anyone that watched that pay-per-view will remember how that went down. As amazing as it is, I got deja vus from a segment that took place in 2012 while watching a pay-per-view from 2008 in 2016!

Taker opened the casket and got in the ring. Undertaker then started taking off his coat and hat. I didn’t realise that Undertaker needed to be in his ring gear in order to take Vickie Guerrero to hell! He grabbed her by the throat and then the Big Show punched Taker in the face. Big Show, did in fact, turn heel on this pay-per-view. It’s just amazing that they did this exact same storyline in 2012 but with Big Johnny replacing Vickie and John Cena replacing the Undertaker. Incredible.

So Big Show beat up the Undertaker in a shockingly agile manner. He then drove Taker into the ring post and threw him into the barricade. He knocked over the casket and then kept punching Taker in the face, knocking him out. Vickie then spit in Undertaker’s face, slapping him for good measure. ALL OF THIS TOOK TWENTY MINUTES OF PAY-PER-VIEW TIME!

Segment Rating: -**

They then recapped a RAW segment with Randy Orton and CM Punk, which led to the attack from earlier.

William Regal tried to convince Mike Adamle to put him in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match. Adamle said he’d take his request under advisement.

Batista vs Kane vs JBL vs Rey Mysterio vs Chris Jericho in the World Heavyweight Championship Scramble match

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Batista and JBL started out the match. I was rather shocked and disappointed by the WWE’s decision to have Batitsa and JBL kick off the match. They could have put in Kane or Rey Mysterio, with Mysterio having a history of pulling off good long match performances. However, they decided that it was best for Batista and JBL to work a 20 minute match. Batista looked blown up at around the half-way point.

They also decided to have Batista and JBL start the match by locking on submission holds. Because if there’s one thing I associate Batista and JBL with, it’s submissions! Batista locked on the Figure Four Leg Lock for about a minute. It was much better when these two were just going blow for blow as opposed to just going for submissions. That brought out the best of them. Batista Irish-whipped JBL into the corner. He got into the ring and waited for the third entrant, who turned out to be Kane.

There was a fine back-and-forth between Kane and Batista. They went for finishers on each other but they were countering each other’s stuff. Then there was a nice little sequence between all three men, which saw Kane pin JBL off a chokeslam. The fourth entrant was Rey Mysterio, who brought life into the match for about a few minutes. He and JBL picked up the pace as Mysterio ran wild. Rey went for the 619 on Kane but it was avoided and Kane turned Rey inside out with a clothesline.

Rey and Batista then teamed up to do an elevated splash, with Rey on Batista’s shoulders. They went for it again but Rey turned it into a victory roll pin attempt on Batista. It’s funny that Batista thought nothing of Rey’s betrayal in this match when a year later, he got so mad at Rey for breaking up a pin fall which caused Big Dave to turn heel at Bragging Rights 2009!

JBL then took advantage of the brief squabble that Rey and Batista had. JBL hit a fallaway slam on Rey, which saw him land right on Batista. The fifth entrant was revealed to be Chris Jericho, who came out selling his match from earlier on in the night. Everyone in the ring was shocked as Jericho came out, with Y2J looking wrecked. Batista then speared Rey and Jericho out of their boots.

In a repeat of earlier on, Kane tried to go for the pin even though HE WAS THE CHAMPION. Fortunately, he only did this once. In the last 45 seconds of the match, Batista hit Kane with the spinebuster and pinned him to become the interim champion. Rey then tried a springboard move on Batista but it was countered into a Batista Bomb. This was a sweet reversal actually. As this was happening though, Jericho sneaked back into the ring and pinned Kane. The clock ran out and Chris Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship!

I’ve got to say that the finish was really well executed. It was not done in such a way that it devalued the title as Jericho had already been beaten up before the match. Jericho was slaughtered by Michaels but still came back out, which put him over. Even if he didn’t do anything in the match, Jericho winning was the whole point of the match at the end of the day. The majority of the match was pretty boring but it did lead to a great finish. It was also not like the WWE Championship Scramble match ending, where Jeff could have done something to break up the pin. Jericho went for the pin as Batista was in mid-move. Batista could not stop what he was doing and go break up the pin. Really well executed finish with a match type which did have its fair share of problems. The finish gets a thumbs up from me!

Match Rating: **1/4

Overall, this was a fine pay-per-view. The Championship Scramble was a complicated concept, as mentioned earlier. Especially with the wrestlers themselves getting somewhat confused by it, it was a very difficult match to get your head around. Despite this, all three matches were different in their layouts and they all provided something different. Matt brought the triumphant new babyface champion, Triple H and Jeff brought the back-and-forth pin falls which lead to an exciting last minute of the match and Jericho brought the shock factor. The best match of the night was Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels BY FAR, but this was not a pay-per-view that delivered a lot of bad matches or anything. With the exception of the women’s match and the god awful Vickie, Big Show and Undertaker segment, this was decent stuff. Thumbs up from me!

Lucha Underground: Aztec Warfare II Review

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NOTE: The following was written several months ago, days after the episode took place. Therefore, no aspects of future storylines after Aztec Warfare II will be discussed.
Season One’s Aztec Warfare match was one of my favourite matches in the first season. It saw the best in the Temple battle it out to crown the first Lucha Underground champion. When the smoke cleared, Prince Puma won the title. In Season Two they brought it back, with Lucha Underground Champion Fenix being forced to defend his title as the number one entrant. Did Aztec Warfare II deliver just like the first one?
As Catrina had declared at the end of the last episode, Fenix was the #1 entrant. He was the first entrant in the first Aztec Warfare match so this was a little case of deja vu. It was also funny, because Lucha Underground had their champion defend the title in a multi-man match that was taped in December. Fast-forward to January and the WWE had Roman Reigns defend the WWE title in a Royal Rumble! Think about that for a moment.
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#2 was the debuting Rey Mysterio. Mysterio revealed that he was in the match the week before but these fans obviously had no idea as they went nuts for Rey. As soon as Melissa Santos said “From San Diego, California,” you could hear some rumblings as if the fans started to figure out where this was going. As soon as Melissa said “Rey,” there was an eruption in the Temple!
I have to say that Rey looked in great shape during the match. Rey was very active throughout the match and he did a tremendous job in lasting the entire match. I remember watching him in the 2013 Royal Rumble and he looked blown up after like a minute. I couldn’t help but notice when I watched that particular Rumble. This Rey Mysterio was nothing like that Rey Mysterio that was in WWE a few years ago. Rey looked great and it was probably helped by the fact that this was in a taped show. If Rey was blown up at times, then Lucha did a great job in editing it out!
Fenix was, by far, the biggest mark for Rey as he came out. He showed respect for Rey and encouraged him to go up to the turnbuckles for his entrance. We started off with a great exchange between the old veteran and the young lion. Great to see and Rey was able to keep up with the pace of Fenix. Number three was King Cuerno. Mysterio, Fenix and Cuerno threw down for a while.
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Argenis was #4, making his return to the Temple as Argenis. He was actually a part of the Disciples of Death. I don’t actually think that the Disciples of Death are done yet though. I’ve seen a teaser Instagram post from Lucha that promoted a trios rematch between Ivelisse, Son of Havoc and Angelico against the Disciples of Death. They might wrap up that trios team after the rematch and let Argenis do his own thing. Argenis was fine in this match but he was really there to be the first of Rey’s victims. He was the first man eliminated after eating a 619. Johnny Mundo came out as #5 and then they went to the adverts.
There was a clever spot where Fenix used Mundo’s foot to boot Mysterio. Joey Ryan was #6 and his plan was to handcuff himself on the rail to keep himself from being pinned. It was a clever spot but all I kept thinking about when I watched this was when Big Show pinned Essa Rios on the wall in a hardcore match! Thankfully, this was not a Falls Count Anywhere match so Ryan was safe… FOR NOW!
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Prince Puma was #7. He ran wild and hit everyone (except Joey Ryan) with a Springboard Shooting Star Press. That was an incredible spot. Jack Evans was #8. King Cuerno tapped out to Rey Mysterio’s cross armbreaker to be eliminated. The luchadors (Mysterio, Puma and Fenix) then teamed up to take out the “rudos” Mundo and Evans. Rudos is another term for heels in case anyone was wondering. Evans and Mundo got together and waited for #9 to come out, who was in fact Taya. Big pop for Taya when she came out. There was awesome spot with the luchadores and the rudos faced off in a six man tag confrontation. Cage was #10 and ran wild, as we went to the adverts.
Cage beat up all the rudos until Mundo threw him into Catrina’s office. If you’ll recall, he turned heel by throwing Alberto El Patron threw the same window. Mundo has a thing for pulling a Shawn Michaels on the luchadors! Mascarita Sagrada was #11. Cage quickly re-entered the fray and hit a big discuss clothesline on Mundo. He hit the Weapon X on the outside and Prince Puma hit the standing moonsault to eliminate Mundo. Marty the Moth was #12. He dominated the match for a while. Drago came in at #13.
Drago went after the “Dragon Slayer” Jack Evans. They brawled into the crowd and Drago spit mist into Joey Ryan’s eyes. Sagrada and Mysterio teamed up to eliminate Marty. The Mack was number 14 and he hit Marty with a stunner for good measure.
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Then there was an awesome moment in the ring, with Mack and Cage having a stare down. As they started trading punches, there was a shot of the ring with the entrance steps behind them. So as Cage and Mack are fighting, Jack Evans starts rolling down the steps and to the floor! It was one of the funniest aspects of this match but it was also one of my biggest criticisms of the match too. There was so much going on during the match that it was hard to keep up. As stuff was going on in the ring, Drago and Evans were doing big spots in the crowd. At least in the Royal Rumble match, they make it clear over who the spotlight was on and who they wanted the fans to focus on at one time. In Aztec Warfare, it just seemed like there was too much going on at once. It was all great but it was all clunked together it seems.
There was also another spot where Fenix threw Mascarita Sagrada into Joey Ryan, who was obviously not in a position to catch him! It was almost like Sagrada hit one of the bouncers on a pinball machine and bounced off him and onto the ground! Poor Sagrada!
Chavo Guerrero was #15. Sometime during all of this chaos, Drago hit a powerbomb on Evans onto with outside benches. Chavo eliminated Mascarita Sagrada with a camel clutch submission, getting him his redemption for losing to Hornswoggle every week on RAW in 2009. Cage was eliminated by Taya, after Mundo hit him with a cinder block. I’m totally expecting a cinder block match between Mundo and Cage, with the winner having to a break a cinder block over the head of the other. Maybe that’s a bad idea for a gimmick match but that’s where it looks like it’s going with all of these cinder block attacks. I don’t know whether that’d work but I’m willing to give it a chance!
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PJ Black came out as #16 and Fenix eliminated Taya with a German suplex. Black double-teamed Drago with his new buddy Jack Evans. He hit a suplex to Drago on the benches. That spot and the powerbomb spot from earlier did not look pretty. Not sure whether all of this was really necessary but the crowd was going nuts for this crowd-brawling. Aerostar was #17, which lead to a tag team battle with Aerostar and Drago battling Evans and Black. There was a double elimination with Aerostar beating Evans and Black beating Drago. Aerostar put Evans away with a top rope Canadian Destroyer-looking move which got a huge reaction.
Dragon Azteca Jr was #18. Here’s the issue with the way that the Lucha Underground shows are put together. We, at home, knew who Dragon Azteca Jr was. We got the big story with Dragon Azteca Jr and Rey Mysterio and by watching the television, it’s easy to understand his stake in Aztec Warfare. However, this crowd had no clue about who this guy was and he was met with little reaction! Vampiro did mention that he recognised the mask but it was not like anybody else in the crowd did. Dragon Azteca Jr did turn the fans around with a few high spots including an awesome dive over the ring post and onto the outside.
Texano Jr was #19. He was running wild and he eliminated PJ Black. Mil Muertes was #20, as declared by Catrina in the last episode. Pentagon Jr, who was not given an invitation to compete, took out Mil with a chair. This got an incredible reaction from the Temple. He threw him back into the ring and Mil was pinned by Rey and Puma. Catrina was angry at Vampiro and slapped him. As this confrontation was going on, the timer was counting down. Then came out Dario Cueto….
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I was beaming with joy when I saw Dario come out! Dario may have possibly gotten the biggest reaction of the night! He declared that he was back in charge and that there was going to be a 21st entrant into Aztec Warfare. He revealed the entrant to be his brother… Matanza!
I like Catrina a lot but seeing Dario back in charge put the biggest smile on my face. Nobody can out-do Dario Cueto as being an authority figure in Lucha Underground.
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Matanza did the big roar spot as he came out, pushing away everybody that was left. I loved what came next. He immediately targeted the champion Fenix, hit a German suplex and pinned him. The fans were all stunned as the champion was the FIRST man to face the wrath of Matanza. It made you realise that this Matanza fellow was not someone to mess with!
The Mack took on Matanza but saw his Stunner on Matanza no-sold. Matanza eliminated Mack and Aerostar to boos from the Temple.
Texano tried to choke out Matanza with a bull rope but he was taken out with a sit-out powerbomb. Matanza then targeted Joey Ryan, who was still handcuffed on the railing. Matanza broke the steel to set Ryan free. He killed Ryan with three rolling gut-wrench suplexes and pinned him. I was impressed at how Matanza was able to pull this off as it would be a very difficult sequence to pull off.
Chavo tried to form an alliance with Puma, Rey and Dragon Azetca but then quickly turned on them all. Matanza and Dragon Azteca battled but Matanza quickly disposed of him. Chavo then tried to form an alliance with Dario Cueto but Dario told Matanza to kill Chavo. Matana eliminated Chavo and Puma until it was down to Matanza and Mysterio.
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They had a great little final two and Rey had done really well to make it this far and looked fine at this stage. Rey hit the 619 but then Matanza caught him with a running powerslam and pinned him to win Aztec Warfare.

Dario then handed the Lucha Underground title to Matanza. It’s almost like Matanza had no clear what to do with this belt until Dario told him to raise it! It would have been awesome if Matanza had tried to eat that belt or something!

I have to say that Lucha Underground knocked it out of the park with this Aztec Warfare match. Rey Mysterio’s debut was well executed. There was rarely a dull moment as there was a lot of action. There were a number of instances where there seemed to be too much action going on at one time, preventing the fans from properly keeping up with everything. Dario Cueto’s return was awesome and Matanza came out of this looking like such a star. He destroyed everyone like few monsters had dominated before. Rarely has a monster been booked as convincingly as this. Brock Lesnar was booked dominantly but it’s not like he eliminated everyone else that was left in this year’s Royal Rumble for example. Matanza eliminated the champion right off the bat and everybody else had no hope in hell of beating him.

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I’ll end this with two things. I do agree with Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez with the sentiment that “Matanza” maybe should have been a much bigger fellow. It was built up on television that Dario Cueto’s brother was a lot taller as Dario would be shown to be looking up at this monster. Maybe they were planning on having someone bigger but they changed their mind. I’m really sure what their mindset was but I was expecting someone much bigger.
With that said, Matanza was great at being Matanza. He decimated everyone. I was just in awe about this entire ending with Matanza running rough-shot on everyone left in that match. He threw everyone around like it was nothing to him. Nearly everyone was hit with one move and beaten. This dude was able to pull off standing moonsaults among other incredible feats. This guy was something else.
HUGE THUMBS UP FOR LUCHA UNDERGROUND!

Could Kalisto Be A Star In WWE?

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Contrary to popular belief, wins and losses are vital to those in WWE. While those in WWE are working in a kayfabe world were wins and losses are predetermined, those predetermined wins and losses make a hell of a difference to a wrestler’s rise to or fall from stardom. One win can make you a star. One loss can be the beginning of the end. However, there was one victory recently that sparked interest from the WWE universe and myself.

There were a number of wrestlers involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament which were seemingly brought in just to fill up the bracket. Nobody never believed that Titus O’Neil was going to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. There was no reason to believe that Tyler Breeze would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship a month after debuting on the roster. There was no chance in hell that Kalisto from the Lucha Dragons would ever beat Ryback in the first round right? However, the whole idea of anything can happen in WWE can strike when you least expect it.

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There’s no way that Kalisto could possibly beat Ryback right? Well as the gods of unpredictability would have it, Kalisto beat Ryback in the first round for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Quite the shocker to say the least, but was there a lot more to the victory than just to provide a big upset?

Someone like Tyler Breeze getting a huge upset would make sense as he’s just arrived on the main roster. Someone like Kalisto though is different. Kalisto first arrived on the main roster in March as part of the Lucha Dragons. It’s not like Kalisto was ever built up to be a singles star. It did seem that WWE was trying to promote Kalisto as the star of the team as he usually the one tagged in for the hot tags and he’s got the more flashy moves in him than Sin Cara. However, there seemed to be no real intent of pushing him to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship or anything serious like that. He was just another part of the roster.

On the other hand, Ryback had just been coming off losing his Intercontinental title and has received a number of pushes since he was repackaged as Ryback in 2012. When looking at things like that, there was no real reason for Kalisto to beat Ryback at all unless it meant that there was something  big in store for the high flyer.

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What does WWE want to do with Kalisto? Do they want him to eventually be their top Mexican representative so they can build a bigger audience in that part of the world? Do want him to join a number of high flyers in WWE to build a Cruiserweight Division? What motivation could WWE have had which would have them put Kalisto over Ryback in the first round of the tournament?

On RAW, Kalisto was beaten in the quarter finals by Alberto Del Rio. As much as I love Del Rio, I had a problem with WWE ending this “Cinderella story” before it even began. The unlikely contender defying the odds was the key story going into that match but it was quickly ended by Del Rio. So it was not like Kalisto was going to make it to Survivor Series as pushing Del Rio as a main eventer is a big priority for WWE. However, there’s obviously enough intrigue for WWE to possibly do something with him. In today’s WWE, having something to do is a hell of a lot better than having nothing.

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I’m going to sort of turn this into a “How I Would Book” post for a brief moment as I believe Kalisto losing to Del Rio actually sets things up nicely for if WWE were to ever try to push him. If you’ve ever watched Lucha Underground, AAA or any form of lucha libre, you’ll know that there’s a lot of pride involved. Kalisto should be portrayed as a proud warrior that seeks to be the best wrestling has to offer. Him beating Ryback and losing to Del Rio teaches him that he does have what it takes to become a star but still lacks something (possibly motivation) to truly unlock his full potential.

That’s Kalisto’s motivation as he requests more singles matches. He loses initially but then is able to pick up that one win again against someone like Kevin Owens or Cesaro. He’s starting to learn from his mistakes and looks better and better every time he’s in the ring. Kalisto then gets on a roll from this win and he and Sin Cara team up again and eventually earn a shot at the tag titles at Royal Rumble or Fast Lane. They come close but they eventually get beat. Kalisto is given an opportunity to compete for the United States Championship at Wrestlemania against the champion Del Rio, but only if he and Sin Cara split up. Cara tells him to go for it and Kalisto earns a title shot on RAW. He is finally able to beat Del Rio at Wrestlemania to capture the gold.

That was just a short idea I came up with in my head but it tells you the potential the WWE have now created with this victory that could make a star out of Kalisto.

 

Wrestling Flashback – The SmackDown! Six

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In 2002, the WWE draft would have a major impact on WWE television. Gone were the days of competition from WCW. With the contracts of WCW talent being bought out by the WWE, it became apparent that all of these stars couldn’t possibly be given the chance to perform. With the entire roster working on all of the TV shows, there was little opportunity for lower-card talent to get an on-screen appearance on RAW or SmackDown! There was simply too big a roster to deal with. The WWE draft came up with a solution… split the roster down the middle creating two separate brands called RAW and SmackDown!

Another potential reason for the roster split was down to the ratings for RAW and SmackDown! taking a huge hit coming off the “Attitude Era”. According to Paul Heyman, who became the head writer of SmackDown! in 2002, SmackDown! was facing cancellation as the writing team was split up to serve both brands. Internally, all eyes were on RAW and Heyman’s job was to “take SmackDown! of their plate”. With the need to feature everybody and pressure on both WWE’s two flagship shows, the brand wars was on.

With all eyes on RAW, Paul Heyman was left with Stephanie McMahon to build up the stars that the “powers-that-be” didn’t see a lot of potential in. When the time was right, WWE could eventually pluck out these stars for their “flagship” show RAW. One of the first examples of this was when Chris Jericho was moved to RAW from SmackDown!, after finishing up a great rivalry with the up-and-comer Edge. Paul protested this move as Jericho was making Edge into a legitimate star on SmackDown! However, Heyman was offered a “compensation” for losing the main-event star Jericho. Heyman wanted Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero (who were, according to Heyman, the “nWo’s whipping boys” at the time on RAW) in exchange for losing Jericho. Heyman saw a lot of potential in Benoit and Guerrero, while the RAW writers didn’t. With the trade agreed and Benoit and Guerrero “stolen” by SmackDown! General Manager Stephanie McMahon, the table was set for Heyman to take these stars to the next level.

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The funny thing about looking back at 2002 is the relaxed booking from Paul Heyman compared to the frankly desperate attempts for ratings on RAW. Heyman didn’t have to resort to featuring HLA or a storyline about necrophilia in order to grab ratings. All it took for Heyman was simple story-telling and build up which resulted in more eye balls watching SmackDown! to see the intensity of these stories build over time. And the reason that’s so funny is because NXT is trumping WWE’s flagship shows right now for the very simple reason. Why do you think the fans of Brooklyn went nuts for Bayley vs Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver while they paid little attention to the Divas Revolution on Summerslam and RAW?

Heyman allowed the action in the ring to tell the stories for the viewers, and the viewers understood the story-telling very well. Michael Cole and Tazz didn’t need to talk about the storylines as much and could refocus the viewer’s attention to the match. That’s what made them such a great pairing.

Heyman’s most notable claim to fame as SmackDown! head writer was the introduction of the SmackDown! tag team division. RAW never really had a strong tag team division of it’s own at the time as it was mostly considered an after-thought by the writers. This was Heyman’s chance to seize the moment. With Guerrero and Benoit now apart of the roster and Rey Mysterio being brought into the company in July, Heyman could bring them together in a tag team environment in order to push them as singles stars. Rey Mysterio was teamed up with Edge, with the both of them being strong fan favourites and possessing a unique chemistry as a tag team. Eddie Guerrero was thrown into the mix too, with his nephew Chavo being promoted up to the main roster as well. These two tag teams naturally clicked together but what about Chris Benoit? Having just turned in face in mid-2002, who could Benoit team up with in this tag team division? Well, in a move that could benefit everyone, Paul decided to interject one of his main-eventers into that tag team scene to team with the “Rabid Wolverine”. That way, it would be more acceptable for all of these men to be featured in the main events on SmackDown! This main eventer… was Kurt Angle.

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Chavo Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio in the main event of SmackDown! would have seemed a bit of a fantasy considering the stars like Brock Lesnar and Undertaker on the show. But Rey Mysterio vs KURT ANGLE would have worked as Kurt already had the star power to justify his position in the main event. Putting him up against Rey, Edge, Eddie or Chavo would also give them the main event spotlight too, resulting in the stock of all these men rising as individuals. That way, their rise to success as singles star moved along in a much faster rate in that tag team scenario.

It was truly masterful to see how Heyman used the tag team division as a means to get these six into the main events of SmackDown! From a business standpoint, the SmackDown! six delivered when it came to ratings and merchandise. There was heavy competition for SmackDown! at the time, including the final season of “Friends”. However, the ratings were holding and everybody in that tag team scenario benefited immensely. While RAW was up against the ropes, SmackDown! was pulling out all the punches.

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The storyline itself was introduced when Stephanie McMahon announced a tag team tournament to crown the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions. Edge and Mysterio were partnered up and Eddie sided with Chavo. However, Stephanie McMahon also decreed that Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle would be a tag team in the tournament too. This wound up both men as they had been feuding at that point. Stephanie ruled that Kurt and Benoit would be suspended for a year without pay if there were any physicality between them. However, Benoit and Angle proved to be a formidable tag team. Despite their differences, they were able to make it to the final by defeating Los Guerreros. At No Mercy, Benoit and Angle defeated Edge and Mysterio in the final to become the first ever WWE Tag Team Champions.

Angle and Benoit would be presented with a trophy to commemorate their tournament win. However, things would break down after Angle and Benoit began arguing about who was the “captain” of the team. This would lead to Stephanie being accidentally smacked in the face with the trophy. Stephanie responded by slapping both men and booking a match for them to settle their differences “the old fashioned way”. However, Los Guerreros would get involved which led to further brawling later that night. Edge and Rey Mysterio were able to capitalize on Angle and Benoit’s troubles, winning a 2 out of 3 falls tag match on SmackDown! to win the tag titles. This led to a triple threat tag team match at Survivor Series between Edge and Mysterio, Benoit and Angle and Los Guerreros for the tag titles. The Guerreros finally got the job done, winning the match and the titles.

Each of these men would go on to establish themselves as singles stars and all of these men would end up winning world titles later on in their careers. Kurt Angle had already been a WWE Championship before the “SmackDown! Six” but did go on to win the WWE Championship again just a month later at Armageddon. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero won world championships in 2004, with the two of them closing out Wrestlemania XX as World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion respectively. Edge and Rey Mysterio would win their first world titles in 2006 and Chavo Guerrero would win the ECW Championship in 2008.

It seems then that Heyman succeeded in elevating all six of these men as singles stars, after grouping them as tag teams first in the tag team division. This was one of those eras in wrestling when tag team wrestling was at its finest. True competition put together with a simple and logical storyline to help elevate the importance of the championship and the tag teams competing for the gold. Heyman’s had a lot of successes as a writer, but the “SmackDown! Six” era was Heyman’s finest hour…

 

How I Would Book… Rey Mysterio vs AJ Styles

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In an interview earlier on this month, AJ Styles spoke to SLAM magazine and he gave the magazine a nice indictiation as to a possible dream match if he were to wrestle any opponent of his choosing. He said…

“Seriously, some (dream matches) for me are with guys that I may never get the opportunity to wrestle. I’d like to wrestle Rey Mysterio, I think he and I could really tear things up. There are definitely some guys in the Fed (WWE) that I think I could have good matches with, that would also be dream matches for the fans as well. But who knows if that ever comes or not.”

AJ Styles vs Rey Mysterio is defiently probably one of the most talked about dream matches in wrestling history. I certaintly would’ve like to seen these two mix it up. I remember in 2006 when Rey Mysterio was the World Champion at the peak of his career and I just started watching TNA and AJ Styles, I’ve paid some serious cash to see these two at the time compete. The quickness of Rey Mysterio, the athletic abillity of AJ Styles. In my mind, this sort of match would have been the greatest match of all time. However, years later I’ve matured. The likelihood of this actually happening is very low considering Rey’s physical well-being and AJ’s stance on joining the WWE. Rey could himself theoretically join TNA, but I just don’t see it. But if a match between these two was somewhat possible… how would you book it?

I mean these are two characters with very different personalities that how would a feud manifest between these two, particularly in this day and age? I personally have one idea about how to book it. I’m not sure if you’re going to like it, but I would like for you guys to send me ideas about how you would book it and hopefully I can actually do a post on it comparing peoples ideas and we can generate a lot of thoughts together. This is a forum for public debate after all. XD So tweet them @ArmbarExpress, send me an e-mail tomrobinson5199@gmail.com. Whatever , I’d love to start building relationships with you guys. Anyway, here’s how I’d do it.

It starts off on the RAW after Elimination Chamber. I know that’s already happened (and you can read my review about it on this link) but that’s where I’m starting it in this scenario. Assuming that Rey was healthy, Rey Mysterio is in the ring teasing retirement. He’s saying stuff like “I don’t know if I can do this anymore” and “I’ve done all I can and wrestled everyone there is to wrestle” etc. He’s saying that there’s nothing for him in WWE anymore and he’s about to leave but then Evil Ways by Blues Saraceno hits! Again, this is assuming that WWE is allowed to use the theme! They might actually because they used it for a Undertaker/CM Punk promo before! Anyway, AJ makes his way onto the stage. He has the lone wolf gimmick (which I personally love). He enters the ring and does his hand pose. It’s still dark from his entrance when he and Rey have a little staredown. AJ stares at him and then walks towards the Wrestlemania sign and points at it. He goes back to Rey and offers his hand. Rey accepts the handshake and the match is on… but then AJ delivers the STYLES CLASH!

AJ cuts a promo the next week stating that its his time to take what is his at WWE. AJ says the first step into gaining wrestling immortality is by “putting down old yeller” and cutting Rey’s throat for good. AJ delivers an ultimate heat-generator by saying that he’s going to make sure he sends Rey down to where his buddy Eddie is. This pisses of Rey. This brings out the intensity of the feuding and gets people more involved. It’s now more than just a match. It’s a legit feud that has fuel added to the fire. This eventually leads to Wrestlemania XXX, where Rey beats AJ. AJ offers his hand to Rey and says that he’s sorry. The handshake is accepted but Rey leaves the ring saying I’m finally ready to move on…