Welcome to the Retro Express. This is where we’re taking a stroll down memory lane at wrestling history. This post is part of an ongoing series where we’re reviewing every episode of WCW Nitro from start to finish. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this post. We hope you enjoy.
WCW were victorious in the battle between themselves and NJPW at Starrcade 1995. They won the series 4-3 as Sting and Lex Luger hoisted the trophy up and celebrated with the rest of Team WCW. Sting and Luger then turned their attentions to each other and Ric Flair in a triangle match for a crack at the WCW World Title. They both lost as Flair picked up a count out victory and then, due to interference from the Four Horsemen, Flair won his 12th world title by beating the WCW World Champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Date: January 1st 1996
City: Atlanta, Georgia
Rating: 2.5 (The first time in 3 weeks that Nitro lost to RAW in the ratings)
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby Heenan
A brief warning to those who are unaware about wrestling history from 1996. This company is about to flipped completely on its head in terms of the type of content they would be producing. Here we start in 1996 with Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan competing for the WCW title. A year from now, big turns will take place, major signings will take place and very much the product will be nothing like what it is now.
Randy Savage vs Arn Anderson
For those wondering, in the off chance you didn’t read my review for WCW Starrcade 1995, Randy Savage and Arn Anderson squared off here because Arn cost Savage the title at Starrcade. He ran down and laid out Savage with the brass knuckles and Flair covered Savage. This match was done as a blow-off if you will for that finish and it was actually a good scrappy match.
I also want you to keep this in mind because Savage was visibly shown to be seething at Arn as he attacked the man. This was a man pissed off that he lost the title and he was looking for retribution. He huffed and puffed as he beat up Arn in this match. He even ran into the ring to attack Arn for the opening bell. He raked at Arn’s eyes and Arn raked Randy’s eyes. This was a dirty, scrappy fight in its core with both men doing whatever it took to lay in punishment.
Arn worked the arm and smashed Savage’s arm into the post. He locked on an arm lock for a few minutes. He hit a big DDT out of nowhere which actually got a big pop to which Savage got his foot on the rope. I actually like that he hit the signature out of nowhere. It wasn’t like a formula where you wait for the end for the big moves to be hit. Arn wanted to win so he hit a big move at the first chance he could after working on the arm.
Arn tried to use the brass knuckles as the Horsemen ran down. Savage reversed it and used the brass knucks himself for the win. I liked the finish of Savage pulling one over on the heels by giving them a piece of their own medicine. A smart babyface being able to out-think the Four Horsemen. I liked this.
Benoit and Pillman ran down and pleaded to the ref afterwards. By the way, the Horsemen had a t-shirt on. I’ve just put the picture on the blog and it’s such a pretty t-shirt which I’d very much wanted to track down. I was able to find it on Amazon and I’ve submitted the order, as there was a wrestling t-shirt seller that did have this shirt available in my size. I’m very much happy with this purchase.
Chris Benoit vs Steven Regal
Speaking of the Horsemen, Chris Benoit had a match with Steven Regal. It was a sublime piece of professional wrestling and it told a very simple, subtle and effective story. They started off with the test of strength and soon as Benoit grounded him, Regal battered away with headbutts.
Regal went to work with European uppercuts so it had the same feel to Savage vs Arn in that it was scrappy but it was more of a defined scrappiness where both men are scrappy with the intention of just winning the match. Savage and Arn wanted to like hurt each other because of their bad blood. For Regal and Benoit, it was just business.
Benoit dropped Regal right on his head with a German suplex to which Regal responded with a beautiful butterfly suplex. Regal took even more punishment with a big electric chair drop. Regal, I don’t know what it was, but he sold and sold for Benoit in a bumpier fashion than usually. He took some hard hits for Benoit.
In terms of evening things up in terms of hurting themselves, Benoit missed a diving headbutt and then Regal wailed on him with headbutts. These were like the most realistic but safest headbutts you could possibly pull off though. This was not like Shibata levels of insanity with these headbutts.
Regal tried a tombstone but Benoit reversed it into a tombstone piledriver of his own but Regal rolled to the floor. If this had not happened the night before with Benoit and Liger, this would have probably played way better to this crowd and to me. By the way, Regal didn’t even try to wrap his arms around Benoit for protection when taking this Tombstone Piledriver. Regal waved his arms in panic as Regal had some serious faith in Benoit to deliver the move to him. In Regal’s defense, Benoit pulled it off fine from the looks of it. Eric Bischoff then said Benoit “perfected that move as of late.” I thought: “Oh yeah, how about when Benoit tried it at the PPV but Liger reversed it?” I’d say “perfecting the move” from a kayfabe point is stretching it.
Benoit missed a springboard splash to the floor and smashed into the concrete floor. Regal rolled Benoit into the ring and pinned him. A great match and you know what, it told a story where Benoit kept taking risks and in the end, he misjudged a dive and it ended up costing him the match. This was an awesome match. I’d go out of your way to go watch this ten minute perfectly sound and solid wrestling match.
Brian Pillman cut a promo on Benoit and Arn with Mean Gene coming down to the ring with the mic. Pillman chewed out Benoit and Arn for losing. Benoit said that the only way Benoit can be beaten is sheer luck. Benoit says he’s proven himself. Pillman goes into Arn and he talks crap about the Dungeon of Doom again. Arn talks about Pillman starting fights that they didn’t need right now. He tells them they need to protect the world title for Ric Flair. Arn tells them there’s nothing to achieve going after Mr Wonderful and the Dungeon of Doom. Zodiac, Taskmaster, The Giant and Jimmy Hart suddenly all go down to the ring. Zodiac and Taskmaster try to attack the Horsemen but THE GIANT is the one hold them back with just his two massive arms as Jimmy Hart pleads with the Dungeon of Doom.
Sting and Lex Luger vs The Super Assassins w/Col. Parker
One of the true highlights of this episode was the Super Assassins. These two were in fact The Barbarian and The Warlord of all people. These were flanked by Col. Parker. These guys couldn’t have looked like bigger geeks. The Super Assassins waddled down with their arms out like robots. It was like their singlets got stuck in a frame and they walked around like the frame was still on.
They come out in this gear. I have no idea if these guys were supposed to look like super heroes, ninjas or luchadors but they did not come out looking like Super Assassins! Anyway, they come out to have a horrible match with Luger and Sting. They even had a split screen during this match because Sgt. Pittman comes down to the announce booth and ask Steve “Mongo” McMichael for help. Pittman went to Bobby Heenan previously, he went to Jimmy Hart on Nitro and now he’s resorted to going to Mongo for help!
By the way, to anyone who said they were only willing to cutaway from cruiserweight matches on Nitro, they were willing to cut away from STING AND LEX LUGER in action so they could do a segment with SGT. CRAIG PITTMAN. Mongo basically told Pittman to get lost.
Sting, as this is going on, is beating up the Assassins by himself. So when they finally cut away from Pittman and the announcers, we just catch Sting rolling out of the ring and onto the floor. I have no idea what the Assassins did to suddenly get the heat on Luger and Sting. Maybe they threw a ninja star at him. But all of a sudden, the Assassins overcame Sting and went to work.
When I mean “they went to work”, a Super Assassin gets Sting in a dominator/backbreaker position and then just… vibrates. No word of lie. He doesn’t like bounce up and down like Luger with the torture rack. He stands and vibrates like The Yeti at Halloween Havoc with Sting on top of him selling. It’s one of the funniest submission attempts I’ve ever seen.
Sting wrestles for the tag. As the Assassins distract the ref, Luger gets the hot tag but the ref didn’t see it. The Assassins did a suplex/spear combination but the ref is too busy arguing with Luger to pay attention. An Assassin hits a powerbomb. The Assassin goes on the apron, fixes his gear and goes to the top but he misses a top rope splash.
This finish was exceptionally badly executed. Luger got a hot tag to a big pop. Luger goes to work. Luger goes for the Torture Rack on an Assassin. Luger waits for the Sting to get in the ring so he turns around and spins into the second Assassin as he has the first one on his shoulders for the Torture Rack still. Sting finally wakes up and gets in, he does a chop block on the other assassin and eventually gets him into the Scorpion Deathlock so Sting and Luger can do a double submission spot. The Assassins finally tap out after all of this.
It took them forever to get to that position where both men are doing submissions on the Super Assassins. All they had to do was get the Assassins into position and it took them like 30 seconds to do this. Other wrestlers that have been locked in the torture rack by Luger lately for like 5 seconds before they tap. This move has been put over big as of late. This Assassin, because of this screw up where Luger is waiting for Sting, lasts like 20-30 seconds in the Torture Rack! They inadvertently made that Super Assassin look incredibly strong in this match!
This match was amazingly horrible!
Mean Gene does an interview with Jimmy Hart and The Giant. Mean Gene cracks a joke and then Jimmy Hart goes: “Are you really that short or are you just standing in a hole?” Mean Gene suddenly gets all defensive and goes “STOP IT.”
Jimmy cuts this promo as Mean Gene just keeps looking up at the Giant. Jimmy said some stuff as my notes read. The Giant yells at Hogan for costing him the title a few weeks ago and attacking him with the chair. The Giant said Hogan was gonna get his like he’s never got it before. Mean Gene concludes by saying: “I have no idea what he just said.”
Ric Flair (c) vs Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
It is rather astonishing to me that the WWF never did this match at WrestleMania when they had the chance. This was legitimately the biggest match you could have possibly booked between two of the biggest wrestlers in the history of wrestling. Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair. They had it RIGHT THERE, I think they even announced it on TV, and then it just… never happened.
…thankfully we had Nitro and we got it for free on TNT,
There was noticeable boos for Hogan but it was more like 60/40 in favour for the Hulkster. I don’t wanna make comments on someone’s age but man Hogan’s lack of hair was really visible here. Keep in mind that it wasn’t until Vince Russo called him bald on TV where he did a lawsuit for someone slandering his hair! Did Hogan not re-watch this match? Hogan looked so old and if there’s anything he didn’t need to make himself look any older was this hair without a bandanna and him in his traditional yellow tights. Thankfully, he’s getting a new wardrobe around 6 months from now so it’s all good!
Flair chopped away and then Hogan started no selling it. I’d say this gimmick of Flair chopping at someone but the other dude no-selling was getting old, as Luger and Sting did this the night before. However, the fans were still going nuts for this as Hogan rained in the punches. Ric Flair cuts off Hogan and Hogan does a horrible bump to the floor.
Hogan had a horrible night here. He just didn’t look impressive at all. Hogan does a big clothesline to Flair and Flair crashes onto the apron. Ric works on Hogan. Bischoff said you can hear the fans going “Hogan, Hogan” to which I didn’t hear a thing watching this on television. I then heard the fans going WOOOO and cheering as Flair locked on the figure four leg lock.
Hogan turns it over and Jimmy Hart runs down. Hogan is distracted as Flair stomps on the leg to regain the heat. Flair did a stalling suplex to Hulk Hogan which is quite a feat of strength considering how tall and big Hogan was here.
Flair goes for a cover but Hogan hulks up out of it. Hogan fires away does the big boot and Leg Drop as Jimmy gets on the apron. Arn hits Hogan with the brass knucks and Hogan NO SELLS THE BRASS KNUCKS. Of course if anyone was going to no-sell getting hit with brass knucks, it’s Hulk Hogan!
Hogan gets the brass knucks thrown at him and the referee sees Hogan with the brass knucks and calls for the DQ. At the very least, it made sense to me why the referee immediately didn’t question it as they’d had a big match at Starrcade where brass knucks were involved. Hell, the opening match on this episode of NITRO had a finish where brass knucks were involved!
Hogan then fires away at the Four Horsemen with the brass knucks as the Horsemen beg him off. I assume they begged him off because Hogan, I guess is still on probation so if Hogan wails on them with brass knucks, Hogan would be in trouble with WCW… in storyline.
The Giant runs down with a big chair stool. I have no idea in which coffee shop The Giant got this stool from but Savage stopped him and made the save too a big pop! This time Zodiac backs The Giant away.
Mean Gene did a interview with Hogan and Savage. Hogan and Savage challenged Arn and Flair to a tag team match for next week. Savage said they had a secret weapon but Hogan tells him not to spoil it. Hogan said they’re gonna go to infinity and beyond. These two were rather going nuts!
Bischoff did actually have a good line. Bobby said they should make Jimmy Hart a referee to which Bischoff goes: “Make Jimmy an appetiser.” That I liked.
I liked this episode of Nitro. We got some really good scrappy matches with Regal vs Benoit and Arn vs Savage. We got a big world title main-event, we got our Super Assassins and it really didn’t seem like a chore to watch at all. It seemed very easy to watch the show, absorb and understand the storylines and motivations and to be prepared for next week where we have the Mega Powers reuniting to face the Four Horsemen. It was a great show.
WCW Nitro Reading Order
- #1 – September 4th 1995
- #2 – September 11th 1995
- WCW War Games 1995 – September 17th 1995
- #3 – September 18th 1995
- #4 – September 25th 1995
- #5 – October 2nd 1995
- #6 – October 9th 1995
- #7 – October 16th 1995
- #8 – October 23rd 1995
- WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 – October 29th 1995
- #9 – October 30th 1995
- #10 – November 6th 1995
- #11 – November 13th 1995
- #12 – November 20th 1995
- WCW World War III 1995 – November 26th 1995
- #13 – November 27th 1995
- #14 – December 4th 1995
- #15 – December 11th 1995
- #16 – December 18th 1995
- #17 – December 25th 1995
- WCW Starrcade 1995 – December 27th 1995