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.
After months of programming revolved around a plot to end Hulkamania, the storylines in Nitro became centred around Ric Flair’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship once again. Ric Flair was defending the title against The Giant last week, who earned the right to fight Flair after he defeated Loch Ness at Uncensored. The Giant dominated Flair during the match and after Arn Anderson and Taskmaster both ran down and ate chokeslams from the big man, the referee called for the bell and Flair escaped with the title.
Now we’ve got a new episode of Nitro to review on, of all days, April 1st 1996. This show certainly felt like one big joke. This was the show where Nitro just fell complete off the rails for me. It’s clear from just looking at my review for the last episode and now writing this episode that a whole bunch of plans got changed. Storylines were dropped or changed with Lex Luger and The Giant. There was a whole bunch of messy matches, angles and promos. If things did get changed during Saturday Night or one of WCW’s other shows then they sure didn’t let the Nitro audience know.
I had no clue of what was going on for a lot of this show and it all stemmed from the opening match where The Giant and Sting are just randomly fighting. I’m going to just jump into this match from the get-go because the whole match and the whole idea of the match was just preposterous.
The Giant vs Sting
There was no opening video package as there usually is for Nitro as Sting and The Giant start an impromptu match. They didn’t explain this until after the match but the original match going in was Sting and The Giant vs Harlem Heat as Lex Luger was pulled out of it for some reason. They showed a clip AFTER the match which showed Harlem Heat taking a bribe from Jimmy Hart to not do the match. They took it and I guessed The Giant was bribed to wrestle Sting and I guess the referee just OK’d it. This all happened RIGHT BEFORE the match was supposed to take place.
So the match kicks off the show. Sting goes to work but Giant eventually starts no-selling and even no-sold a crossbody. They fought to the outside and then Giant pressed Sting over the top rope. The Giant tries a chokeslam from the apron but Sting dropkicks Giant off the apron. The Giant takes this giant bump (pardon the pun) to the floor for a dropkick which, if you look at The Giant, he should never have needed to take a bump like that. It’s actually astonishing how many big bumps The Giant was willing to take at this stage of his career because this is at least the third time in as many shows I’ve reviewed where Giant took a big bump. He did the big corner spot against Loch Ness, he did that same spot against Flair last week and he did this bump off the apron for Sting.
Lex Luger runs down to “make the save” even though Sting was in control of the match. He and Sting hold control of the ring and stand their ground as the ref then calls for the bell.
The opening moments of this episode of Nitro made me think I missed a week or two of Nitros. I even exited the episode on the WWE Network to check if I was watching the right episode but no I was. After Lex Luger was still borderline babyface/heel after Uncensored, he was full-on babyface here saving Luger. No shades of grey. The Giant turned babyface last week I guess but is now back to fighting the babyfaces and working for Jimmy Hart. The infamous legacy of The Giant’s heel and face turns in professional wrestling began with this show as they changed their mind A WEEK after he beat up Taskmaster, Ric and Arn last week.
They didn’t explain what was going on and I was so confused as to why Lex Luger was a full babyface for some reason. I was so confused by the bribing thing and The Giant fighting Sting. Think about this as well. You’ve got Sting vs The Giant which I believe was the first time they did this, and it’s an impromptu match with no build.
By the way, I love the irony that in 2019, I just watched an AEW show where did something similar where they cut the ring and the Lucha Bros and Private Party are just in the ring ready for a match! No entrance or anything, just like this Sting vs The Giant deal.
After this, we get the Nitro opening video package.
Date: April 1st 1996
City: Cleveland, Ohio
Rating: 2.8 (My theory from last week of WCW saving Hulk Hogan for this week to bolster the ratings clearly wasn’t true. Their ratings went down and they lost to RAW!)
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby Heenan
“The Steiner Brothers” Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner vs “The Road Warriors” Animal and Hawk vs “The Nasty Boys” Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags
I have gone back and forth since watching this episode about whether or not this match was any good. My brain tells me that this match was no good. It was really hard to keep track of and it seemed a little messy. My heart tells me that this was a decent brawl with seeded hatred from all three teams that led to a clever finish. If you’ve watched this episode, please tweet the @ArmbarExpress or leave a comment below with your thoughts.
There was no ring introductions or entrances for this match either. Two men started in the ring as the four men were on the apron. Rick Steiner and Brian Knobs started off. They have a great scrap at the start, throwing hands like mad men which I enjoyed.
Rick landed a beautiful takedown but Sags broke up the pin to which Scott dropkicked Sags. Animal waltzed in with a tag and goes to work on Knobs but then crashed face first into the top rope. Scott tagged Sags by slapping his head! Good old Scotty!
Scott goes to work on Hawk. Fans popped for a Hawk neckbreaker of all things. Scott hits a belly to belly suplex but Sags takes advantage with elbow drops. So Rick tags in Scott as Nick Patrick’s back is turned and the ref just assumes the tag happened without hearing it! The rules are loose with the referees and I’ve even asked the question to Jim Ross on Twitter about this. He mentioned on an AEW Dynamite episode a few week ago that the referees can only call what they see in a match. What does this mean for what they hear? If they hear something, does they call it or ignore it? Again, tweet me @ArmbarExpress if you have an answer!
Suddenly, all hell breaks loose on the outside as the fans go crazy. There’s a huge brawl with all six guys. The three tag teams brawl on the outside but Nick Patrick is able to somewhat restore order. The match restarts and Bobby mentions that he doesn’t even know if the Steiners speak English! Clearly the Scott Steiner vs The English Language YouTube video wasn’t available back then!
Hawk barely applied a camel clutch. Knobbs goes for the cover on Hawk I think and Animal and Rick both break it up! Sags does it a big backbreaker. Knobbs goes to work as the Nasty Boys get the heat. Sags and Hawk stumble into the barricade as they brawl. Then Scott gets the heat on Jerry in the ring. I had no idea who the heels and babyfaces were. I guess the Nasty Boys are the babyfaces as I don’t remember them doing a thing wrong. I guess The Steiners are faces too but they’ve done heelish stuff on Nitro. I’m assuming the Road Warriors are the heels but they were babyfaces in peril at the PPV. Again, I had no clue what was going on with their character alignments other than… they all hated each other which I bought. Things happened that led up to this match with all three teams.
Hawk then decides to no-sell and beats up Sags. Knobbs flies in. There’s no real chemistry to this match but it was a fun brawl in my eyes. I should have hated this match but the fans are into it. I think the wrestlers were into it and I do like that there is rooted hatred that caused all of this. There’s reasons for why they’re so mad at each other.
Rick and Sags go for a belly-to-belly suplex off the top rope but the Road Warriors knock them off. Hawk gets dumped to the outside. Then Public Enemy come down. They beat up Sags and then Grunge rolls into the ring and swaps out for Brian Knobs. Grunge had a wig on and a tie-dye shirt on. He lets Scott Steiner pin him as the Steiner Brothers win the match.
Public Enemy pulling off Twin Magic was amazing to see and it worked with the storyline where they also had beef with the Nasty Boys. Bischoff explained that this proved Public Enemy attacked the Nasty Boys on the night the Steiners returned. I don’t know how it works but the finish was pretty clever. I wrote in my notes that “This show feels like a weird trip” but I will give credit where credit is due. The finish was interesting and executed well. There was some good brawling and the fans were into it so as tacky as the match seemed, I’ll give it a thumbs up. It worked with the stories they were trying to tell and the fan reactions.
Hulk Hogan and The Booty Man w/The Booty Babe vs Arn Anderson and Taskmaster w/Woman and Miss Elizabeth
They revealed during the entrances that they were drawing the “Lethal Lottery” on WCW Saturday Night to take place in May.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael then explained during the entrances when referencing Hogan and Booty Man that: “You start from the top down.” I understand that this is like a prison mentality where you pick on the biggest guy in the yard to assert yourself but in the confides of the wrestling business, that is a terrible strategy! It’d be like if I started training for wrestling tomorrow and I decided to call out Brock Lesnar! Bad Idea!
Whoever was picking out Kimberley’s outfits each week deserved a raise. She looked tremendous in this outfit too and she looked good in whatever they were putting her in. Bobby Heenan randomly declares that he’s announcing his retirement from wrestling which seemed completely out of the blue to do it at this moment. He just randomly goes quiet and says he’s calling it a day.
Arn gets bounced around with punches from Hogan and Booty Man. Arn Anderson is the pure definition of a true worker. He had to sell his ass off for the Booty Man every week and he went out there and bumped like crazy. He even tried to bump during that Doomsday Cage match. This Arn Anderson was a great wrestler.
Booty and Hogan do a double big boot to Arn. I totally forgot that Taskmaster and Arn argued about the chair shot last week with Giant and yet here, they’re suddenly teaming together with no signs of discord. Arn set up Taskmaster to be killed by The Giant for god’s sake.
Booty Man ran wild with knee lifts. Arn wanted Hogan tagged in and Hogan obliged. Bobby accused Hogan and Booty of brainwashing Booty Girl to which Bischoff accused Bobby of losing his mind! Taskmaster accidentally elbow dropped Arn so I guess that played into what happened last week between Arn and Taskmaster. Hogan clunked their heads together.
Booty and Hogan do a double clothesline. Booty goes for a sunset flip but unbeknownst to him, Taskmaster made a blind tag and took advantage with a kick to the back to get the heat for the heels.
Woman even raked the eyes of the Booty Man. Hogan broke up a pinfall and then Hogan threatened the referee with a punch. I swear to god this happened. The ref sent Hogan to the corner and Hogan pulled his fist back to deliver a punch! WHAT? The biggest babyface in professional wrestling everyone!
Hogan gets the hot tag and runs wild on the heels. Hogan delivers two big boots to the heels. Elizabeth tried to help Arn. Woman gave Taskmaster her shoe which has been the norm for the heels as of late but in response, Booty Babe gives Hogan her shoe as Hogan used it on Taskmaster and won. I do like the faces turning the tides of the heels with the shoenanigns… I’ll let myself.
The girls went after Booty Babe after the match. but Booty Man protects her in the most gentlemanly way possible! He didn’t hit them but he got in front of Booty Babe and basically told them to back off. Booty Babe gave Booty Man a kiss, Booty Man is in a drunken state after this kiss as Hogan had a tremendous shocked face on display!
Arn and the heels goes after Booty Man in the ring as they’re showing the replays from the match but Hogan makes the save.
Then we got a bizarre post-match promo. Mean Gene Okerlund is with Hogan and Booty Man. Hogan said it was a shoe-in… which was as cringe-worthy as my shoenanigans joke! I may have misheard this, but I could have sworn that Hogan said that Booty Babe was on top of her game “in many ways.” This caused me to raise my eyebrow a little bit. I questioned whether this was an intended euphemism or if I was just being silly. Then Booty Man said he had something on the backburner that’s gonna give them satisfaction: “if you know what I mean.” I swear to all of the gods that he said that! There’s no way this was a slip-up!
Booty Man said he can’t give it way but it’ll give them the upper hand and give them the satisfaction. Hogan said the heels were all laughing as they beat up the Booty Man. They took forever to get to the point that they were gonna get the last laugh. Hogan threw it Booty to close the promo and Booty said: “we’re gonna kick their caaaaans.”
This was a horrible promo mostly thanks to the Booty Man. Jesus Christ, he was very energetic guy but Booty Man could not cut a promo to save his life. He’s talking about satisfaction like this is the storyline for a pornographic film.
Ric Flair © w/Woman and Miss Elizabeth vs Lex Luger for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
This was exactly how you’d imagine a Ric Flair vs Lex Luger match going. In fact it seemed almost identical to their stuff together at Starrcade during their triangle match with Sting. It was very similar to Flair vs The Giant from last week from last week.
I think this was just a huge coincidence but this Ric Flair title reign is very similar to Randy Savage’s title reign from 1995 which I called the worst World title reign ever. On Nitros, Savage had back-to-back title defenses against Lex Luger and then against The Giant. In March/April 1996, Ric Flair defended the title against The Giant and now against Lex Luger! The big difference being that at least Ric Flair wound up winning this match which we’ll get to.
A fan flips off Flair in the front row and Flair just flexes right in from of them. Then Flair went up to who I believe was Mongo’s wife in the crowd. It was some blonde and some other woman yells right in his face. This fan proper lashed out at Flair and Flair just looks at her and kept walking down to the ring! We need more passionate fans like this in 2019 that are this much into the show!
Bobby gave Luger the advice that: “All he has to do is beat Flair, which is easy” which was an interesting way to bury Ric Flair. Flair’s a heel so I guess it doesn’t matter but he is the WCW Champion. Then Mongo bigs up Lex Luger! Last week, after Lex Luger turned face, Mongo was still calling him out and considered him a heel. A week later, he pulls a complete 180 and is on the Luger Bandwagon. You could say he was on a… Lex Express. 😉
OK, I’ll get back to reviewing the match!
Luger grabbed the arm of Flair and Flair sold this like it was death! Luger just grabbed his arm and Flair, screamed bloody murder and fell on the floor!
Luger Gorilla Pressed Flair and Flair rolled to the floor, grabbed his arm and was down for the count! Flair sold this like he was actually dead from this Gorilla Press, a week removed from being Gorilla Pressed all over the place by The Giant! This was one of the best Ric Flair sells I’ve ever seen!
Flair tries an Irish Whip but Luger’s arm was too big so Flair just fell down! Luger sent Flair off the top rope. Flair got mad on the floor as he does giant angry stomps on the floor, proper leaping into the air, and yells at the same fan that screamed at him earlier on! I’m sure that fan was so giddy after that segment, being on the receiving end of crazy Ric Flair!
Flair dropped to his knees to lure Luger in and then poked him in the eyes. Flair gets thrown off the top rope. Luger backs away the girls but then Elizabeth whispers something in Woman’s ears. Flair knocks Luger off the apron. Flair distracts the ref and Woman rakes the eyes of Luger. Bobby accused of Luger of making bad comments about her!
Flair’s Figure Four Leg Lock was then reversed by Luger as Woman squealed like a dying pig at ringside. Luger tries a sunset flip but Ric kicked out. Luger tries a backslide but gets a 2 count. Luger caught Flair off the top rope so the second straight week, Ric Flair actually does a dive from the top rope but the other wrestler caught him so it didn’t work!
Luger hits a big superplex and gets pumped up. Woman then grabbed a cup of coffee as Luger has Ric in the torture rack, and threw it in Luger’s eyes. Even though Luger has had hot coffee thrown at him, Flair still felt the need to get his feet on the rope as he pins Luger to retain the title! Sting comes down to chase off Flair.
I enjoyed this main-event. It’s a typical Ric Flair vs Big Powerful man match and Flair was awesome throughout and he got a big victory. So this gets a thumbs up.
So to close the show, they cut to the announce booth. Bobby Heenan shakes Mongo’s and Bischoff’s hands as he again outlines his intention for this to be his last night. He cuts a big promo about walking away from the business. But then he goes… APRIL FOOLS!
I should have figured this out but I just saw the date being April 1st 1996 and I just ignored it. They had a show airing on Christmas Day and it wasn’t like that was a themed episode of the show, so I just figured this was going to be a regular show and when Bobby said he was gonna retire early on in the show, I thought it was just a random joke. He mentioned it once or twice during the show and it was just so obscure and out of the blue. So then they have this pay-off and Bobby cackles away, having a grand old time as he proclaims that he pulled one other everyone!
Bobby Heenan was so great and I’ll admit that it threw me off guard! Bobby still commentates for the next 6 years or so with WCW so I knew he wasn’t actually retiring as I thought this was some weird angle but yeah, this was a cracking April Fool’s Joke from Bobby “The Brain” Heenan!
This episode of Nitro I was ready to just hate on, especially after the Sting vs The Giant thing but after reviewing the Booty Man/Hulk Hogan promo, I just learned to laugh at the silly stuff and the show became more enjoyable. I enjoyed the main-event, I enjoyed the pay-off to Bobby Heenan’s storyline during this show and I enjoyed certain aspects of the triple threat tag team match. This was not as good as last week’s show but this was OK. I can’t really give it the thumbs up but this was still not that bad.
I do believe there is another two weeks between Nitro episodes again so we will be back with the April 15th 1996 episode of Nitro as the reign of Ric Flair continues.
WCW Nitro Reading Order
- #1 – September 4th 1995
- #2 – September 11th 1995
- WCW War Games 1995 – September 17th 1995
- #3 – September 18th 1995
- #4 – September 25th 1995
- #5 – October 2nd 1995
- #6 – October 9th 1995
- #7 – October 16th 1995
- #8 – October 23rd 1995
- WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 – October 29th 1995
- #9 – October 30th 1995
- #10 – November 6th 1995
- #11 – November 13th 1995
- #12 – November 20th 1995
- WCW World War III 1995 – November 26th 1995
- #13 – November 27th 1995
- #14 – December 4th 1995
- #15 – December 11th 1995
- #16 – December 18th 1995
- #17 – December 25th 1995
- WCW Starrcade 1995 – December 27th 1995
- #18 – January 1st 1996
- #19 – January 8th 1996
- #20 – January 15th 1996
- #21 – January 22nd 1996
- #22 – January 29th 1996
- #23 – February 5th 1996
- WCW Superbrawl VI – February 11th 1996
- #24 – February 12th 1996
- #25 – February 19th 1996
- #26 – February 26th 1996
- #27 – March 11th 1996
- #28 – March 18th 1996
- WCW Uncensored 1996 – March 24th 1996
- #29 – March 25th 1996