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.
It is entirely possible that the episode of WCW Nitro I’m about to review could be the most famous episode of WCW Nitro ever. It was easily one of the most historically significant episodes in wrestling history. It was the first two-hour episode of Monday Nitro which is significant in its own right. Along with that, we had one of the most game-changing angles in not only the Monday Night Wars but in the history of wrestling. In the first hour, we saw the debut of a wrestler that started a “war” and it just felt like a switch was turned in my brain about this show.
We’ve reviewed episodes of Nitro where The Dungeon of Doom tried to destroy Hulkamania, The Giant was cutting goofy promos about eating people and it was just as much as corny as the “golden age” of the WWF. That’s not to say that the last 36 episodes have been terrible or makes wrestling embarrassing to watch, but it felt like a completely different ball-game compared to what’s going to be in store for us. As soon as a certain angle took place, it just felt like a different show.
With that being said… this was such a horrible wrestling show. A lot of the one hour episodes of Nitro have been at least decent and obviously only watching one hour is an advantage. We got another hour of wrestling but even still, this show had some of the most dirt worst wrestling you’ve ever seen. We got three matches in a row which felt like the worst back-to-back combination of matches in a wrestling show throughout the ages. Everything else felt like it was just there… with the obvious exception of a certain angle.
While we’re on the subject of that angle, even that angle didn’t age well in terms of the quality. It seemed to just come out of nowhere and if it weren’t for the significance of it and who was involved at the time, this segment would not be revered as legendary as it has been over the years.
Let’s get to this review…
Date: May 27th 1996
City: Macon, Georgia
Commentators (First Hour): Tony Schiavonie and Larry Zbyszko
Commentators (Second Hour): Eric Bischoff and Bobby Heenan
Yes, you read that correctly. We are in the era of multiple announcers across one episode of wrestling. Tony Schiavonie called the first hour with Larry Zbyszko and the usual commentary team of Bischoff and Heenan called the second hour.
As convoluted as this may sounds, this was a more practical use of certain announcers. If you watch RAW or even certain pay-per-views, the announcers are calling three hour or even five hours of wrestling without any breaks in-between. Therefore, they get exhausted throughout the show and the fire is just not there for the big main-event matches later on.
The four announcers here for Nitro were all excitable for the hour they had to call and they had a lot more life to them. At least this, for now, prevented the tiring of announcers over the course of the show.
“American Males” Marcus Bagwell and Scotty Riggs vs Ric Flair and Arn Anderson w/Woman and Miss Elizabeth
A very basic but effective little tag team match. However, this was not quite as effective as Miss Elizabeth was at blowing me away with her green dress as she came down with Ric Flair. She looked absolutely stunning walking down to the ring with the Nature Boy.
Larry Zybsko buried NFL players on commentary for some reason, which is a weird way to promote two NFL players battling Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in a big tag team match at the next pay-per-view. We’ll get to that later.
This was very much a battle between quick youngsters versus methodical, dirty veterans. Ric and Arn double-teamed Riggs on the outside. Ric and Arn punched them, chopped them and poked at them all over the place. The American Males took over. Bagwell ran wild on Flair as it broke into a four way. American Males clapped with the crowd as the faces had the heels on the rope.
Ric grabbed a champagne bottle from his table but eventually got back into the ring. Arn missed a clothesline and hit the ring post a.ka. “the pole” according to Larry. Bagwell punched his way out of the heels’ corner.
Flair caught Riggs’ legs on the apron and Arn took advantage. Tony and Larry enjoyed champagne I guess Flair poured out for them. The heels got the heat as Bagwell desperately wanted to interject himself into the match.
Riggs hit an enziguri to Arn, sending him outside. Riggs crawled to Bagwell as Ric and the referee had one of the all-time great shoving matches! Ric sold like crazy for referees pushing him down which was excellent to see.
Bagwell got the hot tag and ran wild. Bagwell did a small package but Arn turned the small package over but then Riggs turned it over again on Flair. Bagwell hit a fisherman suplex. Bagwell covered Flair but Woman gauged his eyes. Arn hit the DDT and Ric rolled himself into the cover for the win, literally just resting his arm on Bagwell!
I thought this was… OK. It was very basic and they did everything right and the fans were definitely into it. The American Males I still found to be very limited to what they can do and Flair and Arn did all they could to get a good match out of these two. Maybe I was hoping for something a little bit better. Regardless, I can still see that the four men worked hard out there so this gets a thumbs up.
Mean Gene interviewed the heels after the match. Arn told Kevin Greene and Steve “Mongo” McMichael that he never met a football player that he couldn’t walk over. He didn’t respect anyone that had to wear protective gear. He said in this sport it was man to man and hand to hand. Ric said while they were playing football, he’d been making up lost time with Debra (Mongo’s wife). Ric called Miss Elizabeth their sugar mommy with Savage’s money.
They showed Greene and Mongo working out and preparing for The Great American Bash. I hope I never wear what these two were wearing to the gym. Despite their fashion sense, they were still looking jacked and bulky. Not gonna like. A heads up, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson were set to face Kevin Greene and Steve “Mongo” McMichael at The Great American Bash. At least, that’s the billed match at the moment.
Scott Hall Debuts In WCW
As soon as I saw The Mauler and Steve Doll come down for “a match”, I figured this was “the match” that would lead to the big angle previously alluded to earlier. Even if it wasn’t, WCW were in the middle of a wrestling war and they had these two guys out there for a wrestling match in the first hour?
The announcers said Randy Savage had been banned from any WCW televised event. I wrote a bunch of spots these two did but really, none of it mattered. During the match, the fans started to buzz and turn around. A tall dude in a sleeveless blue denim jacket walked around near the seats, which is hard to miss in its own right. In the midst of this crowd, a big dude made is way down to the ring. Of course, walking across the fans and over the guard rail is in fact… Razor Ramon.
It was like time had stood still. This was the WWF’s “Razor Ramon” in the eyes of the fans at the time. He didn’t say he was Razor Ramon but the people knew who he was. They only knew of this guy as Razor Ramon and so him appearing at a WCW show and asking for a mic it was mind-blowing to see for them. He grabbed the microphone as the action just stops. There was no finish to the match
I’ve just found a transcript of the entire promo this guy cut on a Fox Sports article. I did try to take down as much as I could about the promo but here it is in full:
“You people, you know who I am. But you don’t know why I’m here. Where is billionaire Ted? Where is the Nacho Man? That punk can’t even get in the building. Me? I go where ever I want, whenever I want. And where oh where is Scheme Gene? Cause I got a scoop for you. When that Ken doll look-a-like, when that weather man wannabe comes out here later tonight, I got a challenge for him, for billionaire Ted, for the Nacho Man and for anybody else in WCW. You want to go to war? You want a war? You’re gonna get one.”
This man leaves with security and… I will talk more about the premise of this entire angle later on in the review. Suffice to say, “Razor Ramon” a.k.a Scott Hall showing up on Nitro was a pretty damn big deal at the time. With that being said, if we’re being honest… this felt so underwhelming watching it 23 years later or so!
This dude just came through past security and he just cut a below-average promo at best and let. He just interrupted a random match and cut a weird promo, where he mumbled all over the place and even repeated the line about wanting a war. He took a long time getting to the point that he was bringing a war.
With that being said as well, even though it was hard for Hall to get to the point, this worked as a means of keeping the fans guessing. He never mentioned the WWF although that was the premise of the angle. It was actually really clever with the way they had a “WWF” invasion angle without actually having the WWF. Hall was just a guy coming over the barricade, known to be coming from the WWF, invading WCW and being an “outsider” and it was effective in making people question what was going on. It blurred the lines between reality and fiction for a lot of fans in a way that hadn’t been done effectively for years by either the WWF or WCW.
Bischoff tried to do “insider” references during these Nitros and he tried the Brian Pillman angle from Uncensored but Hall coming down and declaring a war while the announcers are not referencing him at all was effective at the time. Say what you will about the promo but it did work in getting people talking.
I do love that after this big angle with Scott Hall, Tony Schiavonie can’t help but ask what happened to the match!
Sgt, Pittman w/Teddy Long vs Diamond Dallas Page
Remember when DDP was the #1 contender for the WCW World Heavyweight a week ago? He won the Slamboree battle bowl battle royal, he overcame 31 other wrestlers to earn this shot and the title shot was stripped away from him, unfairly if you think about it. After all of this, on this episode, he was just breezy. To be fair to DDP, The Shark randomly got a WCW title match this week on the grounds that The Giant chokeslammed him previously so I guess title matches weren’t that hard to come by.
DDP did the worst push-ups in the world… which actually fit his gimmick! Pittman showed him up with a one armed push up. DDP knocked himself loopy with a headbutt and fell out of the ring. DDP was tied up in the television cable again. DDP hit a jawbreaker on the rope to take control of the match.
Then we got the geek of the week moment from the w/c May 27th 1996. Pittman went for Code Red armbar “upside down.” DDP grabbed Pittman’s manager Teddy Long on the outside and just grabbed him, which led to no harm to Teddy Long. Pittman looked at Long, and DDP took advantage with a Diamond Cutter for the pin. Pittman came off like a complete geek with this finish. There’s nothing like a distraction finish to bury a babyface any worse.
GEEK OF THE WEEK – Sgt. Craig Pittman for distracting himself by looking at his manager after nothing happened to him.
They showed a highlight video package of the Randy Savage going crazy storyline.
Mean Gene interviewed The Shark. Mean Gene mentioned he’s no longer with the Dungeon of Doom. I guess The Giant chokeslammed Shark during a previous angle on Saturday Night and he got kicked out of the group, which actually led to a Giant vs Shark WCW title match later on which we’ll get to it.
Shark cut a promo about he almost ended Hulkamania and he was gonna hurt Taskmaster by winning the WCW title.
They showed another video package of Hulk Hogan hanging around with celebrities like George Foreman, Shaq, Dennis Rodman and Kevin Greene. They talked about Hogan raising money for charity with Sugar Ray Leonard too.
That was the end of the first hour. If you looked at just the first hour of the show, this show wouldn’t seem so bad. Then we got the second hour which had to be the worst hour of wrestling I’ve ever seen. We got five more matches and the next three matches were some of the dirt-worst wrestling in the history of wrestling. This felt like the longest hour of my life.
The Giant © w/Jimmy Hart vs The Shark for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
I love how Eric Bischoff jumped on commentary and he talked about how they weren’t going to dignify Scott Hall’s appearance but then proceeded to spend the entire second hour of the show constantly bringing it up. Bischoff even told Hall to come down at the end of the second hour, basically promoting another appearance at the end of the show.
I had a weird desire to watch this match but this was an absolute nothing match. I’m pretty sure that The Giant vs Loch Ness had to have been better than this match. Maybe I’m over exaggerating, but this was such a dull monster battle. At least the Loch Ness match was shorter.
Shark jumped Giant but Giant fired back with a big headbutt. The Shark tried to knock down Giant but Giant wouldn’t budge. Giant hit a big clothesline. Giant forced all of his weight on the stomach on Shark by standing on him. Shark punched away at Giant but was unable to lift the big man. Giant scoop slammed Shark.
Shark gouged at the eyes of Giant. Shark pulled off a clothesline from the middle rope, just barely. Shark got his hands on Jimmy which led to Giant taking advantage and chokeslamming Shark for the pin. Previously, The Giant’s title matches were somewhat interesting and in some cases good but this one was just boring. A boring big man match that just set the tone for the second hour.
Big Bubba came down to cut Shark’s hair.
Lex Luger © vs Maxx for the WCW Television Championship
Maxx, previously Max Muscle, was back on Nitro. The announcers talk about Maxx’s haircut. Eric goes: “nice haircut Max” and Bobby, without missing a beat, said: “yeah, if you’re going to the chair.” In their defence, that was a bad haircut Maxx was sporting. It was some weird Mohawk he had going on which thankful never caught on.
Thankfully, these types of matches never caught on in wrestling either.
Luger ran wild with clotheslines and Maxx cut him off with a powerslam. Maxx got the heat. If you liked clotheslines, then this match was the match for you. These guys could do absolutely nothing. Clotheslines, forearms, punches, powerslams. It was pretty much four or five moves on repeat and this just kept going on and on and on. A wrestling website I found listed this match as going 5 minutes and 45 seconds. I felt for sure this was 5 hours long. Luger got Maxx up but eventually locked on the Torture Rack for the win and the fans went nuts.
Speaking of which, when was the last time we saw a torture rack on Nitro? It feels like forever since Luger has just been in tag team matches with Sting.
Either way, this match was god awful and went longer than it had any right to be. Luger should have hit a few clotheslines, locked on the Torture Rack and won. Instead, we got 5 minutes of god awful wrestling and then Luger struggled to get Maxx up on his shoulders for the finish. A HUGE THUMBS DOWN.
Mean Gene interviewed Lex Luger. Luger said he didn’t make the matches but nobody wanted The Giant more than the Total Package. They showed The Giant chokeslam from 2 weeks ago. He talked about how Giant didn’t try to win a match, as he just wanted to take Luger out but he was still standing. He wanted every big man WCW had before he got The Giant. If these matches were anything like the Maxx match, I’d rather they didn’t give Lex these matches!
Hardwork Bobby Walker vs Brad Amrstrrong
The quality of the last two matches were pretty bad. In the defence of those matches, you could at least expect a below par match out of the likes of the still-green Giant and Lex Luger. This next match was even worse and sad part was that it had nothing to do with Brad Armstrong.
This Hardwork Bobby Walker was so atrocious during this match. Literally every “spot” he attempted during this match was screwed up and every single time, it was his fault. Brad did an monkey flip and Bobby was meant to land on his feet but he stumbled. Hardwork tried a crossbody from the top but lost his footing. When they realised Hardwork could not be trusted to do any actual moves, they wrestled on the floor for about 10 hours. Walker tried a small package and a backslide for near falls.
Walker couldn’t do a lucha libe crossbody without losing his footing. It was like a Rey Fenix-like spot where he would jump from the middle rope to the top rope and then do a dive but he screwed that up. Then Walker hit a crappy looking blockbuster for the win. I wrote that “this was shit” and that is being generous. This was the second worst match I’ve seen so far in this WCW Nitro series. This was a -3 star match worse than the horrific tag team match from Slamboree I gave -2.5 stars. Remember when I reviewed Eddie Guerrero vs Ric Flair last week and it was better than anything on WCW SlamboreeWCW Slamboree? Well this match was WORSE than everything on WCW Slamboree and think of the ground that covers.
I’m going to mention this very briefly as this is a sensitive topic to a lot of people. Hardwork Bobby Walker was part of a lawsuit where he and a bunch of other wrestlers filed a lawsuit against WCW for racial discrimination. Walker claimed that his Caucasian opponents were told to make him look bad and that he’d never win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Apparently these wrestlers were set to make African American wrestlers look “loud, obnoxious, pompous and shiftless.”
I’m not going to discuss racial discrimination as I’m not qualified to speak about it on so many levels. With that being said, clearly Walker did not watch this match before saying all of this. He mentioned that his “opponents” were out to make him look bad. He was in there with Brad Armstrong, who is Caucasian, and Brad was not responsible in any way for the spots screwed up in his match. That’s not even my opinion, that is pure fact. A lot of the spots where Walker coming off the top rope or doing something acrobatic, and it was down to HIM to make the spot look good. He messed it up. It wasn’t like Brad Armstrong used the force to make Walker slip. He was nowhere near these spots Walker was messing up.
I’m not going to say wrestlers were or weren’t acting discriminatory against Walker, but the idea that he believed other people were making him look bad is laughable if you watch this match. He made himself look bad in this match. As far as racial discrimination, that’s not for me to talk about.
Apparently when the WWF bought out WCW they came to a settlement with Walker and co. but my verdict on this match was Walker was guilty of crimes against wrestling in this match. He was so horrible. Minus 3 stars but this was honestly the worst match in WCW Nitro history so far. Not quite on the level of the Doomsday Cage match.
Lord Steven Regal vs Alex Wright
This match wasn’t particular good but it felt like Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada compared to the last three matches. Wright took over for a bit. Wright did a dive to the outside as they cut to a break. Regal locked in a headlock and wore down Wright. Wright slammed Regal down for a belly-to-belly suplex.
Wright and Regal kicked and uppercut each other throughout the match, smashing away at each other. Not much to talk about with this match but eventually Regal dropped Wright on his head from the top turnbuckle. Regal pinned him with a bridge for the win.
Mean Gene interviewed Regal. Regal talked about Giant and Savage. He talked about taking out Belfast Bruiser. Regal said he’s not going anywhere and he should have his say around here. Regal made a challenge to the franchise Sting and if he won, he wanted a shot at the champion.. He said he wanted a shot at that “face painted clown.”
Sting vs His Good Buddy Scott Steiner
The announcers constantly mentioned that Sting was facing “his good buddy” Scott Steiner in the main-event. Steiner took Sting down with an arm drag. Sting responded with a big hip toss. Scott did a big Gorilla Press to Sting. Sting went up high in the air as he delivered a big dropkick to Steiner.
Scott hit a tiger powerbomb and a belly to belly suplex. Scott hit a double axe handle from the top rope. Sting gave Scott a big boot as Bobby Heenan howled with laughter! Scott slammed him with a belly to belly suplex. Scott locked on the STF and an armbar onto the Stinger.
I loved the spot where Scott went for a suplex but Sting reversed into a Scorpion Death Drop. It went down smoothly as Sting turned things around. Sting fired back with a Stinger splash but when he went for another one, he missed. Scott dropped Sting with a dragon suplex.
Lex Luger came down to cheer for Sting and Rick Steiner, in the worst shorts known to man, came out to cheer on Scott. Rick was out in a big, extra-large tie dye shirt and grey cap and striped shorts, which could have actually been his ring attire underneath now that I think about it. Either way, it was not a good look for Rick.
Scott hit an high-angle slam from the top rope. Sting locked on the Scorpion Deathlock but Scott got the rope. Sting reversed a tombstone piledriver into one of his own for a near fall. Sting went for a big splash in the ring but Scott got the knees up.
Sting suplexed Scott over the top rope but Scott landed on his feet, went for his own suplex on the floor but Luger broke that up. Rick went after Luger. A big brawl broke out between the tag teams and the match was thrown out. The babyface wrestlers tried to break everybody up.
This match was not bad and it parts was actually decent, but it was a victim of the rest of the matches on this show. Vince Russo has a theory that people don’t want to watch long wrestling matches on a television show. If you watch a lot of WWF Attitude Era stuff, a lot of the matches are short as in his eyes, crash TV angles were all the rage at the time. I don’t necessarily believe that theory but if you watch the way the show went down, we got a bunch of boring nothing matches that nobody cared about. After that, we get a long main-event MATCH at the end of a two-hour wrestling show and it just did nothing for me as a viewer. It was just a match and it ended in a typical disqualification.
Maybe in my brain, I think I conditioned myself to except a shorter match than they delivered. If you remember last week’s main-event, The Giant vs Arn Anderson, that lasted about four minutes or so.
Scott Hall came back out and interrupted Eric Bischoff with a microphone. He said Bischoff had a big mouth and “we’re” sick of it. Bischoff constantly asked “whose we?” during this segment. Hall said: “This is where the big boys play? What a joke. Tell billionaire Ted and get three of his very best.” He named-dropped the Nacho Man or the Stinger. He told Bischoff to get anybody they want because they are taking over. He repeated the war line from earlier and they wanted to war it out in the ring where it mattered. Not on mircophones, newspapers, dirtsheets, he said let’s do it in the ring where it matters. He said they were taking over as Bischoff and Bobby looked flustered to end the show.
The closing promo I think was a little better, as at least it gave his ramblings a little direction. He mentioned a six-man tag team match, which you all know where this ended up going but the fans were still in the dark about who Hall’s two other men were in that trio. They just saw it as possibly WCW vs WWF in a match, which was big enough for them. It was left up for speculation and they had about 6-8 weeks to promote the big six man tag team match and build anticipation for “war” in WCW.
I do want to give credit to Eric Bischoff credit here. Every single week on Nitro, Bischoff had been taking shots at the WWF. I, obviously knowing the outcome of the Monday Night Wars, have questioned every single time he took shots at the WWF. It would eventually backfire on him many years later which we’ll get to when we make it to 1999 in this series. However, his shots had a storyline purpose because of this promo.
Scott Hall from the big bad WWF, after hearing all of Bischoff’s jokes and digs at the WWF, basically told him we’re sick of it. Bischoff had put his foot in his mouth as it was put-up or shut-up. This was blurring lines in reality again and when a “WWF” guy decided to take action, Bischoff’s suddenly all shaken up by it at the end of the show. I loved that aspect of this storyline.
That was the show. It was without a doubt the worst Nitro we’ve seen so far. It feels a bit unfair to dub the first two hour Nitro the worst Nitro but it wasn’t like either hour was particularly great. It started with a decent tag team match but was filled with such horrible matches up and down the card. Even the historic angles weren’t that interesting to watch upon a rewatch many years later.
Either way, it is a completely new direction for the company in the storyline and it very much shakes up the business going forward.
WCW Nitro Reading Order
- #1 – September 4th 1995
- #2 – September 11th 1995
- WCW War Games 1995 – September 17th 1995
- #3 – September 18th 1995
- #4 – September 25th 1995
- #5 – October 2nd 1995
- #6 – October 9th 1995
- #7 – October 16th 1995
- #8 – October 23rd 1995
- WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 – October 29th 1995
- #9 – October 30th 1995
- #10 – November 6th 1995
- #11 – November 13th 1995
- #12 – November 20th 1995
- WCW World War III 1995 – November 26th 1995
- #13 – November 27th 1995
- #14 – December 4th 1995
- #15 – December 11th 1995
- #16 – December 18th 1995
- #17 – December 25th 1995
- WCW Starrcade 1995 – December 27th 1995
- #18 – January 1st 1996
- #19 – January 8th 1996
- #20 – January 15th 1996
- #21 – January 22nd 1996
- #22 – January 29th 1996
- #23 – February 5th 1996
- WCW Superbrawl VI – February 11th 1996
- #24 – February 12th 1996
- #25 – February 19th 1996
- #26 – February 26th 1996
- #27 – March 11th 1996
- #28 – March 18th 1996
- WCW Uncensored 1996 – March 24th 1996
- #29 – March 25th 1996
- #30 – April 1st 1996
- #31 – April 15th 1996
- #32 – April 22nd 1996
- #33 – April 29th 1996
- #34 – May 6th 1996 (Nitro)/May 6th 1996 (RAW)
- #35 – May 13th 1996
- WCW Slamboree 1996 – May 19th 1996
- #36 – May 20th 1996