Monday Nitro (12/11/95)
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Dan Hey: We’re in Flair Country, Charlotte, North Carolina. Woooo! Eric Bischoff, Brain, and Mongo host as usual. The main event is Sting & Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair & Arn Anderson. For once, Mongo doesn’t point out that this is a pay-per-view quality main event, even though it certainly is.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Mr JL
The action begins almost immediately into the broadcast. Bischoff is taken aback by the quick start, but the camera had clearly shown that both men were already in the ring as soon as the title screens had finished. This follows a similar pattern of most of WCW’s 1995 cruiserweight matches, only this one is a truncated version as it only gets a few minutes. I’m not complaining: the standard cruiserweight matches that became a staple of early Nitro are always good to watch, and there are two great talents in the ring right now. Eddie brings the flips, tilt-a-whirls, and springboards as you’d expect, then applies a rest hold – an abdominal stretch. The match is too short to need one, and it’s obvious that it’s a move for its own sake when Eddie gives up on it and hits Mr. JL with elbows to the head instead. The commentary team again have a debate about what JL might stand for. Heenan comes up with “Just Lucky.” Eddie goes up top but gets hit with a springboard drop kick that sends him out of the ring. JL brings the flips outside, cannonballing off the apron. Once again, Heenan ponders why they risk their bodies in such a way. It’s probably because it’s the only way guys of this size could get themselves over in the nineties. Back inside, a counter of a counter (for those counting) to a sunset flip wins it for Guerrero. Not bad at all, but too short to develop into anything better.
Final Rating: **
Promo Time: Jimmy Hart and Lex Luger
“Who dresses you: Spike Lee or Spike Jones?” Mean Gene is getting lippy with the ‘Mouth of the South’ on a weekly basis now. Jimmy should slap him one. We see snippets from the horribly convoluted main event at Halloween Havoc and from a recent Nitro as evidence to why Luger is the uncrowned WCW World Champion. Sting stopped him from taking out Macho Man’s arm, he claims, otherwise he’d be champ. So it’s either your own fault or your buddy Sting’s, Lex. He trips over his words putting himself over for the triangle match at Starrcade.
Disco Inferno vs. Paul Orndorff
The Charlotte crowd has disco fever! This will be Orndorff’s last match. He is forced to retire due to recurring problems from an arm injury suffered in the mid-eighties while working for WWF. He was in the middle of a big money feud with Hulk Hogan at the time and didn’t want to take time off, and so his injuries never had the necessary healing time. I don’t like seeing these athletes being forced to retire through injuries picked up and/or made worse through the industry, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see a forty-six year old leathery man preening himself in a mirror either. Disco brings some aggression by attacking Orndorff before the bell. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring any wrestling moves or excitement with it (he doesn’t even have that many disco moves). Orndorff takes over with his own set of punches and clotheslines. He then mocks Disco by doing a horrible dance for what seems like an age before dropping an elbow. He looked like a drunk uncle at a wedding. The sequence reminds me of Scotty-2-Hotty’s worm, where the final pay-off is not worth all the faffing around in the build-up. Orton takes it with a side suplex. I don’t think Disco has won a match on Nitro.
Final Rating: ¼*
Promo Time: Brian Pillman, Arn Anderson, and Ric Flair
We have three of the Four Horsemen here tonight. There’s no Chris Benoit again. Okerlund asks Pillman what it’s like to be a Horseman. It’s a “chance of a lifetime,” he responds. Pillman then proceeds to list all the members of the roster who wanted to be one. The Hulkster did, apparently, though I highly doubt that his ego would allow him. So did the American Males and even Mongo. He warns Gene about cutting him off, though his shtick is bordering on irritating. Next on his list to rag on is Paul Orndorff. He also wanted to be a Horseman, but he couldn’t make the cut. Flair takes over now to a massive WOOOOOO from the crowd. Naturally, he’s über-over tonight. Orndorff wanders out to confront Pillman. He respects the others, but he thinks that Pillman is nothing more than a “punk.” He puts Flyin’ Brian in his place by telling him that he’s only a Horseman because Orndorff didn’t want to be one. The perma-cool Arn tries to smooth things over, but hot-headed Pillman continues to provoke, so Orndorff calls him a glorified bag-carrier and they get into a scrap. Flair and Arn join in for the three-on-one mugging and deliver a spike piledriver to ‘Mr. Wonderful’, which will be used as the reason for his TV disappearance. Mongo and Heenan really sell Orndorff’s neck injury by relating to their own personal experiences, which gives this segment a certain gravitas.
Lex Luger vs. Jim Duggan
Luger is put over by Bischoff as a wild card. Basically, he’s a heel who’s mates with one of the most over faces in the company. Duggan cuts a retrograde figure in 1995. If he ever had any usefulness as a performer, he’s long surpassed it now. Duggan brings the clubberin’, and Heenan makes me smile by calling him a “blue-collar buffoon.” The camera cuts away to Orndorff being loaded onto a stretcher in a neck brace, and then again to him leaving the arena in an ambulance. It really emphasises the seriousness of the injury and is of much more interest than the club-fest taking place in the ring. It’s also all Duggan, with Lex barely getting any offence in at all. Like in the match with the American Males a few weeks back, he’s being treated almost like a jobber by what should be a far inferior opponent. Jimmy Hart gets involved, struggling to handle Duggan’s big wood on the apron (oo-er!). Duggan, being the imbecile that he is, falls for it, allowing Lex to put him in the Torture Rack. “Wow! That’s impressive,” bullshits Heenan. He’s fooling no one, except Bischoff perhaps. This was awful.
Final Rating: DUD
Promo Time: Randy Savage
Gene tells Savage that he personifies a fighting champion and goes over his Starrcade schedule and his title match against The Giant next week. For the umpteenth pay-per-view in a row, the booking is convoluted. Savage is wrestling another match earlier in the night then having to defend his title against the winner of a triangle match, where two of the three competitors also have other matches against members of the Japanese contingent on the same card. Gene quickly reminds Savage that the title might change hands next week, rendering all of the Starrcade booking irrelevant, but he’s convincing no one. Also, The Giant has now shrunk another inch – he’s billed at 7’3 now, having been 7’5 on his arrival and 7’4 on a recent Nitro (7’2 will get mentioned next week). “Sounds like mission impossible, doesn’t it?” responds the champ. The usually wacko Savage comes out with the most sensible solution to this loaded schedule: he’ll deal with his problems one at a time, starting with The Giant next week before even thinking about Starrcade. He says that he’s going to be dynamite and predicts victory next week before walking off. This was really good promo work from Savage: brief, logical, and to the point.
Ric Flair & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Hulk Hogan
Hogan looks pissed off and storms to the ring while Sting’s music is still playing. In his usual display of class, he throws his shirt and bandana at his opponents before the bell rings. The crowd are wooing, and there’s an audible “Hogan sucks” chant. We’re in Flair Country now, Hulkster. AA schools Sting by reversing an Irish whip into a fireman’s carry at speed, then again with a go-behind hammer lock. Sting responds with a press slam, so AA calls for Hogan to get in the ring. A note about the competitors in this match: when all is said and done there’s forty-two major World Championship title reigns between these competitors (though not at this point), yet not one by Arn. Arn is an extremely talented professional wrestler – underrated in my view – and is certainly not out of place among the other well-decorated performers in this match. Make no mistake, though, he’ll be the one doing the job tonight lest one of the major players gets a clean decision over one of the other major players. Flair comes in, which pops the crowd, and so Hogan no sells his chops right away. Flair takes his usual flurry of back bumps, including the one where he goes over the buckles and runs the apron, though this time he runs right into Sting. When the Horsemen get back in control, they try to work over Hogan, but he’s not interested in selling a period of heat and brings in Sting on a barely lukewarm tag. Bischoff begins to lose his voice on commentary; it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. Sting applies the Scorpion Deathlock to the illegal Flair and is planted with a DDT by AA. Jimmy Hart comes out to distract the referee, while Luger arrives to put Hogan in the Torture Rack on the outside. It actually looks impressive on the large Hulkster, and it saves Lex from sharing the award for Least Entertaining tonight. Hogan sells this on the outside for ages, while Sting takes the real heat of the match.
Bischoff tries to get his head around all the permutations of the title scene at Starrcade. Just book a regular title match, it’s not that hard! Flair and Arn work over Sting’s knee, with the gist being that they are trying to take him out to give Flair one less problem in the triangle match, which actually makes sense and follows Savage’s one problem at a time logic. Hogan’s back on the apron, but the referee misses a tag, which bring the crowd to rag on the Hulkster. The ever-deluded Bischoff suggests that the crowd are outraged that Hogan couldn’t get in the match. Eventually, Sting makes the tag, but Hogan walks into a big AA spinebuster. The Horsemen are celebrating prematurely, though, as Hogan is no selling once again and goes into his Hulk up, big boot, leg drop finishing sequence. This was actually a really good TV main event featuring some of the company’s top stars, despite the interference and typical Hogan bullshit.
Final Rating: ***
After the match, Pillman runs in for the three-on-two beat down. Luger comes out to protect Sting but not Hogan. Sting helps Hogan. It’s already chaotic, then out comes Macho Man to help rid the ring of the heels. He gets clocked in the face by a Sting right hand. Hogan intervenes between the two of them, which leads to…
Promo Time: Randy Savage, Sting, and Hulk Hogan
Mean Gene brings it down to schoolyard level by pointing out who likes who and who doesn’t like who. No one likes you, Okerlund, that’s for certain. Hogan admonishes Sting for being pals with Lex. Savage hates Luger, and he wants to know what the deal was with that punch he took from Sting. Sting puts all his recent miss-hits down to accidents – Freud would tell him that there are no such things as accidents, only unconscious intentions slipping through. Macho suggests that they all take a chill pill and then talks about subliminally respecting Sting. With good cause, Mean Gene cuts them off. The general conclusion is that they all need to try and stick together. This was just more of the same stuff that’s been going on for weeks.
Bischoff sums up next week: it’s Macho Man vs. The Giant for the title. Heenan predictably predicts a new champion. Hogan will also be on Nitro next week. Bischoff reminds us that Flair, Giant, and Hogan are all on probation, whatever that entails, as it hasn’t made a difference to how they act on the show or the fact that they are booked in main event matches. Title matches even, in The Giant’s case.
THE NITRO RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Arn Anderson. It was a toss-up between him and Savage, as they both delivered good promos. However, AA also played his part in the main event match, too. Plus, it’s about time ‘The Enforcer’ got some recognition!
Least Entertaining: Hacksaw Jim Duggan. If WCW are going for cutting edge with Nitro, then Duggan does not belong on this show.
Quote of the Night: “Put your leather on, you’re going to see some mean and nasty boys tonight.” – Mongo forgets that he’s not at his local all-male dominatrix club tonight.
Match of the Night: Ric Flair & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Hulk Hogan
Summary: Everything involving the Horseman was great, and Randy Savage cut a good, precise promo. Everything else was something of a wash out. Nitro is really pushing itself as a chaotic show. At times, that can make it seem fresh, innovative, and exciting; at other times, it’s just too much booking and too many segments for angles to develop organically, making the whole thing feel rushed. The main event is worth watching for its star quality, while the promo/angle with the Four Horsemen and Paul Orndorff is also worth your time. I’d caution against sitting through the entire hour, though, as there is also some dud material.