Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: The Giant tried to offer his Tag Team Championship partner a spot in nWo Hollywood, and got spit in the face. Also, Eric Bischoff indirectly declared himself King Of Bikers, and Juventud Guerrera almost killed a dude.
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.
Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. If you don’t tell them how much you like these, nobody’s going to read them. This is when the nWo has splintered, and God help us re: basically everything from now until the end of the company.
Up first, let’s see what happened on a surprisingly eventful and relevant episode of Thunder.
The One-Page Thunder Recap For April 22, 1998
Watch the episode here.
Thunder’s been off the radar for a minute, so with Nitro coming back at its full 3-hour strength, they decided to actually pay attention to it and stock it with important story developments. The most important, while also being the least important, is The Giant making a crucial mistake in his response to Sting spitting in his face: after beating the shit out of him at the end of last week’s Nitro, Giant shows up on Thunder acting like they’ve patched things up and are on the same page now. Sting’s even joined nWo Hollywood, he says! Lex Luger shows up like, “I literally just talked to Sting and he says he’s not in the nWo, which is something I should’ve done back in 1996 and avoided this entire mess.” I added the last part.
But sure enough, it’s revealed that The Giant is talking about nWo Sting, a Sting so fake and bad he manages to be only the second best wrestler named “Jeff Farmer.” They beat up Luger, which will eventually incur the wrath of Actual Sting and set up a main-event tag team match (player) for Nitro.
Following up his backstage tantrum from The Slamboree, Chris Jericho is now in full conspiracy victim mode, and is looking for a way to overturn the decision based on a vague feeling that he deserves things and other people don’t. He also reminds us that he’s awesome in the ring when he’s focused — something he never, eeeeever was as champion — and trounces Super Calo to show it.
Terrible Super Calo Botch Of The Week: Here he is attempting a springboard off the top rope, backflipping onto his face, and knocking himself out. MAYBE DON’T WRESTLE IN SUNGLASSES, MAN.
First of all, this screen shot is art.
Second of all, this is the episode (after many, many episodes) where Chavo Guerrero finally punches his uncle in the face to thunderous applause. The assumption is that Chavo’s finally free from Eddie’s grasp, but he’s still under his control per an eternally binding pro wrestling match stipulation … and that might just be enough to drive him crazy. More on that later.
And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for May 25, 1998.
Best: Lex Luger Gets His Ghetto Pass
Nitro’s biggest development, receiving a pop so massive and sustained I’m shocked I didn’t remember a second of it, is Lex Luger of all people joining the nWo Wolfpac.
The bit starts when The Giant (along with nWo Hollywood HEAVY HITTERS Brian Adams and Vincent) calls out his blood rival Kevin Nash. Giant is doing a very 2010s WWE heel turn here, where he goes from unstoppable one-man wrecking crew to cowardly jobber in a week because he decided he didn’t like the fans. Nash shows up to accept the challenge, saying he’ll “take care of Hogan’s three fluff boys.” Thank goodness Vincent spent so much time with Ted DiBiase, because Hogan wouldn’t let him fluff him unless he was rich.
Anyway, this one-on-one challenge turns into a 3-on-1 attack, because jobber cowardice, and Nash gets beaten down until Konnan and a Surprise Lex Luger make the save. Luger’s still brimming over that whole “reminding me of my worst life mistake” thing from Thunder, and finds himself, for the first time, on the same side as the nWo. Konnan tosses him a Wolfpac t-shirt, Luger milks the shit out of it to the live crowd, and gets a MONSTER pop when he puts it on. Maybe they’re just cheering him for putting a shirt on without it ruining his entire day.
The main event is Luger and Sting vs. Giant and Also Sting, and Giant’s so disinterested in fake Sting that he doesn’t even try to break up the pin at the end, he just steps down from the apron and starts walking away. I mean, same.
The funny thing here is that Lex Luger’s been a member of the nWo Wolfpac for less than two hours and is suddenly its most enthusiastic member, trying to recruit Sting by walking around the ring with a Wolfpac shirt above his head and shaking it like a crazy person. Sting initially refuses the offer and leaves the ring, because of that whole “Lex Luger’s distrust and the New World Order are why I spent a year and a half in the rafters, and the past six months getting my ass kicked every time I show up” thing, but eventually wanders back in. The show goes off the air with a lingering question: is Sting going to stay Neutral Good, or join this Lawful Evil group of jerks that includes the two guys who screwed him out of the World Championship a little over a month ago?
If you’re a fan of Sting, you know his answer is already, “what’s the option that makes me look the worst?” But we’ll get to that. Dog Dick Sting approaches!
Best, Then Worst: The TV Title Scene
Another big development from Thunder is James J. Dillon’s announcement that Booker T will be getting the next pay-per-view shot at the Television Championship. Chris Benoit takes offense to this, since he and Booker have been going back and forth about this for weeks, but accepts that it’s Booker’s spot … then attacks him from behind and beats him down. Booker keeps trying to rationalize that his feud with Benoit is over, but a wild STEVIE RAY appears and advises him to not be a milk drinking crackerjack fruit booty.
This sets up the legendary Best of Seven Series between Benoit and Booker, which is a rare example of WCW realizing it has two really dynamic tweener personalities who are great in the ring but polar opposites, and that they should let them get over by going out and having a great wrestling match on every show. This concept is so good they brought it back a couple of times, including once with Booker and Benoit in WWE (that fell apart in the middle due to injury), but the first is still the best.
Benoit and Booker’s Best of Seven matches are the blueprint that future bouts like Benoit and Kurt Angle at the 2003 Royal Rumble would be built on; lots of counters, logical followups and correcting of mistakes from previous matches, and slow burn openings leading to breakneck finishing sequences. They do a great exchange where Benoit keeps trying to hit a German and Booker keeps trying to hit a spin kick and neither can connect, and the finish sees Benoit win with the Crossface, but only after dodging a Harlem Hangover. It’s simple, effective wrestling with characters we (at the time) liked, and the clean finish let you know the series would be about proving who was the better wrestler, and not a bunch of extraneous gang war bullshit.
The only downside: these two guys are battling in a best of seven series to determine who gets the next shot at the Television Championship, on the same show where MEAN MIKE ENOS gets the next shot at the Television Championship. I’m telling you, you should just let your rival have a shot and challenge for it next week. It’s a week.
Mike Enos has been kind of a cult favorite in these columns because of his ability to occasionally level up and put on a killer match, but this TV title thing with Finlay is … not that. It ends super awkwardly thanks to Enos going for a powerslam, forgetting how to do the move in the middle, and accidentally slamming Finlay onto his own legs. It’s actually remarkable that he fucked up the move like this, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else pull it off.
I know you’re thinking, “maybe Finlay countered there,” but nope, even the announce team jumps on him for not knowing how to wrestle. Tenay thinks maybe he was trying a backbreaker and his knee gave out. Zbyszko: “Finlay’s not going to give a sucker an even break.”
Join us again next week, when Wayne Bloom gets a title shot and accidentally rips off both of his arms trying to do a hip toss.
Worst: Bret Hart Vs. Two Legitimately Insane People
One more quick note from Thunder: Macho Man Randy Savage accepted Rowdy Roddy Piper’s invitation to team with him at the Great American Bash, in the most Macho Man way of all time. Please enjoy this legendary Savage clip, in which he tries to think of a funny joke about what an “icon” is, forgets the word “extinct,” and is forced to sound it out.
“You call yourself an icon? I don’t even know what that word means. IS THAT A BIRD? Like the Dodo BIRD? That ick- … SPEE-SHE THAT DOESN’T EXIST ANYMORE??”
Rowdy Roddy Piper wants to deliver a response to this on Nitro, but between Thursday and Monday realized “Macho Man” is also a Village People song, exploding his gaydar, which is already always turned up to 11. He calls Savage a “Village People throwback,” briefly sings “macho, macho man,” and declares that at the Great American Bash he will not get in the ring and sing ‘YMCA’. Did we … think he would? Keep in mind that people had been calling Randy Savage the “Macho Man” for the past 25 years at this point. In May of 1998 Piper typed “macho man gay” into Netscape Navigator and was like, “SHIT, WAIT A SECOND!”
Savage shows up and once again points out that Piper’s the one who fucked up at The Slamboree, which prompts this response:
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? This has gone far beyond Roddy Piper homophobia jokes and is balls-deep in me worrying if he was secretly a self-loathing gay man crying out for help.
Hilariously, Bret Hart shows up with a microphone and “opens up” to Piper about how their secret evil scheme to screw the Macho Man had been found out, and that he should just own up to it and admit that he’s nWo Hollywood 4 lyfe. Savage, the man who (1) turned on Sting to join the nWo again a month ago, (2) just spent the last couple of years beating up Roddy Piper at Hulk Hogan’s comment, and (3) JUST lost a match because Bret Hart punched Piper in the back of the head with a foreign object IMMEDIATELY BELIEVES BRET and tries to fight Piper. To his credit, Roddy suggests they try to function as a team at the Bash and fight afterward. Also to his credit, he says this without making Mr. Roper Gay Hands.
Best: The Attitude Error
The funniest comma most embarrassing match of the night belongs to Johnny Attitude, an infrequent WCW Saturday Night jobber who normally looks like an Italian Zangief who gets a shot at William Scott Goldberg and the United States Championship on prime time television. Why? Because his last name is “Attitude,” and the competition’s been pushing “attitude” as their slogan. Get it? Also, Attitude looks like a shittier Goldberg if he saves his head. DO YOU GET THE JOKES.
The match starts with this bit, which is actually super funny, and informs WWF’s eventual parody of Goldberg by giving it all its jokes.
Goldberg beats him to death and finishes him with a Ryback variant Jackhammer, where he walks him into the corner in the air and then marches him back to the center of the ring before dropping him. Len Denton, and now Johnny Attitude. When will ICEMAN BUCK QUARTERMAIN get his rightful shot at the championship?
Best: Trouble On Grunge Island
One of the most interesting (and confusing) stories going on right now involves Raven and his relationship with Saturn. A couple of weeks ago, Saturn and Hammer had a “loser leaves the Flock” match, which Hammer won when a clandestine Mortis showed up in a human skin mask and attacked them. The next week, Raven explained that um, actually, Saturn’s the one who is still in the group, because he’s the enforcer, and also Raven’s friend. So they kicked out Hammer.
WCW interviewed Saturn about this, and he explained that um, actually he’s NOT in the Flock, and has never BEEN in the Flock, and is only ever out there because he’s buddies with Raven. But now he doesn’t want to be that anymore. Raven opens Nitro begging Saturn to “come back,” and even “fires” Kidman, Lodi, and Horace Boulder to prove Saturn’s the only important member. Lodi is like, “wtf,” and gets Evenflowed. Saturn doesn’t accept the invitation, and all three guys are actually still in the Flock.
Anyway, Saturn has his match with Glacier over who invented kicking, and Hammer tries to interfere. That brings out Raven to pull Hammer off the apron, and a STANDING SIDE KICK from the Saturn School Of Lifting One’s Leg knocks Hammer into Raven. Saturn wins the match with a Death Valley Driver, which is not a kick, which doesn’t solve anything. He and Raven argue again after the match. It’s weird.
Meanwhile, Mortis is still hunting Raven, and even uses a HUMAN MORTIS DOUBLE to fake him out and attack him on Thunder. On Nitro, we learn that Mortis:
- has a lisp, and
- is named Kanyon
I’d quiz you to name how many wrestlers are better than him, but we’ll be asking that on and off for the next three years.
In additional Flock news, Billy Kidman wrestles Juventud Guerrera in a lengthy, competitive, action-packed cruiserweight match that brings the entire arena to their feet and steals a show with Benoit vs. Booker on it. It’s REALLY REALLY GOOD, probably the best match Nitro has put on in months, and is super important to the lifespan and ecosystem of the cruiserweights.
With Rey Mysterio Jr. injured, Juventud being positioned against giant guys as a replacement Mysterio, and the Cruiserweight Championship revolving around two borderline heavyweights in Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko, matches like this were necessary to remind WCW that the cruisers added actual value to the show beyond placeholder, time-killing luchador challenges. For example, La Parka vs. Konnan is also on the show, and it’s all about how the heavyweight matters and the cruiserweight doesn’t. For a show whose life blood and only discernible advantage over their competition right now is diverse and high flying wrestling, you’d think they’d remember it more often.
Best: Chavito Is Tripping
On Nitro, the Eddie Guerrero Is My Favorite Wrestler story finally takes the turn it needed; Eddie has officially broken his nephew’s brain, and now Chavo is obsessively into being mentored, to the point that it’s bothersome. This whole time, Eddie wanted Chavo to be an obedient little lap dog, and now that he’s finally got it, it feels weird, and he doesn’t want it. Perfect.
Eddie’s supposed to wrestle Ultimo Dragon, and the normal story beat would be Eddie wanting to bail on the match and make Chavo wrestle it on his behalf. Chavo would then lose, and Eddie would get to be mean and emotionally manipulative. Instead, Chavo VOLUNTEERS for the match against Eddie’s will, and is so threateningly odd about it that Eddie has to accept. To make matters worse, Chavo then DEFEATS THE ULTIMO DRAGON CLEAN, something he hadn’t previously been able to do thanks to Eddie’s bothersome mentoring. Again, Eddie gets exactly what he wants, and it’s nothing like what he wants. So, so good.
And Finally, This Week’s Deepest Cut Foreshadowing
Continuing his quest to prove to James J. Dillon that he’s a victory of a conspiracy, Chris Jericho blows through El Dandy in a matter of seconds and presents a very important piece of evidence:
HE JUST MADE THE LIST.
It’s a list of competitors who’d signed up for the cruiserweight battle royal, and were therefore eligible to compete for a chance to face Jericho for the Cruiserweight Championship. Since Dean Malenko was in disguise and not on the list as “Dean Malenko,” his win should be invalid, and Jericho should be once again named Cruiserweight Champion. Dillon blows him off, telling him that unless he can produce some kind of precedent for a match like this being overturned, the decision stands.
What’s Jericho’s response? To repeatedly call Dillon an idiot, once again channeling future Festival of Friendship, list-toting Chris Jericho. I love that even his modern characters are weirdly rooted in his history if you look deep enough.
Dillon’s big mistake here is telling a crazy person who will make sure he’s technically right no matter what to prove he’s technically right. More on that in the coming weeks, which are so wonderful.
- Sting decides which branch of the nWo he wants to intern for
- Jerry Flynn battles Ernest Miller to see who invented kicking, West Coast Division
- La Parka challenges Goldberg (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the result
- Alex Wright is in action, which will wear out my GIF making machine
- Mr. Jericho Goes To Washington
See you then!