Hosted by Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, “Iron” Mike Tenay, & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
What’s the big story with the now? What’s this new show everybody’s been talking about? With WCW in its own backyard and me in attendance, what could possibly happen? Let’s find out!
BIAS WARNING: As I mentioned, I attended this show, so my ratings of the matches may be affected.
To begin the show, a pair of black limousines pull up to the stadium. While “Hollywood” Hogan, Nash, Bagwell, Norton, Vincent, and Konnan emerge from the first, Eric Bischoff, Savage, Curt Hennig, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Scott Hall, and Elizabeth exit the other. Is there tension in the air?
According to Schiavone, the footage for the remainder of last week’s main event exists but cannot be shown. Why? Schiavone states it’s due to a “court injunction.” If RAW is WAR was on, you’d bet many viewers would have switched at this moment.
At the entrance, “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviews Chairman of the Executive Committee JJ Dillon. According to Dillon, Sting remains World champion. He also apologizes for leaving the air early due to “programming constraints.” On Thunder, the footage will be shown. Aha! Also, the finish to the World title match at Starrcade ‘97 will be shown on Thursday.
HOT TAKE: While I will explain more in my Thunder reflection, the ploy to build an audience for Thunder while sacrificing Nitro is counterproductive. With the entire country plugged into Nitro, WCW shouldn’t sell off its hottest commodity to a new show. The new show needs some sensationalism but not at the risk of the bread and butter.
We then revisit last week’s episode when Jericho threw a tantrum and took it out on the ring post with a chair.
Prior to the opening match, Jericho grabs the microphone and apologizes for his actions last week. He then presents ring announcer David Penzer with a replacement chair and tuxedo jacket. Wow! Afterward, he ensures that his temper won’t get the better of him again.
Match 1 for the WCW US title: Diamond Dallas Page (champion) versus “Lionheart” Chris Jericho
Jericho attempted a hip toss, but DDP countered with a swinging neckbreaker.
When each wrestler leap-frogged the other, Jericho dropkicked DDP.
Jericho attempted to kick DDP but got caught.
As DDP whirled him around, I expected him to deliver a discus clothesline.
Instead, he scored with a Diamond Cutter, and the Atlanta faithful went APESHIT!
MethInks DDP is OVER.
Summary: Showcase match for DDP.
After the match, Jericho has SNAPPED.
Nitro is sponsored by Valvoline.
At the entrance, Okerlund interviews WCW executive vice-president Nick Lambros who reads a statement. Within it, the statement declares that violators of WCW policies “are subject to fine, suspension, or both.” Furthermore, this statement applies to both WCW and nWo wrestlers.
While it may appear obvious, WCW executives work across the street at CNN Tower, and I believe we may see a violator or two in the near future.
Match 2: Bill Goldberg versus Stevie Ray
While Goldberg made his entrance, Schiavone shilled Thunder and pointed out Chief Jay Strongbow in attendance. He also should have pointed me out.
Stevie Ray escaped a suplex attempt and delivered a belly-to-back suplex.
As he scored with a lariat, Stevie Ray got 2.
He then gave Goldberg a cross corner whip but ate a back elbow on his follow-through.
When Goldberg clotheslined him, he powerslammed Stevie Ray.
He then landed a knee drop for 2.
After he gave Stevie Ray a cross corner whip, Goldberg ate a back elbow on his follow-through.
Stevie Ray then launched a savate kick and hammered Goldberg in the corner.
As referee Billy Silverman got manhandled when he got too close, Goldberg speared the distracted Stevie Ray.
He then unleashed a Jackhammer.
Summary: Showcase match for the Georgia boy.
On WCW Saturday Night, Meng and Fit Finlay do battle. Also, Booker T defends the World TV title against former champion Disco Inferno. In a return match from this show, DDP defends the US title against Jericho. The same thing can’t happen twice, can it?
Nitro Girls dance at the entrance wearing jean short-shorts.
Match 3: The Barbarian (w/ Jimmy Hart) versus John Nord
It’s the battle of Barbarians! If Schwarzenegger appears, we could have a triple-threat.
For those unaware, Nord portrayed the Barbarian in both WCCW and AWA.
Nord scored with a big boot and shoulder-blocked Barbarian over the top rope to the floor. Impressive!
When Nord delivered a springboard elbow drop to Barbarian on the floor, he chased Hart from ringside.
Barbarian nailed the distracted Nord and positioned him against the ring post.
As he charged, Barbarian HIT THE POLE instead of Nord.
Nord then rammed Barbarian face-first into the steps and back-first into the steel railing.
After Barbarian reversed an Irish whip, he sent Nord back-first into the steel railing.
Nord then sent Barbarian twice into the steel railing before tossing back into the ring.
When he landed a Samoan drop, Nord hit a series of elbow drops.
Hart got up on the apron, but Nord grabbed him.
As Barbarian nailed him from behind, he launched a big boot sending Nord over the top rope to the floor.
With Nord on the apron, Barbarian suplexed him back into the ring.
He then delivered a pumphandle suplex for 2.
After he gave Nord a cross corner whip, Barbarian ate boot on his follow-through.
Nord then clotheslined Barbarian while Hart returned to the apron.
When Nord returned Hart to the floor with a clothesline, he gave Barbarian a cross corner whip.
Nord then came up empty on his follow-through, so Barbarian hoisted him atop the top turnbuckle.
As Barbarian joined him, Nord hammered him down to the mat.
He then hit a flying elbow drop and hooked his own version of a camel clutch.
Shockingly, Barbarian submitted; therefore, Nord won.
Summary: Good big man versus big man matchup, but the large Atlanta faithful sought popcorn instead.
In the ring, Okerlund interviews Bischoff. The nWo, according to Bischoff, is JUST FINE. Next, he mentions that Hogan beat Sting both at the PPV and the following Nitro. He then lies about beating Zbyszko, but Okerlund accuses him of using a foreign object. When Bischoff mouths off some more, Zbyszko stands up in his defense. The Zbyszko-Bischoff match from the PPV will be shown on Thunder. Makes ya want to tune in, right?
We then revisit last week’s episode when Ultimo Dragon won the Cruiserweight title by beating Eddie Guerrero.
Match 4: Juventud Guerrera versus Psicosis
Winner gets a Cruiserweight title shot against Dragon on Thunder.
As Psicosis clotheslined him, he gave Guerrera a cross corner whip but came up empty on his follow-through.
Guerrera then hooked a flying headscissors, got vaulted to the apron, and delivered a springboard dropkick.
With Psicosis on the floor, Guerrera launched a corkscrew plancha. Woohoo!
Psicosis then blocked a suplex and crotched Guerrera with the top rope.
When he mounted the top turnbuckle, Psicosis delivered a leg lariat.
He then flapjacked Guerrera for 2.
After he draped Guerrera on the second rope, Psicosis dropkicked him.
He then mounted the top turnbuckle but missed a guillotine leg drop.
From the apron, Guerrera launched a springboard dropkick and attempted a Juvi Driver.
Psicosis blocked it and scored with a gourdbuster.
Since he couldn’t capitalize due to his injured hamstring, Psicosis was unsuccessful with a powerbomb attempt.
Guerrera then mounted the top turnbuckle, attempted a dive, but Psicosis dropkicked him in mid-air. Wow!
As Psicosis attempted another powerbomb, Guerrera countered with a DDT.
He then hit an elbow drop, mounted the top turnbuckle, and landed a 450° splash. Amazing!
Guerrera will challenge Dragon.
Summary: Solid lucha libre match with both high-flying and good selling.
We then revisit the 4/7/97 episode when Hogan and Nash stood eye-to-eye.
Nitro Girls dance in the ring wearing pink and silver while Schiavone shills the Nitro Party contest.
At the entrance, Okerlund interviews Booker T who dedicates his World TV title victory last week to his son Brandon. Solid babyface promo.
We then revisit last week’s episode when Booker T upset Disco Inferno and won the World TV title.
Match 5 for the WCW World TV title: Booker T (champion) versus Prince Iaukea
While Booker T leap-frogged Iaukea, he delivered a big boot.
Iaukea then reversed an Irish whip but ate a leg lariat.
When he scored with a scissors kick, Booker T got 2.
He then attempted another leg lariat but crotched himself with the top rope.
With Booker T on the floor, Iaukea mounted the top turnbuckle and delivered a tope.
From the apron, Iaukea attempted a springboard maneuver, but Booker T caught and powerslammed him.
Meanwhile, Heenan joked that Seinfeld left the air due to Thunder’s arrival. HA!
Another leg lariat by Booker T led to a sidewalk slam.
As he mounted the top turnbuckle, Booker T hit a Harlem Hangover.
Booker T retained.
Summary: Iaukea put Booker T over strong here while getting almost ZERO offense.
We then see stills from the PPV of the controversial World title match.
Match 6 (six-man): WCW World tag team champions Steiners & Ray Traylor (w/ Ted DiBiase) versus Konnan, Buff Bagwell, & Scott “Flash” Norton (w/ Vincent)
This was supposed to be the six-man match at the PPV.
As Traylor whipped Konnan into the corner, he came up empty on his follow-through.
Konnan then scored with a somersault clothesline and bulldogged Traylor.
When Konnan attempted a DDT, Scott blindly tagged in and clotheslined him.
He then spat at Bagwell. Despite Bagwell’s objection, Scott slapped the taste out of his mouth.
After Scott provided Bagwell with an audible “fuck you,” he gorilla-press-slammed Konnan.
All six wrestlers were in the ring while the babyfaces exerted their dominance by chasing the nWo from the ring.
As tags were exchanged on both sides, Rick powerslammed Bagwell.
He then delivered a pair of Steinerlines and got 2.
When tags were exchanged on both sides again, Norton clotheslined Traylor.
He then gave Traylor a cross corner whip but ate boot on his follow-through.
After Traylor landed a sliding uppercut, Rick tagged in, mounted the top turnbuckle, and hit a lariat.
To prevent the pin, Vincent got up on the apron to distract referee Scott Dickinson.
Norton then reversed an Irish whip that allowed Bagwell to club Rick from behind. SNEAKY!
As Scott distracted Dickinson, the nWo gave Rick the business in their corner. How dastardly!
Scott then distracted Dickinson again, so Norton rammed Rick face-first into the apron.
When Norton tagged in, he launched a flying shoulder block at Rick for 2.
Bagwell tagged in, and Vicious & Delicious delivered a double back elbow to Rick.
After he slammed Rick, Bagwell attempted a Buff Blockbuster.
On the other hand, Rick countered with a slam.
Hot tag Scott.
As Scott hit a double underhook powerbomb to Konnan, he got 2.
While everyone took turns getting clotheslined over the top rope to the floor, the remaining wrestlers were Scott and Konnan.
Rick then mounted the top turnbuckle, and DiBiase destroyed Vincent at ringside.
When Scott hoisted him upon his shoulders, he delivered an electric chair.
Expecting the Steiner bulldog, Rick was left dumbfounded on the top turnbuckle.
Scott then hit a Steiner screwdriver to Konnan. Oh my!
The Steiners and Traylor won.
Summary: More than likely, this was the script for the PPV as dissension between the Steiners was teased. It appeared that Konnan didn’t take the screwdriver properly probably due to fear of getting injured.
Among the Atlanta faithful, the Nitro Girls dance while wearing silver. Next, a Nitro Party tape is shown.
Match 7: Rick Martel versus Brad Armstrong
Holy former AWA World champions, Batman!
Martel hooked an O’Connor roll and got 2.
When the EVIL Armstrong secured a side head lock, Martel countered with a belly-to-back suplex.
Armstrong then reversed a cross corner whip but ate knee on his follow-through.
As Martel mounted the second turnbuckle, he clotheslined Armstrong.
Martel then provided Armstrong with a gutwrench suplex followed by a dropkick. The camera angle on the dropkick showed that Martel didn’t make contact.
After Armstrong rebounded with his own belly-to-back suplex, Martel delivered a spinebuster.
Martel then cinched in a Quebec crab, and Armstrong submitted.
Summary: Showcase match for the newcomer Martel.
Nitro Girls dance at the entrance in black and white.
Prior to the next match, we revisit last week’s episode when Mongo rescued Benoit from the Flock.
Match 8: The “Crippler” Chris Benoit & Steve “Mongo” McMichael versus Saturn & Riggs (w/ the Flock)
Instead of arriving from ringside seats, Saturn and Riggs emerged through the entrance.
Benoit sent Saturn into the Horseman corner where Mongo nailed him.
As Saturn fell backward, Benoit delivered a belly-to-back suplex.
Mongo tagged in, reversed an Irish whip, and hip-tossed Saturn.
When he powerslammed Saturn, Mongo tackled both Saturn and Riggs.
A Riggs dropkick then led to a T-bone suplex from Saturn.
After Riggs tagged in, the Flock supplied Mongo with a schoolboy.
Riggs then dropkicked Mongo for 2.
As Mongo reversed another Irish whip, he planted Riggs with his version of a side slam.
Saturn tagged in and applied a Fujiwara arm bar.
When Riggs tagged in, the Flock hit a double flying shoulder block to Mongo.
Saturn tagged in, but Mongo provided the Flock with a double front suplex.
Hot tag Benoit.
With all four wrestlers in the ring, Lodi got up on the apron, but Mongo CREMATED him.
Benoit then hooked Saturn in a Crippler Crossface, but Robinson’s occupied with Benoit and Riggs.
Abruptly, Raven entered the ring and DDT’d Benoit.
Meanwhile, Kidman left his ringside seat, mounted the top turnbuckle, and distracted Robinson.
Saturn and Riggs won.
Summary: Despite Mongo being on defense, this match didn’t have enough sizzle. As you would expect, the Flock cheated to keep the Benoit storyline going.
In the ring, Okerlund interviews “Nature Boy” Ric Flair who uncorks a “Meeean Woooooooo Gene.” Flair “takes issue” with Bret, and guess who appears? Yep, it’s Bret. Flair challenges Bret to quote his catchphrase, and Bret complies. After Flair rattles off wrestling legends, Bret subtly mentions that he’s beaten Flair in the past. I smell a challenge!
Nitro is sponsored by Snickers.
THE FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
Although nWo Monday Nitro bit the dust, nWo 4 Life t-shirts are YOUR thing now. I still want an nWo Monday Nitro t-shirt.
THE PRECEDING ANNOUNCEMENT HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY THE NEW WORLD ORDER.
Match 8: The "Total Package” Lex Luger versus “Macho Man” Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth)
According to Schiavone, referee Nick Patrick was ”under investigation.” Dillon came to the ring, immediately suspended Patrick, and assigned Randy Anderson to the match. That brought Bischoff back to the ring.
After Luger made his entrance, Vicious & Delicious came to ringside.
Once Savage distracted Anderson, they gave Luger the business. Nefarious!
Savage then gave Luger a cross corner whip followed by a back elbow for 2.
As he delivered a belly-to-back suplex, Savage got another 2.
He then scored with a gutwrench suplex but couldn’t get 3.
While the Atlanta faithful chanted “Lu-ger,” Savage slammed their hero, mounted the top turnbuckle, but ate a shot to the midsection.
Luger then unleashed a pair of clotheslines followed by a powerslam.
When Savage sought refuge outside the ring, Luger joined him.
Cowardly, Savage used Elizabeth as a shield (link) and tossed her at Luger.
Savage then guillotined Luger with the steel railing, mounted the top turnbuckle, and delivered a double axe handle.
As you may anticipate, Luger tasted the steel railing. It must have tasted like a Hot Southern Mess at the Vortex.
Back in the ring, Savage attempted a slam, but Luger countered with an inside cradle.
What? A clean finish to the main event?
Summary: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! It’s a new year, and Nitro gives us a clean finish to its main event. Although the start of the match provides us with a bad vibe, the rest of it flows well and tells a good story. And thank God, Luger wasn’t facing Bagwell AGAIN.
After the match, Savage sends Luger to the floor and makes him HIT THE POLE. He then grabs both ring announcer David Penzer and his chair. Upon tossing Penzer down the aisle, Savage holds the chair over his head until Bischoff runs in and takes it from him. Unfathomably, Savage decks Bischoff! With Bischoff OUT COLD, Hogan comes to the ring and shoves Savage. When Savage slaps Hogan, Nash HAMMERS him.
While the nWo regroups to plan their attack of Luger 4-on-1, Sting sprints to the ring to join Luger. As the program leaves the air, Sting and Luger clean house.
Conclusion: Could the nWo be falling apart? This episode would lead you to believe just that. It was a nice change of pace to have a clean job in the main event for the first time in forever. Also, Flair and Bret don’t see eye-to-eye, so a match may be in the works. Although Mongo joined Benoit, they couldn’t get the better of Raven’s Flock. Both Martel and Nord made their Nitro debuts, but I believe this was Nord’s sole Nitro appearance. A Steiner break-up was teased while Konnan may have had to take the pin due to his PPV no-show. Guerrera earned a title shot while Booker T retained his title. And we can’t forget about Jericho making a fool out of himself for our entertainment.
Lastly, Thunder was mightily PLUGGED, and I look forward to bringing you my reflection soon. What’s on RAW is WAR?