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The Chrononaut Chronicles: WCW Monday Nitro – 1/22/96

June 8, 2012 | Posted by Joel Thomas
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The Chrononaut Chronicles: WCW Monday Nitro – 1/22/96  

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Thanks to the infinitely talented Kyle Morton for the logo. Check out his Etsy account, where he does custom artwork and commissions… you’ll be glad you did!

The Chrononaut Chronicles
WCW Monday Nitro – January 22, 1996

– Debuting on Ted Turner’s TNT cable network on September 4, 1995, WCW Monday Nitro immediately became the company’s flagship program and kicked off the Monday Night Wars. Airing live every week against the usually-pretaped WWF Monday Night Raw, Nitro quickly gained a reputation as exciting and unpredictable after Lex Luger, fresh off a house show tour with the WWF, made a shocking return to WCW on the premiere episode. The battle for ratings dominance led to WCW offering PPV-caliber match-ups on their free television show and when Nitro eventually expanded to two hours, it rendered the Clash of the Champions broadcasts obsolete because they were essentially having a Clash every week. But for now, Nitro was still in its infancy and on this occasion, it was used to set up Clash of the Champions XXXII the following evening. WCW had a two-night stand in Vegas, beginning with this edition of Monday Nitro!

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– LIVE from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada! Eric Bischoff, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and former NFL star Steve “Mongo” McMichael–who had won an Emmy Award in 1994 for his work on a football postgame show in Chicago and appeared in Lawrence Taylor’s corner at WrestleMania XI–are your triumvirate of commentators. As he did every week, Mongo has his pet chihuahua, Pepe, clutched under his armpit and wearing a little tuxedo. I still don’t understand the point, since the dog always looked terrified and it added nothing aside from diminishing Mongo’s masculinity.

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He’s like a miniature James Bond with fur.

– The announcers hype three huge matches for tonight: Ric Flair defending the World Heavyweight Title against Randy Savage, Sting & Lex Luger challenging Harlem Heat for the World Tag Team Title, and Hulk Hogan battling US Champion One Man Gang in what is presumably a non-title bout. Making his first appearance in WCW since 1990, Konnan walks onto the broadcast set and interrupts them as he announces that he will be defending his (fictional) Mexican Heavyweight Championship against Psicosis tomorrow night at the Clash of the Champions. He promises that his match will be the blueprint for “your” destruction, although it’s not clear who he means. This guy should have been an anti-gringo heel right off the bat, rather than the bland babyface they tried to make him.

– WCW World Heavyweight Championship: “Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (w/Jimmy Hart) ©

The epic 15-month WCW World Title reign of Hulk Hogan finally came to an end at Halloween Havoc ’95 when he lost the belt, by disqualification of course, to The Giant after Jimmy Hart interfered and turned heel. However, the Giant was stripped of the gold due to the controversy surrounding the finish and Randy Savage won the vacant championship in the first-ever three-ring World War 3 battle royal, but the belt changed hands again at Starrcade ’95 when Ric Flair defeated the Macho Man to begin his record 12th World Title reign. Employing psychological warfare against the womanizing Nature Boy, the Macho Man is escorted to the ring by a bevy of nameless beauties in evening gowns; although they are not acknowledged as such, the entourage includes Linda Hogan, Debra McMichael, and Nancy “Woman” Sullivan. Gene Okerlund pops up to interview Savage on his way out, but before he can say much, Hulk Hogan and his massive ego interrupt the proceedings. The Hulkster butters Savage up and wishes him luck tonight, but says that he wants the first shot after Macho Man wins the belt. Hogan immediately turns around and marches off while Savage responds cryptically, “What it is is what it is!” and heads down to the ring. Bischoff does recognize Woman and brings up her past association with Ric Flair, and this is played out at ringside as Slick Ric tries to dance with her and she slaps him in the face. A major announcement is made on commentary as Bischoff reveals that Miss Elizabeth will be the “Secret Weapon” that Savage and Hogan had promised for their tag team showdown against the Giant & Ric Flair at the Clash. Wow dude, seriously? That’s such a dick move. Never tell Eric a secret, he just goes and blurts it out like a gossipy old hen on national TV. He also announces that Kevin Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers will be at the Clash to watch their backs and McMichael just loves it. After trading shots at ringside, Savage claws at Flair’s face in the squared circle while the commentators ignore the match and confirm the rumors that Hawk & Animal have reunited as the Road Warriors and will be at the Clash. Flair comes back with chops and tosses Savage over the top rope while Jimmy Hart distracts referee Randy Anderson, and they go chop-for-punch at ringside before Savage back-bodydrops Flair on the floor. As the show goes to commercial, Savage dives off the top turnbuckle with his famous flying axhandle and crashes down on the railing when Flair moves out of the way. [Meanwhile, LIVE on Raw, Vader has brutalized a referee and ends up destroying Gorilla Monsoon with a Vader Bomb. Now that’s some good counter-programming for WCW fans who were missing Vader and switching around during the commercial break.] When we come back, the Macho Man is in control and he pounds away on the twelve-time World Champion in and out of the ring until Flair counters a side-headlock with a kneebreaker and hooks him in the figure-four leglock. The hold is broken when the ref catches Flair using the ropes for leverage and engages in a shoving match with the Nature Boy, while Savage tenaciously crawls toward Flair with his eye on the prize despite the pain in his knee. The reigning champion drops a knee across the forehead and chops his challenger down, but he makes the fatal mistake of climbing to the top turnbuckle and Savage slams him down to the mat. The Macho Man follows up with two devastating flying axhandles before Jimmy Hart hops up on the apron to distract the referee, during which time Arn Anderson runs down with a pair of knucks to help Ric. However, Savage dodges the blow and Anderson accidentally coldcocks his best friend in the whole wide world with a knucks-enhanced right hand. The crowd roars and Hulk Hogan charges out to take care of the Enforcer while the bell starts ringing randomly, but everybody ignores it as Savage drops the flying elbow off the top and pins Flair to win his second WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 8:35. After the match, Hogan hams it up and celebrates Savage’s win like it was his own, a fact that the Macho Man notes when Mean Gene brings a microphone into the ring. In a great display of how cocaine can ruin friendships, Savage is suspicious of Hogan and claims that he doesn’t want to wait another lifetime to tangle with him again, and the Hulkster says that they can face off tonight after he is finished with the One Man Gang. **** for the match and the angle that followed. There was a raw intensity that Savage brought to his matches and he always worked well with Flair, especially in WCW. The post-match promo was great as Savage was his old semi-paranoid self, although with good reason considering Hogan’s behavior. Best part was the loud and resounding cascade of boos that Hogan received when he started talking about his Hulkamaniacs. Just magnificent.

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Who won the match, again?

– Dean Malenko vs. Flyin’ Brian Pillman

Since our last Clash, Flyin’ Brian turned heel and was made a member of the vaunted Four Horsemen along with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Chris Benoit. Pillman had begun displaying an unstable “Loose Cannon” persona that straddled the line between work and shoot, as he stayed in character behind the scenes and even people in the business were unsure of what was real and what wasn’t. Now working full-time in WCW, Dean Malenko is billed as “The Man of 1,000 Holds” and he grabs Brian’s legs early on in preparation for the Texas Cloverleaf, but Pillman squirms over to the ropes before he can apply the hold and bails out to argue with a fan in the crowd. Back inside, Pillman plants Malenko’s face into the mat and rants at the camera. Unlike his old high-flying style, Brian grinds Dean down and seems more concerned with humiliating him as he slaps the Ice Man around. This only serves to fire Malenko up as he uncorks a clothesline in the corner, a brainbuster, and a reverse neckbreaker for a near-fall. Turning the tide by pulling his knees up when Malenko charges into the corner, Pillman spikes him with a tornado DDT and chops away, but Malenko comes back with a double-underhook powerbomb for a two-count and dropkicks Pillman out of the ring. After avoiding a baseball slide, Brian rams Dean into the railing and rolls him back inside, where Dean counters an attempt at another tornado DDT and drops him with a gutbuster. When Brian gets up, Dean quickly targets his ankle and takes him down, but the Loose Cannon makes it to the ropes posthaste and retreats to the apron. As they are scuffling with each other, Malenko’s leg gets tangled in the ropes and he falls down, so Pillman swiftly covers him for the pinfall at 6:20 and frees his foot from the ropes before referee Nick Patrick can see the infraction. *** As entertaining and unpredictable as the Loose Cannon persona was, it didn’t result in great matches because he was always playing the character, which was created to mask the injuries and extracurricular activities that had slowed Flyin’ Brian down and forced him to alter his style. Three or four years ago, a Pillman/Malenko match would have been a classic but here it was disappointingly average.

– WCW World Tag Team Championship: Harlem Heat (Stevie Ray & Booker T) © vs. “Total Package” Lex Luger & Sting

Since returning to WCW, Lex Luger had been excellent in his role as a “tweener” since he wasn’t a full-fledged babyface or an all-out heel, and he had allegiances on both sides of the fence as Sting was his best friend and he had hired Jimmy Hart as his manager. His relationship with Sting was unique for the time because they had conflicting philosophies, yet they were still friends and tag team partners, as long as the Mouth of the South wasn’t in their corner and Sting didn’t catch Lex doing anything heelish. As for Harlem Heat, Sister Sherri is absent because she is preparing for her wedding to Colonel Rob Parker which will take place during the Clash. The first pin attempt happens after Luger nails Stevie Ray with the forearm and covers him for a two-count, but the Total Package finds himself on the wrong side of 110th Street as Booker T kicks him in the head from the apron and the Heat try to get some momentum going. They attempt a double clothesline, but Luger ducks and responds with a double-clothesline of his own before making the hot tag. Sting unloads on the Heat and goes corner-to-corner with repeated Stinger Splashes on both men, but just as he is applying the Scorpion Deathlock on Stevie, Lex decides to step into the ring and distract the referee. Capitalizing on the opportunity, Booker scissor-kicks Sting to break the hold and the Heat work him over in their corner for an extended period as they make frequent tags and wear Sting down. There are restholds aplenty as well as a double gourdbuster, and Booker goes for the Harlem Hangover off the top, but Sting rolls out of the way and makes the tag. Lex comes in and pounds on both brothers, but somehow the ref missed the tag and forces Luger out. When the ref turns his attention elsewhere, Jimmy Hart appears at ringside and hands something to Luger. Meanwhile, Sting and Booker collide in mid-air when they both go for a crossbody and the ref begins his ten-count, but the Stinger makes it to his corner and tags out. When the ref turns his back, Luger whallops Booker with a fistful of silver dollars and pins him to capture the WCW World Tag Team Championship in 9:33. Unaware of Lex’s wrongdoing, Sting celebrates the title victory with his overly enthusiastic partner at ringside. *** A very solid, if unspectacular, tag team match that furthered the intriguing angle between Luger and Sting.

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When he woke up, Booker realized it was time to seek help for his gambling problem.

– One Man Gang vs. Hulk Hogan

Another old WWF foe to feed to Hulk Hogan, One Man Gang returned to WCW as a member of the Dungeon of Doom and beat Kensuke Sasaki for the United States Heavyweight Championship at Halloween Havoc. Seeing all these washed-up old guys coming in and winning titles must have been great for morale in the locker room. As expected, this bout is non-title and it is bowling-shoe ugly as the saintly Hulkster punches the Gang, gouges his eye, and bites his forehead. The highlight is OMG briefly pulling out some of Akeem’s dance moves as he’s selling the beating. The Gang comes back and splashes Hogan, but he no-sells it and goes into the ol’ Hulk-up routine–AND THE CROWD BOOS THE SHIT OUT OF HIM. That just made my night. They react more positively to the bodyslam, though, and Hogan follows up with the big legdrop to put Gang away at 3:03. The Hulkster’s celebration is interrupted when the Zodiac, Chris Benoit, Arn Anderson, and Brian Pillman all run in to receive their beatings at the hands of the unstoppable Hulk. Even though Hogan has made it clear that he is capable of fending off everyone by himself, Randy Savage races out to lend a hand and we see Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan, Anderson, Zodiac, Gang, and Jimmy Hart preventing the Giant from entering the ring because they want to save him for the Clash. True to his irreverent persona, Pillman jumps around like a spider monkey, encouraging the Giant to go after Hogan, and he gets scolded by Anderson and Sullivan. DUD Terrible formulaic Hogan match, followed by the terrible formulaic Hogan post-match where he poses and/or beats up a bunch of guys by himself. Ugh, the nWo can’t get here soon enough.

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You can take the Bro out of the Jive Soul, but you can’t take the Jive Soul out of the Bro.

– Mean Gene steps in between Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan to interview them, and the Hulkster states that he will beat everybody in his path to become the #1 contender and earn a shot at the World Title in Caesars Palace. Somebody backstage must have told him how selfish and egotistical he seemed when he just came out and demanded a title shot. Hogan rambles about Miss Elizabeth and Kevin Greene and the Clash, and the Macho Man gets in an “OHH YEEEAHHHH!” before Bischoff, Heenan, and McMichael wrap things up with further Clash hype.

The 411: Premiering amidst the dull and tired Monday Night Raws of 1994 and '95, WCW Monday Nitro was like a breath of fresh air and felt very different from the cartoonish product presented at the last Clash of the Champions. Realizing that the previous direction wasn't working, Eric Bischoff went to the other end of the spectrum and incorporated more realism and mature content into the storylines. Instead of pandering to children with obvious faces and heels, there were situations like the reality-based heat between Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan and the partnership between Sting and Lex Luger, in which Lex inhabited a gray area of sorts. Aside from the dismal main event, this was an excellent episode of Nitro that did a great job of increasing interest in Clash XXXII.
 
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend

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