WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1996

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 10.44.23 PMWCW Monday Nitro 1996, or how the NWO took over and drove anything that was fun about the program into the ground. I mean, at first glance the idea of the NWO is pretty cool. Two top guys from WWF defecting over to WCW and henceforth really kicking off the battle between the two companies. Unfortunately, right out of the gate, it no longer became a WCW show, but rather NWO Monday Nitro. As I’m sure behind-the-scenes things dictated Scott Hall and Kevin Nash didn’t sign with the company for a couple thousand bucks and a place at the mid-card, oh no, this is WCW, so they paid them an astronomical amount and put them at the top no matter what, with them never relenting the main event status.

Now enter Hulk Hogan, Hulk predictably goes heel, and after all this time it lands with a thud that only Hogan could deliver. Leave it to Hulk Hogan for him to turn heel and somehow be just as cheesy and boring as he is as a babyface. Eric Bischoff would later join, in a hilarious series of moments where he was to be signing Roddy Piper for a match with Hogan, but then just shows up after and revealing, oh yeah by the way, that he’s been an NWO member this whole time. So now the quote-un-quote head of WCW, Bischoff, is a prominent member of the group, although it is pretty hilarious because you can always tell in storyline it always seems like Hogan, Nash and Hall just keep him around to utilize his position as the head of the company to finagle matches and decisions that they want.

One of the chief problems of the group, and something that gets grossly parodied in the years to come, but is actually evident pretty early on is how many members (and tertiary ones, at that) end up in the club. Hogan, Hall and Nash is the perfect sect, but then they add in Bischoff, The Giant, Ted DiBiase, nWo Sting (the dumbest thing ever), Vincent, Buff Bagwell and etc. etc., I’m not going to exert myself and type out all the names. They water this thing down right off the gate and have so many geeks and second-rate guys that it becomes a comedy show of members rather than this tough and intimidating group.

And probably my main problem is the idea that this is group is entirely filled with guys 35+ who can’t work and are getting pushed as THE main thing in the company because of what their image WAS in the wrestling world, while the younger guys toil away in the mid-card. You can literally load up any Nitro and see a match with any combination of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio etc. and see a fantastic match, yet they continually get shoved down the card because of these nostalgia acts of old men acting like teenagers (but, I mean, it’s also not like DX in WWF was doing anything different, despite being not as old). Related to this they bring in Roddy Piper at the end of the year to face Hogan at their big event of Starccade and I mean it’s fun to see Piper back and it’s a nice jolt to the system to see him go up against Hogan, but less said about any of the actual wrestling the better between these two guys. I mean, nobody can cut a promo like Piper, but that only gets you so far, and only serves the point of WCW’s reliance on past acts and gliding off the popularity of stars made from other companies.

NWO aside, my favourite things from 1995 remained my favourites for 1996, albeit in much smaller doses. The Four Horseman are still great, especially with Ric Flair, who unfortunately was out a lot of the year do to an injury (I think, I never looked up if there was a different reason for this or what). Ric Flair getting interviewed by Mean Gene is something that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of.

Like I mentioned, the cruiserweight matches are far and away the best things on the show, and I guess it shouldn’t be amazing to me how many great matches they had when you saw the talent involved. Conversely, it’s amazing WCW didn’t do anything with them, I mean they eventually kind of did, but nowhere near the heights they would’ve gotten if they actually gave these guys concentrated pushes, but nope, everything must fall to the wayside for NWO to “succeed.”

Lex Luger and Randy Savage remained bores who couldn’t work anymore (or to begin with with Luger), and I thought we finally got rid of Savage, but it looks like he’s coming back again. We finally get Scorpion Sting which I’ve been waiting for, because I could never take the Surfer Sting seriously, but unfortunately nothing really happens and they eventually start booking him like a moody emo teenager where he just hangs out in the rafters looking all sad and gearing up for a year+ build against the NWO that pretty much everybody knows how that turns out…

I’m still entertained by this show, and especially excited now that I’m heading into 1997 where the WWF vs. WCW war really starts cooking and where WCW makes their grand rise as THE wrestling promotion, the one that is unstoppable and is ready to be the king of the wrestling world for years to come, until they do all this WCW stuff that you see dark shades of even now, but eventually gets darkened like a thick sharpie and they go from 100 to 0 real quick.

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WCW Monday Nitro/PPVS: 1995

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I’m finally watching WCW and I could not be more excited for my eventual descent into madness. Since Nitro started in September of 1995, this post is going to be pretty short and basically just my brief, random thoughts about my introduction to actually watching WCW. I’m just going to outline the PPVs quickly, since that follows the majorly storylines and then just tack on random thoughts at the end.

The first PPV is Fall Brawl where the heavyweights of the company (literally and figuratively), Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting, take on literally the biggest four geeks you can think of compared to those guys in Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark and Meng. Literally my first WCW PPV and that being the main event is the most WCW thing ever, it’s amazing. Even in the WarGames stipulation, which doesn’t do anything for me, it was amazingly lackluster. Really just a means to an end to jumpstart the Hogan/Giant feud with the Giant interrupting at the end.

Halloween Havoc has another of the most amazing WCW things ever, and in theory I’m a newbie to all this, where Hulk Hogan and Giant face off in monster truck battle, as in they actually ram actual monster trucks against each other for five minutes before their wrestling match. They of course scrap afterwards which leads Giant to follow off the dang building and plummet to his untimely death. Except that doesn’t happen and he just shows up on time for his match later in the show with no explanation of how he recovered and looking no worse for wear. This company is amazing.

World War 3 has a 60-Man battle royal that encompasses three rings because goddamn does this company love gimmick matches. This was the biggest cluster I’ve ever seen where you literally could not focus on anything. They had a split screen showing all three rings, including separate commentary, but it only really made the whole thing that much more confusing. Randy Savage won for some reason.

Starrcade was pretty cool because of the whole Americans vs. Japanese world cup thing, where giving us Jushin Liger vs. Chris Benoit as an opener pretty much is tantamount for nothing ever being able to top that. It’s also crazy to see Tenzan wrestle here in 1995 as me in 2016 is watching him in what probably will be his last G1 tournament. He’s so young then! The Ric Flair vs. Sting vs. Lex Luger match was entertaining, and especially because it got Flair the title later which is all I ever want to see.

Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Brian Pillman are so awesome in their own similar and unique ways and I could watch them all day and am so looking forward to their actual good matches among the terribleness that often surrounds it all.

Disco Inferno is the greatest gimmick ever because it’s dated as hell in 2016 and even in 1995 it was dated as hell.

I love watching Ric Flair on my TV screen no matter what he is doing. His promos are the best and him just being a heel all the way through is the greatest.

I’m relatively unfamiliar with actually seeing Lex Luger and his character, body, matches and all that and oh my god it’s so apparent right from the jump that he just doesn’t have IT to be the star that people thought he could be. Obviously, he has the insane body, but his mic skills and work in the ring is just so subpar. He’s just the most bland dude who always seems bored and like his mind is always half somewhere else.

Hulk Hogan is John Cena and John Cena is Hulk Hogan where dude will be main eventing one week and then he’ll just disappear off TV for a couple weeks then reappear like nothing happened. I can’t stand Hogan, but it’s entertaining watching him through all this.

I’m well on my way into 1996 now as I write one, so hopefully I’ll have more to say for that write-up, whenever I finish it, and hopefully I remember to take notes.

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

WWF Attitude Era: 2000

Hey, another year down, and this time I actually took brief notes while I watched, so hopefully it’ll better trigger my memory. Let’s go through this thing in sequential order/whenever I felt motivation enough to jot down a note.

The Triple H/Mick Foley stuff to start the year was some pretty great stuff, with Triple H fully entrenched now as the top heel with the belt and a hold on the company through his relationship with Stephanie McMahon. They’re both a juxtaposition of styles with Triple H being the more technical wrestler with Foley being of the more whatever-it-takes brawler type, but both meshed in the middle with their skill at hardcore matches. Thus we got an excellent street fight match at the Royal Rumble (including a really fun tables match between The Dudley Boyz and Hardyz that really kick started these TLC gimmick matches in the tag division) draped in blood featuring thumbtacks, barbed-wire bats, handcuffs, trash cans and all that and both men put on an excellent show. Their Hell In a Cell match at No Way Out to blow off their one-on-one feud was also very good and continued the lineage of Foley taking ridiculous Cell spots.

The lead up to WrestleMania was pretty disappointing and lacking to me. The Rock beat Big Show to win the Royal Rumble, but under some controversial means where his feet basically touched before Show’s and probably really shouldn’t have been the winner, I have no clue if this was intended or not, but thus they feuded over the spot for a bit. The different permutations of the main event leading into Mania was maddening, it literally changed every week and basically undermined the Royal Rumble and every new number one contender as they legit just had new number one contender matches each week. I didn’t think they’d actually let Big Show main event Mania, but I guess they got away with it when they finally settled on a four-way between Triple H, The Rock, Big Show and Mick Foley, which I was not looking forward to at all. There was a pretty clever twist when each McMahon was backing a man with Stephanie with Triple H, Vince with The Rock, Shane with Big Show and Linda with Foley. The match wasn’t very good and overlong and I thought for sure The Rock would take the belt from Triple H, but nope he retained to cap off a very lackluster Mania. I was really feeling the absence of Austin and Undertaker as they were the stars of the last couple years and didn’t really feel like the other guys did a good job of carrying the show without them.

The funniest thing was that leading up to Mania Big Show was booked as this big, strong, imposing mean bastard who was main event tier and then right after his big show(ing) at Mania 2000 he was booked as a big, dumb comedy act who dressed up in costumes and danced with Rikishi. It was amazing the 180 they pulled.

We also finally got the debut of Christ Benoit, which I was looking forward to, along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturan as the defected from WCW. I enjoyed their little storline to begin where they were The New Radicalz and just beat people up as the new guys, but it was eventually clear that Benoit was the main one they would push as they pretty quickly got separated. And of course Eddie wouldn’t get the big push right away, but would do some nice work with Chyna that really sold his comedic chops and acting ability, not to mention how good of a wrestler he was of course.

I finally saw the whole Mae Young giving birth to a hand thing and it was just as messed up and dumb as I imagined. Basically just a reminder that, yep, I am still indeed watching the Attitude Era.

Chris Jericho really started to heat up even more with the fans and they loved everything he touched and said, especially due to them putting him over for the belt on Raw, for however briefly. Even still it’s obvious that with Austin gone on injury that The Rock is still the THE star of the business who gets incredible pops. It’s hard to tell who got a bigger pop at the height of their stardom, but it’s probably Austin by a hair.

I have a special place in my heart for Too Cool, going back to the days when Scotty 2 Hotty was my favourite wrestler when I first started watching all this garbage, for reasons that really boil down to how cool it was that his hair came out the top of his hat. But, anyways, I was surprised how over Too Cool was when they started out and they were actually working some main event matches on TV and ones with Triple H and The Rock, although it didn’t last too long and they wen back to being low card gimmicks. It was also pretty obvious that they wanted to push Rikishi up the card and he was the only one they really cared about because #Samoan.

Speaking of Too Cool, the tag team division was stacked at this time, with Too Cool, The Dudley Boyz, The Hardyz, Edge & Christian, Crash and Hardcore Holly, The Acolytes, Test & Albert, D-Generation X and later Right To Censor. They definitely had options although not all the teams were always at their peak, because they all couldn’t be, but each slided in and out nicely for some solid mid-card matches.

Edge & Christian are the best and their dumb frat boy humour always works on me because it’s so dumb and they both play perma-fried bros so well. They would later get a nice push with Kurt Angle, further doubling down on the dumb, oblivious guy theme. The best running joke with E&C was when they’d always try to fake injuries to get out of matches and would do whatever it takes to not defend their belts. Just the best.

I have another special place in my heart for Right To Censor, and I even vividly remember making their logo as some kind of pop-up art project in school as a kid, and no I have no idea why of all the colourful superstars of the time I picked a Right To Censor logo to ape. I really love their gimmick as an extension and pesudo-commentary on the Attitude Era’s awful treatment of women as just piece of meat to parade around in the smallest amount of clothes possible and book solely in matches where they strip each others clothes off. They would always get immediate heat with their entrance theme which was a bunch of annoying alarms that wouldn’t stop. And even better to fulfill the whole irony quotient The Godfather and Val Venis, the pimp and porn star gimmicks of years past would join and renounce their ways.

So, then at Backlash The Rock finally won the title over Triple H and they feuded into Judgment Day into a one hour Iron Man match which was a super cool concept to actually pull off (that they would never do nowadays) even if the match wasn’t all that great. Shawn Michaels was the special guest referee and The Undertaker made his glorious return in his infamous biker gimmick (lol!) screwy finish, screwy finish and Triple H had the belt back.

King Of The Ring happened with Kurt Angle (more on him soon) amazingly winning the titular title of the PPV and The Rock won the title back because the world championship in the Attitude Era is basically a hot potato that goes from person to person, even in weird tag matches where you can win the singles title, like The Rock did.

And then Chris Benoit’s push coincided with The Rock’s title reign and oh, damn, they let Benoit man event a pay-per-view this yearly and I was surprised, but it was a lot of (brief) fun. He’s not really the best on the mic, but his in ring work was in matched and he literally put on a fantastic match with everyone, so it was always worth paying attention. This also included the Triple H/Chris Jericho feud in a Last Man Standing match which included great work as always by both of them. And then with his sublte into not-so-subtle macking on Stephanie McMahon Kurt Angle’s push into the main event slowly began to crescendo. Thus Kurt and Triple H feuded for a couple pay-per-views, basically over Stephanie, it went on a little bit too long for my taste, but Kurt made it all work. Angle is the best because he’s so good at doing dumb comedy bits and selling them amazingly with his naivety and commitment, but at the same time he’s totally believable as a main eventer who can kick ass and get it done with his technical prowess. He really was the perfect guy in WWE to measure their incessant want for dumb comedy, be entertaining and actually wrestle a good match.

And then everything culminated with Kurt taking the title from The Rock, which I really wasn’t expecting, I thought it was way too soon to put the belt on Kurt, but I always forget how much they love flip-flopping the title. And of course he was great with the belt as a little twerp who tried to get out of everything.

Kurt then took the backseat to the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was awesome to finally have back, but oh my god, like a repeat of the build-up to Mania, the storyline of WHO RAN OVER AUSTIN, took forever and had a bunch of fake-outs and then it was finally revealed to be Rikishi (lol!) who thus turned heel into bad man Rikishi (lol!) with some dumb reasoning about the #Samoan connection between him and The Rock as to why it was done.

To finish off the year we had the big Armageddon Hell In A Cell match between *takes a breath* Kurt Angle, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker and Rikishi. Which one of those names doesn’t belong? Either way, I was really looking forward to the match, and it was indeed good, but nothing great, which was fine by me, because I kind of half-expected everything to cancel out and it’d be terrible.

And so I guess the final thing to end the year was Mick Foley getting ousted as commissioner, oh yeah, Mick Foley was commissioner for the majority of the year after he came back from retirement. I really didn’t talk about it because it didn’t really do much for me, mainly Foley’s comedy schtick where he would always be in random places backstage taking up office and all his pandering to the crowd. He was a pretty hollow replacement for a figure in power, although I do obviously know he was like that to differentiate from the Vince’s and Shane’s in the past.

I honestly didn’t really dig this year as a whole, it was very inconsistent and could never maintain steam, or when it did it would grasp onto something for wayyy too long and drive it into the dirt. The lack of Austin and Undertaker hurt things, as they were huge reasons why I loved the last couple years and of course Taker’s new gimmick takes some getting used to. It also felt less of an “Attitude” type year as the previous ones, I think mainly because they were fully entrenched in this new identity and were set on a pretty straightforward cruise control. The Rock was great, as always, even if he did get semi-overshadowed later in the year, but that was mainly due to Angle with the belt which was a pretty good change of pace. I was gonna take a break after this year (it’s been four years!) since I’m semi losing steam on a lot of things, but the promise of WrestleMania 17 (which I’ve been told is the best) and my intrigue of the whole invasion angle has me piqued to see how much further I can last.