This week Throwback Thursday takes a trip to Bizarro World as we revisit the beginning of the end of World Championship Wrestling on the WWE Network with WCW Monday NITRO #159, which took place 19 years ago today!
After taking the wrestling world by storm in the summer of 1996 with the debut of the wildly popular New World Order WCW seemed unable to make a serious misstep, producing some of the best TV and Pay-Per-View events in company history. But when the World Wrestling Federation rose from the ashes in the wake of WrestleMania XIV WCW began throwing all they had at the wall hoping something would stick, including giving away Goldberg’s World title win on free TV, bringing in Karl Malone and Jay Leno within weeks of one another, and finally signing the Ultimate Warrior.
By the time this edition of NITRO aired it was clear the bloom was off the rose and WCW was headed for hard times. NITRO had just taken four out of five head-to-head weeks against RAW (after winning all of one week against RAW in the last 13 head-to-head shows) but this edition of NITRO would be the second-to-last ratings win for WCW in the “Monday Night Wars”.
The main stories in WCW at this time, for those wondering, were the nWo Hollywood/nWo Wolfpac feud, the return of the Four Horsemen, DDP challenging Goldberg for the WCW World title, and Hogan/Warrior II.
Context isn’t an issue as all previous editions of NITRO and all prior PPVs are on the Network for you to enjoy right now! Thunder, as of this writing, has yet to debut on the Network.
WCW Monday NITRO #159 (WATCH)
Date: September 28, 1998 – Location: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, New York
Attendance: 10,525 – Rating: 4.6 (RAW: 4.0)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Larry Zbyszko & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Goldberg
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart
WCW World Tag Team Champions: nWo Hollywood (Scott Hall & The Giant)
WCW World Television Champion: Chris Jericho
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Kidman
The show opens with a vignette highlighting the ongoing Warrior/Hogan feud, concluding with the announcement of their rematch at Halloween Havoc ’98.
In the arena Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show as the pyro goes off and NITRO Girls do their thing. At the announcer’s table Tony and Tenay talk about Disciple leaving the nWo for the O.W.N. (One Warrior Nation) and the impending biggest rematch “in the history of professional wrestling” when Hollywood’s (dubbed) music hits.
Hollywood Hogan, Eric Bischoff (doing his ridiculous airplane shtick), Scott Hall, and Brian Adams come to the ring for an agonizingly long promo. Hogan’s voice sounds shot as he talks about the “nWo-ites” laying their bodies down at the airport so Hollywood’s feet didn’t touch the ground in Rochester, New York. Hollywood’s the god of wrestling, don’t’cha know? Soon Hogan is rambling about going to “the hood” and meeting the “brothers” and “sistas”, who called Hogan “‘Wood” for some ungodly reason, and came back agreeing to take out Sting and Bret Hart in the same night. Starting tonight, Hogan says, the nWo Hollywood is taking over wrestling again. When it’s all over Hogan goes to the camera and says he’s turning Hall and Adams loose tonight.
After all that, 11-minutes of fluff, we get the usual NITRO open!
— Singles Match (WATCH – 11:39)
La Parka vs. Super Calo
Though Super Calo had been working house shows since September 25, 1998, this was Calo’s first TV match since losing to Chris Jericho on the May 21, 1998 edition of Thunder. The match isn’t bad for what it is and features a number of fun spots but the flubs and timing miscues are brutal. In the end La Parka hits a corkscrew moonsault on the trap door of the ring for the pin at 5:34. After the match Calo beats the bejabbers out of La Parka with Psychosis’ own chair.
WINNER is La Parka (Pin, 5:34)
After a break “Mean” Gene interviews WCW U.S. Champion Bret Hart, who says that he’s got a bad knee but he’s waited a lifetime to get his hands on Hogan and that Sting has agreed to give Bret the first crack at Hogan. “You ducked from me, you hid from me, you misled me,” Bret says, “and it’s time to settle it with the Excellence of Execution!” Bret says he wants just one chance to prove he’s as great a hero as Sting and that he’ll kick the crap out of Hollywood Hogan.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 21:45)
The Disciple vs. Sick Boy
Disciple comes out to nWo music but he’s clad in OWN gear. It’s okay, the announcers are even more confused. Sick Boy beats on Disciple until Disciple fires up like Warrior and ends the match with the Apocalypse at 1:58.
WINNER is The Disciple (Pin, 1:58)
After a break the commentators are on camera talking about the upcoming Hart/Hogan main event and the Steiner/Steiner “No DQ” match at Halloween Havoc ’98 with footage of Scott Steiner faking injuries at Road Wild ’98 in August and then Buff’s fake injury at Fall Brawl in September only to beat Rick down in the parking lot. Finally they talk about Chris Jericho challenging Goldberg to a match for the World title on this edition of NITRO.
After a break we get more NITRO Girls as Tony talks about ticket sales and future events. Scott Steiner comes to the ring and cuts the usual “Big Poppa Pump” promo about his physique that he almost—almost—butchers.
— “2-on-1 Tag Team Handicap Match” (WATCH – 30:38)
Nick Dinsmore & Lenny Lane vs. Scott Steiner w/Buff Bagwell
The future “Eugene” and Lenny Lane are just crash test dummies for Scott Steiner. Eventually Steiner puts both men in the Steiner Recliner for the submission win at 2:33. After the match Scott Steiner feigns a lower back injury ahead of his showdown with Rick Steiner. A trainer comes to the ring and Scott makes a production out of getting out of the ring.
WINNER is Scott Steiner w/Buff Bagwell (Submission, 2:33)
After a break the second hour begins with the usual pyro as Tony hypes the hell out of the Bret Hart/Hollywood Hogan main event.
Suddenly the lights go out and Warrior’s music hits and Warrior comes out to a decent pop and mistimed pyro (Oh WCW…). I guess Warrior needs his breath to talk because he takes his time getting to the ring. Warrior says he and the fans know what they want to see and that he senses the fans disappointment. A fan rushes the ring and is tackled and Warrior says that’s Hogan’s fault because he won’t face the “Ultimate Challenge”. Warrior says that at Halloween Havoc he’ll become “full-blown”, which is odd because he looks fully blown up already from talking! More about Hogan facing a challenge once again and Warrior wanting to feel the power “of the Warrior”, though he is the Warrior.
After a break “Mean” Gene brings out Buff Bagwell to discuss Scott Steiner’s “injury”. Buff says that Scott Steiner is on the way to the hospital, which no one believes. In the background we hear Chucky from Child’s Play laughing which no one seems to know about. Buff says Scottie may have 5 or 6 ruptured discs in his back.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 45:53)
Psychosis vs. Ernest “The Car” Miller
Prior to the match “The Cat” tells Psychosis that he’s a 3-time karate world champion and gives Psychosis 5-seconds to get out or else, but when Psychosis doesn’t leave “Cat” ends up kicking Psychosis in the face. Despite Psychosis taking it to Miller, Miller picks up the win following a devastating Feliner roundhouse kick to the face after dodging the guillotine legdrop at 3:19. After the match he gets on the mic and tells the fans he’s the greatest and a “bad man”. Somewhere Johnny B. Badd is sulking.
WINNER is Ernest “The Cat” Miller (Pin, 3:19)
After a break Gene interviews Alex Wright, who steals the mic and cuts a promo in German before running the fans and Okerlund down in English. Wright’s leather jacket looks like it’s two sizes too big, but what the hey, right? Wright says Davey Boy Smith is a loser who’s shaking like a leaf to face Wright. Wright challenges “Bulldog” to one more match tonight.
— “Cruiserweight Contenders Return Match” (WATCH – 55:50)
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. w/Pepe vs. Disco Inferno
This was a rematch from the previous week’s Thunder, when Disco fudged the paperwork regarding his weight. This one isn’t all that bad considering the little time they’ve got to work with, I mean at least these two try and tell a story. Chavo makes a comeback only to be jabbed in the throat with Pepe while the referee tries to separate the two. Disco hooks the leg and a handful of tights to score the pin at 4:42. Afterwards Juvi hits the ring and tries to tell the referee about Disco’s cheating before brawling with Disco. Disco eventually waylays Juvi and wipes him out with a crushing piledriver which means we don’t get the Hayashi/Juvi match that was to serve as the second “crusierweight contender match”.
WINNER is Disco Inferno (Pin, 4:42)
After a break we see a Four Horsemen vignette before “Mean” Gene interviews the Horsemen (Malenko, Benoit, McMichael, Anderson, and Flair) in-ring. Flair hardly gets his promo started when Bischoff, Stevie Ray, Doug Dillinger and a slew of police officers come to the ring. Bischoff says that the Horsemen committed “felonious assault” on the previous edition of Thunder when they attacked Stevie Ray and wants them all arrested. Tony Schiavone goes all logical and wonders if the Norfolk, Virginia police, where the attack happened, shouldn’t be the ones arresting the Horsemen. Anyways, the cops lead Dillinger and the Horsemen away as Bischoff mocks the Horsemen and tells Flair he’s a disgrace “because you use your 10-year-old kid, Reid, and his wrestling tournament as an excuse not to show up and work.” Bischoff goes on to say that Flair is “living vicariously through your 10-year-old son’s wrestling career. Well, you know what, I hope little Reid Flair can get it done, Ric, because you never will.”
After a break we see Jericho (with his WWE music here) come to the ring with for his supposed match with Goldberg flanked by his crack Jerichoholic Personal Security team that includes Ralphus, the Jerichoholic Ninja, and Mr. Vivo dos Jericho. Goldberg’s music hits and the real Goldberg comes out with the mini-Goldberg from Fall Brawl ’98 slung over his shoulder. Goldberg ends up spearing the snort out of Ninja and Viva dos Jericho before delivering a Jackhammer to Mr. Vivo as Chris Jericho and Ralphus tuck tail and run to the back.
After another break Gene interviews Diamond Dallas Page in the ring about facing Goldberg at Halloween Havoc ’98 for the WCW World title. DDP says he and Goldberg are like Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire (no, not the roids), in that facing Goldberg brings DDP to a new level. DDP talks about the Horsemen being back, nWo Wolfpac being “forever”, nWo Hollywood being “for life”, and how they all want the World title. “And then ya got me,” DDP says. “I’m black and blue, I’m DDP, and at Halloween Havoc I’m gonna be for real! Bang!”
— “Non -Title Champion vs. Champion Match” (WATCH – 1:18:53)
WCW World Tag Team Champion Scott Hall w/Vincent vs. WCW Cruiserweight Champion Kidman
Vincent has a drink with him and tells us that Hall gets the drink only if he wins. The match is an old lion/young lion story with Kidman doing his best to out-quick Hall, which doesn’t work. It’s almost entirely Hall punishing Kidman one move/hold at a time. Eventually Hall gets a hold of the drink in Vincent’s hand which gives Kidman the opening to make a brief comeback. But Hall catches Kidman and hits the fall-away slam before a final Kidman hope spot leads to the Outsider’s Edge that ends the match at 6:14.
WINNER is Scott Hall (Pin, 6:14)
— Singles Match (WATCH – 1:30:22)
“British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith vs. Alex Wright
Davey Boy, looking out of shape since injuring his back at Fall Brawl ’98, tells Alex Wright to “suck it” before getting down to business. This one isn’t even close to being as good as it could have been. Davey Boy hits the running powerslam but the referee is down. A second referee comes out in time to see Alex Wright land abridging belly-to-back suplex. One referee counts from the left, the other the right, and both see shoulders come up at the count of three at 4:27. The referees argue about who won but it ends in a draw. Wright and “Bulldog” continue to fight until Davey Boy eliminates Wright from the ring.
NO WINNER declared (Double pin, 4:27)
Up next we get a NITRO Party promo followed by some more NITRO Girls.
— “nWo Hollywood/nWo Wolfpac Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:40:09)
Brian Adams vs. Kevin Nash
This one isn’t bad and had promise had it been given more time. The match devolves into a street fight with Nash eventually getting the upper hand. Soon enough Stevie Ray (with Vincent) runs to the ring and gloms Nash with a slapjack, giving “Big Sexy” the win via DQ at 2:41. After the match they continue to beat down Nash when Scott Hall shows up, dumps his drink, and attacks Nash. Lex Luger and Konnan make the save and tend to Kevin Nash.
WINNER is Kevin Nash (Disqualification, 2:41)
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 1:47:55)
nWo Wolfpack (Lex Luger & Konnan) vs. Hugh Morrus & Barry Darsow
Though Darsow and Morrus get some offense in this is a simple squash match. Luger ends it with a Torture Rack at 2:20.
WINNERS are nWo Wolfpack (Lex Luger & Konnan) (Submission, 2:20)
— “Non-Title Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:53:45)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
Hollywood Hogan vs. WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart
This match is just boring (and the crowd lets them know it) with Bret doing the most basic of wrestling and Hogan struggling to keep up and look good. Maybe a few years ago he could have done it, but it’s clear Hogan’s back is bad and he just doesn’t have the agility needed to do this kind of chain wrestling anymore. This match was, in hindsight, the first real sign that the upcoming Warrior/Hogan rematch would be a trainwreck.
The match turns on the outside when Hogan starts to go after Bret Hart’s right knee. Sting, Luger, and Konnan come out to make the save for Bret and eventually Sting takes Hart’s place in the match. Meanwhile Bret Hart is taken out of the arena on a stretcher. The in-ring battle between Sting and Hogan is far more over with the crowd and a far better match. Backstage Bret is about to be loaded into the ambulance when Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell attack the Wolfpac and help Bret get off the stretcher. Bret stumbles back towards the ring where Sting ends up putting Hogan in the Scorpion Deathlock. Bret cheers Sting at first before dropping the “Icon” with a DDT, ending the match at 9:57.
NO WINNER declared (No Contest, 9:57)
Trash fills the ring as Bret continues to pound on Sting and put him in the Scorpion Deathlock as Hogan cheers Bret on. Bret goes after Sting’s left knee with a steel chair as Hogan takes out the referee and mocks the “Stinger” until Konnan and Lex Luger make the save and get Sting out of the ring. Hogan holds Bret’s hand up and the two mock the Wolfpac until the lights dim. Nothing happens though, just more of Hogan and Bret in the ring as the show comes to a close.
This is an entertaining show but the wrestling, by and large, is just terrible!
The Bret/Hogan match, as well as Bret’s heel turn, were DOA as it seemed the WCW fans in Rochester just didn’t want to see it. Above all else this edition of NITRO feels like a time capsule of everything wrong with the “Monday Night Wars” and wrestling in general in the ’90s. But, if you haven’t seen it for yourself it’s worth checking out at least once. If you dare.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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