It's not quite football season yet and your team may already be out of the baseball pennant chase. Or you probably just need something to do this Sunday. Cageside Seats has got your back as always with some retro wrestling.
All you need's the WWE Network ($9.99 a month, but new subscribers get the first month free, so there's like no excuse) and a working broadband Internet connection (seeing as you're on this site, you probably have that covered) and you're in. This week's live retro blog (which begins at 1pm ET Sunday) is the August 4, 1997 edition of WCW Monday Nitro from The Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, Michigan (population just over 21,000). The significance: it's the 100th episode of Monday Nitro (though it may actually be only #99) and the first three-hour Nitro. Blame TNT on that, as they handed down a mandate that their go-home Nitros before PPVs would be three hours before they became a regular thing in 1998. Anyway, this show has a world title match between Hollywood Hogan and Lex Luger less than a week before they're set to meet at Road Wild.
Live retro blog rules are the same as live blog rules, meaning no pics and no GIFs. So have your WWE Network ready to go at 1pm ET Sunday. That's 6pm British time, 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific and 7am Hawaiian. Everywhere else, figure it out. See ya there for some live retro wrestling!
Fireworks and Michael Buffer welcome us to Nitro from the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan.
Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, and Mike Tenay introduces themselves...
...and here comes WCW Hollywood Hulk Hogan with the spray-painted WCW world title belt and Eric Bischoff. Hogan's been the WCW world champion for damn near a year. You mess with the nWo, you mess with them for life. Hogan's a God, etc. etc. etc. Basically every nWo Hogan promo ever.
Schiavone, Zbyszko, and Tenay run down the show, which will include an appearance by Sting.
Nine minutes in, and finally Match 1: Mortis (with James Vanderberg) versus Curt Hennig. Apparently rumors of the Steiner Brothers doing something big this evening. Reminder: Road Wild is Saturday, not Sunday. Not a whole lotta discussion about the match, but they do run down the card for this episode. Perfectplex wins it for Curt at 3:47.
Video package for Sting. He returns tonight.
Match 2: Hector and Chavo Guerrero versus Dean Malenko and Jeff Jarrett (with Queen Debra). Loud boos for Jarrett. Awesome. Wait... Jeff Jarrett is the WCW United States Champion? And he won it from Dean Malenko? What even is this?
/checks the Wikipedia. Turns out Jeff is indeed US Champion. Won it back on June 9.
Announcers not even calling the match, but Jarrett and Malenko seem to have DAT CHEMISTRY. Texas Cloverleaf taps out Hector Guerrero at 4:51. Malenko's not about that strutting.
RAW is WEAK sign is upside down as Gene Okerlund interviews Raven. A WILD STEVIE RICHARDS APPEARS! With papers in hand. Stevie went to CNN Center in Atlanta and got himself a contract for Raven. Raven gives it the once-over and spits in Stevie's face and pushes him off. Raven goes for a right, but Stevie blocks. Raven says he's not gonna take Stevie's abuse anymore and walks. Um... okay.
Nitro Party plug and it's on to Match 3: The Giant with no music versus three local athletes in a handicap match. Okay, they're not local athletes. They are Jumpin' Joey Maggs, Lenny Lane, and Scott D'Amore. Local athletes do not have to tag in and out. Not that it matters. Chokeslams for all. Giant with a flawless victory in just 95 seconds. Post-match, Macho Man Randy Savage is out with Miss Elizabeth. Macho says he wants none of Giant. Giant vehemently disagrees. And Macho takes off.
Plug for WCW Saturday Night: Road Wild edition. Then a Lex Luger video package.
Match 4: Public Enemy versus High Voltage. High Voltage I believe suck. Possibly on purpose. You'll have to excuse me as I'm drifting in and out---TABLE! And Rocco Rock goes through it. Ribbreaker and slingshot leg drop. They could win it here, but incompetency leads to a rollup by Johnny Grunge on Rage, and Public Enemy wins at 5:13. Broken table fragment to Grunge and Johnny's out. High Voltage stand tall.
NITRO GIRLS! And non-Nitro Girl Alex Wright. Wright speaks in German and apparently, according to Gene Okerlund, some guy thinks he's #1.
On to Match 5: Alex Wright versus Scotty Riggs for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Riggs in the American Males gear, but not the music. Nope, not a WWE dub. This is the first week he actually doesn't come out to the American Males music. Crowd does not like them some Alex Wright. Missile dropkick retains the Cruiserweight title for Alex Wright at 3:45.
HOUR 2! Tenay out, Bobby Heenan in.
And we're starting with an interview. Mean Gene with the challenger for the WCW world title, Lex Luger. Tonight's a defining moment for Luger, WCW, and the nWo and he's looking to take advantage of the opportunity that landed on his lap.
Match 6: Syxx vs. Chris Benoit. Syxx will face Ric Flair at Road Wild, so I expect this to be nothing more than angle advancement. SUICIDE DIVE FOREARM. (Wow. Creepy in hindsight) Tree of woe and a unique version of the Bronco Buster. Michinoku Driver and Syxx does not go for a cover. Houston Hangover is off the mark. Benoit with hard chops and a BAAAAAAAAAACK BODY DROP! Snap suplex gets two. Backdrop suplex gets two. Syxx misses a second Bronco Buster and Chris is gonna wrap him up... JEFF JARRETT nails Benoit and in comes Mongo. Paging Dean Malenko... there he is. And Dean's all over Jeff. ANARCHY! ANARCHY! ANARCHY! Chris Benoit wins via disqualification at 4:00.
Match 7: nWo B-teamer Vincent versus Booker T with Stevie Ray. I can dig it. Sucka. Absurd note I found on the Internet: this is Vincent's first match on a Monday night wrestling show since 1994. And he gets killed dead. Booker T with a flawless victory in just 49 seconds.
Gene Okerlund interview with Diamond Dallas Page. He's facing Ric Flair later.
Match 8: The Barbarian versus Wrath. Not a good hoss fight, but a hoss fight. Kick of Fear misses, but powerslam does not. Barbarian going for the Benoit special, but Wrath delivers the Death Penalty at 2:48. Meng is in, but Wrath is restrained by Vandenberg, saying not now.
Gene Okerlund interview with The Steiner Brothers... and TED DIBIASE, returning after more than two months away. And DiBiase plans to lead Los Steiners to the WCW world tag titles. Speaking of which, here come the Outsiders. Hall chastises Steiners' lack of brains and Nash reminds Ted that nWo is for life, and since he's not, he's a dead man walking.
NITRO GIRLS! Then a 1-800-COLLECT Road Report with Lee Marshall.
Match 9: Psychosis with Sonny Onoo versus Raider fan and nWo B-teamer Konnan. Lotta discussion about Ted DiBiase shacking up with the Steiners. Cradle DDT and Tequila Sunrise and Konnan quickly defeats Psychosis at 1:47. Rey Mysterio out with crutches. Rey and Konnan at Road Wild, health pending. Konnan kicks out the crutch and Rey beans Konnan with the other one. AND REY CAN WALK. REY MYSTERIO CAN WALK!
Match 10: Damien and Silver King versus Ernest Miller and Glacier. Sorry. DIdn't pay attention to this one. Neither did the commentators. But a couple facts: Glacier's original armor cost $35,000, and his original entrance, which was used all of four times, ran up a bill of about a half million dollars. Flying roundhouse kick form Ernest Miller to Damien wins it for his team at 3:25.
Holy shit, are we doing... never mind. It's Eric Bischoff. I'm going to the bathroom.
NITRO GIRLS in the booth with Tenay, Schiavone and Heenan.
And Kimberly makes the sign of the Diamond Cutter and leads out her hubby for Match 11: Diamond Dallas Page versus Ric Flair. DYK: even though the two have been in WCW together since 1993, this is their first ever singles match. Ric Flair shakes hands with Curt Hennig. Not sure why. Not that it matters. DDP with an early advantage with a shoulderblock and pieface. Chops by Flair until DDP retakes control. Until Flair pokes him the eye. But DDP only needs one eye to sit-out powerbomb Flair for a near fall. Curt Hennig out as we go to break.
Ad for nWo 4 Life shirt.
After the break, Ric Flair... chop. Strut. Chop. DDP fights out of the corner and Flair goes down face first. Flair responds with an elbow in the corner. Top rope Flair special (meaning he misses). Hip toss blocked, but swinging neckbreaker is not. Flair goes -15 yards on DDP's knee with the Hennig distraction. Discus clothesline by Page. Chop. Figure four is hooked in, but Page reaches the ropes, forcing the break. But Flair knows to break on four. Flair looking to suplex Page out of the ring, but DDP suplexes Flair in. FIGURE FOUR BY PAGE and Mark Curtis gets poked in the eye. Flair reaches the ropes, forcing the break. Ten punches in the corner. Cartwheel by Flair. Top rope, clothesline by Page brings Flair down. Pancake slam and Hennig KO's Flair and Diamond Dallas Page wins by DQ at 11:05. Page is up against it, but a double clothesline scatters the Horsemen.
Match 12: Los Villanos versus Hector Garza and Lizmark, Jr. Blatant cooldown spot alert. Might as well check on my Amazon Prime order.
About 3 minutes later, HOLY SHIT CORKSCREW PLANCHA BY HECTOR GARZA knocks down everyone. Many dropkicks by Lizmark and a backbreaker, but Hector Garza is still in the ring. Villanos pull the TWIN MAGIC and Los Villanos win at 4:57.
Gene Okerlund with JJ Dillon and Dillon's got an offer for Sting. Let's hear from Sting. Here's Sting. Sting emerges from the rafters. He can't undo the past, but he can change the future. JJ Dillon offers... Sting versus Curt Hennig. Sting tears up the contract. I guess that means no. I don't think he wants a warm-up match.
NITRO GIRLS ON THE ENTRANCE RAMP! Those shirts are absurdly large.
Michael Buffer with his LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEE! as he introduces Match 13, your MAIN EVENT: Hollywood Hulk Hogan versus Lex Luger for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Luger won the title shot back at Spring Stampede. Luger with hammerlock to start. And Lex overpowers Hogan. HOGAN SUCKS! Hollywood stomping a mudhole and so forth and so on. And is Hogan winded already? Champion in control with a clothesline in the corner. Hogan with a turnbuckle smash. And a second. Third is blocked and Luger gives Hogan many turnbuckle smashes and he's stomping a mudhole and so forth and Hogan pops Luger in the eye as we go to break.
Suplex gets a near fall shortly after we return from break. Back suplex gets a near fall as Luger gets his foot on the rope. Chop. Chop. And Hogan chokes Luger in the corner. Big boot gets two. Hogan disputing Randy Anderson's count. Scoop slam and the Atomic Leg Drop and Hogan gets only two. Second atomic leg drop misses. Clothesline by Luger. And now your weekly nWo run-in. KILLER FOREARM! Out goes Savage and HUMAN TORTURE RACK OF DOOM and HOGAN SUBMITS! Lex Luger at 12:10 is your winner and new WCW World Heavyweight Champion as the WCW locker room empties to celebrate with the new champion. Basically the celebration Luger would have gotten at Wrestlemania X if Vince McMahon had his way.
Eddie Mac's Quick Review
This felt like a Monday Night Fillerama. Right away, you can tell that a three-hour Nitro simply would not work because while WCW had a talented roster, at least two-thirds of said roster you couldn't care any less about. 13 matches on the show, while nice, is just too many. Worse, if we can be honest, more than half the matches on the show simply weren't good. But WCW did have one thing on their side, and that was momentum. Nitro was the clear show of choice in 1997, but RAW was starting to get it together around this time. It would take a few months, but by this time next year, they were the superior product. Not the best Nitro, but certainly far from terrible. So I'll split the middle with my rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.