WCW Monday Nitro – January 22, 1996
Las Vegas, Nevada
Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan
The broadcast team plugs the show ahead from Caesar’s Palace before Mexican Champion Konnan joins them at the announcer’s table to lay down a challenge to Psicosis for tomorrow night at Clash of the Champions. Why am I thinking that match will steal the show, yet, the WCW fans won’t react?
“Macho Man” Randy Savage is introduced for the World Title match and with him is an entourage of women that includes Linda Hogan, Debra McMichael and Nancy Sullivan (later Benoit) otherwise known as Woman (may she rest in peace). I’m guessing these broads are the much talked-about secret weapon that Savage and Hulk Hogan promised? Weak. Anyway, Savage is stopped in the aisle by “Mean Gene” Okerlund only Mr. Selfish, aka Hogan, comes out to inform Macho HE’s to receive the first title shot after Flair is beaten tonight. AND this is why Hogan as a babyface/fan favorite had reached its end. What. A. Jackass. Classic Savage in response to Okerlund asking him “What about it”? as he says “What it is, is what it is.” LOL. With that, Savage and his entourage head to the ring. But wait, Bischoff lets it be known that Miss Elizabeth, yes, Miss Elizabeth, will reunite with Hogan and Savage at The Clash tomorrow night. Shocker. Well, Heenan is surprised. Comical.
Match #1: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
“Macho Man” Randy Savage vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (c) w/ Jimmy Hart
Result/Analysis: Savage via pinfall (8:28 shown) following a flying elbow drop and backfired outside interference from Arn Anderson as he misfires with brass knuckles on Flair. There’s a lot of prior wrinkles to older Flair and Savage matches in this encounter and both brought their working boots for a solid TV match. Afterwards, as Hogan comes out to celebrate with Savage, Macho calls out Hulk for him acting like he won the title and the match. Finally! We get the skeptical/peeved Savage diatribe here circa pre-Mega-Powers break-up in 1989. Hogan doesn’t try to tread lightly as he takes partial credit for Savage winning because he came out to assist. Oh brother! Savage agrees to give Hogan a title shot when, and if, Hulk works himself into position to be the #1 contender and not simply by calling himself it, i.e. as Nick Bockwinkel did for years. Ha! They agree the match eventually needs to happen and that whichever one of them wins, the loser will be man enough to shake hands. Before the n.W.o. materialized later on, the teased match was to simmer most of 1996 until eventually happening at Halloween Havoc, also at Ceasar’s Palace, in October. As for The Clash, The Mega-Powers will oppose Flair and The Giant. Hogan takes on One Man Gang tonight.
Match #2: Dean Malenko vs. Flyin’ Brian Pillman
Result/Analysis: Pillman via pinfall (6:21) despite Malenko’s feet being tangled in the ropes. The finish is awful after Malenko carries Pillman to a decent match. Pillman was a solid wrestler in the rare instance he wasn’t full-on “loose cannon” but on pure wrestling acumen alone, Malenko was more 4-Horsemen material. The crowd was flat for the match. Both of them being heels is my guess.
WCW Saturday Night promo: Lex Luger and Sting will appear, Meng will square off with Johnny B. Badd, Harlem Heat battles The American Males and Alex Wright steps in the ring with Ric Flair.
Match #3: WCW World Tag-Team Championship
Harlem Heat [Booker T. & Stevie Ray] (c) vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger
Result/Analysis: Sting & Luger via pinfall (9:36) with Luger pinning Booker T. after hitting him with a fist full of silver dollars given to him by Jimmy Hart. Can you say lame? The ongoing storyline with Sting and Luger lent itself to them winning the belts here but wouldn’t a convincing finish without shenanigans behind Sting’s back have been beneficial? Perhaps not as Luger was under-cutting their partnership enough to where it appeared his intentions were on the up-and-up. There wasn’t a lot to this match despite the near 10 minute duration. Luger started off hot. Sting continued that mojo but he soon fell prey to a numbers game and was face-in-peril until the contrived ending. For now, Sting and Luger are the champs but that will not last for long before their inevitable split.
Match #4: One Man Gang [U.S. Heavyweight Champion] vs. Hulk Hogan
Result/Analysis: Hogan via pinfall (3:04) following the big boot, a body slam and a leg drop. Yawn. This was 1988 only an abreviated squash. Hogan must have been working overtime backstage at this point to politic for HIS Main Event spot. And just how in the hell did WCW pull the U.S. Title out of the trash can here to have One Man Gang be the champion? After the match, Hogan, joined by Savage fight off the entire Dungeon of Doom and 4 Horsemen except for The Giant is held back. Okerlund then gets more words out of The Mega-Powers, who talk about the Clash tomorrow night before themselves some more. And Scott Hall and the n.W.o. angle couldn’t arrive soon enough.
The Verdict: I’m not sure the point of having Savage vs. Flair and Savage winning back the World Heavyweight Championship being the match that began this show other than to stroke Hogan’s ego as “The Main Event.” To have Nitro concluded with the Savage title win, plus him berating Hogan as he did, would have been far more effective to leave viewers with, especially as The Clash immediately follows suit. That just tells anyone the stroke Hogan had. Sting and Luger are on a collision course, I’d suspect by SuperBrawl in February, and their tag-team titles reign can’t be a lengthy one. Outside of Hogan, the wrestling wasn’t bad. But WCW, despite dominating in the ratings, was a lot of recycled content. Let’s see what The Clash has in store for the creative direction.