WCW Monday Nitro – April 22, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – April 22, 1996
Albany, GA

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve “Mongo” McMichael & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

In the Main Event, ALL Titles will be on-the-line as WCW World Heavyweight Champion “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair teams once again with The Giant to take on the WCW World Tag-Team Champions Sting and “The Total Package Lex Luger, who is also the WCW World Television Champion. Whomever pins/forces a submision on another guy will win the match and THAT title. Hmm …

Bischoff pays no mind to the “World Whining Federation” by giving away the results of Raw. Therefore, we’re to stay right here on TNT for the ONLY LIVE wrestling action each and every week.

The Public Enemy [“Flyboy” Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge]
-vs-
The American Males [Marcus Alexander Bagwell & Scotty Riggs]

Result/Analysis: The American Males via DQ (7:23) when Scotty Riggs is tossed over the top rope. The dumbest rule WCW ever had was the top rope disqualification but here it sufficed as The Males and TPE save face. The Males control off a hot start, capped by dives onto Rock and Grunge. TPE flips the script by neutralizing Bagwell, who takes a beating as face in peril. TPE, perhaps out of their comfort zone, i.e., not in a “Street Fight” versus The Nasty Boys for once, actually work a functional match by cutting the ring in half. Who knew? Riggs gets the hot tag after Rock misses a senton drive off the top rope and he cleans the ring of TPE like a house on fire with a series of dropkicks. Bagwell joins in the fray but he’s backdropped to the floor and railed for his efforts. Riggs gets sent flying for the DQ and Public Enemy puts him through a table which gets a pop.
Rating: **1/2 (a crowd pleasing opening match)

“Mean” Gene Okerlund has a live draw, continued anyway, for SlamBoree on May 19th and “Battlebowl” as The Lethal Lottery tournament to crown “The Lord of the Ring” is determined. It’s supposedly a “random” drawing but Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage are paired together. Their first round opponents will be the team of Arn Anderson – – – hey, it’s RANDOM – – – and Eddie Guerrero. As for Guerrero, nice segue, because he’s coincidentally in singles action next against Chris Benoit. Okerlund announced two other matches in this segment from prior drawings as the WCW mid card wrestler, a regular tag-teamer or otherwise, would get on the card. We know Public Enemy and Fire & Ice stay together from the draw. Watch one of those four make the final eight and the battle royal. Pfft. That said, I loved the concept.

“The Crippler” Chris Benoit -vs- Eddie Guerrero

Result/Analysis: Benoit via pinfall (5:00) while holding the ring ropes for leverage on a cradle. Both guys were looked at as “Cruiserweights” which is funny as each later went on to become heavyweight champion. WCW badly misused Guerrero, in particular, but they wasted Benoit in 1996 and 1997 so his career arch could have also peaked sooner. The match is too short to break down and a commercial break is thrown in the middle. Guerrero barely rose from mid card status and Benoit’s ascension wouldn’t occur for another two years. He would have that “real life imitating art” feud first with Kevin Sullivan and Woman … leading to an interwoven mess that 11 years later decided the fate of three lives. When you think back on it, that’s surreal, too, not just June 2007.
Rating: **

A WCW “suit” is with Okerlund to discuss the recent behavior of one Randy Savage. Macho comes out to participate in the conversation and it’s a big waste of time. The suit informs Savage his WCW career will face serious ramifications should he not clean up his act and that maybe he should seek outside professional help, i.e., a psychiatrist. Savage doesn’t back down, naturally, promising to continue doing whatever it is he wants such as be the tag-team partner from hell for Flair. Randy just needed to snap into a Slim Jim. Stat.

Meng -vs- “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: Duggan via pinfall (5:57) after a taped fist punch. Nothing match. Both guys were still around. Yay. Duggan hooooes and pulls his usual antics. Meng rarely got a sniff later in his career. He was the tough guy who didn’t win. Why this match wasn’t saved for WCW Saturday Night or WorldWide I don’t understand. Oh, and Bischoff was so enthralled he gives away the results of Raw for the second time in 45 minutes. The WWF taping their shows hurt more than anything else.
Rating: DUD

Okerlund announces another tag-team match for SlamBoree after more drawings from The Lethal Lottery took place backstage. Yippee. And it’s a MUST SEE as Alex Wright and Disco Inferno will oppose “Earl” Robert Eaton and “Dirty” Dick Slater. The “random” drawing concludes with “Lord” Steven Regal teaming with The Belfast Bruiser (Fit Finlay) – – – they’re feuding – – – to go up against V.K. Walstreet (Mike Rotunda/I.R.S.) and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Walstreet and Duggan make strange bedfellows. “Mean” Gene was entirely in his element announcing these pairings.

World Tag-Team Championship/World TV Championship/World Heavyweight Championship:
The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) & “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [World Heavyweight Champion] (w/ Elizabeth and Woman) -vs- “The Total Package” Lex Luger [World Television Champion] & Sting (c)

Result/Analysis: Luger & Sting via DQ (7:27) when Flair throws hot coffee (yes, again) only this time, it hits The Giant by mistake. This, of course, sent The Giant over the edge to cement his face turn and sets up Flair defending the World Heavyweight Title next week on Nitro with Naitch, himself, setting in motion the match as he was angry The Giant wouldn’t accept his post-match apology. Sting and Luger were pawns in this storyline and the match clearly wasn’t about ANY title changes since none of the options made even the least bit of sense. Flair was unraveling – – – in character, which no one could do better – – – by angering Savage at every turn and getting under the skin of The Giant, whom he couldn’t control and that wanted what was his: the World Title. Flair takes the punishment in this match as Sting and Luger take turns dishing it out. Bischoff announced as the that Sting will take on The Giant at SlamBoree in a “Grudge Match.” That easily becomes for the World Heavyweight Title should The Giant win the belt from Flair next week. You can use your own noggin on the most logical outcome. As for Savage, he tried to get at Flair prior to Luger and Sting’s introductions and he was handcuffed and taken away. With Savage, yes he was in character, but there had to be a sense of realism to his derangement, right? Elizabeth really stuck it to him.
Rating: **

The Verdict: Nitro gave us some decent wrestling on this night. Hulk Hogan had started his lengthy sabbatical that continued until Bash at the Beach in July and as a result, the creative wasn’t suffocating with him gone. SlamBoree and “Battlebowl” was on the horizon. In past years, the May PPV was used for “A Legend’s Reunion” but that was no more. I liked the lethal lottery but WCW could have tried a little harder not to pair those in feuds with each other or split up tag teams. One guy was being elevated and pushed to the max: The Giant. It sure was time for someone else, and someone fresh, to be the focal point.

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