WCW Monday Nitro – June 3, 1996

WCW Monday Nitro – June 3, 1996
Asheville, NC

Commentators: Tony Schiavone & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Eric Bischoff & Bobby “The Brain” Heenan

Tony and Larry discuss the big Main Event on tap as the WCW World Tag-Team Titles will be on-the-line. Lex Luger and Sting will finally defend the belts against The Steiner Brothers. In other action, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson oppose the returning Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Nice. Schiavone mentions the rumors that Bobby “The Brain” Heenan will return a manager’s role at The Great American Bash and be in the corner of The Four Horsemen. Up first, Big Bubba, who shaved off half of Shark’s head last week, will kick things off against Shark. Oy! Go back to a one hour for Nitro if this is a match.

Before the match, Shark relays to “Mean” Gene Okerlund he didn’t shave off the other side of his head because he wants to relive the embarrassment of what Big Bubba did to him. Um, Okay … Also, he’s not a fish or an avalance. He’s John Tenta. Now, there’s news! Big Bubba is in the ring and he has Tenta’s greasy unwashed hair he shaved off from last week. Well this ought to be riveting.

Big Bubba (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. John Tenta

Result/Analysis: Tenta via count-out (1:10). Big Bubba flees after taking a bodyslam and Tenta brandishes scissors. Yup, that’s the match. In other news, Schiavone informs us both Johnny B. Badd and Vader will not be wrestling tonight. They don’t wrestle where “The Big Boys Play.” Apparently USA Network ran some thing? This was a weak start to Nitro.
Rating: DUD

High Voltage [Robbie Rage and Kenny Kaos] vs. The Faces of Fear [Meng and The Barbarian]

Result/Analysis: The Faces of Fear via pinfall (3:24) when Meng pins Rage (he’s called “Ruckus” here) following the mafia kick. I always dug Meng and The Barbarian as a tag-team, particularly in this time period. They were heels, yes, but very much “over” with fans. The Barbarian had turned back the clock and found the fountain of youth because he puts up with no nonsense beating the stuffing out of both Kaos and Rage. Rage takes the worst of it as The Barbarian executes a top rope belly-to-belly suplex throw to a sizeable pop. The diving double headbutt spot follows with Meng tagged in and Rage eats the mafia kick after that as High Voltage sizzles out in their Nitro debut. The Faces of Fear were primed for a Tag-Team Titles run which never came.
Rating: *1/2

Meanwhile, Luger defends his actions last week at ringside to Okerlund, and more importantly to Sting, as far as the melee that broke out with The Steiner Brothers is concerned. Luger and Sting have their customary friendly tiff before The Steiners barge into the interview and more arguing ensues between the teams before tonight’s match for the titles. The testosterone was a flowing.

And … in case anyone forgot about HIM, nah, how could we??? … Hulk Hogan wants the WCW World Title. It had slipped my mind these short Hogan promo videos started to air around this time. I mean, Hulk has red, white and blue running through his veins. Rooting for him is easy! Pfft.

The Disco Inferno vs. Sgt. Craig “Pitbull” Pittman (w/ Teddy Long)

Result/Analysis: Sgt. Pittman via forfeit (1:51) when Disco taps out before “Pitbull” applies code red – his cross armbreaker submission. Disco wanted to preserve his arm for future dance moves. LOL.
Rating: DUD

Meanwhile, His Lordship, Steven Regal confronts Sting on The Main Event telling him he’s going to make an example out of him. Sting eats a backhanded slap as the next commercial break comes.

“Lord” Steven Regal (accompanied by Jeeves) vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan

Result/Analysis: Regal via pinfall (4:27) with a roll-up. Duggan runs the gamut on his schtick as the locals in Asheville eat all of it up. “Hacksaw” had himself a career out of “hooooo’s!”, USA chants, taping his fist, brawling, barking at the referee “Get off my ass!” and the like. Regal is put off by Duggan and he does little here before his fellow Blue Bloods appear and run interference. Tony calling Regal the winner is hysterical as Larry points out “What? You didn’t think he was going to beat the dimwit”? HaHa!!!
Rating: 1/4*

Afterward, Regal holds court with “Mean” Gene in the ring to discuss his upcoming match with Sting that’s now signed and official for The Great American Bash. He says, “Being the man Sting is, he doesn’t love anybody else except for himself. When I get Sting in the ring at The Great American Bash, I want Sting at his best, not at his most half-hearted. I want this man mean, I want him nasty, I want him down right bloody rude. I am going to show the world as I beat this man at his best right in the middle of my home here (referring to the ring).”

Following a break, a video package airs to summarize the Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan feud. They’ll wrestle at The Great American Bash in a Falls Count Anywhere Match. Unfortunately for my recapping purposes, as shown, nearly the entirety of the feud was relegated to WCW Saturday Night. A show I loved, but can’t possibly recap with every Nitro, PPV and the WWF side of the story for 1996. Most, if not all of their feud belonged on Nitro.

“The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Prince Iaukea

Result/Analysis: Sullivan via pinfall (1:22) following the double stomp. Squash. Iaukea is wrecked in his Nitro debut. It’s quite amazing that he survived beyond this peril. The Taskmaster is a sick puppy.
Rating: 1/2*

Okerlund steps in the ring for another post-match interview. Hart tries to reason with Sullivan over picking a fight with Benoit and involving himself with The Horsemen. Hart says The Dungeon of Doom has the World Champion making them on top in WCW. Sullivan deflects the concern and instead alludes to the TWO legal battles going on right now. Sneaky. He also states Hulk-A-Mania isn’t dead and he’ll be coming back – for The Giant, Hart, The Dungeon and The Horsemen. Sullivan only respects two men in the wrestling business, Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. He points out how correct he was about that snake in the grass Horsemen quitter Brian Pillman. Sullivan characterizes Benoit as a serpent, whom he must also kill off and by doing so it benefits The Dungeon and The Horsemen in their unified attempt to end Hulk-A-Mania. Strange logic there.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express [Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson]
vs. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson (w/ Woman and Miss Elizabeth)

Result/Analysis: The Horsemen via pinfall (16:06 shown) when Flair pins Gibson following a DDT by Anderson. If you’re feeling nostaglic for the mid-1980’s and catch yourself reminiscing, watching this match fires up the time circuits care of the flux capacitor! No tag-team epitomized The Eighties more than The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. Their look is the same here: tassles, wristbands, and long/unkept hair, but they’re has-beens in terms of the ability once possessed and only wrestling AA and Flair allows the match to have any credibility being the feud dates back to the old NWA days at the onset of The Horsemen and during the height of RNR’s many championship reigns. Bootleg those matches, stat! At least in this re-enactment, old school tactics are pulled out from the woodwork to give the feels on what once was. Morton does most of the heavy lifting for RNR as The Horsemen take turns dishing out the punishment all the while cheating. Heenan walks away from the broadcast table to coalesce with Woman and Miss Elizabeth to set up their divide and conquer distraction strategy to allow for AA and Ric to overcome Gibson, who has a flurry of offense after he gets the hot tag. While Kevin Greene and Steve McMichael train with dead lifts and dumbbells for the pay-per-view, The Horsemen engage in ring warfare to prep for their football opponents.
Rating: **1/2

Afterward, at their VIP table, The Horsemen, the girls and Heenan celebrate the victory as Gene checks in. The bubbly is flowing by the glass! Anderson says he’s too big and too tough to be wearing some football jersey, let alone McMichael’s that would barely fit his 10-year-old boy. Flair goes off on Greene and the entire Carolina Panthers organization next, in classic hysterics, as he affirms The Horsemen are bigger, faster, sleeker and ALL NIGHT LONG! Oh, and Debra, Mrs. McMichael, she belongs to him, “The Nature Boy,” so deal with it! As for Heenan, he confirms he never “manage” again to squelch the rumor mill and thus he keeps his promise from whence he stepped away. “The Brain” does say, however, that he’ll “coach” Flair and Anderson at The GAB. Ha! He pulls out a 1988 All-Madden Trophy – with his name on the placard with several other NFL greats – to show he’s “coached” before. Greene and Mongo are facing a stacked deck.

Promos: The Giant, Hogan, saying “WCW is running wild on TNT,” and Glacier – “Blood Runs Cold.”

Bischoff and Heenan discuss Bobby’s return to ringside.

That’s followed by MORE Hogan as a video package airs to heighten Hulk’s dominance in WCW and overwhelming popularity. You’ll notice how intentional these vignettes were and how they helped make Hogan’s impending heel turn that much more shocking. That, and Bischoff hypes Hogan returning for “Hog Wild” on August 10th emanating from Sturgis, South Dakota. Brilliant.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship:
Ice Train vs. The Giant (c) (w/ Jimmy Hart)

Result/Analysis: The Giant via pinfall (0:29) following a chokeslam. Ice Trains turns his back to bark at Hart and gets chokeslammed for his trouble. Game. Set. Match. Scott “Flash” Norton, Ice Train’s tag-team partner in Fire and Ice comes down – he wrestles next – so The Giant chokeslams him not once but twice for his interjection. After the match, The Giant takes umbrage with Okerlund on the Hogan video packages when he’s the champ. Who can argue? The Giant also puts Lex Luger on notice for what’s in store for him at The Great American Bash. The Giant says he has a personal agenda toward Lex after Luger tried to come between he and Hart.
Rating: DUD

Scott “Flash” Norton vs. Hugh Morrus

Result/Analysis: Norton via pinfall (1:52). Just. Plain. Bad. Morrus enters the ring with Norton still suffering the effects of the two chokeslams and drops a leg. He does the finger poke pin but breaks off at a two count. Morrus talks trash and drops a series of elbows. He attempts the moonsault but Norton has recovered and somewhat catches Morrus on the way down. I think it was intended to be a slam counter but Norton blows the spot. Terrible. Flash improvises with three successive punches to Morrus’ throat and pins him off those. Scott Hall better appear soon because this Nitro is in need of something noteworthy. The matches that have taken place on this card = mostly putrid.
Rating: DUD

Meanwhile, Greene diagrams a game plan for he and McMichael using football jargon. Mongo takes his turn at drawing up a play next as Greene sits back and snaps into a Slim Jim. Oh no. Mongo lectures Greene on tag-team strategy but all Greene does is respond back with football speak. Doofus. Anyway, they come to an agreement on one thing: they need a Coach. Slim Jim anyone? These brain farts both agree “Macho Man” is their guy and rush off to contact him. Isn’t Randy Savage banned from ALL WCW television programs and pay-per-views??? Bischoff is hyped by the possibility of Coach “Macho Man.” Bobby points out the Savage restrictions, anyway.

WCW World Tag-Team Chanpionship:
The Steiner Brothers [Rick & Scott] vs. Sting & “The Total Package” Lex Luger (c)

Result/Analysis: No contest (6:31 shown) after outside interference by The Giant. So much for the Main Event. 15 minutes of an actual match could have produced a classic. For the television audience anyway, the first two minutes are a split screen with the match ongoing while Savage calls in to talk with Bischoff and Heenan to accept the coach gig offered up by Greene and McMichael. Following a commercial break, the match becomes the focus as all involved hit their signature spots. Rick hits a Steinerline and a top rope bulldog on Lex. Scott does the Frankensteiner on Sting for the near victory. Earlier Sting had Scott compromised with the Stinger splash and scorpion death drop he only started to bust out with. Luger briefly racks Scott but that’s broken up by Rick. Sting and Rick wind up outside where Rick backdrops Sting to counter a piledriver. The Giant comes out and chokeslams Rick. He then bypasses Sting to head to the ring. Lex sends Scott into the ropes off an exchange but The Giant pulls the ropes down and Scott goes flying. Referee Nick Patrick tosses the match as a result. Lex fights with The Giant and the crowd is in a frenzy. Sting and Scott come to Luger’s aid and it’s 3-on-1. The Giant is staggered by blows up against the ropes. Sting and Scott fling Luger and Lex clotheslines The Giant over the top rope to the floor with The Giant landing on his feet. Big pop. The Giant is heated and tosses a chair but Jimmy Hart talks him down. Lex flexes, Sting stands guard and Scott plays to the crowd.
Rating: **1/2

Bischoff and Heenan regroup with Bobby pleading to Savage to re-think his coach acceptance. Bischoff is looking around if you notice so something is up. Scott Hall walks out as Heenan bails. Hall gets in Bischoff’s face and discusses the war now at hand. Sting pops on stage for WCW’s defense, however, and tells Hall he got lost on his way to wherever because he’s now in the jungle. Sting calls Hall’s bluff for him asking for three of the best in WCW only Sting doesn’t see anyone but himself and Hall, with Hall standing alone. That would soon change. Sting wants a fight and he wants it now. Hall calls Sting “Chico” and says no one tells him what to do or when do to it. But if he wants a fight … tossing his toothpick at Sting … he’ll get it. Sting responds by hauling off and slapping Hall with Bischoff trying to be the peacemaker standing inbetween. Huge pop! Hall’s response to Sting, “OK tough guy. I got a BIG surprise for YOU next week.” Credits roll.

The Verdict: Meh for the oversaturated card. The Horsemen highlight the night and Heenan is getting involved so I love that. The wrinkle to add Savage to the mix with Greene and McMichael gets Macho back, too. The Giant is tearing through the roster only for Luger and his pals providing resistance. The Hogan vignettes airing are brilliant when you think of what’s to come. Sting stepping into the limelight on behalf of WCW against The Outsider intrusion furthers that angle. The Benoit/Sullivan feud is truly getting the shaft. Also, no Cruiserweights this week.

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