WCW, or World Championship Wrestling if you want to be proper about things, once took on Vince McMahon and the WWE- and guess what? They won- or, they were winning. Back when launching Monday Nitro, WCW was gaining ground on the New York behemoth, and with the flip of Hulk Hogan to Hollywood and the formation of the NWO in summer 1996, they took over. The sports entertainment world was changed forever, and you don't need to look any further than in 1997 to see why. From the top of the card to the bottom, they were loaded. Not only was the NWO at their peak, but the Cruiserweights were putting on clinics every night, DDP was becoming a star, the Four Horsemen were running around…kinda, and the emergence of one Bill Goldberg was about to change everything. Throw in some crazy booking and surprises throughout the year, and dammit, this is as good as wrestling gets, for better or worse. So, we are going to take a weekly look at the year that was for WCW in 1997. Join us, won't you?
WCW Nitro 1-6-97: What Worked
Ahh, right off the bat, we get a Glacier squash match. He came out and handled Beautiful Bobby Eaton in less than two minutes, which is one of a few less-than-two-minute matches on the card. Glacier was always a fav back then, and this is right after he debuted. They certainly made him look strong, as he got one of the only intros on the show. He had no idea what he was doing in the ring at all, but since when did WCW care about that?
This was also a weird time for the Four Horsemen. The group consisted of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Mongo McMichael, with Chris Benoit thrown in, and Jeff Jarrett trying to become a member. He does so by ripping into each member and then throwing up his arms when it doesn't work. This is one of many promos in a row for weeks with the same premise: Jarrett wants in, nobody else does except Flair (sometimes), Debra may be in love with Jarrett, which makes Mongo mad (sometimes), and the whole group can't decide if its a good thing Benoit stole Woman (Nancy Benoit) from Kevin Sullivan. Jarret has a great line about Arn Anderson, telling him that he's played second-fiddle his entire career, whether it was to Ole Anderson or Tully Blanchard or Ric, so he'd rather talk to the horse than the "horse's rear." As a Horsemen fan, I can't dog this storyline…yet.
(Also, let's get this out of the way now. Benoit is going to be in this series a lot. It's super uncomfortable watching him interact with Benoit and there is no way to watch this without thinking of what he did to her and their kids. It sucks, but here we are. Sorry if this makes you as uncomfortable as this makes me watch.)
WCW has new hope against the strength of the NWO in The Giant, who recently left the group. Man, was The Giant over here. He takes on the entire group at the end of the show but is overpowered when he finally gets to Hogan. As they leave, Sting shows up. Yes, this was back when we still were not sure which side Sting was on. He leaves a prone Giant his baseball bat, and we get some great comedy from Vincent as he returns to check and see if Giant is indeed out for good. he isn't, and he fights the NWO off again with the bat as we go off the air. Really great stuff.
The match of the show was Alex Wright against Eddie Guerrero. The single reason to tune in weekly for me back then was the cruiserweight division. Over the next couple of shows we can highlight some of these performers, but a special shout-out to Alex Wright. The dude was a great worker, had a great look, and one of the cooler WCW theme songs. Plus: that dance. Watching him and Eddie work here was a treat for this first show of the year, even if Sixx kinda ruined it. I forgot how strongly Sixx was booked in WCW, and Waltman was nearing his peak as a performer here. He is also underrated, as we will see in a couple of weeks.
WCW Nitro 1-6-97: What Didn't Work
Squash match city, brother. Six matches on the show lasted less than 5 minutes, and somehow the longest of those was a Lex Luger match. He beat Meng, kind of. Luger has never been one of my favorites, but even I can admit that the Torture Rack is freaking awesome. Harlem Heat beat the Amazing French Canadians pretty quickly, as most of the tv time for these two was the AFC on the mic making fun of Americans. This also followed the Nitro script of the first hour seeing Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Heenan for the first hour, and then at some point giving Eric Bischoff and the NWO a bunch of commentating time over matches. Some of that stuff works, Kevin Nash has some great one-liners during the Hacksaw Jim Duggan/Lord Steven Regal match, but eventually, it grows tiresome hearing the group put themselves over so damn much.
Speaking of that Duggan match, it also presented another problem WCW matches ran into back then: time limits. There was no rhyme or reason to it, for instance, this match ended in a little over eight minutes. Like, what? This was a title match as well, as Regal was the Television Champ at the time. Duggan also tried to cheat to win, using his role of tape he kept somewhere I don't want to know about to try and knock Regal out. Weird move for the babyface of the match. Man, this one was a tough watch.
As was the weird strap match between Konnan and Big Bubba. Neither man really seemed like they knew what to do with each other, as in a strap match it is supposed to force your opponent to face you and not be able to get away. Only the strap in this match is super long, and when they whipped each other with the strap, they are both wearing shirts. Konnan won when the ref and the rest of the building forgot the rules and he touched all. four corners of the ring maybe. Who knows, but this was the second match of the night and it had me questioning if I really wanted to do this for the next year ten minutes into the show.
So, for our first Nitro of 1997, we will give it 2 out of 5 stars. The NWO was at their peak here, as the closing segment showed, even with The Giant standing tall. Some decent stuff here and there, but the matches for the most part are too short and the endings make little sense sometimes. This will be a common theme. For now, to quote the great Tony Schiavone… "We are desperately out of time! See you next week!"