A couple of months back, I was thumbing through my virtual catalogue of wrestling and it occurred to me that it has been nearly 17 years since the boom period started. A lot of people often attribute the era kicking off when Bret Hart was screwed, and that is certainly true for the WWF – but prior to that, WCW was the initial reason all the extra eyeballs were on the product. A hyper-aggressive anti-WWF campaign led to Nitro grabbing more viewers than RAW week after week, and more than twice as many people were watching wrestling weekly than had been in the past.
It also kind of blew my mind recently reading that Hulk Hogan wants a run with the TNA World Title, considering it was, again, 17 years ago that talk was he was washed up and it was time he hang it up for good. Of course, circumstances would revive his career that summer, but for god sakes, it’s been SEVENTEEN years.
WCW was ground breaking in a lot of ways. It was a wildly successful enterprise that set forth a lot of the business models we still see in use today. Live TV, cameras in the backstage area, and monthly PPVs are just a few of those examples. Hulk Hogan as a central plot device is certainly another. We’ll explore all of this and a lot more over the coming months, and I look forward to going through this.
We are LIVE from Atlanta, Georgia to kick off the new year; and ERIC BISCHOFF is beside himself what with the impending Olympic Games and the defending world champion Atlanta Braves, you can just see the excitement dripping down his usually carefully groomed exterior. Joined as always by BOBBY HEENAN, MONGO MCMICHAEL, and PEPE THE FERRET, we’re particularly pumped because new champion Ric Flair is defending against Hulk Hogan. Hogan’s track record suggests a long night for Flair.
ARN ANDERSON vs. RANDY SAVAGE
This is actually kind of an intriguing match-up, despite the obvious styles clash between the guys. Anderson pounds on Savage before the bell, but Savage is pretty fired up and tosses Arn to the outside. On the floor, Savage sends Arn face first into the ring steps before clawing at his eyes like he’s a human bowling ball. Back in, Arn turns the tide with a couple of well timed boots, but a blocked sunset flip gives control back to Savage. An atomic drop stuns Anderson, and a top rope axe handle gets 2. Anderson throws a thumb to Savage’s eye to stop the attack, and follows with a jumping armbreaker. Savage sells the attack, so Anderson follows up with a hammerlock slam, and Savage bails. On the floor, Randy suckers Anderson in and throws him into the guard rail to buy himself some time. Back in, Anderson goes right back to the arm on the ground, dropping a series of knees. The injured arm is unwrapped, and then thrown into the ring post. Anderson applies a standing armbar with a little help from the ropes for leverage. Savage tries to turn the tide, but a missed charge leads right into a DDT – and Savage barely gets his foot on the ropes at 2. A second attempt is shrugged off, leading to the referee getting bumped. Anderson goes to the brass knucks in his tights – but Savage steals them and decks Anderson to score the pin at 7:55. BRIAN PILLMAN and CHRIS BENOIT hit the ring like wild dogs, and Savage rushes to the back. **1/2
LORD STEVEN REGAL (with Jeeves) vs. CHRIS BENOIT
We’ve got a whole lot of Horsemen scheduled on this show. Bischoff points out that this is a heel vs. heel matchup; but truly doesn’t care because he expects the match to be excellent. Some mat wrestling goes nowhere, and Benoit ends that by throwing about 10 headbutts in a row. Baseball’s then home run king HANK AARON smiles on from the front row. Regal applies a reverse chinlock, but Benoit escapes. Regal takes control back with a single leg take down, and grinds Benoit’s face into the mat while mounted from behind. Into the corner, Regal throws some stiff looking punches, but Benoit gets out and throws a vicious German suplex. Regal comes right back with a tigerbomb for 2. Benoit places Regal on the top rope, which Regal fights off with some elbows. He is then dropped by Benoit with the Electric Chair anyway. The diving headbutt misses, and Regal goes for a tombstone. Benoit reverses the hold and hits the tombstone himself! Regal bails, so Benoit just launches himself with a flying crossbody that misses, and Chris NAILS the concrete floor HARD. Bischoff points out that Benoit’s style is “professional suicide”, and he’s rolled back in and pinned with ease by Regal at 5:41 The Horsemen are now 0-2, with the Hogan match looming large. ***
“MEAN” GENE OKERLUND suggests that match Benoit had a little too much bubbly the night before, and is joined by BRIAN PILLMAN and ARN ANDERSON. Pillman chews Benoit out for languishing in mediocrity. Benoit tells him that luck is the only thing that beats him, and never ability. Pillman says the only place Benoit is holding his own is when a limousine pulls up with gorgeous women; which is only half the Horsemen criteria. Then he starts on Anderson. Arn isn’t taking his crap, and tells him to knock it off and to stop starting fires. KEVIN SULLIVAN tries storming the ring for inexplicable reasons, with JIMMY HART and THE ZODIAK trying to hold him back from doing anything stupid. Finally THE GIANT just drags the entire Dungeon Of Doom to the back by himself. Well, that was random.
THE SUPER ASSASSINS (with Colonel Robert Parker) vs. STING and LEX LUGER
The Assassins are using the same music that would eventually be recycled for Super Calo. Mongo’s perturbed that Sting and Luger don’t enter together. They were mired in an interesting little angle at this point, where Luger was a scumbag cheating heel and Sting was of course honest and straight. Sting didn’t like Luger’s dirty behavior, so Luger would only act when he was sure Sting wasn’t looking. The tension was mounting between the two as a result, with only their 10 year friendship being the catalyst that kept them working together.
We cut to a split screen and check out the announce booth, where CRAIG PITTMAN is requesting guidance from Mongo. Pittman had been looking for management from ANYONE at this point, and is clearly scraping the bottom of the barrel now. Mongo turns him down, and Pittman leaves unhappy.
Back to the match, the Assassins have taken early control of the match via outside shenanigans, and one of them has him locked in a backbreaker. A double shoulderblock gets 2. Sting gets a tag, but the referee is busy with an Assassin and forces Luger back to the apron. The Assassins hit a modified version of the Doomsday Device, using a vertical suplex instead of the Electric Chair, and get 2. I’m sure it has a fancy name, I’ll call it The Impending Kickout. Luger gets a real tag, and even Bischoff isn’t trying to help us tell the Assassins apart. Whichever one is in the ring tries a thumb to the eye, but he’s racked seconds later and submits at 5:48. *1/2
“MEAN” GENE OKERLUND calls out JIMMY HART and the “son” of Andre The Giant, THE GIANT. Yes, WCW was actually touting the Big Show as Andre’s son for the first few months of his tenure before dropping it. They yell nonsense about Hulk Hogan, leading to Gene adding “I don’t know what he’s saying” and I have to agree.
RIC FLAIR vs. HULK HOGAN (for the WCW World Heavyweight Title)
Champ enters first because Hogan overpowers tradition. Hogan shows his usual good manners by whipping his shirt in Flair’s face. Bell rings, and we’re off. Flair applies a headlock, but Hogan shrugs him off and hits a shoulderblock. Very pro-Hogan crowd tonight for the first time in awhile. Flair starts in with the chops and takes Hogan to the mat. Hogan tries to fight back, so Flair just goes right back to the chops. Hogan no-sells by puffing his cheeks out like an exhausted walrus. Hogan throws a series of punches, but Flair escapes and heads up to the top. He’s caught by Hogan, and tossed aside like the sweater you got for Christmas. To the outside, Flair jabs Hogan in the eye with his thumb. Hogan responds with a clothesline, and we head back in where Flair begs off. Hogan rakes the face, so Flair just pokes him in the eye again. A chop block finally gives Flair an advantage he can work with. Flair works it over for a bit, while stopping to strut like a boss. Flair gets the Figure Four applies dead centre of the ring, and Hogan has nowhere to turn! Hogan uses everything he’s got to reverse it, and now JIMMY HART is ringside screaming that Flair is the greatest of all time. Hogan stops to yell back, and Flair uses that distraction to go right back to Hogan’s knee. Flair hits a delayed vertical suplex for 2, and Hogan starts convulsing either because he’s having an epileptic seizure, or he’s Hulking Up. Big Boot and Legdrop connect, but Jimmy Hart is distracting the referee long enough for ARN ANDERSON to slither in and clock Hogan SQUARE between the eyes with the brass knucks. Hogan pops RIGHT back up which is a JOKE, pulls the knucks out of Anderson’s tights, and shows the referee like an IDIOT because now we’ve got a DQ at 7:54 and Flair retains the belt. *1/2
BRIAN PILLMAN and CHRIS BENOIT hit the ring now, and Hogan just starts whacking everyone with the knucks, taking them out one by one. THE GIANT is on site with a bar stool, but RANDY SAVAGE stops him allowing Hogan to hit Giant with the knucks. Giant rages outside the ring, but ZODIAK and KEVIN SULLIVAN push him to the back to save it for another day. Hogan goes into his pose routine, and we take a break.
“MEAN” GENE OKERLUND calls the action wilder than his New Year’s Eve party; and interviews Hogan and Savage. Hogan calls out both Flair and Anderson against Savage and himself for next week, if they’ve got the guts, and something tells me they just might. Hogan promises that next time, he’ll have a pair of brass knuckles ready to go; which should all but warrant a cavity search by the referee before the match.
The announce booth confirms that the tag-team match has been signed by the Executive Committee; and wrap things up.
Nice writeup. I look forward to your series on Nitro. Its interesting revisiting that era based upon what we know about how everything ended up.
It also kind of blew my mind recently reading that Hulk Hogan wants a run with the TNA World Title, considering it was, again, 17 years ago that talk was he was washed up and it was time he hang it up for good.
I'd love for Hogan to get at least a one day run with the title. Hulk Hogan is a world above every other wrestler (with the possible exception of the original Gorgeous George) in terms of name recognition. Being able to include Hulk Hogan in the list of wrestlers who've held the TNA title conveys significant prestige to the title.
I think the awkwardness to TNA in the short term will be outweighed by the value it gives them in the long term. Plus, they will look less bad 10 years from now when Hogan gets another world title run elsewhere. Considering how Hogan has outlasted most (everyone other than Big Show and Sting?) of the people who he passed the torch to (Warrior, Undertaker on 364 days of the year, Yokozuna, Goldberg, Kidman, Rock, Lesnar, etc) Hogan getting a title run in 2022 seems plausible enough to excuse his 2013 title run.
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Also Foley went down clean to HHH twice in a way that no one could dispute. Rock's losses to Jericho were so fraught with screwjobs and most importantly outside interference that there was nothing to be gained at all for Jericho in those matches.