The Stomping Ground: Old School Nitro Recap 6.2.97 (Ric Flair, nWo)

Holy crap, has it been a whole week already? Jeez, you guys are needy.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching Raw with my thumb on the fast forward button. Unfortunately, most of the energy expended to press that rubber arrow has been spent on the show itself rather than just the commercials. For the first time in months, there is literally NOTHING that interests me in terms of the WWE’s product. Don’t get me wrong; I love CM Punk’s title run and Daniel Bryan as much as the next fanboy, but story-wise there is just nothing fresh or even remotely worth my time. When the highlight of your show is a pre-taped segment wherein Kane does his best “Dr. Evil in group counseling” impression to talk about the insanity that is his character’s back story, you know something is wrong.

A couple of ideas floated through my mind shortly after watching Raw. I wanted to discuss why no one gives a shit about Triple H’s speech (which, by the way, ended without him saying whether or not he’d retire) and I also thought a neat idea would be to do a retrospective of Kane’s career and highlight the absurdities as well as call attention to the possibility of a tag team with either Zack Ryder or Daniel Bryan. I could also talk about how Punk’s heel turn actually lessens the appeal of a Cena/Punk rematch (it would be more intriguing if both were fan favorites and not governed by silly good guy/bad guy rules).

Not gonna do it.

No, this week I actually want to ENJOY what I write about, so I’ve decided to recap an episode of WCW Monday Nitro from waaaaaaaay back in 1997. You know, when the Monday Night Wars were constant water cooler talk and my students weren’t even born yet (how’s that for depressing?). I pulled this stunt back in May with an episode of Raw from the same era. So, courtesy of WWE Classics on Demand, I bring you my recap of WCW Monday Nitro from June 2, 1997.

Previously on WCW Monday Nitro, the Outsiders revealed that they would indeed face the team of Ric Flair and Roddy Piper for the WCW Tag Team Championship. Remember, this is years before Flair and Piper would defeat the Spirit Squad for tag team gold…..and they were still in no better shape.

Scott Hall and Syxx (!!!) are in the ring as the show kicks off. Hall asks Syxx if he notices a certain odor in the air (I could SO make an alcohol joke at BOTH men’s expense right now, but I’ll take the high ground). They call out Flair, who’s recovering from a beating he received at the hands of Hall at Slamboree. JJ Dillon heads to the ring to tell Hall he’s got a match with Flair tonight in Dayton, Ohio (cheap pop)! Hall refuses but JJ tells him that the titles will go back to WCW if he doesn’t take the match. I’m a little confused. If the nWo is supposed to technically be a rival promotion and not just a stable within the company, why are they subject to the ruling of a WCW official?

Here comes Das Wunderkind, Alex Wright, as Tony Schiavone and Larry Zybysko welcome us to the first hour of Nitro. And his opponent? Why, none other than Glacier! As a kid, I thought his gimmick was cool (no pun intended), but now? I definitely see him for what he is: a bad rip-off of a Mortal Kombat ninja. True story: when WCW/nWo World Tour was all the rage, I renamed Glacier’s red outfit “Heatwave” and booked him as Glacier’s evil twin. Anyway, Glacier wins rather quickly with his Super Kick. Mortis (“who’s betta than Kanyon?”) and Wrath attack Glacier while James Vandenberg (who I believe was Abyss’s Father Mitchell) gloats from ringside holding a helmet of MYSTICAL POWER. I don’t remember his involvement in this angle at all….must not have lasted too long.

We return from break with Buff Bagwell facing off against Joe Gomez. Who the fuck was Joe Gomez? In any case, Bagwell had just recently rechristened himself “Buff” after joining the nWo with Scott Norton. This was all before everyone and their mother (except for Judy Bagwell….SHE was a tag team champion) was a part of the organization and diluted the impact the nWo had. Buff Blockbuster ends this one pretty quickly.

Mike Tenay is in the crowd giving us back story to Ernest “The Cat” Miller. Somebody call his momma for Funkasaurus copyright infringement! Hugh Morris (Tough Enough’s Bill DeMott) heads to the ring when he’s attacked from behind by a pre-nWo Konnan. He refuses to head backstage and insists upon facing his opponent, Prince Iaukea (before he would become known as “The Artist Formerly Known As”). Iaukea wins in less than a minute as we now have three squashes in the first hour alone.

Mean Gene and Dillon chat at the ramp about who will get a future tag team title shot after Great American Bash and he says it’s the Steiner Brothers. Sherri and Harlem Heat interrupt to demand an opportunity. Damn, I nearly forgot that Sherri was still their manager back in ’97. Dillon says the Steiners have to beat their next opponents in order to get that title shot, though.

Masahiro Chono and the Great Muta head to the ring to face said Steiners. I completely forgot there was a Japanese contingent of the New World Order. Big Poppa Pump’s still got his mullet and his sanity at this point in his career. He and Muta trade offense until Steiner nails Muta with a double underhook power bomb and tags in the Dog-faced Gremlin. He chases off Muta, who tags in Chono. A decent match turns into a clustershmozz as all four men get into the ring. Harlem Heat interferes, costing the Steiners the match. JJ Dillon tells them they have a match later tonight and they’d better focus on preparing for it. Booker T is definitely showing signs of “break-out star charisma” here, while Stevie Ray rants and rambles cluelessly.

Bobby Heenan joins Schiavone for the next hour as they recap the opening segment. And here comes the Nature Boy, screaming into the mic as only Flair can. God, he was awesome. He says, and I quote, “I will stomp a pothole in (Hall’s) toothpick-chewing, white, honkey ass!” Then we get a promo from DDP as he tells us all he’ll beat Randy Savage in their second encounter at Great American Bash.

To counteract Flair’s charisma, we now have Dean Malenko heading to the ring. Deano Machino is the current United States Champion, back when the belt actually meant something, and his opponent is none other than Wallstreet (aka IRS). The commentators bring up the angle that Wallstreet is on the fence between choosing WCW or the nWo. Honestly, his career was nearing the end; why would ANYBODY care which side he chose? They have a generic old school match (read: nothing fancy) as Nick Patrick catches Wallstreet using the ropes for leverage. “I like what I see with Nick Patrick,” says Schiavone. Ah, irony. Jeff Jarrett runs down to botch the ending of the match, tripping Malenko as he attempts to suplex Wallstreet back into the ring. Wallstreet only gets a count of two and Malenko manages to win with the Cloverleaf. The replay shows Nick Patrick blocking the ropes so Wallstreet can’t reach them!

Jarrett demands a rematch with Malenko from Slamboree and he agrees to it. After that, MONGO makes an appearance to call out Kevin Green and he has Debra by his side. Puppies! Boy, Debra sure knows how to pick her husbands, right?

Harlem Heat faces Ciclope and Damien….is that Sonny Onoo at ringside? You know, before he sued WCW for racial discrimination. I’m sure you can predict where this is going. The Steiners return the favor from earlier (in full view of the ref on the outside) and Damien picks up the victory with a top rope splash! I guess this means Chono and Muta will face Damien and Ciclope for the chance at a tag title shot, right? Yeah, right.

Scott Hall saunters to the ring with Syxx in tow as we are all set for our main event! Flair unloads on Hall despite interference from Syxx and the crowd goes absolutely ape shit. Ric decides to go after Waltman and choke him out on the outside, which allows Hall to capitalize. He distracts the ref so Syxx can nail Flair with a Bronco Buster! The crowd chants for Sting (who’s up in the rafters, I assume) as Hall traps Flair in an abdominal stretch. Flair powers out with a hip toss but he still can’t regain the momentum no matter what he does. Syxx tries to get involved again, but he and Hall collide and Ric tries for the Figure Four! Syxx gets involved AGAIN and Hall bashes Ric in the head with one of the tag title belts, drawing the DQ. The heels continue to beat the shit out of Flair until MONGO and Jarrett make the save! Definitely not the best version of the Horsemen, I can tell you that.

Before the show can end, “Macho Man” Randy Savage drags Okerlund to the ring and threatens to beat Mean Gene up if he doesn’t interview the Macho Man. Gene shows Savage he’s got a pair of steel balls by telling him he’s underestimated DDP and should get his head from out of his ass. JJ Dillon makes the save (!) and tells Savage never to touch an announcer or official again. Dillon calls Savage a bitch who hides behind Elizabeth and Savage decks him!!! Eric Bischoff of all people runs out to call off the Macho Man as Dillon sells it like he was hit by a truck.

This was a great example of a show that focused on a title other than the Big Gold Belt. You had three matches that revolved around the WCW Tag Team Championship and how important the titles were to everyone involved. You hear that, WWE? Go back in your archives and look at how to book a “title hunt” angle.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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