Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Ric Flair “had” a “heart attack” on Nitro in one of those segments where controversy creates cash, if by “cash” you mean “apologies.”
Click here to watch this week’s episode on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro for December 21, 1998.
Best/Worst: Hearts On Fire
The centerpiece of last week’s Nitro was Ric Flair attempting to build vulnerability and suspension of disbelief for his upcoming Starrcade match with Eric Bischoff by “having” a “heart attack.” It was a worked heart attack, of course, and when fans found out via local reporting that Flair was fine and they’d been duped into believing a major medical emergency was legit, they were pissed.
As a result, they start ret-conning the heart attack stuff as early as the following Thunder, where Bischoff and the New World Order pivot to attacking Flair’s children. Sadly this attack didn’t involve Flair’s daughter, as I firmly believe that even at age 12, Charlotte could’ve kicked Vincent’s ass. Sad we missed out on a 12-year old girl going full Goldberg on the nWo on Thunder. Also, Bischoff forces himself on Flair’s wife and kisses her, which is a deeply uncomfortable thing Eric was super into doing. He even once dressed up as a woman’s father to make sure us watching them make out was as uncomfortable as possible.
On Nitro, the heart attack stuff is barely mentioned at all. They don’t lean on it very hard, but the replacement story is that Flair didn’t have a heart attack at all; he was poisoned, and his heart’s fine, and you shouldn’t pay attention to how old one of WCW’s biggest stars is getting. At the top of hour two, Bischoff comes to the ring and starts rambling about how Flair’s not there tonight, but if he was, he’d get his ass kicked again. This is intercut with footage of Flair and the Horsemen arriving to the arena and marching through the backstage area with weapons to beat the shit out of Scott Norton.
That looks familiar to me for some reason …
Anyway, Flair makes his way down to the ring and chases Bischoff not only out of the ring, but out of the arena. He returns to cut a short and sweet promo that encapsulates most of what made ’90s Flair promos so good:
“Bischoff, Windham, St. Louis, tonight, as God WOO as my witness, on the graves of Bruiser Brody and Dick the Bruiser, you will die in this arena if I get my hands on you tonight!”
Flair returns later to interrupt a Barry Windham vs. Van Hammer match, saving me from having to talk about what Van Hammer’s been up to lately in this column. Flair wants to flatten Barry’s penis with punches and kicks like he’s a demon in The Good Place, and that turns into a big brawl between nWo Hollywood — already unofficially the “nWo B-Team” without Wood around — and the Four Horsemen. If you’re like, “wow, it sounds like the Horsemen actually got to look strong for an episode,” don’t worry, they make sure that doesn’t happen.
Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko take the fight to the nWo until they’re in the unused Other Half of the arena, wherein security and local police get involved and spray Benoit down with mace.
Back in the ring, Flair (accompanied by his Head Coach Arn Anderson) cuts a passionate promo calling out Bischoff. When Bischoff appears, Flair gives him the bum’s rush and also gets wrangled by police and security. He goes back and forth between insisting he’ll kill Bischoff at Starrcade, and loudly complaining that the cops are being too rough on his old man bones:
It’s also probably of interest to note that with only six days before their biggest show of the year, only four matches have been announced, one of them is a heart attack victim versus a non-wrestling karate boss, and the actual wrestling Horsemen aren’t on (and don’t make) the card. At least a 10-year old boy got man-handled and had to watch his dad’s boss routinely humiliate his dad and stick his tongue down his mom’s throat! Wrestling!
Worst: This Is The Final Nitro For Goldberg’s Streak
You know what’s a really funny talking point to introduce this late in the build for a Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg Starrcade main event? The notion that notoriously lazy and disinterested Kevin Nash is a workhorse who has been working hard to hone his craft every week while Goldberg is off in Hollywood “doing movies and TV Guide.” Nash is out here like five seconds from calling himself a “vanilla midget.” He’s all about workrate!
Goldberg’s up against Nash’s best friend, Scott Hall, this week. Nash watches from ringside, causes some light distractions, and then calmly walks up the aisle with Hall after Bam Bam Bigelow runs in for the disqualification. The show ends in extremely WCW fashion with a run-in and attack from a guy who isn’t on the card for the pay-per-view, and with Thunder not happening because it falls on Christmas, this was their last show before Starrcade. It’s not the decision I would’ve made, but I’m sure they’re just holding back a little because they’ve got something really great planned for after the event to get everyone back into the product. I need to make a point to remember that.
Worst: Remember The Tag Team Champions?
At Starrcade, WCW World Tag Team Champions Rick Steiner and Kenny Kaos will defend against … [checks notes] nobody, because they aren’t on the card. Brian Adams and Scott Norton vs. Fit Finlay and Jerry Flynn is, though! So we’ve got that going for us.
On Nitro, Kaos loses a match to Lex Luger because (1) his former High Voltage tag team partner Robbie Rage shows up to do a bunch of, “You’ve CHANGED, MAN,” stuff at him from ringside, and because (2) he’s Kenny Kaos wrestling goddamn Lex Luger. Lex Luger eats guys with twice Kenny’s size with roughly the same amount of wrestling ability for breakfast! The funniest part is that Kaos was about to lose the match to the Torture Rack, and they snuck in a last second “distraction” to … protect him, I guess? Who knows. Actually no, what’s funny is that Kenny knows a guy named ROBBIE RAGE and is shocked to find out he’s upset about something.
Fun note: Kaos loses his Tag Team Championship a few weeks later when they’re vacated due to Steiner being injured. Who knew being the tag team replacement for Buff Bagwell’s mom would be so embarrassing?
Worst Best: Buff Is On the Stuff
Hey, wasn’t that guy on Nitro once before? He got weird with Goldberg and a baseball bat, yeah?
Here’s master of disguise Buff Bagwell dressing up as baseball star Mark McGwire to help Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner launch an all-out Heat War against the city of St. Louis. Steiner, who is wearing sunglasses that make him look like Nova from Battle Angel, brings out Buff under the guise of “recruiting” McGwire to join the nWo, which seems unusual until you remember the group already contains an NBA star, a NASCAR guy, Hulk Hogan’s 8-year old son, and two TBS show hosts. The highlight is, believe it or not, Buff Bagwell and Scott Steiner (of all people) condescending on someone for doing performance enhancing drugs. They should’ve had Jim Powers show up and let them snort steroids out of his armpit.
“What is that, what is that? What is that? What IS that?”
“Well it’s Androstene, you idiot!”
“You’re telling me you can’t get through this interview without Androstene?”
“Well I don’t know about this interview, but there’s no way in hell I could hit 70 home runs without it!”
“How many you think you could hit?”
“I just want to be honest with you, without Androstene, I think about five. Maybe.”
“Maybe, if I’m healthy.”
Steiner then tries to light “McGwire’s” Cardinals jersey on fire with a tiny lighter, which they completely fail to do. Buff starts stomping on the jersey instead, while Steiner’s still in the ring hinged at the waist, trying to work a Bic. Eventually they give up and light the hat on fire instead. Shout-out to Majestic for making their gear as flame-retardant as possible!
I would describe this segment as so-so. Sammy so-so.
Best: Santa Vs. Claws
Faring significantly better in the costumed insult wrestling segment department is Perry Saturn, who gets the jump on Ernest Miller by dressing up as Santa Claus and rightfully assuming Miller will want to karate fight him for giving out presents. If you’re one of those people who gets a new WWE video game and goes into create-a-superstar to make the Easter Bunny and shit — I will never understand you — remember to set Santa Claus’ finisher to, “Exploder Suplex 2.”
Since this week’s column is pretty uneventful and depressed sounding, please take a moment to enjoy this loosely related compilation of cats getting embarrassed at Christmas.
Best: At Least The First Half Hour Of Starrcade Will Be Good
The best match of the night is Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero, he typed, to the surprise of no one. Rey and Eddie have been embroiled in a feud over how Mysterio should have to join the Latino World Order because he’s Latino and them’s the rules, and also he should have to wear a 6XL shirt because Eddie hates and wants to humiliate him. Eddie’s got a big hole in his evil heart since bullying his nephew stopped being fun, so here we are. As a bonus to them wrestling all the time, we’re guaranteed at least one really good in-ring segment per show, featuring Eddie and Rey trusting each other enough to commit beautiful attempts of murder on a regular basis. This is a slower match than they usually have, because Eddie’s trying to hurt Rey for being a thorn in his side. Mission accomplished, I guess.
The story of the finish is that Kidman wants to help Rey defeate Eddie, since Rey’s been trying to bail him out in fights against Eddie and Juventud Guerrera and the rest of the lWo, but accidentally pops Rey due to a MALFUNCTION AT THE JUNCTION and costs him the match. This is important to buid drama for Starrcade, where Kidman will defend the Cruiserweight Championship against both Mysterio and Juvy. And Eddie, but we’ll get to that.
Also On This Episode
The ongoing rivalry between Norman Smiley and Prince Iaukea … [checks notes] yes, that’s a thing, continues this week. Prince’s plan to overcome Norman’s butt-fucking offensive style is to deliver corkscrew headbutts to his dick until intercourse is impossible. It’s not a bad plan, if we’re being honest. No Smiles still manages to tap out the Prince to a crossface chickenwing, however, putting him up two matches to none in the series. They’ll settle this 2-0 dispute with a third match at Starrcade. Reminder that the United States and Tag Team Champions aren’t on the biggest show of the year, but a one-sided jobber vs. jobber feud gets another seven-minute installment. [shrug]
There’s no better way to explain how mailed-in this episode is than by telling you the opening match of the night is a 13 AND A HALF MINUTE FIT FINLAY VS. SCOTT PUTSKI MATCH WITH A COMMERCIAL BREAK IN THE MIDDLE. They seriously went to commercial for and gave almost a full quarter-hour to Scott Putski. Jesus Christ, guys, you don’t have to have a wrestling promotion if you don’t want one. Imagine a late 1998 Raw opening with a competitive 15 minutes between Brian Christopher and Headbanger Thrasher. I like longer wrestling matches too, but there’s something truly perverse about having Benoit, Malenko, and Jericho all in non-wrestling roles on your three-hour show and giving 15 minutes to a guy who can’t get through five without shitting the bed.
New nWo Wolfpac member (purportedly) Disco Inferno attempts to warn Konnan before his match that his opponent, Das Wunderkind Alex Wright, is “nuts.” That’s not entirely accurate, but he’s close.
To validate this claim, Wright launches into a full Chris Jericho-style temper tantrum after losing a low-energy match to the low-energy Television Champion. In an odd choice, they then have Actual Chris Jericho show up and attack Konnan. Jericho briefly makes the show better by posing over Konnan and yelling, “ARRIBA LOS JERICHOS.” Wright just kinda wanders away, because he’s not even the second most important person in his post-match tantrum.
Best: Please Welcome The Newest Nitro Girl
Before I wrap up this week’s column, I want to point out that this episode is the debut of the newest Nitro Girl, “Storm,” who you’ll eventually come to know as Prince Iaukea’s valet, “Paisley.” Then you’ll come to know her as Sharmell Sullivan, wife of Booker T and eventual Queen to King Booker. Pretty cool. Also, hey, two Nitro Girls ended up married to WWE Hall of Famers. It’s still not too late for Nitro Girl Spice to marry Pete Rose!
It’s finally time for Starrcade ’98, which asks, “how can we make sure everyone’s even MORE disappointed than they were after Starrcade ’97?” OH BOY, SEE YOU THEN!