Thursday, January 6, 2011

WCW Monday Nitro 11/17/97

Over the course of the next few weeks I'm going to be going back into my past and reviewing the three WCW Monday Nitro broadcasts I was fortunate enough to see live. I had some great times then but now, after sharing my stories, I'll be focusing in on the actual wrestling itself, the performances, etc. to see how they hold up now a decade later.

This particular event was special for a couple reasons. Personally, it was the last time my dad took my brother and I out to a live event. All of my previous wrestling experiences at that time had been with my dad who'd taken me to an NWA show, WWF TV tapings, etc. over the years. This was right before high school and that jump into independence. Also, in terms of historical value, this show marks the first (of only two times) someone appeared on both Nitro and Raw the same night (the second time, for you trivia buffs, was Vince/Shane McMahon) as Rick Rude made a surprise appearance on WCW's telecast while everyone over at WWF HQ thought he was still on their payroll.

Now, over thirteen years later, I sit in a mall food court to write about this show, the same mall that, over twenty years ago, my brother and I urged my dad to get us WrestleMania for the Nintendo Entertainment System because our lives wouldn't be complete without it.

1. Glacier vs. Meng - 1

Glacier, a good guy, attacks before the bell? And, for an alleged martial arts master, his technique looks like a guy who's been training at the local strip market karate school for a few months. Glacier's leapfrog was laughable but Meng's thrust chop to follow it up was suitably nasty. Glacier does these backhand shots that are just so goofy. To top it off, Jimmy Hart calls Barbarian down to the ring, yet, by the time he gets there and slides into the ring, Meng's already beaten Glacier with the Tongan Death Grip, so what's the point of calling in interference when you've already beaten your opponent? My head already hurts.

2. Steve McMichael vs. Alex Wright - 2

McMichael taking Wright's tepid offense looks like an elderly lady being mugged, his stumbling selling of a series of European uppercuts is particularly cringe-worthy. Wright tries to exhibit some fire on the floor stomping away on Mongo and blasting him with some chops against the rail buts it for naught. In the rank of crossbody splashes Wright's falls just below Tamina's. After getting his ass kicked by a scrawny Euro-trash youth Steve gets disqualified for losing his cool and going on a rage making him look doubly like a tool.

3. Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho - 5

The guy triumphantly holding the "Raw is Over" sign is likely on a neighborhood sexual predator list somewhere. Rey stumbles after flipping off of the second rope and they then ruin a head-scissors sequence. That snafu aside, things pick up, as Jericho punts Rey in the skull a few times in the corner. As Tony calls it, "a Super Gorilla Press Slam" from the top, something he swears has never been done before, wakes up the announcers, crowd, me and the couple nearby eating Oyishi Japan. Jericho relishes getting to show off some power stuff he can't do to a lot of guys. Rey gets murdered with a series of brutal backbreakers. Rey getting the knees up on the Lion Sault just felt theatric and wonderful, as thats the pinpoint moment where Rey made us believe. The finishing stretch was just so cool and while it didn't come off super clean the difficultly level was high and it switched gears in a way that until the very end you weren't sure who was going to come out on top. I deducted a point from its total as a lot of stuff didn't look sharp but still a lot of fun.

There's a great moment when a bunch of the nWo scrubs attack Larry Zybysko and some drunk fan tackles Eric Bischoff that I'd forgotten about. It's funny watching Norton swarm on him and ruin his life.

A commercial for WCW vs. the World airs for the Playstation -- what a fun game that was at the time. Any game that allows you to pit Bas Rutten versus Giant Baba is a gem in my eyes.

4. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Villano IV - 3

DDP tries to remove a necklace from around his neck (unsuccessfully might I add) pre-match, wrestling it harder than he did his opponent. The Villanos weren't blowing the casual fans' minds but looking back at them under a microscope any true appreciator of the craft has to respect those guys. IV is doing dropkicks and sentons that'd look right at home in today's wrestling landscape. Page, working in jeans and gauze, shows heart but little polish. Page's plancha onto Villano IV and V on the floor is a highlight. Villano eats and subsequently sells the Diamond Cutter better than anybody has Orton's RKO in the last year.

5. Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko - 6

Seeing Eddie and Dean continue their proud tradition of superb work together live was a treat and something I can still look back fondly on. The spot I remembered most from the whole event was the match-ending back superplex that legitimately looked like it killed both guys and neither got up from it. I almost feel, at least in part, that this was better than some of their famed ECW encounters, here the raucous crowd (not just because it was Cincinnati as Nitro audiences were pretty rabid nationwide at the time) actually got into it and made simple things like throws and momentum switches seem big and important. One of the things people that didn't get to see Nitro maybe aren't aware of (I'm looking at you, Geo!) is their propensity for at least a few good to great TV bouts per week, arguably the company with the best track record of all-time for quality of TV wrestling.

6. Perry Saturn vs. Scott Riggs - 6

I was surprised and shocked at how good this was. Raven was trying to aggressively recruit Riggs for his gang of goons of which Saturn was the "enforcer". A very physical match and offhand easily the best I've seen Riggs look. At one point Saturn, out on the apron, tried to suplex Riggs who was in the ring out to the floor, before crashing out on the ground Riggs' head clanked against the apron making it look more like an apron brainbuster something I'm sure Shingo would ape if he saw this. A great visual was Riggs on the top rope deciding to dive out over the guardrail and into the crowd onto Raven's goons. This had a different feel than anything else on the show and was better for it.

7. Curt Hennig vs. Lex Luger - 4

I remember at the time thinking, "Sweet! A WrestleMania IX rematch!" Hennig had a way of making Lex's straightforward offense look better than it should. It was pretty perfunctory but never dull. Hennig was rocking the old teal and black Mr. Perfect trunks which I believe he shelved permanently soon after.

8. Scott Hall vs. The Giant - 3

This was kind of fun but the end was a big mess. Hall was working Giant's hand over trying to take away his biggest offensive weapon the chokeslam. It was nice seeing Hall here before he'd completely drank his talent away. We were pretty high up in the cheaper seats but I still remember to this day hearing the smack like it was right next to me when Giant cornered Hall against the turnbuckle and belted his chest with a big open-hand overhand chop. The ending was mayhem as they were doing a World War 3 (60-man battle royal concept show) pay-per-view that upcoming weekend so the show ended with like thirty guys in the ring awkwardly brawling with each other. I remember Public Enemy leading the charge to the ring and for some reason that's still as funny as a crudely constructed cartoon of Vince McMahon sodomizing Triple H in the Titan Towers restroom.

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