Monday Nitro: September 14, 1998 with KB (Ric Flair Returns)
Date: September 14, 1998
Location: BI-LO Center, Greenville, South Carolina
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Mike Tenay, Larry Zbyszko
Ok so this is a one promo show. The main event is Goldberg vs. Sting, but no one remembers that. This is about one moment, which is the return of Ric Flair. Flair had been gone for about six months, having been thrown out by Bischoff in a real life feud. Flair had missed Thunder, so Bischoff threw him out to make himself look like a big deal and to say that Flair was nothing.
To say this went badly is like saying I watch wrestling a little bit. The fans WENT OFF over this, loudly drowning out promos for weeks on end with chants of WE WANT FLAIR. Bischoff refused to accept that Flair simply was a god in WCW fans’ eyes and there was no way around it. He could be out there in a Hawaiian shirt doing a river dance and singing La Cucharacha and they would cheer him. Actually, that happened at one point and they did in fact cheer him.
Tonight, HE’S BACK. Naturally WCW didn’t bother to let anyone know about this and of course lost the ratings war that night, but to be fair Rock and Mankind turned face and Taker went crazy and Austin defended the title, so maybe it wasn’t their fault. Wait it’s WCW, of course it’s their fault. This is a promo that is considered one of Flair and Anderson’s best ever, so that should give you a hint about what’s coming. Let’s get to it.
The Nitro Girls dance us into the show. This is the follow up to War Games and Fall Brawl last night.
Tony and Larry say Flair might be here and we get a LOUD Flair chant. Now they want Goldberg. They’re rather fickle no?
Tenay is at the airport in Greenville and says Flair might be here. A limo pulls away from an airplane that might have Flair in it. The pilot won’t answer either.
We get a clip of Ernest Miller who is now a heel. Has nothing to do with the first match but whatever.
Alex Wright vs. Van Hammer
Wright is still the same guy he used to be and Hammer is now a hippie. Tony and Larry point out that Sting vs. Goldberg is a PPV match like the idiots that they are. Wright is the heel here, which goes against any basic booking sense you can think of but whatever. The Flock was broken up last night apparently so this might be his debut as a hippie.
We head to the floor and here comes Ernest Miller. He kicks Hammer in the back of the head for the DQ. Ok then. And I’m sure the video aired on him in a TOTAL coincidence right? Security gets rid of him.
Rating: N/A. Just a thing to be a backdrop for Miller. Why did this guy keep getting pushed? I never remember anyone caring about him. I think I just answered my own question.
Here’s Bret, who was hurt last night. He’s supposed to be a face but he’s treated as a heel anyway. He’s US Champion and booed badly. Bret never felt right in WCW at all. Hogan lied a lot apparently, which suggests that Bret is rather stupid. He can’t wrestle for awhile and the US Title is going to be vacated. Bret doesn’t know why he has the title at this point either. Could it be that he won it? Ok….so he’s not vacating it.
Roddy Piper of all people comes out to talk to him. Great to see WCW pushing youth like this with a feud that was done over six and a half years ago. Piper sounds like he smoked about 9 packs that morning and he can barely breathe. Naturally Roddy has had it worse than Bret does right now but that goes without saying. Basically he says to man up and invokes Bill Clinton, drawing a ton of boos (Lewinsky era mind you). Bret wants another chance from the people and leaves too.
We get some pictures from Raven vs. Saturn last night, including Kidman turning on Raven to help Saturn. This was supposed to give Saturn a big push, but since he’s not 40 that never happened.
Saturn vs. Kendall Windham
Windham is Barry’s brother and far less talented. He’s a big old country boy in jeans. Now keep in mind that he’s not like the other 84 country boys in jeans. This is the one that’s Barry’s brother. They just kind of ram into each other which gets neither guy anywhere. Naturally the night after the biggest win of his career in WCW so far, Saturn is getting beaten up by a guy most famous for being Barry Windham’s brother.
Top rope splash misses as Saturn looks like an inept jobber here. The announcers point out that this is kind of weird, which is never a good sign. Larry says Saturn is a down to earth man. Wow that’s rather funny. This is freaking idiotic, and I never even liked Saturn. Windham uses a big boot that misses so badly that the fans LOUDLY boo it. They were booing already but this was far more than that.
Saturn makes a brief comeback and the fans respond. Since he’s young though we END THAT IMMEDIATELY and let the big old country boy take over, because that’s what the people want to see right? A guy that is related to one of the awesome guys that was great ten years ago dominating a young and popular and good worker. That’s basic wrestling people! Rollup for Saturn gets two.
T-Bone Suplex is called a fallaway slam as Saturn FINALLY takes over for a bit. He hits a middle rope elbow which is cool as I’ve always like the way he dropped one of those. Well so much for the Saturn offense for now as a spinning neckbreaker takes care of that. Death Valley Driver, Saturn’s finisher, ends this out of nowhere.
Rating: D. WCW did some weird stuff back in the day, such as hiring Jay Leno for PPVs, getting KISS to do concerts on TV, and giving Kendall Windham vs. Saturn ten minutes on Monday Nitro. This got more time than most Raw main events, while other stuff will be lucky to get two minutes. This was a regular occurrence at the time actually and no one is really sure why. Saturn getting dominated for most of the match was freaking stupid but what do you really expect from this company?
The Flock comes down and Raven yells at them from the audience saying their 24 hours is up and the joke is over. Kanyon is the only one left with Raven at this point. Saturn says they don’t have to be with Raven as they all have talent. As much bullshit as he says, he does a good job of motivating them. Lodi tries to go back to him but Kidman stops him. The rest of them leave though, which begs the question of why were they coming to the ring in the first place.
Wrath vs. Renegade
Wow I just watched Renegade be told that he was no longer Renegade anymore. He would wrestle like 8 times a year for WCW anymore, so this would be one of those instances. He has no face paint or anything special at all about him so that helps a bit. They wanted Wrath to be a big deal but that never happened due to high levels of suck found in him, which sadly ended his career. Meltdown (Pumphandle Powerslam, or a solid e-fed wrestling show) ends this in like a minute.
Tony asks who can stop Wrath. That would be the epic power of Rick Steiner.
This would be about the time Raw would start, so here’s Hulk! This was during the Warrior period, which actually drew higher ratings than Raw for a few consecutive weeks. Liz in leather chaps and jeans with a black t-shirt: wow. Hogan bitches about Warrior and says little things like living forever, which were huge lines 8 and a half years ago. Hogan actually makes the challenger here and the ring fills with smoke.
That was Warrior’s thing, he could disappear in a cloud of smoke. The smoke clears and Disciple is gone. Yep that’s the whole thing. Hogan makes his own acting look good.
Kaz Hayashi is hurt so Kidman gets his Cruiserweight Title shot instead.
Cruiserweight Title: Kidman vs. Juventud Guerrera
This is Kidman’s first match as a face and he’s far cleaner looking now. Both guys are pretty much faces and both guys are incredibly fast. Juvy dominates to start as we talk about Sting vs. Goldberg. Nice powerslam for Kidman gets two. I’m not sure how much power it had but you get the idea. Tony talks about Cruiserweights going into the heavyweight ranks and succeeding. Such nonsense. That could never happen.
Juvy takes over again and we take a break. Tenay is back when we get back THANK GOODNESS so we can have someone that actually knows this stuff. Slingshot legdrop by Kidman as he controls now. This has been a solid match so far as you would expect. Naturally we talk about Flair and the Horsemen instead of the good match so there you are. That sums up WCW pretty well.
Sitout spinebuster gets two for Kidman and the fans freak, thinking it was over. They’re interested in this for sure. Nice wheelbarrow suplex gets two for the American. Kidman covers, gets two, stands up and walks around then covers again. That just looked odd. Release German gets two for Juvy. Very solid match so far.
Juvy Driver is blocked into a reverse suplex for two and the crowd is WAY into this. Kidman goes up for the Shooting Star but gets crotched. When he was in the Flock it was the Seven Year Itch which was an awesome name for it, especially if you like old films. A missile dropkick is caught into another sitout spinebuster and the Shooting Star ends it clean. Juvy, Saturn and the whole crowd applauds.
Rating: B+. Very good match here, especially for just thrown together on TV. Kidman was something special, so of course he didn’t do anything of note for years. When Juvy wasn’t a drugged up mess he could definitely go and this was a great example of that. Solid match indeed and worth seeing considering it’s about 11 minutes long.
Dillon, Anderson and someone that might have been Flair went into a locker room. They’re kind of messing up the whole surprise aspect here.
Jackie Chan gives us a look at some movie called Rush Hour. Oh that’s coming later after Nitro.
Bischoff throws Eddie out of the company and sends him to Japan. Those two legitimately hated each other and you could feel that a lot.
Barbarian vs. Davey Boy Smith
Let’s get this over with. This is another great example of stuff that wouldn’t be on TV if this wasn’t a three hour show but it has to be so we can fill time. No feud here or anything but just two guys having a match. The commentators say nothing about this match other than “Barbarian and Davey Boy Smith get started.” I can’t say I blame them here though as it’s not like anyone cares about this.
Barbarian sets him for a powerslam and falls backwards, which somehow hurts Barbarian. They talk about the match for a bit and actually stick to it. Davey gets dominated but sets for the powerslam like there’s nothing wrong. Hart saves it but a few seconds later Smith hits the WORST SLAM EVER for the win. They call it a powerslam but it looked more like Smith fell over and used Barbarian as a thing to hold onto.
Rating: F. It’s really that bad. Not only did no one want to see it but the match itself was bad. This is going up against Mick Foley on Raw. And people wonder why WCW lost.
Dillon is in the ring in a tuxedo, promising to take care of Bagwell and Steiner for what they pulled. They announce Steiner vs. Steiner for Halloween Havoc, even though it was supposed to happen last night. The lights flicker and we hear an evil laugh. My guess is this was never explained.
The Nitro Girls dance some more.
We see the winner of the Nitro Party Pack. This was a thing they did where they showed people watching Nitro with their friends and the best (however that was determined) got a prize which was never really explained.
Heenan takes over for Larry on commentary.
Jim Neidhart comes out and the ring fills with smoke again. Warrior is here with an unconscious Disciple (Brutus Beefcake). The NWO comes out and Warrior gets to talk. He babbles on for a good while before accepting the challenge from Hogan for Halloween Havoc. Oh dear. Smoke fills up again and they’re gone. You can kind of see the outline of the trapdoor.
Silver King/Norman Smiley vs. Scott Steiner
Bagwell is with Steiner here, having recently faked a crippling neck injury, which really happened but the injuries weren’t permanent. It’s total domination for about two minutes and then the double Steiner Recliner ends it. Did you expect something else? If so, why? Steiner might have hurt his back.
Hey look more dancing to waste time.
Hour three begins and we talk about an attack on Arn Anderson to mess up his chances of winning an arm wrestling match with Bischoff. The important thing about this: I was in the 4th row.
The Giant vs. Meng
Giant was about 4 months from jumping to WWF as the Big Show. Ok, so I know this looks like a squash on paper and it only lasts about three minutes, but SWEET DAMN this was a FIGHT. They just beat the hell out of each other the entire time with Giant not being able to hurt Meng at all. Punches, chops, headbutts and whatever else Giant had got nothing at all and Meng just yelled at him.
Meng hits two huge kicks to the side of the head and Giant is rocked. Keep in mind that Meng is a jobber to the stars at this point and hasn’t had a meaningful match in about three years. Imagine Kozlov giving Orton or Cena a great fight. Meng goes for the Tongan Death Grip, his finishing hold, but Giant grabs him by the throat. In a cool idea, Meng’s arm isn’t long enough to get the hold on and Giant can get the chokeslam for the ending. That was AWESOME.
Rating: A. Yes, an A for a 3 minute match. It’s that cool. If this wasn’t at least partially a shoot, they deserve some kind of award for acting. I remember seeing this match when I was a kid and thought it was great back then. It certainly holds up.
Here come Hall and Vincent. This was during the Hall is an alcoholic angle, which was started by Hall getting arrested for drunk driving. He wrecked 5 cars in this one year alone. Naturally WCW say MONEY in this somehow. Hall stumbles into the ring and drops his tag belt, barely able to speak allegedly. I have never liked angles like this and I never will. But hey it’s Scott Hall so we can laugh at his real life problems right? On a semi-unrelated note, did Hall ever win a big match other than World War 3?
Lex Luger vs. Scott Hall
Luger is NWO red and Hall is NWO white. The Wolfpack theme is still awesome. The announcers say Hall is one of the top five in the world. I thought Hall was the one drinking. Hall does the toothpick throw as we stall for a LONG time. Two minutes in and no contact yet. A wristlock doesn’t work as in it doesn’t go on, but that’s our contact so far. Hall stops for a drink and falls into the ring.
Hey there’s a headlock. A bunch of reversals and Hall winds up in the ropes. Luger goes for a tie up and Hall just falls down before laying on his stomach and won’t move anywhere. Vincent is apparently annoyed which you can’t blame him for. Considering this is a year or so before the Jake Roberts incident, this is all the sadder. I know it’s fake here, but again this isn’t something you make fun of.
Luger yells at Hall to get it together and here’s Eric, power walking to the ring. He says he can’t save Hall from everything and tries to get Hall to leave. Here are Nash and Konnan as we’re having an intervention on live TV. Hall has another drink and vomits on Bischoff. We go to a break to end this.
Rating: F. No. Just no.
And now, to the reason we’re here.
James J Dillon comes to the ring in a tux and a HUGE We Want Flair chant. He asks Anderson to come to the ring and we get the Horsemen theme song, which is just awesome. Keep in mind that this is in South Carolina so the fans are loving this very much. Dillon apologizes for saying something earlier, which I guess was reform the Horsemen or something like that.
Arn says this is what a pop smells like, and tells Dillon to take a bow. Dillon told Arn to be a man and stand up. Tonight is a new beginning for the Horsemen. That’s well received. Arn says that he’s always wanted to be a wrestler but can’t do that anymore. LOUD Flair chant and Anderson says you’ll get what you want tonight. He brings in the other Horsemen, starting with Mongo.
He never really fit with the team, but he always seemed like he was trying. His music was SWEET if nothing else. Benoit, the guy credited with restarting the team comes down, actually in a suit which is a weird look for him. We also meet the newest Horseman: Dean Malenko. He was in the group already, but this was his official induction I think. Arn said he wanted to bring out the other three Horsemen, so this would imply Arn, Benoit, Mongo and Malenko are the Horsemen now.
Anderson says Benoit is the finest in the world today. Dean is tiny. Mongo is all man and very tough and Anderson says he’s awesome. Malenko is told that he exemplifies being a Horseman and Arn apologizes for not getting it before. Arn caps us off and the Horsemen are BACK. Wait he forgot something. “I almost forgot the fourth Horseman. RIC FLAIR! GET ON DOWN HERE!”
What follows isn’t exactly a mega pop like HHH got when he came back in 02, but rather one of pure respect. This is like the retirement night where it’s all about how awesome this really is. It’s a moment. That’s the best way to put it. Everyone is on their feet and won’t stop cheering. Flair says this is real rather than something bought and paid for. Flair says this is still real damn it.
Flair then goes on a crazed rant against Bischoff, talking about how Bischoff says the Horsemen aren’t dead no matter what Bischoff says and no matter what Bischoff wants, this is REAL. And here’s Bischoff to take the spotlight off of Flair again and make it all about himself. There goes the jacket and Flair shouts that Bischoff is abusing his power and that he sucks. This is a great rant from Flair and probably the definitive one from the WCW years. They cut to a break once Flair goes off even more.
Ok, so what did all of this lead to? See, this all started in a meeting with most of the WCW talent. Bischoff, with Flair in the room, said that no one on the roster other than Piper, Savage or Hogan had ever drawn any money. Not Sting, not Luger, not Flair, not Hart, just those three. Bischoff I think honestly believed that and in interviews later, once WCW was closed, he said he’d do it again today.
Then came the aforementioned Thunder taping where Flair went to North Carolina to watch his son compete in a wrestling tournament. Bischoff, believing his bullshit about Flair not being worth anything, suspended him for no showing, even though Flair had told a higher up that he was going to miss the show and was told he could do so. He wasn’t even booked on it and if he was it was a completely replaceable appearance.
Anyway, what Bischoff didn’t get was that while allegedly Hogan and Piper and Savage had drawn all the money, the WCW fans often only stayed because these guys were against Flair. This led to the huge WE WANT FLAIR chants that the company had to ignore on TV since Bischoff told them not to acknowledge them. This becomes a real problem as for about 6 months the fans all wanted Flair but Bischoff insisted they didn’t want Flair since no one paid to see him.
So then this happens as Bischoff FINALLY breaks down and lets him come back. What happens next? Flair had a “heart attack” on Thunder and was taken off TV again for about a month before returning to fight Bischoff at Starrcade, where Bischoff of course beat him. Flair became the crazed power mad dude that he accused Bischoff of being soon thereafter, making Flair the running joke of the company.
When the ratings plummeted, they put the world title back on Flair, naturally bringing them back up. So of course they took it right back off of him and took him off TV, since it wasn’t him that was drawing the people, but rather….well something that wasn’t Flair. The Horsemen became just a bunch of people that got beaten down by the NWO on a regular basis until it was really just Benoit and Malenko holding up four fingers for a few months until they dropped it altogether, ending it for good.
The announcers talk about how awesome that was, and for once they’re right.
Here’s DDP, the new #1 contender. He’d get that shot at Halloween Havoc which was one of the final nails in WCW’s coffin. We’ll get to that one later and I can’t wait for it. DDP sits at the announce table and welcomes back Flair. DDP is going to do commentary for the main event, replacing Heenan I guess.
Ad for Halloween Havoc, focusing on Hogan/Warrior instead of the world title match. Wow they got that put together quickly since the match was only accepted about an hour ago.
WCW World Title: Sting vs. Goldberg
Yep this couldn’t be the main event of Starrcade or anything like that. No gloves for Sting here for no apparent reason. I’ve always kind of wondered why Goldberg, the machine that he was, needed to have a police escort. DDP talks about knowing Goldberg a long time ago which is like BS but whatever. Goldberg is listed as the WCW/NWO World Champion. I can’t believe it’s September of 98 and that’s still going on.
Next Monday is Goldberg’s one year anniversary. He, the world champion, wasn’t on the show at all. Goldberg is listed here as 6’5. According to the NFL he’s 6’2 and a half. I love overhype. Pretty much a cat and mouse game to start as neither can really get a clear cut advantage. Goldberg overpowers him which is a rarity for Sting. His strength is underrated.
This is an interesting match, but why is it on Nitro in the middle of September on the night after a PPV? Test of Strength goes to Goldberg as he has dominated most of this match. Sting busts out a Tombstone of all things and Goldberg does indeed sell it. Two Stinger Splashes and make it three but Goldberg is fine. Spear hits the post and now we’re getting going.
Scorpion is mostly applied but it’s not on very well at all. Tenay: “It’s almost a deathlock at this point instead of the Scorpion.” You know, instead of the Scorpion Deathlock. And here’s Hogan to kick Sting in the head. Goldberg didn’t see it though and the spear and Jackhammer hit for the pin. Hogan jumps Goldberg immediately but here’s Bret. They chase off Hogan and Goldberg helps Sting up to end the show.
Rating: D+. Not much of a match as it’s really just thrown on. This would have been really good if they had more time and a bigger environment and less Hogan but that couldn’t happen since this is Hogan’s show and we’re all just on it. This mind you is a great example of what was wrong with Hogan at the time. The ONLY connection he had to Goldberg was that he said he wanted the title from him, which everyone said.
Sting wound up fighting Bret at Havoc, Hogan had Warrior and DDP had Goldberg. In other words, there was more or less no reason to have Hogan here other than to make sure he was in the last match of the show. Little things like that are why people say he’s a spotlight whore. This took away from Goldberg/Sting, which shouldn’t have been on this show anyway, but you get the idea.
Overall Rating: B. This was better than the other three hour one I did recently for sure. This actually was a good show and perhaps even a very good show. The focus here was on Flair, but it should have been. The main event was more or less a waste but what did you really expect? The Cruiserweight match was good, Meng/Giant was good (depending on your taste that is) and the Flair segment is legendary.
The first 40 minutes or so are worthless, but that’s typical WCW. Other than that, this was a well done show but it BEGS to be two hours instead of three. If this was two hours long instead of three, I likely would have watched it over Raw. There was just no point to the extra hour and it started hurting things a lot. Anyway, good show and DEFINITELY check out the Flair moment as it’s epic to put it mildly.
Great Review of that Monday Nitro after Fall Brawl 1998 KB. I remember watching Flair's Return that night but I think WCW/Bischoff really treated him like crap overall. I remember that line Bischoff said about Hogan,Savage,and Piper being the only ones that drew money. I still have no idea as to why Flair lost to Bischoff at Starrcade a couple months later though. I think they should have saved Goldberg/Sting for a PPV rather than give it away on Free TV but TNA does that alot too and I think have adopted some of WCW's Booking style. I really hated Bret going to WCW and not doing much with him too.
I thought RAW that night was the Better Show and had a Stacked lineup with Austin/Shamrock for the WWF Title,Undertaker/Mankind which I think was No Holds Barred,HHH/Owen Hart for the IC Title,Rock/Kane. Plus they were pushing towards Breakdown. Do you have that RAW from that night?
Actually, WCW didn't lose the ratings that night....although weekly numbers were very close during this period into March 1999 (Nitro actually topped a 5.0 Rating twice in Feb 1999 and still LOST head to head vs Raw, showing you how big the audience was for wrestling back then) this would be the last time WCW Nitro actually BEAT Raw for an entire night in the ratings.
Regarding Page knowing Goldberg...
That might not have been bullshit. He was an Atlanta football guy, and Goldberg has gone on record as knowing or meeting several guys prior to wrestling in the Atlanta strip-club scene, including Undertaker, IIRC.
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