Thunder: January 8, 1998: See if this sounds like a certain WWE “Alternative”

Thunder
Date: January 8, 1998
Location: Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, Florida
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Lee Marshall, Bobby Heenan

So back in 1997, WCW was on fire. That’s well known, and it’s also well known that WCW shot itself in the freaking foot and various other places to mess up at Starrcade. Before that though, they were so big that they were ready to add another show to the schedule.

The result was Thunder, which was supposed to be a show where the guys that weren’t used much could have a place to get on TV and stay in the public eye while Nitro did the heavy lifting. Goldberg and Hart were supposed to be the two big Thunder guys. Kind of think of it like ECW but a bigger deal. Anyway, this is the debut and it’s an insane 3 hours. Let’s get to it.

We start with a clip from Nitro because Savage, the guy in the opening match isn’t here yet apparently. It’s the NWO arriving in separate limps. This was supposed to be them splitting, but of course that would mean they weren’t the biggest deals in the world anymore so that got thrown out pretty quickly. Geez Tony Schiavone was annoying.

We see some suit that no one had ever heard from before or since say that if anyone is caught doing anything bad will be fined. WCW, you just fail at life.

Nick Patrick is banned from officiating until they watch the tape on Thursday. Why can’t they just watch it then?

We see ANOTHER clip from that Nitro where Luger pinned Savage on a small package and then Savage beat the tar out of him. For no apparent reason Bischoff tries to get the chair from him, I guess because of that idiotic suit from earlier. The NWO fights and Nash hits Savage while Hogan tries to play peacekeeper.

Chris Adams vs. Randy Savage

Hey we get a match! This was supposed to be five minutes ago, but instead we just happened to have a bunch of footage that fit into the time period that we needed ready for us. Chris Adams was a big deal in WCCW with his biggest thing being bringing the superkick into America. Oh and he trained Steve Austin. He’s British by the way.

We hear WAY too much about Nitro and Starrcade as we begin the time honored tradition of talking about everything in the world other than the match going on. After Savage just beats the tar out of him for awhile, Luger comes in and nails Savage so Adams can get the pin. Naturally this is HUGE for WCW. Of course Adams never did anything again. JJ Dillon comes out to validate his paycheck and does nothing.

Rating: C-. Eh it’s all about an angle that went nowhere here. In other words it’s 1998 WCW. Adams was nothing at all and he was a jobber here. It never went anywhere but it was a TWIST dang it! Nothing of note here and a stupid way to open a show.

After we get back from break, Hogan and Bischoff come out with three different songs if you can believe that. We get the NWO theme, Bischoff’s theme and finally Voodoo Child. Hogan thinks he’s champion still. Don’t worry, he would have it back in four months because no one but him could carry it more than two months of course. Hogan talks and says nothing at all.

Ad for Saturday Night, which is funny that they actually thought that meant something anymore.

Mike Tenay is with JJ Dillon who says that Savage wins by DQ, making the whole thing earlier COMPLETELY POINTLESS. Luger shows up and complains that the suit from Monday decides to do that now after a year of the NWO attacking the faces. Luger would of course join the NWO in about four months. Naturally Luger says WCW has to unite. I’m getting a headache from this show and we’re not even 25 minutes into it.

Louie Spicolli vs. Rick Martel

Yes that Rick Martel. He’s not a model but rather an old guy in a leather jacket that had decent matches. He would shred his knee to death at SuperBrawl and end his career. Spicolli is yet another guy that got over because he died. He was a midcard jobber that wasn’t very good but since he was a lifelong drug addict that died of an overdose, he’s apparently a fallen hero or something.

The set is really different here as it’s like a cave theme or something. It’s hard to describe. The Flock is here, which could have been cool but they screwed it up a million ways to Sunday. As the announcers talk about money and the NWO and suspensions etc, Martel hits a spinebuster and the Quebec Crab for the tap out.

I freaking hate WCW commentators. This was about four minutes long and they talked about the wrestlers for MAYBE 20 seconds. And hey, after the match they discuss how different the Liontamer is than his Crab, because we can’t just TALK ABOUT THE GUY IN THE RING.

Rating: C. Again, this is your standard TV match. There’s not a lot to it but it’s Martel’s second match in the company so this was nothing more than a way to get him over. You know what else might have done that? Perhaps talking about him during the match. Make him seem like a big deal. We can’t do that though so there we are.

We see a clip from Starrcade where Nash no showed so he didn’t have to job to the Giant (Big Show). Who cares that it was the biggest show in company history? That’s another reason why WCW failed: Nash wasn’t punished at all for this. This was more or less the 2nd or third biggest match on the card and likely second, but hey, Nash can’t job or anything like that, so he bailed and nothing happened.

Instead Hall and Giant had a fight instead of just having Hall, who wasn’t doing anything that night anyway, against Giant. I mean it isn’t advertised but it’s hardly Scott Norton vs. Virgil. We’ll ignore the fact that we’re getting a full clip of a segment from a PPV that aired ten days ago. No reason that the people that PAID to see this should be upset at all right?

Tenzan vs. Ohara

Tenzan is a member of NWO Japan, meaning they threw a shirt on him instead of actually having a story. They were an actual stable in Japan so of course WCW decided that this was another reason to push the NWO feud, meaning that after about 15 seconds of talking about NWO Japan, we go back to talking about Luger’s rallying cry.

Other than that they just mention the WCW/NJPW show at Starrcade 95. Oh Tenay is on commentary here for this match. Tenzan hits a diving headbutt from the top. Hey, the NWO has won twice. Hey, it means nothing but let’s talk about what it means anyway!

Rating: N/A. There was very little here but what happened was fine. It was like two minutes so there we are.

We go back to Nitro from Monday with Hart talking to Flair about the world title. Since Bret was world champion when he left, he didn’t win the world title for nearly two years. Oh and Flair and Hart are about to feud apparently. Hart saying his catchphrase to Flair is actually a cool moment. This would be light years better if they just showed the promo rather than having the Thunder sound every time they made a cut.

Chris Jericho vs. Ric Flair

There was a point to a promo! I’m in awe. Jericho cuts a funny promo talking about how he’s not going to whine anymore and gives the announcer a suit jacket. The look on Penzer’s face is very funny as he’s like “Hey I got a jacket. Ok then.” Anyway, this is apparently their first meeting.

Flair has a ton of cheering and fans and Jericho is more or less bleedin charisma and talent so naturally both lost their push in about three weeks. This was when Flair was in decent shape and could still certainly go in the ring. Jericho just goes off with kicks and speed moves and gets great heel heat with it. That doesn’t mean he should be pushed of course.

Marshall references the 1924 Yankees when he means the 27 team but whatever. Well at least if he’s making obscure references he might as well get them wrong. Scratch that and reverse it. They talk literally nonstop about Hart and Flair for the opening part of this.

They mention that Bret won five world titles but don’t mention him beating Flair for his first because Flair never went to WWF remember? That never happened, mainly because it had WCW with a leg and a foot in the grave and had WWF pouring dirt on them. They keep trying to push the idea that the belt is from 1905. In case you’re confused, you’re right to be so as it’s just insanely complicated.

Short version: it goes back to about 1993 but they’ll call it 05 anyway because it technically kinda sorta is but not really but it’s so complicated we can get away with it. The World Heavyweight Championship that Undertaker has now though is far less complicated: it’s from 2002 and looks like the WCW Title, end of story. Vince of course uses the same lineage anyway to make himself feel better so there we are.

I picked that DVD up today yet I’m here reviewing a bad TV show for you so there we are. Jericho hits a top rope elbow shot which makes him awesome as it’s one of my favorite moves ever. So after doing NOTHING to the leg, Flair gets the figure four and Jericho immediately taps. Tony, after saying many times that Flair is a 13 time world champion, says that this has to be one of Flair’s biggest wins of his career.

My jaw actually dropped when I heard that. We get an explanation of the suit jacket thing as Jericho rips Penzer’s jacket again. This was the really stupid tantrum story where Jericho would whine a lot about a loss. Christian did the same thing around Mania 18. You know, because guys with that much talent can’t get serious pushes. No one would buy good wrestlers getting pushes of course.

Rating: B-. This was fine. The ending completely sucked but that’s what you expect here. You almost have to watch these without commentary as it’s just so freaking stupid at times that you can’t believe it. Jericho was treated like crap most of the time so once his contract was up he bolted and was at least given a mic and told to talk so he did. Three or four world titles later and he’s still a failure in the main event but he’s stolen several shows and is incredibly entertaining if nothing else.

DDP t-shirt ad. I remember these and loving them. The idea was they would more or less have an item of the week with Public Enemy playing the original Cryme Tyme and stealing them out of a truck and selling them through a secret phone line. It’s a lot funnier than it sounds.

Meng vs. Giant

Meng was a freaking monster most of his career as he could even put Giant out with the Tongan Death Grip. He has my birthday too. On his way to the ring, Tony says that Flair vs. Hart is happening at Souled Out (sponsored by Snickers). Tony messes up by saying that Heenan will be in the match somehow and Heenan freaks out. Giant gets an awesome looking backdrop on Meng.

I know it sounds basic but it was just freaking pretty for some reason. They announce Giant vs. Nash for the PPV as well, which at least has something to do with the match. And of course Meng is destroying him. As they talk, Giant gets the chokeslam and Tony has to say wait a second to count the pin. Meng was trying to get the Grip on Giant and if he had actually extended his arm he might have done it.

Rating: B. That’s just for that REALLY sweet backdrop. Other than that nothing at all happened here.

Steve McMichael vs. Goldberg

This was Bill’s first feud and it was over a Super Bowl ring. This is yet ANOTHER match paid for by fans who bought Starrcade, but who cares about them? We have their money so let’s just air it for free here. McMichael is the worst seller this side of Undertaker that I’ve ever seen. Goldberg didn’t sell moves, but that was the point. Mongo is just bad at it. The spear hits, called a takedown, and Heenan thinks Goldberg might be undefeated. The Jackhammer ends this.

Rating: N/A. This was the Goldberg Special as he was booked to hide his weaknesses very well. Tony, a former sports commentator, says that Goldberg made his living playing football in the SEC. I give up.

Tag Titles: Buff Bagwell/Konnan vs. Steiner Brothers

Hey it’s more NWO! We’re not even half done with this match. How in the world is that possible? This was when Ted DiBiase was the manager. There was an angle going on where both they and the Outsiders had tag titles and a unification was coming. Tony: “The Steiners are a lot more smarter than people think.” They go over the remaining card which has one big thing in it that I’m saving for later because it completely blows my mind.

And holy crab that was the worst botch I’ve ever seen. Buff was trying to use a reverse neckbreaker on Rick and Rick fell too early so Buff was standing there with his arms in the air anyway. Buff did the move anyway and Rick sold it anyway. That sums up WCW far to easily. Oh and Buff would have his neck broken by Steiner soon enough anyway. We see the beginnings of Scott’s heel turn as he avoids the double team with Rick to hit the Frankensteiner and get the pin on his own.

Rating: N/A. These matches are just way too fast to really grade. They’re going like two and a half to three minutes each and it’s just not fair to grade them based on that.

And here’s the thing I haven’t mentioned; they’re reairing, in its entirety, Bischoff vs. Zbyszko from Starrcade. I don’t mean they air clips or something. I mean the WHOLE FREAKING MATCH. It’s 12 minutes long not counting the intros which have a guest referee in Bret Hart also. This was one of the big three matches on the card, so why not air it for free a week and a half later?

Eric Bischoff vs. Larry Zbyszko

This is for control of Nitro but the winner actually wasn’t a clinch as you might think it was. There were real possibilities they would give Nitro to the NWO for a few months. That’s how insane they were with this one angle. I have a timer going here on how long this whole thing takes. Keep in mind that the live crowd has to sit through this. Actually they might not have as this is something you could easily add in later.

Larry comes out to Nitro’s theme which actually makes sense. Oh, Mike (Tenay, Rhodes and Schiavone are doing the commentary here). Remember Bret Hart is referee here. Larry is actually in good shape here. If he didn’t suck so badly when he wrestled it could have been worth having him wrestle occasionally. They did that anyway but whatever.

Bischoff is a karate guy so that’s all he tries to do. They put up a graphic to tell us when this was, as if we forgot that this was 10 days ago, or thinking that they’re actually airing NEW WRESTLING ON A NEW WRESTLING SHOW. Bischoff gets one kick that puts him down which wasn’t bad. And there we finally hit reality as Larry gets his hands on him and annihilates him.

Bret keeps breaking it up, including breaking up a sleeper that he said was a choke that actually was. He does the same with a headscissors hold. The thing is that Hart might have been joining the NWO. They actually try to imply that Larry is equal to Bret. In a funny spot, Bischoff tries to roll to the floor and just falls with a thud. It’s a great visual. Oh Scott Hall is at ringside.

The announcers keep getting on Hart when they should be kneeling down and fondling his balls for lowering himself to this crap. They actually say tweener as they decide Hart is in the NWO based on being a logical and fair referee. Oh how I hate WCW announcers. So after Hall interferes, Larry just stands there and covers up and now Bischoff is spent.

Larry proceeds to use the most basic moves in history before putting Bischoff in the Tree of Woe for absolutely no reason other than to do the main spot of the match. Hall loads up Bischoff’s foot with a piece of metal, but as he throws the kick the metal goes flying out of the shoe before it hits Larry. Naturally he just sells it anyway and the crowd audibly groans.

When I get to this show, you’ll see how completely awful this really was but how this fits in perfectly. For no apparent reason, Bret punches the heels who are more over than anyone not named Bret Hart in this match but in the name of legendary status Larry is over in the minds of WCW so there we are. There’s the Sharpshooter.

Larry has a belt for no explainable reason and chokes out Bischoff. And apparently Larry is the winner despite getting no pin or submission. This was just freaking stupid. They point out that the NWO could take over Nitro again like they did on the previous Monday but they still own Nitro anyway. So in other words, they could take over Nitro, they could throw them all out, but hey, WCW still owns the place!

Rating: F. Oh this was bad. Bischoff puts himself a match before the main event, for no apparent reason Larry wins, the foot thing was stupid, and the whole thing was just a joke. Seriously, they’re fighting over the a television show that apparently it doesn’t matter if they win or not. Are you wondering why this was a stupid match and why the show bombed like it did? Correction, didn’t bomb, but rather the ending and the aftermath failed.

I actually forgot this was Thunder. That can’t be a good sign at all. Larry comes out and apparently winning got him a shot at Hall at Souled Out. Yeah because a guy having one match in years can beat a guy like Hall who is a regular. Apparently they’re fighting over a feud from ten years ago.

This is actually a decent promo as Larry says that Hall took the easy way out and now instead of being world champion Hall is…one of the biggest heels in the world’s biggest wrestling company making more money that Larry made in his whole career. Yeah that kind of backfired on Larry.

We see MORE clips from Nitro, this one in September which is recent I guess. They beat up Boss Man and spray painted him. That of course is enough to transition us to this match.

Ray Traylor vs. Scott Hall

Hall makes sense, but this is Traylor’s (Boss Man) match because of a moment four months ago. That’s WCW for you. They hype up Giant vs. Nash and actually use the tag line of It’ll Actually Happen This Time! How in the world did this company ever make a dime? So in this one we have Hall destroying Boss Man for the most part until the referee goes down and Boss Man gets one shot in.

The announcers realize that this is the place where the NWO was formed so let’s guess what they talk about for the majority of the match. In a part that blows my mind, Tony is going on about Bash at the Beach 96 and Hall hits Boss Man in the face with his unofficial tag title belt. Tony says OH then acts like nothing happened and continues his thing about a show from a year and a half ago. Larry comes out for the interference and of course the referee gets up just in time for a Boss Man slam to end this.

Rating: D-. DAng it being long enough to grade. I’m glad to know that they managed to wait TWO HOURS to use the same ending to a match as earlier. This show is giving me a freaking migraine.

They say more from Starrcade from Baltimore later on. Starrcade was in DC. Seriously, this man is allowed free on the street without medication!

Cruiserweight Title: Ultimo Dragon vs. Juventud Guerrera

Dragon is champion here. As he’s coming to the ring, we start talking about Scott Steiner and Tony apologizes for missing him slapping a referee earlier in the night. They can’t play it again tonight and have to wait until Saturday Night. My head hurts again.

And now let’s act all shocked when Tony and company talk about the NWO the whole match until the very ending. Hey there’s a new champion. It was your generic fun spotfest with Juvi being made of awesome the whole match. He could have been a lot better had he been bigger, stronger and not Mexican. Seriously, name one guy of a non white race to do anything in WCW until Booker T.

Rating: N/A. It’s another 3 minute match that meant nothing really as it was all about the NWO just like the whole thing has been all year.

Bret comes to the ring and says he’s ready for Flair. Flair comes out and says he’s ready for Bret. This took three minutes.

Same DDP ad from two hours ago. That was a cool shirt though.

Lex Luger vs. Scott Norton

Let’s get an over/under on Savage interfering here. He doesn’t actually. Two minute match though and Bagwell and Savage come in after it ends. This show is trying to tick me off. It has to be. Nothing could be this terrible.

Rating: N/A. X, I hate you. You drove me to this.

HEY, let’s talk about STARRCADE since we haven’t done that at all!

For some reason this still surprises me as they show the full ending to Sting vs. Hogan and IT’S STILL A NORMAL THREE COUNT, IT’S ALWAYS BEEN A NORMAL THREE COUNT AND IT ALWAYS IS GOING TO BE A NORMAL THREE COUNT. I have to do this show soon and give a full reason as to why this was stupid. Mark my words: WCW died right here in this clip that is being aired.

This was just so bad and so ridiculous and such a freaking mess and so not what ANYONE wanted to see that the company was just shot dead by it. We get that there was controversy, but THERE SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN CONTROVERSY! This should have been 5 minutes and Sting nearly murdering Hogan.

Instead, we have a Montreal reference, a screwjob that was botched, and a thing that went on for two months before Sting actually became champion in the middle of February, but the thing that really killed it was Hogan had the title back in MAY. It’s not like Sting wasn’t a draw. I mean, this show wasn’t about Hogan.

It was about Sting, but Hogan insisted it become all about him again and that killed it. This was as foolproof as you could possibly make a show but this band of idiots managed to screw it up. That’s just amazing.

Seriously, they’re doing more of this. This amazes me.

So in another huge SCREW YOU to the fans that bought Starrcade, the Sting vs. Hogan rematch aired the following night on Nitro. Naturally, they ran out of time and had to end the broadcast before the match ended, so they are airing the footage here. At least this is something I guess you could say original as we haven’t seen it before. Hogan is in the Scorpion after missing the leg drop.

To the shock of all but no one there’s no referee other than the crooked one that isn’t really crooked because IT WAS A NORMAL COUNT. Hogan has a handful of tights on a rollup and gets three. So after the bell we keep fighting for the heck of it. The fans are dead after Hogan gets the pin by the way. Ok, apparently after the match ended it hasn’t ended because the original referee never called for the bell. He calls for it here though as Hogan gives up in the Scorpion again.

Dillon (who is the Commissioner guy of WCW in case I never mentioned that). Bischoff of course beats him up and Sting takes him out. So basically WCW and the NWO all come out and have a massive fight which they keep saying is a near riot. WCW unites to run off the NWO. So in other words, they did what Luger begged them to do BEFORE HE ASKED THEM TO DO IT. This of course was a huge deal which makes me think of the Sexual Harassment Panda episode of South Park where the big ending is everyone vs. everyone.

So back live we have Dillon in the ring to decide everything. He says the announcers must have formed their own opinions about everything. That’s just hilarious as he’s actually implying these guys think of anything and don’t have it fed to them. I’ve always wondered if it was someone telling them to breathe. The whole NWO comes out with him.

Sting needs to come down as well and bring the belt. Sting walking to the ring just looks odd. And the belt is held up until they can figure something else out. Immediately they decide this is a victory for the NWO because everything has to be bad for WCW.

And now we actually get to the important part of this whole show as Sting talks for the first time in over a year, saying that Dillon has no guts and that Hogan is a dead man. This was legitimately a big deal as it wasn’t something you ever saw but it happened here.

This led to SuperBrawl where they FINALLY had the title match and Sting won clean to start his two month title reign that ended with Savage getting it for a day so that Hogan could win it the next night. I’ve ranted far too many times on why this was so completely stupid and don’t have the energy to do so again.

US Title: Kevin Nash vs. DDP

THANK GOODNESS this is the ending. Hogan is with Nash here and I’d bet it ends in a fight. DDP won the title at Starrcade from Hennig. Oh apparently Nash had a knee injury and wasn’t at Starrcade because of it. And of course Nash would know nothing about faking knee injuries to get out of a big match where he was supposed to job.

No one he’s ever associated with has done ANYTHING like that. I think that might be a rib of some kind actually. And what a shock that Nash agrees to come back to fight one of his buddies. This is about five minutes long and you can see the DQ coming a mile away and there’s Hogan hitting Page. They beat on him and Giant comes out to have them brawl for like 10 seconds before we’re out of time!

Rating: O. As in oh I don’t care anymore.

Overall Rating: F. And that’s as high as anyone can convince me of. This was horrible. Counting commercials, we’re looking at about two and a half hours of television time. Of that, we had one match go over five minutes. That’s ok. I can understand wanting to get a lot of people on the card. The weird thing though: so much happened yet it seems like none of it matters.

Oh, MAYBE BECAUSE NONE OF IT DID! I will not and cannot agree with having a match from the PPV, a rematch from the PPV and about three more clips straight from it, ten days after it aired. Seriously, that’s just saying hey buyers, SCREW YOU. We got your money and now we’re gonna show everyone what you idiots paid 30 bucks to see.

Oh and on top of that, if you want to see the matches you paid for, you have to buy Souled Out AND SuperBrawl to see them. That to me is what wound up killing them. The ratings for the first night after Starrcade were HUGE. The next week they fell back to Earth because the fans that bought the PPV, the highest selling in WCW history, all saw that they were getting screwed over again.

The other problem here as usual is the commentary. The whole night was about the NWO or the fines from earlier or everyone being against WCW and how they’ll rise up or something and it just got freaking stupid. This is where the Attitude Era crushed WCW: versatility.

If you didn’t like the main stories, you had about 6 others to go with and they got treated like individual stories. WCW had everything tied into the NWO almost and people just got sick of it and when they got sick of it WCW had no idea what to do so they just stayed with the NWO hoping that somehow they could get something right. And that’s where Goldberg came into play.

The fans saw someone different, they saw someone new, they saw someone that could break up the monotony of this show. And then Nash beats him and hands the title back to Hogan all over again. People were just done with it and WWF was there waiting with open arms. The rest is history. Don’t watch this, not even for nostalgia. This was awful beyond words. Actually I hope not because if it is then I just wasted four hours.

3 comments

  1. Sully says:

    “NWO arriving in separate limps”

    You mean limos right?

    But how WCW ever beat the WWE for as long as it did will always be a mystery to me. The set was cool for this show but it just sucked. I pity the day you run out of stuff to review and have to start reviewing Thunders.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I’m going to start when I get there in the Nitro series. My life is doomed.

  2. #MrScissorsKick says:

    “He could have been a lot better had he been bigger, stronger and not Mexican. Seriously, name one guy of a non white race to do anything in WCW until Booker T.”

    Ricky Steamboat. He’s biracial.