Monday Nitro – January 19, 1998: What Happened To This WCW?

Monday Nitro #123
Date: January 19, 1998
Location: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Commentators: Mike Tenay, Bobby Heenan, Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko

This is the final Nitro before Souled Out and the main matches are already set. The world title situation hasn’t been addressed at all since the first episode of Thunder so it doesn’t look like we’re getting Sting vs. Hogan II at the PPV. We are however getting Bret vs. Flair in what has been a very well built up feud. The main event tonight is Hogan vs. Giant, hopefully without Robin Hood. Let’s get to it.

The Nitro Girls dance to open the show.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Rick Martel

Eddie jumps Martel before the bell but Rick rams him into the buckle to take over. A middle rope clothesline sets up a gorilla press on Eddie to send him out to the floor. Back in and Martel snaps off some quick armdrags and Eddie is getting frustrated. Guerrero goes after the knee to take Martel down and puts on a quick side leg lock. The slingshot hilo hits Martel’s leg and a belly to back suplex gets two. Eddie spends too much time bragging and gets caught in a spinebuster and the Quebec Crab for the tap out.

Rating: C-. This was really quick but it was nice while it lasted. There was a nice little story here as Eddie took out the leg but got too cocky and got caught. For a three minute match, that’s about as effective as you can get. Martel continues to look like he hasn’t lost a step despite not being a regular competitor for years now while Eddie was smooth as always.

We see the end of Thunder with the NWO imploding again as Nash and Savage are on the verge of completely disintegrating. They slapped each other during the match and Hogan had to play peacekeeper. Post match Hogan accidentally hit Savage to make the problems even worse. Giant and Sting ran out for the save and stood tall to end the show.

Here are Hogan and Bischoff with something to say. Eric has Sting’s bat for some reason and presents it to Hogan as a trophy. Hogan says that the NWO has a pecking order and everyone is going to fall in line as they’re supposed to. If anyone steps over the line, they’ll have to answer to Hogan and the bat. He knows everyone is praying to God to rectify the situation with the world title and put the belt back where it belongs. As for Giant, Hogan is proving he’s a fighting champion by beating him tonight before moving on to Sting and for Hogan’s world title.

Chris Benoit vs. Marty Jannetty

The announcers say that this is a match Benoit has been wanting for awhile. Benoit starts pounding away on Jannetty but gets caught in a headscissors to give Marty a breather. A superkick puts Benoit down followed by the jumping fist drop for no cover. Benoit gets a boot up in the corner and takes Jannetty’s head off with a back elbow. Marty actually wins a slugout in the corner and gets two off a knee lift.

Benoit blocks a suplex into a snap suplex of his own for one before throwing Marty to the outside. Jannetty slides through the legs to get back in before slamming Benoit face first into the mat. Here’s the Flock in the aisle but Benoit takes Jannetty down into the Crossface for the fast submission.

Rating: C. This was better than I was expecting. Jannetty really was better than people gave him credit for and he’s been showing that a bit in WCW. He more than held his own against Benoit and didn’t look bad in his other matches so far. Benoit looked good as well here in his tuneup match for Raven on Saturday and the Crossface came out of nowhere for the finish.

Post match the Flock storms the ring but Benoit fights them off and stares Raven down. The distraction lets Saturn get in a cheap shot but Jannetty comes up to make the save. Marty dives onto most of the Flock so Benoit can swan dive onto Lodi.

Jerry Flynn vs. The Cat

It’s Ernest Miller in his more famous persona. Flynn kicks him in the chest to start before countering a kick into a quick ankle lock. Cat makes the ropes and puts on a cross armbreaker which is broken just as quickly. Flynn comes back with a clothesline and a chop but Miller hits an enziguri as the martial arts begin. Cat hits his top rope spin kick for the fast pin. Short match here but it’s clear that UFC is starting to become an influence on professional wrestling.

Here’s Scott Hall with something to say. After the NWO wins, Hall says that he isn’t worried about Zbyszko because he gets the title shot at SuperBrawl no matter what. Hall calls out Larry for only being AWA World Champion (mentioned by name for the first time here) because his father in law was world champion and for the company going under with Larry on top. Hall says Dusty is a better wrestler turned announcer and Larry doesn’t want any of Hall. Larry says he wants him on Saturday and heads to the ring as we take a break.

Buff Bagwell/Konnan vs. Steiner Brothers

Scott starts with Buff and it’s time for a pose down. Buff hiptosses him down and takes Scott into the corner, only to be pounded down with forearms to the back. A belly to back puts Buff into the ropes and it’s off to Konnan. Scott speeds things up and leapfrogs over Konnan before nailing him with a clothesline. A running gorilla press sends Konnan rolling to the floor as it’s all Scott so far. DiBiase yells at him to tag but Scott doesn’t seem interested.

Back to Buff who is powerslammed into the Tree of Woe in the corner so Scott can choke away. He shoves the referee before being whipped into Konnan’s knee, allowing Buff to clothesline Scott to the floor. Rick finally comes over to make the save for his first action at all in the match. Konnan and Buff take turns pounding away as Scott isn’t interested in tagging. Scott clotheslines both NWO guys down and knocks Buff to the floor. The Steiner Screwdriver (now just an over the shoulder tombstone for safety’s sake) hits Konnan for the pin. Rick did nothing other than the save on the floor.

Rating: C-. Scott’s heel turn is working well so far but we’re still in the early stages. At this point the team is winning most of their matches and Scott is looking more and more dominant every time he’s out there. Rick and Ted can’t get through to him but the team is winning so they don’t have much to complain about.

Scott and Buff pose at each other post match with Buff running from a showdown. Rick stares at Scott but Scott walks away and celebrates on his own.

Hour #2 begins so the announcers recap the events of the first hour.

Here’s Giant with something to say. While he can’t touch Kevin Nash, he’s got the chokeslam for Hogan tonight. This brings out Nash with a cup of coffee and Hogan with the ball bat. Nash gets in Giant’s face but here’s Savage to go after Nash. Hogan calls him off but Savage comes in and knees Hogan into Nash, sending Nash into Giant. Nash throws the coffee into a ticked off Giant’s face but Hogan hits Giant with the bad. Sting runs out and gives Hogan the Death Drop to take his bat back. Giant is on his feet again about twenty seconds after Hulk Hogan hit him in the back with a bat. That’s an impressive recovery.

Nitro Girls.

TV Title: Mortis vs. Booker T

They slug it out to start as the announcers talk about Nitro going to three hours next week. Booker hits a quick ax kick and cranks on an armbar for a bit. Mortis avoids an elbow drop but Booker Spinaroonis up and hits a side kick to knock Mortis to the floor. Back in and Booker slingshots into a northern lights suplex by Mortis for two. Mortis loads up a top rope frankensteiner but Booker counters into a scary looking powerbomb off the top. Mortis is dead and the Harlem Hangover is good for the pin to retain.

Rating: C-. This wasn’t much to see but the slingshot into the northern lights suplex looked great. The match was just a quick win for Booker which is fine as it allows him to get on TV and showcase what he can do for a few minutes. It’s also a good sign that WCW can throw different people out there to challenge for the title instead of having the same few guys challenge over and over again.

Post match Wrath comes out to lay Booker out but Rick Martel makes the save. He asks for a title shot at the PPV and Booker says if it’s ok with the company it’s ok with him.

Here’s Flair for the hard sell for the match with Hart. Flair immediately takes the jacket off and says he’s here to wake the dead and make little girls talk out of their head. He takes the mic and lays on the mat, telling Bret to Scorpion this. Cue Bret as Flair gets on the apron. Hart praises Flair as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time but Bret has been waiting for this moment his entire life.

It’s like he’s starting his career over again against Ric Flair, and Bret is going to run over Flair on Saturday. Flair can compare their histories, but on Sunday morning Flair is going to wake up and feel that Bret is the best there is, was and ever will be. Flair says that he respects Bret’s family and he’s giving Bret one more chance to say that Ric is the best ever. Bret smiles at him and says that Flair will know who the best is on Sunday morning.

We look at Jericho attacking Mysterio last week on Nitro and costing him the Cruiserweight Title match. The announcers also talk about Mysterio winning the title on Thursday, setting up a title defense against Jericho on Saturday.

Chris Jericho vs. Juventud Guerrera

Juvy gets a quick sunset flip for two and monkey flips Jericho into the ropes to frustrate Jericho again. Jericho offers a handshake but clotheslines Juvy down to take over. Guerrera seems to be a face here despite being a heel against Mysterio last week. Jericho can’t hit a tornado DDT and gets rolled up for two. Juvy hits a top rope spinwheel kick for two more but misses a charge and falls out to the floor to stop his momentum cold. Jericho holds the ropes open and kicks Guerrera as he comes back in, setting up the Liontamer for the submission.

Rating: C-. This was just a quick match to give Jericho more momentum leading into his title shot against Mysterio at the PPV. Jericho’s turn has been well built up to this point and it’s really easy to hate him given his actions. You put that against a natural hero in Rey and you get a good match as a result. It’s basic booking but very effective.

Jericho takes his time to let the hold go and says it’s because Juvy didn’t make it clear that he gave up. Chris jumps Juvy but Rey runs out for the save, setting up a double team on Jericho.

Scott Hall vs. Lex Luger

Hall throws his toothpick at Luger so Lex slaps him in the face. They fight over a lockup until Luger shoves Hall into the corner and flexes a lot. Hall wants a test of strength but suckers Luger into a double arm crank instead of trying his luck. The fans are distracted by something in the crowd so the hold stays on for a good while. Luger finally counters into the same hold on Hall but Scott kicks him low to escape.

Hall stomps away and puts on a sleeper, only to have Luger counter into one of his own. As is always the custom with this counter to Hall’s sleeper, Scott quickly breaks the hold but gets punched down. Luger fires off the atomic drops and clotheslines but Savage runs in for the DQ before the Rack goes on.

Rating: D. The arm hold screwed a lot of this up but it wasn’t much of a match either way. Luger and Savage are fighting again at the PPV in a match that really doesn’t have much of a story other than WCW vs. NWO, which isn’t much to base a major match on. There was no mention of Zbyszko vs. Hall during the entire match either.

Hall and Savage stomp Luger down until Zbyszko runs out and is beaten down as well. Lex makes the save with a chair.

The Giant vs. Hollywood Hogan

Hogan comes to the ring in a neck brace, talking about how Giant caused his injuries. Bischoff says that Hogan can’t fight tonight so Giant lifts him off the floor and suplexes him into the ring as the bell sounds. There goes the neck brace and Giant hits a quick running clothesline in the corner. Nash has come out to ringside as Giant chokes in the corner with his boot ala Big Kev.

They head to the floor with Hogan being rammed into the barricade. In a really impressive power display, Giant presses Hogan over his head and back inside over the top rope. Nash distracts Giant and Hogan FINALLY gets in a shot to the back to take over. Hollywood pounds away in the corner and chokes Giant down before hitting the big boot to the chest. Just like the old days, Hogan slams him down and drops the leg but Savage comes out to distract Hogan. Giant pops up and the chokeslam ends the match.

Rating: C-. It’s really hard to complain about seeing Hogan wrestle for free on Nitro against a big named guy. The match was really just a backdrop for the NWO drama but it was still entertaining stuff. Hogan’s abilities when he’s in his comfort zone are often forgotten because of how bad he can be at times, but almost any time you get to see him against a monster you get an entertaining match.

Post match Giant goes after Savage, Nash goes after Savage, Luger runs out to go after Savage, and the NWO comes in for the save. Sting repels from the ceiling into the crowd (after running to the ring earlier) and finally clears the ring of the NWO. WCW stands tall to end the show.

Overall Rating: B-. With only one bad match and some great buildup for Souled Out, it’s hard to find much to complain about here. It’s really interesting to see how well WCW was clicking at this point given how bad things fell apart just a few months later. This was an entertaining show and it made me want to watch Souled Out so the show is a success.

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