Monday Nitro – March 23, 1998: One Of The Biggest Nitros Ever. Seriously.

Monday Nitro #132
Date: March 23, 1998
Location: Freedom Hall, Louisville, Kentucky
Commentators: Mike Tenay, Larry Zbyszko, Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan

The main story for tonight is the return of Roddy Piper, although I’m not sure how many people were asking for him back. We’re coming up on Spring Stampede and the main event has been announced as Sting defending the title against Randy Savage. In theory that’s the main event at least as Hogan might have some match that needs to go on last instead. Let’s get to it.

Here’s Piper right off the bat to get things going. He’s been pontificating on a mountain in Oregon (their words not mine) and is now back as a consultant. I’ll leave out the ridiculously lame Louisville Slugger puns for the sake of my readers. In honor of being in Louisville, he announces the first baseball bat match at Spring Stampede between himself and Giant vs. Hogan/Nash.

As for tonight it’s Giant vs. Nash and Piper vs. Savage, which would have been awesome ten years earlier. Apparently Giant is in the back eating bacon, eggs and midgets so he can smash Nash. Piper talks about being a psycho because he was in Alcatraz. Did we ever need to bring that up again?

Nitro Girls.

Sting defends against Page tonight. That’s a pretty big match for free.

We see the DDP on MTV clip from Thunder with Raven attacking him and stealing the US Title.

Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Ultimo Dragon

Tony is already hyping up the rest of the show and ignoring the match. Dragon hits a quick handspring elbow to knock Chavo to the floor followed by a nice dive. Back in and Chavo grabs a quick chinlock but Dragon elbows out and hits a standing Lionsault for two. Chavo gets a near fall of his own off a German suplex as this is going VERY fast so far. A northern lights suplex gets two more for Chavo but he gets crotched on the top to slow the momentum. Chavo gets down and tries to suplex Dragon in from the apron, only to get caught in the Dragon Sleeper for the submission. Short match but very fast paced stuff.

Post match Eddie rips into Chavo for not winning like he told his nephew to do. Chavo needs to apologize to Grandma RIGHT NOW.

Here are Hogan and Bischoff with something to say. Hogan says he’s not afraid of Piper or Giant, bat or not. Larry: “I’m already bored.” Piper comes out a few seconds later and asks Hogan about the bat match. Hollywood agrees on behalf of himself and Nash because Rupert Murdoch, a guy trying to buy the LA Dodgers, has been asking him for tips on how to swing a bat.

Hogan says he’s always the champion but has to stop for a YOU SUCK chant. Hogan talks about the fans liking Piper’s legs in his sisters “itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot mini skirt.” He says he and Nash are going to take out Giant tonight, apparently meaning it’s a handicap match tonight.

CALL THE HOTLINE!

Scott Steiner vs. Wayne Bloom

Scott immediately drops to the floor to talk about arm size with Buff. Back in and Steiner easily takes Bloom to the mat with an amateur move. The bicep curl into the elbow drop sets up the pushups as Steiner is dominating. Bloom gets up a boot in the corner and he hits an atomic drop for his jobber offense. A snap suplex gets two but Bloom ducks his head and gets caught in the butterfly powerbomb. Steiner hits a middle rope Samoan Drop and the Recliner is good for the submission. Squash.

Some Kentucky Wildcats are here. It’s the day after their historic comeback win over Duke so they’re the talk of the college basketball world. I remember the theme for Midnight Madness (the first practice of the year which is always televised) was WWF. The players all had ring introductions and some came out with belts.

More Nitro Girls.

Lodi vs. Psychosis

Lodi grabs a headlock to start, showing off something about Rush on his back. The fans are all over Lodi and Psychosis takes his head off with a clothesline for two. Lodi gets in some shots to take over but spends too much time on the top, allowing Psychosis to dropkick him to the floor. A BIG dive off the top, similar to a Whisper in the Wind, takes Lodi down and the guillotine legdrop is good for the pin back inside. Another short match but that dive looked good.

Hour #2 begins.

WCW World Title: Sting vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Page is US Champion and challenging but for the sake of clarity I’ll only refer to Sting as champion. The name plate on Sting’s belt is still blank. Tony thinks this is Page’s biggest match ever. Careful out on that limb Tony. They lock up to start and fall to the floor without breaking contact. Back in and the champion cranks on the arm but Page comes back with the driving shoulders. Sting gets two off a rollup and tries an early Scorpion to no avail.

The champion tries the hold again but Page quickly makes a rope and it’s a standoff. Page blocks a hiptoss and gets two off a swinging neckbreaker. The Diamond Cutter is blocked and it’s another standoff. Page fires off elbows in the corner and gets two off the Pancake. We hit the chinlock on the champion with Page cranking on it. Back up and Page rains down right hands in the corner but gets dropped face first on the buckle. A shot to Page’s head gets two and the champion hooks a chinlock of his own.

They’re going for the epic showdown style here and it’s working as well as it can for a Nitro in late March from Louisville to start the second hour. The hold stays on for a good while and the crowd calms down a lot. After over ninety seconds in the hold Page fights up but gets caught by a jumping clothesline.

Page comes back with a belly to belly suplex but Sting backdrops out of another Pancake attempt. They slug it out with Sting taking over and hitting his hair grab bulldog for two. Another bulldog sets up the top rope splash but Page gets his knees up. Page throws Sting in the corner and pounds away but Sting blocks a pair of Diamond Cutter attempt and grabs Page’s head for the Death Drop to retain.

Rating: B. Cut the chinlocks down by a minute or so and this is bordering on a classic. This is exactly what WCW was needing around this time (in the short term at least): a good wrestling match with the champion giving a rub to an upper midcard guy. At the end of the day, when all else fails, have a good wrestling match and a lot of your problems will fade away for a little bit.

Sting helps Page to his feet and does the Diamond Cutter sign. Nice touch.

Nitro Girls.

Nitro Party winner.

Lex Luger vs. Rick Fuller

Fuller is a big guy with a good look but almost nothing to back it up. How did Vince let a guy like that slip under his nose? They shove each other around to start but stereo shoulder blocks send neither guy anywhere. Fuller clubs Luger in the back to take over and follows up with a big clothesline and some choking. An elbow drop gets two and here’s Luger’s comeback. He fires off the clotheslines, atomic drops and the forearm to set up the Rack for the submission.

Rating: D+. I know there’s such a thing as formulas for wrestlers and it’s time for Luger to change his. Every week that goes by drags him further and further into a pit of dullness which looks to have no escape. There’s just nothing new to see here and the Racks on the big guys are getting less and less interesting each time.

Heenan is on commentary now.

Kaz Hayashi vs. Eddie Guerrero

Chavo is here for support. He holds the ropes open for Eddie so Eddie jumps over the top. When Eddie is being a jerk no one can touch him. Fast paced start with Eddie hitting a jumping back elbow and a high angle suplex for two. In an impressive move, Kaz goes up top for a moonsault press but Eddie dropkicks him out of the air.

Hayashi throws him to the floor and hits a suicide dive to put Eddie down. A missile dropkick gets two for Kaz so he goes up again, only to jump into a backbreaker from Eddie. Guerrero rakes the eyes with his boot and gets two off a pumphandle backbreaker. A superplex sets up the frog splash for the pin on Kaz.

Rating: C. Decent stuff here with Kaz doing the flips and Eddie supplying the good wrestling and heelish actions. It’s nice to see an interesting story like this with two talented guys like the Guerreros. The story works well and it lets Eddie show off a bit which he hasn’t gotten to do in far too long.

Post match Chavo checks on Kaz and gets yelled at by Eddie.

Profile on Bret Hart. The guy has been around for over four months and he’s had what, three matches? This company really was clueless.

Konnan vs. Prince Iaukea

Before the match we get a video on Konnan which is a highlight package, mainly of him beating up Norman Smiley. Prince speeds things up to start and knocks Konnan out to the floor. Back in and Konnan hits his rolling lariat and a basement dropkick as Heenan talks about Okerlund doing a luau. Off to a leg pull from Konnan (think a half crab but with Konnan laying on his back and pulling up) followed by a DDT for no cover. Konnan pulls on his pants a lot and puts on a kneeling half crab. Is sitting up really that hard for him?

A suplex gets two for Konnan and he strikes on Iaukea in the corner. Konnan hooks up a very interesting looking submission where he starts with a Sharpshooter leg tie up but intertwines Prince’s arm and bends the legs back while standing instead of turning over. Even Tenay has no idea what to call it. The hold doesn’t last long and he opts for a release German suplex for no cover.

Off to a lame Fujiwara armbar before just ramming Prince’s face into the mat over and over again. They run the ropes and botch….something before trading some awkward looking rollups for two each. Konnan’s 187 is countered into a northern lights suplex for the pin out of nowhere.

Rating: D+. There were some interesting moves in there but the last minute or so was really sloppy stuff. It was like the wheels were starting to fall off the match so they just went home immediately. Iaukea continues to be nothing special at all but for some reason he continues to be pushed on television over and over.

Here’s Jericho with something to say. Jericho cheers for Stanford before they play Kentucky in the basketball tournament. I’m surprised that didn’t get a face pop given the hatred between Louisville and Kentucky. He keeps going until Lenny Lane comes out, saying Jericho owes him $1000 for the shenanigans with Dean Malenko a few weeks ago on Thunder. Jericho says Lane stole all the stuff from his bag and his Loverboy tape is missing too. Lane owes Jericho $1000 for the smell in his gear. He says to let him have it and you know what’s coming.

Cruiserweight Title: Chris Jericho vs. Lenny Lane

Jericho is in trouble after getting popped in the face and Lane gets a quick backdrop for two. The champion comes right back with a shot to the face and is still in the Monday Night Jericho shirt. Lane counters the Liontamer into a rollup for two followed by a Skull Crushing Finale (which Jericho would later use as the Breakdown) for the same. Lenny tries to jump over Jericho in the corner but gets caught in an Alabama Slam, setting up the Liontamer to retain the title.

Third hour begins.

The Giant vs. Kevin Nash/Hollywood Hogan

Hogan is the shortest guy in this match. He starts with Giant as Tony explains that this is a handicap match because of the NWO winning at Fall Brawl a few years ago. Wasn’t it at Uncensored last year where they gained power? Eh I can’t complain as it’s a miracle that they mentioned it at all. Hogan can’t slam Giant and is thrown around with ease. Giant takes him into the corner for a hard chop and stomps him down in another corner.

Hogan bails to the floor for advice from Bischoff before coming back in with a knee to the ribs. Giant is staggered and Hogan takes over, only to get caught in a a backbreaker to send him to the floor. Back in and Hogan makes the tag off to Nash who pounds on Giant like he’s not even there. You know, the guy that had Nash running away just eight days ago. Giant reverses a whip and sends him into the corner for a clothesline and a headbutt. Hogan comes in to help out but Giant shrugs them off. Disciple comes in and it’s a DQ.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t anything special and the ending isn’t all that surprising. I’m wondering when if ever Nash is going to do the job for Giant. The heat is off the feud at this point and there’s little for Giant to gain by beating him now, which was probably Nash’s idea when the whole thing started. Match was nothing of note but Giant throwing people around was fun to see as usual.

Disciple tries to Stun Giant but the big man just stands there with a funny look on his face. Bischoff tries to come in and gets chokeslammed to death.

More Nitro Girls.

TV Title: Booker T vs. Chris Benoit

So Benoit loses to Norton on Thunder and gets a title match as a result? Booker starts with a headlock and runs Benoit over until Chris comes back with some HARD chops. Back up and Booker snaps off a powerslam to get a breather. They fight over a test of strength but Benoit bridges up, only to be kicked in the head to put him back down. Booker hits a big clothesline but has to block a German suplex attempt.

The second try is more successful and Benoit stomps away at Booker before elbowing him down for two. We hit the chinlock on the champion but he fights up and hits a flapjack to put Benoit down. The Spinarooni sets up the side kick but Benoit breaks up the missile dropkick. A superplex from the Canadian puts both guys down and it’s time to roll some Germans. It takes awhile for both guys to get up and Booker scores first with a spinebuster for a delayed two. Booker misses the side kick and hits the ropes to give Benoit a breather. They chop it out and the time limit runs out at about seven and a half minutes. Booker retains.

Rating: B-. The match was great and at least benoit didn’t lose. I’d assume this sets up a rematch at Spring Stampede with no time limit so Benoit can lose on a bigger stage. Again though, why have him lose to Scott Norton when you have him go straight into a title program after coming off another title program? It’s almost like they have no idea where they’re going with this.

Curt Hennig vs. Jim Neidhart

Rick Rude takes over Tenay’s spot at the announce table for this match. Bulldog shoves him off the ropes and runs him over. Hennig’s monkey flip is avoided via a cartwheel before he accepts a test of strength for some reason. Heenan is sucking up to Rude as only the Brain can. A clothesline takes Hennig down for two and Rude leaves. Heenan under his breath: “What a jerk.” We take a break and come back with Bulldog hitting the powerslam but having to go after Rude and getting handcuffed for the DQ. Not long enough to rate but it was just there to set up the post match stuff.

Bulldog is handcuffed to the ropes until Bret Hart remembers he works here and comes out for the save. Bret cleans house as Doug Dillinger gets the cuffs unlocked. Hart talks about being screwed (yes, again) and says he isn’t going to allow that to happen to anyone here.

Goldberg vs. Renegade

Interesting note: Renegade comes out to Marc Mero’s theme music from the WWF. It’s not a similar song. It’s the EXACT same music. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a song go from company to company like that other than a few commercial/public domain songs. Renegade hits a cartwheel elbow in the corner and turns around for the spear and Jackhammer to make Goldberg 60-0.

Randy Savage vs. Roddy Piper

Piper charges into the ring but Liz grabs him by the ankle. Roddy pounds away on Savage anyway and whips him with the belt as Heenan mentions the cage match that set this up five months ago. Savage is sent to the floor so Piper can disrobe in peace. Piper whips him over the barricade for a bit before ripping up the floor mats. Liz rakes Roddy’s back to break up the piledriver on the floor, earning her a kiss. Savage gets in a single shot but gets caught in a sleeper back inside. Liz is knocked off the apron as Randy breaks up the hold with a jawbreaker. Here’s the NWO as the match just kind of ends.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t a bad wild brawl but it wasn’t anything more. I know Piper was a huge deal about ten years before this, but is he really a big enough deal in 1998 to have him come in cold and beat the tar out of the #1 contender for a few minutes? Not much to see here, as is the norm for Nitro main events.

Hogan yells at Nash for not hitting Piper and takes the bat, only to miss Savage. Cue Sting with a bat of his own but Savage jumps Sting from behind. Giant comes in and takes both bats to run the NWO off. About a minute and a half of replays take us out.

Overall Rating: B-. You could tell they were starting to feel the heat from the WWF at this point given how stacked they made this show. The wrestling on here was better than Nitro has had in a long time and it made the show a lot easier to get through. I don’t get the lack of follow up on Goldberg attacking the NWO, but I’d guess it was because they needed to focus on Piper instead of Goldberg, because if one guy is your future in 1998, it’s Roddy Piper. Good show this week but again it needed to be an hour shorter.

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