On This Day: May 27, 1996 – Monday Nitro 1996: The Most Important Moment In Wrestling TV History
Date: May 27, 1996
Location: Macon Coliseum, Macon, Georgia
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, Bobby Heenan, Eric Bischoff
We’re FINALLY here as we reach probably the most important TV show in wrestling history. First and foremost, tonight Scott Hall is going to debut by jumping the guardrail, more or less shattering the idea that things are predictable on wrestling. That’s the huge deal so I’ll go into detail on how awesome and shocking it was later. Also this is the first two hour Nitro and there’s a new announce team. Let’s get to it.
Theme song opens us up.
Tony and Larry are the first hour commentators while Heenan and Bischoff will come in later. NO MORE MONGO!!!!! This is a great show so far!
American Males vs. Arn Anderson/Ric Flair
Gee I wonder what’s going to happen. Larry calls the Males the young and the useless. That might be the only funny line he has all year so enjoy it while it lasts. Liz looks awesome in blue. Flair vs. Riggs to get us started here. Larry seems like the heel commentator here which wouldn’t last that long. The Horsemen get him on the floor and work him over like the Horsemen are known to do.
Yep Larry certainly is because he complains about how the football players that the Horsemen are facing at the next PPV are losers. Everything breaks down and the Males actually clean the ring for a bit. Flair runs over to his VIP table and grabs come champagne for a shot. Well that’s a new one. Things calm down again and it’s Arn vs. Bagwell at the moment.
Arn accidentally clotheslines the pole and we take a break. Back with Bagwell fighting out of the corner but he doesn’t tag. And never mind as he brings in Riggs for awhile as Flair chills in the corner. Tony and Larry have been given champagne by Flair. Shame Heenan isn’t there for this one. Flair works on the knee of Riggs as does Arn. Riggs manages to get an enziguri to send Anderson to the floor but as he goes for the tag, Flair and the referee get into a shoving match. Oh never mind as Bagwell gets the tag anyway.
Missile dropkick takes down Flair for two and they do the small package bit where the partners keep rolling them over. I love that as the guys don’t kick out for like twenty seconds and just lay there. Fisherman’s suplex hits Flair but Anderson makes the save. Woman saves another pin attempt and Anderson kills Bagwell with a DDT and Flair gets the pin. Quick ending.
Rating: C. This was kind of sloppy but for the most part it was fine. No one expected the Males to win here and that’s fine. They weren’t supposed to win anything here and they had a decent match out of it instead. This is what veterans are supposed to do: give the young guys experience and help bring them up slowly. For some reason that rarely happens in most companies and the young guys are seen as weaker when they come up. Either way, just an average match here but it was fine.
Anderson isn’t afraid of football players. Flair says his women are attractive and he’ll get Debra. Liz is the Sugar Mama using Savage’s money apparently.
Kevin Greene and Mongo are training for their match. This is a waste of time.
Steve Doll vs. The Mauler
And here it is. Why would this be on TV you ask? The same reason a guy named Steve Gatorwolf was on SNME once: to allow something else to happen. Mauler is Mike Enos and has Colonel Parker with him. Doll means nothing. Crowd is DEAD and the Mauler squashes him for awhile. They both go to the floor and Doll goes into the post. We take a break and come back and you can see him in the crowd.
Scott Hall comes over the railing and wants a mic. He says the famous line of you know who I am but you don’t know why I’m here. He calls out some of the big WCW names and has a challenge for Bischoff, Turner, Savage and anyone else that is here in WCW. “You want a war? You gonna get one.” The match of course just ends.
Ok so as you likely know, this completely changed wrestling forever for a lot of reasons.
1. No one, I mean NO ONE, saw this coming. Hall had literally wrestled less than two weeks prior on a WWF show. Today the 90 day no compete clauses exist because of this moment. If three months had gone by, first of all people would have noticed Hall was missing and there would be a good chance the word could have gotten out that he had signed with WCW. It made things seem like anything could happen on Nitro at the drop of a hat and that made you want to see the show. This was dabbled in with Luger on the debut episode but this blows Luger away.
2. Hall’s line about a war made people think that WWF was in on this which was unthinkable. People had jumped before but when they arrived there was fanfare to it and all that jazz. Hall came in through the crowd (by the way if I remember correctly he wouldn’t be named until Bash at the Beach) in street clothes, making it look totally unplanned. The idea of breaking the walls of kayfabe was also unthinkable coming up to this point, which shook everything up.
3. This would be the main story for the next three years minimum with all kinds of twists and turns in there. Everything was about Hall and eventually Nash and Hogan, but at this time everything was blown away by what the potential of this could be and it definitely had huge potential to be one of the biggest storylines of all time and it definitely was. It also set up the WWF because they had to respond to it. Granted they didn’t do that for almost 18 months but the idea was there.
4. I can’t emphasize this enough but this changed everything. The model before this had been to just go out there and do your thing week in and week out with the same structure every time. This made it look like the script had been thrown out the window and that there was this rogue guy and later this rogue group that didn’t care about the rules and were going to take things over whether you liked it or not. Having it look like the other company is involved in it is a brilliant idea as it looks like something is completely unprepared, which makes you want to see it at the same time. Brilliant.
5. Finally, this more or less marks the end of the athletics being the focus of the show. Everything became about drama from this point on. The matches got worse, the young guys got pushed to the back, the storylines and a lot of the face/heel dynamics were abandoned and everything was focused on drama. It wouldn’t really kick in until late July, but from this point on you could see the line of demarcation and how everything would change afterwards. It certainly worked for awhile, but eventually people got tired of it which is what brought the company down, along with about a thousand other things but we’ll get to that later.
Craig Pittman vs. Diamond Dallas Page
Guy that won a major PPV competition vs. a guy that hasn’t been on Nitro in months. Gee what do you think is going to happen here? No mention of the Hall incident post break. Teddy Long manages Pittman here. Page makes fun of him to start and imitates a soldier. Pittman does one armed pushups and Page thinks for once and tries to jump him. Pittman moved but the idea was nice at least.
There’s a slight reference to Hall but it’s not mentioned specifically at all. Page gets choked on the floor by a cord and then gets almost caught in the Code Red (Pittman’s cross armbreaker finisher). Teddy goes down and the distraction sets up the Diamond Cutter to end it. Barely even a match.
Video on Randy Savage and how he’s insane now.
Shark says he’s out of the Dungeon of Doom. Somehow he has a world title match tonight. They were a lot more liberal with those back then I guess.
Video on Hogan and how he’s been chilling with “celebrities” from Hollywood recently. He’s done some charity work too, which is always cool. He’s also been on Baywatch. It’s really funny seeing how big a deal they’re trying to make a guest appearance on Baywatch seem when Rock is a legit big star now.
Hour #2 starts. Bischoff says they’re not going to dignify the guy jumping the rail as he dignifies the guy jumping over the rail.
WCW World Title: Shark vs. Giant
That sounds like a bad Syfy channel movie. Shark is listed from Tsunami. No country or anything. He’s just from a tsunami apparently. Shark (Earthquake) hammers away on Giant. This is somehow fallout from Slamboree as Giant is replacing Shark or something. Shark keeps ramming into him and Giant eventually gets bored and clotheslines him down.
Giant chokes with the boot but Shark actually comes off the middle rope with a double axe. The future Big Show is like dude, you’re old and slams him with ease. He held him up there too which looked awesome. They exchange some more big man stuff and I wouldn’t look for this to last much longer at all. Eric says the second hour will start weekly at 8:50 or so. This bothered me back in the day. How can you start the second hour when the first hour isn’t even a complete hour? Jimmy gets up on the apron and the distraction lets Giant hit the chokeslam to end this.
Rating: C. Just a battle of the big men here so how much can you really complain? It’s not that bad but another win for Giant is never a bad thing. He needed all the ring time he could get and that’s what he did here. Shark would feud with the Dungeon briefly before just kind of leaving.
Post match Big Bubba comes in to cut half of Shark’s hair. This led to a bad match at the Bash.
Bischoff keeps talking about Hall without actually talking about him you know.
TV Title: Maxx vs. Lex Luger
Maxx used to be DDP’s bodyguard so he’s now #1 contender for the TV Title. Don’t you get the connection there? We talk about the Great American Bash where some guy named Rey Mysterio is going to debut. Maxx uses some very basic power stuff as we pad this out since there’s no point in even making fun of Maxx’s lack of a chance here. More babbling about Hall follows as he’s going to get a chance to talk at the end of the hour.
Maxx hammers away as Luger stumbles around a lot. Side slam gets two. Make that four which only in wrestling doesn’t get enough for three. Elbow drop gets two. Falls count anywhere between Sullivan and Benoit is mentioned. Awesome match there. Luger hits a powerslam and there’s the Rack out of almost nowhere to end this.
Rating: D+. Just kind of there for the most part as just like Giant did with Shark, Luger gets a workout here that doesn’t mean anything. Their title match went nowhere for the most part because the whole thing was about Bischoff getting jumped by the Outsiders. Anyway, nothing of note here but that was the point.
Luger says he earned the title shot even though it was taken from DDP and given to Luger. We get a clip of Giant chokeslaming Luger through the table a few weeks back. Luger wants all the big men WCW has before the title match.
Bobby Walker vs. Brad Armstrong
Just….why? Walker is a no name guy called Hard Work. See what I mean here? Bischoff still won’t say Hall’s name “due to legal reasons” and still won’t dignify him as he mentions him for the fourth time tonight. Walker takes him down with the arm and Armstrong does the same to Walker. Walker botches a few moves before hitting a cross body off the top for two.
We hit the mat for some more basic stuff. Headscissors goes on while they’re on the mat as this is pure filler. They didn’t have the whole two hour concept down yet I wouldn’t think. Walker gets a backslide for two. He goes up and slips again before hitting a top rope shoulder block for the pin.
Rating: D. So in a four minute match he noticeably botched three moves. Walker would later be part of a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW, saying that they held him back because he was black. Based on this, I think it was more due to a high level of suck. Armstrong was always around but never really did anything. We did hear about the Cruiserweight Title being in America now, which is definitely a good thing overall.
Steven Regal vs. Alex Wright
Time to talk about Hulk! Or the Nasty Boys! Or Dennis Rodman! I never got this. It’s not like they’re talking about something major. They’re talking about random stuff that is there to avoid talking about the matches. That makes no sense but they always did it. Wright speeds things up a bit and takes him to the floor. He dives over the top to take out Regal as we take a break.
Back with Wright holding his arm as Regal takes over apparently. Headlock on the mat goes on which is a lot worse from Regal than most people. Belly to belly gets two for Wright. Bischoff actually calls Wright green. When do you ever hear that word being used? That’s another thing that started to be added around this time: random insider terms. European uppercut gives Wright some momentum and a rollup gets two. Pretty sweet pinfall reversal sequence ends with Wright hitting a nice dropkick to take over again. Monkey flip is countered and Regal gets a jackknife cover for the pin.
Rating: C+. Pretty nice match here as both guys worked rather hard to give us a nice crisp match. Unfortunately neither guy would really mean anything because they couldn’t talk that well but at the same time they were good backdrops for the amount of talking about WCW vs. NWO. Not much here but a decent little TV match.
Regal goes on a rant about Quasimodo and makes a semi-Hitler reference, calling Wright a mini-Adolf. Regal says WCW is nuts here and actually references Hall and says it’s time he has his say in what goes on in WCW. He challenges Sting who he would lose to at the Bash in a good match.
Scott Steiner vs. Sting
Odd main event here but whatever. They shake hands to start us off. Scott overpowers Sting to start as this is the always weird face vs. face match. Sting sends him to the floor with a dropkick and then dives over the top with a plancha. Back in and Scott gets a butterfly powerbomb for no cover. There’s the belly to belly for no cover again. Scott gets a double axe to the floor as he keeps control.
That gets two back in the ring as we make fun of WWF again because that’s just how we roll around here right? Sting gets a big boot up to block a charge in the corner as momentum balances out a bit. Scott hits another belly to belly for two. STF goes on. I guess that makes four moves for him right? He just lets it go and hits a cross armbreaker. Sting starts a comeback but the splash misses.
Scott gets a dragon suplex and here comes Luger as a second I guess. Rick comes out also and you might as well just paint a big sign that says DOUBLE DQ IS COMING in big letters on the screen. Samoan Drop from the middle rope gets no cover from Scott again. Sting avoids the Frankensteiner but can’t get the Scorpion. Scott tries a Tombstone which is reversed into one by Sting for two. Sting suplexes Scott to the floor and Luger interferes as does Rick and it’s a double DQ even though Luger hit first.
Rating: B-. Pretty good match here and the ending was there to protect Scott I think. They always wanted to push him hard but they couldn’t do it for another four years. The tag match that you would expect would happen next week in a show I missed because I was in a garage hiding from a severe thunderstorm. Anyway, pretty good stuff here with a predictable ending.
Hall comes up to the booth and says that “we” are tired of WCW’s big mouths. He tells Billionaire Ted to get three guys for a fight because they’re coming for a war. Hall wants to do it in the ring where it matters. Good line there.
Overall Rating: C. Industry changing moment aside, this was a pretty weak show. The matches seemed rather inconsequential for the most part but it’s clear they’re setting up for the Bash. On the other hand you have the 800 pound gorilla in the room known as Scott Hall. The show other than him means nothing as he was just the first step in a huge story that was coming. Anyway, from a historical standpoint this is huge and that’s the only one that really matters.
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