WCW Monday Nitro – 22nd January 1996 – Viva Las Hogan and Savage

Date: 22nd January 1996

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Commentators: Eric Bischoff, Steve McMichael, Bobby Heenan

For once, this feels somewhat of a big show for WCW, as Nitro comes to Las Vegas tonight for the first time, with a main event of Randy Savage challenging Ric Flair for the WCW World Title tonight. Also, Sting & Luger challenge Harlem Heat for the tag team titles. Should be some good action here, so let’s begin.As we see the announcers talk, Konnan debuts (I believe) and declares he will fight Psychosis at Clash of the Champions for the Mexican Heavyweight Title. Quick plug for the show, but the championship I believe is the AAA Heavyweight title from Mexico.

WCW World Title: Ric Flair (c) v Randy Savage

Ok then, forget this being the main event. Savage brings an entourage of women to the ring, with one of them being Woman (who normally was around Ric Flair at this time). Naturally, Flair tries to woo her before the match and is slapped for his troubles.

Heenan seems to let slip that the Road Warriors will be back for Clash of the Champions tomorrow night. Hey, it saves me from having to watch another Hawk singles match again. Flair is in control against Savage for most of this match so far, with Savage fighting back and going for a top rope hammer chop, which misses Flair as we take a break.

Back from the break, Flair is still throwing Savage into the railings and giving chops. They both start trading counters as Bischoff announces Miss Elizabeth will reunite with Hogan and Savage at Clash of the Champions. So did that happen on Saturday Night or is this supposed to be an off screen development?

Flair goes up and much like 99% of the time this happens, he gets tossed off the top rope. Jimmy Hart tries to get involved, allowing Flair to hold Savage up while the referee was distracted. Anderson came out of nowhere but clocks Flair with a foreign object (Hogan appeared as well, but didn’t seem to do anything). A top rope elbow from Savage later and we have a new world champion (despite the ring bell ringing a few seconds earlier for some reason, so should it have been a DQ?).

Rating: C- If you’re looking for an awesome match between these two, check out their WrestleMania VIII match, as this was just a shorter version. The ending was as fast as it sounded, but it’s just sad to see these two as a shadow of their former selves. Well, Savage was but Flair could still bring it as we saw against Sting the previous week.

Post match, Savage stops the celebrations and warns Hogan to stop acting as if he won the match himself (should have said that after his title win at WrestleMania IV). Hogan wants the first shot at the title, although they have to team together at Clash of the Champions first. This took too long to get through.

Dean Malenko v Brian Pillman.

Man, that Horseman music is just too sweet (still early for that phase). Malenko gets the better of the technical start to this match, before going for a failed attempt at the Texas Cloverleaf.  It feels like Pillman is distracted by everything from the crowd to the referee and cameraman, which is a nice feature of his Loose Cannon persona.

Malenko continues his control with a sweet looking suplex and neckbreaker. Pillman counters with a Tilt-a-whirl off the second rope, but does not go for the cover. Powerbomb by Malenko now for a two count before they fight outside a little bit and then up top (as fast as it sounds). Pillman is thrown off the second rope and Malenko puts him down with a sort of abdominal breaker (think reverse of back breaker). Ankle Lock doesn’t work either as Pillman makes it the ropes. Malenko gets his foot caught in the ropes and Pillman gets the three count, despite the referee having seen Malenko’s foot in the rope.

Rating: C- That ending just showed how stupid WCW referees were, as that pinfall really should not have happened. Either way, this felt like a rushed version of the match these two really wanted to do due to time constraints. It was fine, but could have been better, save for Pillmans character work.

Quick advert for WCW Saturday Night.

Quick advert for Clash of the Champions tomorrow night. Why are these title matches not on that show?

WCW Tag Team Titles: Harlem Heat (c) v Sting/Lex Luger

Heel team v Face/Heel Team, with Heat defending. Take a guess who the lone fan favourite is. Stevie Ray and Luger start off, with Luger firing punches in the corner. Ray soon takes over, albeit not for long before the tag to Sting. My God, this crowd comes alive whenever he is in the ring! After the quick fire flying clotheslines in the corner, we settle down to Harlem Heat in control by keeping Sting near their corner.

When you look at Harlem Heat, they don’t look massively impressive together, but they do the power game simply and efficiently which is all you can ask for at times. Sting v Booker T now as I think this is foreshadowing a few years early. Sting fights back, but gets caught again, as Luger has the referee distracted. Dude, your teammate is getting double teamed and you are not helping! The crowd is willing Sting on here, as we hit an armbar by Ray for a while.

The beatdown continues, as the announcers remind me of the Parker/Sherri wedding at Clash of the Champions to come. You mean I have to sit through that? Booker goes up and misses the Harlem Hangover on Sting, who just about makes the tag to Luger. Jimmy Hart is outside in Lugers corner now, as the referee says he did not see the tag. Come on now ref, really? You were looking that way! Hart hands a small object to Luger as Sting and Booker are down from a crossbody.

NOW  the tag to Luger is legal and he decks Ray with that object (fist full of dollars I think) for the pin and the titles. Luger to camera: “I TOLD YOU WE COULD DO IT!”, while Sting looks stunned at the title belt.

Rating: C+ Sudden ending aside, this was an ok match. Sting as the face in peril always works and the whole “Is Luger on Stings side and fighting fair?” story is an interesting one. Now they have the tag team titles, I’m interested to see where this story goes, as long as the belts are not switched between teams too often like props.

Hulk Hogan v One Man Gang

Non-title, as I forgot Gang was even US Champion at this point. I had to rewind a few seconds just to be sure, but Ted Turner was shown as actually being in the audience. Hogan starts by knocking Gang out of the ring and being pushed into the steel steps. Back in, Gang forearms Hogan over the back before a bodyslam to the mat. That’s it for his offense, as Hogan Hulks Up, whips Gang into each turnbuckle, big boot, bodyslam and leg drop for the pin. Add US Champion squashed by Hogan to the list.

Post match, the Dungeon of Doom & Four Horseman come in to attack Hogan, with Savage coming out to help Hogan. Somehow, two of them fight off ALL the Dungeon and Horseman, because they just can’t sell a beatdown I guess. Savage and Hogan talk about Kevin Green (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Miss Elizabeth being in their corner for their tag match at the Clash to end the show. Sounds one-sided to me.

Rating: B- Two title changes tonight and three decent to good matches makes this show pretty good, considering this was in less than an hour. Hogan and Savage no selling ANOTHER beatdown at the end makes me roll my eyes, but you have to expect that from these two in this company. Good show here, but despite the publicity over Clash of the Champions, still nothing was added about SuperBrawl VI which is three week away.

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