WCW Monday Nitro 1996: The Pre-NWO days.

WCW continued their war with WWF Nitro in the early episodes of 1996. The January 8th episode hyped the upcoming Clash of the Champions wrestling event on TBS, Bischoff saying fans could watch it for free “Forget about the Royal Fumble,” referring to WWF’s upcoming January Pay Per View the Royal Rumble that Bischoff calls an “over priced PPV.” Clash of the Champions aired on January 23rd, the main event having the Giant and Ric Flair defeating Hogan and Savage. Also of note is Hogan’s entrance included his real life wife Linda, Woman (who formerly managed Ric Flair), Debra McMichael, two other women, and the WCW debut of Miss Elizabeth. This event had the only time WCW mentioned the WWF parody skits airing on Raw, and only back handedly. The WCW 900 number is plugged and one of the selling points is Mike Tenay interviewing Eric Bischoff about the WWF skits.

The taunting continued on 1/29 when Bischoff says “Forget about it Vince, get a job at a Pizza Parlor buddy.” Later former WWF women’s wrestler Madusa (known in WWF as Alundra Blayze) lost to Sherri Martel to which Bischoff says “Madusa should have stayed in the WWF she could have taken on 90% of the male athletes in that division.” Steve Mongo McMichaels adds “She’s a lot more of a man than Goldfarb I’ll tell you that,” referring to WWF star Golddust. Later Bischoff refers to Goldust as the “Rupal impersonator.”

A month later on February 26th Bischoff reffered to the “World Whining Federation.” “DQ Yokozuna in a handicapped match,‭ ‬Jake the Snake Roberts,‭ ‬you talk about picking up some bones here,‭ ‬over Isacc Yankem and Diesel over Bob Holly.‭ H‬e’s still around?”

A few months later on April 22 the broadcast opens with Bischoff “We are not like the world whining federation which a‭ ‬taped canned show,‭ ‬happened a couple weeks ago. Let me save you some time and put your remote control down.‭ T‬he‭ ‬Rupal impersonator, the transvestite Golddust defeats Savio, regains the intercontinental title YAWN‭ ‬Mankind‭ ‬defeats Auto Montoya,‭ ‬bigger yawn.‭ ‬And Vader defeats Batu Oh Boy”

A month before that one of the stranger WCW events occured with Uncensored 1996. The main event being a triple cage match between the Mega Powers, Hogan and Savage, vs the Alliance to End Hulkamania, which consisted Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Meng, The Barbarian, Lex Luger, The Taskmaster, Z-Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution, with the now heel Woman, Miss Elizabeth and Jimmy Hart. Z-Gansta was actor Tiny Lister, known among wrestling fans as villain Zeus from Hogan’s WWF produced No Holds Barred Movie. The character Zeus even had a few appearances and matches in the WWF. On the 3/18 episode of Nitro Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan introduced Z-Gangsta saying “Everybody in the world knows this man and what he did to you in the late‭ ‬80s.”

There was another extremely large wrestler in the ring. His real name was Robert Swenson. Taskmaster, in the ring on live TV, called him the Final Solution. The character was not affiliated with Nazis in anyway, but apparently WCW creative weren’t aware that the Final Solution was the name for the Hitler’s plan to kill all the Jews. By the time the Pay Per View aired the next Sunday, the name was changed to Ultimate Solution. It would be Swenson’s last pro wrestling match (he had a brief wrestling career in the late 80s). A year later he went on to play Bane in the Batman and Robin movie, considered by many fans to be the worst comic book movie ever, (he also had a small role in the aforementioned No Holds Barred movie). Swenson passed away in August of 97, and was perhaps the most unlucky guy in the history of pop culture.

Even without the unspeakably offensive name this match is still known as one of the dumbest things ever in wrestling. Hogan and Savage of course beat the eight other wrestlers, but it is somewhat note worthy that it was Hogan’s last major match before his infamous heel turn. He had a handful of appearances in subsequent Nitro’s, but by mid April he was off the air for a few months. The real life reason was he was filming a movie, Santa with Muscles. There was no in ring story to explain his absence, looking back, one would think they could have had a brutal defeat of Hogan at Uncensored to have an in ring story for his absence.

Of course Hogan would return to WCW at the July PPV Bash at the Beach, and his return would mark one of the greatest moments in professional wrestling history.

20 Years Ago Today: Hogan Turned Heel And Joined NWO.

Twenty Years ago today was World Championship Wrestling’s Pay Per View called Bash at the Beach. The main event was a six man tag between Macho Man Randy Savage, Sting, and Lex Luger, against Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and a mystery third partner.

Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were in WCW in the early 90s, but did not achieve superstar status. Both of them went to WWF where they did become big stars. By the mid 90s, WCW, under the leadership of Eric Bischoff, launched Monday Nitro head to head against WWF’s Raw. Needing new talent, he was able to sign Kevin Nash and Scott Hall back to WCW. Both wrestlers were happy in WWF, but WCW offered more money and less days on the road.

Both Hall and Nash’s WWF contracts expired around the same time. Eric Bischoff had the idea from a New Japan Wrestling angle about wrestlers from another company invading theirs. Scott Hall walked into the ring on Nitro on 5/27 promising a war was coming. Kevin Nash soon followed, and subsequent weeks of Nitro showed the two, dubbed the outsiders, in the audience, going backstage, and generally disrupting the show. The idea was that two WWF wrestlers were coming to sabotage WCW. Soon a challenge was issued for a three on three match at Bash at the Beach. The Outsiders teased a mystery third partner, following a lot of speculating on who it would be.

Hogan himself had not been on WCW TV for some time, as he was off filming a movie. I believe it was the TV movie Assault on Devil’s Island, which aired on Turner TV the next year. A few segments about his career aired on Nitro from time to time, and at one point the Nitro announcers said they heard Hogan offering to be on the team to fight the Outsiders.

When the PPV came Hall and Nash came to the ring without their third partner. The match began, and Sting got (in story) injured and had to be taken to the back. Later on, Hulk Hogan came walking down the aisle. The fans cheered as people presumed he was coming to help his friend Macho Man, who was the legal man in the match. This was the first time WCW fans would have seen Hogan in months. The ring cleared as he entered, except Macho Man who was laying on the mat.

Bischoff, as well as WCW booker Kevin Sullivan had talked to Hogan during the course of that year about Hogan turning heel (heel is a wrestling term for villain). Hogan was reluctant, as he’d been a face for around ten years, (and as such was the biggest star in the history of the business. He actually was heel in his very early career). By 1996 the Hogan gimmick was getting old. In the 1990s the anti-hero was in, the traditional good heroes were not in vogue. People liked things at that time that had more of an edge. In fact, in early episodes of Nitro, especially when he was in the south fighting Ric Flair, Hogan was getting booed by the live audience.

Once Hogan saw how hot the outsiders were, he decided that he would be the third man, and the wrestling business was never the same. Bischoff later said that if Hogan hadn’t agreed to turn heel, the third man would have been Sting. Sting was the traditional WCW hero. While a Sting heel turn would have been shocking, it of course would not have had near the impact that Hogan had.

So the crowd was shocked when Hogan dropped the leg on Macho Man and sided with Hall and Nash. People were so mad they actually threw trash in the ring. Mean Gene got in the ring and Hogan immediately cut a vicious heel promo where he said he was bigger than the business and told the fans to stick it.

No one ever could have guessed that Hogan would have turned heel. It was the one thing in wrestling people never thought would happen. This is honestly one of the great regrets of my life. I wish so much I could have been watching this live on pay per view, or even have been in the audience. To see Hogan come down the aisle, assuming he would make the save, and then watch him drop the leg. Just to feel the shock of that moment. “Oh my god! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!! HOGAN TURNED HEEL!!!!” Simply the greatest heel turn ever.

Watch Hogan in all his evil glory here.