Show #19 - 8th January 1996
"The one where Vince must have pissed Bischoff off"
Yep...this is gonna take me like the rest of the decade.
Savage and Hogan up against Flair and Anderson tonight as the desk hypes the show. Bischoff and McMichael enjoy shitting on the competition, but Heenan (as usual) deftly sidesteps any such talking down of his former employer.
Chris Benoit comes to ringside, accompanied by Brian Pillman. He's facing off with Alex Wright. Benoit gets straight to jumping Wright and pummeling him for a long time. Then he dumps Wright out of the ring so that Pillman can pummel him. Then it's back in the ring for Wright so that Benoit can pummel him some more. Finally, Wright gets a bit of offense and slingshots Benoit out of the ring. Lots of high-impact offense later, and Wright has a Boston Crab on Benoit while Bischoff excoriates "Titanic Sports" for raising the price of their PPVs and charging fans to take pictures with the Winged Eagle. That's good timing because this match has slowed down a bit and Alex Wright's not really able to string together interesting offense for more than a couple of minutes. Eventually, Wright goes at Pillman, and it allows Benoit to gather himself and, after struggling to hit the Dragon Suplex for awhile, Benoit hits it for three. This was perfectly fine television, though it probably could have been a couple minutes shorter. Wright's face control segment got real boring after he finally turned the tide with a few well-paced moves.
Lord Steven Regal is out to face off with Eddy Guerrero in a battle of wrestlers in Smelly's all-time top-ten. They start with mat exchanges and Regal is peeved by Eddy's ability on the mat. Did Vince McMahon do some shit that irritated Bischoff in the week before this broadcast? He's now going at the "Royal Fumble" (eh, the '96 Rumble was alright). I just read the Nitro book about a month back, but I can't recall if Vince called out Time-Warner shareholders in early January of this year or what. Anyway, this is a solid match predicated on Regal realizing that Eddy's just as good on the mat as he is, so he'll need to press his size advantage to win. He grinds Eddy down, lays his weight on Eddy in holds, relies on strikes more, and hits a couple of nice suplexes as he controls the match. He also WRECKS Eddie with an elbowdrop to the side of the face. I'm surprised by how much of the match that Regal takes, and Eddy only wins when Regal slips on a banana peel and can't get out of a backslide. Fun match, but I'm not sure that Eddy should have worked that match with Regal considering Regal's position on the card. Like, if he worked Flair like that or something, okay.
Haha, now Gene Okerlund is out here shitting on recent WWF signees that he says are "ready to collect Social Security." It can't be Jake Roberts since Roberts didn't debut again in WWF until the Rumble itself on the 21st. Austin showed up on the 1/8 show, but he's not old. Maybe Gene's just pissed that Scheme Gene debuted on the opposing RAW that night. He's here to mediate a Lex Luger/Sting dispute about the end of the triple threat match at Starrcade. Apparently, Luger sabotaged Sting and cost him a chance to continue the match. Luger is claiming a bum knee. Honestly, I think we're getting to the point where we go on cruise control until the nWo forms, but Luger and Sting are going to make up by tagging together.
Speaking of Sting, he's up against Diamond Dallas Page. Page is looking exceptionally scummy tonight. They're pushing the "DDP has lost everything" angle, and honestly, this is one of the very few times that giving someone a "loser loses a ton" angle has worked. Sting is back out to faux-Bonnie Tyler. Bischoff cracks me up when Heenan talks about compassion for DDP by shooting back "What the hell do you know about compassion? Is that a word you looked up this week?" Quality jibes there. The delivery was excellent. Sting dominates until DDP headbutts Sting's nuts on a leapfrog, which, yeah, that's a pretty good transition to a heel control segment. I like that Page hits a series of moves and taunts, but can only get a one-count and sort of freaks out. He really thought he had done more damage than he did. Great facial expressions all match from Page, whose development across these shows as a worker is really fun to watch. Now he's working a headlock and cheating like a bastard while yelling SHUT UP at the fans who are cheering Sting on, just good old heel shithousery.
You know what happens eventually: Sting works out of the headlock eventually and annihilates DDP. However, DDP gets to the ropes on the Scorpion Deathlock attempt, and Heenan does a great job of putting over that DDP is getting much better and understanding where he is in the ring more proficiently than he was in past years. DDP scraps and fights, but Sting corners him and catches him away from the ropes with the Deathlock for the win. This was really good partly because DDP lost again, but he's getting put over by the commentators as clearly rebounding a bit and putting in good work even in a loss. Fun match as well!
It's main event time! Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are out first, followed by Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. The crowd seems somewhat more excited about Savage wrestling Flair in comparison to Hogan wrestling Flair to begin. Hogan goes first anyway. Flair chops the ever-loving shit out of Hogan at one point, like that shit had to HURT, and honestly, this is a solid opening exchange overall. Hogan beats up both Horsemen on his own because, hey, it's Hulk Hogan being super-insecure in 1996.
Savage gets his licks in too, though Flair eventually shifts the tide by interfering (and mooning the unfortunate crowd after Hogan pulls down his trunks while chasing him). After that, the match is basically Savage as FIP, and since he sells pain so well, it obviously works just fine. Hogan gets the hot tag, no sells everything, and gets three on a legdrop to Anderson. Pillman and Benoit come out, but the Dungeon of Doom is also out. While Zodiac and Sullivan attack Pillman and Benoit, LE GEANT~ is free to annihilate Hogan and Savage, which he does until Zodiac pleads for mercy. The show ends with Hogan, Savage, and the Four Horsemen down as the Dungeon stalks away from the ring.
Pretty good show! Lots of good matches. The main event was fine. 4 Stinger Splashes out 5 for me.