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NWO Means “NO” – The will he won’t he story of Diamond Dallas Page joining the NWO has been one of the only really nuanced storylines of the NWO so far. That built to an angle on the second Nitro in January when Page, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash ended up in the ring and Page accepted an NWO shirt. It was believable in the sense that most of the NWO booking up until this point had been so bad it was entirely believable that Page might join the group. So colour me surprised when Page snapped Hall with a Diamond Cutter and chucked Nash over the top to the outside to a great pop from the crowd. Finally, after six months, someone had got the better of the group.
Bret Quits – While I’m still not entirely sure the change in attitude of Bret Hart has been a home run to this stage (his change coincided with everyone elses), but the angle on the Raw after the Rumble was a strong one. Taking a leaf out of WCW’s book with Bret abruptly interrupting the formal intro. Bret says he keeps getting screwed: by Shawn, by Austin and by Vince – so he’s off. And with that he bails through the crowd – gone... for about 20 minutes anyway.
Randy Returns – Running opposite to that angle on Nitro was the return of Randy Savage. I say the WWF took one out of WCW’s playbook – WCW ran the same type of angle at the same time on Nitro. Savage walks out, he’s pissed off, and he’s staging a sit in after he mouths off at Eric Bischoff. The next ten minutes of the angle are really strong as Savage fights off the overtures of Doug Dillinger, Alex Wright and Chavo Guerrero (preposterously, Chavo vs Mike Enos was meant to be the opening match!). The segment ends with Sting rappelling down from the rafters, having an interaction with Savage then the pair leaving together through the crowd.
Austin Mouths Off – So later in the same show, Gorilla Monsoon comes out and announces that the pay per view in February will seek to give everyone the same chance to earn their spot in the Mania main event – with Austin facing Vader, Bret and The Undertaker in a four corners elimination match. Austin comes out, perhaps quite rightly, and tells Gorilla to stick it before Bret returns and has a brawl with Austin. The whole thing was really rather good.
Horsemen Woes – This was like a weekly ongoing soap-opera, with apparently a rule that said not all members of the group were allowed to be in the same place at the same time. Still, that lead to the story throughout the month of everyone trying to get on the same page, with Debra getting after Woman, Jeff Jarrett getting after Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit getting after Mongo, Mongo getting after Jarrett and Flair and Arn trying to keep the whole thing in check. As storylines go, this was quite good.
Empty Threats – Sid has never been a great promo, but the promo he cut on the Raw before the Rumble in the empty Alamodome was really, really good. With a coherent thought process, and an environment to excentuate the low parts of his promo as well as one that suited the bits where he was shouty, Sid put on a fine promo talking through where all of Shawn’s friends, family and fans would be and how they would all see the look on his face when he wasn’t able to get the job done. Real well done.
Randy’s Fired – At NWO Souled Out, referee Randy Anderson came through the crowd to count the fall as the Steiners, for 24 hours at least, won the WCW Tag Team Titles. The following night on Nitro, Eric Bischoff started the show by calling Randy to the announcers position before just berating him for abusing his position by taking a freebie ticket to an NWO event. After Randy says he’s had a tough year (“I’ve battled with cancer”) Bischoff says he doesn’t care before ruthlessly firing Anderson. The storyline was easily the only good thing to come out of Souled Out, and Bischoff as a dick heel abusing his power is great television.
Shotgun Saturday Night – OK, a foray into a show airing on the Saturday, but it was promoted quite a lot on Raw anyway and it gives me an excuse to write about it. Shotgun Saturday Night was a bizarre idea to create an adult orientated late night show on a Saturday. However, what they produced was really dire – shot in dingy night clubs in New York with attempted adult stories that just didn’t stick: “Is Goldust pregnant?”, “Who will we see Sunny have sex with?”* Things quickly got retooled as the first two weeks of the show were often embarrassing – and we did get to see a great uncut promo from Terry Funk the night before the Rumble. So not all bad.
*(No and Elmo).
Steiners Screwed – After winning the title at NWO Souled Out, the Steiners were summoned by Eric Bischoff after he fired Randy Anderson, with Bischoff demanding the pair hand back the tag titles. While I think it would’ve been stronger had the Steiners flat out refused, them showing some resistance and throwing the tag titles on the floor for Nash and Hall to pick-up was somewhat strong. Still, Bischoff being a dick was great TV, again.
(I’ve ran out of WWF stuff to talk about, but WCW were doing a lot this month).
Robbing From The Rich – On the second Nitro of the month WCW were tasked with providing a lead in for the new series of Robin Hood. The idea was to start a main event between Giant and Hogan and go off the air, only to have the rest of the match spliced in “as live” during the commercials. It was a funky idea, and it did work in terms of providing a big lead in rating. But rather than filling the first two commercials the match actually filled the first and one of the ones later in the show. While, mercifully, they shot the whole thing as live the people in the TV audience were given the impression that Giant and Hogan were having a 45 minute long Broadway.
Bottom Of The Bowl – It was an odd choice to throw out a repeat of one of WCW’s best matches of 1996 on Nitro, it was an even more odd choice to do it again the next night on the Clash of the Champions, but Taskmaster and Chris Benoit seem to have cornered the market on toilet based brawls. The one that took place on Nitro headed in the same direction as the pair once again got at it within the mens toilets. The crowd interaction (so deep they were that all of the talent involved struggled to get back to the ring), was really strong and this was another memorable Benoit/Sullivan brawl. Still, after another rerun on the Clash, maybe time to change it up.