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For over a decade, Hulk Hogan had been the biggest star attraction in North American pro-wrestling. Ten years on top with the WWF, before in 1994 WCW came in with an offer that the then semi-retired Hogan could not turn down. In that time, Hogan had bled red and yellow as an honourable babyface and packed out buildings the length and breadth of the United States. Even receiving a mixed reaction after arriving in WCW, his initial twelve months were a story of big gains as WCW attempted to turn itself from a bloated national promotion into one capable of conquering the waves. Then, as a series of poor booking decisions and a lack of viable opponents took hold, along with the gloss (and age) of Hogan beginning to ware. Hogan entered 1996 with less than a year to go on his current contract, yet his ability to deliver on those promises was beginning to fade. By the time the year had ended, he’d signed a new contract and was spear-heading the promotion in an angle that would see them reach new heights.
For once, 1996 is a year that history largely seems to get right. Watch any WWE lead documentary or ask most people who were following at the time and you’d hear a consistent story. After the introduction of Nitro in 1995 the company quickly found its feet up against the more tenured Monday Night Raw, but the company itself was suffering from a lack of direction. While Hulk Hogan was undoubtedly at the forefront of that other decisions made little sense – like having six world title changes in as many months only to get the title from the Giant, back to the Giant via Randy Savage and Ric Flair swapping the belts twice over. Early 1996 for WCW, in short, was an odd time.
We entered 1996 with Ric Flair as the World Champion. Flair, who won the title at Starrcade on the eve of the New Year, was an odd choice as the lead dog for WCW, particularly while it felt like he was behind Hogan, Savage and Giant in the pecking order. TVs around this time, still only an hour in length, were usually punctuated by main events that involved any variation of Flair, Arn Anderson and Kevin Sullivan against Hogan, Savage and any number of extra parties. Main events that were short and ended by interference from whoever on the heel side wasn’t directly involved in the match.
January’s Clash was a weird show, one that represented a promotion headed in a few different directions. The show, almost entirely average on balance, contained almost everything: a four minute barmy brawl between the debuting Public Enemy against the Nasty Boys, a wedding at a Chapel in Las Vegas, Bobby Heenan saying the word “fuck” live on television, a match between Kevin Sullivan and an Elvis impersonator and a flat main event between WCW’s top stars. In many ways it was a sign of things to come, in other ways it was probably a sign that in 1996 – with monthly pay per views and live weekly television, a two hour special on television felt... well, less special. Come the next Clash in August, alongside two hour Nitro’s, the writing was on the wall.
It had also come the night after Randy Savage had won the World Title from Ric Flair on Nitro. As would become the pattern for WCW in the next couple of years, beating Monday Night Raw in the ratings would usurp anything that made more logical sense. Not that they really had to worry, Nitro’s live format was generally much stronger than the pre-taped Raws, particularly while Raw was focussing valuable TV time on a three month long series of “Billionaire Ted” segments designed to raise awareness over the Turner/Time Warner merger and mock WCW’s aging main event roster.
The previous couple of months had marked a sharp change in direction for Brian Pillman’s character. Given the free reign to largely do and say what he want, much to the shock of just about everybody, Pillman started doing what he pleased on air which caused about as many issues as it solved. When Pillman dropped to the floor at January’s Clash, blind-siding announcer Bobby Heenan before attempting to take off his jacket, Heenan, straight down his microphone, said “What the fuck are you doing” live on television. A miscommuncation it might have been, but it was playing into the aura of a character that was spiraling out of control – or at least it appeared that way. As it turned out the unhinged Pillman character was a conspiracy between a very small group of people – namely Pillman himself, booker Kevin Sullivan and Eric Bischoff. The grand plan involved something incredibly elaborate, creating a scenario so real that Pillman would actually be sent his release papers before Pillman could go away and eventually come back.
They got half way there, at least. After a ridiculous exchange on Nitro, where during a tag match Pillman and Sullivan just started rolling around the ring, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it inset interview on WCW Saturday Night where Kevin Sullivan snapped a pencil (the pencil, representing the “booker”), they headed into Superbrawl for an “I Respect You” match. The match lasted less than a minute before Pillman grabbed the mic, said "I Respect You – booker man", then just walked off. The whole thing was a shoot, well, at least it was presented as one to even the "boys" in the back, as Pillman stormed off and Arn Anderson was left attempting to salvage an unplanned gap in the timings that the trio had actually planned.
It wasn't even the most ridiculous thing on the show. The double main event was a pair of cage matches, Ric Flair regaining the WCW World Title over Randy Savage thanks to a high heeled shoe (you'll be shocked to learn that wasn't even the first time in the month shoes had been involved in a finish). The second involved Hulk Hogan defeating The Giant by escaping the cage, although Giant did sit up pretty quickly having been on the receiving end of three leg drops. The show finished with Loch Ness (Giant Haystacks) having to be "held back" by WCW roster members from trying to attack Hogan – basically as an explanation as to why he couldn't fit through the cage door.
The best, however, was yet to come. A month later WCW reprised their "Uncensored" pay per view. The show a year prior was an absolute riot, featuring the King Of The Road match shot on the back of a moving lorry (which, was censored), Ric Flair in drag (which, unmercifully, wasn't), Hacksaw Jim Duggan as a martial artist, Johnny B Badd as a boxer and a gimmicked concession stand. In some ways, the 1996 edition topped it.
We had a riot of a brawl between Steven Regal and Belfast Bruiser (Fit Finlay) which was as real as the previous years concession stand was fake. Medusa settled into life in WCW after the one thing they'd actually bought her in for with a ridiculous match again Col Robert Parker, Harlem Heat and the Road Warriors went 29 minutes, Loch Ness made had his one WCW PPV match in a losing effort against The Giant; and Diamond Dallas Page and The Booty Man made their entry in the worst matches of 1996 stakes which included quite possible the longest headlock of 1996. And that wasn't the worst of it.
The "Doomsday" Cage was a ridiculous idea. One initially designed for a 1 on 4 handicap match between Hulk Hogan and four of any number of names. See, after the Brian Pillman angle the month before Pillman had by all accounts left – six days later he appeared at ECW Cyberslam in a phenomenal segment where he ran down Eric Bischoff before threatening to whip out his "Johnson" and "piss in this hellhole". The segment ended with Shane Douglas storming the ring shouting "he's shooting, he's shooting". That, in theory, was all part of the WCW work, with plans so in place for his return at the pay per view that they'd been mentioning his appearance on TV in the run up to the show. Still, Pillman never showed, neither did Dennis Rodman, who Eric Bischoff very definitely implied would be there on the Nitro prior.
Which was fine, as WCW had a few spares. So many, in fact, they doubled the match up, one on four became two on eight. Hogan would be joined by Randy Savage against the team of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Meng, The Barbarian, The Taskmaster, Ze Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution (renamed from The Final Solution after someone in WCW worked out how hideously inappropriate that name was and what it meant). The cage was a gargantuan structure, three tiers with a split section in the middle to form four zones. Beyond this, WCW never really explained the rules... although that many not have been a bad thing.
The match, if we can call it that, was quite possibly the worst main event of all time from any national wrestling company. The match not only made no sense, it was just bad. The first section at the top saw Hogan and Savage battle Flair and Arn – the floor of the section so unstable they could barely do anything. After that Hogan and Savage just dropped into the second compartment, then across to the third, before they just left... The whole thing culminated in a match in the ring of the bottom compartment, which in itself was barely comprehensible. It ended with Savage pinning Ric Flair. When people stereotype wrestling fans for being dumb, it's for putting up with shit like that.
Still, as always with WCW, despite everything being the final thing, it wasn't. The show had to go on. April was a weird run: the title changed hands once again, with Giant pinning Flair in a great shock ending to a title match. As Flair locked in the figure four, Giant put a hand out, choked him, stood him up and hit the chokelsam. Clean finishes were so incredibly infrequent in WCW main events when they came they were always a great change up. April also marked the beginning of time off for Hulk Hogan, something that in some respect had been in the plans for months. Plans at the time called for Hogan to return in August and regain the title from the Giant – which was what happened. The story would change a bit in the mean time, mind. April 1996, I believe, is also the final calendar month where WCW didn't hold a pay per view until its close.
Which, in many ways, was better than the pay per view they did put on in May. You see, those documentaries I mentioned earlier generally just start 1996 with the night Scott Hall walked out on Nitro; and in some ways they're right to. But if you’re left thinking with the idea that Scott Hall interrupted a very hot product you are very much mistaken. In May WCW bought back their disastrous random tag tournament format for the first time since 1993. The show wasn’t quite the raw disaster of the 1993 event, but in an attempt to fit a full tournament around other pay per view matches they ended up with a show that went to fifteen matches. Not to mention that star power that the tournament did feature (Savage, Flair, the Steiners) was all eliminated in the first round. Still, we did see the slow rise of Diamond Dallas Page and his Diamond Cutter as he won the tournament.
And then Scott Hall walked out on Nitro...
The decision to move Nitro to two hours was a brave one. The first 6-8 months of Nitro at one hour had largely been good, even if they’d have fallen into a very predictable pattern. The bigger problem with the expansion is that star power doesn’t really scale. If WCW had a formula for one hour that was working (and it largely was) the move to two hours would need to be met with a change in approach. Still, at the end of May it would be a bit of a stretch to say that they were struggling at two hours given that this was the first one.
But when the segment opened with a match between Mike Enos and the Mauler, you’d be forgiven for thinking WCW were in over their heads. The, from left of camera, Scott Hall appeared, walking through the crowd and demanding a live mic from Tony Schiavone. What followed was the promo you’ll have seen hundreds of times since – Hall saying the people knew who he was, but not why he was here. The basic seeds had been set for the big angle of the summer, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as “Outsiders” invading from the WWF. And that idea, in itself, was the crux. Neither man went by a name for weeks (leaving Mean Gene Okerlund to refer to them with lines like “those two, you know who they are”), but they didn’t need to.
Hall returned at the end of the show, now properly going after Eric Bischoff. Hall’s involvement in this early run I don’t believe can be understated in how well the angle got over, nor should the arrival of Diesel shortly afterwards. I write this having just watched NWO Souled Out from January 1997, and it’s definitely fair to say that, at that point in time, certain sections of the NWO were a lot more popular than others. More on that later.
As I’ve heard Mark Madden say since, the best part of the whole Outsiders invasion angle all happened in the time prior to Bash at the Beach. In some ways it was the mystery of the unknown, but in other ways it’s because those moments were just the best. From the opening promos, where Nash and Hall roughed up Eric Bischoff, through to a great angle on Nitro in June where Hall and Nash stormed the ring with baseball bats. Perhaps the most memorable part of the action before Bash At The Beach happened at the June pay per view, the Great American Bash. After Eric Bischoff asked both men, explicity, whether they were under contract to the WWF, Hall sucker punched him and Nash sent Bischoff flying through a gimmicked part of the stage with a jacknife powerbomb.
The angle worked for a number of reasons. Firstly because it was presented in a way to suggest that both men were invading forces from the WWF – neither were formally named until right before Bash at the Beach. Secondly, because the industry at the time was so unbelievably flat, and thirdly because of what they were building towards. When Hall and Nash laid down the challenge to WCW to get their best team, they promised a third member, another invading man. The angle was so good, even if ratings didn’t intermediately show it, that to promise a big third name and not be able to deliver could’ve been a huge let down. WCW had little choice but to try and deliver a big name.
Still, in an industry that was flat at the time, it can’t have been much coincidence that both promotions, almost unarguably, produced their best pay per view efforts in two years within the same month. Not that, in either case, that was that much to shout about, but WWF’s King of the Ring was, by some distance, their best event since probably Survivor Series 1994, and probably the best effort of 1996 until that years Survivor Series. For WCW, the Great American Bash stands as one of their best pay per views of all time. While Spring Stampede two years prior is arguably the stronger show from an in ring perspective, this show had just about everything.
While it’s been remembered for the Nash/Hall/Bischoff angle, there were two other brilliantly executed angles on the show. After a barmy Falls Count Anywhere match between Chris Benoit and The Taskmaster that ended up in a toilet, Arn Anderson teased a firm split with fellow Horseman member Benoit before reuniting with him and sticking it to the Taskmaster, much to the rapture of those in attendance. Better still was the semi-main event, where Arn Anderson and Ric Flair took on the team of former Nitro announcer and NFL All Pro Steve “Mongo” McMichael and current Carolina Panther linebacker Kevin Greene. The match was miles better than it had any right to be, and the post match angle (where McMichael turned on Greene to align with and round out the new-look Horsemen). Not for the first time, you were left wondering how the same promotion could produce two such contrasting shows one after another.
Still, eyes were firmly fixed on the July Bash pay per view. While ratings and other metrics would take months to catch up, the hype surrounding the angle was bigger than anything in years in wrestling. Speculation as to who the third man could be stretched far and wide, with Bret Hart’s post-Wrestlemania absence seemingly a point of issue, along with a very timely suspension from the WWF of the Ultimate Warrior around a week prior to the show. Still, the likelihood of a Hollywood pass coming from outside of WCW’s borders seemed pretty remote, all that was left to decide was who was going to be the third man. Such was the angle, it seemed like the performer likely had to be a former WWF talent, along with a name that could at the very least match the level of name power provided by Hall and Nash. While Sting was an option, and famously the insurance policy in case Hogan didn’t go through with it, the only other name that came to mind was Randy Savage.
Eventually Hogan agreed, I’ve written a big long piece here on the circumstances surrounding it, but the short of it is this: Hogan with six months left on his deal was starting to look like a worn horse where WCW were concerned – while he made some big waves after arriving it had been a long while since he’d moved any major numbers. Further still, while ratings surrounding the early days of the angle weren’t huge, given Hogan’s absence from television the fact that business wasn’t just holding up, but better, Hogan’s bargaining power outside of the group with a contract that expired six months later potentially was very small. Hogan needed to join and, fortunately for him, he was WCW’s best bet.
The Bash At The Beach angle was another masterstroke in an angle where, so far, almost nothing could go wrong. The main event of Randy Savage, Sting and Lex Luger against Hall and Nash started with Luger going down, rendering a 3-on-3 all of a sudden a 2-on-2 match up. When Hogan famously walked out, everyone assumed he was coming out to the aid of WCW to replace Luger. Sometimes just the simple decisions can pay off the most. The whole angle is the stuff of legends, Hogan’s post-match promo with Mean Gene, flanked by Hall and Nash while the ring was being pelted by rubbish (a trend that started that night with empty cups of liquid and soon moved to full cups of liquid!) was hugely memorable.
Despite the success of the angle, and some of the memorable television that followed soon after, it took a while for the group to really heat up and for the rest of WCW’s metrics to catch up with the severity of the angle. Due to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta the following four weeks of Nitro all came live outdoors from a Disney studio. There were some excellent segments there (including the night Hall and Nash went into the production truck, and the famous “lawn dart” angle where the pair beat up about half of WCW’s roster). WCW in stops and starts were producing some really good scenarios around the angle, but as it started to move forward cracks started to appear in the armour.
In many ways, the already self-indulgent decision to hold August’s pay per view outside at a motorcycle rally ended up being a seriously bad one. It also, probably, came a bit too soon following the angle – WCW ended up being damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Luger and Sting against Hall and Nash felt necessary, but otherwise lacking context, and the move to put Hogan against The Giant in the main event was basically unavoidable as, largely, was the decision to have him win it. But the even was a big let-down, the fans weren’t really wrestling fans, and at one stage basically got all over Harlem Heat because of what they looked like. Hog Wild also started a run of WCW pay per views that featured horrid main events that would last right through until the end of the year.
To a point though, none of that mattered. WCW were off to the races with the NWO, the only real decision they had to make was where could they go next. Believing they’d be able to get The British Bulldog in, after the addition of Ted DiBiase they promoted another big name for the beginning of September. Once again though, when no outside option was available (Bulldog re-signed with the WWF) they had to look internally. Which, while the cupboard absolutely wasn’t bare, was starting to show up an issue WCW were facing: with no WCW opposition of note, so far, how could they strengthen the NWO with another big name without weakening the WCW side?
It was a question answered in an emphatic way at the beginning of September – as the NWO got into a post-match attack with eight guys (the Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom) the three were, bizarrely, fighting off the numbers game with almost great ease. So when Giant came out, to run of the NWO, it seemed a trifle unfair. When Giant came out to side with the NWO, it made even less sense. Another big name, in more ways than one, but what left for WCW? Sure: while Hogan, Nash, Giant and Hall against Flair, Sting, Savage and Luger had the makings of a blockbuster Fall Brawl, that was basically all of the main event talent they had.
To be fair, while stuffing the main event of Fall Brawl with their eight main event acts was perhaps the most obvious course of action, they were perhaps wise to tread a slightly different path. Their choice though was a strange one, ever since Hulk Hogan arrived Sting had taken a back seat as the #2 (if not #3 behind Savage) babyface – it was perhaps understandable given the lay of the land but often times left Sting in meaningless mid-card matches. Surely if there was ever a case of doing something with the Sting character, 10 weeks after turning Hogan was absolutely the worst time?
Still, that's exactly what they did. An intricate angle where Lex Luger got lead out to the back by Jimmy Hart in the pouring rain only to be confronted and attacked by Sting – who had been infultrated by the NWO. The angle was very well received, but did badly on the ratings front, tuning out 700,000 homes in the 15 minutes that followed. Still, WCW went on as planned and tried to imply that Luger was wholly convinced that the man who attacked him was Sting (despite Sting basically having no reason for doing so), not like the pair had been friends for years, not like Luger couldn't have just spoken to him on the phone at any point in the 6 days between the attack and the pay per view. Sting's feeble excuse later was that he wanted to wait and see what happened without getting involved.
So the main event of Fall Brawl saw the NWO team of Hogan, Nash, Hall and Sting take on the WCW team of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger and Sting. Yep – that's not a typo. As the time came for the fourth NWO member to come out, Jeff Farmer (the former Cobra) came out in an angle presumably designed to have everyone believe that he was the real Sting. The announcers sold it, but nobody in the crowd bought it. Never mind the fact it was hardly the best look that Farmer was able to do a perfectly serviceable impression of Sting. The real Sting came out after all at #4, cleaning house before mouthing off at Luger and just walking out.
That was the catalyst of the change in direction for Sting, he cut a promo with his back turned from the hard camera, and said to those who believed in him that he still believed in them. But to those who doubted him? To the best friends? “You can all stick it. I consider myself a free agent”. It was a highly effective segment once you looked past the plot holes, and set in motion a change of direction for Sting that would see him become far bigger than he was previously. It was, in part, down to a quirk of his contract (that saw WCW burning through his live event dates too quickly) that meant a character that didn't wrestle meant he didn't work house shows. But for the rest of the year the now medium length black haired Sting would be largely seen in the rafters at Nitros and pay per views, waiting for the right moment to make his presence known as he would, for the rest of the year, refuse to be drawn on one side or the other.
Which wasn't the case for many others. The Giant introduction to the group had triggered a mini wave of new members as the scope of the NWO had grown. The NWO wasn't just a rebel force - it was now an organisation, one that was going to trying surpass WCW. They had Ted DiBiase, Syxx (the former 123 Kid), Vincent (the former Virgil) and even their own racing driver. Nitro's had people walking around the floor section with signs saying NWO as their merchandise began to spread like wildfire. The group was beginning to become pop culture, but in some ways it was starting to become quickly diluted. As the rest of the year went on, we went from each addition being at least somewhat thought out to often being quite random, the idea that they were pushing for the NWO to have it's own show – initially going to be Saturday Night before plans changed and called for an NWO hour of Monday Nitro. It would take a long time before the right people worked out that was a bad idea, even if it never ultimately came to fruition.
October bought yet another big show, this time with a big main event with Hollywood Hogan against Randy Savage at Slim Jim's Halloween Havoc. The match had been a lock since January, but obviously with the Hogan turn it ended up looking a lot different than how they would have planned. The match felt like a big deal, but the feud felt more about Savage being fucked around by the NWO (who were using Liz as a pawn in an attempt to mess with his head) rather than a blockbuster face-off between arguably the two biggest names the company had. This was also a time, with Ric Flair coming off of shoulder surgery, where he was relegated to an on air talker which, given that it's Ric Flair we're talking about, would've been excellent. That is until you find out the person they'd asked him to get over was Jeff Jarrett – what a bizarre six weeks that was in the career of the Nature Boy.
The pay per view, like most of these days, followed a very simple pattern. An undercard of great wrestling talent who, to one degree or another, weren't over slowly replaced by the stars people paid to see. Issue was, in WCW's Mount Everest the closer to the summit you got the worse the work rate became. Add in the fact that towards the top end of the card WCW didn't want to give away many clean finishes and you were left with a very predictable pattern. That all being said, nobody in the company could've predicted how alarmingly bad Hogan vs Savage was in the main event. Never mind the 6-7 minutes of pure comedy that started what, in theory, was WCW's biggest match in years, but more worrying still was how sloppy the action was that followed. Both men had contracts that were soon to be expiring, although Hogan signed soon later and Savage was back on TV by mid-January – the finish of the match was actually designed to write Savage off in case he didn't re-sign.
But that wasn't how the show ended. Following the conclusion of the match, which really would've written off Savage had it needed to – it was that one sided – was the appearance of Roddy Piper. I still don't really understand what Piper was bought in for. Sure, it theoretically setup a Starrcade main event (one that WCW promoted within an inch of its life), but if the goal was to create a main event that could keep up with the undercard before it (it wasn't) then replacing Savage with a guy even more past his prime than he was didn't make sense. More the point, given that the big storyline in all of wrestling was WCW vs NWO, quite what creating a main event involving a guy who "doesn't belong to WCW or the NWO" did for their wider goals is anybody's guess. Still, business is business, and WCW would spend the next two months ramming Piper vs Hogan – the "match of the century" down people's throats before showtime.
November bought us back to the now annual World War 3 pay per view, headlined by the "three ring... sixty men... three giants" battle royal. Despite the poor reviews of the last show (specifically the main event) WCW had decided to change almost nothing about the main event format, but did make a late change – initially not wanting to include any members of the NWO before deciding it would be a good idea to – so in went Nash, Hall, Giant and Syxx. For those who like maths, 60 – 4 = 56. That left 56 people in the match who all, directly or indirectly, had a beef to pick with the NWO. So colour me surprised when the ENTIRE match nobody even attempted to lay a finger them. The foursome just stood mid-ring and let the action go on around them. It was the kind of attention to detail (not that this, really, was "detail") that was really beginning to undermine the story.
Still, all could've probably been forgiven had they have got the finish right. We ended up with an even numbers game of WCW vs NWO (including DDP who, for now at least, wasn't in the NWO but had been teasing it). Of course, what did WCW do – they attacked each other – leaving Lex Luger and the four remaining NWO members. Great. But the frustration came that all of the absolute nonsense could've been forgiven if they'd have just had Luger win. Luger rallied, got Giant in the corner and barely got him up in the rack as the fans in attendance at the Norfolk Scope became unglued. For the first time, perhaps ever, Lex Luger had the crowd in the palm in his hand. Of course, that fleeting moment of ecstasy evaporated when Luger was eliminated by The Giant after he'd eliminated the other three. So close, yet so very far. WCW had Lex Lugered Lex Luger.
Fortunately, though, WCW were slowly starting to assemble the puzzle pieces for an opposition. The rise of Diamond Dallas Page had seen him suddenly become a very, very capable promo. After The Giant's win at World War 3, that would start a turn for him that would see him kicked out of the group at the end of the year, and along with Luger there were credible moves being made by The Steiners, Eddie Guerrero and, while they weren't at war with each other, the Four Horsemen. It perhaps wasn’t the crew of guys you’d have chosen when the angle started, but due to some interesting decisions (Sting, Giant), some bad luck (Flair) and in some cases both (Savage) WCW had to look to some unusual places for inspiration. Still, at least it wasn’t Jeff Jarrett.
December left us with the big one. TV, the entire month, was all about Roddy Piper vs Hulk Hogan. To be fair to them, regardless of the rights and wrongs of having Piper in the main event of a pay per view in 1996, they promoted the hell out of it. And when the time came for the main event the crowd in attendance were ready for it. Sure, we did get the slightly bizarre sight of people in NWO shirts booing Hogan and cheering Piper, but that was a dichotomy that was always like to be present when the cool factor of the entire group hinged on the two original members.
The match, predictably, was bad, but the crowd just about covered for it. The angle with Giant was well thought out (even if it was ruined by Hogan having to deal with a fan who invaded the ring). But the biggest surprise of all was Piper putting away Hogan, cleanly, with a sleeper. Of course, there was always a small print, Hogan vs Piper in the “match of the century” in the main event of WCW’s biggest pay per view was a World Title match… at least you’d have thought so. While WCW never explicitly said it wasn’t that should’ve been a given. Less shocking, perhaps, was that the following night on Nitro Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan responded to the loss by, well… ignoring it. The show concluded with another NWO beatdown of Piper, but did at least cement the full turn of the Giant. 1996 had ended with WCW’s business climbing in the right direction and their big angle with plenty of steam to go. In 1997, things would only get better.