DDT Monday Retro- September 16, 1996: Easy as 1-2-3

Wrestling (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Wrestling (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

Hello again and welcome to DDT Monday Retro, Daily DDT‘s weekly deep dive into what the wrestling world looked like 25 years ago We’re watching Raw. We’re watching Nitro. And we’re doing it all with the benefit of hindsight. As AEW continues to gain momentum and WWE continues to put out a product that, quite frankly, nobody wants to see, it’s beginning to feel like 1996 all over again, complete with underrated workhorses from WWE debuting with the competition while wearing leather jackets. But we’ll get to that. Before we do, though…

What happened last week: Let’s get the WWF stuff out of the way first, shall we? Shawn Michaels defeated Vader at SummerSlam in August, throwing a temper tantrum in the first place after a miscue during the match. Because Shawn Michaels had Vince McMahon wrapped around his finger, this effectively ended the push of Vader. The next pay-per-view, In Your House: Mindgames will feature Michaels vs Mankind (in a match that Foley himself later called one of his favorites). The Undertaker will be taking on Goldust as well. Bret Hart still doesn’t know what his future in the WWF holds and that’s about it on the WWF front.


Things are getting exciting in World Championship Wrestling. Just a couple of weeks ago, The Giant turned his back on WCW and joined the NWO (in a move that made absolutely no sense from a storyline standpoint). Ted Dibiase also joined the group, bringing the number of members to 5. A sixth member was also revealed and, for a week or two, fans thought it was the heart and soul of WCW, Sting.

You see, Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair, and  Arn Anderson were scheduled to face the NWO at the Fall Brawl pay-per-view in a War Games match. The week before, however, Sting had attacked Lex Luger and gotten into a limo with Ted Dibiase, leaving fans and wrestlers alike wondering there the Stinger’s loyalties lied. At Fall Brawl, Sting proved his loyalties by laying out the NWO and the Fake Sting. But before Team WCW could get the win, Sting left the match. His feelings were hurt that his friends didn’t trust him, so he felt no obligation to help them actually win the match.

And that leads us to tonight! It’s Raw. It’s Nitro. It’s Monday Retro and we’re ready to take a trip back in time.

WWF Raw: September 16, 1996

Venue: Wheeling Civic Center in Wheeling, West Virginia

Running Time:

What to Watch: Literally Nothing.

What to Skip: All of it.

This was a completely skippable show even though, in theory, it featured two semi-final matches in the Intercontinental Championship tournament. Those matches, Marc Mero v. Owen Hart and Farooq v. Psycho Sid were slow, plodding matches with wonky finishes involving foreign objects. Mero defeated Hart by hitting him with Hart’s cast, but Farooq defeated Sid after Sid got disqualified for using a chair. Neither match was good, which is disappointing because Owen Hart is one of the greatest workers of all time.

Elsewhere on the show, Bob Holly and some dude named Alex Porteau defeated the Smoking Gunns after the Gunns got distracted by Owen Hart and The British Bulldog.

Also, The Sultan defeated Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts.

The only real talking points from the show were Brian Pillman saying that the missing-since-WrestleMania Bret Hart would be returning to the WWF at the upcoming Mindgames: In Your House. Bret Hart, via satellite, said Pillman was a liar and that he would not be at the show, creating a bit of a mystery.

And speaking of mystery, Jim Ross had been saying for the past few weeks that both Diesel and Razor Ramon would be returning to the WWF. Gorilla Monsoon, the then-President of WWF (on-air, anyway) emphatically stated, however, that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were under contract with WCW and absolutely were not coming back. Of course, in professional wrestling, when you say somebody won’t be showing up, that usually means they will. So I assume fans at the time had no idea what to expect. That was just about the only interesting thing about this show and, truth be told, about WWF as a whole. It won’t be long before the World Wrestling Federation changed course and created a more, well, raw product but the majority of 1996 was pretty awful from a story perspective. Their competition, however. Well…

WCW Monday Nitro- September 16, 1996

Venue: Asheville Civic Center in Ashville, North Carolina

Running Time:

What to Watch: The only match worth watching was, unsurprisingly, the opening match. Rey Mysterio Jr. defeated Juventud Guerrera with a hurricanrana from the top rope. It was an exceptional cruiserweight match. The rest of the evening’s matches were extremely missable, but this show did have a plethora of moments that, in hindsight, remain legendary.

The biggest moment of the show could have been the debut of Sean Waltman, the former 1-2-3 Kid. He first appeared in the crowd towards the beginning of the show, playing coy at first about whose side he was on. Towards the end of the show, however, he pressed a Bond-Movie-Bad-Guy-Button, releasing a huge swarm of NWO flyers onto the crowd. Waltman was the sixth member of the NWO and because Eric Bischoff is a clever man, he gave Waltman the ring name of Syxx.

On any other night, this would have been the biggest moment, the most important takeaway. Waltman wasn’t quite on the level of Scott Hall or Kevin Nash when they left New York, but he was only a small notch below them. But perhaps even more important than his status was the fact that Waltman could work, brother. Out of the now-six members of the New World Order, Waltman was, feasibly, the only member who could put on really good wrestling matches. Let’s face it – Hogan and Nash were never gonna put on 5-star classics and Hall, though solid, never had a great match that wasn’t against Shawn Michaels. Waltman, however, could wrestle anybody, anywhere, on any night and seemingly steal the show every single time. Or, at least, that’s what everybody thought at the time. Waltman didn’t have the name value of a Hogan, Hall, or Nash but he did have the wrestling credibility which made him a very important addition to the NWO.

But Waltman’s debut was not the most important moment of the night. That moment belonged to The Man We Call Sting.

After being betrayed by Lex Luger (again) and Ric Flair (again), Sting’s feelings were hurt. His friends didn’t trust him. They didn’t believe him. They didn’t invite him to their birthday party at the Wagon Wheel skating rink even though their parents made them invite literally everybody in class except you and then they claimed that “your invitation got lost in the mail” but they hand-delivered them. Wait what? I’m sorry. I may have been projecting a little bit. The point is, Sting was stung and he wasn’t afraid to show it. Before his scheduled tag team match with Lex Luger, taking on Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael, Sting rushed to the ring, grabbed a microphone, and changed the course of history forever.

This would end up being Sting’s last promo for a very, very long time. It would also be the very last appearance of ‘Surfer Sting.’ Yes, dear reader. So began the genesis of ‘Crow Sting.’ I have been meaning to go back and watch the evolution of Sting for years, so I’m excited to finally be able to do so. The Crow is actually one of my favorite movies and Sting was one of my favorite wrestlers. I even dressed up as Sting for Halloween in 3rd Grade. But my first experiences with Sting were when he was in the red and black of the Wolfpac, so to be able to watch the Sting saga from the very beginning is incredibly exciting to me.

What to Skip: What’s not exciting as the rest of the show. Aside from Sting and Syxx, nothing about Nitro was very memorable. DDP defeated Ice Train. Glacier made his Nitro debut but Mortal Kombat came out two years earlier and Glacier was, well, ice cold. Still, Glacier defeated Big Bubba after a spin kick. Brad Armstrong defeated Hugh Morris. Konnan defeated Super Calo. Scott Norton defeated Randy Savage by disqualification after the Macho Man absolutely decimated him with a chair (sidenote: it was announced the Savage would be taking on Hollywood Hogan for the WCW Championship at the upcoming Halloween Havoc). Ric Flair and Arn Anderson defeated Chris Jericho and Marcus Bagwell when Bagwell somehow got pinned by the figure four? Finally, Lex Luger defeated Chris Benoit and Steve McMichael by disqualification after all four horsemen took out their frustrations on the Total Package.

And that, dear readers, was WCW Nitro. It’s actually a pretty solid representation of what Nitro embodied back in those days – one or two good matches, a handful of throwaway matches, and a big angle or two to bring back fans the next week. Nitro blew Raw out of the water on this night and it would continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the biggest moment of the night was Sting beginning his transformation into ‘The Crow.’ This would be the parallel story to the rise of the NWO and it’s what would lead WCW to even greater heights.

What will happen next week? Will Sting appear? Will Se7en debut? Will Shawn Michaels still be alive after his match with Mankind? All these questions and more will be answered next week on DDT Monday Retro.