WCW Monday Nitro - July 6, 1998
I understand that it doesn’t look like a supercard on paper, and I understand that watching the show today may not create the same butterflies that it did back in 1998, but I can promise you that this episode of Nitro can stand alongside any pay-per-view of the late 90’s in terms of buzz and excitement. I’ll do my best to explain what it felt like from the perspective of a then 18 year old lifelong WWF fan.
One day after my 18th birthday, WCW Commissioner J.J. Dillon announced on Thunder that Bill Goldberg (then the United States Champion) was the number 1 contender for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship (then held by “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan). While that in itself was a huge announcement, he followed it up by saying that Hogan would defend the title against Goldberg on Monday Night Raw.
My first reaction was unbridled enthusiasm that would put Billy Mumphrey to shame. This was Wrestlemania VI all over again - Hogan vs Warrior - Champion vs Champion. This had big match feel written all over it. However, after my initial excitement, the doubts began to set in. This was WCW after all - a company that has failed to deliver on many of its big match promises. I thought for sure that Nitro would feature just another cluster finish with Goldberg winning by DQ after a dozen nWo guys hit the ring, which may or may not set up a payoff at the Bash At The Beach or another future pay-per-view.
I was wrong.
The show opened with Hulk Hogan, The Disciple (Brutus Beefcake), Miss Elizabeth and Eric Bischoff. Hogan announced that Goldberg’s undefeated streak was built on jobbers, and he insisted that he face (and defeat) one of his nWo brothers before Hogan would defend his title.
The matches and promos from that point on were typical Nitro 1998. Booker T. defended the Television Title against Dean Malenko. Raven fought Kanyon. Chris Jericho talking smack against Dean Malenko in a way that only the man who would become Y2J can do. You get the idea. The only thing that was out of the ordinary were the flashbacks to Goldberg’s milestones - his first victory, his 25th, his 50th, and so on.
The second hour started with Scott Hall coming out of a limousine and announcing that he would the the roadblock for Goldberg. Another hour goes by, which features the debut of Buff Bagwell’s mother - three years before the infamous Judy Bagwell On A Pole Match (which probably sounds pretty kinky to a non-wrestling fan now that I think about it).
The Goldberg vs Hall match began the third hour. Despite interference from Curt Hennig, Vincent and The Disciple, Goldberg landed the spear and the jackhammer for his 106th consecutive victory. (I always like to imagine situations like this with all of the participants in their WWF gimmicks. Razor Ramon is fighting a guy for Hulk Hogan, with help from Mr. Perfect, Virgil and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake… bizarre).
A few more typical WCW television matches followed - Juvy vs Psychosis, Hacksaw Jim Duggan vs The Giant, DDP against Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and the nWo Wolfpack (represented by Sting and Lex Lugar) taking on Raven’s Flock (Billy Kidman and Sick Boy).
Finally, Michael Buffer came out to announce the main event. As you might guess, it wasn’t a Meltzer 5-Star Classic, but who cares! The crowd was as hot as I’ve ever seen, and it was a damn enjoyable match that definitely had a big match feel to it. Goldberg had steamrolled over just about everybody, but this was Hulk Hogan - the biggest icon in wrestling. Hogan landed his leg drop finishing move three times, but Goldberg kicked out, with Bobby Heenan cheering on. (On a side note, Heenan’s commentary did more to sell the nWo as super villains than anything else the company did, but that’s another discussion for another time). After another failed interference attempt by Curt Hennig, Goldberg landed the jackhammer and defeated Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Title.
Of course, the creative geniuses at WCW would throw away Goldberg’s undefeated streak (easily the best thing the company had going for them) less than six months later in a forgettable, gimmicky match at Starrcade, However, July 6th, 1998 stands as a night that WCW got it right - perhaps for the last time.