Welcome back to the TJRwrestling retro reviews where we are breaking down every Pay-Per-View during the “Monday Night War” Era. This review is going to be a tad different than the rest because I will be talking about a specific match at length, rather than an entire event. I remember when I was a kid, I was always a WCW guy. I never really even switched the channels much until Austin had already taken over wrestling on the other program. So, for me, guys like Sting, Luger, The Giant, Hogan, Hall, and Nash were always at the top of my list. They had all spent time in the WWF, but when I started getting into wrestling, they were WCW through and through. Now that we have that little piece of background, this was one of the first matches that I was legitimately moved by a winner. I won’t spoil it at the top, but this match had one of the biggest crowd reactions I can remember seeing to this day, and it was just an all-around awesome moment. When I started these WCW reviews, I was excited to get to this period of time because of how special it is to me. Let’s do this!
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan has been dominating most of 1997 at this point. If you have been following our reviews on the site you know that his matches have been fine, but nothing spectacular. He won the title at Hog Wild 1996, defeating The Giant, and hasn’t really faced much resistance to this point. He did lose a non-title match to Roddy Piper, but ended up beating him in the rematch that was for the title. For the most part, though, he has been involved in matches that don’t have the title on the line or is in a tag team match involving someone from the mainstream I.E. Dennis Rodman. He has had the title for almost a year at this point, and now he is faced with defending the title against Lex Luger, who earned the shot on Pay-Per-View a few months ago. I will talk about what faces him in the future after the match review.
Lex Luger has had some kind of year in 1997 as well. He has been in some high profile matches, but for the most part, has stayed out of the main event scene until recently. Obviously, Luger is a big name draw, but worked some mid-card matches through the first part of the year. He earned the title opportunity after winning a four-corners match at Spring Stampede against The Giant and both members of Harlem Heat. That was in April and this match is in August, so that should tell you about Luger’s year. Sting was also geared up for a shot at Hogan and the title, but I will touch on that later. Let’s get to the match!
WCW Heavyweight Title Match
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan (c) vs. Lex Luger
Hogan feels like one of those old school wrestling heels as he walks down to the ring and it adds to it that people are throwing garbage at him. This has a big match feel.
They lock up and Hogan grabs a Hammerlock, which Luger reverses on him. Luger pushes Hogan down to the mat as Hogan looks on stunned. Hogan gets a kick to the gut and pounds away on Luger’s head. He works him into the corner and stomps down on him before choking him with his boot. Hogan hits a few elbows from outside of the ring and gets some more shots to the head in. He gets back in the ring and takes Luger down with a clothesline. He hits a few elbows as Luger tries to get back to his feet. Hogan whips Luger into the corner and comes in after him with a clothesline. Scoop Slam by Hogan and he starts to choke Luger rather than going for the win. He slams Luger’s head into the turnbuckle. Luger reverses course and slams Hogan’s head into the corner. He hits some kicks to the midsection, but Hogan rakes the eyes to regain the advantage as they head into a commercial break.
They come back with Hogan squeezing Luger with a Bearhug. He throws him down to the mat only to pick him up to hit a suplex. Hogan pulls Luger back to his feet and hits a Belly to Back Suplex. He covers him, but Luger gets a foot on the rope. Hogan continues to hit some shots to the head and hits a chop that sends Luger crashing down. Hogan hits another chop and starts choking him in the corner. Hogan throws him into the ropes and hits a big boot and picks up a near fall. Hogan hits a scoop slam and follows that up with the leg drop, but Luger gets the shoulder up. Hogan goes for it again, but Luger rolls out of the way. The NWO starts coming down to the ring, but Luger takes them all out. He hits Hogan with a forearm and signals for The Torture Rack. The referee loses his mind as Hogan gives up and Luger wins the title! The match went for about 13 minutes.
Winner and NEW WCW Heavyweight Champion: Lex Luger
Match Rating: 3/5 Stars
Collective Thoughts: If I was back being 8 years old again and watching this match for the first time, I would have given it 5 stars. While it wasn’t a technical masterpiece, and short for a title match, it was still a great moment for Nitro and WCW at the time. I was a huge Luger mark and seeing him win the title here was so cool. The crowd was into everything single thing they did and even with the interference by members of The NWO, I don’t think it took away from the match much. Now, on to the juicy stuff. In a shoot interview, Kevin Nash says that it was his idea to put the belt on Luger because he was red hot. Take that with what you will. That rubbed Sting the wrong way because he was the one who was supposed to take the belt off of Hogan after 18 months of buildup. I can see both sides of the argument. The eventual match between Sting and Hogan ended up being botched anyway (we will cover it soon), so in the grand scheme, I don’t think it took much heat off that match. Luger will ride into Road Wild, as the champion, and Hogan will get his rematch there. Surprise, that’s the show we are covering next.
After the match, the WCW locker room comes out to the ring to celebrate. Luger makes his rounds shaking everyone’s hands as the announcers are putting it over big. Luger walks up the ramp with his colleagues in tow as the announcers talk more about the match as they show the backstage celebration. They wipe off the NWO spraypaint and pour champagne all over Luger. Hogan is livid in the locker room and he talks about getting his shot back in Sturgis as the show goes off the air.
What did you think of the match when you went back and watched it? Hit me up @collectiveheel on Twitter and let me know your thoughts. While you are there, make sure to check out my podcast network The Heel Turn Collective. We have new shows twice a week, including an AEW review show that we do every Saturday. Take care of yourselves, and each other. I will be back soon enough with some more Collective Thoughts.