What is it?
Like a book club, but with pay-per-views. We watch wrestling pay-per-views and discuss them.
Once a month.
How much do we have to write?
I'm strict about this: a minimum of five words; a maximum of one hundred thousand.
WCW Halloween Havoc 1997.
When do we have to have watched it by?
October the 28th.
Who else is doing it?
Several people. Top men.
WCW, for me, wasn't a rival wrestling promotion to WWF; it was an alternate reality. Here's professional wrestling - but in a universe where hype videos didn't evolve properly, where Hulk Hogan never stopped being relevant, and where sometimes they put two steel cages together for some reason. Growing up in the UK, I didn't know people who exclusively or predominantly watched WCW, but there was a channel that showed Nitro (one hour before Raw, on Fridays) so I can assume they existed. I changed over to that channel once and Ric Flair was forming a tag team with his twelve-year-old son. Never again. My brother once got WCW/nWo Revenge for the N64 and I experienced the same existential horror that characters in The Mist do when something with a hundred legs and fifty eyes lays eggs in their thigh. Still, Rey Mysterio looked cool. Looking back at WCW therefore means it doesn't have the same protective, nostalgic shield that WWF from the same period does, but it does have the novelty of being familiar but just a little bit off. That basically summarises Halloween Havoc, or most WCW pay-per-views, for me: there's some (very) good, some (very) bad, but the main feeling I get is one of... oddness. It's like I'm tapping into the mind of my alternate self who grew up watching WCW, who drinks Pepsi, and who can grow a full beard. If I watched too much, the two realities might clash and I might have an aneurysm.
I'll point out the ways I think WCW was, or is, superior to WWF as we go. In 2017, we get WWE presents WWE Cars on the Road: Pedal to the Metal, featuring a set that an intern's left a spare tire on - if you're lucky. Put this show on for five seconds and you'll see gravestones, a giant fucking pumpkin, and graphics being flown onto the screen by witches and-- well, you're not going to confuse it for Christmas Chaos, are you? Bring back Backlash! Bring back the giant swinging blades!
Another difference I'd have found weird at the time but wouldn't seem out of place now: commentary teams that are more than two people. At this time, commentary to me would have been Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. It just was. You should have seen my face when Paul Heyman showed up on Raw one night. Tonight, you have a grand total of four commentators, most of whom are decent in their own right, but who only talk over matches three at a time, which is a blessing. Bobby Heenan has, for obvious reasons, had his praises sung to high heavens recently, and rightfully so. A personal favourite touch: how he didn't suddenly change his opinion on Hulk Hogan after Hogan turned heel but instead pointed out that Hogan had, as Heenan had always pointed out, being a snake all along. Mike Tenay is one of the more underrated announcers in the business. That guy was a trooper to stick with TNA for as long as he did (a sentence that admittedly applies to a lot of people).
Something I often note about WCW is how costume designers whose sole source of inspiration was apparently Mortal Kombat. The most notable thing about what is by all means not a bad first match between Yuji Nagata and Ultimo Dragon is that Nagata comes out dressed in what I can only describe as Sub Zero's alternate outfit. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is that it goes about ten minutes, which is at least five more than I was expecting. I like how Nagata got a little bonus for badly injuring his opponent. That’s cute.
Something especially weird about WCW was how they used Chris Jericho’s WWF music before Jericho was ever in the WWF. Either that or it’s been dubbed into the Network version of the show, and surprising well. That’s all beside the point, which is this: Jericho fights a man dressed as a banana, who has a really good show of it. We do get treated a few pre-WWF Jericho trademarks, like the deadlift powerbomb, which is apparently easier to do on a banana than it is Kane. There’s also his patented botched top rope frankensteiner, notable because it makes you worry that both participants might have landed on their god damn heads.
There are certain areas where I just have to be a bigger man and admit WCW had the right idea. Light heavyweights had some underrated matches. You're not going to find me saying X-Pac, Jeff Hardy, Christian or even Scotty 2 Hotty are bad wrestlers. That said, you're also not going to find me saying they were producing anything close to Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero's level. That said, you're also not going to find me saying that many wrestlers produce anything close to the classic that Mysterio and Guerrero produce on this show.
I don’t like matches where masks are at stake because I think they make the winners obvious nine times out of ten. Rey Mysterio’s WCW music is obviously supposed to evoke mystery - because of his name, innit - but it’s so slow and ponderous and unfitting. Those are the two criticisms I can summon for his match. No hot take here: this match is revered as one of the best ever, and that's because it's one of the best ever. It starts at 100mph and it does not let up. It’s hard-hitting, it’s high-flying, it’s near-flawless. A personal favourite moment is Mysterio’s corkscrew moonsault headbutt, as Mike Tenay refers to it, because I’m pretty sure it’s a botch but it might well not be because it looks absolutely incredible. The main reason I wanted to watch this pay-per-view is because it’s the twentieth anniversary of this match. Come for the wacky Rey Mysterio costume, stay for the wrestling clinic.
Speaking of which, Mongo is not a good wrestler but people popped for his tombstone. They might have popped more for Goldberg kicking the shit out of him but a) it looked terrible and b) it was embarrassing the lengths to which the referee went to ignore said shit-kicking, looking directly at Goldberg several times and then pretending not to have seen him.
WrestleZone alum (seriously) Disco Inferno early in the evening says he’ll fight a woman and, later in the night, fights Jacqueline. A man of his word was ol’ Glenn. The match itself is… lengthy. Probably unnecessarily so. Points for Disco actually selling, and I will say that it was actually rather enjoyable.
Curt Hennig is so good. I remember immediately thinking he was a badass when I saw him hanging in the Royal Rumble with Triple H and Steve Austin, which is odd to look back on now. His match with Ric Flair was, predictably, a lot of fun. At one point, Flair uses his robe as a sort of power-up and Hennig sells a chop by doing a standing somersault. That tells you most of what you’d need to know about this one. It’s unclear why Flair intentionally gets himself disqualified or why WCW referees stop him from beating up a member of the nWo. It’s probably not a good sign when your commentators start several sentences with, “I don’t understand why…”
It’s difficult to take Larry Zybsko seriously ever since Jericho mugged him off so thoroughly in his first book. It’s always nice to see alternate universe Razor Ramon, accompanied by alternate universe 1-2-3 Kid. It’s rarely nice to see Lex Luger, who’s accompanied by a preposterous fireworks display. Listen, the sight of Luger triggered some sort of instinctive glazing over and I’d lost interest by the finish. Scott Hall’s music was playing so I’ll just assume he won by raw sexual magnetism.
It’s weird for someone to become your favourite wrestler in retrospect. You wouldn’t say that about an actor or a musician, but my favourite wrestlers are typically people who I watched wrestle at the peak of their career. Diamond Dallas Page was someone who I went back to after seeing them at very much not the peak of the career, after disbelievingly discovering that he was WCW champion from a documentary, and became a fan of after watching matches like this. Like with music, there’s little joy like discovering a great new artist and being able to wander through an extensive back catalogue at your leisure. If I remember correctly, a recurring motif between these DDP and Randy Savage was them putting each other through tons and tons of scenery. It was definitely a motif tonight. Getting put through styrofoam gravestones must be one of the roughest bumps going. A great match ending with a fake Sting hitting DDP in the ribs with a baseball bat is about as WCW as it gets.
WWF's 1996 commissioner, as I would have had Roddy Piper described if I'd asked my brothers who he was at the time, is apparently challenging Hulk Hogan, the WCW champion, but not for the WCW title. Hogan is the champion but Roddy has the title. WCW’s quite light on my favourite thing about wrestling - recap packages - so I’m not quite sure why. Something about legal challenges, I dunno. I had absolutely no idea who Roddy Piper was when he turned at WrestleMania 19 and started beating people with a pipe. I've since seen It's Always Sunny and They Live, and love the man, but can you imagine how confusing that was to me at the time? It was unclear why these guys were fighting, unclear what they were fighting for, unclear what the rules of the match were - not helped by Michael Buffer saying “the survivor will be the winner” - and it was unclear why there were so many people dressed up as Sting. At one point, Randy Savage jumps from the top of the cage and hits no-one. Roddy won with a sleeper, which I wasn’t sure was possible, to little fanfare, and much confusion. Hogan puts on a Sting mask. A “fan” wearing Sting facepaint jumps in the ring and Hogan and Savage beat him up. That’s how the show goes off air. It’s all distinctly terrible, and confusing, and frustrating.
MVP would probably have to go to Randy Savage, who cut several good promos throughout the night, had the only match that came close to Mysterio/Guerrero, and dove off the full height of the cage for no apparent reason. Not bad for a forty-five year old.
Although my childhood, or the early parts of it, might have been cruelly devoid of Diamond Dallas Page and Rey Mysterio, it was also blessedly devoid of Mongo, Lex Luger and five hundred damn Stings who may or may not have been on Hulk Hogan’s side. On the strength - or lack thereof - of that ending alone, I feel like I was on the right side of the dimensional rift.
This PPV Club was a really cool idea, Sam.
Watching this show takes me back into the good old days. I watched both Raw and Nitro through the Monday Night Wars through the help of taping one to watch later while watching the other in another room. The things one had to do before the DVR became a thing. Anyway, so back then my PPV selection was very limited. They were so much more expensive back then, let alone for my 11 year old counterpart. I had not seen this PPV event yet, even with the addition of old WCW content on the WWE Network. It was a good nostalgic experience to get caught up on this event, which I had heard a lot about over the years. I want to go back and watch a bunch of other old PPV events at some point. Anyway, let's have a look at this event in particular. I'll follow a similar format to my reviews of current shows and throw out a retro review!
WCW Halloween Havoc 1997
Ultimo Dragon VS Yuji Nagata
An ok start to the show. I liked Ultimo so him winning was good. I had forgotten how annoying Onoo was.
Chris Jericho VS Gedo
Jericho having his WWE music here is odd. I don't like it that WWE is retconning things like that, but hey it's the match itself that matters. I don't remember Gedo whatsoever. Either because it's been 20 years or because he didn't make much of an impact. Can't go wrong with Jericho so I was happy to see him win. I legit LOL'ed at you calling Gedo a banana, Sam.
Eddie Guerrero VS Rey Mysterio [Cruiserweight Championship]
I've heard a LOT about this match yet oddly enough, had not seen it until yesterday evening. It was good stuff. While it's not quite AS good as people have made it out to be, I know I will be in the minority there. It may be due to me not being a particularly big fan of Rey. Never have been. I still really enjoyed it. Definitely the match of the night. The pace of the action was great and I had fun with the match from start to finish.
Alex Wright VS Steve McMichael
I'm likely to be in the minority yet again in that I actually liked McMichael back in the day. Now as an adult fan I can see that he wasn't great in the ring. This match was bad though in its defense anything else on the card would still have had difficulty in following the Cruiserweight Championship match.
Disco Inferno VS Jacqueline
Extremely stupid. I never liked Disco and regarding Jacqueline, whether you ask 1997 me of 2017 me, the answer would still be the same. I couldn't care less about her. Weakest match of the night for sure.
Curt Hennig VS Ric Flair [United States Championship]
This one oddly enough did not live up to expectations. Maybe it is from knowing them both as legends today, as opposed to trying to see it through my 1997 self's eyes? It was a major step up from Wright VS McMichael and Disco VS Jaqueline at least.
Lex Luger VS Scott Hall
This was really boring. I was a fan of both guys back then, I am not sure what it is, but I just couldn't get into this one at all. Larry being the guest ref didn't help the match much.
Diamond Dallas Page VS Randy Savage
Oh, man. This was good. SO much better than the last four matches. They went all over the place and broke parts of the set, where you could amusingly tell how unrealistic the "graves" were. Liz and Kimberly even got involved. The spot with the shattering tray was well done. Not even the odd ending could hold this match back. The second best of the night after Eddie VS Rey.
Hulk Hogan VS Roddy Piper
Started out great and highly exciting.... Then it just kind of ended, and it ends up being more confusing and frustrating than anything. The interferences, the fake Stings, the lack of clarity on the rules, and this not being for the WCW Championship made this go down in quality. It did have that cool spot with Savage jumping from the top, which was cooler than anything Hogan or Piper did in the match. Not horrible, although not good either. What an odd ending to the show. It's WCW though.
When looking at the event from top to bottom, it was a fun overall experience to relive 1997 WCW for the night. The good stuff (Cruiserweight title match and DDP VS Savage) more than made up for the bad stuff such as Disco VS Jaqueline or them going on and on about Hogan throughout the night. A fitting start to the PPV Club. Looking forward to reading others' thoughts and watching the next event.
So full disclosure, I never watched WCW with regularity growing up. When I was a kid, it was WWF all the way. The majority of my pre Network exposure to WCW was either the video games, or Ready to Rumble. Jimmy King baby!
Much like Sam, I think when you go back and watch WCW you get a lot of good and a lot of bad. It feels like there wasn't much middle ground there. You had a lot of lesser known wrestlers putting on great matches, and a lot of well known guys past their prime putting on garbage.
One of my issues with this show is that if you take away the Rey/Eddie match, this show has nothing of note going for it. Because of that I have no idea what the majority of the storylines are and the intro was almost completely about Hogan and Piper. They made it seem like Piper was the guy to end the nWo. Piper is great, but I never once bought him as the guy to end the nWo.
The first match got a solid ten minutes, but Nagata wasn't someone I was familair with. I knew who Dragon was, thanks to the famous meme with him and his fifteen titles, and the video games. He also totally botched one of his Wrestlemania entrances, so he had that going for him. I came in expecting Dragon to get the W, and I kinda thought he was going to pull it out, especially after getting kicked and suplexed around for a solid eight minutes, but that armbar finish was super fast. A good opener though. One thing I noticed that I don't really recall from the same era WWF, the two cruiserweights used the entire ring, and went outside and did a fair amount of moves on the outside.
I always kinda enjoyed Disco as a bit of a comedy character. He kinds of reminds me of a Heath Slater, before Slater was Slating it up.
Gedo is another guy I don't have much clue about. That yellow outfit was a hot mess though. He did a wicked flip mid match after a Jericho clothesline, that was nice. I get that Jericho wasn't a big guy, but I wish WWE would have let him keep some of his power based moves. He had a sweet powerbomb. Speaking of stuff Jericho didn't do often in WWE, that top rope botch was great from an entertainment standpoint. Jericho wasn't a big botcher, but his botches are almost always worth a watch.
Mongo was a NFL guy right? He reminds me of one of those guys who were a fringe NFL player who went in pro wrestling in the 90s. They all sorted sucked and did few things of note, minus Goldberg. Debra got divorced a lot. Poor gal.
So I can't say anything new about the Rey/Eddie match, but I will comment on Rey's WCW attire. Man, what was the thinking there? Also, I always forget thanks to how big he got in WWE, but Eddie used to be fairly small. Shame that bulk up was probably steroid related and lead to his early passing.
I always liked Bischoff. I remember him as a straight laced interviewer in some AWA clips from watching with my papaw, and still am amazed he grew to be the mouthpiece of the nWo. Hogan and the nWo really hated Sting.
The Wright/McMichael was more of an angle for a story I'm not sure of. This match came in under ten minutes (I think at eight) and about 95% of it was about Hogan and the nWo and how much power they had and how they had the fans in a pickle. The match was fairly blah, mostly due to the Goldberg interference (which was shit). Credit to Debra, she distracted the hell out of the referee to cause him to miss fucking Goldberg hitting the Jackhammer. I guess Debra just proposed to Goldberg?
Savage and Liz were always a treat. Even in his mid 40s, Savage was great. Liz in the nWo shirt was a nice touch.
Did they literally just say that the TV Title wasn't on the line in the Disco match because one competitor didn't have a penis? That wouldn't fly in 2017. Tony spent more time calling Hogan a coward and trying to sell the main event. Like why? If you already bought the PPV, why try to sell it more? I appreciate the early heel stall stactics by Disco, but it got to be too much here. I think he hit the floor ten times in the match, causing the fans to boo because it was annoying. Jackie was over with the commentary team, but the crowd didn't really seem into her. Didn't her top come off during a WWE PPV once? I bet the crowd cared there. When I was a kid and saw her in WWE, she seemed like a big deal because she could kick ass with the men, but she was literally hitting basic wrestling school moves here and it was much less impressive than I remembered. Weird that they have a champion lose clean. That bugs me when WWE does it today, it bugged me that WCW did it in 1997.
Flair/Hennig sounded like a dream match, and aside from some really weird moments, this was decent. Like for one, I'm pretty sure Hennig brought the Cruiserweight Title to the ring instead of the US Title. Flair beating the piss out of Hennig was fun stuff for the first couple minutes. Seeing Flair's robe without the sleeves made me sad. I kinda get why you would talk about Hogan in the Wright/McMichael match, but why drone on about him and WCW's pride in the US Title match between arguably the GOAT in Flair, and an all time great in ring worker like Hennig? My favorite part, while the announcer's were ignoring the match to talk about Hogan and Bischoff, there was a long sleeper by Hennig. Just a fun synch up. Henning's chair shot to the post would have made Lance Storm and Horace Hogan proud. The ending actually makes some sense to me. Flair didn't care so much about the title as he did about 1) Getting back at Hennig for stealing his robe and 2) Hennig tried to go for the head with the chair, so payback was a bitch. Oh hey, its the nWo to beat up Flair.
Savage's promo about how cool he is on the internet was amazing. The argument between JJ Dillon and Bischoff over contracts and Sting made me remember how bad the nWo could be at times.
Larry Zbyszko will go down as one of the worst guest referees in history, and he managed to do it in one of the most boring matches of all time. I know Hall was a mess in WCW, but man this was bad. He was in the ladder matches with Shawn, and he gives us this? Yeah I get it, it was Lex Luger, nothing special, but man this was awful. The stupid interference and weird restart really fucked with me here, and who won this match? There was interference, Bischoff beating up Larry, Larry choking out X-Pac, it was a mess.
The Last Man Standing match between Savage and DDP would have been match of the night on most shows. I wish i could have seen DDP in his prime, he just seems like an amazing wrestler and character, and man at 45ish, could Savage still go. Did Page wrestle the entire 90s with hurt ribs? I seem to remember him with the tape a lot. The announcing for this match made me scratch my head a few times. Like why question if DDP should use the Cutter? Dusty was at his best though, a hot mess who barely made sense. I loved when he freaked out over the set exploding. Raven's Flock had to buy tickets to the show? Why else would they be in the crowd? Someone who knows more inform me, was Nick Patrick just corrupt or inept or what? My memories of him, and this match sort of confirms it, are always of him missing in ring action. The fake Sting thing killed this though, much like fake Sting killed many things.
The main event really messed with me. There was no ref(at first), and no rules, and Piper had the belt but wasn't champ, and this match was non title and I guess Piper was trying to end the nWo, but he won and didn't end the nWo, and at one point he bit Hogan's ass. He also hit a lot of low blows. Oh, and was that the real Sting or a fake Sting? Nevermind, there were too many Stings to keep track, so don't hurt yourself. All those Stings did a good job of scaring Hogan. Scared him so bad he fell down when Savage did his death defying leap from the cage. That leap was the best. Second only to the fan getting his ass handed to him as the show went off the air.
To me, this show embodied what WCW came to be remembered for. Fun wrestling from future stars, and way too much time on guys past their prime. That cage match was fifteen minutes of punches and stalling, while Rey/Eddie was fifteen minutes of flips and fast paced action. Way too much time on Hogan, and classic performances from second tier stars like DDP.
Despite being a retirement home for many of my WWF favourites, WCW was strange. The ring made a strange sound; the entrance music was weird; the ring announcers were weird (ainly because they rarely focused on the action in the ring); Michael Buffer talked the biggest load of rubbish beyond "Let's get ready to rumble!"
It was just weird. Alien almost. Now, that did not mean that I could not enjoy it or recognise good matches and entertaining story-lines but it did mean that I failed to connect to it on a fundamental level. That made me far less willing to overlooking the nonsense than I was with contemporary Attitude era WWF.
And Halloween Havoc 1997 is full of nonsense.
And it really should not have been. I mean look at the card...
In terms of spectacle alone, these five matches should have carried this to be one of WCW's better PPVs. Instead, beyond Mysterio/Eddie and savage/DDP, it is a steaming pile. Ill-focus and chronic booking ruined Hogan/Piper, Flair/Hennig and Luger/Hall, and slightly undermined Savage/DDP.
That then forces the viewer to look at the rest of the card in order to give it a grade and the rest of the card is hot garbage, filled with nothing matches, poor combos and/or poor talent. And Chris Jericho in his usual WCW role of criminally underused.
As to some of the matches, while it is enjoyable, I have never been able to fathom why Mysterio/Eddie is rated amongst WCW's best ever (might say more about the dearth of competition than how good this actually was). It was not even Mysterio's best match that year. he had far more realistic outings with Malenko.
A large part of that reaction is personal as I just cannot suspend my disbelief at so much of that cruiserweight offense because a) it doesn't look like it hurt and b) it doesn't look like it should cause a man to do a forward flip. Head-scissors take downs, tornado DDTs, hurricanranas etc. etc. all look largely like shit. And that is not just on Mysterio, but it is magnified in this case by how small he is.
The real bright point of Halloween Havoc 1997 is Savage/DDP; not just because it is a good contest in the midst of a great feud but also because it is a rare beast in WCW at this point - an established star building up a new name and making him seem like he belonged on or near his level. I remember seeing a video where it was recalled how big a moment it was that Savage suggested he take (and then lose) to the Diamond Cutter. Again, that might say more about the glass ceiling of WCW than Savage really doing something that would not be expected of a true pro, but he could easily have refused and left DDP to take the elbow, lose and then go nowhere.
Just to pick up on that commentary point (about them rarely focusing on the action in the ring) because I didn't write much about commentary: I noticed that a lot. My total lack of interest in whether Hogan was going to turn up for the main event (one would assume he would but hey, it's WCW) was only brought into sharper focus by the commentators' instistence on talking about it constantly, regardless of whether there were a) big stars, b) amazing action, or c) both in the ring.
It'd probably be unfair to suggest WWF didn't do something similar ("I'm really enjoying this D'Lo Brown match, JR - I sure hope Steve Austin doesn't come out in a crazy vehicle of some sort and stun everyone!") but the pay-off there would've been Stone Cold Steve Austin stunning twenty people and then drinking twenty beers, rather than someone in a fake Triple H outfit helping him lose to a sleeper.
I'm glad there's a consensus forming on just how good Savage and DDP were.
There was a time when I watched more WCW than WWF, but it was in early 1999, and the fact that I still remember more WWF storylines and wrestlers from that period should speak volumes about the lasting impact that WCW had on me. That being said, I have gone back and watched a bit of this and that over the years, and I'd seen some of this show before. I'll go through match by match, but I'll probably skirt around the match itself to make some wider points.
A point that is often made is that the WCW Cruiserweight division had better talents than its WWF Light Heavyweight counterpart. This is unquestionably true, but it's only part of the problem. Guys like Aguila, Scott Taylor and Taka Michinoku weren't terrible, but the division was and a huge part of that is the presentation. Here on WCW we have Mike Tenay, who clearly knows what he's talking about commentating on the matches with the others. But perhaps even more importantly, whilst Bobby Heenan is there, he's taking the matches seriously and not just trying to endlessly pull funnies at the expense of the talent, a lesson that Jerry Lawler never learned. I get that Brian Christopher was an early focal point and the angle with him and Lawler was part of that, but Lawler should at least have taken the talents seriously whilst putting them down. This PPV, in a nutshell shows the nuances that account for the difference in quality between Heenan and many inferior heel commentators, Lawler included.
The fact that Jericho was in a last minute addition to the card has been touched upon, and an obvious flaw in the WCW camp. Why waste a talent like that? But more to the point, and perhaps even more damningly this PPV also didn't give an airing to the tag champions Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner, nor The Giant, Booker T, Stevie Ray, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, Steven Regal and countless others. I get you can't have everyone on every show, but for all that talent to be ignored is ludicrous.
Guerrero and Mysterio is a classic, but the stipulation makes the outcome obvious, and I think that lack of jeopardy is what prevents it being one of the best matches ever, but it's certainly very good.
The first three matches could easily exist in a separate bubble to the rest of the show. With the different lead commentator and pacing, it was genuinely like watching TakeOver followed by the WWE show today. It had the same familiar anti-climactic feeling to the bigger show too.
Match number four saw Mongo McMichael, the 40 year old NFL has been take on Alex Wright. McMichael may have been a fairly big star in NFL, but he was not the sort of person that people were going to be particularly interested in seeing wrestle. Meanwhile Booker T was on WCW Saturday night that weekend. This match made the crowd flatter than an ironing board and it was exacerbated by Debra introducing Alex Wright as her mystery representative. The fact that Jarrett was set up for this match despite the fact his contract expired a week before it is par for the course when it comes to contract renewal in 90s pro wrestling. Absolute amateur hour. Even with that in mind, the fact that Jarrett was on Raw the previous week meant they could have made this switch on Nitro. Making out it was going to be a big mystery opponent and then Alex Wright comes out killed the crowd, after all the work team afterthought had done in the first three matches.
I had always been on the fence as to whether or not Goldberg's meteoric rise was by design or by accident on the part of WCW. Seeing the next big monster face be a hired gun being paid with a stolen ring and then level out an associate of someone he was working for answers that question pretty definitively in my mind. They're lucky he's so charismatic. The referee in this match took turning the back on the action to a whole new level of awfulness.
Next up, Jacqueline takes ten minutes to beat Disco Inferno. As a comedy bit, fine. The outcome was reasonable, but did it really require ten minutes of atmosphere hoovering non-contact inaction? Probably not.
Hennig and Flair had a pretty dull match, with Hennig being the first of 4 consecutive nWo members with a big match. The music is good, but it's not that good. Give them separate music, actually separate not just someone saying "OHH YEAAHH" out of time with the music over the top of it. It was pretty dull, but I guess they set up the WCW vs nWo picture up well. Oh wait, all the WCW officials are assisting in Ric Flair not be able to dish out a pasting and getting beaten up.
The less said about Scott Hall vs Lex Luger the better, and Larry Zbyszko calling for a replay ruins the suspension of disbelief that was required for at least 4 of the other matches on the card.
The Last Man Standing match or whatever ridiculous name it was given was half decent, but I don't think it was as good as I'd expect from stars of this calibre. Furthermore the ending made absolutely no sense whatsoever. What was the purpose of that guy being dressed as Sting if absolutely nobody sold it as him being Sting on the commentary team or in the ring. There was so much interference anyway, why not make it Hall or Syxx or whoever get involved? At least that would have made sense.
The main event is straight up one of the worst matches I've ever seen. No credible offence, no appreciable rules at all. "This is a cage match to contain the action", but both wrestlers outside within a minute. Terrible. Good work from Savage, but all Hogan had to do to sell the miss was to stand still, and he didn't. Then obviously there's a huge shit show of Stings. If they're there to intimidate Hogan, why wouldn't the real Sting show up to prevent the beat down? Or at all? Absolute dross.
The take home message of this show is clear for me. Of the last 6 matches, 6 of the 11 male talents were over forty years old. Of the other five, Hall, Hennig and Luger were all 39 with a history of drug, injury and talent problems respectively, Disco Inferno lost clean to a woman and Alex Wright was a replacement. Meanwhile, they had a whole host of talents in their 20s and 30s who didn't even feature. By contrast, the WWF PPV that month was Badd Blood where only 3 talents were over 40 - Bret Hart, Hawk and Vader all of whom were being used to get younger talents over at the time.
People often say the Monday Night War was won at this point or that, but this shows that WCW were never going to win it. At this point they had had the ratings win for over a year, yet it is so badly booked and despite having recruited some good talents they did absolutely nothing to develop them or even include them on their major shows. WCW won the initial skirmish because it had bought all of WWF's main talents, making WWF worse and them better. But literally as soon as Austin won the title and WWF had big names of their own, the tide turned. The reasons that was completely inevitable were on display here.
The only way that WCW could have remained on top with this booking would have been to sign Austin and Rock etc in 1998 and then repeated that cycle every couple of years there on out, which would have sent them into financial ruin.
I mean WCW had Bill Goldberg mowing down all and sundry and still were financially ruined within three years.
The benefit for WCW in signing Austin and Rock at this time or a year later would be that, along with Bret looking to leave and HBK's back being broken, it would have deprived WWF of their saviours and may well have seen Vince go out of business or at least be in no position to hoover up the great misused talent like Jericho, Benoit, Eddie etc.
The real benefactor in the situation might well have been somewhere like New Japan or a newly formed NOAH.
Speaking of adopting another company's stars, I do often think of that period between 2001 and 2005 when WWE were scrambling to find new top stars to replace The Rock and Steve Austin and landed upon Jericho and Benoit and Guerrero, and it not really working out for a variety of reasons. Benoit and Jericho's initial push was scuppered by injury and The Rock's return respectively, leading to Benoit taking a year out and Jericho turning heel. Benoit and Guerrero eventually had almost literal coronations but were both firmly entrenched back in the midcard by the time of their respective deaths (I've never been entirely convinced that Eddie was actually going to win the world title a couple of weeks after he died; Benoit winning the ECW title is obviously more believable). It was really those three and Mysterio who got a fairer shake than they ever did in WCW. It's a shame the same can't be said of DDP, who wanted a people's champion versus people's champion feud with The Rock but instead got to stalk The Undertaker's girlfriend and then feud with Christian. Suffice to say: great talents all but not megastars in waiting.
I've been pondering how that main event turned out that way. Who politicked and counter-politicked to turn it into such a hodgepodge of nonsense? Normally the answer would be whoever came out of it looking good. Seeing as the answer to that is nobody, it may forever remain a mystery.
It probably had at least something to do with just how much power Hogan had behind the scenes in WCW, coupled with someone, no clue who, doing their best to remind everyone that the big payoff to all of this nonsense was Sting beating Hogan and the nWo.
I have a feeling that somewhere along the lines, something similar to this came out of Hogan's mouth. "Okay brothers, I'm the big daddy in WCW and I don't do the job for anyone, but the fans want me to lose so we have Piper beat me with his signature hold, but I won't tap or pass out and immediately after he locks it in, I put on a mask to mock that out of shape Stinger jack. If I lose, the fans will totally love it dudes, but Hogan lays down for no man."
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