– I’m back with WCW’s biggest pay-per-view of 1996 and it’s a doozy. If you can, like, share and tell your mom about these things I’m writing.
– Remember to follow me on Twitter so you can hear my ramblings about the finer things in life.
– As for my Network viewing, I finished WCW and went back to 1998 WWF. Man, the Attitude era ages horribly. But it’s fascinating to watch in contrast to the end of WCW because you can see what Russo was trying to do in WCW and how he fell short.
Anyway, on to the goods.
Best: I Hate How Much I’m Laughing At Dusty
I’m so sorry for how giddy I get when Dusty Rhodes calls a luchadore match. It’s totally ignorant and probably offensive to the guys in the ring, but dammit if his natural charisma doesn’t make Malenko vs. Ultimo Dragon into the perfect summer blockbuster. We get incredible action, depth and comic relief the whole time. You know Dusty is off the deep end if Heenan is being the straight man.
I don’t give a damn if you’re the straightest of straight traditional wrestling fan who hates modern announcers. You’re going to laugh your ass off at the whole “dragon screw leg whip” discussion because holy hell things really fall of the rails.
But have no fear, we still got a good match to talk about.
Best: Malenko vs. Dragon
Dean Malenko and Ultimo Dragon could probably wrestle this match with their eyes closed. People like to toss around “fluid motion” in a match but these guys look like they in perpetual motion and it’s beautiful. Too often guys with great chemistry look too much like they’re “working.” Like they’re doing a choreographed dance more than pretending to have an athletic fight. It’s a nuance difference but one that you can definitely notice when watching a match.
Malenko and Dragon look like two athletic mother*ckers who can break each other’s bodies trying to do just that. Meanwhile, Dragon just exudes charisma and Malenko exudes kick ass. Their chemistry is inescapable and this match is incredible. Go watch it right now. I’ll be here when you’re done.
You’re done? Cool. Moving on.
Best: Women Killing Each Other
I love Women’s division matches from the early 90s. No, not Divas matches. But Women’s division matches. They were as hard-hitting as any Indie show you’ll see now. Madusa matches in particular are pretty spectacular car crashes. I don’t know if there were language barriers or what but her matches were mostly “whoops” *blows spot* *makes up for it with power bomb*. Sure, it’s sloppy, but the damn powerbomb and a kick to the front of her entire face really makes up for it.
By the way: that belt to the trashcan bit. Most regrettable move by a wrestler ever?
Fashion Break: Roddy Piper’s Hair
Let’s remember that this is around the time of boy bands and let’s also remember that Roddy Piper is jive talking mid-life crisis guy. So that must explain his bangs that have been manufactured using the skin grafted off of his hip. I think.
Worst: Roddy Piper Doesn’t Care If You Watch The Match
This is literally an excerpt from Roddy Piper’s promo for the match: “THEY GAVE ME BAGPIPES AND A DRESS I CAN CALL IT A DRESS AND THEY GAVE ME BAGPIPES BECAUSE A PIANO IS HARD TO CARRY HARRRRD TO CARRY ALL MY LIFE HAS BEEN HARD”
What in the everloving f*ck are you talking about, Hot Rod? Then we get: “IF YOU TAKE HULK HOGAN’S DID I SAY HOGAN *snorts* WHAT’S YOUR NAME WHERE AM I ROSEANNE IS TIMELY BWAAAAAHAHA”
I think we’re witnessing a post-traumatic episode from a guy who’s had hard times.
But here’s the kicker: the main event has been based on “Icon vs. Icon” and there can only be one. So Piper has the brilliant idea to say it doesn’t matter because they’re both icons anyway. Great. Piper is also promoting a movie with the tag line “watch our movie…or a different one…whatever.”
Worst: Nobody Cares About Jushin Liger
Jushin Liger is back in WCW. Wrestling goddamn Rey Mysterio. And nothing. There isn’t a pop for the match before the bell. This is how WCW failed the cruiserweights. They relied too much on great wrestling – and let’s not forget that the matches are in fact great. Still, it’s more of a chore to write about the cruiserweight matches in these weekly recaps because they’re just great matches without any stories behind them. They’re matches without presentation and it’s a testament to the wrestlers that they basically carried half the company’s TV time just by going out and earning the fans’ attention without any help from anyone but the guys in the ring.
That went for Malenko/Dragon and it damn sure goes for Mysterio/Liger. Liger isn’t treated like a star here and Mysterio – despite the fact he’s over based on him being revolutionary in the ring – doesn’t have a story here. So what do we get? We get 10 minutes of guys winning the crowd over before cranking out a great match.
I know it sounds like I’m poo-pooing this match and the pay-per-view so far, but I’m not. But imagine how much better Mysterio/Liger would be if the crowd was told the enormity of these two guys in a match. Imagine the match starting with “This Is Awesome” chants before anyone dose a flippy thing. That’s where WCW left these guys on islands to win over crowds. And it’s a shame they had to carry so much of the load on their own.
Best: Chris Benoit. Miracle Worker.
Chris Benoit’s 1996 has been damn near flawless and he ended the year on the not of carrying Mr. Mediocre to a damn good match. Actually, Benoit and Jarrett had an oddly remarkable chemistry through this whole feud that got Jeff into the Horsemen. It sort of reminds me of Cesaro and The Miz where one guy was such a goober and the other guy was so no-nonsense and good at wrestling that the dynamic was pretty stellar.
Here, Jarrett is all “I’m gonna raise my two stupid fingers and strut this stupid strut” and Benoit just chops his heart into the crowd. So yes. I enjoyed a Jarrett match. Anything is possible at Starrcade.
Worst: A Match With No Point
There is no point to this Outsiders vs. Faces Of Fear match. None whatsoever. Sure it’s a tag title match and the Faces Of Fear were over and having surprisingly amazing matches. But the match starts with Nick Patrick entering as the ref. So obviously there’s zero chance he’s counting to three for FOF. There’s no way this match is ending any other way than WCW’s biggest star of 1996 counting the pin for the Outsiders. This, folks, is the opposite of drama. Instead, the drama happens at the beginning of the match when Patrick walks in the ring and we get a 15-minute match where the crows sits on its hands and waits for the swerve. This does not a dramatic match make.
So we get Faces Of Fear with the obvious pin and Nick Patrick doesn’t count. Then he does a slow count. Then he fake bumps. Now watch him do a hurancanrana off the top rope. The thing about the match is there isn’t a twist to it. There’s no point that makes me think Faces of Fear have a chance at winning. Then, guess what…they lose. It’s an exercise in pointlessness and the first bad match on the card.
Best: Hulk Hogan Is Working Circles Around Roddy Piper
Worst: The High Cost Of Vanity
You can say all sorts of horrible, true things about Hulk Hogan and his ego and you’d be right. He probably single-handedly destroyed WCW and damn sure didn’t help TNA. He’s ruined as many careers as he’s helped. And he sucks as a wrestler.
But dammit if the man doesn’t care about his legacy. So when he has a chance to show people who really carried that WrestleMania 1 card, he’s going all out with some of the best heel promos of his life. Here he’s a dirtbag to the fullest and fully embracing being a heel. If there’s one thing (and probably only one thing) the Piper feud did for Hogan, it was helping him find his groove as a heel, just out of spite for Piper. Because let’s not get it twisted: the Piper/Hogan feud in 1996 was nothing but a vanity project for Hogan and that’s why it was a disaster.
Wrestling is so unique in the fact that it’s fake but real enough that the guys playing characters are so tightly connected to their on-screen personas. Bryan Cranston doesn’t walk down the street worried that people will think of him as a cold, dark human being based on his role as Walter White. But people have very real sports-like reactions to John Cena or Hulk Hogan. Because we see so much of their behind-the-scenes actions play out on screen. It’s a three-dimensional viewing experience almost solely unique to wrestling.
So when guys have control and don’t care about containing it, they turn wrestling into ego-stroking projects so they can look like badasses when they’re at a Starbucks. Hogan does it. Bischoff does it. Vince McMahon does it.
However, the difference between McMahon (whose company is still running) and Hogan/Bischoff is that McMahon at least tries to find a middle ground that the fans can somewhat get behind. Sure, he’ll waste 20 minutes of a show pulling props out of Jim Ross’ asshole for whatever self-serving reason he wants but he won’t waste three months of television doing something like that. When he says “hey, I can turn ECW into something bigger than Paul Heyman” and fails, we at least get a blueprint for NXT out of it and something accessible to an audience. It’s what Triple H is learning now: how much of a waste of time it is to destroy Brock Lesnar for 40 minutes at WrestleMania just for his ego or how nobody cares that Kevin Nash is coming back to beat up wrestlers people like. So instead he feeds his ego by building new guys as long as he can say they’re his “children” or something. And the fans are happy as long as we keep getting Sami Zayn matches every week.
Hogan and Bischoff, though, work in an echo chamber where the fan doesn’t matter. So when Bischoff wants to impress his motorcycle buddies, he creates the worst pay-per-view atmosphere of all time and forces wrestlers to perform in 90 degree weather. When Hogan wants to stroke his ego, we get a feud with Roddy Piper that only Hogan and Piper care about. Two guys arguing over who really made WrestleMania happen 15 years ago. The fans don’t care. But their egos are running the company and it’s what we’re being force-fed for months. This is the difference between a company that’s still running and one I’ll have to explain to my kids one day.
Best: Eddie Guerrero Puts DDP Through Finishing School
Jesus, this is a boss ass pay-per-view.
One of my favorite things to watch in 1996 is DDP’s transition from overweight former manager to mahogany-colored wrestling savant. Eddie Guerrero had a lot to do with that and it all culminated in this match. In turn, DDP helped bring out Eddie’s personality as a sarcastic, witty charismatic act. This is really a wrestling match where Page hangs move for move with Guerrero – giving spinning power bombs and chain wrestling from bell to bell.
The end acts as a graduation of sorts as DDP transitions into his main event-ish feud with the NWO that really made him as a guy on the roster. You can tell he’s heading to the main event because he’s involved in a swerve that’s as nonsensical as anything else on the card. Hall comes in the ring and the announcers act like it’s because they’re going to help DDP even though he dissed the NWO in weeks past. And everyone but the crowd and the people at home and the people in the ring are surprised by the turn of events. Yes, welcome to the big leagues, DDP. Where nothing makes any damn sense.
Worst: Two Dumb Things About Luger vs. Giant
1) During Luger’s comeback, he does a winding punch. You know the one where the good guy winds his arm allllll the way around then does a punch. But the winding arm goes agains the motion of the punch so it literally builds zero percent momentum for an actual violent attack. See, when softball pitchers throw softball pitches, they wind and continue with that motion. But when you wind your arm for a punch you stop then put your fists in an opposite motion. This is stupid. And stupid babyfaces do it. Luger is a stupid babyface.
2) Giant/Big Show has been wrestling for almost 20 years. And he’s been body slammed almost once a month the whole time. And announcers lose their minds every time. Spoiler alert: it stopped being special in 1996.
Best: The Sting Pop
Sting is the most over wrestler in the company – and maybe all of wrestling – by a mile as the crow flies and he’s not even wrestling. As soon as he made his Delta Lima Echo entrance the crowd loses it. Of course, he doesn’t really do anything and what he ends up doing isn’t ever really explained but who cares. Sting is in the ring with a bat and it’s incredible.
I can’t wait for the payoff to all of this. It’s going to be fantastic. There’s no way they can screw this up.
Nope. No. Not going to f*cking waste words on Piper vs. Hogan’s actual match. They’re getting GIF treatment. SHOW ME SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME HAPPY NOW.
Worst: WTF Is Actually Happening?
Sorry. I blacked out. But it appears that Roddy Piper beat Hogan clean in the ring. So he’s the champion!
Wrong. Why? Because it was a non-title match. The main event of WCW’s flagship pay-per-view was a non-title match. A non-title match that nobody in the damn company promoted as a non-title match because they knew everyone would collectively wank in WCW’s direction. This is politics, folks. Piper wants to win, so he wins. But Hogan wants to keep the belt. It’s a compromise that’s horrible for business and only feeds old ass egos. The insanity of it is the fact that Dusty Rhodes doesn’t even realize it’s non-title. The crowd obviously thinks it’s a world title match, too. Hell, I wasn’t even clear it wasn’t for the title. This is worst than 50/50 booking. It’s inconsequential booking. And it’s a waste of the biggest main event of the year. Hey, at least Hogan and Piper got to roll around and say things tonight. Everyone goes home happy.