The Best And Worst Of WCW Fall Brawl 1998

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Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: We celebrated WCW Monday Nitro’s third birthday (and the mid-point of its lifespan, but they don’t know that yet) with three hours of the least interesting and impressive people you’ve ever seen. Plus, Kevin Nash wonders aloud why people don’t trust him. I know the answer, but I can’t put my finger poke on it.

Click here to watch this pay-per-view on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.

Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. If you don’t tell them how much you like these, nobody’s going to read them. War Games isn’t going to ruin the idea of WCW pay-per-views for everyone!

And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Fall Brawl 1998. Sorry!

Worst: Ultimate Warrior Inadvertently Almost Kills Davey Boy Smith

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In the Best and Worst of WCW Road Wild 1998, which I feel I should reiterate was main-evented by talk show host Jay Leno, I opened a section with, “seriously, this is the worst WCW pay-per-view of all time, until the next one.” I want to make sure you know that’s not hyperbole, and that I can say with confidence both as a fan who was live at the event in 1998 and as a writer revisiting it 20+ years later, this shit is such ice cold diarrhea they could’ve aired it live from the inside of a Siberian septic tank.

The quick version is that it’s full of terrible matches, has multiple bait-and-switches, builds up some of its matches on the show itself because it forgot to announce them ahead of time, and then baits-and-switches some of those. It might lack the manic “worked shoot of a company falling apart” nature of the late-era WCW shows, but the fact that it exists in the nexus between when we though the product was good and when we’d all accepted it wasn’t makes it that much worse.

The pay-per-view opens with, get this, Alex Wright and the Disco Inferno vs. British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart. That’s what we’re opening with. It’s bad on its own, but is historically notable for being the match where Bulldog takes two bad falls on the trap door the Ultimate Warrior’s going to use to “teleport” in and out of the ring later and almost ends up paralyzed. Here’s one of the falls, if you’d like to note how little the ring moves when a 260-pound man lands on it.

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It’s like bumping on the floor at a Walmart. You can see the poor guy struggling to lift Disco onto his shoulder for the finish, because his body is broken and he’s purely functioning on adrenaline and muscle memory.

It gives him a spinal infection so bad he ends up hospitalized for six months and almost loses the use of his limbs, which causes him to get deeply addicted to morphine and painkillers. Not helping is the fact that while he’s hospitalized for bumping on a dumb prop and almost dying, WCW fired him via FedEx, as they do. Davey heads back to the WWF after he gets out of the hospital and spends a few years over there trying to wrestle in jeans, but is dead by the middle of 2002.

There’s a lot to be upset and frustrated about in that paragraph, but one of the most ridiculous things is that they didn’t even have to wrestle in the ring with the trap door because it’s Fall Brawl and there’s a second goddamn ring next to them. They could’ve just wrestled matches in the normal ring and saved the “worked” ring for the main event. Also, since there are two rings, there is an open space between the rings that would’ve worked just as well for someone who needed to climb up from underneath in a cloud of smoke. So they built a trap door they didn’t need into a ring, had wrestlers wrestle in that one instead of the perfectly functional one next to it, almost killed a guy due to their incompetence, and then fired him for getting hurt. [extended tap dance routine] [big flourish] WCW.

About Those Baits And Switches

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At the top of the show, Chris Jericho shows up and announces that he’s going to face Bill Goldberg one-on-one, later in the night. Gene Mean gets excited about it, and everyone in the arena at the time is like, “oh, okay, so Goldberg IS wrestling on this show.” It felt a little weird to have the WCW World Heavyweight Champion wrestling Al Green and Scott Putski on the weekly shows and then be left off a pay-per-view with goddamn Dancing Fools vs. the Hart-less Hart Foundation on it, so Goldberg vs. Jericho makes sense.

As a brief +1, as it’s probably the best moment of the show, Jericho’s fake Goldberg entrance is a riot. It’s the pay-per-view debut of his “security” team, WCW legend Ralphus and the Jerichoholic Ninja, and they reprise a bit they did on the previous episode of Thunder where Jericho does Goldberg’s backstage bit but gets lost a la This Is Spinal Tap. When Jericho finally makes it to the stage, he tries to do Goldberg’s pyro entrance but gets little puttering sparklers, which pisses him off.

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This is all building to Goldberg murdering him and making everybody happy, but … nope. It’s actually — and I want to remind you, this is on pay-per-view, not hour one of Nitro — a four-foot tall Goldberg impersonator, in the style of Bore Us Malenko and Johnny Attitude. Reminder that WCW did the “Gillberg” joke twice before WWF got around to it and thought they were geniuses.

Anyway, Jericho no-sells a spear from Little Bill and wins easily. Goldberg doesn’t show up to beat down Jericho for making fun of him, even, because he’s not there. The crowd loudly chants, “bullshit.” This is the show we’ve all paid to watch.

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This one’s even worse, if you can believe it.

Scott Steiner tries to get out of wrestling his brother Rick again, so James J. Dillon tears up his doctor’s note and tells him he’s banned from WCW for life if he doesn’t compete as promised. That causes Scott and and his muscular Young Boy, Buff Bagwell, to come up with Plan B: pretend Buff is paralyzed again off the worst looking head smash into the post you’ve ever seen and remind everyone of how fun it is when a wrestler accidentally gets seriously injured in the ring. You know, on the same show where the British Bulldog just got a spinal infection that’ll eventually contribute to his actual death.

So yeah, Rick “smashes Buff’s head into the post,” Reggie White-style, and Buff comically collapses on the apron. The crowd chants, “bullshit,” because it looked terrible and he’s already The Boy Who Cried Buff. Instead of just doing a normal heel thing where they pretend to take him out on the ramp and then it turns out he’s fine, they actually have him lie there “paralyzed,” loudly crying, while EMTs show up and wheel him away on a gurney. We then follow it through the backstage area and actually load him into an ambulance completely before, surprise, he’s not hurt. So not only did we bait and switch the match we’ve already baited and switched a few times, we played on the crowd’s empathy for wrestlers as human beings, called back to an actual in-ring injury that almost ended a man’s career, and spent like 20 minutes of pay-per-view on nothing. Holy shit this show is bad.

Worst: And That’s Not The Only “Injury” On The Show

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Dean Malenko gets a “revenge” match against Curt Hennig, the man who destroyed the Four Horsemen, in the heart of Horsemen country: Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The rumor on the ancient version of the Internet at the time is that WCW had worked out a deal to bring back Ric Flair finally, so literally every person in the building was like, “this match is happening so the nWo can beat down Malenko and Flair can make the save.” I remember being ready to hop up and down with fireworks shooting out of my fingertips about it.

So Malenko has the match, and has apparently completely forgotten how to wrestle with any heat. He starts working Hennig’s leg, then … continues working the leg. Then he works it for like seven more minutes. Malenko is one of the best technicians in wrestling history, but part of his brain was convinced that the wrestling match everyone wanted to see was him lying on the ground grinding a dude’s limb for a quarter-hour. Eventually, sure enough, Rick Rude jumps in and causes a disqualification. They beat down Stinko Malenko until Arn Anderson makes the save, and then they beat him down. And you’re like, YEAH, HERE COMES RIC FLAIR. The crowd’s loudly chanting, WE WANT FLAIR.

Instead of Ric Flair, we do a tight close up on Arn Anderson’s nerve damaged hands so you can see how helpless and humiliated he is. And then the segment ends, and we move on to Scott Hall vs. Konnan. Can’t let the Horsemen look good for even a second in North Carolina!

Worst: Scott Hall Vs. Konnan, If You Needed To Be Told

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This blockbuster match is set up midway through the pay-per-view when Konnan tells Lee Marshall and WCW Wrestling dot com (World Championship Wrestling wrestling) that Hall’s going through some personal stuff and he wishes him the best. Hall shows up like, “HOW DARE YOU WISH ME THE BEST, YOU DON’T KNOW ME,” and throws a drink in his face. Konnan, unhappy with being made both pouty pouty and dowdy dowdy, challenges Hall to a match.

The highlight — and I stress the word highlight here — is Hall being so drunk during the match that he makes Vincent give him a cocktail in the middle of an abdominal stretch.

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Pretty wild that WCW tuned into Raw every week and were like, “you know what idea we should steal? Having our guy with public alcoholism and addiction problems do an addicted alcoholic gimmick while some bad, very slow wrestling happens in the background.” Y’all couldn’t have just copied the vampires?

Best, Then Worst: The Other Impromptu Match-up

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You know what’ll make you feel better about being robbed of a Chris Jericho vs. Goldberg match? This Ernest Miller vs. Norman Smiley match they threw together at the top of the show.

“Ernest Miller vs. Norman Smiley” is a match that would’ve been entertaining as hell like a year from now, but pre-Big Wiggle Smiley with zero personality and little banana hammock shorts vs. an Ernest Miller who has his catchphrases but doesn’t know how to make them work yet (or kick people convincingly without actually hurting them) is the drizzling shits.

The only positive is that it’s set up with a pre-match interview with Scott and Steve Armstrong, where Miller wants their TV time and kicks them in their stupid faces about it. Norman then gives him the bum’s rush, yelling, “WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM MAN, EH,” in his high-pitched Mickey Mouse voice. It’s awesome and funny in the way that Southpaw Regional Wrestling is, but not on purpose.

Best, But Not Really: The Watchable Parts Of The Show

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The best match of the night is Raven vs. Perry Saturn, but it’s so overbooked and obsessed with being the big, final “blow off” to the Flock angle that it gets kind of lost in its own narrative and stops making sense.

Let me put it to you this way. It’s a “Raven’s Rules” match, which means anything goes. Except for the fact that Kanyon, who has been causing problems for both men in one way or another, is handcuffed at ringside. The rest of the Flock can interfere whenever they want, but not Kanyon, so they do a ref bump (in an anything goes match) to explain why he could get the handcuffs key, escape, get into the ring hit Saturn with a move, and then leave just to re-handcuff himself to the post before the referee wakes up. It’s a weird choice.

Also weird is Saturn’s quest to “free” the Flock from Raven while they help Raven stop him? It’s hard to explain. I guess Saturn wanted them “lost souls” to stop drinking Raven’s Pink Scotty Swimmingo Kool-Aid, but it seems pretty short-sighted to wrestle like six guys at once in a Most Holds Barred match with your own indentured servitude on the line when they’re punching you in the face about it. The match DOES feature the face turn from Billy Kidman, though, who I guess has seen the light now that he’s showered and gotten a change of clothes. The local YMCA has caused face turns for lots of young men!

The crowd’s really into it at one point, but they keep dragging on instead of ending the match on a high note. Saturn ends up Death Valley Drivering Lodi off the apron through a table and you think THAT is the crescendo of the match, but nope, it keeps going. It’s a lot like a hardcore match main event of a Ring of Honor show in that regard, where everybody’s into it and into it and into it and by the finish it’s still fine, but everyone should’ve been out of the building 15 minutes ago.

Anyway, Saturn wins, and we say goodbye to The Flock. The Flock died so Torrie Wilson’s Boyfriend Billy Kidman, nWo member Horace Hogan, Lenny and Lodi, and Radical Perry Saturn being obsessed with a mop could live.

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The Cruiserweight Championship match is also a fine watch, but suffers from the same problems as the rest of the show. It’s got zero build as it’s Juventud Guerrera vs. Silver King, of all people, you never once get the idea that Silver King might randomly win and become Cruiserweight Champion. Then they hit a really outstanding spot to bring the crowd to their feet — a then-rare reverse hurricanrana off the middle rope to Silver King, who LOVES that bump — but it only gets a two count, and they continue the match to diminishing returns.

Long story short, this would’ve been better on Nitro, and even better if they hadn’t tried to convince us that 120 pound Juventud Guerrera’s 450 splash hurts more than being flung backwards off the ropes by your neck and landing on the top of your head.

Worst: And Finally, Wore (Out) Games

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We end the night will the ill-fated, 9-man, “every man for himself” War Games concept that even the participants of the match were shitting on on Nitro. Michael Buffer reminds us multiple times that the match can now end at any time, even if there are only two people in the ring, which is supposed to make us more interested in the early portions of the match, I guess? Only it kinda sorta defeats the purpose of it being a “war,” really neuters the “team” aspect of the match that was already choppy-choppied by the prize given to the winner, and honestly, who thought they were gonna announce a 3-team, 9-man match and end it in 90 seconds one-on-one?

Anyway, the basic core drama of War Games is absent because instead of it being a team of faces vs. a team of heels with the heels gaining a staggered one-man advantage, thereby creating tons of tag team-style heat with popular faces showing up to save the day like 10 times in one awesome match, the entrance order is via random drawing. So DDP and Bret Hart start, and Stevie Ray (who is on Bret’s team) is the third man in, even though there’s a third team without a participant in the match yet. Nobody thought any of this through, and it shows. At least the NXT version of the three-team concept added some structure.

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The big, Davey Boy-injuring moment of the match comes when it’s time for the Warrior’s entrance. The ring fills up with smoke and THE WARRIOR appears … only to get axe-bomed in the back of the head and stomped to death by Hogan. The ring then fills up with smoke AGAIN, and oh no, the Warrior’s has disappeared! This causes the actual Ultimate Warrior to enter by, you know, running down the ramp and entering through the cage door. So yes, the trap door that hurt people was only there so a FAKE Ultimate Warrior could do a fake-out entrance to set up the actual Warrior making a normal one. I don’t understand ANY of this.

As a fun (?) side-note, the “fake Warrior” here is played by none other than THE RENEGADE, WCW’s original “fake Warrior,” fulfilling his destiny.

Anyway, Warrior gets in the ring and starts throwing hands at Stevie Ray and Hollywood Hogan, causing Hogan to, you know, immediately leave the ring and run away. This entire show’s build of Hogan vs. Warrior in a match where Hogan won’t be able to escape turns into “Hogan’s escaped” in like, 30 seconds. Hogan and the Disciple try to lock the cage door to keep Warrior out but it doesn’t work, and Warrior has to pretend he can’t get through the door when it’s clearly opening. Best part of the entire PPV is when Warrior tries the open door and a fan starts laughing. How does Warrior escape? By kicking a hole in the cage and hurting himself, of course.

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This is the guy who can teleport, remember.

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If all that’s not enough, they manage to fuck up the finish, too.

As you can see in the GIF, Stevie Ray is supposed to try to hit Diamond Dallas Page with his “slapjack” and accidentally hit Bret Hart. Only, Stevie comes up way short on the swing, still manages to hit DDP in the back of the head (which he no-sells), and Bret collapses back into the ropes having been sonic-boomed by the wind from Stevie’s blow. Page then hits a Diamond Cutter and pins the guy everybody knew was in the match to take the pin.

This sets up Diamond Dallas Page vs. Goldberg at Halloween Havoc, which is very good, and Ultimate Warrior vs. Hollywood Hogan, which is so bad it makes spiders appear on your eyeballs when you watch it. And that’s Fall Brawl. To recap, we got:

  • a trap door injury almost causing a man’s death, then indirectly causing it
  • that trap door being used for a dummy fake-out, as the guy who was supposed to be using it just runs to the ring like normal
  • a bait-and-switch on an appearance from the Heavyweight Champion, into a joke we’ve already seen multiple times
  • the latest in a series of bait-and-switches involving a “swerve” playing on a man’s real life injury
  • a bait-and-switch on the promised Hogan vs. Warrior interaction, unless you count like three punches as the fulfillment of a month’s television
  • multiple bad matches made up at the last minute, so they couldn’t even be disappointing
  • the Horsemen being embarrassed again in Horsemen Country
  • WCW’s best and most reliable match being embarrassed into hiding for 20 years

Are we havin’ fun yet?