Previously on the Best and Worst of The Slamboree: Everybody betray me, I fed up with this worl. Plus, Kevin Greene performed a wrestling miracle, Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller debuted, and NFL legend Reggie White took the worst head into the buckles you’ve ever seen in your life.
Remember, if you want us to keep writing 20-year-old WCW jokes, click the share buttons and spread the column around. People need to know about that time Chris Jericho announced every entrant in a battle royal and made me spit coffee out of my nose decades later, even when I knew what he was gonna say.
And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Slamboree 1998, originally aired on May 17, 1998.
Worst Best: Finlay Puts A Thousand Miles On Chris Benoit’s Neck
Instead of opening the show with cruiserweights, The Slamboree decides to open with the kind of slow, methodical, and stiff match you love when you’re in your thirties writing about wrestling on the Internet, but fall asleep watching when you’re a teenager. WCW spent months (and months) building up a Booker T and Chris Benoit rivalry, only to have Fit Finlay of all people take the belt off Booker. Benoit still can’t ever win anything. WCW’s dedication to making sure we know Chris Benoit’s the best wrestler in the world who’s never going to end a show looking good or come out on top in an important match is one of their rare moments of character consistency.
All you really need to know is that the match is a 15 minute workshop in how to ruin someone’s neck and brain. For example, that dropkick to the back of the head I GIF’d above. If you’re wondering why Benoit’s standing there like he’s possessed by the Blair Witch, it’s because Booker T has shown up looking like he’s ready for draft day to distract him. Benoit did the same thing to Booker to cause him to lose the Television Championship to Finlay in the first place, so now, because they’re dumb WCW babyfaces, they’re going to feud with each other for two months to see who gets a shot at the belt someone gets a shot at on every episode of television. Guys, just wait a week, Finlay will beat Prince Iaukea and then be out of challengers.
The match is notable for Benoit inventing his ridiculous head-first dive through the ropes into someone swinging a steel chair that he’d bring back at the Royal Rumble a few years later, and for Finlay absolutely ruining him with a Tombstone piledriver.
Note Benoit’s upper back in that shot, as you can see everything inside of it compressing. Nick Patrick’s face says it all. Here’s another angle, in case that horrifying skin scrunch wasn’t obvious enough the first time. This might’ve not been the moment Benoit ruptured a disc which, fragmented into his, spinal column, but it certainly panini-pressed his internal organs.
Worst: Lex Luger Has Nothing To Do
Lex Luger vs. Brian Adams is the second match of the night, which is happening because Luger hasn’t had anything to do in months and WCW’s about to divide everyone who isn’t Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page up into nWo Hollywood or nWo Wolfpac anyway. This would’ve been forgettable on an episode of Thunder, much less on pay-per-view.
Luger wins when Vincent can’t figure out how to properly interfere in a match despite 13 years of experience, and Adams basically jogs into place for a Torture Rack. That was Reckless, Brian.
Best: Chris Jericho Intros The Cruiserweight Battle Royal
So, let me catch you up to speed.
Back in March at Uncensored, Dean Malenko lost a match to Chris Jericho. When it was over, Mean Gene Okerlund (RIP) shit all over him — in public, if you will — about how much of a loser he was. Malenko said he was going home, and hasn’t been on WCW since.
In the interim, Jericho decided to be the sorest winner in human history and continue to dump on Dean every single week, from declaring himself the “man of 1,004 holds” and carrying around a framed photo of Dean to saying Dean had retired to work at a Tampa burger restaurant. He even brought out a guy dressed as Malenko, said it was Malenko’s father, and beat him up. The following week, he attacked Malenko’s brother with a mannequin leg. He’s been the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD for literally MONTHS, constantly picking on a guy who isn’t even around to take it.
Jericho’s so arrogant at this point and is so confident that he’s beaten all possible challengers that he declares his intention to retire the Cruiserweight Championship. Instead of letting him do that, James J. Dillon announces a 15-man cruiserweight battle royal at Slamboree, with the winner facing Jericho later in the night. Thinking it’ll be easy to beat someone he’s already beaten who’s just had to win a battle royal, Jericho agrees. But because he’s the worst person in the entire world, he takes over the job of introducing each participant, and does so in the most condescending, ignorant, and occasionally straight-up racist ways he can. I’m just gonna transcribe this for you, because it’s among his most seminal works.
“Coming out first, from Xochimilco, Mexico, you notice this guy’s hat never comes off, he’s the master of trick track, the master of da funk, he is Super Calo! Look at those moves, ladies and gentlemen, he’s got about a 1/10 chance of winning, maybe.
From El Paso, Mexico, this guy used to be a great bartender, but it hasn’t translated into his wrestling skills. He is the scourge of the illustrious Guerrero family, he is Chavo Guerrero Jr.! Maybe a two out of ten chance of winning. Coming out next, from Mexico, this is a rags to riches story, from selling chimichangas on the streets to WCW, Ciclope!
Now we got Damien, he can’t afford a mask, he’s using paint, but sooner or later he’s going to buy a mask, I’m guaranteeing you that. Here we go, the winner of the Lou Ferrigno lookalike contest, this guy’s also from Mexico, El Dandy! Coming out next, he’s the world welter-light-featherweight-pesa champion, he is, El Grillo! Now this guy pulled up in a nice rusted-out 68 El Camino Chevy, he’s the ugliest man in our sport today, he’s the illustrious, Quasi-juice Guerrera.
A former champion in many countries, he’s gonna rock rock ’til he drops, rock rock never stop, Marty Jannetty, ladies and gentlemen. Coming out next from Allentown P-A, he is a lost and lonely soul, his name is Kidman … and Kidman, I got some calamine lotion for you after the show. This guy is the TRUE SHOOTER of WCW … does he have a chance? Zero of out of ten, no way, he’s Evan Karagias, ladies and gents. OH YAH, straight from Minneapolis, Minnesota, OH YAH, I want my Loverboy tape back, Lenny Lane.
Then of course we got Psicosis, he’s got a lot of hubcaps in his collection, if you need one he’ll procure you one after the show. This guy is Silver King, if he wins 12 more matches he’ll be upgraded to Golden King. This guy is … Johnny Sinjer? Johnny, Johnny Swinger? Have you ever heard of this guy? I haven’t. Zero out of ten chance of winning, no chance. And last but lost niece, representing Villanos 1 through 62, he is Villano [kneels] FOUR.”
WWE.com has a video clip if you’d like to watch it, because it’s peak ’98 Jericho. After all that, he says he’s going to the back to have a coffee, because nobody will ever beat him for the Cruiserweight Championship.
Enjoy that coffee, because it’s going to be your last.
The match comes down to Juventud Guerrera, who has been built up over the past several weeks and months as a viable challenger to Jericho’s championship even though he’s already lost (and lost his mask), and Ciclope, a random jobber luchador who looks like a pumpkin. Everyone assumes this mean’s Juvy’s going to win, but the action in the ring stops. Juvy and Ciclope stare at each other for a strangely long time … then Juvy wishes Ciclope luck, hops over the top rope to the floor, and eliminates himself.
That’s when the crowd starts to figure out what’s going on, and it’s one of the most glorious moments in WCW history.
Ciclope unmasks as Dean Malenko, and slowly turns around to stare down Jericho. Jericho’s now stuck in a match he hadn’t prepared for, in a title defense against a guy he was desperate to never have another match against, who he KNOWS can kick his ass, and knows he’s about to get his ass kicked even harder now that he’s spent two months constantly dumping on the man and his family for no reason. The pop for this is insane, and not much in life puts a smile on my face like watching the crowd all start to stand up one after the other, throw up their arms and go absolutely ape shit for like five minutes. If you’ve never seen it, please watch and enjoy this pop.
Jericho tries to fight him off and gets in some offense, but Malenko’s filled with RIGHTEOUS FURY and taps him out clean with the Texas Cloverleaf, winning back the Cruiserweight Championship alongside the SECOND biggest pop of his life. It’s such perfect pro wrestling storytelling. The hero fails, the villain can’t stop gloating and running his mouth, and the hero has to return to right the wrong. A hero is only as good as his villain, though, and nobody ever had a better villain than unsupervised, blossoming, 1998 heel Chris Jericho. There’s no dumb heel turns, no factions feuding with one another, no celebrity guests, no old men from 10-20 years ago, none of the hallmarks of the worst of WCW and WWE. Just a great face given righteous indignation by a great heel, and the story playing out as it was destined. Perfect pro wrestling, and one of the biggest and best reactions in the history of the promotion.
Fun side note: If you’ve never heard of “El Grillo,” it means “The Cricket.” It’s also a one time only gimmick for the actual Ciclope, aka Halloween, because Malenko was playing Ciclope, and it would’ve been too obvious to have Dean show up as a luchador nobody’s ever seen.
Pro wrestling is the best thing in the entire world when you do it right. 20 years later those fans still give me goosebumps. Let’s hope WCW gives us another moment of perfect craft on this show. Or, uh, ever again!
Worst: And Now, The Opposite Of All Of That
A couple of weeks ago, the World Wrestling Federation did a bit where they dressed up D-Generation X as army guys and sent them to troll in the parking lot of the arena where Nitro was being taped. In response, Eric Bischoff cuts a promo on Nitro challenging Vince McMahon to a one-on-one fight at Slamboree. He legally has to say that Vince isn’t going to show up, but everybody pretends he is anyway, which definitely doesn’t result in a lawsuit, but that’s later.
All you need to know now is that at Slamboree, we keep going to the “Vinnie Mac Cam,” which combs the surrounding streets looking for any limo it can find to make you think Vince has accepted the challenge. They hold a personalized laminate up to Doug Dellinger’s watch to show how legit this all is, and give him his own dressing room, labeled VINCE “The Reason For The Ratings” MCMAHON. The rib there is that WCW’s saying WWF’s recent ratings surge is all due to Vince’s on-screen presence, and not any of their actual wrestlers. That wasn’t true, necessarily, but WWE has spent the past 20 years trying to prove them right.
The best part is that WCW handed out xeroxed pages of WWF stars like McMahon, Steve Austin, and X-Pac (!) and had security ask fans coming into the arena if they’d seen any popular and exciting WWF guys around. Congratulations to the World Wrestling Federation for writing a dick army goof and getting the world’s longest, freest commercial ever.
They even bring out Michael Buffer to to introductions for a match that isn’t going to happen. Bischoff shows up dressed like a character from Fatal Fury and does karate at the camera. Here’s his entrance, where you get to see the funny “slap the logo up” graphic everyone gets at The Slamboree:
When everyone realizes Vince is truly not going to power walk down to the ring to get Back Leg Front Kicked by Bischoff, Eric gets on the mic and instructs the crowd to help him count Vince out. Everyone counts to ten, and Bischoff, the wormy heel businessman in charge of the actually evil side of the nWo, gets treated like a conquering hero for winning a fake match nobody accepted. The cameras make a point to show every “Vince fears Bischoff” sign in the crowd, and wrestling whiz Michael Buffer announces Bischoff the “winner by forfeit and disqualification” even though he just heard 12,000 people chant a count-out.
Man, between the Malenko/Jericho bit and this, The Slamboree really was the best and worst of WCW.
Best: Hot Dogs
Best: The Best Skeleton Unmasking Of The 1990s, Not Counting Mortal Kombat
Raven and Diamond Dallas Page have a “Bowery Death Match,” which is the precursor to all of Raven’s weird “house of fun” and “CLOCKWORK ORANGE THE MOVIE CAGE MATCH” shit. It’s basically the Ambrose Asylum, where they put a roof on a steel cage so they can hang weapons from it, except all the weapons are mops and shit and nobody bleeds. I’m not expecting a random Diamond Dallas Page match on a 1998 pay-per-view to be a bloodbath, but when you’re doing a sanitized version of an ECW brawl with a sanitized version of an ECW star, I’m gonna need more than a kendo stick and a garbage can.
Anyway, the selling point of the match is actually the finish, in which we find out that one of Raven’s security swat team guys he got on Monday is (gasp) one of his enemies in disguise. When the match is over, a mysterious swatsman starts handcuffing all the various members of the Flock to the cage and the outside guard rail to immobilize them. He finishes up by handcuffing Raven to the cage like Jesus so he can hit him with a chair, which you’ve definitely seen before if you’ve ever seen an ECW highlight reel.
Who is this masked man, you ask? Why, it’s a skeleton! It’s MORTIS, last seen back in February on Thunder trying to join the Flock and getting beaten up for his interest. Mortis then gives us a DOUBLE UNMASKING, revealing that he’s the random fan that attacked Kidman on Nitro and ruined the Saturn vs. Hammer Loser Leaves The Flock match with a concessions tray.
He then proceeds to turn Raven’s head to jelly with maybe the grossest chair shot in WCW history. It doesn’t have the savage beauty and acoustics of The Rock’s chairshot on Ken Shamrock (and is a rehash of a scene we’d already seen, as mentioned), but it physically destroys the chair, and that’s gotta count for something. If 2018 Raven ever has a bad opinion about something on a podcast or whatever, remember that getting hit in the face so hard that it distorts metal furniture is what he did with his entire ’90s.
In Other Flock News
WCW announced a Flock vs. William Scott Goldberg gauntlet match for Slamboree on Thunder, but early in the show we get Saturn reading off a cue card to say that match is off, and it’s just going to be him and Goldberg one-on-one again. You wouldn’t have picked the Flock if it was 7-on-1, so you can imagine how another one-on-one attempt goes.
Best: Chavo Guerrero Is Actually Starting To Go Crazy
In unexpectedly underwhelming cruiserweight news, Eddie Guerrero faces the Ultimo Dragon in a match for custody of Chavo. Okay, it’s not “custody of Chavo,” but if Dragon wins, Eddie has to “free” his nephew from his control. If Eddie wins, Chavo still has to do whatever he says. Chavo does his best to prevent Eddie from Cheating To Win, but Dragon is the king of fucking up when it matters and accidentally spin kicks Chavo off the apron. Eddie busts his brain, splashes frog on him, and pins him to remain Chavito’s liege lord.
The best moment here by far is what happens after the match is over. Chavo acts like he’s going to take his frustration out on Eddie, but instead decides to beat up Dragon for not freeing him from Eddie’s bonds. Eddie, knowing he’s in complete emotional control of this poor kid, gets down on his knees and offers Chavo a free, unprotected punch. Chavo’s in a GLASS CASE OF EMOTION, however, and Eddie eventually makes him kiss him on the cheek.
Eddie’s expression here is priceless:
Hollywood Hogan Has A PLAN, Have Some Goddamn Faith
So does this make Bill Goldberg the New Austin?
Worst: How Many Men Died Because Piper Was Inexperienced And Ruinous?
Okay, so we’re doing this.
The first of your two “oh no, this is actually horrible for everyone” main events pits an injured Macho Man Randy Savage against Bret Hart, who has either lost 100% of his will to live or is a WWF sleeper agent sent to Atlanta to destroy WCW from within. Your call. The special guest referee is Rowdy Roddy Piper, who insists that he’ll call the match right down the middle, and no funny business with occur. So of course you know that means he’s going to miss a bunch of cheating and make things worse.
The match is uninspired at best, and then SHENANIGANS~! Macho Man gets Bret in the Sharpshooter, because that’s the trend in late 1997/early 1998, and is interrupted by a returning Miss Elizabeth. Liz gets Piper’s attention, and because the only thing Piper hates more than a gay man is a woman, he’s completely oblivious to Bret kicking Savage in the dick and whipping out the dreaded Arn Anderson-style “foreign object” that looks like you wrapped a Fruit Roll-Up around your hand. Hart punches Piper in the back of the head, clearing interference from (you guessed it) Hollywood Hogan.
Hogan, who is not on a card that featured two different Ciclopes, shows up with his Fred Flintstone looking ass and slams Savage’s already injured knee into the post. Hart puts on the Sharpshooter, Piper wakes up to find that everything is TOTALLY NORMAL, and rings the bell. Hart is your winner, and Piper:
- ultimately ignored Elizabeth’s interference
- missed a low blow
- missed a foreign object
- missed slow-ass Hulk Hogan jogging down, interfering, and sneaking away
- got knocked out while he thought Savage had Hart in the Sharpshooter, woke up to Savage on the ground in pain and Hart putting HIM in the Sharpshooter and thought nothing was off about that
- saw the foreign object in Savage’s hand and decided that’s who hit him, even though Bret Hart punched him directly in the face a few weeks ago while declaring he’d joined the nWo
Great job, Rod.
Bonus Best: Michael Buffer Has No Idea Who Bret Hart Is
One of Michael Buffer’s all-time best vocal botches is calling Bret Hart “Bret ‘Hitman’ Clark,” but for my money, his announcement of Bret at The Slamboree is even funnier.
HE IS KNOWN! AS THE BEST THERE IS! HE IS THE BEST THERE EVER WAS! HE IS THE BEST THERE EVER WILL BE! HE IS THE MASTER OF THE SHARPSHOOTER! HE IS THE HITMAN! [checks notes] breeeeeeeeettttttt
Watch it here, it’s amazing. He has to visibly check his card to find the name, then only reads the first name. The low, unsure “bretttt” cracks me up. At least with “Bret Hitman Clark” he gave him a last name.
Worst: Did You Know Sting Is Stupid
But Wait, He’s Actually The Smartest Person In This Match (?)
The main event of the night is Sting, who is not in the nWo, teaming up with new nWo member The Giant to take on nWo members Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Amazingly, Sting isn’t the one who gets turned on here … it’s Kevin Nash, who gets hit in the back with a tag belt by Scott Hall after spending weeks on TV talking about how he’s the only person left that likes Scott Hall. That’s what you get for having friends, wrestler!
Incredibly, WCW’s decision here is to have Hall turn on Nash to give The Giant and Sting the World Tag Team Championship even though The Giant literally just turned heel a week ago. I don’t want to spoil too much of the angle for you going forward, but it doesn’t make any goddamn sense, so let’s do it. Nobody knows what to do with the championship, so it gets vacated when Sting joins the Wolfpac in a couple of weeks and starts painting himself up like a dog dick. That sets up a singles match for the Tag Team Championship between Sting and the Giant, which Sting wins. Then Sting picks Kevin Nash to be his partner, and then a couple of weeks later Scott Hall and the Giant beat them.
BUT WAIT, Rick Steiner and a returning Buff Bagwell defeat Hall and the Giant for the championship a couple of months later … except Hall is injured, so Scott Steiner takes his place. And then Buff turns on Rick while they’re winning the tag titles, allowing Rick to pick his new Tag Team Championship partner the next night. AND HE PICKS KENNY KAOS OF HIGH VOLTAGE. And then the titles get vacated when Rick gets injured.
WCW: Where Things Are Going Great!
A one-hour Nitro due to the NBA playoffs, with less action than the Heat/Knicks series. Larry Johnson vs. Alonzo Mourning or Juventud Guerrera vs. Damien, take your pick!