Previously on the Best and Worst of Spring Stampede: Scott Steiner got maced by WCW security, the Macho Man tried to kill Kimberly, Chris Benoit got hit in the back of the head with a stick, and in a crazy reversal of personalities, Booker T called Hulk Hogan the n-word. Let’s hope this year’s show lives up to that.
Click here to watch Spring Stampede ’98 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.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Spring Stampede 1998, originally aired on April 19, 1998.
Best: Goldberg Defeats Perry Saturn And His Weird Disco Inferno Hair
Opening Spring Stampede ’98 is ya boy William Scott Goldberg taking on Perry Saturn, whose hair has now grown out enough to be super weird. It’s like somebody put Lego hair on him. He’s basically a character from Dog Boy, and his mission is to keep Goldberg in there for eight minutes and not have it completely fall apart.
Looking back the match isn’t great, but I’ve got fond memories of getting together with my friends to watch this show in 1998 — ’90s pay-per-views are cost effective if everyone chips in $5 and you know at least 10 people — and having everyone LOSE THEIR MINDS for Goldberg. The crowd’s the same way; everybody’s over in one way or another in 1998, but Goldberg could throw a hip toss and explode 10,000 heads simultaneously, Scanners-style. They’re especially unglued when it’s time for the scheduled Flock Run-In®, Billy Kidman gets ground into heroin-laced beef chuck, and The Artist Formerly Known As The Yeti catches a rope-assisted dropkick:
It culminates in a spot that became legendary in my brain, but doesn’t totally hold up watching it with a critical eye 20 years later: Goldberg reversing the Rings of Saturn into the Jackhammer. In my brain, Goldberg just stood up with this dude hanging onto his back, threw him up in the air, and jackingly hammered him down. In reality, Saturn appears to do most of the work — look at that hand and quivering arm — and if pre-limo injury Goldberg didn’t have Cesaro strength to compensate for his natural reckless clumsiness, the whole thing would’ve fallen apart. Good news is that he has it, and the finish is still pretty great.
The next night on Nitro, Goldberg would win his first championship in what’s probably my favorite Goldberg match ever, but we’ll get to that.
Worst: A Horace Is A Horace, Of Courace Of Courace
In better news for The Flock that is somehow way, way worse, Raven finally actually wins the United States Championship from Diamond Dallas Page in a Raven’s Rules match thanks to the debut of the newest Flocksman Horace Boulder. If you think that’s a bad name, consider that in his one televised loss to El Matador in WWF he was called “The Predator,” and during a cup of coffee in ECW in ’95 he was called “Prey of the Dead.” In reality he’s Mike Bollea, real-life nephew of some asshole.
There have been worse examples of nepotism in wrestling, sure, but Horace “Boulder” Hogan is (at best) a sub-Gambler WCW Saturday Night jobber who thanks to his last name got membership in The Flock, membership in the nWo, a spot in a battle royal for the ability to lead the nWo, and was a focal point of multiple main-event feuds. In terms of The Flock, Horace makes Reese and Hammer look like Vader and Sting.
I would talk more about Raven’s U.S. title win here, but see the Goldberg section above. Also, shout-out to WCW for booking two title changes at Spring Stampede and having both guys lose their belts on Nitro a day later.
Best/Worst: Family Feuds
Best: Chavo Guerrero Jr. has a fun and competitive match with the Ultimo Dragon (wearing his half red, half green Christmas gear that is his undisputed best look ever) and only loses because his uncle Eddie won’t stop trying to interfere and help him. The story, if you’ve been following along, is that Chavo lost a match and agreed to listen to Eddie’s advice on how to be a better wrestler. Instead of actually helping him, Eddie just berates him all the time, screams at him about disappointing his grandma, and butts in to cause him to lose.
Here, Chavo seems to have the match in the bag after Dragon accidentally gets hit in the groin. Chavo won’t capitalize, Barry Windham at Starrcade ’87-style, because he’s a normal human being. Eddie is not, and gets so pissed about Chavo’s decency that he smacks him in the face twice and sulks away with a towel over his face. Chavo tries to followup, but now he’s shook, so Dragon counters a tornado DDT into the sleeper and puts him away.
Somewhere in El Paso, Grandma Guerrero dumps an entire pot of menudo into the garbage and goes to bed early.
Worst: You’d think if WCW broke up one of the greatest tag teams of all time and wanted to turn Scott Steiner into a monster, main-event heel they’d go straight into a feud with his brother Rick, right? Nope, you aren’t going to get any actual payoff for that until Halloween. And even that turns into a movie commercial that would’ve plunged WCW into fictional absurdity if they hadn’t already had Robocop show up to do a thing years ago. More on that and paragraph after paragraph of disappointed sighing still to come.
But yeah, Rick Steiner dresses up like a Happy Meal and teams with Lex Luger to face Big Wally Workout and his muscle pal Buff Bagwell. Bagwell shows up with a homemade cast on his arm that looks like he stuck his hand in a jar of Elmer’s glue and let it harden, which brings out James J. Dillon IN HIS SASSIEST ROLE YET to announce that it’s all bullshit and the match will take place as advertised. Look at that sassy power stance:
In a total shocker, the match ends up not taking place as advertised. Rick chases Scott to the back because he’s lovin’ it™, and Luger Torture Racks Buff. I wish they’d have had Luger win via Pete Dunne-style digit manipulation on Buff’s injured hand. Fun fact: you can fit 14 Pete Dunnes inside Lex Luger.
Worst: Virgil, Manservant Of The Law
Up next is what would be the worst match of the year if it didn’t happen in the same promotion that employs Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper: Curt Hennig vs. The British Bulldog. Sgt. Al Powell is here to handcuff Rick Rude to Jim Neidhart to make sure there won’t be any outside interference, not taking a moment to learn the history of “handcuffing people together to keep them from interfering” in wrestling and discovering its 0% success rate.
This one’s especially ridiculous, because it involves a The Dark Knight style police impersonation gag. You know how that cop who handcuffed them together was a black guy? Well, it’s 1998 in a southern wrestling promotion and apparently all black people look the same, so nWo Vincent shows up in a matching police uniform, gets attacked by Neidhart, and slips the cuff key to Rude. The announce team doesn’t realize it’s Vincent until his hat comes off in a real Clark Kent/Superman situation.
Here’s the best part: when Bulldog goes for a powerslam, a now freed Rude is able to grab his foot and stop him. That allows Hennig to toss Davey Boy into the post and pin him. But the foot grabbing happened in the corner where Rude and Neidhart were standing anyway, and Rude used the arm that was never handcuffed to begin with to interfere, so all that extraneous cop-and-robbery was, more or less, for nothing.
Bret Hart, the self-proclaimed “sheriff” who has decreed for several weeks that he hates the nWo and isn’t going to let anybody get “screwed” again, does not appear as his family gets choked to death by the nWo. Jim Neidhart bug-eyes make a second appearance.
Best: Kickie Jay
The latest Booker T vs. Chris Benoit Television Championship match ends with more bullshit, as well, as referee Mickie Jay (not to be confused with referee Scott Dickinson, who is his Nobody) accidentally takes an scissor kick to the dome (pictured) and dies a thousand deaths. While the ref’s down, Benoit gets the Crippler Crossface on Booker and taps him out. When he realizes there’s no referee to call the match, he tries to revive Mickie, only for Booker to barely clear braining the ref with a scissor kick again and getting a cheap, opportunistic win.
The good news is that Benoit’s gotten f’d in the A by rule book technicalities so often now that in May they’ll begin their legendary Best of Seven series. The bad news, at least from a 1998 fan’s perspective, is that Chris Benoit is clearly the best wrestler in the company and gets booked like the biggest schlepper in history in important matches. That doesn’t stop until March of 2004, and starts up again pretty soon after.
Best: Chris Jericho, Conjurer Of Cheap Tricks
- Chris Jericho shows up for his Cruiserweight Championship match against Prince Iaukea wearing a shoelace headband and quoting Cheap Trick
- He dedicates the match to Dean Malenko, “our fallen comrade, now residing in the Where Are They Now files,” which remains the funniest shit ever. He says Dean can live vicariously through him while he’s at home “eating potato chips and drinking Coca-Cola,” as well. The enunciation of the “o” at the end of potato and the specificity of Dean’s soda preference really makes it
- He wins the match (thank God)
- As the victor, he claims the Prince’s floral shawl as his trophy and wears it like a towel
- When it’s over, he celebrates by jumping up and down with his arms raised like he’s Chun Li, then comedically collapses to sell his back
- garbage-ass Prince Iaukea
Worst: La Parka Doesn’t Cut The Mustard
I don’t know if one of the matches went too short or someone got sick and couldn’t make it or what, but we randomly fill time with an unannounced La Parka vs. Psicosis match stemming from their mini-feud over the past few weeks. You’d think La Parka vs. Psicosis would be great, but it seriously looks like they were just pushed out there and told to have a match on the fly, because it’s just spot-rest-spot with no story and no crowd engagement whatsoever. You know you’re boned when La Parka doesn’t get a reaction, pun intended. I think it’s just the bad luck of La Parka’s yellow gear, which makes him look less like a skeleton and more like a block of cheese.
It’s so bad that I couldn’t even GIF it, if that tells you anything. The best image I could grab is La Parka realizing he’s supposed to be hanging in the ropes for Psicosis’ leg drop and awkwardly trying to awkwardly pull himself back up into position. I half expected Alberto Del Rio to come flying in with a double stomp out of the corner.
Worst: The World’s Tallest Pole Returns
You know how in WWE when they have a “something on a pole” match, the thing people are supposed to grab from the pole can be reached by standing on the top rope? WCW isn’t playing with their poles. If you remember the tallest pole in human history from the John Tenta vs. Big Bubber match from Bash at the Beach ’96, it returns in glorious fashion for Spring Stampede’s tag team bat match. Taking into consideration that there’s no way in hell Roddy Piper or Hulk Hogan could climb it and Kevin Nash’s lower body isn’t strong enough to support him even climbing up the ropes, The Giant’s the only guy with a chance of reaching the bat.
True to form, the bat doesn’t even come into play for 95% of the bat match, and the bat hanging from the pole isn’t even the bat involved in the finish. WCW’s pretty great like that. Eventually Roddy Piper makes a go at it and The Giant assists him by palming his asshole and pushing him up high enough to reach the bottom of the hanging bat, because seriously, it’s almost in the lights. Guess what happens next?
When Roddy Piper’s about to lay into Hogan, yonder Disciple shows up, grabs Piper’s bat, and throws Hogan a second, identical bat to use on Piper. That gets him the win. Hogan also manages to hit Giant in the back of the head AND accidentally hit Kevin Nash in the process, making sure he stands tall over everyone, friend or foe. At least you got to see him get a few seconds of a Divas pillow fight spanking, I guess.
Not satisfied with going over three people and needing to get his heat back for those few seconds, Hogan returns for the main event.
Worst: Loser Sting Loses
Did You Know? Sting is a fucking idiot.
Because Macho Man is recovering from vehicular manslaughter-related injuries and just got his cast off, the World Heavyweight Championship match with Sting gets turned into a no disqualification match. Savage basically kicks his ass and is about to win with the top rope elbow drop when Horace’s Uncle shows up and shoves him off the top rope. Fun aside: Savage falls off the ropes weird and shoot tears his ACL. This becomes important later.
With the help of Hulk Hogan — the only way he’d ever be able to win anything — Sting recovers and hits a Scorpion Death Drop. But wait a minute, folks, the referee is down! So Kevin Nash wanders in, powerbombs Sting, pulls Savage on top of him and crowns the Macho Man WCW’s new World Heavyweight Champion. The just-injured Macho Man. The just-injured by Hulk Hogan Macho Man. Who do you think they’ll have Savage hand the belt off to the next night so he can have time off for surgery?