Aaaand we’re back.
David D. here with another retro review. You should know the drill by now: Follow me on Twitter @DavidDTSS. Hug your mom and believe in the Shield or something. You can check out the rest of our Vintage Best and Worst reports here.
Now, on to 90s wrestling things!
Best: Things Happening With Cruiserweights
Thank goodness. I honestly was running out of ways to write about flippy guys being flippy for matches that didn’t really mean anything. Sure, Ultimo Dragon and Juventud can put on great matches to begin a pay-per-view but how many times can I say, “hey, these guys had a good match with no context”? Now, there’s actually something going on with these great wrestlers. Not much, but something.
It’s amazing what just the minimum amount of backstory can do for wrestling. It’s the same principle that runs NXT: let talented people go out there and be talented but they need a reason to fake fight. The story with Malenko and Mysterio is a simple tale as old as time. One guy has a mask and the other guy wants it because it’s not his and he’s an a-hole.
Now, I’m all the way in. Just a simple motivational factor for each guy has transformed the match from an exhibition to a battle. Now I’m hanging on every small move because there’s a story to it. I don’t need to watch Nitro or Thunder or do the WCW America Online chatroom to understand what’s going on, either. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.
Of course, that doesn’t mean anything if the match doesn’t deliver. Malenko and Misterio had another one of those matches that still hold up damn near 20 years later, including a ridiculous final spot. So far in my unofficial tally, Malenko is right there with Benoit as the guys putting on the best WCW matches of 1996.
Best: LEE MARSHALL
R.I.P. To the great. *crumbles up Frosted Flakes* *does LeBron James powder toss with the crumbs*
Worst: Oh, For F*ck’s Sake, Jeff Jarrett
I really don’t remember much about when Jeff Jarrett was with what companies when so him popping up here pretty much ruined my day. I hate Jeff Jarrett. He falls in that Marc Mero/Buff Bagwell category of guys who weren’t horrible but were so mediocre that it makes my brain hurt. If Jarrett were a rookie in 2014, he’d be making impossibly awkward animal metaphors and saying “stay down”…or he’d be The Miz.
Then, to make matters worse, Ric Flair is out here promoting Jarrett as if it’s a joyous occasion he’s around. Actually, you know what, Jarrett pretty much is the Miz, isn’t he? He got a Ric Flair endorsement and proceeded to do all the Flair stuff but worse. My uncle used to say that you can tell how great Michael Jackson was by how horrible people looked when they tried to recreate his dance moves. This is pretty much that as it’s a sign of Flair’s greatness just how far off the mark Jarrett was.
Jeff Jarrett’s biggest contribution to my life is obviously this pic, though.
Worst: The Referee Is The Most Important Person Here
So you know how, during the ratings war, WWF would try to put Austin in all the segments to keep fans tuned in? Well, that seems to be the case here with Nick Patrick. I mentioned before how the heel ref is the worst type of gimmick and this is why. For literally the first half of the pay-per-view, everyone is paying attention to Nick Patrick and what he’s going to do. Ooooh will he cheat for the NWO (spoiler: yes). But the thing is, this match doesn’t even involve NWO wrestlers. It’s Eddie Guerrero and DDP – two WCW guys. Yet Nick Patrick was the story. Same with Syxx vs. Jericho later in the evening, where two guys have a decent to good 10 minute match and no one cares because Nick Patrick has to do something for anything to happen.
And he’d continue to be the story for half the matches. Patrick was on the PPV more than any wrestler and it’s stupid. Most of the matches have the same ending: good guy looks like he’s going to win the the ref cheats and the good guy wins. But, really, what’s the point of even having the match? These aren’t for any titles or anything, so Patrick could theoretically walk to the ring, ring the bell and have Schiavone take us to an old Dusty Rhodes match or something to kill time. There was no established higher authority that said he needed to at least seem like he was pretending to be a fair referee. This is the sort of booking that kills near falls. Nobody is buying it until Nick Patrick does something, and that’s not a wrestling match anyone wants to see.
Worst: The Ending…?
I don’t know if Eddie Guerrero got hurt at the end here, but it’s very weird. DDP hits a power bomb and is in the middle of his beat down, then he pauses, screams at the fans and that’s it. He sets up Eddie for the Diamond Cutter, which never works because he telegraphed it. Except this time it works and it’s as protected as any Diamond Cutter ever. The end. Anyone have any backstory on this? *goes to 411Mania for the real true scoop*
Worst: Million Dollar Man Phoning It In
We’re knee deep in the WCW era of “let’s sign everyone who was ever at WWF just because.” This picture of DiBiase standing next to Vincent (HAHAHA CUZ OF VINCE MCMAHON HAHAHAA) is indicative of that. DiBiase was a great talker in his day but he wasn’t really needed in a group that had Hulk Hogan as the leader. And Vincent hasn’t won a match since the Berlin Wall fell. But here they are, standing around in NWO shirts. Let me also mention that the NWO has tripled in size in the three months since its inception. This is going to go well.
Back to the original point: DiBiase is one of the greatest talkers ever and he’s phoning the entire promo in. I’m not sure he even knows what the story is here, but even if so, he’s totally bored by it. Why? Because rules state that if you go to WCW from WWF you have to be at least 25 percent worse than you were before.
Worst: Tallying Wins That Go Nowhere
Jeff Jarrett beat The Giant because The Giant hasn’t been the same since Hulk Hogan murdered him with a monster truck bomb in 1995. They’re fighting because Jarrett wanted to defend Flair’s honor since he’s hurt and Giant stole his US title belt. There isn’t a real title at stake. There’s sort of a feud going on, which is fine, but at the end of the match the commentators are talking about how it’s a win for WCW and how they have momentum in the fight against NWO.
dot dot dot
How? It’s a match that means absolutely nothing to anyone and “this is a momentum builder for WCW” has exactly zero importance. Especially when there are title matches and matches with stipulations later in the event. However, they built months of matches based on “momentum.” Hey, NWO was really cool and smart for a while, but you can’t just slap “NWO” on a story and think it works.
So between “momentum matches” and the referee being the star, this is going swimmingly.
Worst: Lex Luger. Gardener.
YOU PLANTED THE SEEDS, ARN ANDERSON. AND NOW THE CROP HAS HARVESTED. BUT IT’S NOT FLOWERS IT’S CACTUS AND TH-THICKETS OF THICKETS YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE.
Give him an HGTV show.
Best: Arn Anderson Sell Machine
It’s sad that in 1996, we’re in the twilight of Arn Anderson’s career. Arn’s legacy is carved as one half of the greatest tag team of all time along with Tully Blanchard, who basically sold their asses off for every team they faced. Arn as a singles wrestler was still a prime sell monster.
Even here with a year left in his career, Arn Anderson makes Lex Luger look like a million bucks.
But most importantly, Arn Anderson is absolutely right in this whole feud. Anderson thinks it’s Lex Luger’s fault for Sting turning his back on WCW and it’s the truest thing ever. Lex Luger’s an assbuffalo for not even calling Sting to double check and make sure he wasn’t the guy who attacked him in the parking lot before Fall Brawl. Sting was, like, right there in Lex Luger’s face, looking into the windows of his soul while kicking him in the stomach. How big of an idiot do you have to be to screw this one up, Lex? Damn, Arn should have kicked his ass.
Best: Holy Sh*t Faces Of Fear
Man, I remember Faces of Fear. I remember how frustrated I’d be that Meng and Barbarian – Meng especially, though – would sell for absolutely nobody but the NWO would wipe him out with ease when they were beating up everyone in WCW and I’d be like “BUT NOTHING HURTS MENG!” I remember Barbarian being pretty much a second fiddle to Meng, who carried the team.
What I don’t remember is f*cking suplex-into-powerbomb combos and belly-to-backs off the top rope super destructo tosses. I’m not sure if this is all Chris Benoit allowing himself to get tossed across the ring or even coming up with these spots but holy beef briskets Faces Of Fear were awesome here. They pulled out some really innovative stuff and looked like straight up murder gang goons. I think I’m going to have to go revisit some old Faces of Fear matches because I definitely don’t remember any of this.
Worst: Pure Sacrilege
Meng gets pinned when Mongo McMaggle – who’s in this match too for some reason I guess – hits him in the head with his briefcase. That’s right. Meng loses after a shot to the head. Oh, just take a poo on everything wrestling stands for next time, WCW.
Worst: More Kevin Sullivan/Benoit/Woman Triangle Stuff
Worst: Blame Sturgis
So here we have Harlem Heat and the Outsiders and I’m still blaming Sturgis for the way the Harlem Heat is treated here. I thought I was supposed to boo the NWO, but Harlem Heat are the real bad guys because gats or something. The Outsiders do all the good guy stuff. Hall gets the LULZ FORCIBLY KISS THE WOMAN AGAINST HER WILL spot only reserved for good guys for some reason. And the Outsiders win from stealing a foreign object the Harlem Heat manager brought in the ring.
See, this goes back to the old point: Jeff Jarrett beat The Giant and everyone was all MOMENTUM but an actual match with a title on the line went to the NWO, so that momentum lasted all of 20 minutes.
Worst: Bad Tag Team Partners
Earlier in the event, Barbarian basically stood around and watched Meng get hit with the briefcase, stand around and wait for someone to come stop him from saving the pin so the match would end. Here, Stevie Ray pretty much does the same thing. He stood on the apron with his hands on his head as if he were paralyzed or something. Nobody stopped him from running in, it’s like “okay, this is where the match ends” and he doesn’t move. I wish that if a tag team partner screwed up and didn’t stop someone from doing a run-in that the guy would just run in and stop the count. I don’t care if the match was supposed to end there, wrestle for 15 more seconds and give me a realistic end. Otherwise you look like a doofus of a tag partner.
Best: Three Ninjas Hair aka Hogan’s Best Heel Moment
Here’s the worst-kept secret of the Hogan heel turn: Hollywood Hogan was basically Hulk Hogan. Sure, people booed him and he was a tad more chickens*t but he basically did the same stuff he did when he was wearing red and yellow. He was still punching people the same, raking back and he always basically had a visual pin on his opponents at some point in the match to show that he’s still the baddest man around. For Hogan, the NWO wasn’t a vehicle for him to be a villain as much as it was a vehicle for him to be cool, which is the most important thing for Hulk Hogan.
But for some reason at Halloween Havoc, Hollywood Hogan went all-out heel and it was glorious. First of all he showed up in a spiked buzz cut thing-y he got while filming Three Ninjas and hyping his new movie SANTA WITH MUSCLES. Good God, that’s incredible.
Speaking of, here’s the trailer for said holiday movie.
Not only is Hogan wearing the spike haircut, he’s got hoop earrings in. It’s like Hogan finally understands what it means to be a heel and he’s acting accordingly instead of doing that one begging thing then kicking the hell out of his opponent. The match itself follows suit as Hogan actually sells like a champ the whole match, even getting his fake hair ripped off. It’s about as entertaining a Hollywood Hogan match as you’ll get – probably in large part due to Macho Man being a total maniac.
Then, of course, the star of the show Nick Patrick shows up to win the title and become the biggest heel star in the company.
The end. We all go home angry. Roll credits.
Worst: Senile D*ck Swinging Theatre
They don’t roll credits. Instead we get the bagpipes and Roddy Piper showing up as if any gives a damn. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think too many message boards were lighting up with “BRING RODDY PIPER TO WCW” threads. Despite Schiavone losing his mind, the pop was tepid at best and the segment falls off the rails immediately.
Piper and his “hey, guys I’m sort of shooting” thing is the absolute worst. Oooh look they mentioned WrestleMania. Hey, he’s talking about running THE ROADS. Guys, I think he’s talking about the WWF. And, hey, he said he taught The Giant to fight because I think The Giant is still maybe Andre The Giant’s son and Piper is creating his own backstory on his own. Then Hogan is all legit angry so he wants the last word and Piper is all SHUUUUT UP. Ugh. Basically, Piper’s promo is the Michael Scott improv technique of promos.
These two go so far off the rails that the damn pay-per-view cuts off while they’re still sword fighting their junk together in the ring. I can’t even begin to tell you how little I’m looking forward to watching Roddy Piper do anything in WCW.
I wonder if Brandon has anymore Hayley Williams GIFs.