Anytime one can capitalize on nostalgia, one should pounce. And pounce WCW has; signing an aging but mobile Roddy Piper to battle a revitalized Hulk Hogan, with their roles reversed. And while I have admittedly found Piper to be a complete and total disaster, the Match of the Century stuff has worked. Because of Hogan’s strong heel work, finally having a babyface forcing him to show a little ass has resulted in their biggest buy-rate to date. This show drew a 0.95, up from the atrocious 0.36 from one year earlier, and a major improvement over the 0.70 from Halloween Havoc. I am ignoring World War 3 because it wasn’t given the substantial main event push of the last few shows.
So with their largest set of paying eyeballs on the product ever, it’s now up to WCW to deliver. Are they ready to take the belt off of Hollywood Hogan; or is this one big commercial to lead us to the next big challenger in Lex Luger, Sting, or Glacier (who is of course coming)?
Only one way to find out (18 years ago).
We are of course LIVE from Nashville, TN, and the show starts with a shocker. Against all odds, DUSTY RHODES has found a tuxedo that fits. TONY SCHIAVONE and “SOBER” BOBBY HEENAN join him on commentary.
THE ULTIMATE DRAGON (with Sonny Onoo) vs. DEAN MALENKO (in a unification match for the J-Crown titles and the WCW world cruiserweight title)
Dragon earned this title shot after a wild ****1/2 match with Rey Mysterio Jr. at last month’s World War 3, and Dean Malenko is still the champion despite the ever present Jimmy Graffiti challenging him periodically. With the ever present scent of Cruiserweights in the air, MIKE TENAY trips over himself to get down to the commentary booth. Dragon starts by attacking Malenko at his own game, grapevining the leg and trying to get him an Uncle, as per Dusty. Malenko makes the ropes, but Dragon keeps riding him. Dean reverses, and puts Dragon in a scissors headlock while working an armbreaker. Dragon has no time for this shoot nonsense, and kips up out of the hold, before kicking Malenko in the back of the head a bunch of times. Malenko shakes it off, and hits Dragon with a side suplex. He tries another scissors to the head, but Dragon rolls over and hits a vicious snap suplex for 2. He ignores the USA chants, and applies a half crab. Malenko starts wiggling, so Dragon drops down and puts on an STF. Malenko won’t tap, so Dragon releases and tries a headscissors. Malenko pushes him off and sends Dragon to the floor. A baseball slide misses, and Dragon slams him on the ground. Dragon fakes flying, and Malenko side-steps – but that allows Dragon to re-assess and now he hits the tope suicida! They head back in, and Dragon gets 2. Dragon attempts a snap suplex, but it’s blocked and reversed. Still, Malenko takes a hit off the move, and because he’s taken more abuse, it’s Dragon who manages to roll over for a 2 count. Back to their feet, Malenko counters a backdrop with a sunset flip for 2! Dragon’s pissed, and quickly hits a swinging neckbreaker for 2. Malenko stands, and finds himself locked in a NASTY abdominal stretch, with Dragon’s leg pressed over Dean’s head for extra pressure. The Dragon goes for a sleeper, but Malenko hits a backdrop suplex to escape, and both guys are down. Malenko recovers first, and throws Dragon across the ring with a release German suplex for 2. Sensing opportunity, Malenko grapevines the leg, and squeezes it like a grapefruit. Dragon manages a break in the ropes, but as soon as he lets go, Dean re-applies it. After nearly a minute in the hold, Dragon manages to get to the ropes one more time. Malenko doesn’t let up, hitting a single leg atomic drop, and then dropkicks Dragon’s knee. He hits a variation of a dragon screw, and locks the grapevine back on the knee again. Dragon uses the heel of his boot to club Malenko in the face, but Dean does not let go. Still, he again reaches the ropes, but he’s a cripple at this point. At least you’d think that, until he reverses a whip and misses a handspring back elbow like nothing’s wrong. Grrrr, I hate it when they don’t sell their injuries. Dragon boots Malenko in the face with his bad leg, but Dean powerslams him HARD, and the fans pop sensing the champ has him on the ropes. However, a German suplex is blocked, and Dragon hits a spinning heel kick. Powerbomb gets 2. Dragon threatens a tombstone, but Malenko rears back and reverses, hitting a NASTY VICIOUS piledriver! Dragon kicks out at 2. Texas Cloverleaf is threatened, but Dragon wiggles to the safety of the ropes. Malenko instead hits the tigerbomb to a MASSIVE pop, and rolls over … getting 2! The fans thought that was it. The pair brawl back to the floor, and it’s Dragon who hits a spinning heel kick setting up an Asai moonsault! They head back in, and Dragon goes up – but Malenko cuts him off at the pass. Dragon elbows loose and drops Malenko, but misses the moonsault! Dean puts on the Cloverleaf, and the fans lose their collective shit!!! Sonny Onoo gets on the apron, and Malenko releases to go after him. As he turns, Dragon cradles him … for 2! Malenko doesn’t give up the fight, and nails a brainbuster for 2! He figures a second one might do the trick, but Dragon slips off the back, and they start trading move reversals before Dragon hits the Dragon suplex and scores the pin and ALL the gold at 18:29!!! I can’t go the full monty because Dragon refused to sell the leg, but I loved everything else. Call it ****.
AKIRA HOKUTO (with Sonny Onoo and Kensuki Sasaki) vs. MADUSA (for the WCW Women’s title)
LEE MARSHALL, the self-proclaimed ladies expert (due to the fact that 80% of the tournament took place on WCW Pro), joins the commentary. NICK PATRICK is assigned here, his first non-nWo assignment in months. Or, is it? The timing of this Women’s tournament has always been suspect; coinciding with the nWo’s call to take all the gold in the company, so it’s entirely possible we’re eyeballing the master plan coming together. Sonny Onoo gets his fingerprints all over this one, tripping and distracting Madusa whenever possible. Working a half crab, Hokuto bites Madusa’s foot while she’s at it – a nice touch. I am oddly distracted by Madusa’s tramp stamp. Unfortunately, this isn’t in HD, and I’m not able to get a proper camera angle, so I’m left to speculate on the kind of tattoo Madusa might get on her lower back. After ruling out many of the usual suspects, I’m going to narrow it down to a bottle of JD (which would explain the Tennessee Colonel’s obsession with her), or a campfire (cuz she’s A Blayze). I’m open-minded however, and am willing to accept theories. Madusa hits her German suplex, but Patrick is out of position and counts a little slow. The plot thickens. They battle to the top, where Hokuto hits a superplex, but Patrick counts a normal 2. Madusa dropkicks Hokuto to the floor, and while Patrick monitors that, Sonny Onoo flattens Madusa with the American flag! Hokuto re-enters with a missile dropkick, and finishes with a Northern Lights Bomb for the pin and the belt at 7:05. Heenan: “Japanese 2, WCW 0.” I think he’s got this confused with last year’s show. *1/2
In the locker room, “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND welcomes RODDY PIPER to Music City USA. The Hot Rod compares Hogan to Jurassic Park, despite being all of 1 year younger. Life is a fight! 6 kids! Homeless at 13! All the usual. He leaves the dressing room hopping on his replaced hip.
JUSHIN LIGER vs. REY MYSTERIO JR.
MIKE TENAY is back, figuring the winner of this one is the defacto #1 contender. Without facing Jimmy Graffiti? Surely he jests. Both guys shake hands … I don’t care for THAT. Tenay notes that this is their first matchup, which I find kind of shocking actually. This is also just 2 months after Liger’s brain tumor was removed; yikes! And we think drugs are a problem NOW! Liger tries a rear surfboard, but Rey flips backwards and kicks him in the face. Liger comes back immediately with a dropkick, and a powerslam that certainly isn’t messing around. A standing vertical suplex stands to leave Rey a little dizzy, and a gutbuster takes his breath away. Liger goes for a nasty powerbomb, and slams Rey with some FORCE. I think the back of his head bounced off the mat on that one. Liger’s just methodically stalking Rey now, but he gets cocky and goes for a second gutbuster; and Rey turns that into a rana! A second one sends Liger out to the floor, and Rey hooks the top rope to keep himself in the ring. Liger gets back to the apron, only to see Rey charging at him with a spear. It connects, but the follow up attempt sees Liger turn the tables and suplex Rey to the outside of the ring. And then, for kicks, he throws ANOTHER vicious powerbomb, with the back of Rey’s head hitting the side of the ring. 1990’s wrestling! Concussions what? Rey slowly crawls back to the ring, and is immediately placed up top. He manages to shove Liger away, but his dropkick attempt misses, and he falls senton style to the ground. Liger cracks him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, and Rey finds himself trapped in a surfboard. Rey wiggles to try and release the hold, but Liger has every part hooked well and Mysterio has nowhere to go. Finally he rocks forward, and Liger throws him a bit with his feet. He goes to catch Rey, but Mysterio quickly goes behind and throws a release German! Fast standing moonsault gets 2. Rey nails a DDT, and springboard moonsault gets another 2. A springboard dropkick his Liger square in the chest, and Rey mounts him quickly with the camel clutch. Rey goes for the West Coast Pop, but Liger has him scouted and catches him with a dropkick to the face as he flies in. A release German suplex gets 2. Liger moves to a half crab, cinching back as far as you’ll ever see anyone bend this side of Eric Bischoff. A spinning heel kick connects in the corner, but Rey retaliates with one of his own. Liger puts Rey up top, but Mysterio jumps at him with an overhead scissors takeover. Liger rolls to the floor, not seeing Rey fly at him with an Asai moonsault! Liger heads back in, but as he’s between the ropes, Rey drops a leg with a nasty little guillotine. Rey goes for a springboard senton, but Liger rolls away, and he leaps at Rey with a diving headbutt off the top for 2. They start trading blows in the corner, and Liger shoves Rey off the apron, to the floor, hands free. Liger heads up, but Rey pounces back onto the apron, leaps, and goes for the super rana – only it’s blocked by Liger! Liger rolls forward with a spinning heel kick, before nailing a running Ligerbomb, and we have a winner at 14:14. This wasn’t as good as the earlier match, as a lot of spots just felt like “we’re doing MOVES”, but it was still a damn fine, flashy display of what both guys are capable of. ***1/2
CHRIS BENOIT (with Woman) vs. JEFF JARRETT (in a no disqualification match)
This must be a surprise bonus match or something because I don’t remember any hype behind this. Benoit and Woman take a few extra seconds to stare into each other’s eyes before Jarrett makes his entrance. This, admittedly, is a little interesting because Flair is a big Jeff Jarrett fan. However, the rest of the Horsemen can’t stand the smarmy son of a bitch. But on the other hand, everyone, with the exception of Flair once more, is livid at Benoit for flaunting his affair with Kevin Sullivan’s wife on national TV. Which begs the question: who are they rooting for? Benoit shoves Jarrett to his ass, and kicks imaginary dirt all over him, to a GIANT pop. It’s clear who the fans support here. Jarrett gets to his feet, and Benoit slaps the tradition right out of his mouth. A double arm lariat gets 1. Benoit hits a drop toe hold, and stands on the back of Jarrett’s head, grinding his nose into the mat. Jeff pops to his feet while Benoit celebrates, and takes Chris down with a drop toe hold of his own, before dancing on his back. They trade 3 consecutive standing switches, before Benoit just elbows Jarrett in the face to knock that off. Chris kicks the crap out of Jarrett in the corner, and flashes the Horsemen sign. Jarrett flies out of the corner with a spear, and they start rolling around on the mat, pounding each other. Benoit rolls to the floor, and Jarrett follows suit. Woman grabs Jarrett’s arm, and when he wheels around, Benoit decks him. Back in, Benoit catapults Jarrett mouth first to the buckle, and Jeff drops like Santa down an industrial sized chimney. Benoit forces Jarrett to the top, but Jeff blocks the superplex and Chris flies backwards with nothing. Jarrett chokes Benoit in the ropes, but Woman pulls him aside to avoid the straddle, and Jeff’s beans take a sharp shot. A short-armed clothesline from Benoit gets 2. Frustrated that he isn’t winning, Benoit tosses Jarrett over the top and whips him to the guardrail. Jarrett sorta retaliates, but he doesn’t have much gas, and as soon as he’s back in he takes a backdrop suplex for 2. A sleeper is applied, and Jarrett finds himself taking a nap in under 20 seconds. Benoit uses the ropes for leverage; still sneakily, but it’s allowed since it’s no DQ anyway. The referee checks the arm, and after a couple drops, Jarrett still shows life. They battle back to a vertical base, and Jarrett hits a backdrop suplex to release the hold. A cradle gets 2. Jarrett nails Benoit with a big boot, and quickly comes off the top … right into Benoit’s foot. Chris chops the snot out of Jarrett, but Jeff turns things around and plants Benoit with a dropkick for 2. An overhead belly to belly launches Benoit to the apron, and Jarrett pulls him back in with a front suplex across the top rope. Jarrett goes for the Figure Four, so Woman just claws at the eyes. The fans start to explode, because ARN ANDERSON is walking to ringside with a purpose; burning a hole through Benoit. He stands to watch, as Benoit starts working over Jarrett right in front of him. However, with his focus there, he doesn’t see KONAN and HUGH MORRUS kidnap Woman. Woman’s scrappy, and puts up a hell of fight. Meanwhile, it turns out Anderson’s appearance was a ploy, because he DDTs Jarrett on the concrete, completely missing the KEVIN SULLIVAN appearance, who destroys a wooden chair over Benoit’s skull. Jarrett rolls in and scores the pinfall at 13:47. Despite the fact it was fundamentally solid, I was never feeling this one. Neither guy seemed to sell very well for the other, and they didn’t match up well in my opinion. **1/2
“MEAN” GENE OKERLUND tries to get a word from anyone who will talk to him, but every single person blows him off on their way to the back. Thankfully, MONGO MCMICHAEL and DEBRA MCMICHAEL are always willing to share their opinions. He thinks Woman’s got Benoit weak in the knees. Jarrett was served to him on a silver platter, and he failed to get the win. Debra thinks Jarrett is Horsemen material, and trashes Benoit and Woman. “That girl has been rode hard, and put up wet.” Gene quickly covers his microphone and orders her to knock it off.
THE OUTSIDERS (with Syxx) vs. THE FACES OF FEAR (with Jimmy Hart) (for the WCW world tag-team titles)
NICK PATRICK is the referee, which doesn’t bode well for the loves of my life capturing the tag-team titles here. Still, would YOU try and screw Meng over? If anyone’s gonna hold Patrick accountable, it’s these guys. Meng starts with Scott Hall, and he promptly no sells everything Hall hits him with before taking him down with a clothesline. Meng tosses Hall to the corner, and works him over. Patrick tries to break it up, but one look and a grunt from Meng backs him RIGHT off. The distraction is enough for Hall to hit a second rope bulldog, from which Meng pops up having suffered no damage and clotheslines Hall down again. Barbarian comes in, and Hall spits in his face. OH NO YOU DIDN’T! The chickenshit tags in Nash, who tries to look as intimidating as possible … and Barbarian doesn’t flinch. Nash hits the corner elbows, which serve no purpose because Barbarian catches him with an elbow of his own, chokes Nash for awhile, and chops the crap out of him. Patrick gives him a warning, and the momentary distraction allows Nash to clothesline him from behind. However, that just draws Meng flying in to start the CLUBBERIN’! Hall stands there, not willing to get involved, because he’s not suicidal. Nash gives them a double noggin’ knocker, which is the equivalent of Hulking those guys up, and they double headbutt Nash to the mat after a primal scream. The fans are eating these guys up! Barbarian gives Nash a sidewalk slam with the kind of effort that says “I pick up 350 pound guys in my SLEEP!” and gets 2. Barbarian heads up, walks the ropes just because he can … but misses an elbow. Hall gets in a cheap clothesline, and Nash throws a series of punches. The big boot is used to choke out Barbarian, and Patrick misses the entire thing. Hall tags in, and Meng’s patience is done now, because he pulls Hall to the corner by the hair and now they give HIM the CLUBBERIN’! Hall elbows both guys, who fail to sell any of it, and Barbarian gives Hall the big boot. Patrick misses it because he’s tied up with Jimmy Hart, and eventually turns around long after a 3, and Hall kicks out at a slow 2. Barbarian doesn’t care, he doesn’t complain, he just turns to Meng who gives Hall a spike piledriver. Patrick runs around in a circle, and slowly counts 2. Meng reminds him how to count, and tags in Barbarian. Honestly, if the slow counts are just going to result in the Outsiders taking more and more punishment until they’re quadriplegics, I’m fine with it. Barbarian hits a smooth powerbomb, and Patrick counts 1 at the speed of a 3 before Nash breaks it up. Meng gives Hall an atomic drop, and Barbarian gives him a big boot to the face, but he’s the illegal man and Patrick won’t count. Hall clotheslines Barbarian in the back of the head, and Hall follows with one from the front, and Barbarian’s down. He’s still up first anyway. Syxx steals Hart’s megaphone and chases him to the back, but I doubt it’ll slow my heroes any. Barbarian applies a nerve hold, and refuses to release as Hall passes out. Patrick doesn’t check Hall’s arm, and Scott eventually gets a second wind, backdropping Barbarian. Nash gets the hot tag, which just sees him trade punches with Barbarian. Nash nails the big boot, and Patrick counts 2 lightning fast, but Meng charges and saves. Hall pulls him to the outside, as Barbarian loads the boot. He misses the Kick of Fear, Nash hits the Jackknife, and the Outsiders retain at 11:43. You know … it’s not even that the Faces of Fear lost. I’m a big boy, and I’ve had 18 years to prepare myself for this recap. It’s the fact it was done cleanly that really gets to me. These guys could have milked months out of being the thorn in the side of the nWo, the two bad asses who simply didn’t give a crap how many of them there were or how high the odds were stacked because their job was to kick ass and worry about the details later. Instead, after less than 2 months, they’re effectively killed off as top contenders, and the real chase is being given to the Steiners. I rarely believe in the racism card, but this is one case where I feel the upper crust in WCW felt that a white team who had better microphone skills were the right way to go. Which is unfortunate, because these guys are just oozing the kind of in-ring charisma that I’d kill to see from ANYONE on Monday Night RAW today. ***
Backstage, TED DIBIASE, VINCENT, ELIZABETH, and HOLLYWOOD HOGAN are talking down Roddy Piper. Hogan says there’s already a ticker tape parade going on in California because they’re on Pacific Time and think he’s already won. What the hell is he talking about? He was prepared to tell all the Hollywood Maniacs that Piper had tucked tail and flown back to Portland, but he just saw one of Piper’s kids trying to bum a quarter to buy a Coke, so he knows he’s still here, because even Piper’s not woman enough to leave his kids behind. Ain’t leaving the kids behind more of a stereotypically man move? Hulk, with all due respect … go away.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE vs. EDDIE GUERRERO (for the WCW United States heavyweight title)
Thousands of fans make the Diamond Cutter sign as Page struts down to ringside, showing them nothing but contempt. Oh Dallas, you might not want them, but they’re ready for you, and tonight’s your big night daddio. Eddie hiptosses Page, who flips Eddie off to a pretty strong reaction. Eddie tries mocking him to utter silence. He hasn’t managed to find that connection yet; but I’m prepared to be patient. They fight to the floor, where Page uses all the dirty tricks as the fans start a “DDP” chant. Eddie snapmares Page over the top rope, rolls him back in, and hits a slingshot senton for 2. Page pops up, right into a drop toe hold, and Eddie applies an armbar. Page gets up and charges, but winds up toppling to the floor. Eddie is right behind with a plancha. Back in, Eddie mounts Page in the corner, but winds up taking snake eyes. A pancake is delivered, almost with enough vertical air to be a spike piledriver. A vertical suplex gets 2, with an annoyed Page feeding it Scott Dickenson to count faster. Page works an abdominal stretch, and despite the fan attention, he’s still a scumbag and uses the ropes for extra leverage. The referee asks the fans if he’s cheating, and amazingly, he gets told “NOOOO”. Eddie gets in a small package for 2, but Page still has the momentum and uses a swinging neckbreaker to get 2. Back to the abdominal stretch, and Page goes right back to cheating. He gets caught on the 3rd go-around, so Page releases happily and punches Eddie in the ribs. He and Dickenson start a yelling match, with Page trying to get him to knock it off so he can concentrate on the match. Eddie gets in a schoolboy for 2, but immediately takes a clothesline. DDP charges the corner, but Eddie sidesteps, and Page’s shoulder hits the post. Eddie sweeps out the leg, and lifts Page off his feet with a European uppercut! A face slam to the buckle sends Page flying backwards, and a vertical suplex gets 2. A backdrop suplex sends Eddie to the top, but he misses the Frog Splash! Eddie’s elbow is killing him, and Page dives in for a pinfall attempt, getting 2. DDP hits a gutbuster, and heads up top much to the fans delight. He is promptly crotched. Eddie mounts him, but Page shoves him off and dives at Eddie … right into an atomic drop, and Eddie gets 2! Page goes to clothesline him, and takes a backslide for 2! DDP tries a Diamond Cutter, and the fans erupt, before Eddie turns it into another backslide for another 2! Eddie tries a rana, but Page spins around in mid-move, and hits a 360 powerbomb instead for 2! Eddie hits a desperation back elbow, and falls to the outside, which brings down THE OUTSIDERS and SYXX. Hall gets in the ring behind the referee’s back, and flattens Page with the Outsider’s Edge!! This is clear payback for Page turning down the nWo repeatedly over the last month. Eddie wakes up, hits the Frog Splash, and wins the US title at 15:20! The nWo tries to destroy Eddie, but he somehow manages to fight off all 3 guys for nearly a minute before they get their act together and beat him down. Syxx steals the US title again for good measure. Great storyline advancement here, and this can only bode even better for Page with the fans moving forward since he’s been one of the few WCW to spit defiantly in the nWo’s face. For the record, Diamond Dallas Page is a PERFECT study on how to build a new star. Give him a swanky finisher, put him over strong for months on end, and eventually have him start standing up to everyone around him, good or bad. I know that “wins and losses don’t matter” and we need to keep everyone “equal”, but wrestling wasn’t built on equal, it was built on guys with the right attitude making piles of money for everyone involved. Basically, WWE, grow a sack and follow this model. (PS: And I don’t mean with John Cena!) ***
THE GIANT vs. LEX LUGER
Amazingly, we have impartial referee RANDY ELLER assigned to this one; the first nWo match that I can remember without Nick Patrick or Doctor X. Both guys lock up, and Luger struggles with the massive Giant. Luger’s putting a world of effort into this, and seems to be sapping all his energy on trying to show Giant he can push him backwards. Giant eventually shrugs him off and roars. Luger responds by popping him in the jaw with his steel forearm, and continues the assault with Giant off balance. The Giant comes to, and explodes out of the corner with a single clothesline that leaves Luger for dead. A jumping elbow causes Luger to convulse, but he has time to recover because Giant is slow as molasses. As soon as Luger gets to crouched position, Giant punts him in the midsection with enough force to send Luger flying out the ropes like a football. On his way back in, Giant helps him re-enter with a vertical suplex. Giant stands on Luger’s throat, and you’d have to imagine the end is near for WCW’s top hope to end the nWo. Giant’s all laughs, and that momentary lapse sees Luger throw an axehandle and go for a slam … but Giant is WAYYYY too fat for that, and falls right on Lex. Giant pulls him up at 1, he’s not interested in ending this yet. Not without a leaping headbutt to the balls. Given the volume of performance enhancers coursing through Luger’s blood at this point, that’s gotta be a fairly precise shot from the Giant. He goes for an avalanche, but Luger side-steps, and Giant finds himself lying on the ropes like a hammock, and stuck. Luger kicks him over and over to set up a Rack, but Giant drops down and that’s that. Luger continues to bring the fight, and a number of clotheslines have Giant rocking. The old wind up punch doesn’t even bring him down, but a neckbreaker does, and Luger gets 2. In fact, Giant kicks out with enough force to launch Luger about 95 feet into the air, and he happens to fall EXACTLY where poor Randy Eller lays. Never fear, however, because NICK PATRICK is here. In the chaos, Luger manages to slam Giant, and puts him in the Rack … only to see Patrick kick the back of his legs out and cause him to collapse. Luger wallops Patrick, as STING starts skulking through the crowd. The Rack is re-applied, but now SYXX is here, and breaks that up. Sting hits the ring, ball bat in hand, and pushes it right into the chest of Nick Patrick, sending him sprawling. He whispers something to Lex, and then heads over to the Giant to do the same. Leaving his baseball bat behind, he decides it’s time to exit through the crowd. Lex gets to the bat, but Giant is up and steps on it. With only one move left, Luger swings his mighty fist, uppercutting the Giant right in the Polish sausage! He grabs the ball bat, drives it into the Giant’s stomach, and incredibly, the Giant starts to vomit ALL over the place! An entire Christmas spread – turkey, yams, stuffing, green beans with little bits of bacon, gingerbread cookies, an entire smoked ham, the missing Fit Finlay, and fruitcake are just spewed EVERYWHERE. Wait, no, sorry, he actually just collapses and Randy Eller awakens to count the pinfall at 13:20. This was probably awful by anyone else’s standards, but I’m a sucker for a hot crowd and a testosterone fuelled superman overcome a big evil bad guy. ***1/2 – and I don’t care if it kills the credibility I never had.
MICHAEL BUFFER arrives to pump us up for the main event, while poor Randy Eller is declared legally brain dead following that 5 minute coma.
HOLLYWOOD HOGAN (with Vincent, Ted DiBiase, Elizabeth, and some gold vanity belt he never defends but believes is a guitar) vs. RODDY PIPER (in a non-title match)
Yup, despite the fact WCW never explicitly announced whether or not this was a title match; it was fairly assumed that the belt WOULD be at stake here since Hogan paraded it out every single time he mouthed off about Piper, AND he hasn’t defended it in 2 months, NOT to mention it’s the biggest damn pay-per-view of the year. I realize had WCW advertised a non-title match that the results of this would be far less in doubt (whoops, spoiler?), but the fans were totally baited here and it’s not cool, WCW. The fans erupt in a unanimous sea of “RODDY! RODDY!” chants, and despite my vitriol for the last two months, it’s clear he’s a god to the 1996 wrestling fans, so it’s not fair for me to look back 18 years later and declare this a total disaster (since it’s clearly not) – but there is no way Piper’s insane rambling would have survived the social media era. I don’t know if it’s because we expect a smarter product, or we’re just a giant group of haters, but it just hasn’t stood up as well as a lot of the other stuff we’ve looked back at this year. Anyway, Hogan stalls to start, and when they finally lock up, he screams at the referee to “WATCH THE BREAK – I DON’T TRUST THIS GUY!” Of course, as soon as they break, it’s Hogan who starts slapping around Roddy. You can almost feel some 14 years of playing the hero just seeping away, as he seamlessly transitions into the heel that’s lived inside of him since his early days with Freddie Blassie (or, Rocky Balboa). Piper responds by beating the shit out of him, and Hogan runs right up the aisle, calling it a night. The ref holds Roddy at bay, so Piper grabs him (it’s PEE WEE ANDERSON, for the record), and places him on the top turnbuckle so he can go back to goading Hogan to fight like a man. Hogan answers the call, digging deep into his inner manhood as requested … and starts clawing at Roddy’s face. CAAAATFIGHT! Piper pokes Hogan in the eyes to knock that off, and throws a clothesline. He can’t follow up because Hogan’s already back on the floor to hang out with Trillionaire Ted. Back in, Piper works a headlock, and holds on tight while Hogan tries like hell to shove him off. Hulk manages a backdrop suplex, but Roddy continues to hold on, working it like a crossface on the mat. In the ropes, Hogan finally spears his way loose, and he nails Piper with a jawbreaker, sending Piper to the outside. Hogan comes off the apron with an axehandle, and pokes Piper in the eyes. Hey, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, no complaining (and I’m looking at YOU Tony Schiavone). Back in the ring, Piper actually hits something resembling a dropkick – fairly impressive considering his current mobility. Hogan runs up the aisle again, and looks like this time he ain’t coming back, so Piper charges and pulls him back to ringside by the hair. Piper shoves DAVE PENZER aside, grabs his belt off his kilt, and starts whipping Hogan like a red headed mule. DiBiase trips up Piper, but Roddy’s taking no one’s crap tonight and chases down Ted. Of course, Hogan’s recovered now, and gets the upper hand on Piper. The fans, for the record, have been incredible, and haven’t stopped cheering Piper on since the bell rang over 10 minutes ago. In the ring, Hogan starts to kick at the surgically repaired hip, and slaps on the abdominal stretch. He even adds a wedgie as a nice extra touch. Piper escapes, and dives on Hogan with the ground and pound. He even yanks out some of Hogan’s hair. Back to their feet, Hogan pokes the eyes, and both guys start slugging it out, with neither guy giving in to the other. Piper stops it to hit a vertical suplex, and gets a 2 count. He misses a kneedrop to the face, and the impact leaves him clutching his leg in agony. Hogan wastes no time in going for the Atomic Legdrop, but Piper moves, and starts hopping on the bad leg to show he’s fine. And that’s all THE GIANT can stand to watch, and he goes to Chokeslam Piper. In mid-move, Piper swings his legs to kick Hogan in the face, and escapes by biting Giant’s nose! Back to Hogan, Piper locks on the Sleeper, and Hogan’s arm drops 3 times, giving Piper the win at 15:28!!! The fans lose their collective shit as fireworks explode, and Piper stands over Hogan’s limp body. *1/2 for the match, ***** for the crowd.
THE OUTSIDERS rush the ring, and Piper takes them both out with a little boxing. He bails before they can double team him, and even The Giant doesn’t mess with him anymore. One of Piper’s kids shows up on the stage, and Piper carries him backstage as the fans chant “PIPER! PIPER!” on his way out.
But we’re not done – The Giant is livid at the entire nWo because none of them ever watch his back the way he does for everyone else. He demands to know where the original nWo threesome were during his match with Luger. Hogan: “You dropped the ball.” The fans shower Hulkster with a “HOGAN SUCKS” chant, as Hogan demands his belt and spits on the camera to send the show off.
Fantastic show, all the way through. Quality stuff on both the under card, and some good storyline progression with the top. This really was the best they could have hoped for with what was booked, and my lone disappointment was that the nWo wasn’t swept with the Faces of Fear collecting the tag-team titles. Still, the most dangerous group in wrestling history FINALLY got some come-uppance for the first time since their arrival in May, and WCW is showing a little unity.
The only question is whether or not they can capitalize going into 1997.