One year ago this week: Fit Finlay’s moustache gave Brad Armstrong a beating so vicious his calories were fed to him intravenously for a month, on the February 17th edition of Saturday Night. Wait, does Brad have an alibi the night Fit Finlay went missing? James Earl Wright may have to re-open the investigation. On the February 19th Nitro, Arn Anderson beat Hulk Hogan for a second time. I would gently remind the readers of this fact every 8 words for the next 6 months. Somehow, this led to the birth of the Booty Booty Booty Man. Over on the February 19th Prime, Sting and Craig Pittman wrestled for 12 minutes, so you can probably skip this one. Click through those, and come back when you’re ready.
We are one week away from Superbrawl – and going head to head against a live two-hour RAW for the first time, WCW better be prepared to load up the boot and give the competition the KICK OF FEAR they so richly deserve. Speaking of, I have finally moved all of my content over to my website, KickOfFear.com. I’ll try to remember to plug it periodically since the entire point was to have an easy to access archive of all the Faces of Fear love one can handle in just 250 easy to read pieces. I haven’t “officially” launched it, however. I toyed with the idea of backfilling the January-July 1996 Worldwide archives to kick off the site, before settling on what I assume will be the more popular option of doing a written recap of Bash at the Beach 1996. But rest assured, this was a much more difficult choice than you could ever begin to imagine.
Anyway, THE NEW WORLD ORDER shows up, sans Hollywood Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Masa Chono, or nWo Sting. I don’t know why the elite team always has to isolate themselves. The boys walk together as a team, but someone’s fallen behind. These precious few seconds are ample time for Big Bubba to lie on the ground unconscious, as First Responded Kevin Nash looks him over. How’s his blood count? Are his blood sugars out of control? Blood pressure should be checked, and I don’t want to start rumors but I think he might want to consider peeing on a stick or conducting an ultra-sound. Anemia can’t be ruled out. And what of vertigo? Is Dr. Harvey Schiller here? We need a professional.
LIVE from Tampa Bay, Florida, TONY SCHIAVONE and LARRY ZBYSZKO maliciously accuse Scott Norton of being the fallen soldier.
REY MYSTERIO JR. (4-2-2) vs. SUPER CALO (1-5-0)
Tony Schiavone excitedly announces that we’re taking a field trip to Alcatraz later! Roddy Piper is a special attraction on the island, having locked himself in solitary confinement for his training. And no, I am not making any of that up. I don’t appreciate WCW paying such little heed to a wrestler’s record before booking a match. Calo seems outmatched in every way except the hat and sunglasses department. In what initially looks like a fun spot, Calo tries an over the top rope sunset flip on Mysterio who’s chillin’ on the apron, but as he goes for the powerbomb, he spots a foot short from the actual delivery to pick Rey back up – presumably because he meant to hit a rana. So on take two, Rey snaps at the legs, but Calo lets go, and Rey tumbles backwards. Someone’s been greasing his toque, I reckon. Calo hits a slingshot somersault plancha, and rolls Rey back in for 2.
Backstage, BIG BUBBER is rolled into an ambulance. M WALLSTREET takes the enviable task of riding in the ambulance for morale support, because it means he won’t be sent out for job duty. Tony promises to keep a breast on this story.
Back in the ring, Rey is casually doing his business, hitting a little springboard senton backsplash like it ain’t nothing but a g thang. Calo gets strung out between the ropes, and Rey murders him with a legdrop off the top, crushing his head like a peanut. Of course, this is 1997, so it gets 2. Rey goes up to finish, but Calo crotches him and hits the super headscissors for 2. Tony blames the lack of pin on cockiness. He went right for it – what more do you want? West Coast Pop is academic, and Rey takes ‘er down at 6:02. ***
HUGH MORRUS (7-2-0) vs. MONGO MCMICHAEL (0-1-0) (with Debra and Haliburton)
Tony alertly updates us that the Steiner Brothers were in a car accident over the weekend, but we don’t know the details. Well hell, they promised us updates on Sunday morning, does ANYONE watch WCW Pro? As it turns out, YES, as Kick of Fear correspondent CRZ sent us, courtesy of solie.org, courtesy of 18 years ago:
The report at the top of the program is that there still isn't much information available about the automobile accident involving the Steiners. Of course this is a taped program (as was the one yesterday)...they seem to be looking for a way to take them out of SuperBrawl.
That should answer everyone’s questions. Meanwhile, Mongo is beating the tar out of Morrus. A pair of 3 point stances have Morrus crippled, but he is expected to make a full recovery within 8 seconds. A missed elbowdrop has Morrus threatening to feel up Debra, but because cameras are rolling, he doesn’t follow through. If this was the Power Plant, he’d be having his way with her in the back while telling Mongo repeatedly he’s a Fat Angry Guy, and other inappropriate acronyms. Morrus heads up for No Laughing Matter, but Mongo drops him with an electric chair. Morrus slams Mongo again, so Debra distracts the referee as she slides the Haliburton to Mongo. No Laughing Matter flies right into the steel, and Mongo rolls him over for the pin at 4:23. 1/2*
Over in the announce booth, Tony reminds us that he cannot pull off powder blue.
DEAN MALENKO (7-1-2) vs. ROBBIE BROOKSIDE (no data in 1997) (in a non-title match)
Malenko sucks up to the locals, reminding us Syxx was trained just up the road by his father, and by god if he has his way on Sunday, he’ll prove you should never steal other people’s property. This was delivered with exactly the range and energy you’d expect from Dean Malenko. And that’s all the attention I’m paying to this drek. Robbie Brookside has a time and a place, and that’s WCW Worldwide, where Bobby Heenan is free to make fun of the lanky hippie to his heart’s content. I probably SHOULD care since he’s apparently a hell of an NXT trainer; but just because Rafael Belliard might be one hell of a first base coach, it doesn’t mean I want to see him and his .390 OPS ever again. Texas Cloverleaf at 2:54. DUD
SYXX grabs a microphone and wants to settle the score with Malenko. He says he had plenty of respect for his father, but he’s dead and buried, and with it the respect, because he never liked Dean anyway. Dean responds by staring blankly and doing nothing at all. This feud is PERSONAL!
After a break, Syxx returns with THE OUTSIDERS, going straight for the announce booth. Hall: “Wow, Larry Zbyszko. I thought you’d be bigger. You and Schiavone gossip like a couple of broads sitting around a hair salon.” They deny any involvement in the Steiners auto accident this past weekend. In fact, they’ve acquired a MYSTERIOUS VIDEO TAPE! Random VHS tapes are like Tony’s Christmas, so while he starts daydreaming about all the potential this tape may hold (spoiler: Roddy Piper’s German music video), Scott Hall finally pushes Larry to the brink and he wants to fight! Hall rips off his shirt and tells him to bring it, but Larry realizes the danger of seeing the two other guys lurking right beside him and backs off, to a massive “LARRY!” chant. That was one of those moments that came across as a genuine burst of emotion, and it’s exactly why it worked.
THE AMAZING FRENCH CANADIANS (1-4-0) (with Colonel Robert Parker) vs. THE PUBLIC ENEMY (2-1-0)
THE FACES OF FEAR have taken a seat in front of the guardrail tonight, meaning they’re getting wiser and realize they don’t actually have to buy tickets in order to scout their opponents. As is tradition, the Canadians ask the fans to join them in a rousing rendition of O Canada. That’s right – ask, not demand. That’s the Canadian difference right there. Americans, not used to this level of politeness, boo all over their emotion laden effort, and even Tony can’t just SHUT UP. Also, HARLEM HEAT and SISTA SHERRI are also sitting ringside. Of course, they have coleslaw for brains and purchased their seats. The Enemy gets dumped early, allowing the Colonel to stomp on Johnny Grunge’s jelly rolls. Rougeau slams Ouellette on Grunge, while Tony announces that they will NOT up and stop this match to air the mysterious VHS tape. I’d praise them for their progressive approach, but I’m not convinced they won’t up and stop a much more interesting match later instead. Grunge gets the hot tag, but the referee was busy with the Colonel, and he won’t allow it. The Quebec Crash misses (how in the hell do you miss a move where one guy is slamming another?!?), and Rock gets tagged in for real. He sends Ouellette to the floor, where Grunge tries to set him on the table. Ouellette fights free, but Rougeau in an attempt to make everything better inadvertently hits his friend in the face with an International Object. Rock hits the senton through the table, and Ouellette is rolled back in for the easy win at 4:43. I don’t like either one of these teams, but I liked this. What I like even more is the post-match word from the Faces of Fear, in which they passionately point out a great many things; but they do it in Tongan so as to keep it under their proverbial hats. **
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE and “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND bump into each other on the ramp-way. He asks if DDP knows who Pearl Harboured Big Bubba Rogers (first appearance of the Rogers name in … what, 2 years?). Gene actually seems angry about this. nWo Stooge! I hope Gene exposes himself on the 900 line. DDP feigns total innocence, and says he’s now deeply concerned about his wellbeing (while showing all the emotion of one Dean Malenko). He plays with his Battle Bowl Ring awkwardly and eventually wanders backstage to watch the “Pee Wee Herman and Nick Patrick” matchup.
PRINCE IAUKEA (0-1-0) vs. STEVEN REGAL (3-1-3) (for the WCW world television title)
Regal stops for a quick chat with Gene, who still hasn’t moved from his position. He asks Regal if he’s planning to make an example out of Prince Iaukea to set the mood for his Superbrawl defense against Rey Mysterio Jr. Regal reminds us he’s been a fighting champion from the minute he took the gold from Lex Luger, and vows to continue to defend his title against anyone, anywhere, anytime. And then he immediately defeats Prince Iaukea and remains TV champion forever.
You don’t believe me, do you? To be fair, I made this assumption because I didn’t actually want to watch this match. I mean, Iaukea? He’s not worth my time right? And nobody in their right mind could possibly be stupid enough to book this match any other way?
For the sake of completeness, I’m going to face this. I’m going to do it for you. But understand, this hurts me more than you could ever realize. My heart is already racing, I’ve broken out in a cold sweat, and my head is pounding like bongo.
Tony mentions they are working hard to play that nWo tape, but because it’s a VHS-C, they need to find an adaptor. I love the 90’s so much. Who didn’t love trying to record an Important Life Event and have to decide which parts of it weren’t important enough to merit the record button in an effort to save time (you had all of 30-40 minutes tops), and battery life (you had all of 3-5 minutes tops). The concept of a Smart Phone probably would have put me in a coma just trying to think about it. Yes, I’m stalling. Just like the man, Lord Steven Regal, TV champion extraordinaire! Iaukea hits a shoulderblock and makes various Island Martial Arts poses. Regal should just stomp on his feet repeatedly for being stupid enough not to wear shoes, but I imagine WCW would tell us those calloused Island Feet don’t feet pain or something. Regal takes over, and beats the snot out of Prince. Somehow Prince fails to understand how to sell a front suplex, and falls backwards while Regal tries to put him on the top rope. Regal repeats the spot, and launches the dumbass off the top with a butterfly superplex. REY MYSTERIO JR. wanders on to the stage, while Regal pretends his heart is bleeding. After a little more pounding, he lays on Iaukea like a hammock while taunting Rey … and Iaukea pulls him back crucifix style for the pin and the kickoff of the rapture at 3:33. Regal rightly freaks out, completely horrified that this just happened. For some reason, TEDDY LONG, EDDIE GUERRERO, and THE PUBLIC ENEMY rush down to celebrate with the new champion. That’s … quite the collection of people who have nothing in common.
So you’re probably, rightfully, asking just what the fuck? Prince Iaukea? And that’s exactly what Eric Bischoff wanted. To counter the WWF’s new surprise Hawaiian champion, Rocky Maivia, somehow WCW took one look at Prince Iaukea and said “yes, that’s the same”. Forget the fact that you have a SUPER marketable foreign superstar already lined up for a title shot with a world of credibility and rabid fanbase (‘sup Rey Jr.), and if you really wanted to get cute you could try something creative like Glacier (I don’t like it but at least he’s over), La Parka (despite a handful of appearances, dude’s got killer charisma), or hell, just make ME happy and let Meng, Barbarian, and Regal fight in three way matches from now until the end of time (RIP WCW 2001). In a series of bad booking decisions in 1997 (and we’re only mid-February), this one is the absolute worst of the year to date. And this is a company that had Eric Bischoff mack with a 70 year old on pay-per-view! I can’t look at this objectively, and I don’t care. -*****
MIKE TENAY and “SOBER” BOBBY HEENAN join Tony, while Larry heads off to talk smack about the WWF in the hopes they put him in the hall of fame someday.
NICK PATRICK vs. RANDY ANDERSON
Showing how seriously these men are taking this match, neither guy bothers to change out of their referee garb. Mike Tenay tells us that Randy Anderson was actually a fantastic amateur in college, and was never pinned in his 5 years of competition. Where the hell does he find this stuff out? Just as the match starts, referee JIMMY JETT pats down Anderson, and slips him a pair of brass knucks. Patrick winds up the old windmill, but Pee Wee decks him in the face and gets his job back at 0:37.
An absolutely livid ERIC BISCHOFF storms down to ringside, and demands answers immediately. He says as a former referee, he knows better that to use illegal objects. “You just won a permanent vacation, and YOU are fired.” I guess we’re down to … Mark Curtis, Randy Eller, and Scott Dickenson? I think Brady Boone moonlights on occasion, but that’s it. Dickenson doesn’t have the tenure to pull a powerplay, and Mark Curtis is probably just thrilled he’s going to get more ring-time. But Randy Eller’s got a once in a lifetime chance to make some real coin. The demand for straight officials is at an all-time high, and the money is flowing like champagne in the Turner offices. Hold that sum’bitch up! I know you can do it, Randy Eller!
ROAD BLOCK (2-1-0) vs. CHRIS BENOIT (4-3-0) (with Woman)
I can feel the RSPW knee buckling orgasmic response to this matchup, even 18 years later. It’s nice to see Benoit finally treated with the type of competition he deserves. Also thrilled, is a stone faced GEORGE STEINBRENNER, sitting with who I presume to be one of his AWFUL GRANDCHILDREN. And before anyone asks (over and over for the next 8 months, not that any of you folks would ever do such a thing), no, I have no proof or personal anecdotal evidence to prove the Grandchild is awful. It just is. Also, Tony tells us the “great” Brian Boehringer is here. And to be fair, if you want to point out that he did successfully lower his ERA by 8 runs per game in 1996 down to much more flattering 5.44, then yes, he’s incredible. In fact, if he can show that kind of improvement in 1997 and force his opponents to give up 3 runs a game, I’ll become a hall of fame lobbyer with more drive than Jayson Stark’s campaign to get Tim Raines elected. Roadblock stops everything to talk smack to Woman, but she proves she’s afraid of NO ONE and slaps him across the face! He gives chase, but Benoit nails him with a tope and beats him down right in front of a delighted George Steinbrenner! Benoit rolls the big man back in and finishes with the swandive at 2:25. I’m pretty sure Road Block actually kicked out. Maybe Randy Eller IS crooked after all. You know Randy, I used to believe in you (as recently as one paragraph ago). I’ll never trust again. *
Meanwhile, Craig Leathers has found a VHS-C adaptor. We’re taking an amateur road trip with THE OUTSIDERS, while the camera is held by an unseen SYXX. They spy THE STEINERS at a gas station, and start to follow them. The Steiners show no regard for the law, refusing to come to a complete stop at three separate stop-signs. Nash shows us how it’s done, before gunning it through a school zone to keep pace with them. A bumper to bumper French kiss gets their attention, and Scott Steiner throws a coffee cup at the nWo car. They wind up side-by-side with them, and a nudge sends the Steiners flying off the side of the road, flipping the car completely. The edit to change to a stunt car was impressive actually; it looked like one fluid motion; but the beauty of VHS for this type of stuff is that fast movement causes blips in the tape, and they used that to make the swap. I’m not sure how I feel about vehicular homicide being introduced to my professional wrestling – but high praise for the editing tricks.
Back live, Tony demands that someone check in on the Steiners – deeply concerned for their wellbeing! Of course, we learned about the crash on Saturday Night, so he’s got the reactionary skills of a catatonic in-patient.
KEVIN SULLIVAN, JACQUELINE, and JIMMY HART want a word with “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND because this angle won’t ever die. Sullivan battles Benoit at Superbrawl. It was a year ago that Pillman quit, and Sullivan turned his attention to Chris, and yet this is STILL going. Hart tells us that Sullivan and Jackie are 2 Legit 2 Quit. Kevin’s mad that Nancy forced him to move out of the ‘hood, but now with his freedom back he’s gone back to his roots. Gene accused Jackie of being a home wrecker (WHAT?!?), and she brags about happily taking Nancy’s place. Also, Nancy has a Big Fat Butt. Oh Christ.
KEVIN SULLIVAN (5-1-0) (with Jacquline and Jimmy Hart) vs. DOC DEAN
Oh sure, Sullivan gets to run wild over a legitimately fantastic European star, while Regal’s off jobbing to useless Samoans. Tenay somehow completely ignores Doc’s resume, while Sullivan and Jackie take turns teeing off on him. This just makes me sad. Tree of woe, double stomp, let’s move on at 3:19. DUD
KONAN (6-2-1) vs. EDDIE GUERRERO (6-3-2) (for the WCW United States title)
Dudes, we just did this on Saturday Night. And because I like to pick and choose which matches deserve re-matches and which don’t, you can guess which side I land on when it comes to anything featuring Konan or Eddie Guerrero V1.0. Apparently Konan has been on an anti-Eddie crusade lately, as a fake Latino because he never lived “on the streets”. These guys need Valets, they’d be the AAA version of Benoit/Sullivan. No, Maxx and Chavo don’t count. Konan comes off the top, but takes a dropkick to the gut. Eddie takes a snake eyes, but Konan can’t keep him down. Tenay says that Konan has become the Arn Anderson of the Dungeon – and if this is true, can HE retire too? Eddie hits a brainbuster, but before he hits the Frog Splash Konan cuts him off. Eddie shoves him off, and nails the Frog Splash, drawing in THE FACES OF FEAR for an ass whoopin at 6:09. CHRIS JERICHO runs in to save Eddie, single handedly taking on the Faces of Fear. He manages to clear the ring, and has earned himself another year of vitriol from myself. *1/2
The Shank of the Evening comes startlingly late in the program, but “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND has finally found time to talk to THE FOUR HORSEMEN with DEBRA and WOMAN. Good to see Arn back on Nitro. Flair brags about the scent of excitement in the air because he’s in town. It smells like champagne and Cialis. WOOO! Arn addresses Mr. Bischoff (showing respect because he IS still the boss, good man), telling him that the character of the men he hired to work in WCW hasn’t changed. They’re still men. And, one of the nWo guys is in the hospital, Jimmy Jett did the right thing, he sees WCW turning things around. Where Randy Anderson is concerned; he figures he’s got a spare $100,000 lying around and as an old friend, he’s welcome to it any time. Mongo heels it up, trashing the Bucs, before turning things to Jarrett. He demands to know where Debra’s head is at. She says Jarrett’s a winner, with strength, endurance, and intelligence. She still sees him as a Four Horsemen in training. Meanwhile, Benoit promises to kick down the door of Kevin Sullivan’s “neighborhood” and take him out for good. Throughout the interview, I was actually watching Benoit and Nancy intently, and I noticed that he gently squeezed her waist and held her exceptionally close throughout the interview. It’s subtle, but it’s the kind of intimate closeness you don’t see with most wrestling “couples”; and with a comfort this pair has never shown on television to this point. The shades of grey are getting darker, and knowing what we do now, it’s fairly obvious that lines have been crossed and the angle is no longer just an angle.
THE GIANT (3-0-2) vs. TOP GUNN and JOHNNY SWINGER (in a handicap match)
Normally, I would demand that jobbers know their place – but the return of Top Gunn has me so bloody excited that I’m blind to the fact that this is Nitro. Sadly, my happiness is short lived via a Chokeslam to both guys at 0:42. Just perfect booking for him right now, it’s the same deal as Luger, just feed him losers and let the fans lose their shit while they bide their time before their next shot at Hogan. And lose their shit they did, the response here was incredible for an absolutely pointless match. Giant spraypaints “Hall” and “Nash” on the backs of the job squad.
“MEAN” GENE OKERLUND and LEX LUGER (with his arm in a cast) come down to celebrate with The Giant. Giant is cool facing the Outsiders all by himself this Sunday, but Lex has a curveball. He has a doctors release to wrestle this Sunday as long as his arm is in a protective device, and promises that Chokeslams and Racks are going to be all the rage this weekend. ERIC BISCHOFF, ever the blue-baller, tells Luger he’s 167 hours late with the release, and the company has deadlines it needs to abide by. As a result, Luger can’t wrestle. Lex says Bischoff can’t control everything, and he’ll happily buy a plane ticket, rent a hotel room, and buy a ticket to get in the building. Bischoff tells him if he keeps it up, he’ll happily fire him.
Meanwhile, over in Alcatraz, RODDY PIPER has been locked in a cell. He asks Hogan if he’s ever asked himself why Roddy was on the street at 13. He says he was dead inside; and Hogan’s managed to push him back to that point. “You are the most low-life piece of snake I’ve ever seen, telling people I hide behind my little boy.” Piper asks what happened to the vitamins and the prayers. I can’t even do justice to the rest of the rantings here, because none of it makes *any* sense. He’s gone completely off the rails, going on about how Hogan took his hip replacement away or something. He promises to stay locked up for the next 7 days, where he’ll train and wait to get his hands on Hogan. They were on totally the right track with Piper as a family man, needing that last shot at Hogan as a means of revenge for trying to humiliate him, but they should have played it straight and kept him as Just A Guy looking for his moment (which Terry Funk has played to a tee on The Other Channel). This Alcatraz stuff just doesn’t fly with me.
CHRIS JERICHO (6-1-0) vs. JEFF JARRETT (8-0-0)
We’re long past 10pm at this point, but we’re showing no signs of quit. DEBRA MCMICHAEL makes her way to ringside to root Jarrett on, as he hits Jericho with a slingshot suplex. A sleeper is countered with a backdrop suplex. La Majistral gets 2. Jarrett takes back over to Debra’s delight, but MONGO MCMICHAEL joins us now to tell her to get the hell away from the ring. Jericho hits a short powerbomb, and heads up to finish, but stops to listen to Debra’s pleas not to hurt Jarrett. He ignores them, but the distraction gives Jarrett enough time to avoid the senton, and a Figure Four is slapped on. As the referee tells Debra to piss off, Mongo smacks Jarrett with the Halibuton, and Jericho ends Jarrett’s winning streak at 2:32. Debra’s livid, but Mongo reminds her that he has to wrestle Jarrett in a week and to get the hell over it. *
Tony goes to wrap things up, but HOLLYWOOD HOGAN isn’t ready to close the show without saying hi. He’s flanked by SCOTT NORTON, BUFF BAGWELL, M WALLSTREET, ELIZABETH, VINCENT, TED DIBIASE, and ERIC BISCHOFF. There’s all of 2 minutes left, so I’m not sure we’re gonna get anything constructive out of this. Hogan masturbates furiously while Bischoff intently tells him what he wants to see, until STING and RANDY SAVAGE appear at the top of the ramp. Hogan just ignores them, and because they aren’t getting any attention, they just head backstage, disappointed, without saying a word. I’ve seen that look before. My 4-year old nephew does that when nobody answers his pleas to check out his new Thomas the Tank Engine. Satisfied, Hogan stops now, and Eric wishes the fans a goodnight.