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Within a few months of me starting the podcast I watched – as an aside, almost – WCW Battlebowl 1993. It remains the only WCW pay per view we’ve never formally covered on the podcast, largely overlooked even by WCW within a month that included a Clash Of The Champions, but also by us in the days of one show a month that also included a WWF pay per view, the news of the steroid trial and an incident in Blackburn, England where Sid stabbed Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors.
But, despite leaving our coverage on the podcast of Battlebowl to about five minutes, I did watch the show (you can hear the whole episode – easily the longest show we were likely to do at the time). Shaping around a tag team lottery format that had in previous years been a small section of other pay per views. The idea for November 1993 was a pay per view that otherwise was separate from the story arcs of the time, that involved having eight tag matches randomly drawn, one after another, before a main event battle royal all for the prize of the Battlebowl ring.
The show, in short, was horrendous. WCW had decided that they’d tell a story of whether babyfaces and heels could co-exist on the same team – a nice idea once or twice during the show, but they proceeded to tell it in EVERY. SINGLE. F*$!£$%. MATCH. The show snaked on, and on, and on… and the only thing that earned it the 0.5 rating I scored it was the final 7-8 minutes of the battle royal that teased pushing Steve Austin beyond his current ceiling and ended with acts like Vader and Sting.
The show thankfully was shelved, twelve months later we followed arguably one of the worst pay per views of all time with what some argue was the best wrestling pay per view ever (at the time) with the WCW produced but otherwise AAA When World’s Collide. A year later, WCW took the slot back over and invented a three ring, sixty man battle royal format called “World War 3”. Battlebowl and the lottery tag format was dead.
Until it wasn’t.
Quite why WCW chose May 1996 and Slamboree to re-use the format isn’t abundantly clear. Slamboree had been pigeon-holed as a legends reunion show, including early editions of WCW’s Hall Of Fame and matches including returning former stars. This was hit and miss – 1993 saw Nick Bockwinkel and Dory Funk Jr (two legends by every meaning of the word) battle to a fifteen minute time limit draw. 1994 saw Terry Funk and Tully Blanchard wrestle a seven-minute match to a disqualification. Bockwinkel was 57 and Dory was 55 in 1993, Terry was 51 and Tully 42 at the time – but both were still working at the time (both, for example, wrestled Shane Douglas for the ECW Title in 1994). 1995 things fell down, with Wahoo McDaniel and Dick Murdoch wrestle a match that was framed by airing it *in black and white* in a style that would’ve been awful even 15-20 years previously.
The show itself, just eight days before the arrival of Scott Hall, you might think was on a storytelling wave that was about to crescendo that was building ahead of the formation of the NWO. You couldn’t be more wrong. With two entire months between Uncensored (a hell of a show in itself) and Slamboree, we did an entire month of shows reviewing Nitro’s – looking at the often slapdash storytelling. The action was mixed (often quite good, sometimes not) as Hulk Hogan’s popularity sagged at a time where he was looking to take some time off. He did, with a view to returning and slaying The Giant, who'd recently re-gained the WCW World Heavyweight Title off of Ric Flair on Nitro.
Flair himself was keeping going with a couple of feuds that were bubbling under. Parading around with Woman and Miss Elizabeth as a way of antagonizing Randy Savage, in a feud that built throughout April despite the pair never interacting. Savage got so riled up about the whole thing he ended up being barred from the building on Nitro. Elsewhere, after twice failing to turn up for World Title matches with The Giant, Lex Luger was shown camping out at Nitro to ensure he got his match. The match ended with Luger quite violently being choke-slammed through a table (WCW made tables a bit more traditionally than they do now).
Anyway, apologies for that long introduction. This is a long card featuring eight first round battlebowl tag matches, four second round matches followed by the battle royal. The winner would be crowned "Lord of the Ring" and also receive a World Title match at The Great American Bash pay per view... in theory.
I did watch the Main Event show that aired immediately prior, I would like to publish, verbatim, Mean Gene Okerlund's plug for his hotline: “A major story breaking on the WCW Hotline as we speak, earlier this afternoon back in the locker-room area, I heard a rumour that one of the major players in professional wrestling may not be doing a deal you know where, he may be going elsewhere. Now allegedly, this man is going to be making that move momentarily. I heard it from the guys in the locker-room area this is where I get a lot of my information, and if you want to hear all about it give us a call now.” Read more about Okerlund's hotline reports here.
Road Warrior Animal and Booker T vs Road Warrior Hawk and Lex Luger
We book-ended the opening EIGHT tag tournament matches will probably the two more star studded matches – of course this being WCW none of the four teams in this match wounded up advancing. This wasn't bad, Luger is motivated and Booker T is becoming a stand-out young act, but the whole tease was on whether Animal and Hawk would go at it. Hawk and Luger start brawling, so Animal jumps in to help out Hawk and all four men get counted out.
The Public Enemy (“Flyboy” Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge) vs The Taskmaster (w/ Jimmy Hart) and Chris Benoit
Some OK action to start with Benoit interacting with the Public Enemy for the first time since all three were in ECW early in 1995. The match eventually breaks down, they end up laying Benoit on a table on the outside, Sullivan ends up dazed on top of him, the Enemy do their sandwich table spot – Sullivan moves but just limps off to the back and Rock and Grunge career through Benoit through the table. Benoit gets pinned.
Sergeant Craig Pittman (w/ Teddy Long) and Scott Steiner vs The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe) and Rick Steiner
Comments on the Main Event prior to the show promised that Scott and Rick weren't afraid to fight each other, and while they had never formally met in a wrestling ring, they had faced each other enough times as brothers. Some mediocre action before Rick is in the ring and Scott gets tagged in, the crowd wake up a bit for that before we get a few minutes of the Steiners interacting, including Scott hitting Rick with a belly to belly from the top. The match ends with Rick hitting a bridging German suplex on Pittman for the win for his team.
Lord Steven Regal and Squire David Taylor (filling in for Finlay) (w/ Jeeves) vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan and VK Wallstreet.
This was originally meant to be Regal and The Belfast Bruiser (Fit Finlay) after their barmy match on Nitro last month, but they axed that so Finlay could sell the injuries – I think. We're in Duggan's old stomping ground in Louisiana, and he's popular. This is a nothing match, Duggan ends up taping his fist with the refs back turned and nailing Taylor with a punch. The ref sees all of this after the match but can't be bothered to do anything about it.
Dirty Dick Slater (w/ Col Robert Parker) and Earl Robert Eaton (w/ Jeeves) vs Alex Wright (without entrance music for a while) and Disco Inferno
The idea, clearly, was having Disco Inferno and Alex Wright together would be fun, that didn't work well (not for the first time, Wright's music inexplicably didn't play, either). Wright is impressive, if uninspiring after losing his push about this time last year. Parker distracts the ref, Slater leathers Disco with his boot and that's enough for the win.
Diamond Dallas Page and The Barbarian vs Hugh Morrus and Meng
Morrus hits the matting hard going for a plancha that Page moves out of the way of. We get a face off between Faces Of Fear tag partners Meng and The Barbarian, who waste no time in going at it. Morrus hits a lovely top rope moonsault, that Page is able to break up the pin of. We end up with a double pin after Barbarian nailed Morrus with a big boot, Meng also pins Page but they give Page and Barbarian the win after Page had his foot under the bottom rope – Page and Meng also weren't the legal men...
Big Bubba (now as a part of the Dungeon Of Doom, apparently) and Stevie Ray vs Fire and Ice (Scott Norton and Ice Train)
Ah... another gimmick for Ray Traylor! Still Big Bubba but now decked out in black with an impressively bushy goatee. He's also dropped some weight it seems. Fire and Ice are a new team combining the impossibly muscly Scott Norton and Ice Train (who's improved from awful to competent in the two years since we last saw him on TV). This match is nothing much, some impressive tag moves before Norton and Ice Train double clothesline Bubba for the win.
Eddie Guerrero and Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair and Randy Savage
Ah... this is what star power feels like! Flair's music hits, he doesn't come out. Savage's music hits, he does. Flair runs out after him after Arn had started attacking him. Flair ends up tagging in Savage by elbowing him in the head. While all these antics are going on Eddie Guerrero is busy busting some impressive moves. Arn ends up DDT'ing his own partner before Flair pins Guerrero. We end the match with a post match beatdown on Savage by Flair and Arn, including a slap from Elizabeth. Good stuff this.
Contractually, as part of Battle Bowl shows, Mene Gene Okerlund gets to flirt with women... (well, ok, he did it at Battlebowl 1993, but he did it here too!). We get THE FIRST HALF of the second round draw here thanks to three models/"waitresses" from Hooters. Fire and Ice receive a bye, and Dick Slater and Earl Robert are drawn against Hacksaw Jim Duggan and VK Wallstreet.
Brad Armstrong vs Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
There was a tournament held in Japan in March to crown the first WCW Cruiserweight champion – this was won by Shinjiro Otani, who you may remember from Starrcade. WCW celebrated this by basically never mentioning it, beyond advertising a match between Otani and Malenko on the Saturday Night scheduled to air the night before the show, which Malenko duly won. Malenko faced Brad Armstrong who if we're not classing as a jobber was very much a bottom rung WCW guy.
The crowd were almost painfully silent throughout this match. Malenko spent ages working a technical match over Armstrong's leg and the crowd could not care less. At one stage Bobby Heenan tries to say that the fans being silent is a good thing because they're appreciating the action... they're not, Bobby! Malenko finishes it with a gutbuster from the top rope. Nice action if viewed in a vacuum, which this essentially was.
We get a vignette for the (eventual) debut of Glacier... don't hold your breath on that one, folks! More awkward moments with Okerlund and the Hooters girls, Public Enemy draw Savage and Flair, and Page and Barbarian will face the team of Booty Man and Rick Steiner.
Dirty Dick Slater (w/ Col Robert Parker) and Earl Robert Eaton vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan and VK Wallstreet
There's the briefest tease of an alliance between Duggan and Wallstreet, but it doesn't stick. Duggan hits a really soft clothesline and shoulder block, Wallstreet ends up punching Duggan by accident, Eaton rolls up Wallstreet and that will do that. Afterwards Duggan and Wallstreet brawl. Not good this.
The Public Enemy (“Flyboy” Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge) vs Randy Savage and Ric Flair
Savage’s music plays, but there’s no Savage. Flair comes out with Woman and Elizabeth – they’re handing out Savage’s money. Savage comes charging out and goes straight after Flair, half a dozen security follow him out, as do the American Males and Craigh Pittman. Flair scarpers. The Public Enemy win by count out. The storyline is good, even if it's filling up PPV time.
Diamond Dallas Page and The Barbarian vs The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe) and Rick Steiner
We get some interaction between Page and the Booty Babe (Kimberly Page aka The Diamond Doll), which is nice. Another short quarter final, Rick hits a couple of big moves then, thankfully, isn't involved in the rest of the match. Booty Man hits Barbarian with a high knee, but Page breaks it up. He drops an elbow on the back of Booty's head and Barbarian pins him for the three.
Jushin Thunder Liger (w/ Sunny Ono) vs Konnan for the WCW United States Heavyweight Title
We get Mike Tenay on commentary, which is always nice. Konnan is wearing a giant Cuban flag out to the ring, which is a sight to behold. A sound match but just felt a bit inconsequential, even with the title on the line. Very even match too with neither man dominating, some good high flying action from Liger; Konnan is a great yardstick wrestler (who basically has a match as good as his opponent is able). Konnan wins it with his "Power Drop" - a Razor's edge into sit out powerbomb combination.
We get a promo with Okerlund, Flair, Woman, Arn Anderson and Miss Elizabeth. Flair essentially says he and Arn are going to have sex with Woman and Elizabeth tonight after the show. On McMichael – Flair says: “I cannot back up if I cannot get your wife out of my back pocket”. McMichael turns up and Flair basically says - 'bring one of your old mates' and we'll have a match. McMichael is prepared for this and unveils *current* NFL Linebacker Kevin Greene, Flair isn't happy. These four will face off at The Great American Bash next month.
8 Man Battlebowl Final: Scott Norton vs Ice Train vs Dirty Dick Slater vs Earl Robert Eaton vs Johnny Grunge vs Flyboy Rocco Rock vs Diamond Dallas Page vs The Barbarian.
You know the quiet periods in Royal Rumble's between when a guy gets eliminated and we're waiting for the next man out – and we just kill time? This was the first five minutes of this. Also, given that the winner of this will get a title shot at the next pay per view (or should do!) what does it say for WCW's roster that these were the eight guys that advanced? Early doors in the match, Page gets thrown over but stays in it after planting one foot on the ground (this will become important*).
Some utterly listless action later, we get down to the final four of Grunge, Page, Barbarian and Ice Train. Page hits all three of them with a Diamond Cutter (this month really is the genesis of the Diamond Cutter starting to get over, I would say). Page covers Grunge, and gets a three – apparently you can pin people in this match. He also pins Ice Train too! He covers Barbarian who kicks out. The action between Page and Barbarian is, to be fair, actually quite decent. Page kicks out of a Tombstone and a powerbomb, Page evades a top rope diving headbutt and hits a Diamond Cutter for the win.
*the next night on Nitro they reveal Page has been stripped of his title match for planting his foot on the floor - because there's no way they could do Page vs Giant in a PPV main event! To be fair, that may have died a death on pay per view. Inexplicably, the spot is awarded to Lex Luger...
The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs Sting (w/ Lex Luger) for the WCW World Heavyweight Title
Luger will be handcuffed to Hart for the match. This, in all fairness, is a proper decent match. Giant is still very limited, and Sting is very much of those guys capable of excellence alongside excellence, but things fall down after that. One thing Sting is good at, mind, is having a really believable match against bigger guys (see outings with The Boss in 1994 and even, you may be surprised, Shark/John Tenta in early 1995 that weren't half bad).
I mean, it was still clunky 1996 Big Show, a very stop start match but the crowd are into Sting enough to make Giant's offense get over, and as I say Sting has done this role to death in the past. There's a great moment in the match where Giant takes Sting over to by a table on the aisleway to chokeslam him through it (as he did on Nitro six days earlier with Luger), yet when Giant picked up Sting – Luger had laid Hart on the table.
Giant attempts a running dropkick on Sting, which is really impressive, but Luger yanks Sting out of harms way. Sting struggles to lock in the scorpion deathlock, he manages it but Luger and Hart are tussling over Hart's megaphone, that ends up getting throw at Sting who goes down, Giant picks him up for the chokeslam for the win.
Score Rating: 2/10
Go Back And Watch: Not as bad as Battlebowl, but almost as missable. Anything involving Ric Flair on this show was at minimum good. Main event is... alright. Everything else? Don't waste your time!