Subscribe to the podcast via: iTunes | RSS Feed | Email Newsletter
Sting’s answer, if he ever formally gave one, came in the form of him finally going on the attack against the NWO. In some ways it had happened a fair bit previously, but this was the first time he’d just gone nuts, in amongst an increasing number of fake Sting’s he actually whipped a Sting mask off to reveal well… himself, before laying waste to everyone else to a massive pop. The touch paper had finally been lit but you’ve still got three months to go, and Hogan still had Piper to worry about. As WCW apparently countered the WWF’s Hell In A Cell match with what they were branding as a standard cage match (despite the much more impressive sounding and otherwise very similar “THUNDERCAGE” they featured in 1994).
The other main focus of the TVs had been the plight of Ric Flair following Fall Brawl. After Curt Hennig smashed the cage door into his head Flair went away to have a face-lift (yeah, seriously) they actually showed an image of Flair right before he went into surgery with the marks on his face on Nitro to sell the injury. Flair phoned in at the end of the month on Nitro with an impassioned promo, one that suggested he would be gone for a while, but that the attack had woken him up and reminded him about what was important. Flair rallied the WCW troops, but told them to leave a piece of Hennig for him when he came back.
Which he did… only pretty damn quickly. Flair was gone less than a month when he returned to Nitro, probably a combination of him recovering more quickly than anyone wanted and just the general ratings battle on a Monday night. Flair was still popular, but Hennig wasn’t really over enough to really justify such an early first match. It probably showed in the reaction to the match.
The other thing of note, not that it was really anything of note at the time, was the debut of Goldberg. Goldberg ploughed through Hugh Morrus and Barbarian with clean wins in consecutive weeks on Nitro, followed by blowing off Mean Gene Okerlund. I’m not saying WCW had plans for Goldberg at this point, but on a show where wins and losses didn’t matter *AT ALL*, the announcers did very quickly and obviously point out “he’s 2 and 0” after his Barbarian match. They also teased some tension between him and Steve McMichael – which was a bit, weird. Apparently Goldberg making it to the NFL (and not really achieving anything of note) was worthy of a feud with a Superbowl winner…
Yuji Nagata (w/ Sonny Ono) vs The Ultimo Dragon
WCW has inspired many lists of wrestlers that they “missed the boat” on since their demise, but one guy that could deserve to belong at the top of a very long list is Ultimo Dragon – he’s so bloody good. Plenty of heat for this for both guys as Nagata lays in some stiff kicks, Dragon hits a powerbomb then a moonsault, Dragon went for a dragon sleeper to a great reaction from the crowd before Nagata locks in an armlock for a quick submission. Nice match, but I can’t believe nobody at WCW thought Dragon needed a lot more protection than this.
Chris Jericho vs Gedo
No idea who Gedo is but boy does he have a look you want to hate – dressed entirely in yellow (including his bleach blonde hair) – and a shit eating grin on a face you want to slap. This was quite good, Gedo has the game to go with the looks to get heat, and he’s got the moves to go with Jericho too. Not a huge amount to this, beyond a great double powerbomb with Jericho almost deadlifting the much heavier Gedo for the second. The most major point of the match was Jericho going for a frankisteiner off of the top, underrotating and landing square on the point of his head. No idea how he was seemingly fine after that. After a missed splash, Jericho puts in the lion tamer for the win. Nice match, worth it to see Gedo’s look.
Rey Mysterio vs Eddie Gurrero – WCW Cruiserweight Title vs Mask Match
Bloody hell, what a match this was. We go out at a blistering pace, Mysterio hits a seamless armdrag from the second rope, Guerrero then gets completely on top with a slightly bigger emphasis on the brawling. Guerrero puts Mysterio in a tree of woe, Mysterio uses his core to lift himself out of the onrushing baseball slide as Guerrero’s legs part either side of the padded, Slim-Jim clad, ringposts.
Then it was time for Mysterio to rally – and boy… Mysterio sends Guerrero to the floor, does a running somersault splash to Guerrero, then as he lands on his shoulders hits a hurricanrana. Wow – that was great. Mysterio kicks out of a powerbomb, then the finish. As we’ve seen Mysterio do before: Guerrero gets on the second rope for a splash mountain (Razor’s edge), Mysterio counters it might flighting into a reversarana of sorts and pins Guerrero to retain his mask and win the title. Sometimes you just have to say – “bloody hell”.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs Debra’s Mystery Wrestler (of all people, Alex Wright)
This match, conceptually, was quite interesting. Both of these two had unarguably improved a lot in the past 12 months or so, but it was hard to work out how much of that was down to their opponents (Wright looking good against Dragon told us very little). The match, in that sense, was fine. Unremarkable – save a tombstone reversal that they fucked up, possibly by design. Mongo then hits a tombstone and… that’s where things start to get a bit odd.
So Goldberg comes out... They have Debra distract the referee (the debut of Charles “Little Naitch” Robinson, I believe). Goldberg then levels Mongo with a spear in the corner where Debra is cajoling Robinson. Goldberg then picks up Mongo, almost hits the ref with him as he goes for the jackhammer – and the ref STILL isn’t aware of any of this. He’s still got time to take the lifeless Wright and put him onto Mongo before the ref counts the three. It sounds ridiculous writing it down, it looked a whole lot worse live. After the match, following the Steve Austin formula, Goldberg attacks Wright too.
Disco Inferno vs Jacquelyn
In what was probably (Hogan’s “Observe this” jab aside) the first real ‘WTF are you doing’ moment regarding the sheets we had a bizarre moment on Nitro a few weeks before the show involving Jacquelyn and Disco. Basically, six months before Disco was let go by WCW after refusing to do a job to Jacquelyn at a Saturday Night taping – it was a one liner in the sheets that week and everyone assumed a very forgettable character would never be seen again. Then, 4-5 months later, he returns and they decide to reprise the programme. So during a ringside confrontation, Jacquelyn says “everyone knows why you left six months ago” – Gene gives is the full SHOCK-HORROR response and… nobody cares. Still, it produced this match…
Which was, interesting… as a match it was total non-event, the whole game was that Disco really wasn’t sure what to do as he wasn’t willing to hit a woman. So for the large part he just ran away, then took a beating by Jacquelyn that got over in a way far better than anything Disco had done it made me wonder if the whole thing was a giant work (or, at least, whether Disco walked baulking at the idea of doing it at a pre-taped Saturday Night).
Still, something had to happen eventually and we get Disco nervously trying to work his way into a match – starting with possibly the biggest reaction to a drop toe hold in 20 years. Then again, the crowd did also pop for Jacqeulyn readjusting her gear (her breasts are bulging out of them, tbf). The crowd react to Disco being crotched on the ring-post , because Jacquelyn doesn’t have any testicles.
She does have balls though – spiking him with a DDT in the ring that looked tremendous. Disco has been trying to do what moves he can (like an armdrag and a hip toss) but after reluctantly going for a pin off a reversed crossbody, she kicks out and rolls up Disco for a win and a decent pop. Not a thing of note in this match, but memorable and enjoyable – Disco’s has had a couple of those matches on PPV this year.
Curt Hennig vs Ric Flair
This… was not as good as the hype probably should’ve made it. As I said earlier, I feel the match was rushed, and while the angle with Hennig in September was good he’s still not really established. That and the fact Flair is old and Hennig definitely isn’t perfect in 1997 and you get this.
It was OK, Flair did very little and Hennig didn’t do much more – the crowd really weren’t that into it either, certainly not once the initial scene of Flair storming out to the ring had concluded. Hennig attempts to recreate the cage door spot with a chair and the ring post, but Flair moves. A title belt gets involved, they dance around it for a while (and the ref doesn’t move it, a clear sign it’s going to be involved in the finish). Which it was, as Flair puts Hennig in a tree of woe, puts the belt in front of his face then doesn’t a slide into it. They were selling it as retribution for what Hennig did last month, it wasn’t really.
Scott Hall (w/ Syxx) vs Lex Luger w/special guest referee Larry Zbyszko
I don’t really know what the idea was here. There’s a thought that they believed the Flair/Hennig match would have so much more heat than it did they wanted a cool-down match. There’s also a thought that they wanted the focus to be on Hall and Zbyszko – which it was. But they didn’t really do anything. Luger barely did a move in the entire match, Hall was busy working holds and jawjacking with Zbyszko. Eventually Bischoff comes out, Syxx kicks Luger, Hall hits the Outside Edge and a reluctant Zbyszko counts the three. That’s until it gets weird…
Zbyszko thinks something odd has gone on, so calls FOR A VIDEO REPLAY. Fine… the logic makes no sense but it sets up for a restart. The problem is though… you watch the replay back and Syxx misses Luger, the video shows this pretty conclusively. Still, we restart the match, Luger racks Hall, Hall taps then a split second later Syxx flattens Zybszko who, after a brief rally, cannot fight off the numbers game.
Randy Savage (w/ Miss Elizabeth) vs Diamond Dallas Page in a Las Vegas Sudden Death Match
They tried here, but I’m not sure this was particularly good. The stip gave them licence to brawl deep into the crowd and then a skirmish on the set (full of actual tombstones). Which was a nice idea except the tombstones were made out of polystyrene and didn’t really serve up much purpose other than to setup Dusty Rhodes for one of his better efforts “That’s a real tombstone piledriver”.
Still, the idea was Page and Savage had beaten each other in that relatively short time frame to the point neither man could barely stand. I think they overestimated how good that beating was, but possibly the most noteworthy part of the match was Liz’s involvement – choking Page with a camera cable (after Savage stole a camera and Page kicked it into his face). Liz then took a glass tray (no idea where from) and just smashed it over the refs head.
Kimberly comes out, drags Liz away by the hair – Dusty is so happy “CATFIGHT, CATFIGHT, CATFIGHT”. Savage blocks a Diamond Cutter, hits a lifeless elbow drop (selling) and Page barely answers a ten count. Patrick takes a bump but recovers by reffing standards very quickly but both Savage and Page get up following a Diamond Cutter. Out comes a clearly fake Sting (reportedly Hogan) and belts Page with a baseball bat, and even Schiavone was sceptical, finally, about whether it was Sting or not. Page can’t answer the ten count and Savage wins. Decent drama, but the action wasn’t near their April match.
Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper (not for the WCW Title) in a Steel Cage Match
This a proper fucking steel cage – completely envelops the ring – Thundercage style. It’s also massive, about 20 feet high, and *very* flimsy! The action here isn’t much of note, Hogan starts randomly climbing the cage, Piper follows and boy are they brave going up that high. At one point, back on the floor, Schiavone says, “If either man gets out, then it’s over” and not five seconds later do they both tumble out the door.
But it isn’t over – one Sting walks out, then a second, then Stings start walking through the crowd. Both Hogan and Piper get to the top of the cage which is brave of them – but not much happens. Back in the ring, Hogan drops two leg drops on Piper – who kicks out to no reaction at all (tease the actual Sting all night and, not for the first time this year, the crowd sit on their hands). Out runs Savage, through a fortress of Stings and scales the cage. He comes off the top (which must be 20ft in the air) which a double axe handle that completely misses Hogan and Piper – he’s supposed to accidentally hit Hogan and setup the finsh. Still, at least we don’t have video replay technology as the 44-year-old Savage collapses in a heap mid ring. Piper locks in the sleeper and Hogan passes out.
And this is where things get odd. They handcuff Piper to the cage then a “fan” with Sting facepaint scales the cage. The announcers sell it like it’s completely legit but the show closes with Hogan and Savage fake-beating up a plant from the crowd, presumably a “warning” to any fans who try to get involved. Although, to be honest, Randy Anderson tapping out the fan on Nitro the previous month was far stronger as a deterrant.
Score Rating: 8.5/10
Go Back And Watch: I’m going to call this show “must watch”. Very good early action, then a barmy series of matches and angles that really do need to be seen to be believed.