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People that complain that every Raw main event in 2015 ends in a screw job finish might thank their lucky stars they either weren't watching or have forgotten what WCW was like in mid-nineties. Almost without fail every WCW TV match between two recognisable names would end in some sort of nefarious manner - unless it was a gross-mismatch between talents like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage teaming on an episode of WCW Worldwide to defeat Kevin Sullivan and The Butcher. Even that ended with Hogan winning by a roll-up off a distraction.
Now, this isn't to be overly critical of booking on syndicated television. Sometimes the company were taping months of television in just a handful of days, so it's not surprising that while they booked some marquee matches they went all out to protect the handful of stars that they had. While it became mind-numbingly predictable that matches would end like this, given how very little has changed in 20 years it's hard to be that critical.
But when it comes to major TV events like the Clash of the Champions and, even more so on pay-per-views, you have to be more critical. It wasn't just the volumes of the finishes, it was often the increasingly outlandish and ludicrous ways that the company could end a match.
Let's go back to Halloween Havoc 1993. After an unsatisfying finish at September's Fall Brawl between Ric Flair and Rick Rude – WCW announced that they were going to ensure that there would be no funny business next time by installing two referees for a rematch. If that doesn't send alarm bells ringing then nothing will! 17 minutes into the match, referee Randy Anderson was knocked down – backup Terry Taylor got one foot into the ring before he too was sent crashing to the mat. Flair would end up using brass knuckles on Rude and Taylor went to count the pin before Anderson returned to alert Taylor to the indiscretion and call for the DQ. In an amusing side bar, the brass knucks were bought to the ring initially by Rude, Flair knocked them from his hands and then a member of the ring crew grabbed them from the mat – it's said that he was tired of the screwjob finishes and tried to stop one of them.
Perhaps the most infuriating example of all of this comes to the over the top rope disqualification rule. I've been watch WCW shows for the past 18 months and I cannot honestly tell you what the ruling is on over the top rope disqualifications. But every now and then, when WCW need to go to the well, a wrestler gets chucked over the top rope and his opponent gets disqualified. That'd be fine except quite often in the match before another wrestler was thrown over the top rope and wasn't DQ'd. Often it could happen three or more times in a show, once would end in a DQ, the other two wouldn't. It was anybody's guess what time it was.
A fabulous example of this was at Superbrawl in 1995. Bored to tears by an hour of insipid action, the Baltimore crowd were very happy when they were presented with Harlem Heat and The Nasty Boys in some pretty good tag team action. They were even more pleased when the Nasty Boys won the tag titles. So what happened? A referee came out and alerted the referee to an over the top rope indiscretion shortly before and disqualified the Nasties. If I'd have been presented with Alex Wright vs Paul Roma, then Jim Duggan vs Bunkhouse Buck then Kevin vs Dave Sullivan and I got a finish like that in match number four I may have asked for my money back. Incidentally, there was an over the top rope infringement in the Kevin Sullivan vs Dave Sullivan match – no, it didn't force a DQ.
That entire show was riddled with bad finishes. More perplexing given the standard of the talent involved (see above) that the company would feel the need to protect the likes of Bunkhouse Buck and Dave Sullivan (and that's being very kind on Duggan and Kevin Sullivan's star power). Quite frankly, it really grated match after match and made the quite logical ending in the main event (interference by Ric Flair) seem like a cop out rather than the stronger storyline development it should have been.
The shame was that the company actually seemed to be quite decent in providing decisive finishes in main events. And when they didn't, usually there was a big storyline development to justify it. In Starrcade 1993, Ric Flair concured Vader cleanly. Even in the Hulk Hogan vs Ric Flair feud, only their main event at the Clash of the Champions had a tainted finish. But the booking of things further down the card often defied explanation.