Subscribe to the podcast via: iTunes | Spotify | Google | Youtube
The concept was utterly bizarre, but it's hard to imagine anyone involved in the King Of The Road match at WCW Uncensored in 1995 would have the ramifications it did. Under the cloud of WCW financial cut-backs, both Dustin Rhodes and Blacktop Bully (the participants) and Mike Graham (literally, in this case, "the road agent") were fired following breaches in company policy regarding the use of blood in WCW.
It's firstly important to understand the political situation in WCW at the time. The company had, for a good year by this stage, been moving towards a safer, more family friendly product. For a kick-off, in the aftermath of somebrutal matches involving The Nasty Boys, the company ruled that violence would be outruled. Secondly, some very bad publicity in the aftermath of Mean Gene Okerlund using the "death" of Ric Flair in a Hotline money-grab in February 1995, Ted Turner ordered the product be tuned down even more.
All the more bizarre then, in the lead-up to "Uncensored" in March. This was the pay-per-view WCW were saying was "unsanctioned" and "unauthorised". Anything goes. Nick Bockwinkel declined being in attendance, he wasn't going to be responsible for what went down - well, Ric Flair did end up appearing in drag, so it's difficult to blame him.
It ended up being a very soft show, but even in the shadow of a "boxer vs wrestler" match, a strap match and a martial arts match it would probably be a falls count anywhere Texas Tornado tag match that would be indicative of WCWs issues. The Nasty Boys, who a year prior proved they were as good as it gets at this kind of match, and Harlem Heat produced one of the most sterile and embarrassing "hardcore" matches you can imagine. The bulk of it took place in a gimmicked concession area that was completely cordoned off to the public. The drinks spilled turn the area into a virtual ice rink - it made an already horrid match ten times worse. It was "extreme", extreme surrounded by bubble wrap.
But the show opener was something completely different. Rhodes and Bully were taking part in the "King Of The Road" match, an utterly outlandish concept that saw both men compete in the back of a moving truck that was covered in hay. The concept of the match was to climb to the front of the truck and sound the horn. Taped a number of days prior, although airing "live", the small crew who were part of it - which included a truck driver, people in a chase car and those in a helicopter overhead said the match was excellent - at least the 20 minute version of it they saw.
But by the time it made it to pay per view the match was around 13 minutes long. On a show that was "unsanctioned, unauthorised and uncensored" the match had to be edited because both men bladed. The production crew did a fantastic job of salvaging what they could of the footage while avoiding any close ups that made the blood particularly visible. While it's hard to imagine the full match being excellent, the audience certainly weren't given the opportunity to try.
What doesn't make sense, in the aftermath of Graham, Bully and Dustin being fired is why the company needed to fire them for doing something on a pre-taped. While juicing was supposedly banned in the company, Hulk Hogan did just that two weeks before hand at a live event against Vader – Hogan, being untouchable, seemingly faced no punishment. He certainly wasn't fired. The second was that Graham, the agent in charge of the match, bought blades along with him to do the job. Thirdly, the show was called UNCENSORED. Do as we say, not as we do.
But the real reason perhaps lies in something a bit more sinister. Eric Bischoff was ordered to cut half a million dollars from WCW's budget (Hogan and friends aint cheap). Paul Roma kick started that the month before by going into business for himself against Alex Wright. Cutting Rhodes, Graham and Bully got the company the majority of the way there, and cutting the currently out of action Harley Race (recovering from a car crash, no less) was the final kicker. Conspiracy? Perhaps, but the timing of the two stories seems a little convenient.
The match, if we can call it that, was an odd spectacle. But it was something unique and memorable, and potentially was a lot more than the edit made out. Rhodes was a guy talked about as a future World Champion in the company (then again, so was Steve Austin) – and both Rhodes and Austin were talked as potential suitors in a potential new Four Horsemen.