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The build to Slamboree had been built around perhaps the two biggest matches WCW could put together in the absence of Hulk Hogan. With Ric Flair finally on the comeback path after about six months out with surgery, they lined up a pay per view in Charlotte, North Carolina – you suspect Flair would’ve been involved in the main event whether he’d have been ready or not.
As it was, the planned main event called for Flair to pair up alongside Roddy Piper – who by all accounts should’ve began a heel turn about two weeks earlier but after a timing cue was missed the whole thing basically had to be scrapped. Alongside those two was to be Carolina Panther Kevin Greene. The inclusion of Greene was a bit of a contentious one – his last involvement in WCW storyline was nearly a year prior at the Great American Bash – where his tag partner Steve McMichael turned on him to align with a Four Horsemen group headed up by Flair. In the end, WCW decided that in Carolina both would be faces so decided to ignore their priors before having Green screw McMichael in a match on Nitro later in the month.
Up against Flair, Piper and Greene was originally supposed to be Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan. Hogan, who had been in and out of TV in the couple of months prior, worked out (or, perhaps, decided) that his movie commitments meant he wouldn’t be able to do the show. It’s also of course, entirely possible that Hogan decided that there was no way the NWO weren’t going to be able to put over Flair and Greene in the Carolina’s so thought better of it. Replacing him, suggested Hall and Nash, should be friend and defacto number four of the group… Syxx. Which is where the problems started.
Flair and Piper felt that Syxx wasn’t a big enough name to be in such a star studded main event. Hall and Nash thought that Flair and Piper were too old to be calling the shots and that given the wrestling ability of Flair, Piper and Greene that the match would need a worker to make it even somewhat passable. That created an impasse internally that quickly spread itself onto TV. Everyone started shooting, as the faces bemoaned the “youngsters” for having no respect (Nash was 37, Hall 38, at least Waltman was 24), the NWO retorted that the road the elder statsmen had paved was covered in potholes. It was hard to follow even if you had any gauge on what they were banging on about, let alone if you didn’t, but like a lot of semi-shoots at the time in WCW, it was less about what they were saying and more about how they were saying it that was getting the angles over.
The other big shift within WCW within a couple of weeks of the pay per view was the departure, temporarily, of head booker Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan was the man trapped in the middle of much of the backstage toing and froing, having to attempt to keep all of the various stakeholders within the company happy. Which included Hogan and Piper, who both had creative control over their storylines, and other factions divided into the Hogan camp – backed by Hall, Nash and others, and the other side lead by Flair and Piper, backed by guys like Diamond Dallas Page. Sullivan, so said Bischoff, was taking some time-off to recharge and would be back soon enough.
Steven Regal vs The Ultimate Dragon (w/ Sonny Ono) for the WCW Television Title
So Regal has dropped the Lord part of his name to tweak his gimmick a bit and, for tonight at least, that gimmick seems to be of a babyface, which will take a while to get used to. This match was technically fine, good in fact, but Regal being such a natural heel (playing a face) and Dragon seemingly being such a natural face (playing admittedly quite solid heel) it just didn’t feel right.
That being said, the work in this match was very nice, Regal got an STF in and the crowd actually started chanting his name, which may be a first. Regal kicks out of a frankinsteiner then got a nice near fall covering Dragon after he’d missed a moonsault. Then Sonny Ono gets involved, initially getting some shots in on Regal which riles up Dragon, before he actually kicks Dragon. Regal puts in the Regal stretch, Dragon submits and we have a new TV champ. Bizarre dynamic, but a good match.
Luna Vachon vs Medusa
So… at the beginning of the month on WCW syndicated television, WCW announced that Medusa had defeated Akira Hokuto to win the WCW Women’s Title in Japan. Which was fine, except the match never happened – which in itself isn’t a problem, phantom title changes aren’t unheard of. But the problem was, nobody really clued in any of the acts involved about the story, which caused confusion everywhere before WCW quietly decided to drop the whole thing. For now, at least I think, Hokuto is still the champ.
This match was flat. Barring a clothesline spot where Luna basically landed on the back of her neck, this was a flat, short match. WCW’s attempt at a women’s division (with two regular acts, neither of which are their champ) is admirable but it just doesn’t work. Medusa wins it with a German suplex. Later, on Nitro, Medusa is forced to put her career on the line in order to get a title shot. Either that, or (as Gene Okerlund put it) “she’ll end up walking the streets… [PAUSE]… to look for a job”.
Yuji Yasuraoka vs Rey Mysterio Jr
Yasuraoka is a bit of an odd case… 26 years old at the time of the match having been wrestling in Japanese promotion WAR for the previous five years, it seems like this match and the one that aired on WCW Saturday Night the previous day were his only two away from American soil. He retired in 1999.
History lesson aside, this was fine, Mysterio working a bit hurt and in a meaningless match is still excellent, and this was no exception. There’s a bizarre spot where, with Yasuraoka on the outside, Mark Curtis essentially blocks a Mysterio dive only to setup a horrid set-piece where Mysterio did a dive over Curtis to the outside (which looked good but was terribly signposted and directed). Still, after Yasuraoka gets his stuff in Mysterio hits a springboard hurricanrana and picks up the win. Good match, but if WCW wanted Mysterio to be a star (and parts of the company were pushing him hard in their marketing alongside Hogan and Savage) then he needs to be in better programs than this.
Mortis (w/ James van den Bergh) vs Glacier
Yeah… this Mortal Kombat stuff is flagging. It’s not inherently a bad idea, just one that may be a bad idea but also one that’s badly executed. This was short, as Glacier wins by DQ. After the match, Mortis leg drops Glaciers head onto the ringsteps, which looks real nice, before karate expert Ernest Miller comes out and hits a couple of lovely side kicks onto the heels.
Jeff Jarrett (w/ Debra McMichael) vs Dean Malenko for the WCW United States Title
We are in Horsemen country, but this is Jeff Jarrett, so he still gets booed. This was a magnificent non-event of a match, Jarrett’s such a black hole that not even Dean Malenko can get a memorable match out of him. After some back and forth, Jarrett gets a figure four in (no reaction, in Flair country), then gets knocked out on the floor. Mongo comes out and collects Debra, Malenko puts in the Cloverleaf and gets the clean win.
Meng (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs Chris Benoit (w/ Woman) in a Death Match
Well, it was a “death match”, but other than being unusually stiff this was hardly worthy of the name. Meng is a tough dude, as is Benoit, but where’s one crucial difference: fans know Benoit is tough because they see it, fans know Meng is tough because every now and then WCW announcers say it. That didn’t really translate here, as the two worked hard and snug, but never really got any kinda of reaction off of a flat story going in. Benoit busts out a trio of German suplexes, then goes for a top rope diving headbutt before Meng, preposterously, “catches” him as he lands into a nerve hold before getting the clean win. I’m all for building up Meng, I’d have just started the job three years ago.
Konnan and Hugh Morrus (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs The Steiners (Rick & Scott)
I mean… it was a match, but it’s hard to think of a Steiners match that had meant less. This, like quite a few matches on this card, went in cold (the past three Nitro’s had all been an hour long, limiting the TV time to build matches) and it came out cold too. It wasn’t a bad match, just irrelevant. Scott wins it with a frankinsteiner, and afterwards Konnan breaks up with the Dungeon of Doom. With Sullivan on hiatus, that’s about that.
Steve “Mongo” McMichael (w/ Debra McMichael) vs Reggie White
So this was the other big marquee match… and in some respects it did its job – the cameramen got their photos, the media got their clips and WCW got their publicity, but whoever thought this could go 15 minutes needs to be shot. The action was competent, but neither had enough to go so long and Mongo – despite his significant improvement – is still miles off being able to carry a match like this.
We get the “line of scrimmage” spot, where Mongo levels White. White does about all he’s been trained for – sloppy clotheslines, shoulder tackles and the odd splash. White, to his credit, does manage a nice suplex but buy this point the crowd have all but checked out. Mongo attempts to leave but White’s teammate Gilbert Brown appears on the aisle way and carries him back. After one thwarted haliburton shot, Jarrett throws Mongo a second, who smacks White over the back with it for the win.
The NWO (Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Syxx) vs Kevin Greene, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Ric Flair in a No Disqualification Match
The pop that Flair got, my word. The six guys get out there and there’s just that main event buzz that you very rarely see in WCW (and even rarer in the WWF in the past few years). The crowd are reacting to everything Flair does, as he dominates the first few minutes. Greene gets his own stuff in as Syxx is tasked with doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Greene does manage a bodyslam on Nash, which is incredibly impressive, before Piper gets involved and for a brief while plays the face in peril.
It's at this stage I need to fill in the second half of the story I was telling in the intro. Piper, with his creative control, threatened to pull out of the match in favour of facing Syxx alone. Quite why he’d do that was anybody’s guess – the natural singles match coming off the back of all of this was Flair vs Syxx (which would get its time). Anyway, in amongst the negotiations Eric Bischoff suggested that Syxx would be the person to take the fall – which Nash baulked at, if for nothing else that it was so obvious. Nash then said something to the effect of – “If you’re going to do that, why don’t you pin all three of us in the ring?”
Which is exactly what they did. After a ref bump (caused by Piper, who just knocked out the ref) the newly reinstated Nick Patrick came out. The match broke down, Flair low blowing Hall before putting him in the figure four, Piper put Nash in the sleeper and Kevin Green held Syxx in a powerslam position for an absolute age before putting him down. Patrick eventually counted the pin (on Hall, I think, who had passed out) to a huge reaction from the crowd. The Outsiders earned a lot of credit for agreeing to do such an emphatic and decisive finish – one that in the Carolina setting really was the only choice. Although one has to wonder how different things would’ve been had Hogan been involved. Still, a good match made so much better by an electric crowd. WCW’s match of the year so far.
Score Rating: 7/10
Go Back and Watch: The main event, obviously. Everything else is fine if a bit skippable, but top to bottom this isn’t a good card, with the probable exception of Mongo vs White.