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WCW's first offering in 1995 takes us to the Baltimore for Superbrawl on February 19th 1995. Following on from Starrcade 1994 and the Clash of the Champions XXX we head into this event with a show headlined by Hulk Hogan vs Vader for the WCW Championship. Barring an unforgivable, selfish act by Hogan at the end of the Clash, the build for the match has been almost flawless and the presentation Vader as a beast has been outstanding even throughout this show.
Elsewhere on the card we've got Ray Traylor now as "Big Bubba Rogers" teaming with Avalanche against Sting and Randy Savage (making his WCW PPV in-ring debut) and The Nasty Boys trying to topple Harlem Heat from their tag title perch.
On Main Event - the TV show that aired live from the arena as a pre-show - the build was very much about Vader being a monster. He punched in a limo-window looking for Hogan, then came out during a Stars and Stripes tag match and laid waste to all concerned. There's also hints going into the show that Vader arrived with Flair in his limo. In the main event of Main Event, Arn Anderson defended his WCW TV Title against Johnny B Badd in a lumberjack match. In a shock to nobody, the match ended with interference. Get used to that in the next three hours.
Paul Roma vs "Das Wunderkind" Alex Wright
What a fascinating match. That's not to say it was good, it absolutely wasn't, but there were so many interesting facets to it. Firstly, was that Alex Wright even two months after being seriously pushed on TV is not remotely over. Secondly, it's Roma basically no selling Wright's entire offense and cutting him off at every turn. The action wasn't great but this intrigue at least gave it something. In the midst of all of this Roma hits a phenomenal elbow drop before Wright wins off a distraction from Roma's tag partner Paull Orndorff.
READ MORE: Why Paul Roma Was Fired By WCW After A Match With Alex Wright
Bunkhouse Buck (w/ Col. Robert Parker & Meng) vs "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
I would not have followed that match with this one. These two worked a very methodical (read: slow) style that died a death in front of the crowd. Even Hacksaw's paint-by-numbers pro-USA stuff didn't really latch. The kind of match that ten years earlier might have been fine, but just didn't get anywhere with this audience. Amazingly, those in power decided these two needed protecting, as the finish involved Duggan crashing into Parker at ringside before hitting his three point stance clothesline for the win. Meng jumps in the ring, nails a lovely superkick then locks in a nerve hold. Meng, again, is very good.
Dave Sullivan vs Kevin Sullivan (w/ The Butcher)
Oh please, make it stop! This feud and this horrid set of matches on this card so far. I'm unsure the Dave character was ever a great idea, but by this point it was incredibly played out. The action was the worst of the night (Dave Meltzer gave it minus two stars, not without justification), and neither man connected. The match ended with Butcher's face being "sacrificed" as Kevin bounced his brother off him and grabbed the trunks for the victory. This was the catalyst for Butcher's return to being a babyface - he wanted to hang around with Hogan and couldn't as a heel.
Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri) vs The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs & Jerry Sags) for the WCW World Tag Team Titles
Finally, finally some action of note. The crowd woke up and this pairing delivered a very good tag team match that strayed just about far enough from the formula to be noteworthy. Booker T, even by this stage, is already showing that he might have something with a very nice superkick and an early incarnation of the scissor kick. The Nasties are always willing to work hard, and their workrate makes up for their lack of talent. The crowd popped huge when the Nasties won the title, so they were probably pretty pissed off when the company awarded the Heat a DQ victory for an over the top rope infringement.
Blacktop Bully (w/ Col. Robert Parker and Meng) vs Dustin Rhodes
A weird one this. I like both characters involved – Dustin had been having a run of very good matches and the introduction of Blacktop Bully was WCW's better moments in 1994. But the crowd just didn't care, and it has to be said that neither performer really gave them a real reason to care either. Another shitty finish? You bet. This time Dustin goes for a suplex by the apron, Bully counters into a crossbody and Parker grabs Rhodes leg and prevents him from kicking it. It's no wonder the next time these two met it was on the back of a flat-bed truck!
Sting and Randy Savage vs Avalanche and Big Bubba Rogers
Ah! This is more like it – some star power. The crowd were very into Savage and Sting, and both Big Bubba and Avalanche held up their end. The match you'd expect, Sting has played the “smaller” wrestler so many times in the years prior against Vader and against these two he's a pro at it now. Not a great match, but a hot crowd and three out of four quite popular acts was good enough to make this worthwhile. Savage and Sting win after Sting clotheslines Avalanche from the top rope.
Hulk Hogan (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs Vader
A big, big fight feel. Early in the match Bobby Heenan pointed out that the crowd were on their feet and he was right. Vader is phenomenal at this stage, that's the only word I can use to describe it. The booking here was pretty much perfect. They made Vader seem like a star: he powerbombed Hogan with the referee down and left with a legitimate claim at the title, and even kicked out of the Hogan big boot/leg drop powerbomb at a count of one. Flair's intervention in the DQ was inevitable, it's was the six screwy finishes before it that I had a problem with.
Overall a real mixed bag of a show. The first hour was horrendous, things built slowly with a good co-main and a very good main event, but you cannot excuse how long the show took to get going, nor can you excuse one terrible finish after another.
Score Rating: 3.5/10
Bits to watch: Main event, co-main. And... if you like watching wrestlers go into business for themselves, Roma vs Wright is noteworthy.