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After the unmitigated disaster that was the Souled Out pay per view in January, a largely normal service resumed ahead of WCW's Superbrawl show in February. While the mantra ahead of the January show saw WCW quite rightly largely ignore the pay per view, there was a distinct lack of reference to it afterward, beyond a strong set of angles at the end of January where Eric Bischoff righted a couple of perceived wrongs. Namely; stripping the Steiners of the tag titles they won before firing the referee who helped them win them – Randy Anderson.
Nitro had largely returned to normal, though. The Four Horsemen were on a never ending trail of will they – won't they, that had now completely enveloped not only the Taskmaster but also the new lady in his life – Miss Jacquelyn. The feud with Taskmaster and Benoit was heating up, but even from a perspective of someone who reads the Torch & Observer cover to cover it wasn't exactly easy to follow. On the February 10th Nitro, Sullivan opened a promo by saying "this isn't a pro-wrestling interview" to which Mike Tenay quite rightly said "OK", and they cut to commercial.
Or at least that's what he should've done, instead we were greeted to an extreme close up of Sullivan's face (the high quality network feed, for once, not a benefit) as Sullivan went on to reference a phone call with Paul E. (who, in canon, hasn't existed since 1993), how he is part of one of the highest rated shows in television (which, in canon, he isn't – unless you count Pillman calling him "booker man") and how he has been with Nancy (who, in canon, doesn't exist) for 12 years. The whole thing was the on-screen version of a storyline that was even playing out off-screen. It's not to say the Sullivan and Benoit program wasn't getting over, but there were so many assumptions being made it was hard to tell whether it was successful or not.
It wasn't even the most bizarre moment of the month on Nitro, that honour goes to the segment on Nitro on February 17th where The Outsiders and Syxx got in a car and started following another car that contained the Steiner Brothers. That chase ended up (thanks to a lovely shaky cam jump cut) with a stunt car being flipped over into some bushes. Which, was weird enough, but what was more strange was how Kevin Nash simply volunteered the tape to WCW on Nitro on the basis it wouldn’t incriminate them (despite the fact it basically did), and why WCW would ever choose to air it, and why in the six days between Nitro and the pay per view that neither Hall, Nash or Syxx were arrested for their actions.
The craziness didn’t end there (and it’s quite the feat that this is third in that list) was Roddy Piper. Who, after attempting to quietly go into retirement was coerced into coming back via a usual bullshit angle involving Hogan and Bischoff still pretending that Piper hadn’t won back in December. Still, the off-shoot of that (with the pay per view in San Francisco) was Piper deciding to spend the week leading up to the show STAYING IN ALCATRAZ. Like most things with Piper, if you actually sat down to think about it it quickly stopped making sense, but leave your critical thinking skills at home and it works pretty well.
And that’s exactly how we opened the show, with Piper being beckoned from his cell in Alcatraz, before slowly leaving the prison (including running across the courtyard), before being allowed his freedom and getting on a boat headed for shore. Quite the way to start the show.
Syxx vs Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
There’s a 2-3 minute stretch of this match where Malenko hits a series of ridiculous moves. Not ridiculous in the way a Rey Mysterio would, but more just in their perfect execution. A dropkick, powerslam and crossbody to the outside have never looked so good. This, as you’d expect, is very good, Syxx spends a lot of the match working Dean’s neck (which, for once, the announcers actually bother to point out). Of course, we end with a fucked finish, as Eddie Guerrero runs down the long aisle way to try and stop Syxx hitting Malenko with the title belt, only to inadvertently smash Malenko with the title. Syxx collapses too but in a pinning spot so he picks up the three and wins the title.
Konnan, La Parka and Villano IV vs Ciclope, Juventud Gerrera and Super Calo
One of those matches that really wouldn’t feel out of place in 2017, and that’s not being universally positive in my praise. An often ludicrously fast, technically excellent but context weak match that probably wowed as much as it disappointed. There were some excellent spots in here, but some very contrived stuff – including a five person submission (two on one, then another two on the first two) and ever a four way “star” submission. None of it even stuck, even if some of the stuff was absolutely excellent. Konnan wins it with a powerdrop that Juventud Guerrera probably kicked out of.
Rey Mysterio vs Prince Iaukea for the WCW Television Title
So… ten days before Rocky Maivia defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley to win the Intercontinental Title… four days after that newcomer Iaukea defeated Lord Steven Regal to win the WCW TV Title via the same inside cradle that Rocky won win. This match is flat, and it’s a really bad sign for the admittedly green Iaukea that he can’t get a good match out of possibly the best performer on the roster. Mysterio, at one stage, hits a ludicrous running somersault senton under the top rope… Still, Regal comes out, distracts Mysterio – Iaukea rolls him up for the win to dead silence. Worse still was the lame part where Iaukea offers Mysterio the title belt afterwards. Yikes.
Marcus “Buff” Bagwell vs Diamond Dallas Page
This was better – the crowd are clearly invested in Page and Bagwell has enough tenure where I actually think some WCW fans have latched onto his character change. This isn’t a long match, or particularly as “good” as the three previously but is probably more enjoyable than certainly the previous two matches given the crowd heat and that both men are taking their time. Bagwell shoves the ref after a perceived back call and Scott Dickinson goes nuts shoving him back. Bagwell goes for a neckbreaker, Page counters and hits a Diamond Cutter before fleeing as the NWO job squad run out to chase him off.
Chris Jericho vs Eddie Guerrero for the WCW United States Title
Struggling to believe that two years on from the drab WCW Undercards in 1995 we’d be downplaying a match between Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero on a PPV, but this was a technically sound if nothing match between two guys who could really do with working with other wrestlers or indeed in anything that resembled a storyline. A perfectly fine match, probably better than that, but hard to care too much even with the title on the line. Guerrero attempts swinging DDT but Jericho “catches him” into a lovely bridging pin for a two. Before Guerrero hits a sunset flip for the win.
Faces Of Fear (Meng and Barbarian) vs The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge) vs Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri)
WCW’s usual mess when it comes to triangle tag team matches. This was fine but too often uncoordinated, everyone gets their time but you kind of feel like all three teams are capable of better than this. Still, they've arbitrarily decided to push the Enemy (along with Rocco Rock's now bald head), but this match was probably the worst of the night. Save for a great finish where Rocco Rock goes for a top rope senton onto Barbarian, who somehow catches him in a Styles-clash position, only for Grunge to crash onto both of them with his own dive. A win, but nothing says 'meaningless' quite like Tony Schiavone saying "of course, this doesn’t make them number one contenders”.
Steve McMichael (w/ Debra McMichael) vs Jeff Jarrett
If Jarrett wins, then he gets to join the Horsemen. Maybe it was just working with a good hand like Jarrett, but Mongo looked fine in this match. It's still a very limited arsenal of what he's been trained to do but Mongo's improvement to "competant" has been quite important as, at one stage, is seemed like his only role was to be around as an excuse to get Debra on TV. Still, the action isn't great, and Debra does her best to keep things even, before chucking the case to Jarrett, who hits Mongo over the head with it to win the match. Forgettable, but could've been far worse.
Taskmaster (w/ Jacquelyn and Jimmy Hart) vs Chris Benoit (w/ Woman) in a San Francisco Death Match
Both women will be tied together at the hand by a strap... this was basically a mixed tag match in all but name, as often the battle between both women was often the focal point of the match. The women stayed in the ring the entire match but Benoit and Taskmaster headed backstage where Taskmaster hit Benoit with a bodyslam onto a flatbed truck. This was as far as we got as the two soon made their way back towards ringside.
So... Benoit gets a table, puts it in the middle of the ring, puts Taskmaster on top of it, then heads to the top to hit his diving headbutt. As he jumps, Jacquelyn jumps on top of Taskmaster to protect him, Benoit crashes down on both of them and the table DOES NOT BREAK. I've no idea how. Benoit recovers, pins the sparked out Taskmaster to win the match. After the match, it becomes clear that neither Benoit, Taskmaster or Jacquelyn are in good shape. In fact, they're all sparked out. The mood turns from amazement to concern that crossed the divide (with Hart consolling Woman at one stage). The three get stretchered out in a strong conclusion to the match.
The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash w/ Syxx) vs The Giant (on his own) for the WCW Tag Team Titles
Luger was banned from being in the match by Eric Bischoff because his arm was in a cast, despite Luger having medical clearance. This was really good, an example of where fan investment, over characters and solid storytelling mean a match that is actually far better than the in-ring action suggets. Giant dominates the early going, repelling the early onslaught before being overcome by the numbers game, along with the help of Syxx.
Nash hits a Jacknife powerbomb on Giant, which looked really good. Luger comes out, floors Bischoff when he tries to stop him and joins the match wearing a preposterous dress shirt (sleeveless, complete with hood). Luger gets the hot tag, runs wild, puts Nash in the torture rack who submits. The ref calls a stop to the match, but for good measure Giant chokeslams Hall for the three and (for now, at least!) we have new tag champions.
Hulk Hogan (w/ Vincent & Ted DiBiase) vs Roddy Piper for the WCW World Title
Much like their match at Starrcade, the in-ring action isn't as much but the star power and crowd put it over. For most parts this was drab, but things hotted up when Sting and Randy Savage walked out. Sting went back but Savage stayed at ringside. Piper puts Hogan in the sleeper he beat him with in December, and Hogan passed out again and Piper is the new WCW Champion.
Of course he isn't! That was all true, but when the ref went to fetch the belt Savage pulled Hogan's leg under the rope. The ref then restarted the match, thing he'd made an error, and (to solidify the turn) Savage hands Hogan some knucks, who hits Piper and retains the title. Afterwards, Savage and Hogan double team on Piper. For such a big turn, this didn't get a huge reaction.
Score Rating: 7.5/10
Go Back And Watch: A typically strong wrestling effort from WCW, but in some ways nothing absolutely must see. So in some respects, watch the whole show – but I'd recommend the last three matches as all having an extra edge to them.