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It'd perhaps be a bit simplistic to suggest WCW had gone into a bit of lull following Halloween Havoc, but you'd be forgiven for thinking it. An undercard full of strong-if-inconsequential in-ring action followed by a main event was so definitive it was written, in part, to give WCW an out were Randy Savage not to sign a new contract. Add to that the surgery of Ric Flair at the end of October that would see him unable to compete for months in a new role, seemingly, as cheerleader for the "new leader of the Horseman", Jeff Jarrett, and you'd realise we were in and odd time.
The big story out of that show, though, was the appearance of Roddy Piper, who's closing segment with Hulk Hogan went so long the show actually ran out of time. At a time when WCW were facing the prospect of being without two of their biggest stars (from the 80s), they just went and found another one. Of course, frequent viewers of the WWF would know that Piper in 1996 was not the Roddy Piper of ten years previously. Still, that didn't stop WCW billing it as the "match of the decade" on TV that followed.
Television was actually relatively quiet. Barring Sting finding his feet in his new character by walking around high in arenas and occasionally making his presence felt in the ring. Three consecutive Nitro's had concluded with Hulk Hogan, lit only by a spotlight, cutting an in ring monologue and ending the show by posing to all four corners. Quite what this was meant to achieve, other than a serious amount of self-indulgance, hopefully would become clear with time. The go-home Nitro ended with an appearance from Piper, who was quite predictably beaten down by the NWO with nobody to help him (keep a hold of that one). Also, Eric Bischoff completed his inexplicable turn... although Bischoff's heel character has always been a favourite of mine, even if it made no sense at the time.
Headed into World War 3 (well, surely it's World War 4 given number three was last year?) we were looking at yet another three ring, sixty man main event. Last year's one was incredibly dull, underscored by a decision to show the main event in a three box formation on the screen, meaning you could see the entirity of nothing, rather than a bit of something. They surely couldn't make the mistake again? We're live from Norfolk, VA, in the architecturally impressive Norfolk Scope.
Rey Mysterio vs The Ultimate Dragon (w/ Sunny Ono) for all eight of Dragon's titles
He's been using it for a while, but it only dawned on me on this show how bizarre Mysterio's demonic music was for a guy who was barely 5ft tall. And what a weird match this was, Dragon dominated the first 90% of the match, doing what most do against a guy of Mysterio's size and get in a load of really impressive looking shit in, including two tombstone piledrivers. Then, for no reason, at all, Mysterio stops selling and is absolutely fine as he gets a couple of minutes offense in. Eventually Dragon catches him coming off the top and hits a sit-out powerbomb for the three.
We get an inexplicably good promo from Diamond Dallas Page. Mean Gene also tells us to visit wcwwrestling.com, there are 8,000 slots available to listen to the pay per view broadcast. Quite why he's telling us, the pay per view audience, this I've got no idea. Although, let's be fair, during the main you may as well have just been listening.
Nick Patrick vs Chris Jericho (w/ Teddy Long) - Jericho must have one arm tied behind his back
OK, full disclosure – I'm beginning to find Patrick's act and absolute riot. He comes out big guns, in a ridiculous looking black and white gown (complete with hood and shades). Jericho largely beats the piss out of him with one arm, but Patrick's ludicrious facial expressions are the star. The match probably goes a couple of minutes longer than it needed to (although they did tell the story that Jericho, at no stage, was really trying to win). Eventually he hits a superkick for the win. Suspect I enjoyed that one more than most.
The Giant vs Jeff Jarrett
This match was probably the big surprise of Halloween Havoc, with Jarrett having a credible and somewhat interesting match with the Giant that, to the surprise of most, probably demanded a second viewing. This wasn't quite as good, in part because there's only one way this match would be any good, and we've already seen it, and the second was the involvement of Sting. The Norfolk Scope is an impressive facility, but it is also massive. So when Sting started his decent from the walkway at the top of the arena it distracted everyone in the building while he made the journey down to the ring. He eventually gets there, hits the scorpion death drop on Jarrett, followed by Giant hitting a big chokeslam for the win.
We next get an in ring "contract signing" with what ends up being Piper and Hogan. Hogan doesn't come out straight away, instead his "power of attorney" sits with the newly turned Eric Bischoff who, smug as shit, is clearly enjoying his new heel role. Hogan and the rest of the NWO soon follow – Hogan, somewhat randomly, tells Piper to lift up his kilt, he does and it reveals quite a nasty looking scar. The segment basically ends with them signing the contract and the NWO getting some shots in on Piper. Could've been a lot more. Ends with Piper sayin "if that's the best you can do, then you're in trouble" - which could apply equally to the show as it could to the attack.
Amazing French Canadians (Jacques Rougeau and Carl Oulette w/ Col Parker) vs Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri)
I'm a fan of the Heat, and Oulette was decent as Jean-Pierre Lafitte – but this really was bad. Incredibly flat crowd, and the wrestlers did try some decent tag team stuff, but it was all so flat. If the Heat win, Sherri gets five minutes with Parker... so the Canadians set up a set of ring steps on top of a table on top of the turnbuckle (yes, really) - Oulette does a senton off of the whole thing but Stevie moves and Booker hits the Harlem Hangover for the heat win. The beatdown by Sherri lasts about two minutes before Rougeau leads him to safety. Heat deserve better than this.
Psicosis vs Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
On the podcasts I'll often speak about matches "in a vacuum" - I.e. if you ignored the crowd then how would you judge a match. This, from a purely in-ring stand-point, wasn't that bad, but the crowd couldn't give a fuck. And this is one of those occasions where you say to the wrestlers "this one is on you for not changing it up". Malenko had a game-plan in the opening five minutes of basically doing groundwork – and nobody cared. It picked up a little, Psicosis hitting a corkscrew moonsault to the outside, and a double reverse tombstone piledriver. Malenko retains with a bridging pin, but this match was really, really bad.
The Outsiders (Kevin Nash and Scott Hall) vs The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags) vs The Faces of Fear (Meng & The Barbarian w/ Jimmy Hart) in a triangle match for the WCW Tag Team Titles
WCW will insist on doing these triangle tag matches, even though they make very little sense. That being said, this was quite entertaining if often very unco-ordinated, with all three teams having a bit of an edge to them. It was a wild match in some respects, all six guys hit quite hard and it was full of that. We got to the preposterous moment where both Nash and Hall got tagged in – the other teams cleared the ring only for Nash to lay down and Hall nearly get a three before the pin was broken up. As bad as that finish would have been, I'm not sure I'd have objected to it – the NWO are massive babyfaces anyway! Of course, we end with intereference, Hall manages to grab the megaphone off off of Hart, and Nash hits a pretty impressive jacknife powerbomb onto Knobbs for the win. I enjoyed it, but suspect many wouldn't.
Arn Anderson, Marcus Bagwell, The Barbarian, Chris Benoit, Big Bubba Rogers, Jack Boot, Bunkhouse Buck, Ciclope, Disco Inferno, Jim Duggan, Bobby Eaton, Mike Enos, Galaxy, Joe Gomez, Jimmy Del Ray, The Giant, Johnny Grunge, Juventud Guerrera, Eddy Guerrero, Scott Hall, Prince Iaukea, Ice Train, Mr. JL, Jeff Jarrett, Chris Jericho, Kenny Kaos, Konnan, Lex Luger, Dean Malenko, Steve McMichael, Meng, Rey Misterio Jr., Hugh Morrus, Kevin Nash, Scott Norton, Carl Ouellet, Diamond Dallas Page, La Parka, Sgt. Craig Pittman, Jim Powers, Robbie Rage, Stevie Ray, Lord Steven Regal, The Renegade, Scotty Riggs, Roadblock, Jacques Rougeau, Tony Rumble, Mark Starr, Rick Steiner, Ron Studd, The Taskmaster, Syxx, Booker T, Squire David Taylor, Ultimo Dragon, Villano IV, Michael Wallstreet, Pez Whatley and Alex Wright in a Three Ring, Sixty Man Over The Top Rope Battle Royal - the winner gets a shot at the WCW World Title.
OK... OK... if you were a member of the WCW roster at this stage, and you hadn't already joined the NWO, chances are they'd given you a reason to be pissed off by them in the past six months. So, in this situation, where the group are constantly out numbering you and stealing your lunch money, would you not, per chance, want an exact of revenge. At all? Even in the seat of existing rivalries, surely in a landscape of us vs them (as was the case the night after, when Eric Bischoff said talent had 30 days to decide which side they were on), you'd take the chance in a match where you outnumber the group 56 to four?
If you were thinking logically, you would. But instead for about 80% of the match the NWO just held their ground, not being attacked or challenged as the rest of the field beat the piss out of each other. In amongst the thousands of hours of wrestling I've seen in my lifetime, it might be the strangest piece of storytelling of them all.
The match, as was the case last year, got the "three way split screen" treatment, making it almost impossible to follow. We saw the Four Horseman and Dungeon of Doom go after each other (despite the fact they both have a common enemy), we had Lee Marshall taking a bump, we think, Ultimo Dragon does a hand-stand on the top rope (why not?) and we eventually get down to the final ten.
Surprise surprise, it's the 4 NWO guys (along with DDP, who's playing them along) and Mysterio, Jarrett, Regal, Luger and Eddie Guerrero. Of course, this doesn’t even work, as we eventually get down to the four NWO guys and Luger (of course we do). Now, my gripes with all of that aside we get an excellent couple of minutes where the crowd come alive at the prospect of Luger going over, as he racks the Giant (briefly) before eliminating Hall and Syxx. He goes to eliminate Nash but Giant throws them both over the top to win the match. Dreadful, but a fun last couple of minutes.
Score Rating: 3/10
Go Back And Watch: You could probably skip the whole thing, the Norfolk Scope is probably the best part.