C Shows on a Sinking Ship: 01.16.99

Here we are, back again to look at the world of WCW in 1999 through the eyes of the companies’ C Shows. First up – WCW Worldwide.

WCW Worldwide

For some reasons that I am completely unaware of, WCW Worldwide is about one and a half weeks behind the action. Thus, this episode is a strange one as it is covering events on the January 4th Nitro. I can only assume there will be a time period when the events sync back up or at least move a little bit closer than they are at the moment.

The big news from the Nitro was ‘The Fingerpoke of Doom’. We get a recap of Miss Elizabeth’s role in the arrest of Goldberg, the match and the aftermath. Now, as I mentioned in my first column looking at these shows, this is often touted as one of the biggest angles in the downfall of WCW. Having never seen the aftermath until this show, I’d argue that it is as detrimental. Goldberg is beaten down, hanfcuffed to the ropes, tazered and spray-painted by the now, the stable assisted by a now-heel Lex Luger. If Goldberg had come out and ran off the now, at least it would leave the fans with a notion that there was a member of WCW who had the NWOs number. Instead, it all just seemed too clinical, too absolute and I didn’t like it at all.

The other notable angle covered on Worldwide is the continued disintegration of the friendship between Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio Jr. This time, during a match with Psychosis and Juventud Guerrera, Kidman mistakenly hits Mysterio with a top rope dropkick leaving him easy prey for a Psychosis legdrop off of the top rope for the pinfall. Whilst the LWO story dies a death around this time due to Eddie’s real-life injuries, this is an interesting little sidestory to the bigger picture of Rey’s reluctant LWO membership. I did like that Pyschosis picked up the pinfall – I’ve always been a sucker for a top rope legdrop.

This week I’m even treated to a couple of matches on the show – lucky me! At the time I committed to this, I didn’t actually realise Worldwide showed any of its own matches, so I can only imagine the type of wrestlers who end up wrestling on Worldwide.

index

Yikes, that says it all.

The first of two matches on the card sees David Sierra vs Lorenzo.Sierra seems to be a guy who was popular in other promotions but is relegated to perpetual job duty, whilst Lorenzo just looks…awful. The crowd do seem to enjoy what he brings to the table to an extent, but a man who has a slam as a finisher THAT HE BOTCHES is never going to amount to anything. Seriously, the slam looks like he fell on him rather than delivering any real impact. There is talk before the match that Lorenzo is a graduate from the Power Plant…this is not a good advert for the Power Plant.

The other match on the show is Mark LaRoux (a pre-Lash Leroux) vs Rick Fuller. What I never realised with WCW was the amount of big, big guys they seemed to have just sitting about on the roster. Factoring in your names such as Nash and The Giant, you have guys like Wrath and Bam Bam, before going even further down to find guys such as Chase Tatum and Rick Fuller. Fuller is at least more entertaining than Lorenzo, and has some decent big man offense. They do seem to be trying to make him an ‘athletic’ big guy, as he hits a spinning kick and a wheel kick, as well as locking in a submission hold. His finisher did make me cringe, as he hit a ‘twisting piledriver’ as the commentators called it, though it is basically a jumping tombstone that looked very unsafe. LaRoux bumps well and does very little else.

WCW Saturday Night

The opening match of the night sees the aforementioned Wrath versus Barry Horowitz. I’d argue that there is very little that sums up WCW at this time better than the fact that they signed Barry Horowitz to a contract. Don’t get me wrong, I like him, but the fact that he was still peddling his wares in WCW at this time just bemuses me. To be fair, he does bring a lot to this match/extended squash, as he tries to schoolboy Wrath, hits him with a reverse elbow off of the second rope and nails him with some goofy, baseball-esque wind-up punches. The ending is inevitable though, with Wrath using the excellent Meltdown for the victory. The big debate is whether he can use the move to defeat Bam Bam Bigelow, whom he will face at Souled/Out.

Oh, David Sierra, why do I get the feeling I will be subjected to more of your matches than I could have ever imagined doing this column? Considering the man lost to Lorenzo, it is unsurprising when he also gets defeated by Chad Fortune. It feels as if Sierra attracts the bad finishes as well, as Fortune’s finisher starts as a side-slam style setup before dropping back into a russian legsweep style move – whatever it is, it looks poor. Fortune is just lanky looking and doesn’t excite me in the slightest.

We see clips from Nitro now, with Ric Flair disbanding the LWO. There is also footage of the Flair and Flair brawling with Perfect and Windham just in time to setup their match at Souled/Out. Finally, we see Konnan seemingly kicked out of the NWO as the stable take exception to his interruption of Luger’s in-ring beatdown of Rey Mysterio.

The action in the ring is short and sweet as Mike Tolbert faces a returning Meng. Meng locks on the Tongan Death Grip within a minute and is victorious. Outside of how oddly muscular Tolbert looks, nothing really to discuss.

The shortness of the last match could only be to make way for a Konnan interview where he promises to beat Luger at Souled/Out. He also calls the members of the NWO ‘strawberries’, which is a new one by me. Further action from Nitro sees the build-up to the Bam Bam/Wrath match, as Wrath interferes in a match between Bigelow and Scott Hall. We are already starting to see the overkill of angles/interference within even mid-card matches, and this is no exception. Not only does Wrath interfere, Disco Inferno does as well, handing Hall the stun stick, which is used to counter Bigelow’s attempts at nailing Greetings From Asbury Park. Hall picks up the victory and Bigelow seeks revenge at the PPV.

Speaking of Disco, he is the next man to hit the ring as he takes on Jeff Warner. A strangely structured match, Warner has control for the majority of it but is often tentative with his offense and doesn’t look very comfortable. Disco fights back but is quickly shut down. However, a missed dropkick from Warner leaves him open to the Chartbuster and a loss to Disco. As (arguably) boring as Disco is in terms of his ringwork, he is hard to dislike due to how hard he tries to make the gimmick work.

After an NWO interview from Nitro where Hogan brings down the Hells Angels as back up, we get the long awaited rematch between… Chris Adams and Chip Minton. Yes, I don’t know why they are bothering either. Even stranger, but Chris Adams is wearing a gi to the ring. In the first match, Minton got the underdog victory with a big splash, so Adams is looking to get revenge. Even better than this being a rematch of a feud time forgot, but Chip Minton is actually a former US bobsledder who uses his fifth place at the Olympics as his heel schtick, blaming the other men for not winning the gold. The match is short, disjointed but surprisingly OK. Minton is bland but athletic, and Adams looks stupid in a gi but can wrestle. Feeding into the wearing of the gi/return to his roots, Adams nails the superkick but then wraps Minton in an arm/neck submission for the tapout victory.

More Nitro footage as we see Ric Flair torment Eric Bischoff on his first day with Flair as the new boss, and Kevin Nash using a wrench to hit The Giant and defeat him for the three count. If I am able to fully understand the ramifications of this match, I believe that leaves Nash as the ‘NWOs Giant’.

Just before the main event of the evening, we see the battle of the blands as Scotty Riggs, newly liberated from the Flock, faces Scott Putski. I’m impressed at how Putski looks, in as much as he doesn’t look as if he might explode like he did when he was in the WWF. The commentator’s big discussion point is Riggs’ eye, which has miraculously healed now that there is no need for him to be in the Flock. A fine, if a little boring, match, Riggs wins with the fivearm (that some people still call it this is, in itself, very worrying).

In the main event of the evening, we see a tag team match that is not in the tag team tournament, as Bobby Eaton and Kenny Kaos meet Bobby Duncum Jr and Mike Enos. The match is decent enough, with a couple of wrestlers who bring the experience and a couple who bring the power moves and strength. Particularly impressive is Enos nailing a slam after capturing a leapfrogging Kaos. The end is strange though, as Robbie Rage heads down to the ring to scope out his previous partner, Kaos. At no point does Kaos see Rage, Duncum Jr. hits a legdrop on Kaos and the ref counts to three, even though it appears there was a kick out before his hand hit the mat for the third time. Even Duncum Jr. looked confused by the outcome, so it could only really be a botched finish.

This episode just proved to highlight to me how big the roster WCW worked with was at this time. Though I’m sure some of these guys were on shorter contracts or paid per appearance, the fact that they could fill their show with a raft of different guys that wouldn’t even sniff the rarefied air of Nitro is impressive. I’ll gladly take a few more matches with Meng whilst I’m at it as well.

C Shows On A Sinking Ship – 01.09.99

Oh, for the days that there was a definite contender to WWE’s monopolistic hold on the world of wrestling. TNA has consistently failed to deliver, whilst arguably New Japan are the closest with their moves into the American TV and streaming markets. However, they are some way off of the juggernaut that Vince created.

This wasn’t always the case. For most of the late 90s, WCW had offered more than just token competition – indeed in 1997 and 1998 they habitually defeated WWE in the TV ratings. By the end of 1998 though, the competition was much more even – stars such as Steve Austin, The Rock and Mankind and feuds like Austin vs McMahon helping WWE to begin to push back against WCWs control of the TV ratings, mostly off of the back of the exciting NWO stable and subsequent storylines stemming from the heel turn of Hulk Hogan and the fight for WCWs survival.

At the end of 1998, WCW were visibly wobbling – the lingering taste of the missed opportunity at the previous year’s Starrcade (when Sting finally met Hogan) followed up by a continued mismanagement of the biggest commodities that WCW had to offer. The NWO was watered down with many B and even C-level players added, whilst Ric Flair ended up bogged down in a feud with the head honcho of the NWO, Eric Bischoff.

The one silver lining to a difficult year was the continued development of Bill Goldberg, a man who entered the twelfth month of the year undefeated and the WCW Champion. He moved merchandise, the fans loved him and he was the crown jewel of WCW’s developmental system. He was the one man who could conceivably keep WCW’s challenge for the top promotion in wrestling afloat.

So, naturally, he lost the title and his undefeated streak to Kevin Nash at the final PPV of the year.

This might not have been the end of the world, but to then have Nash drop the title to Hulk Hogan on the next Nitro, a Hulk Hogan who had recently voiced his desire to run for President, via a fingerpoke, has often been cited as the single event where WCW ‘jumped the shark’. The belt was devalued by the angle and an old and arguably stale Hogan was once more the number one man in the company.

At the beginning of 1999, WCW were still competitive – by 2001, they’d been sold off to WWE, two years of mismanagement at all levels putting paid to a company who had ruled the Monday Night Wars for prolonged periods.

The plan for this column going forward is to look at WCW in 1999 through the C shows of Worldwide and Saturday Night. Worldwide was a recap show with occasional exclusives, which should focus on the main event players, the big feuds, and keep me abreast of what is going on on Nitro and Thunder on a week by week basis. Saturday Night was a strange beast. A much bigger deal in the infant days of WCW, it had been reduced to a show that has become celebrated as much for the range of wrestlers and the oddity of some of the matches than anything else. The Worldwide summaries will be short looks at what was happening at the top of the card; Saturday Night, a little more involved.

WCW Worldwide

Having a summary show looking at events from 13 days previous is a bizarre decision, but that is what we see with the second Worldwide of the year (I skipped the first shows for both due to them being End of the Year/Goldberg retrospectives, respectively). All the events of the show took place on the last Nitro of the year, which is a fair way back for a show that’s main job is to keep people up to date with what is going on in the promotion.

The big news is Ric Flair defeating Eric Bischoff the night after losing to him at the PPV. In victory, Ric Flair has control of WCW for the next 90 days. As a way of appeasing the fans after the Goldberg defeat, this seems like a good choice, but as always it will depend on where WCW choose to go with it. The next PPV match of Ric Flair and David Flair vs Barry Windham and Curt Hennig doesn’t exactly fill me with hope. The match from Nitro is shown in full on Worldwide and we see what I assume is the return of the Macho Man, ambling down to the ring with an NWO shirt on whilst a full scale brawl is occurring at ringside between WCW/Horsemen and the NWO. He nails Eric Bischoff, thus allowing Ric Flair to pick up the victory.

The other two events of note from Worldwide this week sees Scott Steiner winning the WCW TV Title from Konnan (again, the night after the PPV and just a day after Konnan defeated Jericho to win it) and Eddie Guerrero and Juventud Guerrero defeating Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman. This is at the tail end of the LWO angle, a car accident that by this point had already taken place putting Eddie Guerrero out of action for most of the year. What was shown of the match looked good, and Eddie won after a collision between Mysterio and Kidman left Kidman to be frog splashed. Whilst it was a touch of overkill to have a third World Order stable at this time, it would have been interesting to see where the angle was due to go, Mysterio’s reluctant membership the key issue that drove this storyline forward.

WCW Saturday Night

As I don’t want to spoil the matches for myself, I’ve limited the research aspect at times so that I get to watch the matches/feuds unfold with untainted eyes. However, that puts me in a position where I’m not always one hundred percent sure of what is going on with belts and feuds. On Nitro, a tournament for the WCW Tag Team Titles was announced, and we are promised two matches from the tournament tonight. Kenny Kaos and Rick Steiner had been the champions, but I am led to believe that Rick Steiner was injured and forced to vacate the title.

A lot of the action on Saturday Night can be of the squash match variety, so won’t need much expanding upon unless entirely necessary. The first match of the night saw Bam Bam Bigelow defeating Al Green, a man who is ‘famous’ for being an early tag partner of Kevin Nash. This is already indicative of the type of people who pop up on Saturday Night, as Al Green had had a moderately successful run in WCW in 1992, yet was picked up once again by the promotion for no real reason. Unsurprisingly, the match is short, and a Greetings From Asbury Park is enough to pick up the win. Bam Bam Bigelow looked in pretty good shape here.

Backstage, we see why Kenny Kaos is generally kept away from a microphone as he asks Bobby Eaton to be his tag partner in the tournament. Kaos effectively suggests that Bobby is over the hill which is always the way you want to endear yourself to someone. I love Bobby Eaton, but he is also a guy who just looks dated. He accepts the invite, and we have one of our teams for later tonight.

The Armstrongs were up next, an easy victory over Nick Dinsmore and Mike Sullivan. The only thing of note here is that The Armstrongs get mic time, verbalising their disgust about how they were looked over for the WCW Tag Team Title tournament. I can’t imagine the tournament misses them much – bland, bland and more bland.

Bobby Blaze and Bobby Duncum Jr. win the next two matches on the card, defeating Dave Burkhead and Bull Payne respectively. Blaze excites me in no way, shape or form outside of his offensively purple leotard, and Duncum Jr. is just a stereotypical Texan gimmick, though incredibly rough around the edges. I can imagine him being fun to watch in the right setting; unfortunately, a short match against Bull Payne wasn’t it.

I’ll be honest that when I was young, I thought that Glacier was a cool gimmick and generally enjoyed what I remembered of him in the ring. In hindsight, he wasn’t very good and the gimmick and subsequent feuds were rubbish, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for him. Lash LeRoux is in his pre-MIA days and is pretty much just a jobber at this time. He brings the fight more than any of the opposition so far, but it is only a short matter of time before Glacier nails the Cryonic Kick, before using the Ice Pick submission to win – clearly an attempt to make his finisher more heelish in nature. Considering the cost of his entrance, I’m surprised they do the whole lights/snow show on the C show.

Ric Flair and David Flair are interviewed by Mean Gene in a break between fights, and all we really learn is why Ric Flair is a legend and David Flair is barely remembered. Even the ten second window in which David speaks is tedious, especially after impassioned (if pointless) mic work from Ric.

The Gambler fights Chase Tatum in the next match of the night. Chase Tatum is a name I vaguely recognise, but since I did watch WCW during this time, the fact that I don’t remember him gracing Thunder or Nitro speaks volumes. He is ripped to shreds though, so I can only assume that they expected a lot out of him as he looks impressive. What is even more impressive (at least from a kayfabe standpoint) is that he finishes the Gambler in thirty seconds, a modified Fire Thunder Bomb getting him the victory.

Things seem like they are about to pick up in the next match, as Fit Finlay and David Taylor bring an element of style to proceedings, facing off against Tough Tom and Mean Mike of Disorderly Conduct (…hideous names. Just hideous.). Luckily, the majority of the match sees Finlay and Taylor control the match, with just the odd hope spot for Tom and Mike. Finlay especially is great to watch in action, as there is no wasted motion and violence in every move. A butterfly suplex into a pin from Taylor is enough to see the better team go through in the tournament.

Things have picked up ever since the British (and Irish) contingent have hit the show and this trend continues as Norman Smiley accepts Barry Darsow’s putting challenge (a sentence I never thought I’d write). As he gets ready to take his shot, Chavo Guerrero Jr. attacks him, knocking him out of the ring and chasing him to the back. Seemingly, Smiley attacked Pepe, thus angering Chavo. Darsow’s gimmick is stupid, but does get some easy heat, especially when he uses the ‘Quiet’ placards before setting up the shot.

In the last match before the main event, Steve McMichael defeated Sgt Buddy Lee Parker with the tombstone piledriver. It’d be too easy to focus on the joke of McMichael being a member of the Four Horsemen, so I might as well also highlight how bad his punches are and how his spinebuster is a travesty.

It is almost upsetting watching Bobby Eaton tag with Kenny Kaos in the main event against Silver King and La Parka. The match is pretty ho-hum, but there are moments where you can see how thrown together the team is – a tag which was supposed to lead to a double team ending up in an odd reversal with the new man never getting involved being one of them. Even the luchadores are at it, as Silver King gets Kaos in the ring to distract the referee, only to not really do anything with this advantage. Eventually, the match turns on La Parka’s fetish for chairs, as he nails Silver King by mistake which allows Kaos to tag in Eaton. Eaton, with the one classy touch of the match, nails the Alabama Jam and wins the match.

I look forward to my time spent with Saturday Night – it seems to be the place where I can see random gimmicks, tag teams and feuds played out. Whether the wrestling itself will be any good is another story.