Wednesday, October 11, 2006

WCW Slamboree (19.05.1996)

WCW was a pretty strange place in 1996. A mediocre 1995 gave way to what was shaping up to be a mediocre 1996 before Eric Bischoff dipped into Ted Turner's deep pockets and snapped up the WWF's top stars Diesel (Kevin Nash) and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) and struck gold with the nWo angle. But before then, WCW was a mish-mash of talented Junior heavyweights (Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Jushin Liger, Eddy Guerrero), the NWA/WCW old guard (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Sting), Hulk Hogan's circle (Hogan, Randy Savage, Brutus Beefcake, Jim Duggan) and anyone with a little name value signed just to spite Vince McMahon (Lex Luger, Public Enemy, The Road Warriors). The early part of the year was pretty much built around the Mega Maniacs (Hogan & Savage) vs. Dungeon of Doom/Horsemen feud and with dire consequences (see Uncensored '96). By May, Hall & Nash were in the bag but still a couple of weeks away from debuting and WCW had a pay-per-view to fill. They did that by wheeling out Dusty Rhodes' old Battle Bowl format for this show.

So the concept is this: On Nitro, 16 teams were drawn and paired off together in eight first round matches. The winners of those matches advance to the second round and are paired off until the four remaining teams go into a battle royal and winner of that gets to call himself Lord Of The Ring and earns a WCW World Title shot. Got that?

Live from Baton Rouge, LA. Hosts are Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Dusty Rhodes with Gene Okerlund and Mike Tenay chipping in at points.

Road Warrior Animal & Booker T. vs. Road Warrior Hawk & Lex Luger

So with the very first match WCW blows the 'random' aspect of the drawing completely out of the water by managing to pair up four guys who have been embroiled in a three-way feud up to this point (Road Warriors vs. Harlem Heat vs. Sting & Luger). Not only that, but they've managed to get the Road Warriors on opposite sides of the ring. Imagine that. Anyway, it's as punchy kicky as youd expect until the Warriors decide to just team up anyway and everyone gets counted out at 6:55 eliminating both teams. DUD

The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. Taskmaster & Chris Benoit

Now, one match with feuding partners and tag teams in the ring together just about stretches the realms of believability, two snaps it without remorse. To reiterate - Public Enemy are a regular tandem, Taskmaster & Benoit hate each other. And the sucky part is you've got the booking mind of Kevin Sullivan, the intensity of Benoit and the ability to do nothing but brawl on the part of Public Enemy so rather than tear the house down tornado style, they get four minutes and forty-four seconds in which they choose to just wrestle. Anyway, Sullivan ends up turning on Benoit and holds him on a table so both members of TPE can crash through it. I really liked the finish and the furthering of the Benoit/Sullivan feud but they didn't have any time to do a meaningful match. 1/2*

Sgt. Craig Pittman & Scott Steiner vs. Rick Steiner & Booty Man

Again, tag team partners are drawn in the same match and this time it's The Steiner Brothers on opposite sides. And really, thats the only portion of the match worth watching as Pittman doesn't really connect with the crowd and Ed Leslie's career is firmly locked at "suck" by this point. The Steiner segment actually gets the people going and they do some amateur stuff to start before busting out the suplexes and Steinerlines. Scotty feigns an injury to cradle Rick in a nice touch but things end as abruptly as they started and Booty Man and Pittman get back in to lower the tone. You know, you've got Pittman and The Steiners who are all noted mat-based amateur wrestlers, then you've got Booty Man who's buddies with Hulk Hogan. No prizes for guessing who goes over then, although at least Rick gets the pin on Pittman with a suplex at 8:21. **1/2

The Blue Bloods (Lord Steven Regal & Squire David Taylor) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & V.K. Wallstreet

Tag team partners drawn in a match together four times running? Come on now. Meanwhile Duggan and Wallstreet had some shitty issue I don't care to recall but suffice to say they don't get along. And of course, Wallstreet won't tag Duggan until Duggan tags him the hard way and nails Taylor with the taped fist for the pin at 3:49. The brief section with Wallstreet and Taylor looked promising, the rest was complete and utter Duggan. 1/4*

Dirty Dick Slater & Earl Robert Eaton vs. Alex Wright & Disco Inferno

About the only match not to feature regular tag team partners and we get Disco and Alex who went on to become tag team champions in 2000 after Alex and General Rection won the titles in Germany. Confused? Welcome to World Championship Wrestling. Hot tag comes shockingly quick and Slater uses the loaded boot on Disco at just 2:56 to advance to the next round. Again, no time meant no chance of a decent match. 1/4*

Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian vs. Meng & Hugh Morrus

Oh look, it's a tag team drawn as opponents again. This time, the mighty Faces of Fear oppose each other and whilst everyone gets points for effort, it's not like the match was any good. The finish has Meng pinning Page and Barbarian pinning Morrus but since Page's leg was under the ropes, only Barbarian's pin counts and they advance at 5:16. I really didn't like how Tony Schiavone knew exactly what the referee's decision was on the stroke of the third count when they should have played up the confusion but it was a shitty finish either way and we'll just be glad to move on. 1/2*

Big Bubba Rogers & Stevie Ray vs. Fire & Ice (Scott Norton & Ice Train)

Well, Stevie Ray and Big Bubba have nothing in common at least. Apart from not being much fun to watch in 1996 anyway. Loads of clotheslines, Rogers and Ray collide, Norton picks up the pin at an earth shattering 3:28. DUD.

Eddie Guerrero & Arn Anderson vs. Ric Flair & Macho Man Randy Savage

Now we're fucking talking! Just take a moment to sit back and consider the quality of the guys in this one. And it's suitably wild as Arn jumps Savage and Flair charges in to help with the assult (he and Savage had been feuding for months at this point) until Eddy intervenes and he and Flair go at it. Flair then nails Savage in the chops with a right constituting a tag and drags Eddy across the ring and forcifully makes him tag Arn so Arn can beat the shit out of Savage some more. This is great. Flair then tags back in and destroys Savage himself so Arn of course brings Eddy back in. Eddy however gets an eyepoke, a dropkick and a tornado DDT so Arn comes in and DDT's his own partner as Savage jumps in and mauls Flair. This is booked like no tag match you've ever seen in your life. Arn takes out Savage leaving Flair to get the pin on Eddy (still down from the DDT) at a heartbreakingly short 4:05. Post-match, Flair brings over Elizabeth who slaps Savage and the Horseman beat him up some more. *** for the booking and the extra carricular stuff like Flair refusing to come out first. I could watch combinations of these four guys all day and it's a damn shame they never put together a Flair & Arn vs. Savage & Guerrero match on Nitro and gave them 20 minutes. Oh well.

- Time to take a break now as we review the first round. Eight matches, not one of them went longer than 8:21. Really, they had it right in 1992 with four matches, the battle royal and a couple of title bouts and everything got time to develop. Here it was just 'cram a bunch of guys together a blow through it in 60 minutes or less'. Anyway, Mean Gene flirts with some Hooters girls and they determine Fire & Ice get the bye into the finals due to the double elimination in the opener.

WCW Cruiserweight Title: Dean Malenko (c) vs. Brad Armstrong

Dusty and Bobby get some funny lines in this one about WCW's Spanish announce team (and they'd cracked me up earlier debating what strategy they would use if they were drawn together as a team) but the best line has to go to Tony Schiavone who talks about the 'gruelling tournament' to crown the first Cruiserweight champion (in reality it was a single match between Shinjiro Ohtani and Chris Benoit in New Japan). Ohtani had lost the belt a couple of weeks previous on Worldwide to Malenko and the title is making it's pay-per-view debut here with Brad Armstrong as the top contender. Quaint beginnigs you might say. Anyway, it's a pretty good match with all the mat work, holds and counter holds on display and at 8:25 it never outstays its welcome but the crowd isn't into it at all it's not particularly flashy or anything. If pro wrestling were a real sport it'd perhaps look like this. Manlenko took this one with an atomic gutbuster. **1/4. Rey Mysterio Jr. was right around the corner to kick some interest into the title at The Great American Bash the very next month.

Dirty Dick Slater & Earl Robert Eaton vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & V.K. Wallstreet

By this point I wasn't really paying attention to the show so much as I was more interested in Phil Schneider's review of No Mercy which pretty much convinced me it was worth seeing. Dave Meltzer's praise of Benoit/Regal had me interested in that match but Phil's review made me realise the whole thing might be worth tracking down. Oh yeah, Duggan and Wallstreet argued some more and Eaton got a roll-up at 4:04.

The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. Ric Flair & Macho Man Randy Savage

Mirroring the Flair situation earlier, Savage doesn't initially come out when his music gets played but this time it's percieved that it's because of the beating he took earlier rather than any kind of ego trip. Flair brings Elizabeth and Woman with him who hand out Savage's money to the crowd which brings 'The Macho Man' charging out and he obliterates Flair in the aisle and the referee just counts them out before the match even starts.

Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian vs. Rick Steiner & The Booty Man

Well now here's the thing. As much slack as WCW deserves for booking the least-random card they could on a show that's supposed to be built round being completely random, at least every match had somewhat of a story and consequently some interest to it. Here, you've just got four guys with no correlation and the result is just weird on paper. Schiavone spends time trying to explain how DDP could get reinstated after losing a retirement match despite not having being bitten by a snake but again, I'm not really paying much attention to this one. Barbarian pins Booty Man after an elbow drop in 5:05. Not a Randy Savage top rope elbow either, just a plain, regular, ordinary elbow drop. I guess Booty Man was completely gassed after working a gruelling 13:26 combined despite the 90 minutes rest in the middle.

United States Championship: Konnan (c) vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

And still they come. This, for those not keeping score, is our 12th match of the night so far not including the Public Enemy vs. Flair & Savage non-encounter. It starts with all the requisité reversals, flips and stand-offs that you'd expect before they build to the hard hitting fisherman busters and powerbombs. Jap-Lucha as we all know of course "rules it" but since we've only got 10 mintes to play with here Konnan on one side of the ring, we wrap it up with a title-retaining Splash Mountain at 9:30 and quietly move on.

8-Man Battle Royal: Scott Norton vs. Ice Train vs. Dirty Dick Slater vs. Earl Robert Eaton vs. Rocco Rock vs. Johnny Grunge vs. Diamond Dallas Page vs. The Barbarian

Winner of this gets a World Title shot. Read that line again then take another look at the participants. Yikes. As is with battle royals, everyone meanders around switching from body to body and punching and choking away. Barbarian dumps Page but the referee misses it and Page sneaks back in. Rocco Rock gets backdropped out by Barbarian then Dick Slater turns on partner-for-the-evening Earl Robert Eaton and knocks him out over the top with his boot. Eaton decks Slater's manager Col. Rob Parker in return and Slater gets dumped and they fight back to the dressing room. DDP dumps Scott Norton to leave the final four at Page, Barbarian, Ice Train and Johnny Grunge. Fearsome. Ice Train dishes out the powerslams but turns on Barbarian after they'd just formed an alliance which gives Page a chance to hit a Diamond Cutter on everyone and that leads to pinfalls on Grunge and Ice Train. Barbarian kicks out. Last two are Page and Barbarian who had been partners all night. Man, those guys were on fire! Barbarian comes a half an inch away from crippling Page on a tombstone piledriver but then misses a diving headbutt and another Diamond Cutter score the pin and the Lord Of The Ring title for Page at 9:36. Considering the meteoric rise Page made, Barbarian must have been kicking himself for not getting the job done on that piledriver. As for the title shot, Page finally got his crack at Halloween Havoc. Not that year's Hallowen Havoc mind, nor the next one but at Halloween Havoc 1998, and even then he had to win the most contrived, nonsensical WarGames match to earn that shot. He lost. ** Match wasn't great but I kinda liked the storyline.

WCW World Heavyweight Championship: The Giant (c) vs. Sting

With just over ten minutes of pay-per-view airtime left, we come to this World Heavyweight Title match, although considering The Giant is in it, about ten minutes is all they need. The somewhat confusing sub-story here is that recent associates Lex Luger (Sting's best friend) and Jimmy Hart (Giant's manager) are handcuffed together at ringside which comes into play later and ends up being pretty weird. Sting it should be noted isn't just here to win the title - he wants to avenge a prior chokeslam through a table that Luger recieved from The Giant on Nitro.

So Sting starts with the hit and move stuff but just bounces off The Giant a few times and Giant's obvious size advantage allows him to take over and he hits the bodyscissors which is hardly the most interesting thing to watch. They head outside where Giant tries to chokeslam Sting through a table (a callback to the Luger chokeslam from Nitro) but Luger sticks Jimmy Hart on the table and Giant backs off. Back in the ring we get a ref bump off a missed Giant dropkick and Sting hits a bunch of no-sold Stinger Splashes. Giant eventually grabs Luger by the throat until a Stinger Splash finally puts Giant down but when Luger falls off the apron, the handcuffs eventually put Jimmy Hart across the top turnbuckles. Sting then decides a Stinger Splash is in order for Hart but Hart avoids that when it looks suspiciously like Luger pulled him out of the way. The weird thing here is that Sting just gets up and splashes Giant as if nothing happened and the announcers make nothing of it but then the referee gets bumped again and Sting hits the Scorpion Deathlock leading to a spot where Luger and Hart fight over Jimmy's megaphone and in doing so, smash Sting in the head with it allowing Giant to get the title retaining pin at 10:40 (making this the longest match of the night). The stupid thing is, they chose to play up the megaphone thing as being dubious (lets face it, it's not like Jimmy Hart was ever going to out-strength Lex Luger) rather than the more subtle turnbuckles thing, and even more confusing was the fact they would continue the is he/isn't he a heel storyline that Luger had all but abandoned in order to go full blown face in time for the impending nWo invasion. Thoroughly baffling booking aside, the match wasn't awful as at least there was constantly something happening. **3/4

- Thoughts: The very embodiment of a 'holding pattern show' with a trifector of title matches in which no titles changed hands and a whole bunch of time dedicated to a tournament which meant absolutely nothing in the long run with the arrival of the New World Order. You can tell from the amount of jobbers used that WCW didn't want any feathers ruffling and things were pretty quiet giving Scott Hall's Nitro walk-out that much more impact and the effect can be seen in the next pay-per-view, The Great American Bash which features a bunch of great matches and a killer angle involving The Outsiders. Some of the stuff on this show wasn't too bad and with everything under ten minutes nothing had time to be particularly great or truly sucky and as a result it was a pretty breezy show, albeit one which felt like a three hour weekend TV squash show. I wouldn't go out of your way to see it, nor would I watch it more than once but it was kinda just there.


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