1990: The Year in Wrestling (WCW)
As Tradition Dies Slowly:
The year was 1990, and WCW was coming off of the greatest year that they had ever experienced. 1989 saw Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat light arenas across the country on fire with their epic marathon matches. 1989 saw Sting and the Great Muta engage in a feud that people are still clamoring about to this day. 1989 saw Lex Luger continue his rise to prominence, feuding on and off with both Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. 1989 saw Terry Funk break Ric Flair’s neck, putting the wheels in motion for one of the greatest feuds ever. And 1989 saw WCW earn legions of new fans through one thing, and one thing only: blood, sweat, and tears.
While the year may have been the most memorable year in World Championship Wrestling history, to say that 1989 was perfect for WCW would be a far stretch from the truth. Jim Herd was positioned as the top man in WCW, despite knowing very little about the wrestling industry. His efforts were commendable, and he was a visionary in many aspects, but he did make mistakes. A great example of a ‘mistake’ of his would be the tag team of the Ding-Dongs. The premise was simple… Take two men, put them in full body tights and masks, cover them with bells, and watch the fans go crazy. In theory, two grown men in full body condoms loudly ringing bells for what seemed to be an eternity really is a GOLDEN idea, but reality doesn’t always mirror said theory.
One thing that Jim Herd did do though correctly though was to bring in hot young talent and try to create new stars. Names like Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, and Scott Steiner all fell into this category of Herd-recruited talent, but due to the ever smart-friendly “backstage politics,” most of the young talent was prevented from ascending the ladder in an almost pre-death WCWish fashion. As the old saying goes, those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, and WCW’s refusal to recognize past mistakes hammered the final nail into their own coffin a decade later.
While Jim Herd’s accomplishments were many, he didn’t always get along with the “boys” very well. One man in particular did NOT see eye to eye with Jim Herd regarding many facets of the company’s operation. This man just so happened to be the company’s number one man and one of the only reasons that the NWA was still in business… Ric Flair. To say Herd was not particularly fond of Ric Flair would be like saying that Missy Hyatt occasionally slept with one of the “boys.” Herd felt that Flair was much too old to still be a draw, despite the fact that Flair was clearly putting FIVE TIMES as many asses in the seats as guys like Lex Luger, Sting, and The Steiners, especially in states like the Carolinas, Georgia, Jacksonville, and other historically rich cities in regards to the NWA. Jim Herd went as far as to suggest that Ric Flair should job cleanly to Rick Steiner for the World Title in less than THIRTY SECONDS.
After coming off of a SCORCHING 1989, Jim Herd recognized the need to bring in someone to help stir the creative juices back up. That man proved to be Ole Anderson. Ole was a tremendous wrestler throughout the years, but Ole had a very poor track record as a booker, nearly running Georgia Championship Wrestling into the ground in a time period in which a trained chimp with basic word processor skills could have made the company a success. Despite this fact, Jim Herd had enough confidence in Ole Anderson to move him into a position of booking prominence right around Christmas of 1989. This decision, as we’re about to see, proved to be a very, very bad choice.
1990 was a troubled, bumpy year for the NWA. After a very successful 1989, it was time for major changes. Two changes in particular sent shockwaves through the NWA which are still felt to this day. The first major change was Ole Anderson being *cue smart theme* “given the book.” Anderson showed a general ineptitude so ridiculously out of touch with reality that it almost single-handedly caused WCW to go headfirst into a downward spiral that nearly put them out of business in 1992.
The second major change in 1990 came in the form of a new name. The National Wrestling Alliance was slowly transformed into World Championship Wrestling upon the request of Jim Herd and Ted Turner. The National Wrestling Alliance was far from what it’s original carnation was meant to be. The NWA was formed as a way of uniting the dozens upon dozens of smaller regional territories and creating a single touring World Champion that each territory would recognize. The NWA as it was created in the late 1940’s was nothing more than a group of promoters and a board of directors to oversee the Alliance. It wasn’t a promotion, but just a collection of promoters. Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and Georgia Championship Wrestling, two territories who were both active members of the National Wrestling Alliance, basically came together and started operating under the NWA banner, when in actually the “NWA” itself was never intended to have a single wrestler under contract or promote a single card. WCW soon broke all major ties with the NWA, severing the National Wrestling Alliance’s recognition of WCW’s World titles as being NWA titles. Enough about that though, let’s get back to Ole Anderson’s sick fetish for sending any given promotion straight down the toilet creatively…
The first major angle in WCW in the early months of 1990 was the re-emergence of the Four Horseman as a viable unit and a serious threat to any title that stood in their way. Headed as always by Ric Flair, this newest incarnation of the Horseman tried something a little bit different… a babyface run. Flair, joined by the newly returning (from a brief stint in the WWF) Arn Anderson, and old henchmen Ole Anderson reformed the powerful nucleus which had the made the Horseman as successful as they had been over the years. They needed a fourth man to fill in the fourth spot, and NO ONE was hotter in WCW at the time than Sting. Sting was recruited into the Horseman to put the group over the top on the babyface scale.
While in theory a babyface Horseman might be a good, workable idea, it was clear that Flair and the Andersons were at the absolute top of their games as hated, bitter heels, doing everything in their power to keep the World Title on Flair. A Horseman heel turn was meticulously planned, which would all culminate with Flair FINALLY losing the World Title to Sting at Wrestlewar ‘ 90 in Greensboro, South Carolina.
The Horseman heel turn was hinted at as early as Starrcade 89, when Sting pinned Ric Flair in the finals of the tragically mediocre “Future Shock” tournament. Sting was so elated with his victory over fellow Horseman Ric Flair that he humbly asked for a shot at Flair’s title. This did NOT sit well with the Horseman. WCW used it’s Saturday night TBS program to tease tension amongst the Horsemen and Sting, but for the time being, everything appeared to be all fine and well. This leads us into the Sting-Horseman blowout, which nearly ended in real-life disaster and caused a dramatic overnight change in WCW’s short-term booking when Sting was seriously injured to the point that he needed major reconstructive surgery. We’ll take a look at the events which caused this injury at the tenth installment of the CLASSIC Clash of the Champions series.
Clash of the Champions X – “Texas Shootout”
Date: February 6th, 1990.
Venue: Corpus Christi, TX (Memorial Coliseum).
Attendance: 3,000 ($30,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (4.5)
Events of Importance: All in all, this was quite possibly the weakest Clash of the Champions show that WCW had produced up until this point. A terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE falls count anywhere match between Kevin Sullivan and Norman the Lunatic ended with a silly bathroom finish, upsetting many loyal NWA fans who chose the NWA over the WWF so that they could avoid seeing silly things such as Norman the Lunatic emerging from the bathroom with a toilet seat over his head. Also on this card, Cactus Jack wrestled a six minute “classic” with Mil Mascaras. That’s not what’s important about the “Texas Shootout” though.
Two memorable events took place in the later half of this live broadcast. The first notable event was the unmasking of Doom due to a loss in a titles vs. mask match with the Steiner Brothers. While the identity of the two masked men was FAR from a secret, it was buzzworthy none the less. While I’m sure no one watching at home assumed that it was Bill Cosby or Whoopi Goldberg behind the masks, it was still a pleasant surprise to see Butch Reed and Ron Simmons remove their masks under heavy protest. Doom was an AMAZING power team, and a tag team that doesn’t get NEARLY the credit they deserve when tag team wrestling is discussed in casual social settings (which I honestly hope it isn’t).
The second, and much wider reaching, note of significance from Clash X was the injury of Sting. Early in the broadcast, Terry Funk conducted an interview with the Four Horseman. Ole and Arn were BREATHING FIRE in this interview and basically came close to reducing Sting to tears before giving him an ultimatum: Withdraw his request for a shot at Flair’s title or get his ass out of the Horseman. Sting had a few choice words for Ole which landed him a VINTAGE Horseman beatdown. Were the numbers fair you ask ? Of course not, this is the Horsemen we’re talking about, and 3-on-1 assaults are what they’re all about. That’s why they were so damn awesome to watch. They could do it on their own, but they seemed to take such joy and pride in DISMEMBERING the company’s top babyface right in front of the babyface’s biggest fans. God bless these guys. No one since has come close to drawing the same genuine heel heat that these guys have and I don’t see anyone on the horizon capable of doing so for a long, long time either.
In the main event of the broadcast, the three remaining members of the Horseman took on Gary Hart’s team of the Great Muta, Dragon Master, and Buzz Sawyer. This, in typical Ole Anderson fashion, lacks any real kind of reasoning, as six of the company’s top heels do battle in a cage match, as the crowd wonders who exactly to cheer and who exactly to boo. Luckily, things turned out OK though, as the crowd was still so incredibly pissed at the Horseman that they took to cheering Gary Hart’s team like they were 1986’s Hulk Hogan. A truly incredible sight to see. The match itself was nothing to write home about, barely pushing five minutes and basically just used as a springboard to set up a Sting run in… and run in Sting did. Sting was still selling the injuries from the MASSIVE beatdown he received earlier in the evening, but he still managed to come sprinting towards the ring to gain a measure of revenge and build some momentum heading into his big shot at Flair’s title at WrestleWar. Things unfortunately did not go according to plan. On his second attempt to enter the cage, Sting fell from the cage when Security was trying to pull him down. Sting came down extremely awkwardly on his knee, tearing his ligament badly and putting him on the shelf for nearly six months. For reasons which seem to make little to no sense to an objective third party, Ric Flair was blamed for the injury of Sting…
With the Clash of the Champions out of the way and Sting on the shelf for many, many months, the obvious decision was made to make the best of a bad situation and plug a familiar Flair foe (and on-camera friend of Sting), Lex Luger, into the equation. Luger was set to take the place of Sting in the main event of Wrestlewar 1990, but up until the very moment the bell sounded, there was a massive POWER STRUGGLE over the outcome of the Flair-Luger match. With that being said, let’s take a look at WCW’s first PPV of 1990, Wrestlewar 1990 – “Wild Thing.”
WrestleWar 1990 – “Wild Thing”
Date: February 25th, 1990.
Venue: Greensboro Coliseum (SC).
Attendance: 9,894 ($100,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.6)
Wrestlewar 1990 came to the American public LIVE from the Greensboro Coliseum in front of a legitimately packed house. The crowd was rabid throughout the evening and the buzz for the main event was at a legitimate “fever pitch.” Nothing of major substance happened during the undercard with the exception of a notable matchup between the Rock N’ Roll Express and the Midnight Express. Both teams put on their usual amazing match, with the Rock N’ Roll Express actually going over for once in the NWA.
While things appeared uneventful in front of the camera at Wrestlewar 1990, things were really heating up behind the camera. Ole Anderson, who was carrying his own personal grudges against Flair for various reasons, wanted Flair to do the job cleanly to Lex Luger, passing on the torch and leaving the NWA or accepting a far lesser role. Flair did not feel that Luger was ready for the World Title and wanted to hold onto the belt until Sting was healthy enough to wrest it from him. Tempers flared before the last minute decision was made to have the match end in a VERY unsatisfying countout. Luger and Flair went out and had the match of a lifetime for 40 straight minutes before the screwy ending took effect. For the first half an hour, Lex Luger proved why he was worthy of the hype surrounding him and Ric Flair simply proved what everyone else already knew… the fact that he is the greatest wrestler in the history of the world. Both men traded HAMMERS before Sting made his way towards the ring on crutches to lend moral support to his buddy Lex Luger. As Sting cheered Luger on from the outside, the Horsemen snuck up behind him and began threatening the injured “Stinger.” Sting refused to back down, and things eventually broke down. Luger had Flair positioned in the torture rack while the referee was KO’d, and Flair was screaming like a a baby that he submitted as the crowd EXPLODED. Luger made the decision though to leave Flair and save Sting. Awwwww, friends 4EVER!!!! Luger was counted out for his efforts, and the crowd went home PISSED. I would tend to agree. If I invest thirty dollars and FORTY minutes in a wrestling match, I damn well want some form of a payoff for that time and money spent. Oh well, it turned out for the best I guess…
The Flair-Luger feud continued well into the Spring of 1990 as things continued to stalemate, with Ole Anderson trying to take the title off of Flair, but Flair refusing to job to Luger because he didn’t feel that he was ready to be given the company to carry on his back. For the first time since Ole was given the book to run with, his approach and attitude were starting to be questioned. In another scene scarily reminiscent of pre-death WCW, Ole Anderson pushed the veterans and buried the up-and-comers. Ole Anderson felt that the young new crop of talent that Jim Herd had brought in and signed to long term deals were both overpaid and under talented. Ole tried to show the door to some of the younger guys (like Pillman and the Z-Man) by jobbing them out over and over and over and OVER. Names such as the JunkYard Dog, Ivan Kolloff, and the Iron Sheik, who had seen their better days YEARS ago, were brought in to be pushed to the moon due to the perceived “loyalty” that Ole felt that they had. Keep this in mind as we jump forward to WCW’s next big PPV, Capital Combat.
Capital Combat 1990 – “The Return of Robocop”
Date: May 19th, 1990.
Venue: Washington, DC (DC Armory).
Attendance: 7,500 ($98,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.4)
Capital Combat, the first event in which Ole Anderson was given FULL control of the book, was a disaster creatively in every sense of the term. This event featured what was without a doubt one of the single STUPIDEST movie-to-wrestling tie-ins in the history of the business. “Robocop,” a mediocre sci-fi movie about a robotic police officer, was making waves in the American box office, so the higher-ups in WCW decided that he was a natural choice to bring in for their big rasslin’ show. Only three words could be used to describe what followed: stupid, Stupid, STUPID.
Early on in the broadcast, an injured Sting hobbled to the ring for an interview. Out of nowhere, the Four Horseman emerged from the dressing room and started beating the hell out of the “Stinger.” The Horseman were not content to just pummel Sting in the abdomen though, they had something much, MUCH more insidious in mind. Double A and Sid cast Sting into a large black cage which was inexplicably sitting in the middle of the ramp way. What next you ask ??? Well, that’s basically it. There’s only so much you can do when your enemy is locked in an immovable black cage, so they basically just kinda gave him dirty looks. Just when things appeared at their bleakest for the Stinger, a hero emerged. Seemingly out of nowhere, “Robocop” (a b-grade actor in a cheap Robocop Outfit) emerged from the backstage area to defend the non-robotic honor of Sting. In one of the most tragically ridiculous moments in NWA/WCW history, the late Gordon Solie, widely considered the greatest play-by-play man in wrestling history, half-heartedly sold the menacing force that this costumed adult was, while the Four Horsemen, wrestling’s most feared heel stable EVER, ran for their lives from the decidedly plastic vigilante. Robocop removed the door to the cage WITH HIS BARE HANDS and proceeded to cast an evil, yet surprisingly friendly, glance in the general direction of the Horseman. There’s a reason that this doesn’t appear on any of the “best of WCW” comps that RF video is selling in all of their squiggly glory (only $80 a tape, SIGN ME UP!!!).
Anyway, despite the nonsense that was Robocop, this show was actually surprisingly good overall and featured some excellent matches. The undercard of Capital Combat had some STUNNING tag team action, showcasing just how strong WCW’s tag division was at this point in time. WCW’s tag team division at the time was the strongest tag division in the history of our sport and featured no less than five of the greatest tag teams in HISTORY. The Road Warriors, Midnight Express, Rock N’ Roll Express, Steiner Brothers, and Doom were all at their absolute pinnacle at this point in time. Tag teams like the Freebirds, Tom Zenk & Brian Pillman, and the SkyScrapers (in their various incarnations) were also tearing up the tag team ranks. Two tag title changes occurred at Capital Combat, and both were amazing matches. The Midnight Express fought a classic high-flying, quick-paced matchup with Zenk and Pillman, winning the U.S. Tag Team titles in the process. Doom also fought an epic battle with the Steiners, winning the World Tag Team Titles.
The main event of Capital Combat was another CLASSIC Luger-Flair match, taking place within the confines of a steel cage that would put the Hell in a Cell cage to shame. WCW used a GIGANTIC cage which covered most of ringside and slanted inwards at the top to insure that no one could climb over the top and escape. This is the same cage that would be used at the next two Halloween Havocs and for various other “Thundercage” matches. The cage was designed to keep Flair and Luger inside and the Horsemen OUT of the cage. The match was announced as No-DQ to insure a definite, fair winner. Backstage politics again came into play, with Ole demanding that Flair drop the title and Flair scoffing at the idea. At zero-hour it was decided to go with yet ANOTHER unsatisfying bullshit ending so that no one would have to job. Luger and Flair fought an EPIC thirty minute battle inside of the cage that I still recall to this day almost move-for-move. How did the match end you ask ??? The Horsemen stormed the ring, the cage mysteriously raised, and Barry Windham (fresh off of a return from the WWF) hit Luger over the head to end the match in a DQ. How could there be a DQ in a no-DQ match you ask ??? Well, your guess is as good as mine. The crowd was PISSED yet again, and we basically saw the feud end here without a blowoff of any sort. Good job Ole!! Keep em’ coming!!!
With the Luger-Flair feud seemingly over for the time being, Ole Anderson still needed something for Ric Flair to do for the next two months until Sting was ready to return and capture the title. With no one in the company over enough as a babyface (with the exception of then-heel Sid Vicious) to justify plugging them into a two-month run with the champ, Ole Anderson made the decision to develop a babyface stable to feud with the Horsemen for the next ten weeks. The result: The Dudes with Attitudes, the poorly named (and poorly received) friends of Sting who longed to gain revenge on the Horsemen for their wrong doings. The Steiner Brothers, JYD, and Paul Orndorf made up the team of “fan favorites” who’s house show matches with the Horsemen drew about as well as Bobo Brazil in South Georgia.
The culmination of this silly feud took place at the eleventh installment of the Clash of the Champions. The Junk Yard Dog challenged Ric Flair to a matchup for the title and what resulted was a match that many on the net claim to be the poorest match of the Nature Boy’s career. It really was THAT bad. The winner: JYD by DQ. The losers: Ric Flair, The Horsemen’s credibility, and every single person watching at home. The Neilson rating (along with recent poor house show attendance) showed that the angle generated about as much fan interest as a Power and Glory reunion. A quick painless look at Clash XI:
Clash of the Champions XI – “Coastal Crush”
Date: June 13th, 1990.
Venue: Charleston, SC (McAlister Fieldhouse).
Attendance: 4,100 (Gate N/A)
Cable Rating: (4.1)
Quick Summary: Once again, the only thing saving this show was a couple of amazing tag matches. The Rock N’ Roll Express added another CLASSIC match to their long list of classics with the Midnight Express, and the Steiners did the same with Doom. The rest of the card was weak at best, atrocious at worst. Lex Luger went over the biggest babyface in the company, Sid, in 26 seconds, and as previously mentioned, JYD and Ric Flair put on a match so bad that it made PN News against Black Blood look like Brisco/Funk.
After months upon months of directionless dawdling by WCW, Sting was finally ready to return. Sting’s return couldn’t have come a moment sooner, but unfortunately, this wasn’t the same Sting that had left WCW nearly six months earlier, as his knee injury severely hampered his high-flying style that had made him so popular throughout the last year two years. What followed is a match that should have happened a full year earlier, but still managed to deliver. Now, we’ll be taking a look at Great American Bash 1990: “New Revolution.” The subtitle of the event is strangely ironic, as Ole Anderson’s preference for bringing in and pushing old timers reached an all time high at this PPV. Dutch Mantell, The Iron Sheik, Buddy Landell, JYD, Paul Orndorf, Harley Race, and Tommy Rich all competed at this PPV, and most went over their younger opponents. One squash in particular ended up turning half of the locker room on Ole Anderson.
Great American Bash 1990 – “New Revolution”
Date: July 7th, 1990.
Venue: Baltimore Arena (MD).
Attendance: 10,000 ($150,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.7)
As previously mentioned, the combined age of the wrestlers involved in the undercard of this event was approximately one bajillion years old. That’s pretty old, if I may say so myself. As much fun as it is to watch a near sixty year old Harley Race prance around in short-shorts, it just didn’t save the undercard from being complete and total shit. Only two matches saved the undercard from being a complete waste of time and resources, and as you may have guessed, those two matches were tag matches. The Midnight Express battled the Young Guns in front of one of the hottest live crowds that I have EVER seen. The Baltimore fans were just blowing the roof off of the building for every single BREATHE that the Midnights took. The other tag match in question was a classic between Doom and the Rock N’ Roll Express. The match was incredible on it’s own, but even more importantly, this was the final match that Gibson and Morton would have together in the same capacity in the NWA, as Gibson went down shortly after this match with an arm injury. The Rock N’ Roll Express were one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history, and this was certainly a great swan song for them to sing.
One match in particular at Great American Bash ’90 figuratively represented everything that was wrong with Ole Anderson’s booking. Ole tried time and time again to job out the younger stars in hopes of them getting frustrated and leaving the company, and their considerable contracts, behind. The Z-Man always seemed to be a victim of this de-push, and tonight was no different. The Z-Man was set to have a ten minute match with the debuting Big Van Vader, who was of course the man who would come to be known as “Vader” due to legal issues over the name stemming from Japan. Vader was to pulverize the Z-Man for two or three minutes, followed by a heroic Z-Man comeback which would end when Vader reversed one of Z-Man’s moves into a powerbomb for the pin. Big Van Vader made his way to the ring, complete with smoking elephant mask which scared the SHIT out of the ringside children (and myself at the time). Everything was going according to plan, with Vader pummeling Z-Man for two and a half straight minutes. Right when it was time for the Z-Man to make his comeback, Ole called for the finish. Vader had no choice but to powerbomb the Z-Man and put the exclamation point on a zero-offense SQUASH of the Z-Man. This pissed MANY wrestlers in the back off, leading to a small exodus of talent several months later.
The Main Event: (tips his hat to Carlos).
The massive Sting-Flair showdown was finally upon us, and this was definitely a match that the (wrestling) world had been waiting for for a very, very long time. The show did a pretty strong buyrate as well, being ordered by over a quarter of a million households in a time when PPV was just a burgeoning experiment. The match itself was strong, but perhaps failed to live up to the hopes of those expecting another classic along the same lines as their famous time limit draw at the first ever Clash of the Champions. Nevertheless, Sting won the title to a MASSIVE pop in a “four star” match that went about fifteen minutes and sent the Baltimore crowd home VERY happy. As Sting made his way up the rampway after winning the title, a giant lit up portrait of the Stinger descended from the ceiling as fireworks shot from it’s eyes and mouth. A VERY cool visual and an apt ending to the two year pursuit of the title by Sting.
Fall 1990: The Rise of the Scorpion.
With Sting’s coronation at the Great American Bash came the ending of the greatest era in the history of the NWA. From the mid-80’s, through the heyday of the Horseman in the late 80’s, to the greatest year any wrestling promotion has ever experienced in 1989, to the epic battles that 1990 saw between Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Ricky Steamboat, and Sting, the NWA took us all on the ride of a lifetime and battled head-to-head with the WWF in a time period when the perception of competition was a taboo subject by both companies. As unfortunate as it is, the old saying tends to ring true time and time again…
All Good Things
From this point forward, WCW started it’s gradual transition from old-school mentality to new-school “sports entertainment.” What followed was what will undoubtedly go down in history as the single worst angle in the history of the wrestling: The Black Scorpion.
While the myth of the Scorpion has been beaten to death by just about every major site on the ‘net, there’s no way that we can’t delve just a little bit deeper into the monstrosity known as “Ole’s booking.” Here’s how it happened…
The Legend of the Black Scorpion
The days following the Great American Bash were a mixed bag for WCW. While they were elated to have the title on the hottest young wrestler their roster had seen for years, they were also well aware of the fact that a babyface champion needed credible heel threats in order to be taken seriously. This, coupled with the fact that Sting’s initial house show tours as the champion didn’t quite draw the numbers that WCW was expecting, pushed Ole Anderson to concoct an idea so poorly conceived and so TERRIBLY enacted that it ultimately ending up costing him his job and his good name.
Shortly after the Great American Bash PPV, a mysteriously masked wrestler appeared and began giving creepy monologues directed towards Sting. Each week, a vignette of the Black Scorpion would air, and each week it would be more over the top than the week preceding it. The Scorpion would appear each week in a dark cloudy room and give a long soliloquy to Sting. Each week the promos would get more and more bizarre. The Black Scorpion claimed to be a figure from Sting’s past, and made repeated threats towards Sting. They weren’t your everyday threats though, not from the Scorpion. They were the always family-friendly death threats. Such gems as “Stingggggggggggg…. Sid Vicious….. he wants your title…. I….. I want your LIFE” and the always appropriate “Prepare to die Sting,” rattled the airwaves as long time wrestling fans turned their heads in shame from the nonsense that was the Black Scorpion.
All over the wrestling world, the true identity of the Black Scorpion was hotly debated. Everyone from the Ultimate Warrior to Scott Wolf was believed to be the man behind the mask, but there was only one problem: Ole overlooked one minor issue… He had NO ONE to plug into the role of the Black Scorpion. Ok, so let’s review shall we… Ole goes on television each week with a voice box and gives promos as the Scorpion, making more and more obscure references each week and narrowing down the true identity further and further. Ole makes statements like “Remember California… in ’86” and doesn’t even take the time to say, “Hmmm, who’s this guy gonna be.” Strannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnge booking to say the least.
With interracial Scorpion sightings increasing by the day, WCW needed one final PPV to hype the big blowoff match between Sting and the Scorpion at Starrcade. Halloween Havoc was this PPV. With no real challenger present to face the Stinger, Ole Anderson decided to go with Sid Vicious in the main event of the match. There was only one problem: no man could afford a clean loss. Ole decided to go ahead with the match anyway, leading to yet ANOTHER ridiculous finish which pushed hardcore WCW fans further and further away from the product.
Halloween Havoc 1990 – “Terror Rules the Ring”
Date: October 27th, 1990.
Venue: Chicago, IL (UIC Pavillion).
Attendance: 8,000 ($115,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.3)
The undercard of Halloween Havoc was hit and miss, with a handful of excellent matches and a truckload of shit. We’ll go against the grain of the internet wrestling community and focus on the GOOD instead of the bad. Yes guys, it IS acceptable to say, “You know what, I really enjoyed that.”
The Good: Four matches on this card really excelled. To the rough surprise of absolutely NO ONE, three of those matches were tag matches. These matches were: The Midnight Express (in their FINAL televised match together) vs. Tommy Rich and Ricky Morton, The Steiners vs. The Nasty Boys for the U.S. Tag belts in a match that is still talked about today, and Doom vs. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson for the WCW Tag Titles. Lex Luger and Stan Hanson also put on one hell of a matchup, with Hanson winning the US title and ending the 18 MONTH title reign of Luger.
Come On Ole, Screw us Again!!!
In the main event of Halloween Havoc 1990, Sting and Sid fought a solid, back-and-forth match that would have sent the crowd home ELATED had it been given a… you know… FINISH. Ole continued with his time-honored trend of f*cking over the paying costumer by coming up with yet ANOTHER gem of an ending… a FAKE STING. Towards the end of the match, Sid (for no apparent reason) ran towards the backstage area. Sting, not content with a countout win, sprinted towards the back several minutes later. For a few seconds, both wrestlers were out of the line of sight of the audience in attendance. Moments later, both men emerged from behind the curtain, only something was … different. Sting, looking to have gained thirty pounds and gotten exponentially uglier over the course of FOUR SECONDS, falls over attempting a body slam attempt and Sid makes the cover. No kick-out is attempted by Sting and Sid gets the three count to become the new WCW World Champion. The crowd pops HUGE. But wait… The REAL Sting emerges from the dressing room with a lasso tied around his arms. Those zany Horseman must have TIED HIM UP, and then… ready for this… PAINTED BARRY WINDHAM’s FACE TO LOOK LIKE STING. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HOW HEINOUS!!! The real Sting gets a fluke roll-up on Sid and wins the match, sending the crowd home confused and irate. If you’re gonna have Sting pin Sid at the end anyway, why bother with the STUPID fake Sting. This is another one of those angles that will go down in booking infamy.
The legend of the Scorpion continued to get stranger as time passed, eventually culminating in some ridiculously asinine stuff so hokey that it can’t go unmentioned. With this, we press forward to the November edition of the hot TBS series, The Clash of the Champions.
Clash of the Champions XIII – “Thanksgiving Thunder”
Date: November 20th, 1990.
Venue: Jacksonville, FL (Jax Coliseum)
Attendance: 5,000 ($36,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (4.2)
Booking Hell has one name and one name only: Clash of the Champions XIII. NOTHING on this show even mildly passes as “wrestling.” This particular edition of the once great Clash of the Champions series featured TWELVE matches, with only ONE match on the entire card breaking the five minute mark. The Steiners, Lex Luger, and Sid all had matches which barely pushed TWO MINUTES. The booking was so inane, so asinine, and so nonsensical at this point that it was almost like a bad dream. The company’s biggest draws and hottest young stars were either feuding with ridiculous opponents or being squashed by older “stars” who needed to oil their joints before even entering the ring. Brian Pillman, the company’s most promising young star, was feuding with BUDDY LANDELL. What kind of “rub” has Buddy Landell ever given to ANYONE ? Anyway, things took a turn from bad to downright embarrassing in a matter of minutes. The culprit ??? You guess correctly: The Black Scorpion.
The Third Grade Magic Show Heard Round The World:
Sting was set to be interviewed early into the broadcast, discussing his upcoming Starrcade match with The Black Scorpion. As Sting was set to be interviewed though, the Scorpion’s voice mysteriously appeared over the arena’s loudspeakers. Sting was threatened heavily, with the Scorpion claiming that the worst was yet to come tonight. How ironically, yet sadly true that very statement would prove to be.
Later on into the broadcast, Paul E Dangerously came out to once again interview Sting. This is where things turn laughably bad. The Scorpion emerges from the crowd, donning a black mask and a long black cape. Does the Scorpion attack Sting you ask ??? Of course not silly mark. Does the Scorpion try to steal Sting’s title belt ??? Don’t be ridiculous. The Scorpion has something FAR more insidious up his sleeve. Our friend the Scorpion snatches a “terrified” member of the crowd and sits him down in a chair. As the man looks on helplessly and “frightened,” The Scorpion takes a MAGIC BOX out of his sac of tricks and places it on the man’s head. What does he do you ask ??? He spins the man’s head in circles of course!!! After the trick is complete, the kids clap, the man laughs, and the Black Scorpion makes balloon animals for the kids. Actually, after the trick is completed, the audience laughs and Sting does a questionable (at best) acting job in conveying the extreme terror that the cheaply costumed magician turned wrestler has instilled in his heart.
While the last trick was awe-inspiring in every sense of the word, the Black Scorpion is FAR from a one-trick pony. What he had in store next for our friend with the twisted head was far more malicious… far more insipid… and far more asinine. The Scorpion proceeded to walk over to a nearby ANIMAL CAGE that had been MAGICALLY sitting near the ramp for the entire broadcast. Why no one questioned the exact logistics of having an ANIMAL CAGE at ringside early on in the show is beyond me, but let’s face it, it was probably MUCH better that way. The Scorpion held the hand of the lucky audience member and placed him inside of the conveniently placed ANIMAL CAGE. The curtain was drawn upwards, rapid movement was seen behind the curtain, as if to hint that something MAGICAL was going on, and then the curtain dropped, revealing a TIGER in the place of the man. OOOOOOOOOOH………….. MYSTICAL.
The Scorpion cast one more decidedly SPOOKY look in the direction of the champ before jumping into the cage, pulling the curtain, and disappearing himself.
This was it: Zero Hour. Starrcade 1990 was upon WCW, with still no suitable Scorpion in site. It’s hard to imagine just how strange this whole situation was. WCW had been building and hyping a match between Sting and the mysterious Black Scorpion for nearly SIX MONTHS, with the final blowoff just days away, yet they have NO IDEA who’s going to be the Black Scorpion. With judgement day upon them, Ole Anderson and Jim Herd were forced to do the last thing on earth that they wanted to do: Beg Ric Flair to bail them out once again. Flair was NOT happy about the situation and felt that the angle would further do what Herd and Anderson had been attempting for the better part of the year: bury Ric Flair. Nevertheless, Flair did what was right for the company. Flair did what his promotion needed him to do. Ric Flair took a hit for the team. Flair was promised a title reign in return, and the wheels were set in motion for WCW’s biggest PPV of the calendar year… Starrcade.
Starrcade 1990 – “Collision Course”
Date: December 16th, 1990.
Venue: St Louis, MO (Kiel Auditorium).
Attendance: 7,200 ($93,425 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.3)
Ahhhhhhh yes, the grand blowoff to the Sting-Scorpion feud and one of the worst Starrcades ever. Let’s fondly recall the glorious final days of Ole Anderson’s booking career.
Starrcade ’90 was memorable for three reasons, and three reasons only.
1. The tragically mediocre Pat O’ Conner Memorial International Tag Team Tournament, featuring tag teams from the U.S. (Steiners), Africa, Mexico (Konnan and Rey Misterio Sr.), England (Norman Smiley and Chris Adams), Japan (Great Muta and Mr. Saito), New Zealand (Rip Morgan and Jack Victory), Canada, and the USSR. To the best of my knowledge, not ONE match in the entire tag tournament managed to break the five minute mark, with many matches ending before they even began. While in theory the tournament was a good idea, it really doesn’t make sense to bring in a dozens of foreign stars and job them out to eachother (and ultimately the US) just to add credibility to a tag team that was already the most credible tag team in the WORLD at that point (the Steiner Brothers). Oh well, the tournament failed to showcase the reasonable amount of international talent that was brought in TO BE SHOWCASED, but it was quick and painless, ending with the Steiner’s being coronated as the Pat O’ Conner Memorial Champions.
2. An AMAZING Chicago Street Fight between the heel teams of Doom and the Horseman. The match was originally slated to be Doom against the team of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, but when Flair was called to play the part of the Scorpion, Windham was plugged into Flair’s place, making it even more obvious who the Scorpion was going to be. Nevertheless, all four men beat the HELL out of eachother for almost ten minutes, and in process put on one of the BEST “street fight” matches that I have ever seen. All four men sported torn jeans, taped fists, and take-no-prisoners attitudes, pounding each other unmercilessly with belts, chairs, and fists. If you can find this tape cheap, get it for this match alone.
3. The final blowoff between Sting and the Black Scorpion. Worse than could ever be imagined. The live crowd did not buy it for ONE second, especially after the match introductions. Sting made his way to the ring slowly and more methodically than he had ever done before, obviously looking a little shaken up by the masked magician. How did the Scorpion get to the ring you ask ??? Silly mark, he got to the ring in a FLYING SPACESHIP of course. In a scene so ridiculous that WCW has edited it out of the commercial releases of Starrcade 90, four CARDBOARD UFO’S lowered from the ceiling of the once sacred Kiel Auditorium. After the four crudely spraypainted space vessels fell from the ceiling, THE MOTHER SHIP emerged from the entranceway, carrying none other than the REAL BLACK SCORPION. As the steel cage locked behind both men, one of the worst main events in the history of WCW’s big show was set to begin. The match was pretty one-sided, with the Scorpion getting his ass kicked all over the ring and managing to oh-so-subtly perform EVERY SINGLE Ric Flair trademark spot. Sting eventually pinned the Scorpion following a cross body block off the top rope. As Sting attempted to unmask the Black Scorpion, several other Black Scorpions climbed the cage to attack Sting. As Sting battled the imposter scorpions, Arn Anderson and Barry Windham rushed the ring to lock the cage, trapping Sting inside with five hungry masked men. Seemingly out of nowhere, Sting casually rips the mask off of the real Black Scorpion, revealing Ric Flair was behind the magic tricks all along. That guy!!!!!!!
1990 was a transitional year for WCW, moving out of it’s traditional role of catering to the hardcore “wrestling” fans and venturing more into the realm of “sports entertainment.” Several months later, Bill Watts would try to reverse that trend, but it would prove to be irreversible. America was ready to move away from the perception that wrestling was a true sporting event in favor of flashier presentation, crazier storylines, and a robotic claw that would soon begin opening up each WCW broadcast for some strange reason. What does a robotic claw have to do with wrestling ??? Oh well, some questions must always remain unanswered…
In conclusion, we’ll give out awards for the year of 1991, in the five main categories.. Also helping with the awards is my twin brother, and fellow 411 columnist, Jay Bower. The envelope please….
The Year in Wrestling Awards
Wrestler of the Year: Ric Flair
No one man has carried an entire promotion on his back like Ric Flair has throughout the years, and 1990 was the perfect example of that claim. In a year when Jim Herd felt that Ric Flair was much too old to be wrestling, let alone main-eventing, Flair saved the company time and time again, pulling out INCREDIBLE matches with people who weren’t even in his LEAGUE. Flair was the MAN in 1990. From his two near ***** matches with Lex Luger to begin the year, to his outstanding and unselfish loss to Sting at the Great American Bash, to his epic tag team matches against Doom, to his making the ultimate sacrifice for the company in which he worked by agreeing to be humiliated at Starrcade, Ric Flair HELD the company high in the air, refusing to let the promotion that he loved suffer. NO ONE will ever be half the man Ric Flair was and is, and that’s the bottom line.
Jay’s Pick: Sting
Yes, a decision that would no doubt get me stoned at a “smart” father & son picnic, but I stick by it. Yes, Ric Flair did have an exceptional year, wrestle near perfect matches with everyone he faced and bail the company out yet again at Starrcade !990. But, in 1989 Ric Flair could have possibly had the best year (matches, feuds and overall effectiveness) that any wrestler has had in history. While 1990 was a good year for Flair, I think looking back on it, most of us would call it the year of Sting. Crippled by injuries, bad descion makers telling him what to do, and horrible storyline after horrible storyline, Sting still managed to make the best out of everything he did, perform amazingly against some real goofs, and maintain his popularity. It’s hard for a face to be an effective champion when the lack of main event heels is so horrible that the bookers had to invent someone without any knowledge of who they were going to plug into the spot. Sting did his part, the NWA didn’t, and for that reason he shouldn’t be overlooked as the Wrestler of the Year.
Tag Team of the Year: The Steiner Brothers.
This was by far the toughest decision to make. The Midnight Express were my first choice for sentimental reasons, but they just didn’t accomplish as much as the Steiners did in 1990. The same goes for Doom, The Rock N’ Roll Express, The Freebirds, and the Road Warriors. The Steiners used 1990 to cement their place in wrestling as the number one tag-team in the WORLD. With the exception of the Midnight Express in the mid-to-late 80’s, no tag team has ever come even close to duplicating the level of precision, excellence, and success that the Steiners did in 1990.
Jay’s Pick: The Steiner Brothers
Another difficult choice with Doom and The Steiner Brothers both having blowaway years. The Steiners were consistently better in the ring than Doom and meshed better in action with the other members of the roster. The Steiners also closed the year out by winning the *prestigious* tag team tournament at Starrcade and made the Nasty Boys look so good at Halloween Havoc that Vince McMahon immediately signed them.
Feud of the Year: Ric Flair vs. Sting.
While Ric Flair’s feud with Lex Luger produced far better matches, Flair’s feud with Sting was the feud that defined WCW in 1990. Ric Flair vs. Sting was a match that was a full year and a half in the making, and was to WCW what Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior was to the WWF one year later. When Sting finally won the title, it was a culmination of almost three years of chasing the title, dating back to their first ever match, and a match that will go down in the history books as the match that MADE Sting: their 45 minute time limit draw at the first ever Clash of the Champions.
Jay’s Pick: Sting vs. The Black Scorpion
Yet another difficult choice as Flair’s feud with Luger neverreally got any momentum behind it and Sting’s feud with Ric Flair was so choppy due to Sting’s injury, the goofy involvement of Robocop and the “Dudes with Attitude”. Basically, when people think of 1990, they thing of Starrcade and the single biggest laughing stock of the decade, the Black Scorpion. If it was anyone else besides a masked man who traveled in cardboard UFO’s and turned fans into zoo animals in the program with Sting, it might not have been too bad given the amount of time it was built for. Starrcade, with a relatively weak undercard, popped a decent enough buyrate as people truly were curious to see who the Scorpion was, so I suppose the Sting/Scorpion feud takes it* by default.
*Anderson’s Note: Damn Marks..”
Event of the Year: Capital Combat. It’s hard to believe that an event featuring the stupidity known as “Robocop vs. The Four Horseman” could win for Event of the Year, but aside from the asinine movie tie-ins, this show was INCREDIBLE. The best match of Lex Luger’s career, coupled with four of the best tag teams in history showing why they deserve that honor (Midnight Express vs. Zenk & Pillman, Doom vs. Steiners) in two high-impact matches which resulted in title changes, make this the easy choice for WCW’s event of the year in 1990.
Jay’s Pick: Capital Combat
Three amazing tag matches, a quality main event and some very watchable filler, who could ask for more
Match of the Year: Ric Flair vs. Lex Luger (Capital Combat).
One of my favorite matches of all time, and easily the best match of Lex Luger’s career. For over half an hour, Ric Flair and Lex Luger put on one of the greatest cage matches that I have ever seen. Had it been given a better finish, the match would have EASILY been a five-star classic, but this is as close to that as you can possibly get, despite the screwy finish. I’ll never forget the visuals that this match provided as a younger kid: Flair climbing the cage to try to escape… The daunting image of the inward sloped cage… Flair bleeding like I’ve never seen anyone bleed…. and the image of Lex Luger standing in the middle of the ring with Ric Flair locked in the torture rack. Flair had NOWHERE to go, was bleeding like an animal, and was screaming for his life. Meanwhile, as the referee is asking Flair if he submits and the crowd is blowing the ROOF off of the building, me and my twin brother Jay are standing and jumping in the middle of our bedroom, knowing that Flair’s title reign was seconds away from coming to an end. Despite the fact that the match ended in a cheap DQ, that doesn’t take away from what this match was: one of the greatest matches of the modern-wrestling era.
Jay’s Pick: The Midnight Express vs. the Southern Boys
Well friends, I guess that brings us to the end of the first installment EVER of “The Year in Wrestling.” Look for minor changes to take place over the next few installments, as I’m still trying to find the perfect format and style. Please, please, PLEASE try to drop me a line
and let me know what you thought of the first installment, both positive and negative, and also any changes that you think would benefit the column. I’m also looking for suggestions for future columns, so if you’ve got a particular year and promotion you’d like to see covered, drop me an email
. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me since day one at 411Wrestling. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year already. Hope you guys have an awesome, SAFE fourth of July, and I’ll be seeing you real soon with the next edition of The Year in Wrestling.