– Okay, so here’s the deal: Much like my King of the Ring 95 rant, I felt unsatisfied with my original rant for this show that I did in 1997 (even though it was plugged by Rick Scaia during the days of Online Onslaught) and so I decided to rewatch the show and update my notes, and subsequently the rant, for a more modern perspective. As well, the original show was rated using the Hot Poker up the Ass rating system, which was cited by some as being too difficult to use as an objective ratings source. So here’s some of the original, mixed in with some new stuff, along with times and star ratings and more up to date comments. Enjoy.
– Live from Las Vegas, Nevada.
– Your hosts are Schiavone, Heenan and Dusty.
– Opening match: Yuji Nagata v. Ultimo Dragon. Remember a few years ago some video game company releasing a bio-feedback bodysuit for fighting games? That’s what Nagata’s outfit looked like. This was probably one of the dumbest choices for a feud in 1997, because Nagata is a heavyweight and Dragon is a cruiserweight. A knee used to block the handspring elbow is a nice touch from Nagata. Nasty kicks, too. Nagata works on the shoulder, then applies a sort of figure four to further the damage. Oy vay. Hey, Yuji, the arm is ATTACHED TO THE SHOULDER. Just thought you might like to know. Finally, he hits the Herb Kunze armbar for the tap out at 9;47, which is a pretty bad ending and didn’t fit with the flow of the match. Still, good match otherwise. ***1/2
– Gedo v. Chris Jericho. For those of you not acquainted with the finer points of my tastes in Japanese wrestling, let’s just say I hate Gedo’s guts and wish he was dead and leave it at that. He was nice enough to chop off his dumbass Don King hairdo for this match, but the jumpsuit remains, in fashionable banana yellow. Tenay scares the hell out of me by suggesting that WCW was interested in bringing Jado and Fuyiki over to join Gedo. DEAR GOD, NO! Tenay also annoys me by reminding everyone that Gedo got unfairly pushed to the finals of the 1995 Super J Cup, losing to Jushin Liger, but not before single-handedly dragging the entire show down a notch. Standard Gedo v. Jericho WAR match here, with the only notable bit being Jericho blowing a top rope rana so badly that I’m surprised (and a little disappointed) that he didn’t break Gedo’s neck and retire him forever. To give you an idea, the announcers note that Gedo has a love for 1970’s style southern brawling, and compare him to Dusty Rhodes. Yes, he’s THAT BAD. Liontamer gets the submission at 7:16. Match was good. ***1/4
– Cruiserweight title, mask v. title: Eddy Guerrero v. Rey Mysterio Jr. Rey has his “SLAM EVIL!” alternate costume tonight. Big heel heat for Eddy here. Good fast sequence to start, with Rey mistiming a highspot and Eddy covering by bumping him onto the floor. Eddy springboards in and hits some stiff shots. Rey with a dropkick and Eddy blocks a handspring with a backdrop suplex and a jackhammerish move for two. Tilt-a-whirl gets two. Eddy goes for an abdominal stretch and turns it into a nasty pumphandle backbreaker. Ee-yow! It gets two. Eddy applies a knucklelock and gets a few twos. Rey fights up and goes into a springboard DDT. Dropkick sends Eddy to the floor, but Eddy thinks ahead of him and dodges the highspot. Brawling on the floor. Back in and Eddy rips at the mask while in a rear chinlock. Gory Special is reversed into an armdrag, so Eddy dropkicks him in the face and into another submission move. Flying elbow gets two. Rey is in the Tree of Woe, and Eddy gleefully charges, but misses and crotches himself. Rey hits a plancha as Eddy bails. Back in, and Rey snaps off a rana for two. Headscissors puts Eddy on the floor again, and Rey follows with a somersault plancha. Back in, and Rey hits a corkscrew moonsault for two. Moonsault #2 hits the knees and Eddy nearly KILLS him with a powerbomb. He misses a blind charge and Rey comes back with the rana, but gets caught with a backbreaker. Blown spot, but I can forgive it. Frog splash misses, and they head to the top and fight over a superplex. Eddy maneuvers into Splash Mountain, but Rey reverses to the rana for the pin at 13:49 for the title. Whew. ***** I still liked Hell in a Cell better for emotional impact and heat, but this was the better pure match.
– Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan do a soundbite where Hogan threatens not to wrestle until WCW can guarantee Sting won’t be in the building. This is stupid on many levels.
– Steve MacMichael v. Alex Wright. Bill Goldberg comes out as Debra distracts the referee and gives Alex the win. Okay, that’s not exactly how it happened. It was more like Debra walks around the ring and the referee wanders over for no good reason and starts yapping at her. She *then* jumps onto the apron and “distracts” the referee. Bill wanders in, takes 15 or 20 seconds readying himself, clips MacMichael (nearly knocking over the referee), then does the JackHammer not two feet away from the referee. The referee glanced over his shoulder *twice* and clearly saw what was going on. Then Goldberg picks up Wright, heaves him onto MacMichael, and finally leaves just before the ref turns around. This was SO STUPID. The announcers spend the entirety of the match talking about Hogan v. Piper later. Match ran 6:30. DUD
– Disco Inferno v. Jacqueline. I was pretty pissed off about the match back in 1997, but with all the crap that has gone on in wrestling since then, I’ve mellowed to it. The match is still a horrible abomination, and Jackie isn’t just a bad female wrestler, she’s a bad wrestler period. But now I can just view it as the crappy match it is, rather than a personal offense. Jackie gets the pin off a cradle at 9:39, 9:00 of which was stalling. DUD
– US title match: Curt Hennig v. Ric Flair (US title). Hennig takes the Pillman bump to the railing. Hennig’s oversell of the chops is glorious to see, back when Curt gave a damn. Hennig works the knee very well, too. The announcers are STILL talking about the main event. Match kinda drags, however, so it’s excusable. The belt (which was the CRUISERWEIGHT belt, by the way, instead of the US belt) gets involved, and Flair uses it for the DQ at 13:55. A very watchable watch ruined by another screwjob ending. **1/4
– Scott Hall v. Lex Luger. Oh, lord. Why do you test me so? Just to sum up this whole match, there’s a spot where Scott Hall is holding both of Luger’s wrists behind Luger’s back, in a surfboard move. Luger goes behind and reverses it, but Hall is STILL HOLDING LUGER’S WRISTS. Uh, Scott, why don’t you just LET GO OF HIS WRISTS? It was that bad, folks. Ending #1: Lex does his obligatory 3 offensive moves in succession (in this case, an atomic drop done 3 times) and goes for the rack, but Syxx comes in and misses a kick to the head (which Lex sells anyway) and allows Scott to hit the Outsider Edge and get the (very reluctant) pin from Larry Z at 12:38. But Larry demands instant replay, and match starts again. Luger gets Hall in the rack 5 seconds later, Syxx runs in, DQ. I think. No decision was announced. Bischoff runs in and takes out Zbyszko, just to continue making himself look better than every wrestler, announcer and referee in his whole company. Utter waste of 20 minutes. *
– Las Vegas Death Match: DDP v. Randy Savage. DDP has suddenly acquired some sort of padding taped to his ribs here. They go into the crowd and do basically nothing. They hit each other with styrofoam props and sell it. Kimberly comes out and drags Liz back to the dressing room by the hair in a pointless spot that would have been much improved by them ripping each other’s clothes off and falling into a conveniently placed tub of jello. Neither girl is seen again after they go back to the dressing room. Ref takes a bump as DDP hits the Diamond Cutter, then Fake Sting #2939B (aka Hulk Hogan) comes out (even the announcers aren’t buying it this time), hits DDP with the bat and the referee wakes up and counts DDP out at 18:05. I enjoyed this MUCH more on second viewing. ****
– “Main” event: Roddy Piper v. Hulk Hogan (non-title). Not only was the match bad, but they couldn’t even decide on the rules. They spent most of the match fighting to get out of the cage like in a WWF style match, but at one point both guys walked out the door and fought outside the cage. Then when they got back in, they fought to get out again. They spend 40% of the match hanging from the cage in some form. Hulk gets the advantage, the ref comes in to count the pin, Piper kicks out. Sleeper, Piper wins at 13:14. I guess WCW’s thinking was that everyone is going to buy Starrcade anyway, so who cares if the World champ is made to look foolish by Piper two months beforehand? Savage lept off the top of the cage in a spot that would have been cooler had the cage not been so high up and far away from the ring that he would have needed a tracking system to actually hit Piper from where he jumped from. Hogan and Savage handcuff Piper to the cage, some fake Stings run in, a fan runs in and the Megapowers beat him up too, show over. Huh? -**
The Bottom Line: I brutalized this show on first viewing, but after two years of perspective, this is really quite an enjoyable show with an amazing FOUR matches at *** or better, and two of them at **** or better. Even with the nWo bullshit, you can’t really ask much more than that.
I’m reversing my original thumbs down and going thumbs up for this one.