The Way Too Long Review of History of the World Heavyweight Championship: Disc Two

So we’re back with more World Heavyweight Title matches.  Some of the choices in disc two are VERY questionable.  We shall see if my hunch that the quality is about to nose-dive is correct.

Match #7: WCW Championship
(c) Ric Flair vs. Scott Steiner
1/30/91 Clash of the Champions XIV

Ooooh, random!  This match was set up to build to WrestleWar ’91’s War Games match.  Scotty had caught on like few expected a tag wrestler to do, to the point where a lot of people thought this could be a title change.  His ahead-of-it’s-time move set and incredible look made him appear to be the answer to Hulk Hogan that the NWA had wanted from David Von Erich and Magnum TA until fate intervened.  But that was the NWA.  This was Ted Turner’s corporate wrestling where nobody could figure out what they wanted.  Sting had bombed as champion and the title went back to Flair, but the damage done during Sting’s reign thanks to Ole Anderson’s horrible booking had lingered and now Flair was thought to be washed up as a draw.  If this had been under the old board of directors system, I have no doubt that Scott Steiner or Lex Luger would have been given the title.  How the NWA never found its Hulk Hogan is beyond me.  They had so many options, some of which were undoubtedly better then David Von Erich or Magnum TA.  But that’s a discussion for another time.

Meanwhile, Jim Herd and Ric Flair were not on good terms here.  Herd wanted Flair to cut his hair, get his ear pierced, and change his name to Spartacus.  I shit you not.  I’m talking full gladiator garb and everything.  Flair refused, but ended up getting his hair cut and looked like a huge douchebag as a result.  According to Scott Steiner, Herd was dropping subtle hints that he could shoot on Flair and take the title if he so desired and would not get in any trouble as a result.  You can take anything Scott Steiner says with a grain of salt, but various other guys from the era who dealt with Herd said that he would ask questions about the ‘old days’ when guys didn’t always follow the script, so the possibility is there that Herd wanted to have his own version of Montreal at some point.  That said, knowing Steiner’s character in and out of the ring, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t jump at the chance when it was handed to him.

A different version of the story is that Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes both asked Scott if he wanted the title and he declined because he didn’t want to break up his tag team, and because he thought Rick’s place in the company would be in danger if he was made a singles champion.  That was an old chestnut that circled the internet beginning around 1996.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s not true.  If Steiner had been offered the title, he would have taken it.  Besides, what better way to insure your brother’s continued employment then the clout of being the World Champion?  The Steiners were only the US Tag Champions at this point and Rick had several nagging injuries that he could have taken time off to heal while Scott had a run with the World Title in preparation for whoever could replace Flair as the new super heel of the company.    The idea that they wanted to fire Rick Steiner at the time was a half-truth.  In reality, they only wanted to cut his contract.  The reason being his workrate had dropped off a cliff and he had a habit of injuring people intentionally.  Mick Foley wrote in his first book that Rick Steiner intentionally gave him a concussion out of some paranoid fear that Foley was trying to go into business for himself during a match.  And Mick wasn’t alone either.  Steiner’s body count was sickening, and many guys suffered career-altering injuries because Rick was a raging, insecure asshole.

And of course, nobody saw dollar signs in Rick.  His look was very bland, he was terrible on the stick, and in singles matches he always looked lost.  Scott, on the other hand, was on fire.  He had the look, personality, and progressive moveset to be a major star.  Despite what the internet will have you believe, these guys weren’t exactly thick as thieves.  Tales of them having screaming matches are legendary.  I find it hard to believe that Scott Steiner would say no to being the next big thing when his brother was to the point where he was barely mobile and on his last legs politically.  More then likely, the story was made up and meant to be ironic because Scott ended up with a career-threatening injury to his arm shortly after this match.  “Oh the irony, he turned down the World Title and then he destroyed his arm weeks later.”  I don’t get why people have to make up those stories.  Irony pops up all the time.  David Von Erich and Magnum T.A. for example or Owen Hart as the Blue Blazer who was going to take the IC title the night he died.  Why make up shit like Eddie Guerrero winning the World Title the day he died or Scott Steiner winning the title here but turning it down and getting injured weeks later.  Ugh.  Patience, people.  Irony will come along.  It always does.

To the match.  Flair struts around and jaws with the fans, then fires off a muscle pose to Steiner.  Well, that was silly considering how much more buff Steiner was.  Lockup and a shoot-off leads to Steiner hitting a shoulderblock.  Lockup and Steiner fires off a fireman’s carry.  Steiner tries to lock up but Flair is on the ropes and we’re forced to break.  Lockup and Steiner grabs a headlock.  Flair tries for a top-wristlock but Steiner muscles him down with little resistance and Flair bails to the ropes.  Flair teases a test of strength but instead kicks Steiner and takes him to the corner.  Steiner reverses a whip to the corner and backdrops Flair, then fires off a sideslam for two.  Flair is freaked out and bails.  Back in, Flair backs into the corner and acts scared to lock up.  He turns Steiner into the corner and chops the shit out of Steiner, with one being loud enough to pop the crowd pretty good.  Shoot-off and Flair hits a shoulderblock, then bounces off the ropes and runs into a hiplock and an armdrag into an armbar.  Flair ends up in the ropes and Steiner breaks clean.  Lockup and they trade hammerlocks, and then Steiner takes him down to the mat.  Flair breaks free and bails again.

Back in, Ric goes for a knucklelock, but Steiner gets the muscle on it.  Flair kicks away to escape and whips Steiner to the corner, but Steiner explodes out with a clothesline.  Same spot as the Sting match.  To those who bitch at Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels for using the same spots every match, look no further then Ric Flair.  Of course, it’s not what you do but how you do it.  And Ric could repeat his spots better then most.  Flair gets to the apron where Steiner suplexes him back in for two.  Both guys end up on the floor where Steiner grabs another knucklelock.  He takes Flair to the corner and mounts a ten-punch.  Flair turns this into an atomic drop.  Flair dumps Scott through the ropes, but Steiner lands on his feet and fires off a sunset flip, which Flair blocks with a punch.  Jesus Christ, two straight matches that are carbon copies of spots from the Magnum TA match.  I’m not going to score against it, but come on WWE, watch the fucking matches and save this stuff that’s a little too close to what’s already been seen for OTHER SETS!  Flair goes for a pin with his feet on the ropes for two.  Snapmare gets two as we cut to a commercial.

We’re back and Flair gets shot off but hits a shoulderblock.  Flair bounces off the ropes and gets caught in a drop toe-hold into a figure-four.  Oh the irony.  I could have saved myself a lot of time by copying the previous match, cross out Sting’s name and replace it with Scott Steiner.  Flair gets to the ropes, so Steiner releases.  Flair shoots off but misses a clothesline.  Steiner misses a clothesline and Flair hits a crossbody.  In one of the most pitiful spots I’ve ever seen, Flair goes over the top rope and is supposed to take Steiner with him.  Scott doesn’t have enough momentum to carry himself over.  So he lands back on the canvas, grabs the ropes, and dumps himself to the floor.  Scott Steiner has had his share of moments in Botchamania compilations on Youtube (everyone knows about the famous TNA one), but that flub might be the worst.  A half-star penalty against this match will be assigned.  Terrible.

To the floor where Steiner eats a half-drop.  Back in, Flair kicks away and drops his weight on the injured leg.  Straight kick to the leg by Flair and another half-drop.  He slaps on the figure-four to shockingly no reaction.  Flair uses the ropes for leverage and Rick Steiner has a conniption at ringside.  The ref yells at Rick to go away.  Rick tries to yank Ric off the ropes but it doesn’t work.  Finally the ref catches Flair and makes him break.  Back suplex by Flair and he slaps on the figure-four again.  Steiner gets a little too quick at reversing this and makes the whole sequence bust as a result.  Flair goes back to the legs and struts around.  Steiner fights back and fires off a nasty looking neckbreaker.  To the corner where Steiner whips him across the ring, sending Ric up and over to the floor.  Under six minutes of television time remain.  On the floor, Steiner fires off a clothesline.  He asks Rick to toss Flair back in.  Flair kicks the leg but nothing comes of it and Steiner fires off some stiff punches in the corner.  Scotty gets distracted by the ref and gets punched down.  Flair goes for the figure-four but gets snatched in a small package for two.  Shoot-off and Steiner grabs a sleeper.  Flair gets to the ropes, so Steiner bounces off the ropes and dumps Flair with a 360 clothesline that SHOULD have been a disqualification.  Jim Ross and Dusty Rhodes talk about it being a judgment call by the referee.  What judgment is there?  He intentionally dumped him over the ropes with a clothesline.  Dusty tries to use some kind of football analogy about how if you catch the ball and your foot is out of bounds it doesn’t count.  What the FUCK does that have to do with the guy getting dumped over the top rope?

Well this match has fallen apart.  Even weirder is that Steiner tosses Flair in and he takes control with the weakest of kicks and a few punches.  Snapmare into a knee drop by Flair with less than three minutes to go gets two.  He puts his feet on the ropes and Rick Steiner is late in pushing the feet off.  What an epic train wreck this has become.  Flair with more weak brawling and even HIS timing is off now.  Ric grabs a headlock and tries for a few near falls, then fires off a jackknife cover for two, which Steiner has trouble bridging out of.  What a stud.  He does bridge out of it and fires off a Tiger Driver, which causes Flair to fall out of the ring.  Scott stays in the ring like a douche when he has a minute left to win the title.  Dumbass!  He just jogs in place while Rick tosses him back in.  Shoulderblock by Steiner and then he decides his best option to win the match with thirty seconds to go is to do a ten-punch in the corner.  Fuck logic!  Even Jim Ross and Dusty Rhodes are talking about what a dipshit he is and the fans don’t care because he’s not doing anything that could win him the match and they already know the ending as a result.  He shoots Flair to the corner, which Flair then springs up on.  Steiner tosses him off with less than ten seconds to go and then struts around the ring instead of going for the pin.  Belly-to-belly suplex but time is up.  Steiner thinks he won the title when of course he didn’t, as the move wasn’t even fired off when time ran out.  The poop covered cherry on top of the shit Sunday is that the time keeper has to wait to hit the bell until the ref gets to the two count, despite the fact that the ring announcer had counted down the time to “one” more then one second ago.  Ugh.

* Well that was a fucking joke.  Curiosity got the better of me and I had to look up Scott Keith’s review to see what he gave it.  ***1/2!  He even said that it was like the first twenty-something minutes of a five star match.  Dude, Scott… no.  Fuck no.  An undisciplined mess with Steiner being sloppy as hell throughout and throwing off Flair’s timing.  Everything that could go wrong here did, from Scott’s wacky self-dumping to the horrible final minute that made no sense from a logical standpoint and killed the crowd deader then Jack Swagger’s push.  Even with all the problems, Flair managed to wrestle what could have been a *1/2 match if I hadn’t penalized Scott Steiner for one of the biggest botches of a sell job I’ve ever seen.  I’m so disappointed as I thought this would be something special.  It was… it was special education.

Match #8: WCW Championship, Steel Cage Match
Lex Luger vs. Barry Windham
7/14/91 Great American Bash

We’ve all heard the story thousands of times of what got Flair knocked out of WCW prior to this show, so I’ll just cover what happened afterwards.  Flair is gone and the title is vacant.  The original plan was for Lex Luger to defeat Flair on this show.  Well that was out the window.  Flair had no intention of sticking around for the Bash once the shit started hitting the fan with Jim Herd and thus he was set to drop the title to Barry Windham, who was not exactly a main eventer but likely the best option they had to drop the belt to Luger.  Well then Herd and Dusty Rhodes got together, started listing all the reasons they hated Flair like a couple of catty eight-year old girls, and Herd ended up working up the nerve to call Flair and tell him “Fuck you, you’re fired” as Flair was walking out the door of his house to go and drop the title to Windham.  So Barry is now cut out of a title reign.

Plans were all over the place as to what could be done with the belt.  Luger wrestling for the title was a gimmie.  Nikita Koloff and Sting were off the table because their feud was too hot and it was the only undercard match that could back up the main event and draw for the show.  WCW wanted to have Sting drop the match but then win a random drawing to get a title shot and wrestle Luger in the main event, but the ugly head of the Maryland State Athletic Commission stopped that, citing a rarely used rule that forbid wrestlers from pulling double duty in their state.  So Sting was out.  Arn Anderson was actually offered a spot, as the theory was Arn was Flair’s right hand man and thus a suitable substitute.  He refused.  In fact, he was pretty pissed about the whole situation, having just returned from the WWE and losing a big chunk of change in the process when Tully Blanchard got caught using cocaine and screwing his own contract negotiations over in the process.  Jim Herd then pushed for El Gigante to get the spot only to have half the dressing room threaten to quit the company.  Finally, they remembered Barry Windham was going to get the belt the day Flair was fired and he was drafted for job duty, although he was still fuming that he was about to go down in history as a World Champion and got it yanked away because of Herd’s ego.

Luger and Windham were both pissed going into this match for having what should have been big moments for both of them get torpedoed.  And then it got worse, as Herd wanted to prove that Flair meant nothing and that anyone could replace his spot as the top heel, even the top babyface, because “fans will buy anything if we tell them to.”  Thus, minutes before the match started, he changed the finish to Lex Luger winning after he turned heel.  Yeah.  As if that’s not enough, the fans were absolutely livid all night, giving hell to every previous match and chanting “WE WANT FLAIR” to the point where big tough wrestlers were getting their feelings hurt.  As a result, both guys were like “you know what?  Fuck it.  The fans will hate this no matter how good it is, and they’ll hate it even more when Dipshit’s new finish takes place, so let’s just go out there and get it over with.”  The preceding card is still ranked among most people as the worst pay-per-view ever put on by a major company, which should give you an idea of what kind of mood the fans are in.

To the match and boy oh boy are the fans giving these guys holy hell right off the bat.  Huge “WE WANT FLAIR” chant, with the announcers doing their best to ignore it.  Luger is the US champion here and looking like Hulk Hogan with plugs.  Lockup and Luger shoots Windham off into nothing.  Both guys fight over a suplex but that goes nowhere as well. Lockup goes to the ropes.  Shoot-off and Windham gets a shoulderblock, only to bounce off the ropes and charge into a hiptoss.  Lockup and Windham shoots off and eats a shoulderblock.  Luger bounces off the ropes and runs into a dropkick and we have another stand-off.  Lockup and Luger gets a small package for one.  Circle and lockup while the fans chant “NATURE BOY!”   Scoopslam by Luger but Windham avoids an elbow and we have another stalemate.  Lockup goes to the ropes where Windham slugs it out, and then Luger fights back.  Shoot-off and Luger gets backdropped.  Lockup and Windham gets a headlock-takeover, which Luger turns into a headscissors.  Windham escapes and drills Luger with a pretty stiff punch.  Windham loads up for a suplex but Luger counters with one of his own and we have another stalemate.  Interesting match structure.

Lockup and Windham fires off a scoopslam to set up a figure-four, but Luger kicks off of it and we’re at another standstill.  We go to a test of strength, but Windham tries to boot Luger.  Lex catches it and atomic drops Windham and we have another stalemate.  Lockup and Lex shoots off Windham only to eat a shoulderblock.  Windham bounces off the ropes and gets caught in a sleeper.  The announcers gush over Lex learning a new hold.  It’s a fucking sleeper guys!  You wrap your arms around a guy’s neck!  Doesn’t exactly require a master’s degree from the Lou Thesz University of Holy Shit Where Did You Come Up With That?  Windham shoots off Luger and gets hit with a shoulderblock.  Lex bounces off the ropes and gets caught in a sleeper.  Oh the irony.  Lex uses momentum to drive Windham into the turnbuckle, and then fires off a DDT for two.  Announcers gush over Luger learning two new moves in one night.  Jesus Christ.  Lex climbs and gets tossed off the top turnbuckle.  Knee drop by Barry gets two.  Windham climbs and boots Lex in the face, but whiffs an elbow drop off the top rope.  Lex shoots Windham off and backdrops him, then fires off a clothesline and a few running forearms for two.  Honestly this isn’t as bad as I remember it being.

Clothesline by Lex in the chest gets two.  Shoot-off and a powerslam by Lex and he calls for the Torture Rack.  He hooks Windham in it but then walks him too close to the cage.  Windham is supposed to use his feet to kind of spring off Luger’s shoulders, but his feet never make contact with the cage and it makes whatever they were shooting for look silly.  Windham does get out and fires off a back suplex and we have a double KO.  Lex clubs Windham and places him on the ropes.  Barry fights off Lex and fires off a shoulderblock from the top rope.  Windham shoots Lex off and weakly backdrops him.  Clothesline by Windham and a scoopslam for two.  Dropkick to Lex’s face gets two.  Mounted punches by Barry, BUT WAIT~!! because here comes Harley Race and Curtis Hughes.  Race gives Luger the thumbs up to use a piledriver, so Lex fires it off and scores the pin and the title, which is just a regional title with a crappy ‘World Title’ plate glued onto it.  Fans explode, likely the happiest they’ve been all night.  Lex is wearing a scowl on his face, which is supposed to make it clear that he’s a heel, but the fans don’t get it.  So Race enters the ring and holds up Luger’s hand, but the fans still don’t get it.    We close with the fans still miffed at what happened as Lex tries to look all evil while walking to the back.

***1/4 Well hell, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Actually it was quite watchable for a match that both guys have candidly admitted to half-assing.  I think if you view it outside of the context of all the bullshit going on and not watch it as part of the 1991 Great American Bash and all the horrible matches that preceded this, you’re less likely to be in a bad mood and it’s not that bad a contest.  The ending was weird and it was missing a middle section but at least the wrestling was decent and the unorthodox pace they set worked.  History lumps this in with the rest of the shit that was the GAB 91, but viewing it separately from that show makes it shine more favorably.  It kind of makes me wonder how good the match would have been if they had used their full asses.

Match #9: WCW Championship
(c) Big Van Vader vs. Ron Simmons
8/2/92 Baltimore, MD

Back Story: Bill Watts is hired as the new head booker of WCW and wants to make someone the first black World Heavyweight Champion.  After failing to convince all the good workers on the roster, all of whom happened to be white, to undergo Black Like Me skin treatments, he just decided to give Ron Simmons the spot.  At least that’s how I pictured it going down.  The idea was Sting was going to get the shot here but suffered a kayfabe injury at the hands of Jake Roberts.  A random drawing was held and Simmons won.  The random drawing thing actually worked, as Simmons wasn’t exactly in high standing with the fans and thus when his name came up it was totally believable that the only way he would be selected is at random.  He was solidly a midcard guy, maybe even lower-midcard.  His highest profile feud had been with Lex Luger and it went over about as well as Hitler attending a screening of Schindler’s List would.  By Watts’ own admission, if each fan had been asked to make a list of the ten guys on the roster they could see being the next World Champ, Ron’s name would barely come up at all for anyone.  Considering that the story only had eight names in the bag to draw from, it makes you wonder why he would be given the title here without any build.

To the match.  Circle and lockup goes nowhere.  Another lockup and Vader glances a blow off of Simmons.  Ron fights back with some punches but Vader shrugs them off and slugs it out.  Simmons fights back with some shots of his own, then more punches, and then a clothesline to drop Vader.  Back suplex and at least you have to give credit to Watts for making Simmons over here, if for one night only.  Fans are HOT for this when they should feel pissed at getting cheated out of the advertised main event.  It actually shows that Watts wasn’t bad at certain aspects of booking, even if he caught hell for various fumbles.

Flying shoulderblock by Simmons and Vader bails and we stall.  Vader returns and fires off a headbutt, but Simmons ducks a clothesline and hits a spinebuster for two.  Three-point stance is caught with a boot by Vader to give him the advantage.  He stomps away and kicks at Simmons, causing him to fall out of the ring.  Simmons back in to get beat around, including some absolutely vicious shots.  Jobbers would quit the business when they were booked against Vader in squash matches on the grounds that they didn’t want to deal with his punches alone.  Vader shoots Simmons to the corner and splashes him, then hits a big splash for two.  Simmons uses the ropes to pull himself up and kicks away.  It doesn’t work and Vader fires off a suplex.  Chokeslam and Vader says it’s over.  He climbs the ropes and hits a big splash off the second rope… for two.  Fans are stunned.  Jim Ross is so happy that his face would become paralyzed from it three times over.  Vader shoots him off and clotheslines him, then chokes him with his foot.  Vader loads up a vertical suplex, but Simmons fights back with a snap suplex that looked incredible.  Simmons is still seeing stars and so Vader boxes his ears.  Short-arm clothesline is caught by Ron who hooks in a backslide for two.  Vader punches him some more and takes him to the corner for some more cringe-inducing punches.  Shoot to the corner but Vader misses a splash and gets rolled up for two.  Simmons goes for a sunset flip but Vader drops his weight on him.  Fans think it’s over.  Vader loads up the powerbomb but Simmons flips out of it.  Vader bounces off the ropes and charges into a powerslam to give Simmons the pin and the title.  Fans fucking explode.  The babyfaces empty out of the locker room to strap the belt on him.  No mention is made of him being the first black World Heavyweight Champion.

***1/2 Possible can of worms opened up here, but I actually dug this match.  It was short but fast paced and very fun.  A typical underdog match in the same dynamic as Triple H/TAKA or Hardy/Undertaker, only this time the underdog won.  The fans were hot, the moves were stiff, and the psychology was kept basic, the way it should have been.  Your mileage may vary but I quite liked this.

Simmons would go on to have, in my opinion, the worst World Title reign since the cable era began.  It made Diesel’s run in the WWE look like Steve Austin in 1998 by comparison.  He would follow this with a match against Mick Foley that ended with him tearing Foley’s groin.  He would then go on to have a feud with the Barbarian, who was considered even lower on the card then Simmons was, and then fight Dr. Death Steve Williams to a double count-out at Starrcade.  The World Championship was rendered into midcard fodder and the credibility of the belt suffered until Ric Flair took the belt back at Starrcade ’93.  Of course, like Nash in WWE it wasn’t his fault, but rather the booking.  Still, I would hate to be the guy who was left holding the bag, and that’s what Ron Simmons was.

Match #10: WCW Championship, “Human Cage” Match
(c) Big Van Vader vs. Ricky Steamboat
10/16/93 WCW Saturday Night

Ooooh, random!  I know the last time I said that the match was a disaster but I’ve got high hopes here, I really do.  Human Cage is a nice way of saying “Lumberjack Match.”  Oh those silly WCW guys.  Next thing you know they’ll call a battle royal a “Falling Over the Top Rope Avoidance Match” or something similarly stupid.  Long lockup leads to the corner, where Vader rears back to lower the killing blow, but Ricky bails away.  Another lockup leads to Steamboat being shoved away.  Third lockup leads to Vader shoving Steamboat to the floor, where the evil lumberjacks grab at him like Jeff Hardy just dropped the soap.  The babyfaces are late in saving and Steamboat is tossed back in to receive further beatings from Vader.  Back in, Steamer gets punched around and clotheslined by the jockstrap wearing fat ass.  Big splash in the corner and another clothesline.  I have to say, it sure looks like Vader isn’t being as blatantly stiff with Steamboat has he normally does.  He tosses Ricky back to the evil lumberjacks, but they just toss him back in without fucking around.  Kind of defeats the fear of a lumberjack match, no?

Back in, Vader fires off a vertical suplex for two.  A pretty weak short-arm clothesline sends Steamboat to the floor, but Vader misses a splash off the apron and hits the guardrail.  The babyfaces send him back in, where Steamboat goes for a sunset flip.  Vader tries to counter by dropping his weight on him, but that whiffs.  Steamboat responds by dropping his weight on Vader multiple times.  It looks bad, because Steamboat is well over one hundred pounds lighter then Vader.  Plus Vader has that massive gut to soften the blow.  Vader tries to roll out of the ring but he runs right into the babyface lumberjacks, who all toss him back in the ring.  Meanwhile, Sid Vicious is at ringside and jaws with the referee.  Don’t worry Sid, your time will come… assuming you don’t pick a fight with Arn Anderson that you can’t win and end up stabbing each other with a pair of safety scissors to the point where you’re fired from the company weeks before you’re set to win the main event of Starrcade.

Steamboat gets caught by Harley Race and held for a free shot, but Vader misses and wipes out Race.  DDT by Steamboat and multiple big splashes, and again Steamboat’s move set is not exactly working from an artistic point of view against a guy of Vader’s size.  Steamboat puts Vader on the top rope and kind of tries for a superplex, but it looks more like a weak DDT from there.  He then slaps on a figure-four.  This match is just not clicking with me.  Steamboat releases and chops away.  Whip to the corner is reversed, but Vader misses a splash and Steamer kicks and chops away.  Karate stuff now which also fails to look good.  Then kicks, then chops, and ugh this match sucks.

Back suplex gets two.  Another big splash gets two.  Vader fights back with a body splash.  Scoopslam and Vader removes the mask, so you know he means business now.  He climbs and hits a body splash off the second rope, then slaps on a chinlock.  Vader releases and hoists Steamboat up on his shoulders for a Samoan drop, which gets two.  Big splash misses for him and Ricky climbs for a chop off the top.  It only staggers Vader, and so does a dropkick.  Crossbody off the top rope takes him down for two.  To the corner, where Steamboat charges into a big boot.  Match has slowed to a crawl and they slug it out.  Steamboat hits some incredibly weak looking punches in the corner.  Vader shrugs off a bunch of them and hits a single punch to take control, then a body splash.  Back suplex gets two and I’m having trouble staying awake, and it’s 4:09 PM.  Kicks and punches to the gut by Steamboat, but Vader dumps him to the floor, but nothing happens.  So Vader dumps him again and this time the heels remember they have a job to do.  A big pile-up between the babyfaces and the heels takes place, with Steamboat becoming a wishbone as a result.  He gets to the apron and goes for a sunset flip, then avoids Vader’s attempt at dropping his weight on him.  Already did that spot once, and now the fans couldn’t care less.  Shoot-off by Vader but third time’s a charm for the dropping of the weight, and it actually hits this time.  Scoopslam sets Vader up for the pump splash, which misses.  Double-stomp off the second rope by Steamboat and some chops, then a 360 clothesline that sends Vader to the floor and into the good lumberjacks.  Everyone bails to fight over Vader, except Sid.  He comes in and powerbombs Ricky.  Vader makes his way back into the ring and hits a splash for the pin.

*1/4 Just a really boring match.  They didn’t botch any spots, but everything here was toned down and really weak.  They had no chemistry with each other and couldn’t find a suitable pace for the match.  Another big letdown for this set.

Match #11: WCW Championship, Steel Cage Match
(c) Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
10/23/94 Halloween Havoc
Special Stipulation: The Loser Must Retire
(as if)

Back Story: The original plan for the Hogan/Flair series of matches varies depending on who’s telling the story.  According to Ric Flair, Hogan would take the title at Bash at the Beach, lose the title back to Flair at Clash of the Champions, and this would be the rubber match to settle it all.  But Hogan had creative control and balked at dropping the title, saying “The fans aren’t ready for it yet, brotha.”  Which was bullshit.  WCW fans in their traditional territories hated Hogan because he represented the fake, cartoonish WWE.  Thus WCW had to start booking outside of its home base so that Hogan wouldn’t get booed out of the building.  This resulted in attendance falling.  This show is coming from Detroit, and tickets didn’t exactly fly out of the booth.  Flair told them something along the lines of “Well duh!  I didn’t win the title in at Clash of the Champions and because it’s a cage match, everyone knows the good guy will win.”  And thus they tacked on the “loser must retire” stipulation, which still failed to sell any tickets because nobody bought for one second that Hogan or Flair would retire.

Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan’s side of the story is that Flair is full of shit and was never penciled in to take the title back from Hogan.  After all, it wouldn’t make sense to sign Hogan to the biggest contract ever, put the title on him, and then take it off him right away.  They claim the retirement angle was put in place because Flair had been avoiding reloading on his contract and they figured he was primed to jump to either the WWE or All Japan wrestling.  Flair counters this claim by saying that they hadn’t offered him an acceptable contract, but he was still set to sign the old one until the retirement stipulation was put into play.  Once they added that, he wanted new terms added or he wouldn’t sign the contract and wouldn’t work the match.  Actually, his contract had expired months earlier and he was working without one.  He showed up at Halloween Havoc, and they had a new contract waiting for him.  He signed it, and the deal was done.

What’s the truth?  I’m actually taking Bischoff’s side in the “Flair was never going to win the title” part of the mess.  I mean, it really doesn’t make sense at all to move the title off of Hogan given the buyrate that Bash made.  I’m guessing Flair was misled into believing the title would come back his way at the Clash, because I doubt Flair would make up something about winning a title.  I mean, he had won the title multiple times before and doesn’t exactly have an ego about being on top.  By Flair’s own admission, he held up the company once the retirement situation was put into play, and thus I don’t buy for one second that there was any thought of jumping to WWE or All Japan.  It was just a matter of getting paid for his work, and he kind of got the short shaft in terms of what his paycheck for Bash at the Beach was.  Let’s face it, if Hogan jumps to WCW and takes on Rick Rude for the championship (which was the original plan, mind you.  They were going to save Hogan/Flair for Starrcade), Bash at the Beach doesn’t draw the insane buyrate it did.

All that said, Flair’s point ultimately didn’t matter.  Bash at the Beach drew a 1.02 buyrate.  Halloween Havoc drew a 0.97 buyrate.  It sounds like a small drop-off, but it really isn’t.  Buyrates measure the percentage of total cable subscribers who ordered the show.  Following Bash at the Beach, smaller cable systems that had exclusive deals with WWE were able to carry WCW shows.  Thus the universe for WCW got bigger, which means that Halloween Havoc’s total buys were about the same as Bash at the Beach.  Between those shows, WCW put on Fall Brawl, which drew less then half the buyers of Bash at the Beach, thanks in no small part to Hogan not being on it.  So for anyone who says he didn’t draw in WCW, shut up.  He wasn’t a draw, he was THE draw.

To the match, and I haven’t seen this since it first aired in 1994.  I don’t remember liking it too much.  It’s scary watching the cage lower.  It’s sloppy, shaky, and lopsided.  It sure looked like it was going to collapse and take out some fans.  Mr. T is the guest referee, which sure seems unfair given his history with Hogan.

Hogan punches Flair, rakes him, and then brawls him to the corner.  Stiff looking punches (going by Hogan’s standard), then he tries to ram Flair into the cage.  Flair blocks, but then Hogan whips him to the corner and backdrops him.  Clothesline by Hulk and a ten-punch in the corner.  Hogan has his working boots on here, as he climbs to the top of the cage and stomps Flair’s face.  Nice.  Mr. T gets pissy with Hogan and jaws with him, letting Flair come back with a thumb to the eye and a chop.  He tries to cage Hogan but Hulk blocks and sends Flair into it.  Flair’s got his flying shoes on to go with Hogan’s working boots and bumps huge off it.  Another caging by Hogan and Flair flops down. Mounted punches by Hulk, then Flair punches him in the knee and chop blocks him.  Fans are split 70/30 in favor of Hogan, but there’s enough people pulling for Flair that the Hulkster’s feelings were legitimately hurt, brotha.  Flair stomps away at Hulk’s knee, and then he gets into it with T.  Flair’s forehead has a small cut in it, which should make for a nice blading later on.

Flair goes back to punching Hogan around.  Snapmare and a knee drop, which Hogan big time oversells.  Overselling is always better then not selling, so it doesn’t bother me.  Hogan reverses a whip to the corner and kills Flair with a clothesline.  Awesome match thus far, proving that I had no taste as a thirteen year-old.  Flair gets caged a few times, and then is choked with Hogan’s bandanna.  Mr. T pulls Hogan off and jaws with him, allowing Flair to climb the ropes and drop a sledge on Hulk.  Delayed suplex by Flair, which is a move I hear Hogan hates taking.  Flair takes too long in making a cover and it gets two.  Mounted punches by Flair, who then struts around.  Flair blocks a punch and we have a slug/chop-off, which Hogan wins.  Flair tries to bail on the match, and I guess escape rules don’t count.  Hogan catches Flair and chokes him across the top of the cage.  Flair ends up crotched on the ropes, then slung off to the canvas.  Hogan follows this up with a bite in the corner.  He shoots Flair to a corner but charges into a boot.  Flair goes for the figure-four but gets caught in a small package for two.  Chop by Flair but Hulk no-sells it.  Shoot to the corner and a backdrop by Hogan, then a couple more cagings.  Hogan grates Flair against the cage, and we should be getting some juice now.  I would hope at least.

Back suplex by Hogan gets two.  Headlock and some punches by Hogan, which Mr. T breaks up for no goddamn reason.  Flair tries to bail over the cage, but Hulk catches him and slams his head on the outside of the cage in a cool looking visual.  He then chops the shit out of Flair on the top rope, leading to Flair again getting crotched on the ropes.  Fans seem solidly behind Hogan now.  Hogan gets caught climbing down by Flair and hit with a half-drop.  Knee drop by Flair to Hogan’s injured leg, then another.  Hogan is selling the knee better then anything he’s done in his career.  He bails to the corner but Flair catches him and pulls Hogan’s tape off his knee.  What a heel.  Mr. T stops him and shoves him down.  T looks totally lost out there and if this match doesn’t get five stars, it’ll likely be on him.  Why couldn’t they have used a regular referee?  Meanwhile, Bobby Heenan is having an aneurysm on commentary, and its fucking gold.

Flair drops his weight on the knee, then drags Hogan to the center of the ring and slaps on the figure-four.  Hogan reaches for Mr. T but gets told to suck it up.  Hogan feels the power of Hulkamania and is able to turn it over, but Flair releases before he can complete it.  Finally, a logical use of that move.  Flair kicks Hogan into the ropes, but Hogan bounces off and tries for a clothesline.  Flair ducks and Mr. T gets wiped out by it.  Back suplex by Flair, and he drags T over to make the count.  Hogan power-kicks out at one and Flair lands on T.  Ric is pissed at that so he stomps Mr. T.  BUT WAIT~!! because Sherri is climbing the cage.  Jimmy Hart saves but gets thrown into a cameraman.  BUT WAIT~!! because Sting is out to stop her.  He grabs her by the hair and starts to drag her out of the ring.  BUT WAIT~!! because a masked man (in the storyline this is later revealed to be Brutus Beefcake) is out with a lead pipe to beat up Jimmy Hart and Sting.  Sherri climbs to the cage and drops a sledge on Hogan, but the Hulkster doesn’t sell for crack whores, yo!  He turns his attention to Sherri but gets chop-blocked.  Meanwhile, the masked dude is climbing into the cage.  Flair and Sherri handcuff T to the cage, and my bet on this match losing five star status because of his suckiness is officially wrong now.  It’s overbooking instead.  Flair and Sherri whip Hogan into the masked dude’s steel pipe.

Fans are stunned silent.  Or stupefied silent.  Either way.  Vertical suplex by Flair but its HULK UP TIME~!!  Sherri and Flair try to whip Hogan but he clotheslines them both and it’s scoopslams for all.  Flair shoots off Hogan and fires off a chop, but Hogan no-sells that and its clotheslines for all.  Flair gets backdropped while Sherri tries to run away.  Hogan tosses her back in, then catches Flair trying to flee and gets a ten-ram on the top of the cage.  Big boot to Sherri, because Real Americans beat up women, yo!  Flair chops Hogan, but it’s time for the Hulking Up Dance, the finger point, punch, punch, Big boot, Leg drop, and they’re close enough for T to count the three.  America, FUCK YEAH!

****1/4 Everything before the overbooked finish was easily the most exciting and best wrestled match of Hogan’s entire career.  I honestly didn’t remember how bad the finish was and seriously thought I was going to award this five stars, but then they went home, and boy was it awful.  Plus it never seemed like it was going to end.  After one illogical instance of interference after another and the even more brain-dead abuse of the referee, I couldn’t give it the higher score the actual wrestling deserved.  I know that you’re supposed to throw out logic when you watch wrestling, but I just don’t have that in me.  Why on Earth would anyone attack a referee and handcuff them to the ropes?  Don’t you need them to win the match?  What a brain-fart.  Props to Hogan and Flair for working their asses off, but next time use some fucking common sense when the booking meeting is going down.

Match #12: WCW Championship
Sting vs. Hulk Hogan
2/22/98 Superbrawl VIII

Kill me.  I think.  Actually I have only traces of memory left from this match.  I think it’s slightly better then Starrcade ’97’s ‘match’ which is like saying you’re better off catching syphilis then AIDS.  Then again, memory has failed me time and time again during this set, so maybe this is one of those unsung classics.  Title is vacant here because of the abortion that was the Starrcade ’97 match.  You really have to feel bad for Sting, even if his talent is highly overrated.  Every time they tried to make a run with him, he was torpedoed by anything ranging from bad booking to politics, and failing all that, a plain old botched finish.  This was supposed to right the wrong of Starrcade, even though the WWE’s ratings had started to very, very slightly pick up.  Hogan made it clear to anyone who would listen that Sting was to blame, but Hogan was still kind of the focus of the company so it was hard to shift blame.  He still managed to do it though, because he’s Hogan, whose motto was “The Buck Stops THERE!”

Sting dives into the ring, where Hogan is waiting with his weightlifting belt.  Hogan whips Sting with the belt, and then punches him around.  Then more punching.  Then a choke with Sting’s jacket.  This was supposed to be Sting’s payback?  Ugh.  To Sting’s credit, he’s in better shape then he was at Starrcade, but he’s still looking like a total scrub here.  We spill outside the ring, where Hogan brawls him and chops him up the aisle.  Total offensive moves for Sting, four minutes into the match?  Zero.  Hogan breaks the count, even though it’s no count-outs or DQs, and then bails for more punching and an atomic drop.  Sting gets whipped from rail to rail, and then is sent back into the ring.  Double-knucklelock by Hogan, then Sting finally starts to come back.  So Hogan kicks him and applies it some more.  Good lord, this might be worse then the Starrcade match.  Sting might as well be a journeyman who’s lucky to get booked on a WCW World Wide squash.  Clothesline in the corner and a casual push to the mat.  Wow, just… wow.  Did Sting fail to send Hogan a birthday card or something?

Scoopslam and a series of elbow drops, but Sting hulks up.  It sure seems like the crowd heat is canned, because when you can see the crowd nobody is standing and nobody’s mouth is open.  Sting’s hulk-up is meaningless anyway.  After going so long without even the slightest hint of offense, even a single punch, he still looks like the biggest loser to ever hit a wrestling ring.  But the announcers are thrilled as Sting fires off some shitty punches and slams Hogan into the turnbuckle.  Atomic drop, way oversold on commentary by Tony Schiavone.  “THIS IS WHAT WCW IS ALL ABOUT!”  Jesus Christ.  Sting gets the weightlifting belt and starts to whip Hogan, causing him to bail.  I always wondered why someone waving their hands and trying to walk out of a match isn’t considered a submission.  One would think that saying “okay, enough”, waving their arms to signal “enough” would be enough for the referee to say “okay, he quits!”  I know I’m not playing along with fifty or more years of established heel antics.  Still, I bet there’s an original ending to a match in that logic that could lead to a decent angle.

Sting catches Hogan and chokes him with the belt, then dumps him over the rail and into the seating.  That doesn’t go on too long, as the security prevents them from fighting in the seats.  So Sting dumps him back to ringside, and goes for the Stinger Splash against the rail.  It misses and he’s dead again.  Sting chairs Hogan and whips him with the belt.  Back in the ring where Hogan punches Sting and bites at him.  Sting reverses a whip to the corner and hits the Stinger Splash.  Scorpion Deathlock is applied, but they’re right next to the ropes.  Hogan still has to do the overly dramatic reach for the break, even though he was close enough that he could have stuck out his tongue and touched the rope.  Ugh.  Sting goes for the splash again, but Hogan drags the referee in the way.  Clothesline by Hogan and he starts posing for the fans, who are clearly cheering for him, all but confirming my suspicion that the cheers for Sting earlier were piped in.

Hogan hits the Leg drop, but there’s no referee.  BUT WAIT~!! because evil referee Nick Patrick hits the ring and covers for two.  Hogan is pissed that Patrick didn’t help him.  Hogan grabs a headlock and some punches, which Patrick breaks up.  I guess the Nick Patrick angle ended earlier in the night, so there’s some context to this that didn’t make it to the DVD.  Hogan jaws with Patrick, then hits a back suplex for two, two, two, and two.  Hogan slaps on a double-knucklelock and goes for some pins out of that, then Sting bridges up and we have a test of strength.  Unbelievably, Sting loses this and gets his hands stomped.  Seriously, you have to remember that between September of 1996 and Starrcade ’97 in December, the bookers had built Sting up as an unstoppable force and the last hope for WCW.  Then this match and the Starrcade one undid all of that and then some, making Sting look like the chumpiest chump who ever chumped.

Back to the match, where Hogan hits the most embarrassing schoolboy possible and gets two.  Elbow to the back of the head, and then Sting is dumped to the floor.  He lands on his feet, kind of, and then Hogan follows to casually slam him into the guardrail.  Sting blocks another shot on the rail and fights back, and now the fans can clearly be heard booing him.  Wowzers.  Back in the ring, Hogan fires off a low blow to regain control, as if he ever lost it, then slugs it out.  Sting hulks up again and again you can tell the crowd reaction is canned.  It’s embarrassing.  A pair of Stinger Splashes and the Scorpion Deathdrop follows.  Hogan kicks Nick Patrick on the way down, and it’s time to cue the nWo.  Instead of typing BUT WAIT~!! a dozen times, just assume that everyone wearing a black and white shirt runs in here and gets beat down.  While Sting fights off everyone else, the camera completely misses Randy Savage hitting Hogan with something to kick off the wretched Wolfpac angle.  Sting finishes punching the nWo off the apron and covers Hogan for the pin and the title.  He then spray paints Hogan’s chest with “WCW” because he did SUCH a good job of representing them here.

DUD I can’t believe they managed to put on a worse match then Starrcade ’97, but here you go.  Amazingly, not only did WCW not learn their lesson, but this was actually an even more blatant squash for Hogan.  Following Starrcade, Sting came off as weak and pathetic.  Here, he looked like a kitten.  Just absolutely not threatening at all but it’s so cute that he tried.  Thirteen straight months of the hottest build any wrestler had seen up to that point flushed down the toilet.  Its mind boggling how WCW could fuck up such an easy thing.  To do it twice in two month span should be cause for a date with the gas chamber, because it was first degree murder of the angle, Sting’s career, and Nitro’s winning streak.  I’m not sure what WWE Home Video was thinking putting this abomination on disc.  I guess because drool-dispensing fans voted Sting/Hogan from Starrcade as the #4 mostest bestest Starrcade match of all time, they assumed there was demand for the feud.  So to all of those that voted for it when the Starrcade poll was going, I offer you a hearty FUCK YOU!  Go off and get yourself a box of tampons because you’re officially a cunt.  A cunt that has doomed us into having to witness all the other wretched Sting/Hogan matches out there.  I’m sure the ’99 Fall Brawl match won’t be far behind and we have you to thank.

Match #13: WCW Championship
(c) Hulk Hogan vs. Goldberg
7/6/98 Nitro

I could have SWORN I reviewed this one already, but I guess that’s not the case.  I’ve talked about it a few times, and drawn mixed opinions on my stance that putting the title on Goldberg here instead of waiting for a pay-per-view was the right thing to do.  I still stand by it.  When Hulk Hogan, out of the blue, offers to put someone over, you don’t drag your feet in doing it.  Hogan’s creative control had screwed WCW all year in 1998, to the point where the WWE had taken over the ratings lead.  When Hogan offers the title to the next big thing, and the only wrestler left that people dropped the WWE to watch (ratings trends proved that), you don’t put it off and give him a chance to change his mind.

Lockup and Goldberg grabs a headlock, giving him more offense here then Sting got in his first five minutes.  I guess that’s a good way to show WCW ain’t fucking around with this one.  Oh no.  The fucking around would come later.  Goldberg grinds on it and Hogan goes down to a knee.  Hulk slugs out of it and shoots off, but Goldberg gets a shoulderblock.  It looked weak, but Hogan still sells it like he’s facing King Kong or something.  Hogan grabs a front-facelock, but Goldberg drives him to the corner.  Hogan thumbs the eyes and we have a standstill.  Circle and Hogan accepts a test of strength, which might not have been the best idea.  Goldberg quickly wins out on it and takes Hogan down to the mat.  Hulk gets to the corner and the fans jeer.  Authentic heat!  Yea!

Circle and Hogan slugs it out.  Rake of the eyes, then a rake of the back and Hogan removes his weight belt.  He whips Goldberg a couple times, but gets it stolen from him.  Hogan oversells the theft, but Goldberg doesn’t need it and tosses it away.  Circle and a lockup.  Hogan gets a hammerlock, but Goldberg spins around into a full-nelson.  Horrible looking low blow by Hulk only catches the air between Goldberg’s knees, but it’s good enough for him to sell.  Shoot-off and a clothesline by Hulk, followed by a blatant choke.  Hogan misses an elbow drop, and then another.  Goldberg quickly gets up and fires off a clothesline, causing Hogan to roll out to the floor.  Hogan calls for a timeout to put his belt back on, then returns to the ring.  Lockup and we go to the corner, where Hogan knees away and dumps Goldberg to the floor.  Ram into the rail, then three chair shots that aren’t as feeble as the average Hogan chairing is.

Back in, Hogan hits a scoopslam and the big Leg drop.  Then another.  Then another.  BUT WAIT~!! because Curt Hennig is out too soon, having jumped his cue.  He’s followed by Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone, both of whom also jumped their cues.  Well it is a big match for WCW so of course everyone’s timing would be off.  It wouldn’t be WCW otherwise.  Meanwhile off-camera, Hogan keeps hitting leg drops.  We cut back to the ring just in time to see Goldberg kick out, but it’s not that big a deal and the fans don’t react because they’re distracted by the guys walking the aisle.  Pitiful.  Hogan attempts to sell this moment, but the fans don’t notice, and the announcers don’t make that big a deal out of it either.  Bobby Heenan tries to but Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay are the alpha males of the announcing pride and just ignore him.  We cut to ringside where Karl Malone gives Curt Hennig the diamond cutter.  Quote Bobby Heenan, “YES!  MALONE CAN USE THE DIAMOND CUTTER!”  Jesus, Bobby.  It involves putting your arm around a guy and dropping down.  It’s not exactly rocket science.  A well trained dog can do the move.  Thankfully, the fans turn their attention to the ring just in time to see Goldberg spear Hogan and fire off the jackhammer for the pin and the title.  Fans are so happy they throw all the garbage in their hands at the ring.  Never understood the logic in that.

** Pretty basic with typical soft-hitting shit from Hogan.  The ‘interference’ did nothing for the match and only served to distract the fans and the production from the stuff going on in the ring, and it ruined at least one pivotal moment in Goldberg and Hogan’s career, the kicking out of the multiple leg drops.  That’s WCW for you.  One step forward, three steps backwards.  Anyway, big moment but obviously not a good match or anything.

Match #14: WCW Championship
(c) Jeff Jarrett vs. Booker T
7/9/00 Bash at the Beach

Back Story: WCW has this ridiculous “New Blood vs. Millionaire’s Club” thing going on.  Jeff Jarrett is set to face Hulk Hogan, fresh off his feud with Billy Kidman.  As the hilarious Austin Caliber noted, “Kidman was so over as a result of it that he only leaves his mansion to headline Wrestlemanias these days.”  Well it was supposed to be Jarrett’s turn to get the god-like rub of Hulk Hogan.  The only problem was there was an internal power-struggle over what the finish of the match would be.  Head booker Vince Russo wanted Hogan to drop the match by DQ, thus giving Jarrett the championship or some such silly thing, then never show his face again in WCW.  Hogan wanted to take the championship.  Eric Bischoff was supposed to have equal say in creative, but his father died on the 4th of July and he was occupied by the funeral and the other stuff that you go through when you lose a loved one.

So on the day of the show, Eric Bischoff arrives about an hour before the show starts and meets with Hogan, who hates all of Russo’s ideas.  They agree to lay the law down on Uni-brow.  Hogan invokes his creative control clause and says that he will win the championship and there’s nothing Russo can do about it.  He then lays out exactly how it will go down.  In character, Hogan will invoke his creative control clause (you see, WCW was doing ‘shoots’ at the time and openly fake-breaking kayfabe in matches.  Get used to it because TNA has decided to go this direction, presumably because using a gun on themselves wouldn’t be as fun), and Jeff Jarrett would get pissed and lay down for him instead of having a match.  Hogan would pin him and then ‘retire’ from the sport in disgust and take the Championship with him.  A tournament would be held, with the finals being on pay-per-view.  Two heels would be in the final match, presumably Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner.  Hogan would show up right before the bell rung with his title belt and claim he never lost the belt in the first place.  He would beat both guys in a triple-threat match and Hulkamania would be reborn.  Russo agreed to the whole thing.  He had no choice.  Hogan’s contract gave him final say over everything in WCW.  Essentially he was the head booker whenever he wanted to be.  But Russo was a schemer and told Hogan that if they were going to do this, it had to look like a real shoot.  So after it happened he wanted Hogan and Bischoff to throw a fit backstage and storm out of the building.  Hogan agreed to do this, a decision he would later regret.

So the whole mess, illogical and stupid as it was, plays out.  Hogan even said the word “Bullshit” live on pay-per-view to sell how real this work was.  Russo waits for Bischoff and Hogan to clear out, and then goes into business for himself as soon as their limo pulls out.  He heads to the ring, grabs a mic, and legitimately shoots on Hogan, including calling him a “bald piece of shit.”  Russo then voided Hogan’s World Title win and announced that Jarrett was still the champion, and that he would defend the title later that night against Booker T, who busted his ass for years but never got credit because Hogan hated him and held him down.  Despite all the hatred Hogan gets from the IWC and sometimes from other wrestlers, this is apparently not true.  Hogan tried to sell Bischoff and WCW on giving Booker a main event spot in 1998 and 1999 but the injury bug got him first.  Later, when it was time for Booker to reload his contract, Hogan tried to convince Booker to jump to the WWE, where he would have likely been made into a star like Jericho had, but Booker didn’t jump because the WWE had no interest in his brother Stevie Ray.

The fallout was legendary.  Because WCW had so many incredibly stupid worked-shoots in 2000, a lot of fans figured this was just another case of it.  It wasn’t.  Hogan ended up filing a multi-million dollar breach of contract lawsuit against WCW.  You don’t file real lawsuits for fake wrestling storylines.  I’m pretty sure even trying to do so would be a federal offense.  The lawsuit was still going on years after WCW was dead and buried, and after AOL had merged with Time Warner.  Hogan ended up settling, and the terms were sealed, but it’s safe to say he walked away with millions.  Among the things he sued for was being called “bald” by Russo.  Of course Hogan *IS* bald, but he had it in his contract that people couldn’t use his baldness as an insult against him when cutting a promo.  Try to imagine what the legal department at AOL was thinking when they found out why the company they just took over had a court date with the Hulkster.  “We have to pay Hulk Hogan millions of dollars because someone working for that old wrestling company they owned called him bald?  I thought he was bald!”  Hogan’s creative control was also breached, and thus the newly formed AOL-Time Warner opened up its purse strings.  As a result, Bash at the Beach was losing money years after it aired and the company had folded.  Simply amazing the power of the mighty Uni-brow to ruin the business.  It’s very far-reaching indeed.

To the match.  The announcers are miffed by this whole thing and making what I guess they consider ‘shooty’ comments throughout.  Lockup and Jarrett grabs a shitty headlock, into a shitty takeover, and we have a break. By the way, Jarrett might be a shitty worker who never drew a dime for the business, but he’s also one of the most legitimately nice guys around and he was totally innocent in this whole sorry affair.  Another lockup and Jarrett gets another headlock takedown and a headscissors.  Booker lightly shoves Jarrett, who oversells it with a rolling bump.  Was that a shoot or a work?  Only Russo knows.  Lockup and Booker spins around into a headlock.  Jarrett shoots off and shoulderblocks Booker, then bounces off the ropes and into a dropkick.  Jarrett bails, then returns to the ring and punches Booker around.  Jarrett avoids a kick but eats a sidekick and falls out of the ring.  Booker drops a punch off the apron, and then takes the fight into the stands.  WCW was even worse then the WWE at getting the fans to back off and give them room to fight.  Jarrett tries to take the fight to the concession area, but there are too many fans there.  So they fight all the way to the wall, which Booker slams Jarrett into.  They continue to walk around the stands.  I said walk, not fight, because that’s all it is.  Not even punches are being thrown.  Ugh.  They’re so transparent in trying to emulate the WWE main event crowd brawl, which requires no talent, and they can’t even do that right because nobody gave the security a heads up that they would be doing it and thus there’s nobody to make the fans keep a distance.  WCW, gotta love it.

Jarrett gives up and dumps Booker over the guardrail and back to ringside.  He tosses Booker over the announce table, then piledrives him on top of it.  It doesn’t give and looks both vicious and horrible at the same time.  Jarrett drinks a bottle of water, and then tosses Booker back in the ring for some stompery and a chinlock.  Ooooh, exciting.  All the fans that are visible from the hard camera shot look bored to death.  If I knew how to do a screen cap, you would be seeing it for yourself.  Hell, I bet some of them are pissed that they got screwed out of the advertised match with Hulk Hogan.  Russo never learned that most fans don’t give a shit about backstage politics or shoots or whatever.  They want to see wrestling stars, and there is no bigger star then Hulk Hogan.  Meanwhile, the chinlock is still going on and not being worked at all.  It’s about the laziest chinlock ever, to the point where when Booker’s hand gets dropped for the third time, he forgets to not let it fall.  Ugh.  Booker is then like “oh shit, right, I’m supposed to win this match!” and shakes it.  Jarrett shoots Booker to the corner, and then grabs a sleeper.  Booker then shoots off and grabs his own sleeper.  Jarrett clips Booker’s knee to escape, then goes for the figure-four.  Booker snatches him in a small package for two, then Jarrett puts the figure-four on.  This match fucking sucks.

The figure-four goes on forever, or at least it feels like forever, and then Booker turns it over.  Jarrett gets to the ropes, and Booker’s still out of it so Jarrett drops his weight on Booker’s knee.  He tries for it a second time, but Booker rolls out of the way and Jarrett gets butt-hurt, literally.  Not to pick on this match, but wouldn’t dropping your ass on a knee, which is made of bone and kind of pointy, hurt more then dropping your ass on a wrestling ring, which is made of canvas and plywood and is perfectly flat?  Wrestling logic, gotta love it.  So Booker T is able to fight back now.  He blocks a few punches and knees Jarrett in the gut.  Scissor kick and the spinnerooni, then a shoot-off and a spinebuster for two.  Shoot-off by Booker.  Jarrett grabs the ropes and moves out of the way, and then Booker tries for a side kick and crotches himself.  Yes, that’s how I meant to write it, because that’s how it happened.  If these guys had worse timing they would unravel the fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe.  Jarrett takes Booker to the ropes and tries for a ten-punch.  A whip reversal leads to the referee getting smashed in the corner by Booker.  Jarrett bails and grabs the title belt, but Booker ducks a shot from it, takes the belt, and smashes Jarrett with it for two.  The title belt shot was the WORST MOVE EVER~! because Jarrett fires off a low blow and bails out of the ring, completely recovered from getting smashed in the face by the fifteen pounds of gold or whatever the fuck they called the WCW title belt.  He grabs a chair and struggles to prep it in the corner.  He tries to ram Booker into it, but ends up getting rammed into it himself in another horrible looking spot.  It gets two.  Shoot-off and Booker lowers his head into an uppercut that again looked like shit.  I never watched WCW from this era.  Were all matches this disgraceful?  Yeesh.  Jarrett gives the referee the Stroke, then punts Booker in the balls again.  He bails for the guitar and climbs the ropes.  He goes for El Kabong off the top rope, but The Book catches him in the Book Bottom, if you smell what the Book is cooking, and it gets him the pin and the title.  The announcers talk about what a big moment this is, despite the fact that the title had changed hands nearly a dozen times between April and July and that David Arquette had held the belt.

DUD Saying this match had entertainment would be like someone being thirsty enough to cause their wife to have a miscarriage just so they could drink the afterbirth.  There was nothing good about it.  Every move looked like crap, every attempt at a high spot was botched, and the pacing would be embarrassing for someone having their first match ever.  No redeeming value whatsoever.

Match #15: WCW Championship
(c) The Rock vs. Chris Jericho
10/21/01 No Mercy

Thankfully this should end what has been a pretty ho-hum disc on a high note.  The storyline is that the Rock made fun of Chris Jericho, fresh off of jobbing to Rob Van Dam the previous PPV, for ‘always blowing the big one’ and thus it leads to this, a rare WWE vs. WWE match in the middle of the Alliance angle.  Jim Ross gets a dig in at WCW’s booking ineptness, noting that Jericho never got a single WCW title shot when he actually was with them.  This is ignoring the fact that Chris Jericho wasn’t really THAT GOOD in World Championship Wrestling and his character was a simple midcard weasel.  They did botch various angles and pushes they attempted on him, but he actually got it better then most people did.  He was even given a degree of creative freedom not afforded to anyone else with his position on the card.  Despite the fact that he had never been treated as higher then a TV-Champion quality worker, he was actually offered a seven-figure contract (if you include bonuses, all of which were practically a certainty) by Eric Bischoff to stay in the company rather then jump ship to the WWE in 1999.  A contact that actually would have landed him among the top ten or so people in the company every payday.  History shows that he still likely made the right call, but it’s not like there would have been any shame in being a misused midcard millionaire in WCW.

To the match.  A lockup goes nowhere.  A second one leads to Rocky getting a headlock.  They trade hammerlocks and move back to a headlock.  Shoot-off and Jericho hits a shoulderblock.  He bounces off the ropes and runs into an armdrag.  Rocky wrings Jericho’s arm and clamps down a headlock.  Shoot-off by Jericho and he fires off a couple armdrags.  He ground Rocky’s arm down and drops a few knees on it, then wrings it a bit.  Shoot-off and Rocky hits a reverse elbow.  Jericho gets pissy and bitch-slaps Rocky, then fires off a running elbow before Rocky can even get mad.  Jericho brawls Rocky around with various punches and chops.  Shoot-off but Rocky ducks a clothesline, then holds the ropes and clotheslines Jericho down.  Mounted punches and a shoot-off but Rocky lowers his head.  Jericho kicks it and bounces off the ropes only to nearly get caught in the Rock Bottom.  Jericho turns this into a Walls attempt, which leads to Rocky bailing to the apron.  Springboard dropkick by Jericho sends Rocky to the floor.  Jericho bails and kicks Rocky around on the floor, then pathetically pushes Rocky into the stairs.  He drops the Rock across the rail, and then stops the referee’s count while Rocky rolls back in the ring.  Well that was awkward looking.  Jericho climbs and hits a reverse elbow off the top for two.

Random brawling by Jericho, then Rocky mounts his comeback with a few punches.  It doesn’t take when Jericho hits a flying forearm for two.  Jericho bitch-slaps Rocky ever so slightly, then takes him to the corner for some choppery.  Rocky reverses and fires off his own chops, which are sissy looking.  He shoots Chris to the corner, but Jericho explodes out with a spinning heel kick for two.  A pair of backbreakers and a senton splash for two, rolled over by Rocky for two.  Jericho doesn’t let him recover and dropkicks him in the face.  He’s totally wrestling like the heel here, but the fans are splitting.  Jericho shoots Rocky off and eats a flying forearm, popping the crowd.  Rocky then charges and gets hot-shotted, popping the crowd louder.  He mounts some punches and hits a tilt-a-whirl slam on Rocky.  Jericho climbs but gets crotched and punched around.  Rocky decides to man up and fire off a stiff chop, and then loads up Jericho for a superplex.  It hits and we have a double KO.  Both guys are up and Rocky slugs it out.  Armdrag and a Samoan drop by Rocky for two.  Short-arm clothesline by Jericho, but Rocky nips up and punches Jericho to the floor.

They brawl over to the announce table, where Rocky nearly slams Jericho into Jim Ross and Paul Heyman.  Back in, Rocky smacks Jericho around, then cuts off a comeback with a clothesline for two.  Vertical suplex gets two.  Jericho fights back with some chops, but gets caught running the ropes and dumped to the floor.  Back in, Rocky covers for two.  Chinlock now.  According to the progress bar on my player, this match is only about halfway done now.  I’m thinking there’s no way they can keep up this pace for another sixteen minutes.  Jericho fights back after a couple minutes, which hopefully is long enough a breather for them to go nuts from here on out.  Catapult by Rocky into the turnbuckle, then a big clothesline.  He preps Jericho on the top rope to set up a superplex, but Jericho fights him off.  Jericho fires off a missile dropkick leading to another double KO.  The Rock is up first but he collapses back down.  Apparently Jericho missed his cue to get up.  We do get a slug-off and Jericho ends up hitting a back-elbow.  Shoulderblock and a swinging neckbreaker, then a bridged rana for two.  Running stomp by Jericho and a whip to the corner that’s reversed by Rocky.  Jericho flips out of something and hits the Rock Bottom on Rocky.  He follows this up with the Lionsault for two.  Paul Heyman says that’s all the proof you need that Jericho is a choke artist.

Jericho measures the Rock and hits a bulldog, then preps him for a People’s Elbow.  I can think of at least twenty ways this can go wrong.  It whiffs and Rocky hooks Jericho into a sharpshooter.  Jericho inches his way to the ropes and makes it there to cause the break.  Fans are pretty evenly split now.  Rocky loses his patience and preps the Spanish Announce Table for impact.  He places Jericho on the table and fires off the Rock Bottom, and oddly enough the move isn’t countered at all.  I, for one, find the straight forward delivery of that sequence without any shenanigans to be refreshing.  Rocky tosses Jericho back in the ring and coils down for the Rock Bottom, and the fans hate-hoo him.  Mostly because they want to see this go on.  He hooks the arm for it but Jericho elbows out, only to run into a spinebuster.  People’s Elbow attempt leads to Jericho snatching Rocky in the Walls of Jericho.  Funny enough, the fans are all seen looking up the entrance ramp because they totally expect someone to make a run-in.

BUT WAIT~!! because they’re right.  Stephanie McMahon is out with a chair.  She tosses the chair in the ring and Jericho breaks the hold to kill her.  He turns around and gets hit with the roundhouse DDT.  Stephanie cheers this on, so Rocky drags her in the ring and kills her with a Rock Bottom.  A pretty good one too.  Meanwhile, Jericho manages to keep his eye on the ball for once and hits what was known then as the Flashback and what is known now as the Skull Crushing Finale on Rocky onto the chair to score the pin and the title.  Fans pop for the title change but then seem to go numb.  Rocky recovers and has the chair, but he’s not going to use it and instead is like “bro, you needed a chair!”  Jericho could have followed that up with “Bro, you needed a retake of Montreal, a tape recording, and interference from a giant to win your first three championships.  Cut me a fucking break!” but he doesn’t because he’s a girly man.

****1/4 Actually a really good and entertaining bout that is rough around the edges like in retrospect almost every Rocky match is..  That’s one thing I’ve noticed about his matches: they don’t age well.  I remember at one point I had this pegged at ****3/4, but time is not kind to the Great One.  Don’t get me wrong, they cut a very fast pace, almost to the point where I think all the little mistakes were made because they didn’t pause long enough to hit any move with a degree of crispness to it.  At times this felt more like a really, really good indy match as opposed to a World Title match between two of the biggest stars in the industry.  I still enjoyed watching it, but I’m sure many of the fans who had wanted this match to land on DVD for a few years now were left thinking that it wasn’t as good as they remembered.

THE STORY THUS FAR: A pretty ‘meh’ lineup that is devoid of anything truly classic.  There’s one disc to go and it contains what I remember as a five star match on it, which might be enough to save this set.  Right now, the truly awful stuff has cancelled out some very good but unmemorable title bouts, leaving the question of whether this set will score a recommendation or not up in the air.  We shall see.  Stay tuned to Inside Pulse for the conclusion of the review, coming tomorrow.

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