- Hulk Hogan is openly talking about a return to wrestling and rumors are flying around that he and Flair are going to work out a deal to headline a summer PPV. Hogan reportedly wants a piece of the PPV money as part of his contract.
- Only weeks before this, Dave Meltzer had been saying Hogan would only come back if he was the centerpiece for a new promotion. Hogan actually created his own World title belt and was floating around a plan to tour Europe with a band of free agent workers providing the undercard.
- Kevin Sullivan returned and revealed The Equalizer to be his brother Dave.
- Dan Kroffat (Phillip Lafon) and Doug Furnas are negotiating to come to WCW in between their Japan commitments.
- WCW had Nick Bockwinkel announce that Vader vs. Flair is canceled at Superbrawl due to Flair’s injuries suffered at the Clash. WCW then proceeded to have Flair work all the house shows for the week anyway, then aired a Flair promo a week later where Flair vowed to be at SuperBrawl. WCW then sent out press releases to over 25 media outlets stating that Flair would not be at the PPV, meanwhile Flair continued to beg to be on the PPV during TV promos. They finally officially announced Flair was cleared to compete eight days before the PPV. WCW is allergic to money.
- Sting filmed a villainous role against Hulk Hogan to be aired on two episodes of “Thunder in Paradise”.
- Michael Hayes quit after being offered a one year 75,000 dollar deal. Mind you he has a serious back injury and isn’t working in the ring much at all anyway.
- Sherri Martel will be coming in as a manager. The plan is for her to corner the Sullivan Brothers, but that has already been canceled because Missy Hyatt was fired by WCW for going over Eric Bischoff’s head in order to try and get a new contract. Much more on that situation to come.
- Ted Turner was in the audience for an hour watching a WCW Saturday Night TV taping.
- Terra Ryzing aka HHH was given a trial match, and was signed to the main roster right after.
- The Nasty Boyz were working with jobber Bobby Walker and things began to get out of hand, ending with Sags trying to bite Walker’s face. Walker was then jumped in the locker room after the match was taped and agent Blackjack Mulligan had to break the two men up.
- “Jungle” Jim Steele had a match so bad that they forced him to redo it. (Don’t worry, he’s still getting a spot on this PPV-augh!)
- Awesome Kong and The Shockmaster have both been released.
- After months of rumors, Steve Keirn has finally signed with WCW and will team with Bobby Eaton.
- Former Olympian Frank Anderson came in and taped a series of squash matches that will be shown in Europe in an attempt to make him a star there. He used so many suplexes over the first two days of TV that he blew his own back out and missed the third set of TV tapings.
- WCW will no longer pay car transportation costs for the talent. The locker room was hardly thrilled to hear that news.
- The Mongolian Mauler has debuted and will be (briefly) part of Col. Parker’s group.
- Since Robert Fuller (aka Col. Parker) is now part of the booking team, he got his cousin Jimmy Golden a job with WCW, who will be part of Parker’s team as Bunkhouse Bunk.
Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan run down the card.
Johnny B. Badd vs. Michael “P.S.” Hayes
Jimmy Garvin, dressed like an accountant (he has been retired for over a a year) pushes Hayes out in a wheel chair. Hayes claims an injury but he and Garvin can’t keep their story straight. Commissioner Bockwinkel orders Jimmy Garvin to take Hayes’ place. This seems totally random since Hayes has been gone from the special events for over a year as well.
Thunder and Lightning vs. Harlem Heat
Thunder and Lightning have been on the roster for months and have finally made a major show. I have never seen them work. They look like jobbers. A Google search reveals one of them is the future N.W.O. Sting, the other is an unknown. Booker T and Lightning do some basic arm-work. This is followed by more arm bars. This is not starting off well. Harlem Heat double team Thunder gain the advantage and T locks on a headlock to keep the excitement level up. Lightning tries a roll up but gets kicked and that’s enough to end it. This was dreadfully dull.
“Jungle” Jim Steele vs. The Equalizer
Steele looks just like Chuck Palumbo. Heenan makes the match worth my time by informing us that the furry boots on the Equalizer are “hair Jordon’s” (I bet he used that when calling a Berzerker match in the past) Steele is another green, roided up worker so he has about the same training school level of workrate that Thunder and Lightning exhibited. Heenan tells jokes to avoid becoming too bored. Punch. Kick. Choke. Bear hug. Eye Rake. Schiavone compares this to 2 Cold Scorpio vs. Chris Benoit from last year’s Superbrawl. No really… Chinlock. ZZZZZZZZZZZ… Botched dropkick. Botched Irish whip. Jesus Christ. A Thesz press mercifully ends this. For the love of all that is good and Holy, this was SHIT.
Ricky Steamboat and Nick Bockwinkel talk with Mean Gene. Steamboat stoically announces that he is the number one contender to the World title. It would be nice if WCW hadn’t spent months having Steamboat be unable to defeat the TV champ Lord Regal to give this claim some credence. Steamboat is granted the title match at the next PPV. To be fair, Steamboat had most recently been working an angle with Vader.
Terry Taylor vs. “Diamond” Dallas Page
DDP is far from being any good at this point, so Taylor has his work cut out for him. Taylor busts out two quick moves that aren’t in his normal repertoire as he back kicks DDP then delivers a modified gut wrench suplex toss. Page looks chubby and has little muscle tone. Taylor locks on a Kimura and traps DDP’s arm straight back. They go through a cradle – reversal – cradle sequence and Taylor downs Page with a nice clothesline. They toss some nice strikes back and forth and DDP takes Taylor down with a jackhammer suplex. A gut buster keeps Taylor down. DDP uses a cobra clutch and uses it to deliver a take down.
Taylor is kept down with a headlock for a bit before he delivers a nice back suplex and dropkick. DDP cuts off the comeback and downs Taylor again. Taylor fights back but is downed by a beautiful punch to the face. Page misses a charge and is rolled up for the win. This was a solid match, made better by being compared to the crap that proceeded it. DDP showed some potential here and it seems odd in retrospect that Taylor won this given his limited future in WCW.
Johnny B. Badd vs. Jimmy Garvin
I was baffled by this strange one shot for Garvin when this originally happened, and I don’t have any clearer answer 20 years later. I’ll be scouring the Observer and if Dave Meltzer has any explanation for it, I’ll share it in my Spring Stampede review. The Freebirds have new music yet again. JUST USE BADSTREET, it would be the only redeeming quality of your entire existence in the 1990’s. Badd grounds Garvin but Jimmy Jam reverses it by locking Badd in a head scissors. Badd works his way out of that and uses some NCAA style wrestling to nearly steal the win. Hayes rambles on to the camera from the ramp during all this. Badd uses an armbar heavy offensive which forces Garvin to call time out and take a walk.
Garvin is downed again with more armwork. Garvin delivers a nice knee to the bread basket and tries a DDT but Badd flips him head over heels. Badd tries the KO punch, misses, but he hits the follow up. Garvin is then rolled up for the win. The crowd was way into the finishing sequence. Badd tries to attack Hayes but Garvin jumps him from behind and beats Badd with Hayes’ boot. Garvin delivers the Stone Cold Stunner and he tells the camera that the move is called the “911”. This issue will apparently continue. This match felt very much like what was portraying in kayfabe, that being a vet being called back into action unexpectedly and having a very generic, basic match.
TV Champion Lord Steven Regal vs. Arn Anderson
WCW doubled the TV title time limit for this match, I suppose to counter Regal’s constantly stalling things out to a draw. I’d wager Ric Flair used his booking influence to give his buddy a long PPV match to show off his skills. Regal locks Arn in a standing modified abdominal stretch, with Anderson’s having his face twisted during the hold as well. Things move along at a leasurely pace as both men know they have a long night ahead of them. They both use arm locks to eat up clock, but they are at least using modified versions of these basic holds in order to try and keep the fans invested in the match.
Regal uses a neck crank to gobble up more time. More arm work. This is all technically sound but completely numbing to watch. It really feels like they are just dragging things out. We have gone almost twenty minutes without much sense of either man driving for a win. Sir William uses an umbrella shot to try and aid his Lordship. A half-crab and leg grapevine by Regal serve to swallow up more time like Pac-Man eating power pellets. Anderson works Regal’s leg for several minutes. Regal locks on an elbow lock at the 25 minute mark. Anderson hits a spinebuster with one minute remaining, but Sir William distracts him. The Enforcer tries to score a cradle but William gives Regal a helping hand and the champ lands on top of Anderson for the 3 count with six seconds left. Almost thirty minutes of solid but unspectacular ring work, I only appreciated it because all the rest holds gave me a chance to read through my Facebook feed. This was definitely a disappointment.
World Tag champions The Nasty Boyz vs. Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne
Payne immediately grabs Knobbs and dumps him on his neck with a back suplex. Saggs tries his luck and he gets belly to belly suplexed to the mat. Knobbs tags back in and he gets side suplexed, which prompts Saggs to run in and he gets scooped up and delivered roughly to the mat. All four men start to brawl and the heels bail. The faces take turns taking the fight to Knobbs. The Nasties double up on Payne to finally drop him. The heels control for a brief spell before Knobbs misses a legdrop and that allows Jack to tag in and open up an assault on both baddies. Knobbs peels away the protective mat and Saggs knocks Jack off the apron and onto the hard unforgiving pavement where he lands with a sickening “splat.” Knobbs then throws him into the steel barricade, prompting a fan to call him “a son of a bitch.”
Jack is bleeding from this turn of events. Jack is tortured for several minutes before he delivers a double DDT on the champs. Payne tags in and tears into both champions, nearly killing Knobbs with a blown belly to belly overhead suplex by not releasing Knobbs, which sent him head and shoulder first into the mat. Knobbs visibly holds his arm after that mess up. Payne locks the Payne Killer armlock on the injured arm (I bet that felt great…) Saggs brings in a guitar and smashes Payne with it twice in the head to earn the DQ. These team always bring the uncontrolled violence against one another, which made for yet another sloppy, entertaining brawl.
Vader is undermined as Ric Flair cuts a promo with Ricky Steamboat about the possibility of squaring off at Spring Stampede. Mean Gene then name drops Hulk Hogan and Flair brings up that as a possible dream match as well. I guess you could argue that by talking about future matches, it provided a red herring where Vader would actually win.
Thundercage: Sting, Brian Pillman and Dustin Rhodes vs. Rick Rude, Steve Austin and Paul Orndorff
Sting out works Rude to begin but the heels gang up on him to gain an advantage. Once it gets back down to Austin and Sting, Austin ends up bumping around all over in and out of the ring as Sting lays in a beating. Pillman comes in and pounds at his former partner before he flies into the cage. Austin busts him open with a follow up cage shot. Pillman is then pulled to the heel corner and all three men take their turns abusing our flying hero. After several minutes of that Austin leaps right into a Pillman dropkick in a nice looking spot.
Sting tags in a clobbers Austin and Mr. Wonderful. Rhodes comes in completely fresh and he blasts away Austin and Orndorff, who have little recourse but to take the punishment. Rhodes tries to bulldog Rude but Rude crotches Rhodes instead. Austin punishes Rhodes for a bit before The Natural dropkicks him off the apron, causing Austin to crotch himself on the cage in an awesome spot.
Pillman tags in and tears into Austin and knocks the other heels heads together. All six men brawl in and around the ring. Austin continues to be a human pinball before Sting tosses Pillman on top of him for the pin. Rude cracks Sting’s head with the cage door and gives him the Rude Awakening to get his heat back. This was quite the fun sprint. Austin has certainly found his groove as a worker, and that creates an interesting fantasy booking question regarding what happens to Austin if Hogan doesn’t come in a few weeks after this. Does Austin get a chance to perhaps become the man in WCW? Side note – Paul Orndorff had been slumming with Paul Roma for weeks before this, making his participation here seem somewhat out of place.
Thundercage: World Champion Ric Flair vs. Big Van Vader
The Boss is the special ref. Flair starts things off fast and goes right after Vader. A few gentle chair shots take Vader down. Flair whips Vader in the corner and the big man does the Flair flip over the top rope and cracks Flair! He downs Flair quickly and crushes him with a Vader bomb. Vader attempts a moonsault but Flair moves out of the way. Vader pummels Flair with short jabs, which prompts Flair to respond with a simple two handed choke. Vader delivers a superplex, which took Flair out a few weeks ago. Flair somehow rolls to the floor. Harley Race attacks Flair for about the fourth or fifth time out on the pavement and The Boss finally steps in and tries to cuff Race to the cage. Vader smashes The Boss from behind and cuffs him to the cage instead.
Flair is sent back in the ring and Vader picks up the nightstick and ominously stalks Flair with it. Vader then tosses it aside. Race comes into the ring and helps Vader mug Flair. Arn Anderson comes down but he’s locked out. Vader and Race accidentally collide and Flair rocks both heels with punches. Steamboat comes down and tries to use a chair to break in the cage. Flair cracks Vader with a different chair. Things turn grim again for Flair as Vader and Race regain control. The Boss finally snaps the handcuffs, then rolls in the ring and cracks Vader in the knee with the nightstick. Flair then locks Vader in the figure-four and the Boss makes a questionable declaration of submission by Vader.
I’m not sure how to rate this match, there was some legitimate moments of tension during the match, but about half way through it lost all semblance of being a real athletic contest and turned into an extended pro wrestling angle. The finish was tremendously over booked and the top heel ended up essentially out numbered four on one.
Vader has since stated in shoot interviews that he was scheduled to win the title here, but once Flair gained more booking influence he had the result changed.
Final thoughts: For those who like to say that bringing in Hulk Hogan ruined WCW, I think the constant stream of bad shows (have I praised any events since SuperBrawl 93?) is a strong indicator that the body was already in rigor mortis, and at least Hogan and his cadre of WWF cast offs made WCW some money before ultimately sinking the promotion. I have high hopes for Spring Stampede though as I believe we have Flair vs. Steamboat, Muta vs. Austin, The Nasties vs. Jack/Payne and Dustin Rhodes vs. The Studd Stable and Vader vs. The Boss all on the docket.