While I am now in 1994, it appears that the vast majority of the stuff I’m checking out here was taped in 1993. That’s no surprise to me, but it’s a bit strange. WCW changed so much over the course of 1994, it’s fair to say it wasn’t the same company that ended the year as the one that started it. There’s a lot that I’m not looking forward to, but there’s also novelty value in that I haven’t seen these things before.
– Taped to air January 1st, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
Steve Austin (WCW US Champion, w/Col. Robert Parker) vs. Sting
Pre-Match Thoughts: This is a great way to start off the year. There wasn’t much of consequence on the rest of this episode, but as always they knew to do something good with the main events on these shows. That’s what makes them so valuable and so entertaining. Their matches were regularly better than those that would be on Superstars and Raw.
Match Review: They lock up, and Austin decides to break clean. When they lock up again, Austin wooo’s in Sting’s face. The third time, Austin goes to a headlock that Sting has to power out of, only for them to wind up in the ropes. Sting shoulders Austin down, then Austin complains about cheating. They trade hammerlock reversals, then Sting kicks Austin to the outside. Austin gets back in, then Sting takes him down with a headlock. Austin tries an atomic drop, but Sting flips out of it and goes back to the headlock until Austin counters with a head-scissors. After more reversals, Austin goes to the headlock himself and Sting goes to a head-scissors. Sting then bridges up to a backslide, and that gets 2. After Austin takes a short rest, he boots Sting in the gut and tries a suplex that is reversed for 2. Sting goes back to the headlock, and this time Austin breaks it by putting Sting on the top buckle. Austin clobbers him with right hands, then goes up for a SUPERPLEX that gets 2. Austin goes to a wristlock, and drops some knees on Sting’s arm as well. Sting breaks the wristlock with some punches, then falls on top during a bodyslam attempt for a 2 count. Sting beats Austin up for a little bit, then gives him a backdrop. Sting lands more and more punches, then Brian Pillman runs out there to chase Parker around the ring! Sting has Austin in a small package, but Pillman runs in there and hits Austin for the DQ at 11:57.
My Thoughts: These two had really good chemistry, and I enjoyed how they tied Pillman’s beef with Austin and Parker into the match. Could have been a lot better match than this if the two were allowed to build to something, but booking doesn’t always require that. Very Southern to have Pillman chase Parker around the ring like that and then have Parker give a promo after the match. **3/4.
– Taped to air January 8th, 1994, on WCW Worldwide, from MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida
Pretty Wonderful vs. Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne
Pre-Match Thoughts: This match was seemingly done with the intention of having Pretty Wonderful beat important opponents on TV, but who really knows. This could be very good, and it could also not be very good. Worldwide matches also generally aren’t very long, so it’s more of a brief snippet rather than a match to dig my hooks in and analyze. They had a match the previous week that ended in disqualification. Payne and Cactus were such a natural fit, but this was really early in the formation of these two teams. That’s why the Assassin wasn’t there.
Match Review: Cactus starts things off with a shoulderblock and elbow drop on Orndorff, but he then misses a charge to the corner. Orndorff takes over with punches, then Cactus starts half-selling turnbuckle shots. Cactus gives Orndorff some rights of his own, then a headbutt. Payne tags in and so does Roma, which leads to Roma trying a go-behind. That’s funny. Payne easily breaks it, then blocks a bodyslam and starts working on Roma’s arm. His finisher was a Fujiwara armbar, so that makes sense. Cactus tags in to bite Roma, then jumps on his back and leg drops him up against the bottom rope. Cactus slams Roma, then brings in Payne for a huge headbutt. Roma hits Payne with shots from the top rope, but Payne eventually hits him on the way down. Payne goes for the armbar, and now we have a big brawl until the Nasty Boys run out and attack Cactus and Payne for the DQ at 5:34. Interesting. They completely take them out, which leads to some great things in the future!
My Thoughts: Yeah, this was completely with the intention of making Cactus and Payne look credible as title challengers. It worked too. Besides that, nothing else happened. The Nasties also looked like a strong heel squad. *1/2.
– Taped to air January 8th, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
Rick Rude (WCW International Champion) and Steve Austin (WCW US Champion, w/Col. Robert Parker) vs. Sting and Brian Pillman
Pre-Match Thoughts: This matchup does a great job of establishing what I said about WCW putting better matches on Saturday Night than the WWF would put on their respective TV shows. Who wouldn’t want to see this? You’d have to be kind of a prude. I have no idea what happens in this match, nor do I know what happens afterward. Funny to see some of the graphics change heading into 1994.
Match Review: Pillman wants to start with Austin, who immediately runs out of the ring away from his former partner. Austin pulls Pillman to the outside, then when Pillman gets back in the ring he attacks him. Smart. Austin misses a charge to the corner, then Pillman hits him with a clothesline from the second rope for 2. Austin ducks to the outside again, but this time he takes a real break. Austin makes a tag out, and Rude drives a shoulder into Pillman’s gut. After a series of chops, Rude gets taken down with a sunset flip for 2. Rude takes back over with shots to the throat, and Pillman takes a chance to leap off the second rope with a cross body that gets 2. Sting tags in and flapjacks Rude, then picks him up for an atomic drop. A clothesline knocks Rude down, and Sting covers for 2. Sting goes to an armbar, then fights out of the wrong corner by knocking down Austin and Rude with elbows and punches. Austin tries a headlock on Sting, and he has to grab hair to keep it on him. Austin then shoulders Sting down, but Sting comes back with a press slam and Austin tags in Pillman out of reflex. So Pillman knocks him down to the floor. Austin pokes Sting in the eye when he gets back in there, then pops Sting with a hard back elbow. After dropping some knees on Sting’s head, Rude tags in and smashes Sting’s face into the mat. Rude goes to a bear hug, but Sting makes the tag. Or not. The referee didn’t see it. So Austin runs in and drops a knee on Sting, then makes an illegal switch. That’s goofy. Austin drops another knee on Sting for 2, then Rude tags in there. Rude goes for a TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER, but Sting reverses it to his own. The Rick Rude staple! Austin nails Sting from behind, which almost leads to Rude getting pinned by Sting when Sting falls on top of him.
Pillman does make the big tag in, and backdrops Austin. He dropkicks both guys, then heads up top for a missile dropkick. He covers, but Parker gets in the ring and boots Pillman in the back of the head. Then Austin covers Pillman for 3 after about 11 minutes.
My Thoughts: This was nothing spectacular at all, but I liked the finish because it kept the Austin/Pillman feud moving along. That being said, Rude was clearly running on fumes by this point. His matches essentially turned into the very basics of what he was doing in the WWF, plus a tombstone piledriver reversal. He was obviously in some pain and didn’t take a lot of back bumps either. **.
– Taped to air January 15th, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
Steve Austin (WCW US Champion, w/Col. Robert Parker) vs. Brian Pillman
Pre-Match Thoughts: I just can’t resist. Almost everything worth watching has Steve Austin in it, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Everything had been clicking for him and he really understood his character and role in these matches. Pillman needed to change his character on some level though. This is pretty much what he was doing in 1991. Pillman brought out the chicken suit this time, because Parker is one.
Match Review: Austin is stalling a lot, of course. When the match starts, Austin starts faking a knee injury. At least I think he is. Then he punches Pillman. Haha. Pillman comes back with a drop toe-hold, then wrenches on the leg for a while. After some elbow drops on it, Austin takes the opportunity to kick Pillman out of the ring. Unfortunately for Austin, Pillman trips him and wraps his leg around the post. Austin pokes Pillman in the eye shortly after, and dumps him to the outside again. This time he follows, and goes for a PILEDRIVER on the floor that Pillman reverses to a backdrop. Pillman then chases Parker around the ring, but Austin springs up for a clothesline to stop that. Austin posts Pillman as well, then slaps an armbar on him when they get in the ring. Austin continues with that until Pillman kicks him away, then Pillman trips Austin and goes back to work on that knee until Austin kicks him in the face for 2. Austin chokes Pillman with the ropes, then pulls his arm over the post and wrenches it around there. Pillman fights back with chops, then rams Austin into the buckle a lot. Austin pulls Pillman to the outside, then Parker goes and rams Pillman into the apron. Austin tries to slam Pillman into the ring, but Pillman rolls over on top and covers Austin for the win after 9 minutes. Austin goes to put the chicken helmet on Pillman, but Dustin Rhodes runs out to make the save.
My Thoughts: I was thinking about Pillman’s last feud earlier today, and it seems like more than a coincidence that I would then come across something where Dustin and Pillman interact. Anyhow, these two worked hard even though in the end nothing amounted to the various body part work. Also felt like the match should have been longer, but I say that a lot. Pillman really felt like the same guy before the Hollywood Blonds and after, and I don’t really like that at all. Austin on the other hand felt like a future world champion. **1/2.
– January 22nd, 1994, on WCW Saturday Night, from Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia
Ron Simmons, Rick Rude (WCW International Champion), and Steve Austin (WCW US Champion, w/Col. Robert Parker) vs. Sting, the Boss, and Ric Flair (WCW Champion)
Pre-Match Thoughts: It makes Pillman feel kind of unimportant to be in a feud with one of these guys and for somebody else to be in this match. Simmons is strange to see in this role. He needed to be a heel though, almost all of their heels were bad and he was better than that group. Still, he’s obviously the fourth or fifth heel on the roster and that presents a lot of issues. I guess Vader and Regal are also above him.
Match Review: Ice Train is out there because he hates Ron Simmons being part of this heel group. Simmons clocks that dude, and the match starts with a brawl that the babyfaces win. Rude and the Boss keep things going, and Boss gives Rude an inverted atomic drop. Sting makes a tag in, and he gives Rude an atomic drop of his own. Now to a wristlock, until Austin tags in. Sting throws Austin from pillar to post, then picks him up on his shoulders and drops him. Sting tags in Flair, who chops Austin around for a while. Austin fights back and backdrops Flair, then bodyslams him. Austin misses a knee drop, so Flair locks the FIGURE-FOUR on him. Austin makes the ropes, but Boss tags in and drops some elbows on his leg. Rude switches in and slaps a sleeper on Boss, until a jawbreaker breaks the hold. Boss then misses a charge and flies over the top thanks to Simmons, who stands there while Austin throws Boss into the rail. Okay. Rude picks Boss up and snap suplexes him when they’re in the ring, then clobbers him from behind. Simmons finally tags in and headbutts the Boss, then whips him hard into the corner. Simmons tags in Austin, who drops a knee on the Boss for 2. Austin puts a chinlock on him, but he quickly fights out only for Austin to knee him in the gut. Flair gets angry and runs in there, but that allows Rude to take over with shots to the back of the Boss. Rude follows up with a bear hug, then Sting’s tag in isn’t spotted. Simmons switches in to bear hug the Boss as well, then he picks Boss up and slams him. Simmons goes to the second rope, but the Boss dodges his shoulderblock and makes the tag to Sting.
Sting backdrops Simmons, then he powerslams him for 2. Now everyone is in the ring, and Flair takes Austin into the rail. Sting rolls Simmons up after Ice Train takes the Boss’ nightstick away from Simmons, and that gets the victory for Sting’s squad at 9:03.
My Thoughts: This was a standard six-man tag, but there was a ton of heat and the crowd went crazy when Simmons lost the match. I guess that’s what people really wanted to see. I liked seeing that because it’s very rare to see new guys, even Ice Train, get in decent spots on these shows and have a prominent role in the proceedings. I’m pretty sure everyone at the top of these shows had been pushed for a long time before and that none of these pushes are anything new. Nobody had been elevated for a while. **3/4. I loved Austin’s effort and intensity.
Okay, so I think that’s going to be it. The period in between Starrcade and Clash 26 was really brief, so there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about match selection. I liked that the great feud started between Cactus, Payne, and the Nasty Boys. That was necessary, it was great to see something different than just standard wrestling matches on here. There were some other interesting things as well that I didn’t talk about. For whatever reason DDP was back and starting this thing where he would face somebody different every week. Don’t know how much of that I’ll see, but one of his opponents was a returning Tom Zenk. Lastly, Dusty Rhodes resigned as the booker, so things were definitely going to change. At least over a few month period they changed for the better, anyway. Arn Anderson also sued Sid Vicious over the incident in the UK. Next up, it’s back over to the WWF!
Best: I would say Steve Austin as an overall performer.
Worst: Lack of talent depth was at this point really obvious.