by Billy Carpenter (@4CR_Billy)
It has been a LOOOONG time since the last Retro Reaction, but it’s back! For those who missed the first two, this is my journey through 1991, looking at what was happening in the 2 major companies of the day–WCW & the WWF! I’ve always had a weird fondness for this time frame for some reason and thought it’d be fun for me to relive it and to sort of share my re-experience of it all with you. The article breaks down whatever 2 Saturday shows I can find from each company and compare the direction of each as we go through the year. But let’s not waste any more time, let’s get to why you’re here this week–the debut of Minotaur!
Tony Schiavone & Larry Zbysko kick off the show discussing Ric Flair regaining the World title from Sting! They run down the stars appearing on today’s show but no time to waste–let’s get down to ringside!
The Master Blasters make their way out and one of them looks like Vinnie Vegas. Or Oz. They’re taking on Tim Parker & Scott Allen this week. This went exactly how you thought. Which is to say it was ugly as sin. It’s weird seeing Nash come in through the middle ropes as opposed to stepping over the top. Lots of throwing, slams & a double shoulder block end things quickly for Parker and Allen. The Blasters, as is protocol for every big man team of the day, are booked like a poor man’s LoD.
Tomorrow night at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Ric Flair defends his newly won title against former champ Sting! Also, Doom vs Arn Anderson & Barry Windham in a street fight!
Rick Steiner is out next to a good pop. He’s in singles action against Mike Samples. Early 90’s Steiners make me smile. The Master Blasters pop up in a second screen promo which Nash stumbles through. Back to the action and Samples nails Rick with a right but Rick just walks away. Rick with a double leg and gets the back of Samples but the Master Blasters are out! Rick jumps out and challenges Steel to bring it on! Back in and Samples is the victim of a top rope overhead belly-to-belly and that’s all she wrote.
Danger Zone time~! He’s joined by new World champ Ric Flair. Flair is in fine form here. He talks about his upcoming match at the Clash of the Champions against Scott Steiner on January 30th. Great stuff.
Back to the ring we go, as Brian Pillman is set for action against Lt. James Earl Wright of the State Patrol. Pillman takes over with his quickness and sends Wright to the floor after a monkey flip & dropkick. Springboard Crossbody gets 2 for Pillman. Sgt. Parker is threatening to write the cameraman a ticket while Wright gains the advantage on Pillman. A head scissors sends Wright over the top though, and he catches a slingshot to come back in the hard way. Pillman off the ropes but he’s tripped by Parker! Lt. Wright works over Pillman but gets caught with a sunset flip for 2! Wright immediately back in control but Pillman keeps fighting, getting a rollup for 2. Clothesline by Wright after some cheating and he sends Pillman out to the floor so Parker can get some shots in. Wright looks to send Pillman into the post by Brian counters and leaps to the top–double axe handle! Pillman hits a spinning back elbow before sending Wright into the corner. He runs in but gets backdropped to the apron–he lands on his feet and hits a springboard clothesline for the win! The State Patrol attack after the bell but Brian fends them both off.
Back from the break, and here comes Terry Taylor! He’s taking on Joey Barrett this week. Some good mat wrestling from both to start and here comes Alexandra York. She’s scouting the match and I have to say, once again, I loved this gimmick. Taylor in control but he looks distracted and this allows Barrett to come up with some offense. He gets a pair of near falls before Taylor catches him in a snap belly to back suplex. A swank piledriver follows and then Taylor hits a spinebuster. He points at York before nailing the Fivearm for the win. Surprised at this match, it was actually kind of decent for the 3 minutes or so that it got.
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Back to action and here’s what we’ve been waiting for…the debut of Minotaur! Keith Hart is the opponent and I’m not sure that he’s the same Keith Hart of the famed Calgarians. Hart goes for a missile dropkick to start (!) but Minotaur no sells it. He tosses Keith around before launching him to the outside. Minotaur proceeds to just beat on poor Keith. He either started biting his neck or giving him a hickey. A big lariat and a splash gives Minotaur the win.
Back from commercial and here’s come The Southern Boys! They’re taking on Ed Brock & the legend, George South! Smothers & Armstrong are fantastic, pulling out some great tandem offense. South gets the advantage though and tags in Brock. The advantage doesn’t last though, and the Southern Boys go back on offense. Man, these guys came along about 2-3 years too late. They would’ve been awesome in the mix with the other top teams of JCP’s heyday. Smothers & Armstrong vs the MX? Or the Horseman? Hell yeah! They were completely dominate here, picking up the win after a top rope back elbow on Brock.
Back to Larry & Tony, who cut to another awesome taped promo from Windham & Anderson. These promos were outstanding and got over the “violent side” of the Horsemen. Arn is in full Enforcer mode and god dammit, it’s a thing of beauty.
That does it for WCW Pro this week! An interesting debut, some decent in-ring stuff and another killer Horsemen promo made this a pretty fun watch this week. Now, how would the WWF counter? Why, it’s time for the 1991 ROYAL RUMBLE!!!
WWF ROYAL RUMBLE 1991
The build for the show centered on The Ultimate Warrior defending the title against on the biggest heels in the history of the company, Iraqi sympathizer Sgt Slaughter. But there’s definitely more to this card and may not be as boring as some people think…
The Rockers & The Orient Express lock horns first in a match that I’ve called one of my favorite tag bouts ever. This version of the OE is much better, as Paul Diamond became the masked Kato and got to reunite with former Bad Company partner Pat Tanaka. Of course, they’ve met the Rockers many a time in the AWA and the chemistry was on display here. Tremendous pace, innovative spots, non stop action from start to finish. I won’t even do a semi-review of the match because if you haven’t seen it, it’s required viewing. State of the art tag wrestling, especially in ’91. The Rockers win, but like I said, stop reading this and go to the Network and watch this now!
Ultimate Warrior is out to talk about tonight’s title match but Queen Sherri comes out to plead her case for Macho King Randy Savage to have a title match as well. Drè & I talked about this on 4CRetro recently–Sherri’s mannerisms were definitely a little risqué for the time. He ultimately says “no” and sets the Macho King OFF.
The Barbarian & The Big Bossman are next. I had no hopes of this being enthralling, but damn if I wasn’t wrong. You kind of forget how over & how good Bossman really was until you watch stuff back from this era. As for the Barbarian, holy hell this guy came to work tonight! This match was better than it looked on paper, and would’ve possibly been MOTN if Rockers/Express didn’t happen earlier. Good stuff here from bell to bell and both guys worked like they were about 50-75 lbs. lighter than what they actually were. Enziguris! Jumping piledrivers! Bossman wins the match after rolling through a Barbarian crossbody. Fun stuff.
Sean Mooney is backstage w/ General Adnan & Sgt Slaughter. He scowls & spits and vows to win the title. Over to Mean Gene who is standing by with the Ultimate Warrior. He responds the only way he knows how. That leads us right into…
Sgt Slaughter vs The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Title. Oh boy. The match is…not good. Warrior dominates most of this. He destroys the Iraqi flag at the start to a HUGE pop. Slaughter bumps like crazy for Warrior. It doesn’t take too long for Sherri to come down and get involved, tripping Warrior as he came off the ropes. He gives chase but gets blindsided by the Macho King! Back in and Slaughter spits on Warrior–did Roddy call Sarge a “taint” on commentary?! Crowd is super hot for this match, erupting every time Warrior starts mounting some offense. Climax sees Slaughter sink the camel clutch and thinking he’s won it there. He argues with the ref thinking he’s won it and Warrior mounts a comeback. Sherri & Savage make their way back but Sherri gets press slammed into Savage! Slaughter hits a knee and Savage NAILS Warrior with the scepter allowing the turncoat to win the WWF Title! Insane heat throughout but man…it’s a bad match. All about the angle here.
-Sean Mooney catches up with Savage & Sherri backstage and Savage shares his thoughts. Warrior is threatening to bust the door in so they bolt.
Piper REALLY hates Slaughter being the champ.
Old school Rumble hype interview time!
Ah yes, Ted DiBiase & Virgil vs Dusty & Dustin Rhodes. Dusty had slowly and kind of quietly morphed back into ‘Dream Mode’, shedding the polka dots as he was leaving to go book for WCW. The match itself is serviceable but nothing special. The Rhodes’ clear the ring to start. DiBiase instructs Virgil to take out Dustin but DiBiase doesn’t like what he sees. He berates Virgil before going to work on Dustin himself. The Rhodes’ knock Ted around with some bionic elbows before Big Dust gets a sleeper on DiBiase. Virgil makes the save. Dustin back in and it looks like might’ve really hurt his knee going after Virgil. DiBiase & Virgil work over Dustin’s knee for awhile until some miscommunication leads to Virgil clotheslining DiBiase. Ted gets pissed and attacks Virgil before rolling Dusty up for the 3 count. Dusty would be back in WCW before too long and Dustin wasn’t far behind. He’d become ‘The Natural’ and become a pretty big deal in WCW over the next few years. Match was ‘meh’ but the post match…
DiBiase verbal dresses down Virgil, ordering him to put the Million Dollar title around his waist. Virgil throws the belt down to a pop! Ted reminds Virgil of his money problems and brings up his mother. DiBiase says that ‘everyone has a price’ but turns into a belt shot from Virgil and the place goes CRAZY! Awesome moment.
Before the Rumble, Mean Gene is standing by with Hulk Hogan and they’re interrupted by an ‘unconfirmed source’ claiming that Slaughter ‘May or may not have defaced the US flag’. This apparently upsets Hogan to the point that he forgets how to talk a little bit.
Time for the Royal Rumble match and I can’t sit here and recap the whole thing. Honestly, after Sarge won the belt and Hulk cut that promo with Gene, this was a wrap anyway. That said, this was a pretty solid Rumble match. All the stars were there, from Bret to Hogan. The Undertaker makes his Rumble debut here too, no selling any & everything. There were slow spots, like every Rumble–but at the same time, there was some pretty good stuff here too. Comes down to Hogan & Earthquake, continuing their feud a little bit from the summer of ’90. But I don’t think anyone in the building or at home was buying anyone but Hogan winning this. A somewhat lengthy exchange between the two leads to Hogan sending ‘Quake over with a clothesline to win his second straight Rumble! He waves the American flag as we close the show…
Hard to give a fair comparison this week, as WCW’s offering pales in comparison to WWF’s 2nd biggest show of the year. Match of the week goes to The Rockers vs Orient Express, and that’s a tag match that still holds up strong 23+ years later. Some big stuff from the federation is being built (Savage/Warrior, Virgil/DiBiase, Slaughter’s heel run) but the “new look Horsemen” is really something that has me hooked as far as WCW goes. Not to mention the Sting/Flair title feud and new challenger Scott Steiner. Next time, we get into Rumble fallout, as well as some of the interesting things happening in Turnerland on ‘Retro Reaction’!