By Martin Dixon (@BunnySuicida)
Hello and welcome back to Wrestling in the Clinton years, the wrestling blog that questions if Smarties really do have the answer. After last week’s lateness, Lex Luger is making good on his word to Sting and is shown camped out outside the arena in Nashville, Tennessee in order not to miss his world title match against The Giant. Luger once again brings the comedic gold sat outside the venue wrapped in a blanket, sat next to a cooler of drinks and fruit and defending himself against insects with what looks suspiciously like a spatula.
Pepe is dressed in a Beatles wig and neckerchief.
The show proper begins with the Steiner brothers facing the Public Enemy as we learn that Randy Savage is barred from the arena tonight after his rampage last week and is pacing up and down the pavement outside hoping to gain entrance and attack Ric Flair, the object of his rage.
Scott Steiner and Rocco Rock begin the match with Scott testing Rocco’s bone density with a wristlock. Throwing Rock into the ropes Scott tries for a tilt-a-whirl slam but Rock manages to wriggle free only to run back into the arms of Scott and is lifted high into the air. Johnny Grunge attempts to save his partner from his precarious position by entering the ring but only succeeds in being crushed under the weight of Rock as he is dumped on top of him by the future Big Poppa Pump. Rick joins the fray as the Enemy struggle to their feet, levelling them both with a double clothesline. The brothers then pose as Public Enemy try to regain their composure outside of the ring.
Grunge and Rick restart the match when parity is restored and Johnny takes control thanks to a well placed knee to the gut but is soon flat on his back after a shoulderblock and again when Rick foils an attempt at a leapfrog, catching Grunge in mid air and hurling him to the canvas. Rick then tags Scott who hits an ever-impressive belly to belly suplex for a near fall after Rock saves his partner. Scott chasing Rocco outside is the cue for all four men to begin brawling on the outside until Rick is at the mercy of both of the Enemy in the ring. On the apron Grunge holds Rick in place for a Rocco charge attack but as Rock leaps, Rick moves and teammates collide as Grunge is sent flying. Rock retains control of the match however and he continues a beatdown of Rick (which I find odd as I always viewed a miscommunication spot such as this usually precede either a change of momentum or even the finish to a match).
Rick manages to crotch Rocco on the top rope and from there he suplexes Rock allowing him to tag Scott who finally hits the tilt-a-whirl slam he tried earlier and heaves Rock into a seated position on a top turnbuckle. As the referee becomes distracted for the purposes of what comes next, Grunge enters illegally and levels Scott with an electric chair drop from the second rope and Rocco follows up with a diving headbutt. Rock climbs the ropes again for a diving senton but only hits canvas as Scott rolls out of harm’s way and struggles to tag Rick who clotheslines and suplexes both opponents with ease. Another brawl outside the ring ensues and once again Rick is isolated and targeted for a double team dive move. As Grunge holds on Rocco flips over the ropes but Rick moves again and the Enemy collide once more. Rick rolls Rock back into the ring where Scott awaits to deliver the finishing touch, a Frankensteiner that gives the Steiners victory ahead of Slamboree. This wasn’t a bad match but repeating whole sections left me a little cold but nevertheless this was a fine opening TV match.
The announcers’ topic of conversation switches to Diamond Dallas Page and the mysterious benefactor that is funding his return to WCW ahead of the second match pitting Chris Benoit against “Squire” Dave Taylor. It seems that DDP is not only back but has landed a spot in the lethal lottery tournament in place of “Hardwork” Bobby Walker who is out injured (presumably he was working TOO hard) and once again Ric Flair’s lavish dining table is set up in the arena as we catch a glimpse of it during Taylor and Geaves’ entrance, meaning more of Randy Savage’s money has gone into the local economy.
The match begins with Benoit and Taylor locking up but neither man can gain an advantage over the other. It’s Taylor who draws first blood when he shoves Benoit to the canvas during a break. He then tries to grab Benoit’s leg as he lies on the canvas but Benoit rolls his way out of Taylor’s grasp causing Dave to spiral through the air and land flat on his back, redressing the balance between the two opponents. Taylor makes for Benoit’s leg again but is felled by an enzugiri from “the Canadian crippler”.
Taylor’s persistence pays off eventually and he gains the upper hand with a sneaky punch to the gut as Benoit picks him up off the canvas. This opens Benoit up to a pair of harsh looking European uppercuts from the Brit and a shoulderblock keeps Benoit on the back foot. A reversal of an irish whip gives Benoit the chance to gain control which he does thanks to a vicious chop to the chest.
As DDP once again becomes the name on the announcers’ lips Taylor hits the second electric chair drop of the show as well as a fall away slam that rivals that of Scott Hall but Dave missing a leap from the second rope leaves him prey to Benoit’s dragon suplex that gives Chris the victory against the flow of the match as he bridges into a pin and count of three. Even with my usual “Benoit caveat” in place this was a solid match that told a brief but satisfying story and didn’t take anything away from the show.
Gene Okerlund is outside the arena as Randy Savage tries to gain entry as a small cadre of security headed by Doug Dillinger prevent him. Savage is hilariously in full wrestling attire but before he can say anything Mongo appears to do Savage’s promo for him, admonishing Flair for the repeated harassment of his wife. Savage reappears to finally speak, promising to “take WCW and turn it upside down” when the conversation turns to Savage and Flair being drawn as teammates in lethal lottery Randy simply says that he has “no problem dragging a dead tag team partner”. Randy also claims that a psychiatrist has diagnosed him as being “OCD: One Cool Dude” before trying to get past security once more. This was amazing lunacy from the Macho Man and I ate up every second of it.
píThe same Glacier video airs for a third time.
Long term readers may remember my deep seated hatred of one Irwin R Shyster while reviewing WWF Raw in the first volume of Clinton years. In a nutshell I thought he was boring to the point of offensiveness so imagine my apprehension at seeing him resurface as VK Wallstreet, an odd portmanteau of the IRS and Million Dollar Man characters. It seems my apprehension was slightly misplaced as here against Ric Flair in the next match I came away relatively entertained, even with this match being a heel vs heel affair.
The two begin with some very crisp chain wrestling as they appear as evenly matched as Benoit and Taylor were earlier. Flair eventually comes out on top though, backing Wallstreet into a corner and chopping away at his chest until VK sends Ric flying with a hiptoss across the ring. Wallstreet even drills Flair with a samoan drop but this only gets a two count as Flair drapes his foot over the bottom rope. Wallstreet clotheslines Ric over the top rope which isn’t a disqualification this week but comes unstuck as he tries to hit Flair with a high knee as the Nature Boy wanders around ringside. Flair dodges Wallstreet’s move sending his knee clattering into a ringpost. From there it is a mere formality for Ric as after he rams Wallstreet’s knee into the metal once more, he applies a figure four with some help from Woman and VK has no choice but to submit. This was almost light years ahead of any IRS match I saw in WWF and shows me that Wallstreet could still perform under the right circumstances.
After the match Gene grabs a few words with the victorious Flair who begins his tirade by claiming that he “made Dolly Parton ride space mountain one time”. Made!? The less said about that the better I think. Flair continues with his best Gomez Addams impression all over Elizabeth and promises that at Slamboree he will “knock WCW on its ass”. Gene bringing up the subject of Debra Mcmichael causes Flair to compare himself to Joe Naimeth at the end. Gene and Liz can’t keep straight faces and neither could I as Flair barely stayed on topic and ranted like a madman, basically this was perfect.
Sadly less perfect is the main event with Lex Luger finally being on hand to challenge the Giant. There wasn’t a lot of action to be seen outside of Luger running at Giant and bouncing off his massive form as he tries in vain to knock the world champion off his feet. The best action comes after Lex eventually succeeds in knocking Giant off the apron but this only sends Giant into a blind rage, grabbing Lex by the throat and leading him over to Ric’s VIP section where him and his ladies had been watching the proceedings. As Ric vociferously protests at what Giant has in mind, the mammoth world champion with one hand still wrapped around Luger’s neck clears the decks sending expensive silverware everywhere. With the surface prepared Giant hoists Luger into the air and sends Lex crashing through the table and onto the concrete floor. The bell is rung presumably for a disqualification on Giant as even Jimmy Hart cannot calm his charge down. Sting appears to tend to the broken Luger as Giant finally leaves the carnage. The announcers fall into a sombre tone as medical staff begin to see to Luger with Sting admonishing Gene as he hangs around the scene like a vulture. All previous talk of Luger’s motives is nixed as the announcers begin to eulogize Lex like he’s died and wonder how this affect Sting ahead of Sunday’s World title match all as the soundtrack to repeated replays of Lex being driven though the table. This would all have been wonderful melodrama if Lex didn’t appear on Slamboree as a hasty replacement in lethal lottery like nothing happened six days after this but on its own merits it made up for the rather lacklustre match that preceded it. It still wasn’t offensively bad and didn’t detract from what was a fun episode.
The unhinged promos by Savage and Flair were hilarious which may not have been the intention but they were no less entertaining. Another good episode in a small run of them it seems. More please WCW.
Before I wrap this up I would be remiss not to throw out a plug for my recent appearance on OnTheStick.com’s What A Maneuver podcast. I’ve always cited that show as the direct inspiration for Wrestling in the Clinton years so to finally bring everything full circle was a huge thrill for me. On the show I join host Joe Drilling (@Shake_Well) to discuss WCW Uncensored 1998, a show of much mediocrity and depressing flashes of brilliance, so if you’ve happened upon this article I’d be much appreciative if you’d also give it and all their great work a listen. You can find the episode here:
Until next time, thank you for reading