I was asked if I’d thought about reviewing any XWF episodes recently. I hadn’t, but I’ll give it a shot. Of the three episodes produced, I’m going for the middle one, with the idea of catching the train while it’s rolling, not while it’s starting or stopping. I’m also including some interview clips with people involved with or talking about the promotion too.
Quick introduction from Brian Knobbs and Jimmy Hart, two of the main men involved in the running and booking of the promotion along with Greg Valentine. I cringe a bit when Knobbs talks about the “storylines” they had in mind. Cringe even more when the new stars he has in mind to mention were Hale and Ian Harrison.
Actual commentators on the show are Tony Schiavone (not likely to be picked up by the WWF) and Jerry Lawler (in a tiff with the WWF over them sacking the Kat, who’s flanking the King as the Kitten), from Universal Studios.
Juventud Guerrera and Psychosis vs. Ray Gonzales and Konan
It’s noisy music and clip, clip, clip with the editing, with both teams introduced and out to the ring in about thirty seconds, if that. Three of the guys have extensive experience with each other, while Gonzalez is a pudgy Puerto Rican. Kevin Christian, Jerry Lawler’s younger son, is the ref. The heels catch Gonzalez with some double team moves, but just look so normal in leather trousers and without masks. Gonzalez gets a clothesline that Psych does a slow flip bump on and gets the tag. Juvi runs straight into a wheelbarrow suplex and gets Juvi with a DDT. Gonzalez comes back in and gets caught in the Juvi driver, but Konan blocks the 450 and Ray pins Juvi after a lazy Stunner. Quick, harmless, forgettable lucha match.
I wish I was technically more capable so I could isolate the awful interstitial of British bodybuilder Ian Harrison flexing and making stupid, toothless, gurning face while a midi-quality version of Rule Britannia plays. New star, ladies and gentlemen(!).
Mean Gene brings out XWF CEO Rena/Sable for an interview in the ring. My heart breaks to see the Barbarian reduced to being on her security detail as nameless muscle. She walks off from Gene, the master of impromptu smooth banter, and robotically gives a thank you speech. Maybe Gene should’ve stayed quiet, though, because he questions her appointment of Roddy Piper as commissioner, drawing him out and some troubling discussion about what’s under his kilt. Then Vampiro, who’s dressed like a cross between Interview with a Vampire and a Scotsman himself, to kiss up to her. Weird positioning of Vampiro as a Shawn Michaels-like underdog with a lifelong dream, which didn’t work for Shawn and definitely wasn’t going to work for this headcase. Rena brings up Josh from MTV’s Tough Enough as an equivalent of that (first indirect WWF reference of the show beyond Rena’s music having cat’s squeal at the start), so Roddy starts kissing arse and says he’ll organise a match for him.
Interstitial with Big Vito, who was willing to do anything and was too weird for WWE when that was what they wanted.
In a recorded bit, the South Philly Posse (Public Enemy) almost walk past Jasmine (St. Clair – gang bang queen) and then have a conversation you can barely pick up on mic where she walks off from them.
At ringside, Maximum Force (Simon Diamond and Johnny Swinger, with Dawn Marie) come out to harass the King. Well, Simon lays the mouth on while Johnny stands there flexing his pecs. Simon questions Lawler calling Dawn trash when he’s banging Stacy. This leads to an impromptu match, even though it was already listed on the bumper before the break.
Jerry Lawler vs. Simon Diamond
Just as the bell rings, Swinger attacks from behind and it’s two-on-one while the ref just lets it happen. King manages to avoid some punches from both, leading to Swinger getting superkicked (with no contact) out of the ring and getting a piledriver on Diamond for the win. Because it’s about putting over young, new stars, not the commentator. Terrible.
Sony (sic) Onoo introduces Japanese “star” Vapor (actually the recently deceased Ryan Sakoda, from California, who had a very brief time in WWE).
Hail vs. Knuckles
Hail is Emory Hale, who again had a brief run in WCW of no note. Big, muscled up, bald guy with a handlebar moustache. Knuckles is the smallest, dumpiest jobber they could find, by the looks of it. Hail rushes him and almost drops him off the top rope when he sets him up for a superplex. Impressive belly-to-belly across the ring, though. Shoulderbreaker and legdrop finishes. A bit of the Rock, a bit of the Hulkster, with him clearly being a Jimmy Hart-managed heel being set up to later do a job for the Hulkster.
Promo from A.J. Styles, gunning for the cruiserweight belt.
Back to Jimmy and Knobbs in the “present”, who talk about the international stars they had, as well as Johnny B. Badd… Yeah(!).
Backstage at the show, Greg Valentine and Horace Boulder bitch about having no matches listed on the board for them. They actually show behind the board, to hide that they’ve probably not gone to the effort of writing any down on the surface. Roddy Piper comes by and play mauls Valentine and promises Boulder a match later.
Johnny B. Badd vs. Norman Smiley
Mero has dusted off one of his old WCW robes and the Badd Blaster, but just has short hair, a moustache and black trunks and white boots, looking more like Al Perez with a haircut. Norman wrestles in Florida Gators gear for some reason, which is strange because he’s still in shape. Both guys are strangely Boris Malenko trainees, despite their very different styles. Smiley gets the swinging slam and a clothesline. Holds a chinlock for a bit and then another clotheline out of the corner. Delayed butterfly suplex, which was one of his big moves, but he looks like he almost drops him. Johnny then gets the TKO pretty much out of nowhere for the win. Nothing happening match.
Shane Twins vs. The Road Warriors
The Shane Twins are the two bulky, bald blokes who wore the body condoms in TNA and again had a cup of coffee in WWE as Simon Dean’s backup. Jim Cornette hated them after they colossally fucked up a spot for him in OVW. Hawk looks so uncoordinated, like he needs the ropes to hold him up and ready to stagger at any point. He does manage to dropkick one twin out. Neckbreaker that the twin almost goes down on too quickly. Hawk misses a shoulder charge and get teamed up on. Then there’s the head smashing spot for both to get a tag off, but Hawk falls down too quickly himself and the wrong camera angle catches it. Animal gets the tag and it’s Doomsday Device time, so the Nasty Boys sneak out and pull the referee out, prompting a no-contest. The Shanes make friends with the LOD afterwards. Well, at least they didn’t kill one another in this one.
Curt Hennig vs. Buff Bagwell
Again with the editing, they cut down what was probably an awesome long introduction from Hennig’s “agent” Bobby Heenan to one sentence. Tony feigns outrage over the Brain blowing his nose on Hennig’s towel before knocking his sweat off with it. I guess other than some Ring of Honor shots this would be Bobby’s last time as a manager, although he was very deliberate about not calling himself a manager so that he maintained that retirement in 1991 to a degree. Buff stomps on Bobby’s fingers, but gets chopped in return. That leads to a dropkick that sends Curt flying over the top rope. Jerry and Tony have pretty much their only interesting bit of conversation in the show up to this point when Jerry recalls wrestling Buff in Trinidad and accidentally ripping his earring out, leading to some stitches and a re-piercing. Hennig necks Buff and gets the neck snap. Someone is very loudly shouting instructions to the ref, and it sounds like Hulk Hogan. Hennig stomps away, then Bobby teases punching and choking him, which gets more heat than if he really did. Boston crab is attempted, but quickly abandoned, allowing Buff to get a jawbreaker to make his comeback. He goes up for the Blockbuster, but Bobby finally makes contact and pushes him off, straight into the Perfectplex. Vampiro comes out to “stooge this off”, using Tony’s words. A strange babyface beatdown proceeds until Ian Harrison comes out and clotheslines Bagwell and Vamp at the same time, probably the one move he knows. This brings out Piper to attack Hennig, to Rena’s consternation. Bless Bobby, he even tries his old over the top rope bump to escape. Best match of the show on account of them just being pretty much spot on with 99% of what they did.
That’s the show, with Jimmy and Brian signing off and promising the semi-famous Hogan/Hennig match in the third and final episode, which might be the last time Hulk ever wore yellow trunks.
Now some interviews…
Knobbs on the XWF
From 2019 with Hannibal, with Knobbs looking not great at all. First some chat about their non-event run in TNA. He compares it to the XWF, where Vince picked up the guys they had signed to short term contracts. So, they were trying to sell the tapes with guys in WWE by that point, especially Hulk. Knobbs thinks AEW won’t have the problems that they had because of the money behind it.
Dave Penzer on the XWF
Former WCW ring announcer and behind the scenes (as well as ring announcing) in XWF. He names the principals involved (Hart, Knobbs and Valentine) as well infomercial impresario Ian Harrington, who put the money up for it. He calls them eclectic, but he needed a job, so he worked in talent relations. He thinks they put together a great old and new roster and had some good episodes, but first of all Jerry Lawler got offered his job back with the WWF. Then Mean Gene, then Hulk, then Piper, then Hennig, then Heenan… The result was shopping a tape around with guys that couldn’t work for them any more, so the executives they were marketing to weren’t interested without them.
Main feuds were to be Road Warriors/Nasty Boys (ugh!) and Hennig/Vampiro, with Vampiro being their version of Sting, but Penzer thinks he would’ve been too much of a flake anyway.
Hannibal brings up wrestling in Puerto Rico and how there would always be boxes of XWF merch around. This was from the XWF invasion of WWC, with matches edited into their shows and then appearances from the stars they did have for their anniversary show. Penzer “wrestled” a referee on it. The cheque bounced from Victor Jovica, which is a common thing unless you insisted on cash. He knew it was a doomed enterprise, with a reliance on guys like Ricky Santana and Fidel Sierra instead of Hennig and Bagwell.
Honky Tonk Man on the XWF
A clip I’ve looked at before, with a guy who knew the XWF guys but had nothing to do with it. Honky goes off on religious wrestlers and their desperation first, including a recap of a chat he had with Brutus Beefcake about whether he was really being truthful about becoming born again via Ted Dibiase (spoiler: he wasn’t).
Then to the XWF, AKA “the Coke League, run by a bunch of cokeheads”. He offers to produce a young wrestler who wrestled for them in Texas and went to a suite to meet with the bosses, who told him there were three rooms, one with coke, one with pot, one with booze, and if he wanted to work for them he’d have to go and partake in one of them. He says they pretty much stole off an old man to make things work, and then the clip cuts off. If I had to guess who that was I’d say his name rhymed with Did Dash.
Melting it down: At the time, Jimmy Hart said they were going to use old stars to create new stars. Not a bad idea if you buy low and sell high. However, losing just a Hogan was big enough to break the company, not the rest, so it was a doomed enterprise and not really much better than an episode of WCW Saturday Night. Big miss.