The Battle Royal: in an era of jobber vs. jobber matches making up almost all TV wrestling, this iwas the only way to get to see a TON of big stars in one place!
It’s another Dream Matches column! This time I find a Battle Royal from 1992 with a very unexpected victor! A 40-man battle royal with an incredible SEVENTEEN jobbers getting paydays, and extended runs by guys like Kato and a beyond-done Texas Tornado! Read on!
I also find some disparate stuff- Crush vs. Damian Demento from a 1992 WWF Mania, as I find an incredible smorgasbord of horrible low-grade matches on that program! Essa Rios vs. Jeff Hardy from 2000, as the Hardyz push REALLY starts to get in gear and “Team Extreme” is ready to form! WCW midcard glory as Glacier faces Lash Leroux! Then it’s a request, as we see a very young MIKE AWESOME in late ’80s WCW, as he faces the “Z-Man” Tom Zenk! And finally, some throwaway lucha stuff as Juventud Guerrera & Super Calo face Silver King & El Dandy in a match that ends in a REAL mess of miscommunication!
(Bret Hart, The British Bulldog, Sgt. Slaughter, Rick “The Model” Martel, “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, I.R.S., The Nasty Boys, “El Matador” Tito Santana, “Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, Virgil, High Energy, Skinner, The Beverly Brothers, The Berzerker, Kato, Jim Powers, Barry Horowitz, Jumping Jim Brunzell, Duane Gill, Joe Milano, Rick Johnson, John/Tom Star, J.K. Goodman, Chico Martinez, Bob Bradley, Bruce Mitchell, Bob Knight, Terry Davis, Joe McMullen, Al Tucker, Barry Hardy, Nick Danger, Scott Palontonio?)
(WWF Prime Time, July 6th 1992)
* Okay, so while Scott Keith HATES Battle Royals, I LOVE them. I mean, in an era where your weekly main event was like Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Koko B. Ware, seeing THIRTY GUYS in one match? That was incredible! Plus it was fun to see guys go out almost in the exact order of importance. This one’s a real mish-mash of the most “1992” acts possible, including Kato as a singles act, the Beverlies, High Energy & Skinner. I don’t recognize most of the seventeen (!) jobbers, but there’s a pudgy short guy in a red singlet who is AMAZINGLY bad-looking, and Johnson is some huge, ripped dude. Bruce & Bob look like a tag team in matching black tights & white boots. LOL some asshole fan on the right is grabbing all the babyfaces by the arm and not letting go, resulting in a bunch of dudes (Virgil, Kerry) spinning around, probably giving him an earful.
There’s barely room to stand in the ring once the bell rings- the Berzerker won’t get into the ring, and instead eats a fan’s sign and pulls out a flabby jobber while another goes out off-camera- Gorilla indeed calls this portly, mustached guy a “youngster” and suggests he’ll be allowed back in (alas, his night is over). Tornado tosses a jobber in green, then a black jobber in red as Berzerker finally enters the ring. Out goes Rick Johnson via Kerry! Plus the guy in the red singlet (via a Beverly) and a dude in black trunks, then ANOTHER guy in black as Tornado is just a jobber-slaying machine in there. Most everyone is doing the Lazy Lean while three heels gang up on Kerry and DiBiase & Virgil go at it- Berzerker dumps another jobber and is on the floor again. Duane Gill or Barry Hardy goes flying via DiBiase and the Nasty Boys actually eliminate Sgt. Slaughter while Barry Horowitz keeps raking guys’ backs. It’s Skinner vs. Tatanka & Beverlies vs. Owen as Berzerker tosses Jim Powers!
Back from break with Horowitz tragically on the floor and the only true jobbers left are Bradley & Gill/Hardy (they look the same from far away!), and maybe Kato depending. Martel slugs away on Tatanka but just gets tossed! Kerry tosses Bradley and Blake Beverly takes out the last jobber, and Berzerker holds Virgil for Ted. Tatanka does an Idiot Charge and goes sailing over Skinner! Wow, I figured he’d do better. Like, KATO is still in there. Bret knocks Knobs off the apron and Ted misses a punch and goes out via El Matador! And IRS does the same move and is dumped by the Bulldog! And VIRGIL does the same move and goes out via Berzerker! LOL that’s a few too many of that spot within seconds of each other. Berzerker easily tosses Owen, and then Bret tangles with Beau on the ropes, sending BLAKE into them, and all three go out! The choreography was a bit off (Blake looks like he deliberately eliminated himself), but that saves some face for the Hitman, as two guys essentially yanked on his leg out there to pull him out.
Kato FINALLY goes out via the ol’ “missed punch” on Koko, then Sags climbs up on Bulldog in the corner and Kerry dumps him from there. Hayes & Monsoon are agog at Matador & Skinner still being in there, respectively (“That FILTHY PIG!” sez Monsoon of Skinner). Then it’s stereo Idiot Charges, as Koko flies over Berzerker and Matador goes over Skinner! Now we’re down to Skinner, Bulldog, Berzerker & Texas Tornado! Berzerker & Skinner eyerake Bulldog and finally get him out through sheer attrition, Skinner finally knocking him off the apron (you don’t see that spot a lot, where they push him up and over and he eventually just goes out through the fighting). Kerry lights up both heels, putting Skinner down with the Discus Punch, but they get on him again, he comes back again, but Skinner nails Berzerker by mistake! But instead of regretting it, Skinner just tries to toss him, and that’s his unmaking- he goes to grapple with Kerry on the ropes and Berzerker dumps both of them at (10:11 shown), winning the whole thing! Big surprise from the Berzerker, who wasn’t really getting pushed all that much- and he didn’t even use his finisher… which is literally PICKING SOMEONE UP AND THROWING THEM OVER THE TOP ROPE! Like, the most useful finisher in a battle royal!
Fun battle royal- the super-clogged ring was a hilarious mess, as was seeing 15 jobbers tossed out in the opening 90 seconds. A few too many of the lazy “miss a punch and get dumped over”, but that’s probably the safest possible bump to take, especially in a crowded ring, so I see why it was so common. Von Erich of all people (who was not long for the company… or the world) being the final babyface was odd, too.
Rating: **3/4 (not bad as battle royals go, but a bit repetitive)
The mega-over “Team Extreme”. I’ve slooowwwwwllly been covering its evolution via Essa Rios matches.
WWF LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
ESSA RIOS (w/ Lita) vs. JEFF HARDY (w/ Matt Hardy):
(March 2nd 2000)
* The countdown to Lita joining the Hardys continues, as Matt & Jeff were just dumped by Terri for the old “You didn’t CALL ME while I was in the hospital!” thing. Jeff’s in all black, with purple in his hair. Rios & Lita are in all red.
They do a REALLY long criss-cross sequence, won by Jeff, but he misses the “Sabu Moonsault”, but scores with a pescado. Rios whips him into the corner, dropkicks him in the back when he flips up to the top, but misses a baseball slide and Jeff flies out… into the Pillman Bump, hitting the railing instead! And that’s our cue- Over The Corner Tope Con Hilo from Rios! Missile dropkick to the back gets two, and Rios does his “backflip off the ropes” spot, but they bugger the landing so it’s an ugly roll-up for two. Some awkwardness sees Rios go into the corner a few times, but he scores a flying hurricanrana, taking Jeff to the floor- Lita then does the same move off the apron to him! That gets two in the ring, but when Lita tries to slap Jeff, that distracts the ref so MATT comes in, hitting the Twist of Fate (front facelock to cutter) on Rios! Well he deserved that one. Matt calls out to Jeff, who hits the Swanton Bomb (“He calls it the–” is even added by Cole beforehand, so that’s not a new thing with him)! But Lita flies in with a moonsault, barely clipping Jeff and landing flush on Rios (not a botch- that was “meant” to happen) and the ref calls for the DQ at (4:11). Rios talks mad shit to her in Spanish on the mic, getting slapped for it, setting off the next stage in Lita’s career.
Rating: ** (More or less the usual “Rios Match”- a collection of the same cool highspots he always does, followed by Lita doing them, though the middle kind of fell apart. Nice callback with Matt interfering, and it leads to the DQ, saving Essa’s title)
Demento is now by far more remembered for his “I was NOT a Jobber!” whiny internet video.
CRUSH vs. DAMIAN DEMENTO:
(WWF Mania, March 13th 1993)
* Hell yes more Damian Demento! A lame indie worker named “Mondo Kleen” given a JTTS run, he’s mostly here to job to guys like Crush- guys who were actually getting pushed. However, this is during the Doink feud that permanently stalled out Crush’s singles career. Crush (“a legend in Hawaii” according to Sean Mooney) is in the orange gear, while Demento’s in his usual black stuff that Stu Grayson wore a variant of in AEW.
Demento mostly talks smack to start, actually making a “hang loose” hand signal and spitting on it to, uh, pwn Crush for his Kona heritage, I guess. Crush walks into a boot, but does a leapfrog into a dropkick- Damien talks to voices, but walks into an armdrag and Indian deathlock before bailing for more chatter. Damien tries cheap shots during a test of strength, but Crush no-sells both them and a hiptoss, and effortlessly hits a belly-to-belly for two. Demento finally goes to the eyes to recover, hitting a DDT (called a bulldog by Mooney, who should ABSOLUTELY know better by now)- Crush launches him off at “2”, but Damien claws at his face and throws on restholds as the crowd COMPLETELY doesn’t give a crap. Crush finally comes back with a backbreaker, horrible spinkick, gorilla press slam & legdrop to set up the Head Crush for the win at (7:40)- Crush handily wins after selling for minutes at a time.
Sloowwwwwwwww match, mostly used to have Crush easily counter all of Damien’s legit offense, then sell a while to the cheating and restholds. Lots of time killing (a weak double-arm chinlock lasted a full minute) and the crowd was dead (a dull roar can still be heard via canned heat, naturally), then Crush just hits a bunch of moves in a row for the simple win.
Rating: * (some okay stuff from Crush, but it was ridiculously padded for time)
Lash Leroux is the most “1999-2000 WCW” guy who ever lived. Nearly every other wrestler from that time had a push in SOME other era? Lash? He may as well have retired as of 2001 for all we saw him.
GLACIER vs. LASH LEROUX:
(WCW Saturday Night, Jan. 9th 1999)
* Oh man- I have actually barely covered any Glacier matches for this column yet! Mostly because I can’t remember any of his matches ever, but hey! I got last week’s Sick Boy match, and here he is against the guy who only ever saw success in late-stage WCW! Lash’s early run continues, this time against Glacier, whose push has long since died out. He’s still in full regalia, however- the “Sub-Zero” armor and mask and all that. Lash is in red tights, and Glacier’s got a very plain blue singlet on.
Glacier attacks Lash before the bell, but after a short beating Lash comes back with a fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver. As his first move? Yup- he’s an indie boy alright. Glacier kicks out at two and backs up, selling the move, but suckers Lash into a charge and trips him into the steel cables. He slugs him and throws corner kicks and the Kick of Fear, generally wasting time and posing. He does a headlock after Lash tries a small package, then choking and such, but Lash skins the cat back into the ring and headscissors him. Glacier is stunned, but quickly nails him with the Cryonic Kick (superkick), then finishes him with his new match-ender, the Ice Pick (Asiatic spike/thumb to the throat) and the ref calls it at (4:13)- Glacier wins. Mostly an extended squash with a lot of posing from a suitably-d*ckheaded Glacier, with Lash only getting a few moves.
Rating: 1/2* (a bit long for a squash, with Lash not getting to do much, but Glacier did okay as a bullying heel)
I love it when future stars show up as jobbers in their early days. And I gotta find out about this “Rock Hard Rick”, too.
Z-MAN vs. MIKE AWESOME:
(NWA, TBS Saturday Night, Sept. 1989)
* So Tom Zenk bails on big money with the WWF because he finds out his partner Rick Martel was making more than him, and spends the rest of his career shoring up lesser companies doing bad midcard gimmicks (here he’s some mysterious guy named “Z-Man”), then makes a name for himself as one of the first pro wrestlers to openly burn bridges and break kayfabe in the internet era, revealing all to the fans. And here he is wrestling jobber Mike Awesome, pre-FMW & ECW. And Mike ALREADY has a mullet, and is using the same name (like… could he just never think of a better one?). Z-Man’s in white & Awesome’s in black trunks with yellow boots.
Z-Man takes over immediately with super-80s offense (hiptoss, dropkick, back elbow), done in his very particular, “this is too perfect to not be fake” style (a friend of mine claims that Zenk is the one who taught him that wrestling was fake, because his moves were TOO precise). He hits a big piledriver but then starts cycling through the same sh*t (who repeats moves against JOBBERS?), throwing dropkicks until finishing with a go-behind into a Sleeperhold at (1:43), the ref dropping Awesome’s hand three times. Kinda funny to gobble him up like that but treat a piledriver like ’90s joshi where the guy just gets up right away and has to bump some more. Jim Cornette suggests Z-Man go on decaf after seeing all this energy from him.
Rating: 1/4* (very frenetic, fast-paced jobber squash)
JUVENTUD GUERRERA & SUPER CALO vs. SILVER KING & EL DANDY:
(WCW Saturday Night, Feb. 14th 1998)
* Here’s a completely random all-lucha Saturday Night match- the job squad of SK & Dandy up against Juvi (the only one with a push) & Calo. Humorously, both teams find the same bunch of fans with a Mexico flag and lavish them with special attention. Juvi’s in purple and still has his mask, Calo’s in white, SK’s in black & gold trunks and Dandy’s in a blue singlet.
The jobbers attack to start, but SK gets knocked to the apron and Calo airlifts Juvi into a suicidal dropkick, landing on his neck because his legs land right on the ropes. Dandy gets backdropped out and now double pescados have them in trouble. Calo & Silver King go as they discuss Juvi’s impending Title vs. Mask match against Jericho that REALLY sets his career off- SK hits a running leg lariat into the corner, but takes a tilt-a-whirl side slam from Dandy for two. Calo goes against Dandy, but makes a blind tag and Juvi flies in with a springboard dropkick, but Dandy catches him with brawling. The jobbers hit a Young Bucks-esque thigh-slapping kick sandwich and Silver King lands a Gory stretch and slingshot senton.
Juvi reverses the Eddie Bump to a headscissors and tags in Calo, but hits the Juvi Driver on the illegal Silver King and goes for the 450, but we get an odd bit as the legal men fight and Juvi’s stuff is all off-camera- he apparently misses and ends up on the floor. And then Super Calo hits a Super Ankle-Scissors Rana and pins Dandy… but SK runs in and the ref just stops at two (shouting “Get out!”) because he’s too far away to actually break up the pin. And then SK just breaks up the next pin anyways, and El Dandy gets La Majistral… and the ref can’t make the pin because Juvi’s in the ring now, but eventually turns around and just counts three at (6:50), which is NOT the ending I was expecting. Like, what? Repeated pin-stops and then Dandy holds Calo in a pinning combination for ten seconds before the casual pinfall is made? Never mind that Juventud is fighting for the Cruiserweight Title in only eight days.
The match had a hot start, then settled into basic stuff, then seemed like it was gonna have a hot ending but then the cadence got all screwed up (I’m thinking people missed their queues) and the camera wasn’t even on people doing stuff.
Rating: ** (starts fine, but ends up kind of a mess)