Booker T’s 1998-ish WCW run is actually very emblematic of the company to me- very few guys had quite that variety of quality midcard matches with multiple opponents and tons of different finishes as him- it’s part of what got him “World Champion” over. He was a LOT more agile than he was in the WWF, too.
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This week, we have more of Mortis, as he takes on Booker T on the upswing of his WCW career for the TV Title! This one is primarily notable for an absolutely INSANE screwed up landing that could have killed a man right there on the spot- a good sign of how quickly a spot can turn deadly by accident.
Also, we have a rare old Hardy vs. Hardy match, as Matt & Jeff face each other in the North Carolina indies in 1998, right before their WWF run began! Come watch Jeff use his proto-WWF offense already, while Matt’s still in “Copy Lucha & Japan” mode! Then it’s a rare one-off, as BUDDY LANDEL returns to the WWF in 1999 for one night in a jobber squash taking on Triple H himself on Shotgun Saturday Night! Then it’s Rick Martel in his WCW renaissance, but in a jobber match on Saturday Night as he takes on Hardbody Harrison! And finally, a strange throwaway bout as The Public Enemy take on WWF cast-offs Davey-Boy Smith & Jim Neidhart in 1999 WCW!
As always, all the bouts here are found on YouTube.
WCW TV TITLE:
BOOKER T vs. MORTIS (w/ James Vandenberg):
(WCW Monday Nitro, Jan. 19th 1998)
* Booker T on the beginning of his hot streak takes on Mortis, who by this point is pretty well a JTTS. Booker, in white tights with orange fire, does the “WCW Thing” of screaming random sh*t into the camera as he comes down the aisle. He’s a bit more lithe and athletic at this point in his career- he hadn’t gone Full Roid for a WWF physique yet. He is INCREDIBLY over, though- the huge arena is full of people raising the roof for him. So of course it took forever to actually push him right.
Mortis slugs away to start, but eats the ax kick off a criss-cross- they dodge each other’s stuff, but Booker harmlessly Spinaroonies up after missing an elbow, back when that was just “a way to get up” and not a full-blown mega-over taunt (WWE would make that happen), and hops right into his Harlem Side Kick! Vandenberg stalls Booker on the outside so Mortis can get in the lead, and when Booker tries another criss-cross, his Side Kick gets him crotched on the top rope! Camera nearly missed it, but Tenay calls out Vandenberg tripping up Mortis so it’d miss. Mortis dropkicks Booker to the floor, but gets shoulder-checked and nearly sunset flipped, but he catches Book in mid-air and hits a Northern Lights suplex for two!
Booker rolls him up out of a German as the commentators mark out for that suplex, but Mortis hammers him with by sticking his shin under Booker’s jaw and dropping down. Booker gets placed up top, and Mortis goes for a Super Frankensteiner of all things, but OH MY GOD HOLY F*CK! Booker just SPIKES HIM on the top of his head with a Superbomb! That was horrifyingly dangerous and absolutely not how that was supposed to look. Mortis is absolutely dead and the crowd is losing it, but Booker’s like “Yeah, time to get more sh*t in!” and hits another Harlem Side Kick, a side suplex, and the Harlem Hangover for the pin at (4:27). Wrath, Mortis’s stable-mate, comes out with a clothesline & Death Penalty (rock bottom, which Booker would later swipe) to lay the TV champ out, sending Rick Martel out as back-up- Rick asks for a Title shot in payment.
See, this is why Booker was so fun to watch at this point. Tons of potential finishes, great-looking swiping kicks (that apparently hurt like hell, re: Rick Martel), great athleticism- they only went 4:30 or so and yet every move looked awesome. Mortis did pretty good despite mostly having “punches then a unique move”, though that botch was horrifying (I think Mortis expected Booker to stand up earlier so his rotation started too soon and Booker just drove their 500 lbs. to the mat onto the guy’s neck). And Booker shows some inexperience by not just going for the pin after executing his foe like that- who does an IRISH WHIP after spiking a guy on his neck from the top rope, much less a set-up move and a flying finisher?
Rating: **1/2 (great fun as a brutal spotfest with an MDK thrown in)
NEW DIMENSION WRESTLING LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
WILLOW THE WISP vs. SURGE:
(New Dimension Wrestling, July 17, 1998)
* Manjiimmortal recommends this one- Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy in 1998! This is when both were hired by the WWF but were allowed to work some kinks out of their act on the indies (here, a North Carolina-based indie set up on Conchord Motor Speedway) before becoming an increasingly-bigger part of TV. Willow is Jeff, decked out with a spikey Liger ripoff mask and flashy gear, and Surge is Matt (even if you didn’t recognize him, the “MATT” and “HARDY” clearly written on his gear would be a clue), wearing some uber “early ’90s” get-up with neon yellow & black checkerboard tights and a doo-rag. Willow herks and jerks down the stands, then crawls along the grass on the way to the ring in some very “Fishmalk”-type “Look at how WEIRD and CRAZY I am!” nonsense. So that runs in the family.
Willow stalls while the commentator talks to a “Superfan” named John Hitchcock, who goes on to describe the Pro Wrestling Torch and Wrestling Observer, which can’t be things you often seen on kayfabe broadcasts. Surge is called out as Matt, while Jeff is talked about but not named as Willow as the Hardys do hammerlock reversal spots and kinda clumsy “Owen Hart” routines- Surge hits a discus punch, swinging neckbreaker & DiBiase fistdrops, then a Michinoku Driver as NOW the announcer calls out Willow as Jeff, then Surge hits a 2nd-rope legdrop & inverted DDT, but misses a springboard moonsault. Oh yeah, these are indie guys, alright.
Willow hits his usual “mule kick” reversal and double-leg to the balls, and Surge sells death from a basic roundhouse kick- flying splash gets two. Russian legsweep sets up a corkscrew off the top… but Willow lands on his feet when Surge dodges, then leapfrogs Surge to the top and hits the Whisper in the Wind (the WWF name)! See, that’s the kinda crazy thing that got him over. Willow gets two after a delayed pin, but Surge punches away, only to take the “dodge then trip them face-first onto the apron” spot, then Willow does Air Sabu, tope con hilo-ing over the top! They sell that a while, Willow taking too long and backdropping Surge into the ropes, where he bounces off and DDTs Willow onto the grass. Surge adds an Asai Moonsault, but back in, Willow catches him in the corner with the Booker T/Hardcore Holly spinebuster for a couple of two-counts. He puts Surge up top, but gets caught with a Sit-Out Front Superplex, Surge scoring the pin and the NDW Light Heavyweight Title at (11:01).
Very funny match, as you can see Matt doing all this “Indie Wrestling = Copying Japan Stuff” nonsense from him, as he just threads one big move after another, while Jeff already kinda “gets it” and times some spots that are more difficult to pull off and comes off much better (like, you can just TELL a leapfrog into a Whisper in the Wind is incredibly hard to do, versus Matt slowly setting up his springboards). Interestingly, Jeff is fundamentally the same wrestler here he was in the WWF for years afterwards, doing the same moves, while Matt took much longer to stand out and show some personality. It was very spotty, though at least both guys sold the later moves pretty well, taking a while to recover, even though it was fairly notable that dudes would handily just counter their opponent after eating a huge move, and there was no “story” beyond “hit whatever you can until you win”, with the finish coming out of nowhere. Some of the crazy spin-jumps Jeff was doing would DEFINITELY get him over sooner rather than later, however.
Rating: **1/4 (Indie-riffic and MOVEZ-city for 90% of it, to the point of two guys just throwing state of the art offense out in hopes of getting noticed, and then one guy randomly hits a move for the win)
Yes! Buddy Landel! In 1999!
TRIPLE H (w/ X-Pac) vs. BUDDY LANDEL:
(WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, Feb. 27th 1999)
* A totally weird “WTF?” match, this one’s a one-off from Shotgun, featuring Buddy at the end of his relevancy out for a one-off against the DX leader, HHH. Obviously it’s a bit of a kicker for Hunter to face the guy who emulates his idol, Ric Flair. HHH is in red & black tights (a look I don’t remember, especially in DX), while poor Buddy, who gets neither and entrance nor a pre-match graphic, is in black trunks. HHH’s whole spiel is so long it takes four whole minutes for the bell to ring!
Buddy, now with a HUGE spare tire, does the “fake-out of a lockup and brushes his hair back” taunt, but sells HHH’s crotch chops. They do a very ’80s headlock/armbar reversal sequence, HHH eating a back elbow but landing a hiptoss- he gets shoved off, but Buddy puts his head down and eats the Mandatory Knee-Based Offense, Pedigree, and we’re done at (1:52), HHH putting him away ridiculously fast. HHH does the Buddy/Flair Strut and crotch-chops at him while he rolls out. Too bad- even with Buddy’s obesity, they probably could had a fun NWA throwback if they’d gone even five minutes.
Rating: 1/4* (Alas, just a quick squash- barely anything but “starter offense” before the finish)
WCW had such a ridiculously gigantic roster that there’s dudes I completely forgot about who were all over the lower shows.
RICK MARTEL vs. HARDBODY HARRISON:
(WCW Saturday Night, Jan. 17th 1998)
* Rick Martel’s fantastic WCW run, featuring his random insertion into the TV Title scene against Booker T, continues as he gets a squash on Saturday Night. Hardbody, one of WCW’s more ripped jobbers, is now sporting his hair dyed in blonde dreadlocks and weird blue tights with one bare leg. Martel’s in shiny black trunks.
Hardbody actually controls to start with an armdrag & shoulder to the gut, but gets armdragged a bunch & bails- he comes back with a knee, but Martel uses scientific counters, only to be rammed into the corner on a chinlock as this is shockingly way more back & forth than I was expecting. Hardbody beats on him in the corner but ends up smashing his knee on a charge and THERE we go- Rick pounds away on the leg repeatedly, cartwheeling away from a counter and tying him up painfully in an Indian deathlock/clutch. Harrison finally shoves him off out of a spinning toehold (lol, really?), but gets an Irish whip reversed and eats a spinebuster into the Quebec Crab for the win (4:01).
Very unique kind of match, with Martel working a babyface version of the “work the leg” formula, getting powered around by Harrison (a muscular dude, to be sure), but using smarts to haul him down and hit a variety of leg stuff, then doing a crowd-popping kind of move (spinebuster) into the Crab. Still mostly a jobber bout, but he gave the kid some offense.
Rating: * (not bad as jobber bouts go- Rick was generous and took a while to put the kid away with a variety of stuff)
THE PUBLIC ENEMY (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. “THE BRITISH BULLDOG” DAVEY-BOY SMITH & JIM “THE ANVIL” NEIDHART:
(WCW Worldwide, 1998)
* TPE continue their midcard WCW run, this time against a long-since-stopped-caring Davey-Boy & Anvil. TPE are in white jerseys this time.
Rocco goes to Anvil’s eyes to start, but gets a hiptoss reversed and the WWF exiles do ’80s offense on him. The crowd actually does a “let’s go, Rocco, let’s go!” chant, which is funny cuz they’re heels- Grunge knees Neidhart from the apron to emphasize that. TPE double-team Anvil for a bit, but Rocco flies onto his boot and Bulldog clotheslines everyone down. Rocco & Grunge get whipped into each other and Bulldog & Anvil use the Hart Attack of all things for the pin at (3:33). Pretty well a filler, throwaway tag team match- no tables from TPE, even! It was just the heels cheating for a bit, then a hot tag right into the finish.
Rating: 3/4* (I mean, almost better than if they’d gone LONG, given how bad Neidhart was at this point)