Happy Saturday Everyone!
I felt like watching a couple of matches on this one because I’ve never seen them before, hence the review. The Main Event is an atrocious 3 ring 60 man battle royal, with the winner becoming the WCW Champion.
However, on the under card we’ve got Ric Flair Vs Sting (And even WCW surely couldn’t ruin that one once it gets in the ring) and a match that should excite the Joshi Boyz here on the Blog with Bull Nakano and Akira Hokuto teaming up.
So that’s at least two matches which should be good, which I’ll take, with anything on top of that being a nice bonus. WCW had already started Nitro by this point, but they wouldn’t start clobbering Raw until the Summer of 1996, so the battle was still relatively even at this stage.
The event is emanating from Norfolk, Virginia on the 26th of November 1995. Interestingly, here in England Norfolk is actually the county/state, so it would be like calling a City over here “Wyoming” or something. The building looks really cool with the special roof it has actually.
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan, with additional commentators for the big three ring match later on.
We get a pretty infamous opening segment where Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Sting come out for a promo with Mean Gene Okerlund. Hogan goes on a bizarre rant where he trashes the wrestling dirtsheets, saying that the internet is what has the real scoops. He also makes sure to stress that Randy Savage doesn’t have an injured arm, because that was reported in the sheets see. Hogan then burns a Wrestling Observer, saying “observe this” whilst doing so. What a weird segment that was. Buried underneath all of the silliness was that Hogan has gone back to Red and Yellow after some weeks where he was teasing going evil. Of course he WOULD go evil eventually the following year.
WCW World Television Title
Champ: Johnny B. Badd Vs Diamond Dallas Page w/ The Diamond Doll
Badd had won the belt from DDP at Halloween Havoc in a decent match, so this is the rematch. There was dissension between DDP and Doll, as in storyline DDP had won a lot of money via a big win on the bingo, but it was actually Doll’s ticket, so she was the one entitled to the money. Doll’s managerial services are on the line here as well, so DDP is sucking up to her a bit during his entrance in order to try and get her back on side.
This match has some moments of sloppiness in it but it also has good energy and the crowd mostly digs it. Badd gets the babyface shine to start by tenaciously grabbing holds, leading to DDP trying to fight his way out of said holds, only for Badd to keep thwarting his efforts. It’s standard opening match fare and it’s watchable. In a nice touch, DDP does some illegal hair pulling, so Badd gives him a taste of his own medicine for a pop form the crowd before sending DDP to the floor for a dive.
Doll does a good job at ringside actually, with her selling that she doesn’t really know how to feel about the match due to DDP being a jerk but her still not being sure that she no longer wants to manage him. DDP ends up using her as a human shield for the cut off, just to highlight what a scummy man he is, and that leads to some heat back inside, for which Badd bumps and sells well. Doll’s facial expressions continue to be good as well, with her adding to the over match story.
DDP takes quite a few cartoony silly bumps here at points, like when he misses the big football punt like he’s Charlie Brown or something. He’d tone that aspect of his character down in 96/97 and it would help him become a more serious credible figure in the upper card. On the upside though, he’s playing all the way to the cheap seats here and it works well for an opening match, with the crowd really getting behind Badd when he finally makes a comeback, especially when Doll rates his comeback a 10+.
They do some good near falls in the closing stages, with the crowd being so annoyed that DDP kicks out at one stage that they actively boo. DDP tries cheating with feet on the ropes to win, but Badd is able to survive that, thus leading us into some more near falls. Doll continues to be great at ringside with her facials, with it adding to the drama of the match. DDP actually kicks out of a Tombstone Piledriver at one stage, here in this opening match, which might have been one near fall too many but Badd quickly follows with a springboard leg drop for the three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: JOHNNY B. BADD
This was a really fun opener, with the crowd getting invested in it and the wrestling being fun, if a tad sloppy at points. DDP’s comedy Heel antics were entertaining but he would have been mid-card for life if he hadn’t gotten more serious later on
Doll does another good job selling the finish, acting like she doesn’t know how to feel. In real life Badd apparently didn’t really like the angle where he took another man’s woman as he was quite heavily Christian and I believe it contributed to him eventually jumping to the WWF in 1996 (credit to OSW Review for that bit of trivia as they’ve reviewed this show as well and it’s good fun as usual with them).
Mean Gene hypes his hotline by talking about the WWF steroid scandal. You know, considering the physiques of some of the people on this show I don’t think WCW had any right to try and score off other wrestling companies when it came to performance enhancing drugs. Badd and Doll then come over; where Badd says Doll doesn’t have to manage him if she doesn’t want to. That’s a nice little wrinkle actually as a babyface probably would do something like that.
Taped Fist Match
Big Bubba Rogers Vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan
WCW had been doing a storyline here where Duggan was descended from a famous taped fist boxer, which led to Duggan adopting a taped punch as a finisher. Bubba and Duggan had been trading punches on TV, so we’ve got this match on pay per view in order to settle their issue. I think it’s basically a last man standing match.
This is a good brawl actually, with them fighting into one of the other rings from the one they started in, and the ref follows them in. Honestly I think they should just move between all three rings depending on what match is taking place, as it lets everyone in the arena get a chance at a decent view throughout the night.
If two big burly blokes punching each other sounds like fun, then I’d expect you to enjoy this, but if you don’t like that sort of wrestling then I’m thinking you won’t like this at all. I don’t want every match on the show to be like that or anything, but if you’ve got a raft of different match types across the card then I’m fine with one of them being a slugfest, especially as they execute the brawl well for the most part.
Duggan’s selling is pretty goofy at points, but on the whole he does a solid job and Bubba moves pretty well despite his ever increasing size here, with him actually getting a running enziguri at one stage. Bubba has another roll of tape with him at one stage and he taped Duggan to the ropes at one stage, which the referee kind of has to allow.
My main critique here is that I don’t think the rules have been especially clear, because they’ve never outright said that there are No DQ’s or anything like that, or established whether what Bubba did was illegal or not. VK Wallstreet (Irwin R. Schyster) ends up joining us and slips Bubba a chain, which allows Bubba to knock Duggan out whilst the ref isn’t looking for the knockout punch.
WINNER: BIG BUBBA
This was okay as something a bit different. I do think that it kind of made everyone else who got pinned by one punch from Duggan before and after this look pretty weak though, as he punched Bubba numerous times here and it was treated like a transition or something. They didn’t really protect Duggan’s finisher, but for two dudes punching each other it was watchable
Tony and Bobby hock internet chats with WCW Wrestlers. Bobby of course reveals that he has someone who does his typing for him.
Mean Gene is on the stage with Ric Flair, who cuts his usual good promo to hype up his match with Sting later. Large segments of the crowd like it, so I’m guessing Norfolk is Flair Country!
Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano w/ Sonny Onoo Vs Cutie Suzuki and Mayumi Ozaki
The Japanese wrestlers actually get proper home towns instead of the usual lazy “from Japan” that you often get when Japanese stars come to America. Mike Tenay jumps on commentary here, where he explains that this is an inter-promotional bout as Hokuto and Nakano are representing AJW whilst Suzuki and Ozaki are flying the flag for JWP. It’s not a WCW or TNA show if Mike Tenay doesn’t describe something as being important in the “orient”.
Nakano is a golfer these days I believe, although I cannot either confirm nor deny that she powerbombs her caddy in a rage if she misses a tight 10 meter putt on the 16th Hole. I don’t know enough about the genre to state whether this is a typical Joshi style match, but it’s got the usual hallmarks that I associate with it, such as ladies screeching and hitting running front dropkicks. Hokuto and Nakano mostly beat the cheese sandwich out of their opponents, but they do manage to fight back with stereo submission attempts, which the crowd enjoys.
The crowd does generally enjoy this, with it getting better reactions than you’d think a match between three mostly unknown in the west (Nakano had gotten a reasonable push in the WWF at least) Japanese ladies would get in 1995. Nakano does some fun power spots, such as suplexing both of her opponents at the same time, but Suzuki and Okzaki respond by knocking her down and then coming off the top with a series of double stomps.
There are some nicely done near falls in the closing section, with Ozaki nearly getting killed with a big German Suplex from Hokuto at one stage. Amazingly she gets back up from that, but finds a Hokuto dropkick from the top and then a dive to the floor waiting for her. The DOOMsday Device follows back inside, but Suzuki makes the save before the three, although I’m not so sure her partner thanked her later as it merely leads to Nakano dropping a leg from the top for three.
WINNERS: HOKUTO & NAKANO
This was pretty cutting edge stuff for 1995 and the crowd was into it for the most part. I don’t think I’ll ever really be a fan of Joshi, but I can appreciate why others are, especially when you see these women going out there and doing the sorts of moves most of the guys would struggle to do even at half-speed
Bobby really puts the ladies over following that in a nice touch.
Mean Gene continues to hype his hotline. Come on guys, Gene needs you to call that hotline, his pet Killer Whale isn’t going to feed itself! Jimmy Hart and Lex Luger join us for promo time, with Hart saying Luger will defeat Randy Savage later. Luger cuts a weird promo where he looks down at the floor, which makes me think he was reading notes or something. The actual delivery was good, it was just really odd that he wasn’t even looking at the camera.
WCW United States Title
Champ: Kensuke Sasaki w/ Sonny Onoo Vs Chris Benoit
WCW was working closely with New Japan Pro Wrestling at the time, with Starrcade being dedicated to a big tournament between the two sides, so WCW put the US Title on Sasaki as a show of good faith. It of course would end in the usual treachery that often follows two companies trying to work together, but right now things were hunky-dory and Sasaki is the Champ.
Sasaki is confirmed as Hokuto’s husband here, which leads to the announce team musing about what it would be like to have them as next door neighbours. This is one of those matches that you might not have got in Japan at the time, and if you had it might not have been that competitive, as Benoit usually wrestled as a Junior Heavyweight there whilst Sasaki was often a Heavyweight, and normally the Heavyweight’s just clobbered the smaller guys when they wrestled during this era.
They work a mostly Japanese styled match here, with neither one really working as the Heel and both wrestlers trading momentum. The crowd doesn’t really get that into it, but the work is fine owing to Benoit being such a good worker. Sasaki would end up becoming, in my opinion, a good worker too, although he wasn’t really there yet. You could tell that he had potential though, and Riki Choshu having the book meant Sasaki would get plenty of chances as he was a Choshu protégé.
Benoit ends up throwing some German Suplexes and then finally gets the crowd invested somewhat by coming off the top with a big head butt for two. The crowd reactions are still disappointing though, possibly because neither man has really played to the crowd and neither has really played Heel either, so the crowd doesn’t really know who to cheer for. Sasaki gets an impressive Raquel Gonzalez styled one armed power bomb and the finishes it soon after with the Northern Lights Bomber.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KENSUKE SASAKI
The work was fine but the crowd really didn’t care
WCW would end up taping One Man Gang defeating Sasaki in a dark match, before restarting the match and allowing Sasaki to win. However, they cut the footage off before Sasaki won in the restart and just pretended it never happened in order to make Gang the Champion. Why it was so important to do it that way rather than finding someone on the WCW roster that New Japan would be happy for their guy to lose to is beyond me.
Kevin Sullivan, Jimmy Hart and The Giant are with Mean Gene for promo time. Giant gives Gene a dirty look in a funny moment when Gene references Andre The Giant by saying that he’d be ashamed of Giant (Giant was being promoted as Andre’s son at this stage). Gene tries to sow discontent between the Heels by saying that other members of their faction might want to win the belt for themselves later. Giant isn’t worried and yells at lot. This was a good segment that succeeded in making Giant look big and scary.
The announce team hypes up Starrcade for the 27th of December 1995.
We get a video package to hype up the next match. Randy Savage never trusted Lex Luger (yeah I know, Randy Savage being paranoid about someone. What are the odds eh?) and then Luger started chumming around with the Heel turned Jimmy Hart, which seemed to prove his concerns to be correct. Tonight they will wrestle.
Randy Savage then joins Mean Gene for some promo time, where he confirms that he’s jittery (it’s part of his charm) but he’s taking out Lex Luger tonight because his arm feels a million percent (which Savage correctly points out is more than a 100 percent. Well, I’m not sure measurements work like that but I’m not going to argue with him!)
The Rated Ahhhhh Superstar Lex Luger w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Randy Savage
They were doing a pretty interesting character with Luger at the time, as he was a Heel normally but he was still chummy with Sting, who was clearly a babyface, thus leading to interesting conflicts, especially when the two would tag together. Despite Hogan blathering on about how Savage wasn’t actually injured and they were just working the sheets, the arm is heavily bandaged here and they make it part of the match storyline that Savage’s arm is injured. Because WCW.
Savage runs wild on Luger to start, allowing Luger to loudly sell whilst he gets battered. Savage even busts out THE DREADED YOUNG LION BOSTON CRAB at one stage, which is a move I don’t think he did a lot. Luger’s yelping gets a bit distracting at points, but he does take some nice bumps for Savage and it suits the feud they’ve been doing that Savage would come right out of the traps like this.
Savage drops the Macho Elbow on Luger, but Hart distracts the referee, meaning the match must continue. Interestingly they had Savage essentially squash Luger there, but because the ref missed the pin Luger has been able to cling on and eventually he cuts Savage up by shoving him into the post. That opening section felt like it done that way in order to appease Savage, as Luger locks him in the Human Torture Wrack outside the ring before putting Savage back into the ring.
Savage is of course on the defensive following that, so Luger applies an arm bar in the middle of the ring, which leads to the referee stopping the bout and awarding it to Luger. So Savage essentially squashed Luger but ended up “losing” in the end in one of the more transparent efforts at getting someone to agree to do a job.
WINNER: LEX LUGER
This almost felt more like an angle than a match, but it advanced the story at least
Luger won’t release the hold following the bout until Sting runs down and gets him to leave, thus continuing that storyline as well.
We get a video package to hype up the next match. Ric Flair convinced Sting to tag with him at Halloween Havoc, but then turned on him. Sting said that he would leave Flair for dead if he did this, so now he’s looking for some payback.
Ric Flair Vs Sting
The crowd is very into this, and because it’s Ric Flair Vs Sting it’s good fun, with Flair constantly trying to run away, whilst we see Rob Parker and Sherri Martel watching form the entrance way. I think there was some sort of storyline going on there where Sherri had amnesia and had fallen in love with Parker as a result, although I’m not sure why they had to come out here.
They tell an interesting story here, with Sting almost calmly destroying Flair whenever he gets the chance, with Flair not really having an answer for it. It’s an entertaining inversion of the usual formula between the two, as Sting almost stalks Flair terminator style at points. Sting does of course miss the Stinger Splash out on the floor, which I think he’s still missing after all these years.
Flair works some heat following that, including a low blow when the referee gets caught between them. They did that in a clever manner actually, as Sting was choking Flair at the time so the referee was focusing on that and thus missed Flair clocking Sting right in his surfboard. Flair eventually locks in the Figure Four but he makes the mistake of slapping Sting in the face and that leads to Sting firing up.
Sting makes the comeback following that, with Flair getting increasingly worried about Sting’s new surlier attitude. The crowd reactions continue to be really strong as well, as they’ve been into this match from the opening bell. Sting gets a big Superplex and then locks in the Scorpion Deathlock, which leads to Flair tapping out.
We get a video package for the Main Event. Right, so the story here was that Giant and defeated Hulk Hogan via DQ at Halloween Havoc, but Jimmy Hart had written it into the contract that the belt could change hands that way, so Hogan lost the belt. However, because of the screwiness the belt was held up and now we have a big Battle Royal for it, with the winner becoming the new Champion.
Hulk Hogan cuts one last promo to hype up the Battle Royal. He’s going to win and keep the belt for forever and a day. I belt he would have happily held the belt forever if they’d allowed him to. Hogan’s act was getting pretty insufferable at this stage and the Heel turn in 1996 really freshened him up.
60 Men, 3 Rings, 3 Giants, 1 Battle Royal for the vacant WCW Title
Diamond Dallas Page Vs Fidel Sierra Vs Johnny B. Badd Vs Chris Kanyon Vs Sting Vs The Shark Vs Brian Pillman Vs The Yeti Vs Super Assassin #1 Vs Paul Orndorff Vs Arn Anderson Vs Eddy Guerrero Vs Hulk Hogan Vs Big Train Bart Vs The One Man Gang Vs Kensuke Sasaki Vs Road Warrior Hawk Vs Jerry Sags Vs Chris Benoit Vs Lord Steven Regal Vs Marcus Alexander Bagwell Vs Ricky Santana Vs Brian Knobbs Vs Randy Savage Vs Booker T Vs Lex Luger Vs Zodiac Vs Big Bubba Rogers Vs Meng Vs The Taskmaster Vs The Giant Vs Cobra Vs Alex Wright Vs Scott Norton Vs Mr. JL Vs Pez Whatley Vs VK Wallstreet Vs Scotty Riggs Vs Hugh Morrus Vs Disco Inferno Vs Kurasawa Vs Ric Flair Vs Earl Robert Eaton Vs Jim Duggan Vs Dick Slater Vs Stevie Ray Vs Squire David Taylor Vs Super Assassin #2 Vs Steve Armstrong Vs Bunkhouse Buck Vs Dave Sullivan Vs Scott Armstrong Vs Joey Maggs Vs Sgt. Craig Pittman Vs Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker Vs Mark Starr Vs Bobby Walker Vs Mike Winner Vs Lt. James Earl Wright Vs Maxx Muscle
There are three rings with 20 guys in them, and eventually once it comes down to 20 guys left total they’ll all converge into 1 ring. There will be a giant in each ring, with The YETAY in one, The Giant in another and Hulk Hogan in the third. As you can see from the list of competitors, some of these competitors have a better chance of winning than the others. I don’t think even WCW would have bene daft enough pre-Russo to make Pistol Pez Whatley the World Champion. Shaska Whatley though…
Regal does some fantastic facial expressions before the match starts looking worried at all the people he’s going to have to fight. We have three commentary teams for this, and a split screen in order to cover it all. Eric Bischoff and Dusty Rhodes handle the commentary for one ring whilst Chris Cruise and Larry Zbyzko are handling the other, leaving Tony and Bobby to cover the final one. It’s impossible to do any sort of play by play for this and I’m not even sure how you’d rate it because it’s so hard to keep track of what is happening.
It’s not like it’s boring or anything, but it’s also hardly a pleasant viewing experience. Interestingly The Yeti (dressed like a ninja for some reason) gets thrown out super early, which is probably a comment on how WCW saw his competency if they wouldn’t even allow him to clear a ring. There is one ring with Sting, Flair, Luger, Hogan and Hawk all in it at one stage, which is pretty darn impressive collection of talent and star power to have in one place. They kind of leave Savage all by himself in the enhancement talent ring, which I’m sure he was thrilled about.
Pillman taking the time to gurn for the camera and flash the four fingers whilst choking someone on the ropes is pretty funny. I really liked the dynamic of that Pillman, Benoit, Anderson and Flair Horsemen group actually and it’s a shame Pillman left before they could really reach it’s full potential. Kurasawa and Norton do go at it briefly at one stage, which would take a bigger connotation over in New Japan due to Kurasawa being Manabu Nakanishi in his native land and a pushed commodity.
Randy Savage and Bobby Eaton get to do a brief bit together, but sadly it’s over all too quickly. I’m sure they crossed paths on Nitro at some stage though, and I bet it would have been a good match if Savage was in the mood. Eventually when it gets down to around 30 guys left they just put them all in the same ring. Of course that’s so many people that they can’t really do much other than punch and lean on the ropes, but it’s certainly a spectacle if nothing else. If you’re of the opinion that more is more, then you’ll probably get a kick of seeing such a mass of humanity.
I will say this; everyone is working hard in there, with Hogan in particular utterly drenched in sweat by the time everyone moves into the final ring. There is some story stuff in there, such as DDP and Badd eliminating one another in order to keep that feud cooking. Benoit goes out pretty quickly all things considered, especially as guys like Kurasawa and The Zodiac are still in there when he gets chucked out. In a nice wink-wink moment, Hawk actually tries to save Sasaki from being eliminated as they tag in Japan, but then Tony impresses me by knowing that and actually mentioning it on commentary. Hogan soon knocks them both out anyway though.
Eddy Guerrero gets to stay in for a quite a bit, and Arn Anderson even takes a Missile Dropkick from him. I think Flair worked a match with him on Nitro around this time as well and gave him a lot of offence before finally putting him away, so the top workers certainly could see Eddy’s upside. Eddy does eventually get eliminated by The Horsemen, who are then thrown out by Hogan to leave us with Hogan, Savage, Giant, Sting, Luger and Gang. Luger and Sting actually work together at one stage to try and throw Giant out, which leads to Hogan dumping all three of them out.
However, Giant pulls Hogan out under the ropes and brawls with him, which leads to the refs thinking he’s been eliminated. That means that when Savage knocks out Gang the referees award the match and the belt to him. So Hogan has been screwed, although it wasn’t Savage’s fault as he never saw it.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RANDY SAVAGE
I normally do rate Battle Royals, but I just don’t know how I’m even supposed to begin rating that because I couldn’t even see most of it due to the split screen not showing all of the action. It certainly wasn’t boring, but it was also a big mess in many ways. Once they got the contestants down to a manageable number then it became easier to follow, but this match was kind of testament to why the worst Royal Rumble matches in WWE often tend to be ones when they fill the ring up too much
Hogan is not magnanimous in defeat, even though his supposed buddy Savage actually ended up winning the thing and it wasn’t Savage’s fault that Hogan got screwed. Hogan did get robbed there, but he behaves in such a petulant manner about it that it’s hard to feel sympathy for him. Mean Gene comes down to the ring to conduct an interview and the crowd is booing Savage. It’s annoying actually because if Hogan had been magnanimous and happy for his friend then the crowd would have probably been both happy to see Savage win and also sympathetic to Hogan’s plight. Instead Hogan acts like a jerk and the crowd ends up booing Savage, ruining what should be a great moment for Savage.
This was a decent show overall, although the Main Event was a bit of a mess and the chicanery at the end left to the show ending on a bit of a bitter note. Still though, there was a lot of good wrestling on the under card and Flair Vs Sting delivered as you would expect it to, so that’s enough for a thumbs up overall.