Happy Stampeding Saturday Everyone!
We continue our journey into 1998 WCW today by taking a looking at Spring Stampede 1998. This is a show I’ve actually watched quite a bit because I had it on bootleg VHS back in the day when it was very difficult to get official WCW releases over here in the UK. From memory it’s not a great show but it’s got enough decent stuff on it as to make it worthwhile.
I actually managed to find the VHS version of the show, so I’m watching that for this. The bonus is that I get the original music without the Peacock/Network dubbing, but the negative is that the video quality is pretty rubbish
You can view the card by clicking below;
The event is emanating from Denver, Colorado on the 19th of April 1998
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan
The opening video package focuses on the squabbles within the nWo as Hollywood Hogan and Randy Savage are fighting for control, making the WCW guys seem pretty secondary in everything, which I guess was the point.
The commentary team opens things up by telling us that the Main Event between Savage and Sting will now be No DQ. They don’t yack as much as usual at least.
Saturn w/ Kidman Vs Goldberg
Goldberg had been feuding with Raven and his Flock in the build-up to this show, with Saturn being one of the few people up to this point who he hadn’t just mowed through. Goldberg not only has a match with Saturn tonight but he’s also got a US Title match coming up on Nitro, so this is potentially going to be a pivotal weekend in his career as he can keep his winning streak alive here and then win the Title tomorrow night, but he could also potentially lose both matches and put the skids on his meteoric rise up the card.
Goldberg flings Saturn around to start and gets a healthy pop for doing so, but Saturn actually manages to fight back and gets a decent amount of offence by most Goldberg victim standards. Indeed, this is one of the few early Goldberg matches that is actually a match and not just Goldberg destroying someone, as Saturn actually manages to put Goldberg on the back foot for a bit and force him to bump and sell. Goldberg actually doesn’t do too bad selling for Saturn either, although you can tell he was still new to it.
Saturn uses the ring steps at ringside to do some damage, dropkicking Goldberg into them and then coming off the apron with a rana. Saturn tries an Asai Moonsault at one stage but it goes awry and Saturn has to switch it to an elbow drop in mid-air and they almost cover for it. Saturn had rammed Goldberg’s shoulder into the steps outside, so he goes after the arm back inside with some nice looking submission holds, almost going for a more MMA feel with some of them, which is something Goldberg understands how to work with and is a smart way of guiding him through a match.
Goldberg eventually fights back with a Spear, which is the cue for The Flock to get involved. Goldberg manages to fight them all off, getting great reactions from the crowd in the process, but the distraction allows Saturn to set Goldberg up in the Rings of Saturn. Goldberg powers out of the hold though and muscles Saturn into a Jack Hammer for the win. That looked a little sloppy due to it being an awkward move to perform from that situation, but Goldberg persevered and the crowd popped big for it, so it still worked.
Thoughts: By early Goldberg standards this was a fantastic match, as Saturn did a solid job of holding the match together and Goldberg stepped up to the plate and carried his end of things in a longer match by showing some more selling. Goldberg would still have a way to go on that front, but this showed he wasn’t just a one dimensional power guy and it was a good competitive match that improved Saturn’s standing as he gave Goldberg an actual challenge
Chavo Guerrero Jr. w/ Eddy Guerrero Vs Ultimo Dragon
The story here is that Eddy has forcibly taken Chavo under his wing and is being a real jerk about it, and if Chavo doesn’t win here then Eddy is going to crack down on him even more. Eddy is very entertaining at ringside here, as he gets annoyed whenever Chavo is on the defensive and constantly berates his nephew, leading to even Heel announcer Heenan stating that Eddy is possibly being more of a hindrance than a help with his behaviour.
The match itself features some good wrestling both on the mat and some nice quick paced high flying as well, with Chavo getting the crowd behind him as they clearly are sympathetic to his plight, even though Dragon isn’t a Heel and doesn’t wrestle as such. The match is mostly back and forth, with both wrestlers getting a chance and the momentum switching as the match builds. The commentary team do a good job not only getting the storyline regarding Chavo and Eddy over but they also do a good job selling this as a competitive bout.
Dragon gets an Asai Moonsault on Chavo on the floor at one stage, which leads to Eddy berating Chavo whilst he sells on the floor in a great moment of Heel jerkery, leading to Chavo firing up and getting an impressive TOPE CON HILO on Dragon in order to get himself back in the match, leading to a double down back inside following dual clotheslines. They give Chavo a big moral dilemma at one stage as he accidentally catches Dragon low with a dropkick and Chavo shows a brief bit of mercy, which allows Dragon to recover and ultimately prevail with the Dragon Sleeper.
WINNER: ULTIMO DRAGON
Thoughts: This was a really good undercard bout, with the wrestling being solid and the match telling a good story of Chavo not having the killer instinct and it ultimately putting him in an even worse position than when he entered the match originally, thus giving the storyline between Eddy and Chavo some more juice
Eddy berates Chavo again whilst Chavo stands up for himself a bit saying that he isn’t going to wrestle the way Eddy does.
WCW World Television Title
Champ: Booker T Vs Crippler Chris Benoit
Booker and Benoit had gone to a couple of time limit draws on WCW’s televised events, so this match was booked for Spring Stampede 1998 with the added stipulation that the match would have no time limit so as to ensure the fans an actual finish. Booker gets the best of things in the early going, using his superior size to send Benoit tumbling out to the floor a few times, and the action is the usual solid stuff you would expect from these two men. It’s quite a cagey affair at some points, with both men working the bout like it’s a real athletic contest and struggle.
Benoit eventually shows off some of his trademark intensity and stomps a mud-hole on Booker in the corner, which gets a mixture of cheers and boos from the crowd, but Booker is smart and goes back to holds in order to try and slow things down and halt Benoit’s momentum, which is a good bit of storytelling that differentiates the wrestling styles of the two men. Benoit manages to fight his way back into the match and drops Booker mid-section first onto the top rope before clocking him with a shot that sends the Champ tumbling down to the floor.
Benoit takes over following that, with Booker selling his offence well, especially when Benoit fires off some of his stinging knife edge chops. The crowd has been a little bit muted here at points but the wrestling on display has been of good quality and both men have been working a scientifically sound match. Spring Stampede 98 took place up in Denver, Colorado and I think the high altitude might have potentially played a part in the more patient pace of the match, as both men are trying not to expend too much energy too quickly. It also suits the no time limit stipulation for both men to gradually build the match rather than going all out right from the off.
As we hit the ten minute mark (the time when a TV Title match would normally end) Benoit ups the ante with some more high impact moves, such as his multiple German Suplexes and a back suplex from the top rope, and the crowd responds. This match has been built very smartly and the crowd is starting to bite, especially when they hit the finishing stretch and start trading near falls. The action continues to be good, with both men’s execution being on point and the bumping and feeding of both men being excellent.
Because more matches are due to come in this rivalry, they so a slightly dodgy finish where the referee ends up getting bumped by an errant Booker kick (Although it looks like Benoit might have pulled the referee in the way) and that means that when Benoit immediately follows up with his Crippler Crossface submission move there isn’t a referee to oversee it. Booker looks like he might have tapped, but it’s presented in a way that he might have just been reaching for the ropes, thus causing even further controversy and opening the door for rematches. Benoit goes to try and wake up the downed ref, but that allows Booker to catch him with a jumping side kick and that’s enough for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: BOOKER T
Thoughts: This match was chicken soup for the wrestling fan’s soul, as both men gradually built the match and told a solid story that the crowd got invested in. The finish was a bit finicky, but it left the door open for more matches between the two whilst still giving the fans a pin fall finish, which was “job done” at the end of the day
Benoit is furious following that and glares at both the referee and Booker before storming to the back. The two would continue to feud following this, with Fit Finlay eventually getting involved as well in order to take the story in a different direction.
nWo Vs WCW
Mr. Spiffy Curt Hennig w/ Rick Rude Vs Davey Boy Smith w/ Jim The Anvil Neidhart
Hennig had been in a bit of a mini-feud with Bret Hart, so now he’s feuding with Bret’s family as well. Rude is handcuffed to Anvil here in order to prevent him from helping Hennig, which is a classic old school stipulation but it doesn’t really feel like this feud has really earned it as no one involved in it is really that over except for Bret Hart, who isn’t even here.
Hennig can barely walk here due to a legit knee injury, whilst Smith was already way past his peak as a wrestler and dealing with his own issues, so this match is pretty sloppy and heatless. Smith spends most of the match attacking Hennig’s injured right knee, with Hennig selling it all well, whilst occasionally they tease that Rude is going to come into the ring to help only for Anvil to stop him each time.
Hennig can barely do anything due to his knee, and the babyface constantly destroying the knee of the Heel whilst the Heel lies around selling isn’t exactly the most dramatic or exciting way to structure a bout, although the fans do get into a spot where Smith starts ramming Hennig’s face into the turnbuckles. Vince runs down disguised as a cop and that allows Rude to get free and cuff Anvil to the ring post. Smith is thus now outnumbered and Hennig rams him into the metal post for the three count.
WINNER: CURT HENNIG
Thoughts: LolNwoWins!!! The match itself was pretty dull, with Hennig not really being capable of doing anything and Smith being so far gone as a worker by this stage that he wasn’t able to make up for it in any way.
Rude, Vincent and Hennig beat down the WCW guys following the match and leave them looking like ineffective goofs, because it’s a WCW show from 1998.
WCW World Cruiserweight Title
Champ: Lionheart Chris Jericho Vs Prince Iaukea
Jericho had defeated Dean Malenko at the March pay per view and Malenko had gone home dejected, leading to Jericho taunting Malenko relentlessly for two months. Iaukea is a Malenko student and is looking to avenge his mentor here. Jericho has of course been getting Iaukea’s name wrong and has been referring to him as “Prince Nakamaki” in his usual arrogant way. Jericho cuts a Heel promo on his way down to the ring, drawing some good heat as he dedicates the match to Malenko. As always, I despair at Peackock/WWE Network dubbing out Jericho’s fantastic Evenflow knock off theme, especially as other sound-alikes from this era seem to have survived the editing.
Iaukea does a fine job as a gutsy babyface challenger here, but I don’t think the fans ever really think that he has a chance of winning the belt as he hadn’t been pushed at all since the spring of 1997. Jericho draws some good heat from the crowd at points, as the crowd really does seem to despise him. I do like how Jericho committed to being as lame and unlikeable as possible during this period, as so many babyfaces were obsessed with also looking “cool”, whilst Jericho was happy to be an absolute jerk at all times, which actually made his character stand out.
Jericho works a bit of heat and then Iaukea gets the babyface comeback and some near falls. The crowd doesn’t really bite on any of the near falls for Iaukea, but they do pop when Iaukea manages to get to the ropes on a Lion Tamer attempt at one stage. Iaukea keeps getting roll ups and pin counters for some two counts, with one of them actually managing to make the crowd somewhat bit finally, but eventually Jericho manages to catch Iaukea in the Lion Tamer for real and Iaukea is forced to uncle in order to give Jericho the win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: CHRIS JERICHO
Thoughts: This was a Thunder match that they put on pay per view. There was nothing actively bad about it, but Iaukea was a pretty weak challenger and the fans didn’t really buy him as a potential winner. Jericho looked good but they should have really given him a stronger opponent here.
Jericho steals Iaukea’s entrance attire following that, adding to the idea that Jericho was a collector of some kind who was taking trophies from his defeated opponents.
nWo Vs WCW
Buff The Stuff Bagwell and White Thunder Scott Steiner Vs The Total Package Lex Luger and The Dogface Gremlin Rick Steiner w/ Ted Dibiase
Steiner had turned on his brother back at SuperBrawl VIII and had lost to Luger at Uncensored, so we’ve got a tag match to keep the feud cooking. Buff tries to get out of the match with an obviously faked hand injury, leading to much chicanery as James J. Dillon joins us with a doctor. The crowd bites on all of this and Buff in particular is hilarious in trying to get out of the match. Of course Buff’s hand is revealed to be okay and that leads to the babyfaces coming out to a big pop.
This match has some good energy to it and it’s mostly enjoyable, although it is sloppy in parts due to some mistiming. The story is pretty straightforward, with Scott only ever willing to get into the ring and fight Rick when Rick is already on the defensive, meaning that Rick never gets to faceoff with Scott in a fair fight and is thus unable to get any revenge. After a quick shine, Scott cheap shots Rick and the Heels work some heat on him.
Luger eventually gets the hot tag and runs wild, looking good in the process as the crowd gets into his flurry. Things breakdown following that, with Scott eventually fleeing from Rick, leaving Buff and Luger to handle the finish. Rick returns to help his partner and shoves Buff off the ropes and that leads to Luger trapping Buff in The Human Torture Wrack in order to give WCW the win.
WINNERS: LUGER & STEINER
Thoughts: This was another television match on pay per view, but it was entertaining for what it was and they did a good job of providing a decent match whilst also holding off on the Scott Vs Rick confrontation. The problem was they continued to delay on eventually delivering the match until it reached the point that fans were burnt out on the storyline. I think both Buff and Rick got injured not too soon after this, but all being well they probably should have booked in the first Steiner Vs Steiner singles match for Great American Bash
Psicosis Vs La Parka
This is a thrown together match between two talented wrestlers, but because it’s on so late in the card the crowd really isn’t interested in seeing it. There is a bit of backstory as Psi and Parka had been on-again off-again tag team partners for most of their WCW stint, so this would seemingly be the final blow off to that issue, but it’s not like WCW built it up much on television and this is too late in the card for a thrown together Luchadores battle.
The actual wrestling here is fine, with Psi doing some high flying and Parka doing some brawling and comedy spots. Most of the moves are executed correctly and the two have reasonable chemistry together as opponents, but the match has no heat from the crowd and it ends up feeling flat as a result. The finish ends up looking a bit silly as Parka is supposed to get tied up in the ropes so that he can’t escape Psi’s leg drop, but Psi takes too long and it’s obvious that Parka could get away if he wanted to. Still, aside from that, it’s an okay match.
Thoughts: Another Thunder match in a series of them tonight. The finish didn’t look right and there was the odd moment of sloppiness in the match itself, but in general the dives and big moves all looked good and the wrestling by itself was entertaining for the most part, the live crowd just didn’t care about any of it
The commentary team yaks some more in order to hype up the Main Event matches. Heenan does a good job getting Savage over as a dangerous man by comparing him to an angry injured animal.
nWo Vs WCW
Baseball Bat On A Pole
Hollywood Hogan and Big Sexy Kevin Nash Vs Rowdy Roddy Piper and The Giant
Hogan and Nash had been squabbling recently; with Nash siding with Randy Savage is his dispute with Hogan. However, they’ve agreed to work together here against two WCW representatives. You’d think that the fact the nWo team is at odds whilst the WCW team are united would mean that WCW would be sure to pick up the victory here whilst the Heel team implodes. If you do think that then I suggest that you avoid watching too much WCW, as you clearly have a rational mind and watching this promotion could potentially melt your brain.
There’s a bat on a pole here and if you can climb the pole then you can use the bat as a weapon. I do have to question putting that stipulation on a match with these four guys, none of them are really built for climbing. One thing the match has going for it is that the crowd is really into Piper and they go nuts whenever Piper gets some sustained offence on the bad guys. The actual wrestling isn’t up to much due to Hogan and Piper both being long past their prime by 1998, but the crowd heat helps make up for it somewhat.
Giant quite literally spanks Hogan like a naughty boy who tried stealing a boiled sweet at one stage, which gets a scarily big pop from the crowd. Tony on commentary says the whole world has been waiting to see something like that, to which I say; speak for yourself Tony! Nash teases his eventual babyface turn by being brave and requesting that Piper tag in Giant at one stage so we can see the big guys go at it. They do their usual match, which as usual is better than you’d think it might be. I’ve seen Nash wrestle Giant in singles and tags a few times and it’s usually always been watchable at the very least.
We get the big double down spot where Nash and Giant both go for a big boot at the same time, leading to them both knocking the other out. I know some hate that spot when big guys do it but I always get a kick out of it and think it’s quite entertaining. Hogan and Piper have a slug fest following that, and it’s possibly the best wrestling the two do in the entire match as they both have to just stand there and swing at one another. The heat for this match to continues being shockingly great when you consider how the work hasn’t been amazing.
This match does feel like a big pay per view outing at least, which some of the other matches on this card definitely haven’t. Giant even busts out the rarely seen dropkick in order to send Nash flying out of the ring at one stage. This leads to Giant helping Piper to grab the bat, but Hogan and Nash attack whilst Piper is on the way back down and that leads to Piper dropping the bat. The Disciple (Brutus Beefcake/Ed Leslie) joins us following that and passes Hogan his own bat, leading to Giant getting clobbered.
Nash holds Piper for a big bat shot, but Piper gets free and Nash takes it instead, leaving Hogan and Piper to go at it. Disciple gets involved again though whilst the ref is checking on the two downed big men and provides a distraction that allows Hogan to clock Piper with one of the bats for the three count.
WINNERS: HOGAN & NASH
Thoughts: This was better than it had any right to be. A lot of the actual wrestling wasn’t especially good but the match had phenomenal heat from the crowd and it ended up being quite entertaining. I do think Team WCW needed to win though if the nWo was imploding as they had the perfect excuse for having the Heels take a fall whilst still protecting them as it would be down to them not getting along as opposed to the babyfaces being the stronger team.
Hoganappears to make nice with Nash following that, but then clocks Nash with the bat anyway to firmly end that alliance seemingly. Giant recovers though and sends Hogan packing before promising vengeance, but Giant would in fact join Hogan’s nWo group by the time the next pay per view came around.
Raven’s Rules for the WCW United States Title
Champ: Diamond Dallas Page Vs Raven w/ The Flock
Oh yeah, Self-High Five baby! Good God!! DDP and Raven had been feuding for a few months, with Raven failing to win the belt back at Uncensored but now getting another chance at it after stealing the physical belt in order to anger DDP. This is the usual Raven dog and pony show, as both wrestlers brawl all over the place before setting up near falls and run-ins from Raven’s allies. Anyone who watched any ECW from 1995-97 will know the match well and, if you enjoy that sort of match, you’ll probably enjoy this one as DDP is a good worker and the two do some good brawling together.
Highlights of the brawl include DDP leaping off a stage wagon onto Raven at one stage and Raven putting DDP on a table and then leaping off the barricades with a splash. Both wrestlers are clearly working hard and the match is certainly watchable in a “watch dudes hit one another with plunder” kind of way, but again that’s not a style of match that is going to appeal to everyone. As is usual with WCW, the commentary team treats the weapon stuff as more of a comedy break , which differed from the WWF where hardcore stuff with stars in feature matches was usually treated as a serious battle rather than an excuse for a chuckle.
The Flock eventually all starts running in, with DDP taking each one of them out in various ways, such as hitting Hammer with the kitchen sink and catching Kidman with an impressive Diamond Cutter OUTTA NOWHERE. DDP having no friends to help him is a bit questionable, but they make it work. Horace Boulder ends up making his WCW debut as a cameraman, as he clocks DDP with a stop sign and that leads to DDP snapping off an Evenflow DDT for the three count.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RAVEN
Thoughts: I enjoyed most of this but it won’t be for everybody. DDP taking out all of The Flock until the mystery new member cost him the match is a very Raven-thing to see in one of his matches and I thought what they did worked well for the most part
Goldberg would go on to defeat Raven the next night on Nitro, in possibly one of the best matches Goldberg ever had, but the DDP feud would continue for another month at least.
nWo Vs WCW
No Disqualification Bout for the WCW Title
Champ: Sting Vs Macho Man Randy Savage w/ Elizabeth
WCW had built to Sting winning the Title for all of 1997, but then they botched the Starrcade Main Event big time by having Sting lose to a referee fast count that wasn’t actually fast, meaning that the Title had been held up as a result. Sting finally won the belt officially at SuperBrawl VIII, but by then his aura had pretty much evaporated and he just became another guy on the show. Sting had been teasing some kind of alliance with Savage, but Savage had clocked him at Uncensored the previous month to set this up, although really the storyline was all about the fussing and feuding nWo members.
Savage’s goal here was to win the Title and then usurp Hogan as the leader of the New World Order, and in the build-up it looked like Kevin Nash was siding with him instead of Hogan. Hogan hitting Nash with a baseball bat earlier in the night has now set the wheels in motion for Nash to form his own faction, and make it so it’s likely Nash now has to hitch his wagon to Savage instead. Thus Sting, the World Champion I’ll remind you, has basically been relegated to the background whilst the nWo continues their spat, with the story all being about whether Savage can win and take control of the group for himself rather than whether Sting and WCW can hold on to the belt.
Savage is kind of carrying himself as a Face here, due to the fact that the Nash faction of the nWo were going to be babyfaces, but ostensibly he was still a Heel because Sting is representing WCW and was one of the top guys on the babyface side. Of course, Sting himself would join the Nash nWo alongside Savage about a month later anyway, so the point is moo. The brawl is on right from the off, but the crowd is kind of burnt out on brawling due to the previous Raven Vs DDP match also being a weapons filled battle. Savage is working with a big knee brace and an injured wrist here, thus further placing him in the role of a gutsy babyface, but he still works the match like a vicious Heel for the most part. I really hate this shade of grey nonsense sometimes.
Both men brawl down to the barn themed entrance set, which leads to one of Tony Schiavone’s more infamous lines of commentary where he talks about how the hay can be very abrasive. People make fun of him for that, but it kind of ignores the fact that Sting and Savage decided to hit each other with HAY and act like it was a devastating weapon. It’s not like Tony was given much to work with there you know. At least he was TRYING to make such a stupid spot sound like it might hurt somehow. The fight heads back down to ringside, where Sting shockingly misses the Stinger Splash whilst Savage slumps against the guardrail, making it roughly the 778th time such a thing has happened.
Savage chokes away back inside following that, but Sting quickly fights back and flings him outside for a vertical suplex on the mats around ringside. That’s quite a big bump for 1998 era Randy Savage to take to be honest. Savage goes after Sting’s nether regions back inside, but Sting shrugs off the damage to his Borden’s and fights back, which leads to ref Charles Robinson getting bumped in the process. Liz comes in to clock Sting with a chair and gets Stinger Splashed for her efforts, albeit by accident as Savage pulled her in the way. This is Hogan’s cue to run in and shove Savage off the top when he tries the elbow, which allows Sting to capitalise with the Scorpion Death Drop. Nash strolls down to Powerbomb Sting though, and that’s enough for Savage to win the belt.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RANDY SAVAGE
Thoughts: You’d think Sting Vs Savage in a wild brawl would potentially be entertaining, but it ended up feeling rushed and the crowd wasn’t really into it until the run-ins started.
Hogan is of course furious that Savage won the belt, but he ended up winning it himself the following night on Nitro when Bret Hart turned heel, thus putting us right back where we started before Starrcade. This Hogan run would at least only last a couple of months until he got Goldberg’d, but it’s such a shame that Sting’s big win ended up getting ruined only for the belt to find its way back to his Hulkness a mere few months later.
The triple combo of the opening three matches are enough to prevent this from being a bad show overall, as all three matches were not only good but they were good in different ways and also set up some enjoyable storyline advancement in all three cases.
The rest of the card was so-so, with a lot of Thunder-level matches and a disappointing Main Event. The bat match was far more entertaining than you’d think it would be given the participants, although the actual wrestling was pretty bad for the most part. It was definitely one of those matches where the entertainment came from good crowd heat and storytelling more than it did for the actual wrestling itself, so I totally understand why some might hate it.
Ultimately there’s enough good stuff on here that the show is middling at worst, and I’d argue that the majority of the card is better than the WWF’s Unforgiven show from the same month in 1998. The Main Event and the weak parts of the undercard drag it down a bit in order to make it a thumbs in the middle at best, and the ending left us with more nWo nonsense at the expense of WCW, when the promotion really needed to start pivoting away from it at this stage as it was starting to get stale.
This show comes mildly recommended due to the strong three matches that open it and the fact the majority of the card is “okay”, but it’s not like you need to go out of your way to watch it or anything. Maybe just watch the first three matches and call it a day?