Written by: Arnold Furious
We’re in Baltimore, Maryland (host to GAB for the first time in 1988 and provided the venue for ’89, ’90, ‘91 and ’96 also). Hosts are Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan. They plug the “dream” tag match pitting Hogan & Bret v Savage & Piper. Crowd gets bored with all the plugging so they chant for Goldberg. We get clips of Benoit-Booker from Thunder with shots of Bret Hart attacking Booker with a chair. Benoit doesn’t want to win it like that and tells the ref that Bret used the chair thus costing himself the match. So the Best of Seven series is won by Booker BUT they decide to have another match because of the screwy finish.
Chris Benoit v Booker T
Winner wrestles Finlay tonight for the TV title. This is match eight in the best of seven series. Benoit is kind of in limbo still because there’s no Horsemen, because there’s no Flair, and his Apocalypse stable got shot down because it scared the main event guys. Booker is still technically in Harlem Heat but they’ve stopped teaming because of Booker’s singles success. Sign in the crowd – “Soylent Green is people”. That’s just a random spoiler there. I’ve reviewed this match twice before but I’m feeling generous so here comes recap #3. Benoit starts the aggressor causing Booker to bail. Booker takes it to the mat where he does pretty well. The crowd is REALLY quiet for the early basics, which isn’t a great sign. A back elbow by Booker causes the crowd to suddenly erupt. Yeah, they want to see striking. Slam also gets popped. Or spots. That’s what they want. Booker punches at Benoit in the corner but gets reversed only for Benoit to run into a boot. He catches another into the dragon screw and Booker has a bad leg apparently. Hey, Tony called it the “dragon screw legwhip” after he joined Dusty Rhodes in mocking the name of the move the previous year. Times they are a changin’. Benoit with a big back suplex for 2. The pacing does feel quite slow in the early going. Benoit really demonstrates that with a chinlock. Booker with an escape and a leapfrog but Benoit chops him right down. Crowd digs that. Snap suplex gets 2. Benoit tries for a back suplex but Booker switches his weight and falls on top for 2. Benoit slows it down again with the chinlock. The resting spots seem to be to protect Booker who’s wrestling twice tonight but it’s making Benoit look like the lazy guy for going to it. Booker elbows out but runs into a knee. Benoit dumps Booker ribs first across the ropes and the knee injury seems to have been forgotten. Only the dragon screw has focused on that. Now Benoit looks horribly unfocused as a result. He chops Booker down back into the chinlock. Booker powers his way up and hits a powerslam. Heenan points to the knee slowing Booker up. He goes up top but Benoit just moves. Benoit goes for the Crossface but Booker has the ropes. The thing being the leg is the focus and Mike Tenay talks about how Benoit is looking to go after the strong body parts to generally weaken Booker. I don’t buy that. They’ve gone to so much trouble for the knee, why not use it? I guess because they wanted to have different matches in the series. Booker with an Enzuigiri and a “sidewalk slam” or spinebuster if you’re not Tony Schiavone. Flapjack (“pancake”) and the spinneroonie. Booker goes up but Benoit cuts him off and hits the superplex. Pin gets 2, eventually. Benoit grabs Booker and here’s the Rolling Germans. Booker elbows out after two but Benoit grabs him with the Dragon Suplex for 2. Crowd is on the edge of its seat here and the announcers are getting carried away. Always a good sign. Benoit with more chops and a short arm clothesline. Benoit goes up and the Flying Wolverine hits. Benoit again delays on a cover for 2. I think personally he’s overselling compared to Booker. Sidekick from Booker and he goes up top and hits the Missile Dropkick for the pin at 16.17. ***3/4. I change my mind on the rating every time I see this but I guess it’s around the four snowflake area. The lack of knee stuff doesn’t hurt the match THAT much but the commentators probably shouldn’t have acknowledged the bad knee so much if it wasn’t going to play into anything. Benoit looked slightly lost at times, which is just weird to see compared to the Benoit of today but he kept it together just fine. I’m not so sure their matches together were all that great because Benoit works a totally different kind of psychology to Booker and works better with guys who can actually sell right. Like Angle.
Perry Saturn v Chris Kanyon
Saturn is no longer in the Flock but rather Raven’s “friend”. Kanyon came into WCW in a jobber tag team where the team gimmick was construction workers. If that sounds daft then keep in mind that Kanyon kept costing his team by taking measurements at inopportune moments. He donned a mask to become Mortis, a character based on video game characters and specifically created as a foil for Glacier. He dumped that gimmick when Raven wouldn’t let him join the Flock. Kanyon is still dressed as Mortis. But he’s not because that’s a fake and the real Kanyon jumps in from the crowd to attack from behind. Swinging neckbreaker gets 2. Wheelbarrow bomb gets 2. Crowd gets excited because Kidman is out here. Kanyon knocks him on his ass. Saturn gets tossed out to the floor. Saturn trips Kanyon up and hits a slingshot splash. Saturn misses in the corner. Crowd is quiet here. Almost as if they’re waiting for Raven. Kanyon with a Rocker Dropper for 2. Horace is out here, so is Riggs and Lodi. Kanyon gets thrown out to the Flock who kick his ass and Saturn hits a pescado to wipe everyone out. Impartial referee Nick Patrick impartially boots everyone. Saturn whips Kanyon into the “steel post” or the guard rail as everyone else knows it. Tony is REALLY on form here. Saturn drags Kanyon in while standing on the middle rope and he suplexes him back in from there. Saturn with a nice drop toehold into an anklelock. Total silence from the crowd. So much for Ken Shamrock being over. Saturn looks for the Rings Of but ends up hooking the CATTLE MUTILATION. Hello! Kanyon doesn’t quit. Saturn dumps Kanyon groin first on the ropes and springboard lariats him to the floor. Saturn has a chair and Tony questions whether this is Raven’s Rules. Springboard dropkick off the chair from Saturn. Is that legal? Saturn with a slam and the TRIPLE JUMP MOONSAULT! What the hell is Saturn on here? Kanyon reverses into a Russian legsweep. Saturn tries a slingshot sunset flip but Kanyon catches him right into a Northern Lights for 2. Slingshot elbow drop misses. Saturn levels him with a swinging neckbreaker as a receipt for the opening attack. That gets 2. Saturn can’t think of anything awesome to do so he goes to the chinlock. Kanyon tries to suplex out but Saturn switches and lands on top for 2. Saturn runs into a Hot Shot. Saturn gets a backslide for 2 and they only have a little near falls sequence. Saturn goes to the Rings of Saturn but can’t get it so he rolls into a pin for 2. Saturn looks stupid for running into a spinning Samoan flapjack for 2. That was the first time they looked convoluted. Kanyon with a Torture Rack neckbreaker for 2. Kanyon calls for the Flatliner but Saturn counters into the HALF NELSON SUPLEX. What the fuck is he on? He’s doing Sabu one minute, then Stunning Steve Austin and Kenta Kobashi the next. Saturn jacks Kanyon up but he escapes the DVD so Saturn superkicks him. Saturn takes it up top and I am so digging this. They battle up there until both guys get crotched and Kanyon takes a nasty fall to the floor. “Mortis” is back out here but there’s another one too and the two Mortis’ fight each other. Crowd gives out a collective “whu?” on that one. Saturn looks confused and BAM Kanyon catches him in the Flatliner and it’s over at 14.45. ****. Drop the goofy double Mortis thing and I loved the hell out of that match. Saturn was busting out totally random stuff to counter Kanyon’s inventiveness and it made for a really entertaining match. Crowd didn’t give a shit but there ya go.
POST MATCH “Mortis” jumps in there and raises Kanyon’s arm only to counter into a DDT and he unmasks as Raven. The other guy isn’t revealed and logically it should be Van Hammer but it didn’t look like him. Raven rants at Saturn for losing. The Flock comes back out here. “I’m sick of you Saturn” – Raven. Saturn attacks him and the Flock charge in to attack Saturn. But Saturn goes NUTZ and throws suplexes on everyone bar Raven who’s fucked off. Crowd has been slowly getting into Saturn and now they chant his name.
CLIPS – We get Malenko giving up the cruiserweight title to get another shot at Chris Jericho. Basically Jericho whined about losing to ‘Ciclope’ Malenko so Malenko wanted to prove a point. Now the title is vacant and tonight is for the title. If you’re wondering what Jericho what whinging about that would be Chapter 11, Section 5, Codicil 8 of the 1934 NWA rulebook. He claimed that he had to have exact details of his opponents lined up before a title defence and that Dean Malenko was not a listed participant in the battle royal at the last PPV.
Cruiserweight title – Dean Malenko v Chris Jericho
Jericho lands a back kick early. He has his “1004” tights on here. Malenko switches – GERMAN SUPLEX! Jericho landed HARD on that. Malenko pounds him in the corner and chokes with the foot. Jericho with a shoulderblock and he stops to shadow box with Billy Silverman. Hehe. Malenko takes advantage with a vertical suplex for 2. Outside and Jericho boots Malenko in the back of head and follows out with a pescado (called so by Mike Tenay, word). Vertical suplex from Jericho gets 2 with a cocky cover. Sleeper applied but Malenko counters it so Jericho back suplexes out for 2. Lionsault misses and Malenko hits the leaping calf kick and a roll up gets 2. Short knees from Malenko and a diving faceplant gets 2. To the ropes and Malenko looks for his gutbuster only for Jericho to counter into a Super Rana. Jericho eventually covers for 2. Jericho looks for the powerbomb but Malenko clubs at him. Jericho ROLLS through into a Boston crab. Malenko drags himself into the ropes and the crowd goes WILD. Jericho with an Alabamaslam (called a sidewalk slam by Tony who seems to think everything is a sidewalk slam). Into the rolling counters and TEXAS CLOVERLEAF!! Jericho gets into the ropes! 1-1. “Jericho” chants break out as he hits a Tiger Backbreaker. “You’re nothing Malenko, just like your dead father” – the kindly words of Chris Jericho. Malenko gets pissed off and starts wailing on Jericho. That spills outside and Malenko has lost it – chair shots (none of them are any good – sad) and the ref calls for a DQ at 13.51. ***1/2. Great match, I docked a 1/4* for the somewhat lame finish although I can see how it was rationalised. Malenko just lost control due to Jericho’s attitude. The brawl continues backstage and outside. This is like a hardcore match. Jericho bails across the road and runs away. Oh, such cowardice. That was a lot of fun. The belt was awarded to Jericho the next night as a result of the DQ and Malenko would never win it again. Shame they didn’t announce that Jericho was the champion on the actual PPV.
Juventud Guerrera v Ron Reese w/Lodi
Juvi is now unmasked after losing it to Jericho. WCW never understood the concept of masked wrestlers and actually thought it made them HARDER to market. Oh boy. Reese used to be Big Ron Studd and before that the Yeti. This is one of those matches where you have to wonder where WCW got the idea for the match from. Reese is 410lbs and 7’ 2”. Tenay thinks it’s the biggest size difference between two wrestlers, ever. Because normally no one with half a brain books a seven foot tall guy against a cruiserweight. On a PPV. Juvi prays pre-match. “SAVE ME JEBUS!” To be fair the crowd are into Juvi. Tony stops off to plug Nitro. He has plenty of time because nothing is happening. Juvi gets shoved over a few times and bails. Juvi plays the Rope a Dope card somewhat by getting Reese to chase him around the ring. He boots Reese coming back in and goes for a pescado but gets caught and rammed into the ring post. Reese presses him back in. Juvi lands on his feet. Juvi kicks at the knee and tries for a Princess Bride sleeper attempt. I know a wrestler who’ll kill me for comparing Reese to Andre the Giant. Good job I didn’t call Lodi a “gay Inigo Montoya”. Oops. Reese with a backbreaker and the crowd are bored but not actually chanting “boring”, which is weird. I guess they’re conditioned to live with big guys clubbing away. I’m bored though. Reese with a BORE-HUG. Juvi boots him in the apricots. That’ll slow you up. Reese drops to his knees (“oooooh, me spunk pumps”) but that just means they’re the same fucking height. Reese clobbers Juvi again and hits a suplex. Juvi tries for a diving rana and Van Hammer is in here to nail Reese with a chair shot while the ref is arguing with Lodi about something or other. Juvi completes the hideous looking rana for the pin at 8.44. 3/4*. Bad match but I don’t think you can really fault the wrestlers. Any idiot could tell they wouldn’t have anything approaching chemistry. Especially with Reese being so bad. Van Hammer’s post match carrying away of Juvi doesn’t exactly scream hetero.
Chavo Guerrero Jr v Eddie Guerrero
Eddie has been messing with Chavo but now doesn’t want to wrestle him. Heenan starts riffling out the Mexican jokes. “Whoever has the biggest sombrero is the Uncle”. Eddie doesn’t want to fight and tells Chavo he loves him but Chavo has totally snapped so he just slaps Eddie. Eddie lights him up with chops but Chavo ducks and starts with his own. They brawl to the mat and they’re both throwing rights at will. Eddie dumps Chavo backwards into the post and that spot looked like a fuck up. The brawl continues with Chavo bouncing Eddie’s head off the buckles. Chavo with a flying headscissors. Crowd doesn’t seem to care here, which is weird. Maybe they just wanted Eddie higher up the card. I know I did at the time. Eddie with a back suplex and he pauses to taunt the crowd. Eddie works the arm a little but Chavo flips out and hits a monkey flip. Eddie does the bump into the ropes that looks great. Chavo uses the ropes and hits a moonsault press for 2. Chavo charges but Eddie ducks and Chavo flies outside. Eddie throws Chavo into the ring steps and he just lands on top of his head. Weird looking bump he took there. Back inside the Brainbuster hits. Eddie doesn’t want a pin though. He wants to mock and slap at Chavo. But Chavo grabs him by the neck and chokes away. The referee threatens a DQ and could have done so as Chavo ignores a five count. Eddie bails and runs provoking a chase and Eddie ends up hiding behind the referee in superb chickenshit heel fashion. Chavo moves the ref but Eddie takes out the knee with a dropkick. Eddie with a Figure Four and the crowd just DIES. I figure this hold is reminding them of Ric Flair and how he’s not on TV thanks to a stupid real life feud with Eric Bischoff. Eddie decides to stop the hold as a result. Gory Special is on instead but that doesn’t impact the knee so much. Chavo tries a comeback dropkick but Eddie swats him away and hits his own. Crowd is bored so Eddie taunts them some more. I love Eddie. He’s practically saying “I’ll finish this match when I fucking well please and not before”. Eddie gets backdropped outside and Chavo wipes him out with a really fast suicide hilo. Crowd starts chanting for Flair LOUDLY. Chavo comes back with a bulldog for 2. Chavo does some Eddie mannerisms and goes up top looking for the Frogsplash. Eddie pops up and knocks the ropes out from under Chavo leaving him down holding the knee. Eddie is up but the Frogsplash misses when Chavo sits up. That’s two Undertaker moves Chavo has used. The choke from out of the taunt and the zombie sit up. Chavo goes for the tornado DDT so Eddie throws him out of the ring only for Chavo to slingshot back in with the flying DDT for the win at 14.44. ***1/2. Match was really good, crowd didn’t really care BUT they did pop the finish. This was Chavo’s biggest win, ever at the time. Eddie simply underestimated Chavo’s ability, which cost him the win. It’s nice to see Uncle Eddie was willing to take a loss to Chavo when I’m willing to bet any other wrestler on the roster at his level or above wouldn’t have.
CLIPS – Piper & Savage disagreeing on Nitro. Savage’s knee was busted up so needed a long time off to recover not to mention several surgeries. Basically this is his last night in WCW until 1999 and the last time he’d be considered useful.
TV title – Fit Finlay (c) v Booker T
It’s weird that Booker and Finlay are still involved some eight years later. That said I’d rather see Finlay v Benoit again. That match is always awesome. Booker breaks out an early sidekick for 1. Enzuigiri misses though and Finlay grabs the leg. Ah, there’s the knee coming into play. Booker with a flying forearm for 1. Finlay keeps bringing the disrespectful kick outs. Booker chops the shit out of him for that. Finlay grabs him and hooks up the half crab into a leglock. Booker tries to twist out so Finlay grabs the other leg too into a double grounded leg grapevine. Finlay takes the leg out to the apron and bashes it over the edge. This would all have more impact and be more over if Benoit had worked the knee earlier. If they’d put storyline over pride we could be getting something more entertaining here. As it stands the crowd buy this less. It’s making Finlay look boring for sacrificing his style for storyline, which is a shame. He keeps on the knee. Booker gets a sunset flip for 2 but Finlay goes right back on the knee. Finlay with the Stretch Muffler. Booker has to punch his way out because he can’t do anything else with one leg. He tries for a headlock but Finlay just shinbreakers his way out. His focus has been total here. While I applaud his efforts to tell a story it’s only been sporadically interesting. Finlay gets pissed off with a distraction in the crowd and just stops working because of it. Booker is lying there selling so we get 45 seconds or so of nothing. Crowd is actively bored now. This whole thing has gone on too far. Booker pops up as if nothing has happened and hits the axe kick. Oh, it was only THE ENTIRE FUCKING MATCH BOOKER. Finlay clips the knee and they go to a Tombstone with reversal but Booker fucks that up too. Seriously now Book, what the fuck? He hits a piledriver for the pin at 13.11 and that would mean he fucked the finish of the match up then. Not to mention totally forgetting the sell the knee whatsoever after ELEVEN minutes of heat on it. **. Booker sure fucked this one up. As I said at the top, I’d rather have seen Benoit-Finlay, which would have been at the very least angle progression. As it stands Booker is champion as he was before and everyone is back where they were.
US title – Bill Goldberg (c) v Konnan w/Curt Hennig/Rick Rude
Hennig was due to face Goldberg but his bad knee suddenly played up when he had to lose. To be fair he really was injured but managed to wrestle when he was booked to win. Goldberg is 99-0 even though he wasn’t. They’d started fudging the figures by this point. Konnan is the perfect opponent for Goldberg because I don’t give a shit about him and he’s about to get obliterated. Konnan gets shoved out of the ring on the opening lock up. Goldberg with a fucking ugly headlock. Konnan wrestles out of it and Goldberg with a drop toehold. This is all hideous. Konnan pounds away and the crowd is still chanting “Goldberg”. He takes boots to the face but no sells it. Spear. Jackhammer. Goodnight sweet prince at 1.56. 100-0. DUD.
POST MATCH Rude & Hennig heel on Konnan and defect to nWo Hollywood. Kevin Nash and Lex Luger run out to scare them off but the damage is done as they’ve quit the Wolfpac. Nash is running short on numbers. He also isn’t even wrestling tonight. FEEL THE WORKRATE! Crowd don’t really care because they were too busy being interested in Goldberg, which made this a particularly stupid place to do this whole angle.
Bret Hart/Hulk Hogan v Randy Savage/Roddy Piper
In nWo terms things are complicated here. Hogan has his own faction, which he wants Bret in but Bret isn’t officially in it. Savage is in the Wolfpac and Piper isn’t in anything, which makes you wonder why he even agreed to partner up with Savage when he doesn’t even like him. As for Bret, they’ve completely screwed his character up here. Nothing he does makes a jot of sense and any connection he had with the Hitman Hart character of the WWF is gone. As a result he’s just picking up his pay checks. Hogan didn’t want him wrestling for the title so Bret is about to be shunted into the US title division. He doesn’t even get his own entrance here as Hogan was THAT scared of the reactions he was getting when he first came in. Hogan has the Disciple out here blatantly ignoring the fact that not one single person gave two shits about Ed Leslie. Guess who figures into the finish? This whole match feels dumb. Bret is wasted as Hogan’s stooge and the Piper-Savage feud can’t possibly go anywhere because Savage is hurt. Plus the only match that could possibly draw a buyrate beyond the usual would be Hogan-Bret, which they’ve wrecked and now can’t do. Hogan gets poked in the eyes by both faces and then they work Hogan over in the corner. What would worry me here is that everyone in the ring looks actually old. Really old. Like the opening comedy matches that NOAH put on sometimes with Mimota in. But no one is laughing here because we’re up near the main event. Leslie cheap shots Piper in the back with the world title belt and that changes the course of the match. Sigh. Bret comes in to utterly no reaction. Fucking WCW. How can you fuck up a Bret Hart? On the back of Montreal? Bret sleepwalks through this and still looks the best wrestler out there by a mile. Piper starts doing some wacky selling where he has his eyes closed and just waves his arms around. Piper can’t sell the Russian legsweep properly and the second rope elbow gets 2. Bret antagonises Savage so Hogan can choke on Piper illegally. Savage tags himself in but the ref misses it. They run the same spot again with Hogan running in to distract this time. Savage gets sick of it and grabs a chair, which he puts across Piper’s stomach just as Bret is doing his headbutt to the guts spot. Now Bret looks like an idiot for falling for that but he did a great job of selling it. So Savage gets the tag and Hogan begs off but it was Bret who let him tag and then Bret who takes all the bumps. Crowd doesn’t give a shit anyway. Hogan “accidentally” clotheslines Bret but that looked really awful. Savage slams Bret and goes up top but Hogan runs Piper into the ropes and Savage’s knee falls apart. He just drops off the ropes and then can’t walk. You’ll notice it was Bret that was lying down and beaten only to be saved by Hogan’s actions and ring savvy? Leslie bashes Piper with the belt again while Hogan wraps Savage’s knee around the ring post. The damage is done and Bret slaps him in the Sharpshooter for the win at 11.41. 1/2*. Oh lordy. Where to start with this one? With the exception of Bret Hart everyone in this match should have retired right away. They were all visibly crap and old. Savage needed knee surgery and was working around that but he looked the least useless of the other three. Piper was probably even worse than Hogan. He just looked like a confused old man out there. Which is fine if you’re not in the semi-main event. The only thing they got right here was putting the right guy over but to even do that they made him look like a bitch throughout the match with the booking.
POST MATCH Gene Okerlund jumps in there to stir up shit between the two babyfaces. Piper has no interest in talking to him but Savage, who can barely stand, hits a lame clothesline.
Randy Savage v Roddy Piper
If the last match was bad, this is even worse. Savage beats on Piper and drops the big elbow but he can’t cover because his knee took most of the impact. He pins…for 2. Yeah, that’s it for Savage then. He punks out the referee. They have a ref bump in a two minute match? What the fuck is that? Piper takes out the leg and slaps on the Figure Four. Out comes another referee and Savage quits again at 1.37. DUD. Savage wouldn’t be seen again until the following year when he’d done some serious bulking up. The knee injury was so bad it needed surgery and he’d never be the same wrestler again. Why have Piper put him out btw? How’s that get him anymore over? He’s not even a heel. What you’d want is someone young and angry to be taking that kind of scalp. Like Eddie Guerrero or Raven or if they really wanted to keep to the same names but push someone they wanted to push then Scott Steiner or even Buff Bagwell. Just anyone with a future really.
WCW tag titles – Sting v Giant
See these guys won the tag titles but Sting joined the Wolfpac and Giant is nWo Hollywood. So the winner of this match gets to pick a new tag partner. Putting Sting in the Wolfpac showed that WCW hadn’t got a clue what they were doing. Starrcade ’97 killed Sting before he’d even wrestled two matches back. It’d gotten so bad they had to stick him with Nash to allow him to recover. Giant is smoking a ciggie. Looks like a superking. Giant has already said he’ll pick the Disciple if he wins. Sting is likely to pick anyone from the Wolfpac. He kicks the hell out of Giant and boots him up in the air. Stinger Splash scores once but the second time Giant boots him off. Sting ducks two clotheslines but just bounces off on a crossbody. Giant drops an elbow and he’s been more “methodical” or slow if you’d rather. Press Snake Eyes from Giant. BORE-HUG. They sit in that for an entire minute. Sting eventually bites out of it. Sting dropkicks the knee. Stinger Splash to the back, another one to the front. Scoop slam. ABOVE MY HEAD, BRAH. Scorpion Deathlock is on but Giant just powers out. So Sting hits the Scorpion Deathdrop instead…for 2. Giant goozles him but Giant’s knee gives out when he tries to lift his opponent. Only Bobby Heenan got the point of the spot and that includes the entire crowd. Scorpion Deathdrop…for 2. Giant charges into a pair of boots. Sting with a dragon sleeper into the Scorpion Deathdrop out of the corner and that gets it done at 6.39. *1/4. The main event is six and a half minutes? At least the babyface went over and 1998 was more a year for giving the fans what they want. They don’t bother announcing who Sting’s partner is instead waiting for Nitro. Geez, how hard would that announcement have been?
Final Thoughts: There was some really good stuff on this show. Saturn-Kanyon was years ahead of it’s time. It’s the kind of match that wouldn’t look out of place in Ring of Honor or NOAH bar the daft finish. Benoit-Booker is always good and ditto for Malenko-Jericho. The bad matches are kept pretty short. Even Hogan’s disgrace is only 11 minutes. So its thumbs up for a WCW show for the first time in a good long while.