The National Wrestling Alliance holds an emergency meeting after seeing Ric Flair flaunting the NWA title belt on WWF television. The WWF was not a member of the National Wrestling Alliance, and thus had no claim to it's champion. Sadly, the NWA felt as if they had no other choice but to to do the unthinkable... strip Ric Flair of the NWA Title.
For the first time in almost fifty years, the NWA Title was vacant.
The lineage of the longest standing World Title in modern wrestling history was shattered forever, never to again surface as anything more than a play-thing for amateurs. Wrestling's greatest direct link to the past was gone forever. The very title that was being established by the National Wrestling Association as the United States dropped two nucleur bombs on Japan, ending World War II, was in for all intents and purposes dead.. The same title that was being defended in smoky arenas as Joseph McCarthy's Communist witch hunt took place, was gone forever.. While Lou Thesz was sitting on a train riding into St. Louis to defend the NWA title against Baron Michele Leone, Rosa Parks was refusing to give up her seat in the front of a small bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As Dory Funk Jr. took a huge step in his wrestling career by winning his first NWA Heavyweight Title, Neil Armstrong and the boys of Apollo XI were taking a huge leap for America as they ended one of the greatest American feuds in our short history (The Space Race) with one resounding step. As Lou Thesz was defending the title, John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. "had a dream", and the war in Vietnam shook our nation as hundreds of thousands of our children were sent to war. Watergate shattered our faith in the presidency... Millions of Americans sat in tears as the Challenger exploded... A new disease, code named AIDS, took the country by storm... All the while, the NWA Title was being worn and defended with HONOR.Tragically, what took half of a CENTURY to build was killed before it even heard the bullet...
Welcome back once again to those of you who may remember me, and a huge welcome to those of you who may be new to my work as well. To those of you who have stuck with me through my time at 411Wrestling, you don't know how much it's appreciated. It's amazing how many different types of people I've interacted with, and it's even more amazing how many of you guys have become like friends to me. It means the world to me, and if it's been said one time, it's been said a million times: you guys are the coolest readers on the net, bar none. To those of you new to my work, I'm Ken Anderson, and for the last year I've been proudly representing this great site known as 411Wrestling. In the last twelve calendar months, I've written about a dozen video reviews which I humbly believe to be some of the absolute best video reviews on the web. While twelve video reviews might not sound like much, I like to think that the extra time taken with each review reflected in the finished product. The average review included 18-20 pages of information, hard to find stats, opinion, and analysis. Each review also included multimedia treats, such as screen grabs, sound bites, and the ever-popular dedication to Jason at Wrestling Supercards and Tournaments.
While the video reviews were a lot of fun to do, I was having a progressively harder and harder time sitting down in front of the TV with a pen and notepad and jotting down everything that happened word for word for word. You want to help a friend slowly lose their mind, try having them sit down in an uncomfortable chair with a fine-point pen, five-subject notebook, and a copy of Clash of the Champions III. Fifteen minutes into the Ivan Koloff - Al Perez match, I GUARANTEE you that you will be one friend poorer.
What I really enjoy is the analysis side of things as opposed to the recapping side. With that in mind, I took a little bit of a sabbatical from the internet wrestling scene before coming up with a new idea that I hope will be fun and informative for the whole family, so why don't you go ahead and let Grandma out of the closet. These last two columns have been a trail run of sorts for The Year in Wrestling, and if, as the smart crowd says, it's "pops the crowd," we'll stick with it. If the general consensus pegs the column as a "DUD," we'll go ahead and try something. Anyway, I might still pop in with an occasional video review or two, but I think it's time for a change. I hope you guys like The Year in Wrestling: 1991, and now, more than ever, I need you guys to let me know what you think of it. With that out of the way, we are OFF...
1991: The Year in Wrestling "TheDeath of a Legacy"
The Year was 1991, and WCW was coming off of a year so shoddy and inconsistent that common logic would seem to dictate that there was nowhere else to go but up for WCW. Unfortunate as it is, common logic is not always accurate, especially when the previously mentioned common logic involves a head booker by the name of Dusty Rhodes...
Ole Anderson had graced 1990 with the single most disastrous booking run in the history of modern wrestling, and by December, the writing on the wall was clear. It actually looked a little something like this...
Ole Anderson took over the book in early 1990, and accomplished one thing and one thing only in his booking stint: running WCW close to SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS into the ground. That's right, seven MILLION dollars. Ole Anderson had literally jobbed the company's brightest stars into oblivion at the expense of pushing idiotic old-timers who Ole felt would work cheaply out of fear that it was their last chance to put food on the table for their families. How thoughtful... House show business was at it's absolute worst. Ole was running two separate sets of house shows: The "A" shows, featuring the wrestlers that Ole felt deserved pushes (i.e. the old hags) and the "B" shows, featuring wrestlers who Ole was trying to bury. Night in and night out, the "B" shows drew crowds almost twice the size of the "A" shows. To say that this pissed Ole off would definitely be the understatement of the century.
After the atrocity known as Starrcade '90, the locker room sentiment was loud and clear, "Get rid of Ole." Locker room morale was so low that the common locker room motto at this time was, "pin me, pay me."
A temporary booking committee was established following Ole's removal. This interim committee consisted of Jim Ross, Tony Schiavonne, Kevin Sullivan, and Ric Flair. Together they would desperately try to hold the WCW together while a new head booker was sought after. Jim Herd was SO desperate for a turnaround that a name already associated with disastrous booking was beginning to be muttered throughout the WCW locker room. That name was Dusty Rhodes.
Dusty Rhodes was recently fired by Vince McMahon after being soundly humiliated in the form of a ridiculous "working man" gimmick, complete with vignettes of Dusty Rhodes as a trash man, a plumber, and basically every other degrading profession on the face of the planet. Dusty, or as he pronounced it "Duth-tee," Rhodes was a mixed bag when it came to controlling the book. While Dusty's booking was very successful at times, the sole purpose of his agenda always seemed to come back to pushing one man and one man only: Dusty Rhodes.
Word around TurnerLand had it that Dusty was willing to come back and book the company, but Jim Herd did not want Dusty to compete as an active wrestler. For whatever reason, Dusty was completely fine with playing a strictly behind the scenes role. There was a small request Dusty did have though... he wanted his son to come with him and compete actively. Over the course of the next twelve months, Dusty Rhodes would do exactly what Verne Gagne did with his son Greg in the AWA in the mid-to-late 80's: shove his son down the unaccepting throats of the American public day after day after day. Throughout the year of 1991, Dustin Rhodes would be UNDEFEATED at every major PPV and Clash of the Champions card, despite having little experience and despite not being particularly over at any point during the year. Oh... the joy of being big Duth-tee's son. We'll take a closer look at this phenomena as we delve deeper into each major PPV and Clash of the Champions card.
Dusty's first move as head booker was to wipe out the entire existing booking committee in favor of a tight-knit circle of Dusty's closest friends. Names like Grizzly Smith, Magnum T.A., Ron West, Barry Windham, and Mike Graham became second-hand stooges to good old Dusty Rhodes. While these names supported Dusty, make no mistake about the fact that everything (and that means EVERYTHING) eventually came down to the good old American Dream.
Before we go any further, let's quickly go over the most common term used in reference to Dusty Rhodes' booking habits, just in case anyone may be in the dark as to what we are referring to when we reference it. Click the link and we’ll go over it together.
With that out of the way, let's press forward, and in the process hopefully give you a better understanding of what was 1991: The Year in Wrestling.
January: "A Favor is Returned"
On January 15th, 1991, Ric Flair beat Sting (with his feet on the ropes) to regain the NWA World Heavyweight Title at the Omni in Atlanta, GA. Flair was promised a title reign in return for bailing WCW out once again when he reluctantly agreed to play the part of the Black Scorpion, and the promise was made good on that night at the Omni. Sting's ability and charisma were still as high as ever, but his title reign was unfortunately considered by most to be an utter and complete flop.
Ric Flair didn't have much time to rest on his laurels though, as his first major title defense would come a mere two weeks later at the year's first Clash of the Champions show in Gainesville, GA.
A gigantic thank you (as always) to Jason at Wrestling Supercards and Tournaments. The site has a brand new domain along with the normal ass-kicking information that the site is famous for. Go there, go there often. Don't email me next time you and your friends are arguing over the match time of the Jimmy Snuka bout at Wrestlemania VII, just head on over to Jason's site, you'll be glad you did. As is tradition, we'll be dedicating this review to Jason for all his hard work and dedication to making the site so damn good. The tribute is, as always, in the form of hot lesbians, dedicated to Jason and Wrestling Supercards and Tournaments. These particular lesbians appear to be HUGE fans of Jason's site.
Clash of the Champions XIV - "Dixie Dynamite"
Date: January 30th, 1991.
Venue: Gainesville, GA (Mountain Center).
Attendance: 2,200 ($16,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (3.9)
While Clash of the Champions XIV heralded the first ever main event matchup for newcomer Scott Steiner, the most interesting facet of Clash XIV actually stemmed from an ongoing battle between Dave Meltzer and Vince McMahon. This issue will be discussed much more heavily in an upcoming edition of The Year in Wrestling, but for now we'll just hit on the basics. To make a long story short, Dave Meltzer had BLASTED Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson for their blatant exploitation of the Gulf War in order to help build to the "biggest Wrestlemania Ever" at the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum Vince McMahon was irate and blasted Meltzer right back, citing his blatant bias against the WWF. Meltzer shot right back, making a point in his next issue of the Observer to criticize both companies equally for a recent practice that was starting to become a trend. That practice was switching various titles at TV tapings, and not acknowledging the title changes until weeks later when the match was shown on television. This issue was at the forefront at Dixie Dynamite.
On Jan 16th at Atlanta's Center Stage, Arn Anderson defeated Tom Zenk for the WCW TV Title in what was said to be an excellent match. Despite the fact that Anderson was the new TV Champion, the title switch wasn't set to air on television for close to a month and WCW chose to have Zenk continue to defend the title until the loss was shown on TBS. Not only that, but Zenk was given a strange quasi-push as "WCW's Sexiest Wrestler," after winning a fictitious contest "voted on" by readers of WCW Magazine. The silly gimmick proved to only further alienate the male fans from the choir-boy image of Tom Zenk.
WCW went on to recognize Zenk as the TV Champion at Clash XIV, even though the wide scope of the title-change story clued even the markiest of marks on to what exactly was going on. Oh well...
The rest of the undercard for Clash XIV was pretty uninspired, with the only high-point being a hot opening match pitting the tag champs Doom up against Sting and Lex Luger. In case you missed the last installment and aren't keeping score at home, YES, Sting did in fact go from headlining WCW's premier PPV to curtain jerking a Clash of the Champions show all over the course of THIRTY DAYS. Say what you want about Sting's career, but I honestly believe that Ole damaged Sting so badly with his booking that Sting would NEVER recover.
The main event of "Dixie Dynamite" feature Ric Flair fighting an epic twenty-five minute brawl with Scott Steiner. Scott Steiner was so amazing before he lost his ability to.. you know... MOVE. Steiner reminds me a LOT of modern day Kurt Angle, and if these two met while both in their primes, it could very well be one of the best damn matches EVER. Scott Steiner was so gifted and so over at this point in his career that Ric Flair practically begged to give the World Title to Scott Steiner. The idea was vetoed, thinking that Steiner wasn't quite ready. Who knows what would happened if things would have turned out differently. Anyway, Steiner hit his finishing move, the Frankensteiner (the first hurricanrana-type move ever performed in front of a large scale television audience in the US), just as time was expiring. If the match would have been two seconds later, Steiner would be the new champ. Flair hung on by a thread, and the live crowd went home very happy.
February: "A Star is Born"
By February of 1991, Dusty Rhodes was settled in enough as head booker to bring in a superstar whom he felt was the "Natural" choice to be WCW's next big star: Dustin Rhodes. Dustin Rhodes made his professional wrestling debut on September 13th, 1998, and had wrestled a few matches here and there for Florida Championship Wrestling as well as a short tour of All Japan Pro Wrestling as "Dusty Rhodes Jr," yet he was still very green. This "wasn't a thing" though as far as Dusty was considered, and the un-Natural push of his son began at WrestleWar '91, just eleven days after Dustin had made his WCW debut.
WrestleWar 91 proved to be a very interesting PPV on a number of levels, so let's go ahead and take a closer look at the WCW's first PPV of calendar year 1991.
WrestleWar 1991 - "War Games"
Date: February 24th, 1991.
Venue: Phoenix, AZ (Memorial Coliseum).
Attendance: 6,800 ($53,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.2)
Notes of Interest:
- Dustin Rhodes started his WCW career off right, beating Buddy Landell in just over six minutes with his finisher, the bulldog. (Dustin's Big-Card Record: 1-0)
- None other than Eddy Guerrero received a tryout match at WrestleWar, although WCW chose to pass on him for the time being.
- Stan Hansen and Big Van Vader (Vader) fought to a brutal double disqualification. Stan Hanson, a legend in Japan (AJPW), was not allowed to job clean in the United States by Baba for fear that it would damage his legendary reputation in Japan. This actually led to Hansen being figuratively blackballed from almost every major North American wrestling company a few years earlier when he beat Rick Martel for the AWA World Heavyweight Title and returned to Japan with it. As a result, neither man could be put over in this match, and it was in actuality nothing more than a showcase for the legendary feud that these two men had shared over the years in Japan. Another interesting note about Stan Hansen: The man wears thick, thick glasses outside of the ring, and is for all intents and purposes legally BLIND without them (i.e. in the ring). Hansen was notorious for stiffing the hell out of his opponents (especially with clotheslines and right hands) and claiming that his "damn eyes were acting up."
More WCW Title Absurdity:
In an absolute shocker, The Fabulous Freebirds defeated Doom in little more than six minutes for their World Tag Team Championships. The catch: The Freebirds had already lost the Tag Team Championships that they won to the Steiners at a TV Taping in Atlanta TWO WEEKS EARLIER. But of course, since it hadn't happened on TV yet, it wasn't recognized. Just to make sure everyone is straight, here's what happened once again.
February 1st: Doom (Ron Simmons and Butch Reed) are the World Tag Team Champions.
February 9th: The Freebirds (coming out with the Tag Team Titles that they hadn't won) were beaten by the Steiners for the tag titles (which the Freebirds didn't technically have) at a TV Taping in Atlanta.
February 24th: Two weeks later, the Freebirds WIN the Tag Titles from Doom (who aren't even the damn champs) at WrestleWar.
March 2nd: Two weeks later still, the Steiners tag team title win is shown on TV, despite the actual title switch happening a MONTH prior.
Anyway, with that sillyness out of the way, let's move on to the reason that everyone ordered this PPV to begin with...
The Four Horseman vs. Sting, Brian Pillman, and The Steiner Brothers. The Greatest Gimmick Match Ever Created:
The rules are simple, two rings are placed side by side and covered by a massive cage. Unlike most other cages, this cage has a top. Once the match begins, no one goes in, and no one comes out. Before the match, the captain of each team comes forward and a coin flip takes place. The winner of the coin flip gains the advantage for the duration of the match. The match begins with each team sending a member into the cage for a five-minute beginning period. When five minutes expires, the team who won the coin toss sends a member of their team into the cage for a two-minute handicapped assault. Every two minutes from that point forward, a new man is sent into the cage in an alternating fashion. When all eight men have entered the cage, the door is locked and WarGames begins. What follows is some of the most brutal, action-packed, and exciting action that I've ever witnessed, with the only way to win being to make a member of the opposing team submit or surrender. In what many consider to be the best WarGames match ever, all eight men put their bodies through HELL in order to win this ***** matchup. This WarGames ended in a fashion so brutal that it might just go down as the most violent finish to any WarGames match in history...
At around the 25:00 mark, Brian Pillman was hoisted into the air by Sid Vicious for one of Sid's patented powerbombs, but something went terribly wrong. When Sid hoisted Pillman up, Pillman's head was driven into the top of the cage, nearly snapping his neck. Pillman was temporarily paralyzed for a short time, unable to move his body from the neck down. Sid slammed Pillman hard into the canvas, before picking him up and doing the SAME thing again. Pillman's neck bent even more grotesquely the second time. El Gigante quickly ran into the match and put an impromptu end to a match that very well should have killed Brian Pillman.
March: "Big Controversy in Japan"
March marked a big milestone for WCW: Their first big joint venture with New Japan Pro Wrestling. WCW and NJPW joined together to put on the highest grossing event in WCW history. On March 21st, 1991, the New Japan/WCW Supershow brought almost 65,000 screaming fans to the Tokyo Egg Dome to witness the two federations clash in an event which gated well over THREE MILLION DOLLARS. New rivalries were formed, old rivalries were revisited (Sting/Muta) and the best that both federations had to offer met for all the marbles as WCW/NWA Champion Ric Flair challenged IWGP Champion Tatsumi "The Dragon" Fujinami to a title vs. title match.
Everything went off without a hitch, as both federations dazzled the sold-out crowd with strong performances for nearly four hours, highlighted by the Steiner Brothers winning the prestigious IWGP Tag Team Championship. Things quickly took a turn for the bizarre though, as a hastily constructed finish to the main event sent legal shockwaves through New Japan, WCW, and the NWA.
Ric Flair and Tatsumi Fujinami fought a brutally stiff, 20+ minute contest that saw the advantage switch sides on numerous occasions. At the twenty minute mark, things turned strange though... Each federation had one of their own referees at ringside, with the primary referee being from New Japan and the secondary referee being from WCW (Bill Alphonso). At the 21:00 minute mark, the U.S. referee was bumped as Fujinami rushed Ric Flair. Flair ducked, inadvertently knocking Fujinami over the top rope. The outside referee DQ'd Flair for throwing Fujinami over the top rope, BUT the match continued. One minute later, Tatsumi cradled Ric Flair for a three-count. This is where things got complicated. While Ric Flair and WCW only used one belt, the WCW belt was still in actuality two separate titles (WCW and NWA). WCW rules dictate a DQ if an opponent is thrown over the top rope, but National Wrestling Alliance rules do not. Therefore, Fujinami had won the NWA title when he pinned Flair, but had not won the WCW title (due to the DQ).
April: "There can only be one Champion"
With the NWA Board of Directors officially recognizing Tatsumi Fujinami as the NWA champion and WCW desperately wanting the prestige and history associated with the NWA belt back in their camp, a Flair-Fujinami rematch was hastily signed between New Japan and WCW for the inaugural SuperBrawl PPV in St. Petersburg. The match would be under the jurisdiction of a WCW referee, and Jim Herd was certain that there was NO way that Tatsumi Fujinami would return to Japan with the NWA Title.
May: "Return of the Rising Son"
The big money rematch was upon us, and it was finally time for the NWA and WCW titles to once again become one entity. While common logic would seem to dictate that this historic rematch should be the main focus of the PPV, common logic has never met big Dusty. For some reason of another, much of the SuperBrawl hype was directed towards a new wrestler who would debut at SuperBrawl. That wrestler was OZ.
On to SuperBrawl!!!!!
Superbrawl 1991 - "Return of the Rising Sun"
Date: May 19th, 1991.
Venue: St. Petersburg, FL (Bayfront Center).
Attendance: 6,000 ($76,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (1.4)
Next, we come to one of my absolute favorite PPV's of all time: Superbrawl. Superbrawl was an experimental fifth PPV that ended up being so popular that it quickly became a staple of WCW's PPV roster. We'll get to the main event of SuperBrawl in a few minutes, but first lets talk about the undercard. Two matches in particular stand out from the undercard of Superbrawl, one being famous, the other overlooked, but both matches are two of the greatest non-Flair matches to ever take place in WCW.
The Midnight Express, widely considered by many wrestling historians to be the greatest single tag team in history, had wrestled their last match together six months prior to this event. Jim Cornette and Stan Lane grew so frustrated with Ole's booking (aka jobbing) of the Midnight Express that they opted to leave WCW in hopes of eventually starting their own promotion (the critically acclaimed Smokey Mountain Wrestling). Bobby Eaton still had well over a year left on his contract and Cornette and Lane convinced him that he would be better of financially if he finished out his contract before joining them. Eaton did just that, and once Dusty Rhodes was in charge, Eaton was given a solid singles push. With a marketable look, hard right hand, and death-defying (for the time) finisher in the Alabama Jam, Eaton had all the tools necessary to become a legitimate top card player. His first big step to becoming a viable singles competitor was a huge TV title match with Arn Anderson. The two fought a CLASSIC old school scientific brawl that had an eleven year old Ken Anderson marking out like crazy for his favorite wrestler, Bobby Eaton. When Eaton cradled Arn Anderson for the three count, I was going CRAZY. I jumped from one side of the room to the other as my brother Jay (Bower), a big-time Eaton hater, hung his head in disgust. The match was easily ****1/2, despite what the DVDVR nerds say to the contrary. I honestly could have turned the PPV off at that point and felt like I got my (parent's) money worth, but what was to come made the previous classic seem like George the Animal Steel against Hillbilly Jim in a 90 minute IronMan match.
Nothing like a good old fashioned tag match between the four hottest babyfaces in WCW at the time. Sting and Lex Luger had been making waves as a tag team, while the Steiners were still widely considered the absolute best tag team on the face of the planet. Both teams were HUGE fan favorites and were also on-screen friends. When Sting and Lex Luger proposed a friendly tag-team title match, the Steiners reluctantly accepted. Most insiders thought the match had potential to be a very good match, but I don't think anyone expected the match to be THIS good. For fifteen minutes, four of the most powerful wrestlers in WCW history pounded the SHIT out of each other with some of the stiffest, most intense action I've ever seen unfolding before my eyes. The crowd ate up every NANOSECOND (did I just type "nanosecond," and ever worse, was it capitalized ?) of it, popping for every single move. The referee got bumped at the end of the match, allowing Nikita Koloff to run from the back with a chain wrapped around his arm and give a NASTY Russian Sickle (lariat) to Lex Luger. Luger ducked, Sting was CRUSHED with the sickle (opening up a nasty legit gash above his eye), and WCW had a new top-level feud on their hands with Sting-Koloff. Scott Steiner begrudgingly pinned Sting, not wanting to win the match "like that," but medical attention was needed for Sting so he really had no other choice. Despite the screwy ending, it took nothing away from the match that almost every major magazine, newspaper, and "dirt sheet" heralded as the "Match of the Year."
*Quick Note: To the surprise of roughly no one, Dustin Rhodes pinned Terrence Taylor in just over six minutes. (Dustin's Big-Card Record: 2-0)
"United at Last"
In the main event of SuperBrawl '91, Ric Flair defeated Tatsumi Fujinami in a solid, if somewhat underwhelming, matchup. After 60 days of turmoil, the NWA and WCW titles were united once again. Sadly, the titles would be separated yet again in less than two months. Even sadder, this time the separation didn't last 60 days... it lasted forever...
June: "Send in the Clowns."
*Quick Note: Due to size limitations, “Send in the Clowns” did not make it to the final version of 1991: The Year in Wrestling. Click the following link to relive the terrible, terrible gimmicks
introduced by Dusty Rhodes during this time period.
Midway through the month of June, it was about time for another edition of TBS's awesome Clash of the Champions series, the only chance that wrestling fans had to see top-level matches without ordering the PPV's or going to live shows.
Clash of the Champions XV - "Knocksville USA" is one of my favorite Clashes of this time period. Several classic moments occur on this Clash of the Champions card, along with one of my favorite bumps in wrestling history.
Brian Pillman and Barry Windham had been feuding on and off for MONTHS, including a memorable taped fist match at SuperBrawl, but the time had come to finally settle the score. The match: Brian Pillman and El Gigante against Barry Windham and Arn Anderson with the stipulation that if Pillman or Windham got pinned, they must leave WCW immediately. Most "smart" fans assumed that one man or the other was off to the WWF, but that proved to not be the case after all. Pillman was pinned and was forced to leave WCW. Two weeks later, a masked man looking EXACTLY like Brian Pillman made his debut, and conveniently enough, had issues with Barry Windham. Hmmmm. A staple of Dusty Rhodes' horrendous booking is his uncanny ability to insult the intelligence of fans to the point that they were so pissed off that they simply stopped watching. Just a stupid, stupid angle.
Also on the card, Lex Luger and the Great Muta fought a solid match, featuring one of the sickest bumps I've ever seen. The Great Muta whipped Luger into the corner and flew in with one of his patented handspring elbows. Luger ducked as Muta flew into the corner with the elbow. Muta got SO much elevation on the elbow that he went soaring clear over the top rope and headfirst into the security railing. AMAZINGLY sick bump and one of the coolest visuals you're going to see anywhere.
Clash XV also saw the debut of a muscular wrestler with long-blonde hair and a seductive valet named Veronica. He quickly disposed of Joey Maggs with his finisher, the Stun-Gun, showing a ton of potential and even more charisma. The man's name: Stunning Steve Austin.
*Dustin Check: Dustin Rhodes defeats Terry Taylor cleanly in less than five minutes (Dustin's Big-Card Record: 3-0)
In the main event of "Knocksville, USA," Beautiful Bobby Eaton challenged Ric Flair to an old-school 2/3 falls matchup. The result was a really, really good match, if not the classic that most were expecting. Eaton held his own with Flair for the first fall, eventually PINNING the Nature Boy with a rollup. After a one-minute rest period, both men locked horns for another eleven minutes, with Flair absolutely DESTROYING the left knee of Eaton. Eaton's knee was in such disrepair that he couldn't even crawl back into the ring, thus resulting in a second fall countout victory in favor of Flair. The third and deciding (and also the best) fall saw Flair continue his absolute onslaught of Bobby Eaton's left knee. With two minutes left in the match, Eaton climbed to the top rope to deliver his finisher, the Alabama Jam (top rope leg drop). The crowd was going CRAZY, and I was standing two inches from the TV with my arms in the air (nerdy, I know), but Eaton's knee just couldn't support him, as he fell from the top rope allowing Flair to pin him and crush the dreams of an eleven year old Ken Anderson. A hell of a match, and if I were the type to give stars, I'd definately give it ****.
July: "Death of a Legacy."
Flashback: 1988 - The NWA was growing by the day thanks in large part to one man and one man only: Ric Flair. Flair was seen as a "can't lose" name, and was given a large money contract with plenty of creative control to ensure that he wouldn't head for the greener pastures of Hartford, Connecticut. The term of the contract was three years, and was set to expire on June 15th, 1991.
Three Years Later...
June 15th, 1991 - As Tradition Dies Slowly...
Ric Flair's contract was up, and Jim Herd let Flair know, in no uncertain terms, that his worth to the company was far from what it once was. Flair was informed that he would be taking a drastic cut in pay and that his creative control over his character would all but disappear. Flair, along with the majority of the locker room, was PISSED at the insulting offer. It was a slap to the face to the man who had single handedly carried the company on his back for YEARS. Flair threatened to quit unless Jim Herd withdrew his insulting offer. thus the standoff began. Two weeks later, the standoff would come to an end.
July 1st, 1991 - RIC FLAIR IS FIRED AND STRIPPED OF THE WCW TITLE.
Jim Herd feels that he has no other choice but to fire Ric Flair, stripping him of the WCW Title in the process (although the NWA does not strip Flair of the NWA title) No on-air explanation is given, and Flair's absence isn't even acknowledged until just prior to the Great American Bash PPV.
This brings us to the eve of WCW's second biggest PPV of the year, The Great American Bash...
July 14th, 1991. "The Talent Revolts"
With no Flair in sight, no replacement main event announced, no World Title Belt (Flair OWNED the NWA Championship Belt due to an old debt owed to him by Jim Crocket) and 7,000 angry diehard NWA fans ready to revolt in historically rich Baltimore, Maryland at the famed Baltimore Arena, Jim Herd was faced with what was far, far more dire than what could ever be referred to as a "worst case scenario." Jim Herd did not think that things could possibly get any worse... little did he know that things were about to get ten times worse...
The lineup for The Great American Bash Tour's PPV stop in Baltimore, MD was decent, if unspectacular, even though Flair would no longer be main-eventing the show against Lex Luger. While the excitement level left a lot to be desired, at least Jim Herd could count on his talent going out and busting their asses to make the show a success, even without Flair. Little did he know...
Almost every single member of the WCW roster sympathized with Ric Flair and felt that Jim Herd had remorselessly slapped the man in the face who had bailed Herd out countless times in the past. Collectively, they decided that they were NOT going to just ignore it and play along with Jim Herd's bullshit games. The decision was made... In protest of Ric Flair's firing, the talent would do everything in their power to make the show so terribly bad and boring that it would tell the man in charge EXACTLY what they thought of his actions. What resulted was a Great American Bash event which most insiders consider to be the absolute worst PPV in wrestling history. While I don't think I would place it as low as that, the show was WRETCHED.. EVERYTHING missed on this show, literally everything. Nothing whatsoever clicked, just as the roster hoped. Let's take a look at the highlights (lowlights, if you will) of the atrocity known as The Great American Bash 1991.
The worst scaffold match in the history of scaffold matches opened up Bash 90. The normal rules of the match dictate that the only way to win is to knock your opponent off of the scaffold and to the mat below. While most scaffold matches were never really terribly exciting, at least the crowd could always depend on a good old fashioned fall. Well the rules were slightly "altered" at the last second in this version of the match. Not only could you knock your opponent off the scaffold, but you could also win by CAPTURING THEIR FLAG. Ugh. Bobby Eaton and PN News took on Steve Austin and Terrence Taylor in a match so bad that WCW would never again sanction a scaffold match. The match ended with Bobby Eaton, the most experienced scaffold wrestler in NWA/WCW history, capturing the flag of the Team Austin with not a single person falling from the scaffold. Needless to say, the crowd was quite upset about the late addition of the "flag" cause, which was never discussed on TV before the match. They came expecting to see a grand fall, and instead got the WCW equivalent of middle-school recess.
Next up was a match that was terrible in every sense of the word, a six-man elimination match between Dustin Rhodes, The Young Pistols, and the Freebirds. The only thing even worth noting about this match is the fact that only one man survived this terrible six-man elimination match, and that man was Dustin Rhodes. (Dustin's Big-Card Record: 4-0)
Eight more matches followed, each seemingly worse than the one before it. Matches were all but phoned in from world class superstars like Sting, Brian Pillman, Nikita Koloff, The Rock N' Roll Express, and Tom Zenk, with literally EVERY single match lingering at or around the fabled DUD status. The crowd grew increasingly more and more pissed as each match progressed, and unlike the wrestlers, the crowd didn't even bother to PRETEND like they were at least half-assing their efforts. From the second the Bash started until minutes before the main event, you could LITERALLY hear a pin drop in what was usually one of the most raucous arenas in NWA history.
As the main event was set to begin, the crowd suddenly came alive. As the joke of a "main-event" of Lex Luger against Barry Windham was about to begin, the crowd jumped to their feet and EXPLODED with loud, riotous chants of
"WE WANT FLAIR"
I still remember watching this in shock, wondering for years why Tony Schiavonne and Jim Ross flat-out REFUSED to acknowledge the chants, even though they had to shout to even get any words out over the sound of the revolting crowd. The only words that could accurately describe what was going on in Baltimore were "Absolutely Surreal."
In the place of Ric Flair, Jim Herd inserted Barry Windham, even FURTHER pissing off the crowd. At this point in his career, Barry Windham wasn't even a U.S. Title contender, let alone World Championship contender. This move would be the current day equivalent of yanking the Rock from his Wrestlemania XVII title match with Steve Austin five minutes before the PPV was set to begin and replacing him with Chuck Polombo.
For ten minutes, Lex Luger and Barry Windham fought a random, emotionless match which was obviously just kind of made up for the hell of it as they went along. The crowd could care less, barely making a noise during the match aside from "We Want Flair." After ten minutes, Harley Race made his way down to the ring with midcarder Mr. Hughes, cackling to Luger that "Now is the time." Luger piledrove Windham, scored the pin, and took the "World Heavyweight Belt," which in actuality was nothing more than an old defunct title belt which was basically spray painted into a "new" WCW Title belt, ugh. Apparently Luger was now a heel, although the whole heel turn made absolutely NO SENSE and had to be intricately explained a few nights later on WCW Saturday Night. Oh well, it's only fitting that this terrible slap to the face of every WCW fan on the face of the planet ends with a match that goes ahead and bitch-slaps them again while they're still reeling from the last one.
BUT WAIT!!! Just when you thought WCW couldn't possibly dole out ANOTHER bitch-slap, we find out that there's still one more left in their tank. For MONTHS, WCW had been building a Paul E. Dangerous feud with Missy Hyatt. The feud was set to come to an end at The Great American Bash when Missy Hyatt and Rick Steiner met Arn Anderson and Paul E. Dangerously in a cage match to settle the score. Missy Hyatt, the sex-pot starlet of WCW at the time, was the ONE person who could send the crowd home happy after this bullshit disguised as a PPV.If nothing else, a little T&A would liven them up...
Arn Anderson and Paul E. Dangerously make their way to the cage, ready for a wild brawl to settle matters once and for all. The pissed off Baltimore crowd comes to its feet to get a glimpse of the Madonna of professional wrestling, Missy Hyatt. What happens next you ask ??? A mere THREE seconds after coming through the curtains, the "Hardliners," a new low-card WCW tag team, emerge from backstage and "kidnap" Missy Hyatt. The Hardliners had no beef with Hyatt at the time and the move was never explained to the fans at any later date. Missy was taken three seconds after emerging and never came back. The crowd grew even MORE pissed as the match was hastily ended and the broadcast faded to black, putting to rest the biggest waste of thirty dollars in American wrestling history.
August: "Picking up the pieces."
With the long-term prospects of WCW looking bleaker and bleaker by the day, Dusty Rhodes saw one way and one way only to bring WCW up from the ashes and turn the company into a monster: keep pushing his fucking son...
Dave Meltzer started reporting that Dusty Rhodes was threatening to de-push anyone who didn't make his son look good, and the announcers were basically bullied into hyping Dustin Rhodes non-stop as well. Anyone who seemed to pose a threat to Dustin's rise was either quickly turned heel or saddled with a stupid, stupid gimmick (see: Brian Pillman as the Yellow Dog). While the company continued to lose money, Dustin Rhodes continued to rack up wins...
September: "The Legend Resurfaces."
Some may say that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash showing up on Nitro was the single most shocking moment in professional wrestling history. I would disagree. To me, the most shocking moment in wrestling history occurred when I was watching WWF Superstars on a Saturday morning as a kid. It was the normal Saturday morning fair on Superstars, a bunch of shitty jobber matches that Vince had me brainwashed into thinking meant something, along with a prestigious "Main Event." Believe it or not, Vince isn't half bad. Every week, he'd give away a "PPV caliber match" FOR FREE on television, usually involving Jim Powers, Boris Zuckov, Hillbilly Jim, or Hercules. I swear to God, it seemed like EVERY damn week it was Zuckov against Hillbilly Jim in the main event. Anyway, something happened on this edition of WWF Superstars that shocked me like nothing has ever shocked me in wrestling before. I turned on the TV to see Bobby Heenan knocking on someone's door. I figured it was the Warlord, or Rick Martel, or something hokey like the WWF always did involving Heenan knocking on doors. To my absolute SHOCK, the man who opened the door was none other than the Nature Boy himself, Ric Flair. Flair had the NWA belt draped around his shoulder and let out a trademark "Whooo!" Here in front of me, the very man who DEFINED the NWA/WCW was standing next to Bobby "The Brain" Heenan on WWF television. It was absolutely surreal.
Ric Flair would go on to claim that he was the "Real World's Champion," proudly toting the NWA title belt around on WWF television for the next couple of weeks. And then, it happened...
September 9th, 1991: "The End of an Era."
The National Wrestling Alliance holds an emergency meeting after seeing Ric Flair flaunting the NWA title belt on WWF television. The WWF was not a member of the National Wrestling Alliance, and thus had no claim to it's champion. Sadly, the NWA felt as if they had no other choice but to to do the unthinkable... strip Ric Flair of the NWA Title.
For the first time in almost fifty years, the NWA Title was vacant.
The lineage of the longest standing World Title in modern wrestling history was shattered forever, never to again surface as anything more than a play-thing for amateurs. Wrestling's greatest direct link to the past was gone forever...
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
- Edgar Allen Poe: "A Dream Within a Dream"
The NWA quickly sued the WWF for use of the NWA likeness (i.e. the title belt). Ric Flair sold the title belt back to the NWA for a hefty profit, none of the lawsuits ever saw the light of a courtroom, and WCW continued to flounder without the presence of the Nature Boy...
Clash of the Champions XVI - "Fall Brawl"
Date: September 5, 1991.
Venue: Augusta, GA (Civic Center).
Attendance: 2,800 ($28,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (3.7)
Another tragically bad Clash of the Champions ruined by another tragically bad booker... The "main event" of the show featured Arn Anderson and Larry Zbysko winning the finals of an eight-team tag tournament against Ric Steiner and Bill Kazmier for the vacant WCW World Tag Team Titles. The Steiners had been forced to vacate the titles two months earlier when Scott Steiner was "injured" by the attack of the Hardliners. While a three minute main event is obviously the textbook definition of "giving the fans what they want," Dusty decided to take things one step further still...
Cactus Jack worked briefly for WCW in 1990, but Ole Anderson strong-armed him out of the company in order to make way for the geriatrics. Dusty was a huge fan of Cactus' work and wanted him back in WCW badly. Once signed, Dusty thought long and hard about the perfect way to introduce Cactus Jack, and later Jack's main ally Abdullah the Butcher. Let's once again play "guess what Dusty did," shall we ???
A) Have Cactus Jack interfere in a high profile match with one of WCW's top babyfaces, instantly giving him credibility as a main-event heel in the eyes of the few remaining WCW fans...
B) Bring a new masked man in, have him blow through the competition, and then finally unmask him as part of a long-term climatic angle...
C) Wrap Cactus Jack up in a gigantic Gift Box (complete with over-sized red bow), wheel the box to the ring each time that Sting wrestled, and ultimately have Cactus Jack triumphantly break from the box in a decidedly heelish fashion in order to kick off a main-event feud with Sting.
If you guessed C, give yourself a pat on the back as you too will soon be an overweight old man still booking yourself into the main event of your poorly attended indy cards.
Anyway, the boxy antics continued at Clash of the Champions XVI, only this time Lex Luger took a few swipes at Sting as well. Poor guy, the whole world's out to get him.....
October: "A Frightening Gimmick."
October showed some promise for WCW, as two hot feuds proved to be the most successful thing WCW had done since the departure of Ric Flair. Ron Simmons, a former member of the hated team of Doom, was really starting to heat up as a threat to Lex Luger's WCW World Heavyweight Title. Luger was getting the strongest heat that he has EVER gotten in his career and was playing the part of arrogant heel champion to perfection. It was only natural that the two would butt heads at some point, and Halloween Havoc was set to be that time. A few semi-racist comments by Lex Luger at the contract signing proved to be just the spark needed to make the feud click on all cylinders.
Halloween Havoc was also set to be the next step in the feud between Sting and his sadistic enemies Cactus Jack and Abdullah the Butcher. The Luger-Simmons 2/3 falls matchup would prove to awesome, while the Sting/Cactus/Abdullah massacre would prove to a tragic joke...
Savannah, Georgia and Clash of the Champions XVII saw what was without a doubt one of the biggest markout moments in my entire life, along with a couple of other surprises which would shake up the foundation of WCW and provide another month or two of temporary storyline direction.
WCW Tag Team Championship Match:
Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham vs. Larry Zbysko and Arn Anderson (c).
In what would be a precursor to the Dangerous Alliance of 1992, Larry Zbysko and Arn Anderson had broken the hand of Barry Windham when Zbysko slammed it in the door of his car, earning Larry the nickname of "The Cruncher." Doctors would not clear Barry Windham to wrestle with his partner Dustin Rhodes against the WCW Tag Team Champs. Arn and Larry thought that they had gotten the easy way out of the match by breaking the hand of Barry Windham, but they were about to learn that they only made things much, much worse... Windham had someone in mind to team with his partner, and it sure wasn't who Arn and Larry wanted to face..... As spooky music played, Windham and Rhodes made their way down to the ring with their mystery partner. The man had a gigantic lizard mask on, along with a long black robe covering his entire body. The crowd were literally standing on their seats, and when the mystery man was revealed to be none other than RICKY STEAMBOAT, the crowd went INSANE. What followed was one of the greatest WCW Tag Team matches in history, a ***** classic which saw Rhodes and Steamboat win the Tag Titles to one of the loudest pops that I have EVER heard.. Track down this match immediately if you haven't seen it... (Dustin Rhodes Big Card Record: 6-0-1).
The rest of the card was pretty uninspired, with the exception of Sting and Rick Rude repeating the age old angle of:
1. Babyface gets attacked ruthlessly by monster heel.
2. Babyface is stretchered and rushed to the hospital.
3. Babyface makes miraculous return to the arena right as the main event is set to start.
Despite Sting's heroic efforts, Rick Rude's onslaught on his badly injured knee is just too much for Sting to withstand, as Rude takes a tainted victory and in the process wins the U.S. Heavyweight Title.
December: "As Tradition Dies Slowly."
As we come to the final event of 1991 for WCW, Dusty Rhodes just can't help but spit one last time in the face of long-time WCW fans, turning the historically rich tradition of Starrcade into nothing more than one more fucking stupid gimmick match:
The brainchild of Dusty Rhodes, the "Lethal Lottery" proved to be an idea that didn't quite click on all cylinders, even as a once a year gimmick style event. Forty of WCW's brightest stars were entered into the "Lethal Lottery." Ten tag-team matches with randomly assigned partners would occur, with the winners going on to a two ring battle royal, known as the "Battle Bowl." While in theory the idea sounds fun, long-time WCW fans weren't terribly excited about Dusty turning the company's biggest card of the year into an experimental gimmick match. While normal booking logic would seem to dictate that the format could easily be used to deliver matches that fans couldn't normally see (i.e. the Steiners face to face, Sting teaming with Cactus Jack, etc...), Dusty once again proved just howinane he was when he decided that it would just be a GRAND idea to RANDOMLY draw names on the spot. So let's get this straight... take your biggest PPV of the year, put everyone's name in a hat, and then just say fuck it and have them wrestle whoever's name they drew. It might be a fun Clash of the Champions concept, but PLEEEEEEEEEEASE. This silly concept was presented at a $30 premium to the few remaining fans that WCW hadn't alienated with Ole and Dustin's booking run of destruction, and it went over about as well as Al Queda Unplugged would on MTV2. Things of course got kooky when the luck of the draw put heels and babyfaces on the SAME TEAM. Sting and Adbullah the Butcher had been hotly fueding for some time, and low-and-behold... they end up as PARTNERS!!! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES ??? Aside from all the wacky mispairings, to the shock of absolutely no one, Dustin Rhodes' team won and Dustin stayed in until almost the very end. Sting ultimately won "Battle Bowl," ending a show so bad that common logic would seem to dictate that the "Lethal Lottery" should be killed forever... One year later at Starrcade 1992, we got Lethal Lottery 2...
Dusty Rhodes' booking was so horrendous during this particular run that he would not get to see 1992 as a booker. Jim Herd was so frustrated with the lack of direction of the company and the lack of cooperation that Ole Anderson and Dusty Rhodes had shown him that he stepped down from his position in the beginning of 1992. Business would continued to decline for WCW, even though a new booker would be brought in in March of 1992. Want to know what happened ??? You don't ??? Oh, well then... be that way... If you ARE interested, keep your eyes opened for
1992: The Year in Wrestling - "A New Sheriff in Town."
The Year in Wrestling Awards...
Wrestler of the Year: Ric Flair.
Absolutely no doubt about. Despite only being in WCW for half of the year, Ric Flair did more in that six months for WCW and the fans than every other wrestler combined. From his intense battles to Tatsumi Fujinami to his **** classics with Scott Steiner and Bobby Eaton, NO ONE did it like Flair did. Flair would go on to prove wrong all the doubters who said that he couldn't do it in the WWF, as he would have one of the greatest runs of his career in the next year.
Tag Team of the Year: The Steiners.
The WCW Tag Division went from insane to a joke virtually overnight. Without the Steiner Brothers, North American Tag Team Wrestling could very well be extinct. Despite not teaming for the entire year, due in large parts to Scott's injury, the Steiners were head and shoulders above everyone else on the field when they were teaming up in 1991.
Feud of the Year: WCW vs. Their Fans.
"WE WANT FLAIR! WE WANT FLAIR!" For over a year, the loudest that WCW crowds popped was for a man who meant everything to them: Ric Flair. Flair was the one man who WCW fans saw as separating their product from the cartoonish environment of the WWF. Flair gave instant credibility to any title that he held, and WCW fans realized that without Flair, the title had NO credibility. Signs, chants, and T-Shirts at every single WCW event let the higher-ups know that without Flair, their would be no PPV Buys, no merchandise sales, and no TV ratings. It took well over a year, but finally the chants got so loud and so overriding that WCW had no choice but to bring back Flair.
Event of the Year: SuperBrawl 1991.
SuperBrawl was easily the best major WCW Event of 1991, featuring three incredible matches. Bobby Eaton realized a dream; Sting, Lex Luger, and the Steiner Brothers DESTROYED each other in one of the most intense North American matches ever, and Ric Flair beat Tatsumi Fujinami to once again unify the WCW and NWA Heavyweight Championships. No other show compared.
Match of the Year: Wargames (2/24/91).
No match defined WCW better than WarGames, and this match was no different. While the boys in Hartford were putting on silly "Blind Man's Bluff" matches over spilled perfume, the men of WCW were KILLING each other for the company and the fans that they loved. WarGames was the epitome of everything that was RIGHT in WCW, and when eight of WCW's best are given the chance to put all the bullshit politics on the backburner, they do not disappoint. That's exactly what Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious, Sting, Brian Pillman, and Rick and Scott Steiner did on that February night. All eight men bled, sweat, and fought their way through hell, and in the process put on the best WarGames match in NWA/WCW history.
Well guys, I guess that's just about for 1991: The Year in Wrestling. I really hope you guys enjoyed it. These last two columns have been a lot of fun to write, and I really hope you guys liked reading them as much as I liked putting them together. Please, please, please let me know what you think of the experimental new column. It's still in it's infancy, and any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I'm also looking for suggestions on future columns, so again drop me a line if you have anything in mind as well. You guys rock the party, and thanks again for reading...