If you're WCW, you spend close to a half million dollars creating a "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" mini-movie in which midgets (with eyepatches) and bikers co-exist in a secret bar, hypnotically chanting "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" in a borderline frightening manor while waiting for Sting. Then when Sting finally arrives, you have the bikers begin pounding the tables along with the midgets as Sting shoots LASER BEAMS out of his eyes at Jake Roberts.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
The year was 1992, and WCW was coming off a year that did the impossible: topped 1990 as the most financially destructive year in the company's short history. If you're the kind of person who lives and dies by such records, don't fret, as WCW would continue the trend of negative business for years to come. In 1991, Dusty Rhodes easily picked up the slack where Ole Anderson left off in the inane, nonsensical, completely asinine booking department. While arguably not as humorously terrible as Ole was, the numbers were there clear as day, and to quote Unwritten Law, WCW was "Seein' (a lot of) Red."
With this in mind, let us embark on a one-year journey (condensed to approximately twenty minutes) down that shoddily paved road we know as 1992. Throughout this journey, we'll take a look at the year that was 1992 for WCW, and together discover if 1992 would be a step in the right direction for a reeling WCW, or one more step over the side of the cliff of bankruptcy.
1992: The Year in Wrestling "A New Sheriff in Town"
January: "The White Flag Flies"
The start of 1992 saw long-time WCW front man Jim Herd step down from his position of power in WCW due to frustration, stress, and a feeling of helplessness to curve WCW's problems. Two years of Ole's Third-Grade Magic Shows and Dusty's bad gimmick matches had taken their toll on Herd, and after all the nonsense over the last 25 months, who could blame him the least bit for waving the white flag. Dusty Rhodes was still in charge of the book, but the writing on the wall for Dusty was clearer than the mysterious splotch which occupied the lower portion of Big Dusty's tum-tum.
K. Allen Frye, a long-time Turner employee, moved into Jim Herd's former position, and immediately made some changes. Aside from handing out some raises, Frye also instigated a policy which he hoped would help fans get their money's worth and would also improve the product in the long run. The premise was simple... At each major card (PPV's, Clashes, and big arena shows), a cash bonus of $5,000 would be awarded to the wrestlers involved in the best match of the night. As we'll see a little bit later, the (hold on to your chairs, smart fans) *workrate* improved drastically with the extra bit of incentive, and wrestlers never thought capable of breaking the fabled DUD barrier were turning out *** classics. It's funny what a little bit of positive reinforcement can do... While all of this was taking place behind the cameras, some even more interesting things were occurring in front of the cameras...
The Dangerous Alliance: "The Forgotten Stable"
Paul E. Dangerously, a long-time staple of WCW's announce team as well as a renowned manager, had been released from his commentating duties in mid 1991. Dangerously resurfaced in a much more pissed off fashion at Halloween Havoc 1991 along with the newly debuting Rick Rude. Paul E's intentions were as clear as the splotch on Big Dusty's side: Destroy Sting at ALL costs...
Over the course of the next two months, 'Stunning' Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Eaton would join Paul E, forming what would come to be known as "The Dangerous Alliance." The Alliance would go on to DESTROY WCW over the course of the next five months, taking every major title with the exception of the World Title. As we'll see, there was a time when the Dangerous Alliance occupied FOUR of WCW's most prestigious belts simultaneously. They truly were one of the most dynamic, rounded, powerful stables in the history of wrestling (and YES, that is counting Los Boriquos).
With this info in mind, we press forward to the first big card for WCW in calendar year 1992...
Clash of the Champions XVIII
Date: January 21st, 1992.
Venue: Topeka, KA (Expo Center).
Attendance: 5,500 ($24,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (3.7)
Clash of the Champions XVIII opened up 1992 with a bang, as just about every match on the card delivered big-time. While business was down, booking was bad, and Flair was gone, the in-ring product was excelling thanks in large part to the efforts of the Dangerous Alliance. Due to the fact that I just pulled the tape out, we're going to get a bit more detailed with this great Clash of the Champions card...
Clash XVIII began with the promise of a surprise by Tony Schiavonne and an awesome, stiff match between the Steiner Brothers and the team of Vader and Mr. Hughes. In case you weren't watching at the time, Mr. Hughes (also known as "Big Cat") was known as "The Bodyguard" and wrestled in a near-full suit and dark sunglasses. While I, like every other normal human being housing a brain in their skull cavity, question the merits of a 350 pound black man wrestling in sunglasses, Hughes was powerful none the less. If you enjoy seeing the Steiners (in their primes) tossing around 400 pound men like rag dolls, hunt this match down at all costs. I've never seen ANYONE belly-to-belly Vader off the top ropes since.
I was fast forwarding through the tape and saw a commercial for WCW Magazine which really made me laugh. The commercial was hyping WCW's new magazine, which (like the WWF's magazine) was basically nothing more than a glamorized merchandise catalogue. Anyway, the hook for the magazine was all the "insider information" that was to be found within the pages. Things were much different in 1992 though, as "insider information" was basically kayfabed drivel about how "Rick Rude has been seen talking to Terry Taylor in the back recently," or "Sting has been giving Ron Simmons advice on Lex Luger's weaknesses." Ha. Anyway, the commercial featured many WCW personalities reading the magazine with bewildered looks on their faces. The most notable comments..
El Gigante:"It's so... BIGGGGGG" Paul E Dangerously:(Looking Bewilderedly at an article about himself): "No.. No.... NO!!!!!!!!!" Tony Schaivonne: (My Personal Favorite, sounding hokey and contrived and throwing his hands into the air): "I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY PRINTED THAT!!!!!!" Ron Simmons: (Looking to the ground and inadvertently creating a quasi-sexual pun): "IT'S MASSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Up next, we get the best of both worlds, as WCW quickly manages to alienate both their Japanese viewers AND their gay viewers in one fell swoop courtesy one interview. Eric Bischoff is at ringside interviewing Brian Pillman while Johnny B Badd stands by for some reason. Badd begins planting kisses on the cheek of Bischoff while mouthing, "He's so pretty," all the while Brian Pillman is talking about how the Japanese are the bane of America's existence. Keep in mind Pillman is a babyface at the time getting ready to face Jushin Thunder Liger in a big rematch at SuperBrawl, but he is just BRUTAL on the Japanese. Pillman ends the interview by assaulting the gay, who is ALSO a babyface. My oh my, I can hear the TV's turning off, even on the ten year old THQ tape.
In yet another surprising development, K. Allen Frye (looking like a DEAD-RINGER for a balding Nicolas Cage) is on the ramp with his entourage to be interviewed by Tony Schiavonne. Frye comes across as very professional, very competent, and just really damn good at his job. He announces that the main event for SuperBrawl will be a World Title Matchup between Sting and Lex Luger. That's not all though, Frye also announces that the match is so big that he needed to find the one and only man who could call the match as it deserved. He brought that man out.. Overnight, WCW had signed one of the most recognizable announcers in wrestling history... Jessie "The Body" Ventura.
Up next came a match that has garnered somewhat of a cult following... Cactus Jack against Van Hammer in a "Falls Count Anywhere in Kansas match." For my Brittish and Canadian readers who didn't get to see much WCW at this time, Van Hammer was a mediocre wrestler given a heavy-metal gimmick and a $20,000 entrance video. He had the look, the push, and the marketability to be a huge star. In fact, he only had one weakness: wrestling. Too bad $20,000 can't buy basic arm-bar mechanics...
What follows next is what can only be described as a sick, sick joke... The "New Freebirds." We see yet another music video of the Freebirds "producing" their new entrance theme, which can only be accurately described as horrendous. As the video plays, the babyface Freebirds sing, hop, and dance their way around the arena carrying sparkly canes and wearing sparkly top hats, all to a massive chorus of boos. The video is one of the most unintentionally funny things I've ever seen in WCW, as each of the "rock n' roll musicians" have haircuts which more closely resemble hibernating beavers than actual heads of hair. The entrance takes up close to eight minutes as the Freebirds lip sink their new theme into tiny, microphones. You'd think with weeks to prepare for this shit, they'd at least, you know, remember the words, but think again silly mark. Garbage like this makes me look back at my childhood and question why I didn't reject it ten years ago.
Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta is visibly embarrassed, starting his ring introductions "Well.......... Ladies and Gentlemen....." Anyway...
The Dangerous Alliance headlined the card in the form of two separate tag matches. Although the Alliance lost both matches, they in fact came out looking even stronger as a direct result of Clash of the Champions XVIII. Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, and Ron Simmons took on Arn Anderson, Larry Zbysko, and Bobby Eaton in an awesome six-man tag match that match that ended with Windham nailing Bobby Eaton with his cast for the pin.
The main event of Clash of the Champions XVIII featured four of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the world facing off in one amazing tag match. Sting and Ricky Steamboat battled for nearly fifteen minutes to hold off the onslaught of the Dangerous Alliance's top two powerhouses... Rick Rude and Steve Austin. After a quarter hour of intense, nonstop action, Sting and Ricky Steamboat both held Steve Austin down for the three-count in what was, in all likelihood, the greatest collection of talent contained in one dogpile in wrestling history.
To sum up Clash of the Champions XVIII in two words: Money Talks. EVERYONE on this card busted their ass for one reason and one reason only: The $5,000 bonus K. Allen Frye would give to the wrestlers who had the best match of the evening.
February: "The Shake Up"
February was one of the most disorderly months WCW had seens since it's inception, with K. Allen Frye doing everything in his power to keep the sinking ship stable. Dusty Rhodes was given notice that the upcoming SuperBrawl PPV would be the last major PPV that he would book. While Dusty wasn't the only cause of WCW's INSANE financial disarray, his inconsistent booking certainly wasn't helping matters much either.
In a scene frighteningly similar to the situation WCW faced just six short months ago at the Great American Bash PPV, the worst was about to occur. WCW would soon be losing their World Champion to the competition. Lex Luger's title reign would have to come to an end at SuperBrawl, as he would be leaving WCW the very next day in order to go to the greener pastures of the WWF. It would take a while for Luger to iron out a deal with the WWF, especially since he had a year-long no-compete clause attached to his contract, meaning that he couldn't step foot within a WWF ring for twelve full months With a little bit of slick maneuvering, a solution was reached. Lex Luger would debut for Titan, but not technically for the WWF.
Vince McMahon's newest brainchild, the World Bodybuilding Federation, was meant to be a new business endeavor which would market professional bodybuilding to the WWF fanbase. Vince needed a recognizable name to headline the media push. Arnold S. was his first choice, but once he woke up and realized that he had a better chance of getting former President Jimmy Carter to tapdance nude at Summerslam than he had at signing Arnold, he decided that Lex Luger would be the perfect alternative. Despite the fact that the WBF would go under faster than you could say "He Hate Me," Luger got a good start in the company and a great lead-in to his eventual WWF debut at Royal Rumble 93.
With Lex Luger on the outs and a hot young Japanese wrestling MEGAstar coming in, SuperBrawl would prove to be a very interesting PPV for WCW...
SuperBrawl II -
Date: February 29th, 1992.
Venue: Milwuakee, WI (Mecca Arena).
Attendance: 5,000 ($67,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (0.96)
*Due to size restraints, I had to link to my SuperBrawl II Summary. It’s well worth checking out though, as SuperBrawl II contained the 1992 Match of the Year, as well as several other VERY notable occurrences.
March: "The Sheriff Rides In"
With SuperBrawl II being the last official PPV that Dusty Rhodes had any jurisdiction over, K. Allen Frye needed a new man to bring in to help stabilize the sinking ship. After meticulously weighing his options, the choice was clear to Frye.
"Cowboy" Bill Watts, former front man of the Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), was seen as the perfect choice. His no bullshit, bottom line booking was just what WCW was in need of. Unfortunately, Watt's track record wasn't perfect. While he was responsible for some of the greatest angles ever conceived during the mid-to-late 1980's, he also botched what was considered to be the epitome of a "can't miss" angle with the UWF-World Class Invasion. This slip-up cost the UWF hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue, and eventually forced Watts to sell the UWF to Jim Crockett. Despite one major failure though, Bill Watts was still a great name and a great way to get WCW back on its feet.
Bill Watts wasn't shy in changing the promotion, and that's exactly what he did. Bill Watts yanked the rug out from WCW, changing just about everything there was to be changed. We'll look at the major changes, otherwise known as "Cowboy Law."
1. First and foremost, there would be absolutely NO moves off of the top rope allowed. Watts saw this as a way to return to classic, hard-edged, scientific wrestling, instead of the spot-fest that he saw in WCW at the time. This one rule managed to piss off more WCW fans than any other since.
2. The blue protective mats at ringside would be removed, leaving only the hard, cold cement to brace a wrestlers fall if he were to plummet from the ring. Watts saw the mats are far too cartoonish (far to WWF'ish to be exact), and demanded their removal.
3. Ringside brawling would be strictly discouraged. Wrestlers would not be allowed to use the ringposts or security railings as offensive weapons, and if they did, they would be fined. This not only forced the wrestlers to really on their skills to get over, but also created much more genuine heat in the rare instance when heels would be permitted to use these objects behind the back of the referee.
4. Heels and faces were in no circumstance EVER to mingle or fraternize at ANY time. The "good guys" and "bad guys" must stay at different hotels, eat at different restaurants, train at different gyms, travel by different means, and stay in different locker rooms. If a heel was good friends with a babyface, the friendship must end, PERIOD.
5. Wrestlers were no longer allowed to leave after their match. If they wrestled early in the card, they must stay and watch each and every match until the main event was over. If they were caught leaving, the penalty would be harsh. Wrestlers were not allowed to sleep, play games, or horse around from the time that they got to the arena until the time that the final bell sounded.
6. The workers were prohibited from having their wives or children in the building with them when they wrestled, if for no other reason than to piss them off further.
7. If a wrestler gets beat up, under ANY circumstances, outside of the ring at a bar, or at a restaurant, or after the wrestler leaves the ring, he is fired, NO exceptions. Watts was very big on protecting the integrity of the wrestling business, and he would simply not allow for his wrestlers to look weak. If they did, they were gone.
These rules were meant to help the promotion, but in fact did two things: 1. Piss off the fans, and 2. Piss off the wrestlers.
We're off to a good start already.
April: "The Cowboy Goes Mad"
Bill Watts continued to change the face of WCW in the month of April. Watts' first move of the month was to try to cancel the long-running tradition of The Great American Bash. The Cowboy felt that the PPV market was over saturated as it was (I bet he's near heart-attack now), and believed that a PPV needed to be dropped in order to keep the fans wanting more, as well as to keep the "big event" feel that he felt the current supercards were lacking. He also cut the number of Clashes dramatically down as well.
Watts also canceled another upcoming PPV. The NWA World Title Tournament was set to be held from August 6th to August 12th, spanning three different nights. Some of the best and brightest stars of both WCW and New Japan Wrestling were set to participate in the event. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown, Bill Watts HATED the NWA, and wanted all mention of it's name removed from WCW television and print. While he couldn't get the upcoming NWA Tag Team Champions at Clash of the Champions XIX cancelled, he managed to cancel the late August PPV which would highlight the NWA World Title Tournament.
Through all these new rules and changes, Watts was beginning to really anger and frustrate his roster The thing that really served to piss off the talent though was Watts' dramatic cuts in pay. Wrestlers were forced into renegotiating their contracts under the threat of being released, and if they didn't they would lose all favor with the cowboy. It was later revealed that Watts was paid on an incentive based salary. His incentive wasn't to raise revenue though, it was to lower costs. The more he cut his workers' salaries, the more money would end up in his own wallet.
The ultimate goal of Bill Watts was to have every single one of his wrestlers forced out of their guaranteed contracts and instead bullied into nightly deals, meaning that Watts only had to pay them a minimal fee per appearance. Some of the offers were so insulting that talent threatened to bail. Bill Watts wanted to bring Tully Blanchard back in to reform the original Four Horseman, but Tully laughed right in his face upon hearing the offer: $300 per appearance.
May: "Insults and Defections"
May was one of the first stable months that WCW had experienced in a long, long time. Bill Watts was running things as smoothly as could be expected, and the roster was generally looking very motivated and working very hard despite their monetary grievances. Watts was beginning to phase out wrestlers whom he had no interest in, starting with the Freebirds. Both were jobbed repeatedly (cleanly jobbed, which was a staple of Bill Watts' booking), and finally left the promotion later in the year.
Scott Hall, aka "The Diamond Studd," was growing more and more disenfranchised with WCW's management of him as well. He made several attempts to renegotiate his contract with WCW, but ultimately the bridge was just too wide to be resolved. On the afternoon of the upcoming WarGames PPV, Scott Hall left WCW for the greener pastures of the WWF. Had he stayed, he would have feuded with Dustin Rhodes for less than a month before being moved into the most powerful stable in wrestling at the time: The Dangerous Alliance. Larry Zbysko was ailing, and the plan dating all the way back to April was to have Hall eventually take his place. As we all know, Hall would pop up several months later in the WWF, making his debut in a hilarious vignette featuring "Razor Ramon" making drug innuendos while stealing fruit from a local dealer. HA.
Also of note for the month of May was a short-lived gimmick involving Scotty Flamingo (aka Raven). Flamingo would come to the ring each week and call for a "ringboy" to come get his clothes when he removed them. This was of course a low-blow directed at the WWF for their recent string of indictments involving former ring-boys suing for sexual harassment.
Let's press forward to the upcoming WrestleWar PPV. Although it was strictly a two-match show, those two matches were well worth the price of admission alone.
WrestleWar 1992 - "The Match Beyond"
Date: May 17th, 1992.
Venue: Jacksonville, FL (Jacksonville Coliseum).
Attendance: 6,000 ($72,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (0.61)
WrestleWar 1992 will go down in the history books for one reason and one reason only: one of the most incredible, brutal matches in wrestling history in WarGames 1992...
The undercard of WrestleWar 1992 features almost nothing of note, barring a downright scary match between the Steiners and the team of Tatsumi Fujinami and Takayuji Iizuka. This is quite simply one of the stiffest matches I have ever seen. While Wahoo-Valentine it is not, it is still legitimately frightening to watch. Early into the match, Scott Steiner hoists Iizuka onto his shoulders in a position similar to the Razor's Edge. Rick Steiner comes off the top rope with an elbowdrop, all but CRUSHING the face of Takayuji Iizuka. Iizuka was so injured that he could barely even crawl over to tag Fujinami. The rest of the match would consist of The Steiners just absolutely MURDERING the injured kid. All of their offense seemed to focus in on his grossly swollen face, with Scott and Rick even being kind enough to drop repeated STIFF elbows to the eyes of their Japanese opponent. The match finally ended with Rick Steiner belly-to-belly suplexing Iizuka off the top rope and nearly putting him through the canvas. The Steiners celebrated as the bloody mess disguised as their opponent was helped to the back.
The real story of WrestleWar 1992 wasn't the Steiners though, it was WarGames. WarGames had a long, storied history in WCW, and what these ten men did was to simply top every other WarGames match that had ever taken place.
WarGames 1992 was the culmination of months of threats by Paul E. All threats said the same thing, "We want Sting GONE." The Dangerous Alliance (Austin, Rude, Eaton, AA, and Zbysko) took on Sting's hand picked team of friends, consisting of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, and newly turned Nikita Koloff. For nearly half an hour, all ten men pounded the shit out of each other within the confines of the double cage (for full WarGames rules, check out my last column). By the end of the half hour, the cage was destroyed, the ring was broken, nearly everyone was bleeding, and the crowd was at a fever pitch. Larry Zbysko had removed the top rope in order to use the metal rod connecting it to the ringpost as a weapon. He attempted to swing on Sting, but instead crushed the shoulder of his teammate Bobby Eaton. Eaton was injured BADLY, and all it took was one brutal armbar to make Bobby tap. One of the single greatest matches in WCW history had come to an end, and the crowd was very appreciative.
June: "Return of the Past"
Something began to happen to WCW in June that was about as mysterious as a gallon of skim milk. One by one, former UWF stars began appearing in WCW. Not only did they appear, but they were pushed straight out of the gate. The two most prominent stars in question here were Terry Gordy and "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. Collectively, they were known as the "Miracle Violence Connection." I never really got into these guys, but I've gotta admit that it's one of the coolest names for a tag team that I've ever heard. At the time, Williams and Gordy were legends in Japan, and widely considered to be one of the two best tag teams in the world. Bill Watts wanted to bring them in to face the other half of the greatest tag teams in the world, The Steiner Brothers in the "Dream Match" of the century. The first meeting of the two teams was set to take place in just a matter of days at WCW's newest PPV, Beach Blast.
Beach Blast 1992, despite drawing a very weak gate, started with a bang, as Brian Pillman and Scotty Flamingo (Raven) put on one of the best Light Heavyweight matches since Bill Watts had instigated the no tope rope rule. Pillman injured his knee, foreshadowing his eventual heel turn which would form one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history. Marcus Alexander Bagwell (Buff), the pretty boy babyface rookie, got ROCKED by Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, much to the roaring delight of the Alabama faithful. When Bagwell submit to Valentine's figure-four, the roof nearly blew off of the Mobile Civic Center.
Later on in the card, Sting and Cactus Jack put on yet another Foley match that people still talk about to this day. The match: "Falls Count Anywhere on the Gulf Coast." If you want to see Mick Foley take one brutal, brutal bump after another, look no further than Beach Blast 1992. How this man is not paralyzed at this point in his life is completely beyond me, but one has to wonder if someone's looking out for this guy or something after seeing his body splat off the concrete more times than I can count on two hands. One of the sickest bumps I've ever seen occurs on this card when Cactus Jack lays Sting out on the concrete floor, climbs to the top rope, and misses the elbowdrop with a sickening thud. The match ended after twelve minutes of chaos after Sting hit a flying clothesline from the top rope to the ramp outside for the three count.
Also on this card was the forgotten Iron Man Match. When people here Iron Man match, they immediately think Hart-Michaels, HHH-Rock, or maybe even Flair-Hart from Boston. For some reason, no one seems to remember this match, which is a damn shame because it was amazing. The match in question is Rick Rude against Ricky Steamboat. For half an hour, both men busted their asses to put on an amazing, edge-of-your-seat Iron Man match that still stands the test of time after ten years. When the smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, Ricky Steamboat won the match by a margin of four falls to three, but the real winners were everybody at home watching the match on PPV.
Up next was a six-man tag match between the Dangerous Alliance (Eaton, Anderson, and Steve Austin) against Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, and Nikita Koloff. After fifteen minutes of solid, if unspectacular action, the match ended in a DQ when Arn Anderson came off of the top rope. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Finally, in the "Dream Match" that the "world had been waiting for," the Steiners and the team of Terry Gordy and Steve Williams went out and delivered a standard tag match with a thirty minute time limit draw. Nothing terribly exciting, and definitely not up to the standards that the Watts hype machine had promised, but in the matches defense, it was meant to be a lead-in to the NWA Tag Team Title Tournament that was appearing "live" two nights later on TBS, despite actually being taped four days earlier. Ugh.
A quick recap of the NWA Tag Title Tournament that no one seemed to want, with some of the more asinine booking that you'll see in your life...
Clash of the Champions XIX - "NWA Tag Team Title Tournament"
Date: June 16th, 1992.
*Shown: June 22nd, 1992. Venue: Charleston, SC (McAlister Fieldhouse).
Attendance: 4,600 ($20,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (2.8)
Behold, the NWA Tag Team Title Tournament. Quite possibly the biggest blunder in Clash of the Champions History. WCW had come to an agreement with the NWA to re-establish the NWA into WCW prominently. About a week later, Watts would change his mind, wanting absolutely nothing to do with NWA. This basically rendered the whole thing useless. The goal of the tournament was to set up a big money match between the Steiners and Gordy/Williams at the Great American Bash PPV, but things went a little wrong.
You see, whoever set up the brackets did so in a manor that would make one question just how high their blood alcohol content actually was. The seeding was strange, and the brackets were even stranger. A quick rundown of who competed in the tournament and what country (or continent) they represented.
- Dean and Joe Malenko: Europe
- Nikita Koloff and Ricky Steamboat: USA
- Tom Zenk and Marcus Bagwell: USA
- Rick Rude and Steve Austin: USA
- Larry and Jeff O'Day: Australia
- Terry Gordy and Steve Williams: Japan
- Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton: USA
- Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes: USA
- Miguel Perez and El Boricua (fictional): Puerto Rico
- The Silver Kings: Mexico
- The Freebirds: USA
- Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger: USA/Japan
- Chris Benoit and Beef Wellington: Canada
- The Head Hunters: South Africa
- Hiroshi Hase and Akira Nogami: Japan
- The Steiner Brothers: USA
Anyway, so everything was on track for an epic finals encounter between the Steiners and the Miracle Violence Connection, but OOPS(!!!) somebody set up the brackets wrong. Instead of meeting in the finals of the tournament in a big-money PPV match, the match was given away for free on live television (in a time in which that never happened) because of bracketing mistakes. Bill Watts had no choice but to sanction the match, using his trademark phrase...
"Let's Hook 'Em Up!"
The Steiners would be defeated by the Miracle Violence connection, who also nearly crippled the near 70 year old flabby Australian Larry O'Day in an earlier match.
Chris Benoit and Beef Wellington stole the show with their red-hot matchup with the team of Jushin Liger and Brian Pillman. Because the match was sanctioned by the NWA, Bill Watts top-rope rule was not in effect for the matchup, hence a exponentially more exciting matchup. After this match, the writing on the wall was clear, and it said that the top rope rule needed to go.
Lastly, WCW continued it's trend of offending the masses one sub-group at a time when Harley Race made derogatory comments about Ron Simmons to set up a Super Invader (Hercules Hernandez) feud with Simmons. Simmons was told by Race that, "A Negro like you should be carrying my bags." Lovely...
July: "Let Freedom Ring with a Watts Filled Blast"
The hottest month of the year was rolling in, the Miracle Violence Connection had just defeated the Steiners at the Omni in Atlanta for the WCW Tag Titles, and the WCW hype machine was turning full cycle to promote the upcoming Sting-Vader title match at the storied Great American Bash tour. The culmination of the feud would occur on July 12th in Albany, Ga. Although Sting was in many ways overshadowed by the constant pushing of Ron Simmons and the Miracle Violence Connection, the fans were still strongly behind him, and the anticipation for the Vader-Sting battle was high. Also of note was the fact that Jim Ross was now officially booking all WCW matches. This led to an emphasis on the sport aspect of wrestling, resulting in much less flying and much more matwork. With that in mind...
The Great American Bash 1992
Date: July 12th, 1992.
Venue: Albany, GA (Civic Center).
Attendance: 8,000 ($45,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (0.4)
The Great American Bash 1992 would have been one of the poorest PPV's in company history had it not been for Sting-Vader. Sting's title defense against Vader was the only non-NWA title tournament match on the card. The rest of the card featured the semifinals and finals of the NWA tag team tournament. In other words, Bill Watts would use the rest of the card to further push the flat-out boring duo of Gordy and Williams. They would squash every team that they faced at the Bash, en route to winning the NWA World Tag Team Titles. In a ridiculously idiotic move, because the Miracle Violence Connection already had the WCW Tag Team Title belts, the belts were unified, thus negating the ENTER purpose of the long-winded tournament. Ugh (not to be confused with DonkeyLips or Budnik).
BUT, the show wasn't a complete disaster. Although Watts didn't even allow the World Title match to, you know, HEADLINE the show, Vader and Sting put on an INCREDIBLE match in the next-to-last contest of the evening. Absolutely amazing match. Lots of parallels have been drawn between this match and the recent Summerslam main event in which Brock Lesner got the better of the WWF's top babyface, The Rock. While the basic premise was the same (up-and-coming heel brutalizes company's top babyface for the title), the execution was much different. While Rock was made to look somewhat strong in his loss, Sting was just absolutely DESTROYED from corner to corner by Vader. Sting was beaten, bloodied, thrown around like a rag doll, put in his own finisher, and then finally powerbombed for the three-count and the WCW Championship. Sting was just flat out decimated. Guys like Triple H and Steve Austin could learn a thing or two from Sting. Sting had the ability to make or break opponents, and he MADE Vader in this match.
August: "A New King is Crowned"
also known as "Return of the Serpent"
also known as "Bring in the Blow"
August 2nd saw one of the most memorable cards in WCW History take place at the famed Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. Sting was slated to compete in a rematch with Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, but when Sting was being interviewed, the long rumored arrival of Jake "The Snake" Roberts finally took place. Roberts emerged from the crowd, attacked Sting from behind, and DDT'd him HARD onto a steel chair twice, rendering Sting incapable of fighting Vader that night and putting the wheels into motion for a Sting-Roberts feud.
With no challenger to Vader's title, Bill Watts announced that every WCW wrestlers' name would be put into a hat, with the name drawn going on to face Vader in the main event of the night's card. The name that came up: Ron Simmons.
Simmons and Vader went on to have an amazing power struggle in the main event of the match. When the dust settled, Ron Simmons was the first black Heavyweight champion in wrestling history. The crowd went home happy, I popped like a madman back home, and a new era began in WCW.
Watts was a funny guy when it came to race. Rumors peg "The Cowboy" as a somewhat racist guy., who ironically likes to push black wrestlers. He had been particularly successful in pushing The Junkyard Dog (RIP) several years earlier in the UWF, and was hoping that lightning would strike twice with Simmons.
August II: "The Curse of Dusty"
Like Dusty Rhodes before him (and Verne Gagne before him), Bill Watts felt that one superstar and one superstar only had the potential to carry the promotion to places it had never gone before. That wrestler was his terrible, terrible son Erik Watts. With all that's been said about Greg Gagne and Dustin Rhodes's push, Erik Watts had the ability to make those two look like Flair and Steamboat respectively.
Watts was pushed hard and fast by Bill Watts, to the point that the fans were actively revolting against him (see: Rocky Maivia, circa 1996). It wasn't just the fact that he wasn't over, it was the fact that the crowd HATED him. Not in a "boo the bad guy" kind of way either, but in a "hang him after the show" manor. His push would continue to grow and grow and grow into the early part of 1993. We don't have much time or space to go into the exact logistics of his push, but just believe me when I say nepotism was in full effect here.
August III: "As Tradition Dies Slowly"
August saw the NWA World Title tournament take place in Japan. By the time the title finally rolled around, Bill Watts was no longer interested in anything NWA related. He still sent his men though, as he was contractually obligated to do. The contestants in the tournament were...
Scott Norton, Jim Neidhart, Bam Bam Bigelow, Kensuke Sasaki, Tony Halme, Terry Taylor, Masa Chono, Hiro Hase, Barry Windham, Barbarian, Keijo Muto, Shinya Hashimoto, Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, and Super Strong Machine.
Rick Rude pinned Masahiro Chono in the finals of the tournament in a match that was nothing short of awesome. I've never seen a hotter crowd in my life that the crowd this night on August 12th. A rematch was slated for the Halloween Havok tournament.
September: "The Rumor Mill Turns"
September was a crazy month for WCW (as well as the WWF in the North). Rumors were absolutely FLYING during this time period, the most prominent being:
- Sting's contract was set to expire and he was on his way out the door to the WWF. This rumor existed for years, but was at it's absolute peak at this point. Despite taking a pay cut, Sting remained the only man in WCW History (sans Nikita Koloff) to remain loyal to his company from practically his rookie year until his retirement.
- The Steiner Brothers were also rumored to be on their way to the WWF. They were being jobbed into the ground by Bill Watts at the expense of the Miracle Violence Connection, and their contracts were soon to be renegotiated as well. The Steiners would in fact end up leaving soon after their final meeting with Bill Watts led nowhere. The Steiners wanted $300,000 a year up front. Bill Watts was only offering $1,000 per match. The Steiners would soon return to Japan, only to resurface in the WWF in January.
-Bret Hart was on his way to WCW after losing to Davey Boy Smith at Summerslam. This actually almost happened, but Bret was given a two-year contract extension and a brief run with the WWF World Title to keep him happy.
-Ted Dibease was also rumored to be on his way to WCW. Although Dibease did leave the WWF after losing the Sean "123 Kid" Waltman, he returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling as opposed to accepting WCW's much lower offer.
Clash of the Champions XX - "Twenty Years of Wrestling on TBS"
Date: September 2nd, 1992.
Venue: Atlanta, GA (Center Stage).
Attendance: 500 ($4,000 Gate)
Cable Rating: (3.7)
Clash of the Champions XX sticks out to me as one of the most memorable WCW broadcasts ever. The lineup was forgettable and the main event has long since been forgotten (Rick Rude, Jake Roberts, Vader, and Super Invader vs. Sting, Koloff, and the Steiners), but the true emotion that night is something that I'll never forget. The show took place at Atlanta's Center Stage Studios, the former home base of WCW. While the seating capacity was only around 495, the close to 500 fans that jammed Center Stage that night breathed, sweat, and lived WCW, as they had for years upon years. The show featured a couple of genuinely moving video packages on the history of the NWA/WCW on TBS (and WTBS), and opened up with a scene that I will never forget... The late Gordon Solie standing with the late Andre the Giant. This would be the final television appearance of both men before their deaths. Simply amazing. Nothing else I can say but amazing.
The only other note of interest on the show was a "fan poll." WCW became so certain that the top-rope rule was killing their fan base, that they squeezed a few more dollars out of it before forcing Watts to change it. During the main event of the broadcast, fans were given the choice to "vote" on discarding the top-rope DQ rule. Vote they did, in DROVES. Thousands of fans voted (at $5 a pop on the WCW Hotline) to get rid of the rule, and two weeks later it was done. WCW had some extra money in it's pockets and the fans were happy.
October: "Frightening Gimmicks II"
Sting and Jake Roberts had been feuding non-stop for close to three months, and Halloween Havoc was set to be the ultimate payoff for the three months that fans had invested in the feud. A match was set... a match of FRIGHTENING proportions. The stipulation: "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal." Before the match, Sting would spin a gigantic scary wheel that contained 10 different matches. The possibilities were:
1. Texas Death Match
2. Bullrope Match
3. Prince of Darkness Match (because it was just THAT good at WMVII)
4. Cage Match
5. First Blood Match
6. "I Quit" Match
7. Coal Miners Glove Match
8. Lumberjacks with Straps Match
9. Barbed Wire Match.
10. Spinner's Choice
The wheel was in place, the match was signed, and all that was left to do was to promote it. Let's play a little game of "Book WCW" shall we ??? Let's say YOU, person X, are in control of WCW. Would you ...
A) Create exciting video packaging, detailing the highlights of the feud in order to get fans excited about the matchup.
B) Have the announcers hard sell the match on your many cable and syndicated wrestling broadcasts.
C) Spend close to a half million dollars creating a "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" mini-movie in which midgets (with eyepatches) and bikers co-exist in a secret bar, hypnotically chanting "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" in a borderline frightening manor while waiting for Sting. Then when Sting finally arrives, you have the bikers begin pounding the tables along with the midgets as Sting shoots LASER BEAMS out of his eyes at Jake Roberts.
If you answered C, you would be next in line to head up WCW. I honestly wish I could make something up this good, but the truth is often stranger than fiction. On to the PPV...
Halloween Havoc 1992 - "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal"
Date: October 25th, 1992.
Venue: Philadelphia, PA (Civic Center).
Attendance: 7,000 ($75,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (0.9)
Halloween Havoc was AWFUL. There's no way to sugar-coat it, no way to soften the blow. This show sucked. Absolutely sucked. Terry Gordy, Bill Watt's golden boy, had been fired before the show for *gasp* wanting the money that he deserved, and Steve Austin was filled in to the Miracle Violence Connection to take his place. Three of the "big" matches for the PPV failed on absolutely every front. Rick Rude and Masahiro Chono followed up their ***** classic with one of the worst matched to ever take place on American soil. It really was that bad. The ending involved two or three referees, half Japanese, half American. The end result, the crowd was pissed that they had to waste half an hour on this, the belt still belonged to Rude, and absolutely nobody cared.
Up next was the World Title Match. Ron Simmons was fresh off of his victory for the title and was in desperate need of a credible challenger to be put over. Bill Watt's solution: The Barbarian. Yeah, that's right, the Barbarian. The man forever relegated to squashing Joe Wolfe on WWF Superstars was now fighting for the most coveted title in the business. The crowd HATED this. In fact, it might have been even more apathy than hatred, as not a single person in Philly made as much as one sound for the entirety of this matchup. Oh well, Simmons wins.
Now, it was time for the main event. After nearly three months of build, and a month solid of anticipation as to what the wheel would land on, the moment of truth was upon us. Sting gave the wheel a mighty spin as cheap pyros "popped." The whole scene looked more like The Price is Right meets white trash 4th of July than an actual wrestling match, but that's beside the point. The crowd buzzed as the gimmicked wheel slowed. The result..................................... Coal Miners Glove. Ouch. Bill Watts had filled the wheel with exciting, controversial matches like First Blood and Barbed Wire, and he gimmicked the wheel to land on the worst possible choice: The Coal Miners Glove Match. For those unfamiliar with the concept, I'll expand...
A normal wrestling match occurs, with the only exception being that a black glove is placed at ringside. If you can get the glove, you are free to slip it onto your fingers and pummel your opponent with this oven mitt of doom. Absolutely ridiculous.
The match was terrible, the crowd was angry, and the ending was possibly the worst Main Event ending in WCW history. Jake brought his snake out from under the ring and attempted to get it to bite Sting. Sting was savvy though. Sting put on the mitten from hell, grabbed the snake, and pushed it towards Jake. In theory, the king cobra was supposed to bite Jake's face ala Randy Savage, in actuality, the snake seemed about as interested as a puro fan watching the Chamber of Horrors match. Jake "improvised" by grabbing the cobra, pushing it onto his face while the snake just kind of grinned as if he knew that he was ruining WCW's October tradition, and then Jake fell over due to the pain and venom of the non-existent bite. Sting counted three, the people watching for free from their descrambler laughed, the people who paid cursed, and the Philly crowd nearly rioted.
Don't let the door hit you on the ass Snakeman...
November: "The More Things Change..."
To the surprise of roughly no one, Jake Roberts is fired for substance abuse. He is checked into a Betty Ford clinic by the WCW, and Jake is reported as saying, "The Betty Ford clinic ?? Cool! I like muffins and brownies." Actually, he didn't say that. Actually, it was a lot funnier in my head than on paper, but we'll just ignore the old backspace key and just keep on typing, shall we ?? Look, I can do it again, DKFJKLJSDJLKFS. Ok, if I can get serious here for a moment.
Up next, we've got the last Clash of the Champions show of the year for WCW...
Clash of the Champions XXI - "No Clever Subtitle :("
Date: November 18th, 1992.
Venue: Macon, GA (Macon Coliseum).
Attendance: 7,500 (Gate N/A)
Cable Rating: (3.2)
Clash XXI was a pretty forgettable show, as was the trend in WCW since early August, but it did have a couple of notes of interest.
- Erik Watts made Bobby Eaton submit with the worst STF in pro-wrestling history.
- Brian Pillman fully realizes an AWESOME heel turn at Clash XXI. Pillman had faked an injury and said he couldn't wrestle Brad Armstrong, and then when Armstrong made his way to the ring, Pillman destroyed the "Candyman" with his crutch and got the three count. Simply awesome, especially considering the fact that this was Pillman's first venture (I believe) into the world of heeldom.
- Scotty Flamingo (Raven) took on Johnny B. Badd in a "boxing match." Kevin Nash and DDP horsed around at ringside, which was much more entertaining than the actual match itself. To end the match, Nash and DDP filled Scotty Flamingo's boxing gloves with water. If you know ANYTHING about boxing, you know that soggy gloves are LETHAL. LETHAL I TELL YOU. Badd fell down for the ten count and the match came to an end.
- Too Cold Scorpio made his official national television debut, popping up as the mystery partner of Ron Simmons and shocking the world with his 480 splash, the likes of which had never been seen on a national level in the States before.
- Sting and Rick Rude wrestling to a draw in the utterly meaningless "King of Cable" tournament. A good match regardless though.
- Finally, Barry Windham pulled an amazing heel turn during the night's main event. Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham were wrestling Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat in a face vs. face tag team title match. The match itself was excellent. About twenty minutes into the match, Ricky Steamboat got inadvertently hit in the groin by Dustin Rhodes. Rhodes backed off and gave Steamboat time to recover, being the good babyface that he is. Windham began SCREAMING at Rhodes to capitalize on the injury. Rhodes refused so Barry tagged himself in, repeatedly atomic dropped Steamboat. Unfortunately, the crowd sided firmly behind Barry Windham, booing Dustin for not getting involved and cheering Windham for attacking the injured Steamboat. Barry and Dustin would lose the match, and after the bell rang, Windham lured Rhodes back into the ring for one more cheap shot and a stiff DDT, much to the delight of the usually markish Georgia crowd.
December: "The Bottom Drops Out"
Bill Watts booking run was proving to be a failure. Watts was earning no friends, and making many enemies. The wrestlers hated him, management hated him, and the numbers were TANKING. House show attendance should have been at or around two to three thousand. Some shows were actually drawing fewer than two to three hundred. PPV buys were down, viewership was down, and merchandise was down. Even more forebodingly, no one really seemed to genuinely care anymore. Crowds weren't hot anymore. People didn't bring signs to the events, there were no loud, boisterous chants, and to restate what I just said, nobody really seemed to care. Complacency can sometimes be far worse than abandonment. With everything seemingly going wrong, the years biggest PPV of the year was at hand. Last years Starrcade featured the first ever "Battle Bowl / Lethal Lottery," and you could easily say that the concept was welcomed with open arms from WCW faithful... on opposite day. It was met with dissent and irritation from long-time WCW fans who wanted to see Starrcade for what it really was: the show where the biggest angles of the year was settled. Instead, they got another year of the Lethal Lottery. This year, they even got a BLACKOUT!!!
Starrcade 1992 - "Battle Bowl/ The Lethal Lottery"
Date: December 28th, 1992.
Venue: Atlanta, GA (The Omni).
Attendance: 8,000 ($70,000 Gate)
PPV Buyrate: (0.5)
Two matches headlined Starrcade in addition to the Lethal Lottery. First, Sting would finally get his chance to gain a measure of revenge on Vader after being DESTROYED by him six months earlier. This match had legitimate interest, despite barely recieving any hype from Watty.
The second big match was a WCW World Title Match between champion Ron Simmons and challenger Rick Rude. The WCW fanbase was really looking forward to this one, in hopes that Rick Rude might finally capture the World Championship Title that he'd long been chasing.
Now we all know what happens when fans really anticipate a match in WCW... it doesn't happen. True to form, Rude couldn't compete at Starrcade, which we were lucky enough to find out after we'd $ordered$ the show. His replacement ??? Watts Goldenboy Steve "Dr. Death" Williams. The match lasted all of ten minutes, with not one high-impact move. The ending for the title match at the biggest PPV of the year for WCW: A double count-out, with no blowoff or rematch ever to occur :)
Sting and Vader fought their usual classic, this time for the "King of Cable" championship. While the distinction was good for nothing, I'm sure it looks good on a resume or something, who knows. The match was stiff, brutal, and Sting went over.
As for BattleBowl, Muta won for no conceivable reason. Why not push one of your OWN wrestlers, instead of a foreigner who will probably step foot in your American ring twice in the next two years. Makes PERFECT sense.
As you can tell, I'm starting to get really tired of trying to spin anything positive out of the second half of the year in WCW, so we'll just end Starrcade here and say that it was tied with the previous year's show for the poorest outting in Starrcade history.
December 30th: "With Hopes of Starting Over..."
With yet another financially DISASTROUS year under it's belt, WCW was reeling. It appeared as if 1993 might just be the knockout punch that sent them to their grave, ending over 50 years of prestige.
In Bill Watts final desperate act of 1992, he took the World Title off of Ron Simmons and put it back around the waste of Vader. The title switch took place before a small crowd at the Baltimore Arena, the same place that Simmons had the won the title from Vader in the first place. The blizzard outside was so terrible that only a handful of fans were even able to make it to the arena, but Watts refused to budge. He must get the title off of Simmons and try to at least stabilize the heart beat of the company that was one step away from financial ruin....Watts did just that on that cold December evening, but it would prove to take much more than a petty title change to turn the tides of the semi-conscious company...
To Be Continued....
in the next edition of The Year in Wrestling.
*sorry, I'm out of space. I'm going to have to be brief this time.
Wrestler the Year: Big Van Vader
Vader absolutely dominated North American wrestling in 1992, proving that big men COULD indeed work. His matches with Sting were nothing short of classic.
Tag Team of the Year: Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton
Tough competition, but these two mowed down the majority of the competition in 1992, thanks in large part to the absence of the Steiner Brothers for much of the year.
Feud of the Year: Dangerous Alliance vs. Sting
A great feud with great matches to back it up. Only thing even close was Sting vs. Vader, which very well could have won this category had it not been for the MUST SEE WarGames match which blew off the entire Sting/Alliance feud in an earth shattering fashion.
Match of the Year: Jushin Liger vs. Brian Pillman
In short form, this match revolutionized North American wrestling (even more so than Dynamite-Mask had years prior). Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Brian Pillman put on a match so good and so groundbreaking that it would influence a whole generation of high fliers, all but creating the “Cruiserweight” empire as we know it today. A close second was Sting/Vader.
Event of the Year: SuperBrawl II
Well, thanks again for checking out my column. It's greatly appreciated. As always, go ahead and drop me a line and let know what you thought of the new column. That way I can determine what YOU, the reader like, and what YOU, the reader don't like. I'm also looking to try something a little bit different as well. Coming up next will be The Year in Wrestling: 1993 (WCW). I want to maybe start doing the Year in Wrestling awards with some reader input as well. If you're interested, drop me an email with your votes for 1993 WCW's:
-Wrestler of the Year
-Tag Team of the Year
-Match of the Year
-Feud of the Year
-Event of the Year
Also feel free to include any other awards, humorous or serious, and if I like them, I'll include them in the next column. Thanks for everything guys. You guys have been and continue to be the coolest readers on the net, bar none. I really appreciate everything.