Canvas Critiques #5- WCW Superbrawl X
Posted by Nick Sellers on 03.04.2013
Hulk Hogan takes on The Total Package, Ric Flair and Terry Funk meet in a Texas Deathmatch, and Sid defends the World title against Jeff Jarrett and Scott Hall in 3-way. We've got new Cruiserweight and Hardcore Champions, plus appearances from the Kiss Demon and James Brown to boot. Oh, and Tank Abbot dropping someone.
Canvas Critiques #5 - WCW Superbrawl X
With Souled Out in the books, WCW's next PPV saw them return to the Cow Palace in San Francisco for the tenth instalment of SuperBrawl.
In a bid to improve ratings, Kevin Sullivan, recently appointed as the head-booker, brought Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair back from the wilderness, hoping to turn (or even just to stem) the tide. The first Nitro after Souled Out scored a 3, then the rating dipped slightly for a couple of weeks, before going up to a 3.6 on the go home edition.
But the majority of the locker-room were still unhappy with the way things were going, and morale plummeted even more-so when Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero and Saturn left the promotion. Others asked for releases but didn't end up departing (Shane Douglas, for example) just yet, despite their discontent.
Others can elaborate on the backstage situations more than I can. But I'm not here to totally rip that aspect of the promotion apart; my intention is just to take each show as it comes, studying them on an individual basis and trying to give as balanced an account of the show as I can.
I haven't seen a single positive review about this event, but for my own crack at covering the show, I'm working on the basis that it can't possibly be as bad as the last PPV...can it?
The Artist formerly known as Prince Iaukea defeats Lash LeRoux to win the vacant Cruiserweight title.
Brian Knobbs pins Bam Bam Bigelow to regain the Hardcore title.
3 Count (Shannon Moore, Shane Helms & Evan Karagias) beat Norman Smiley in a 3-on-1 Handicap match.
The Wall pins The (Kiss) Demon
Tank Abbot wins a Leather jacket on a pole match against Big Al.
Big T defeats Booker T.
Billy Kidman pins Vampiro.
The Mamalukes (Vito and Jonny Stamboli) retain the Tag Team titles in a Sicilian Stretcher match against David Flair and Crowbar.
Ric Flair beat Terry Funk in a Texas Deathmatch.
Hulk Hogan pinned The Total Package, Lex Luger. Ric Flair aided Luger in a post-match attack on Hogan, only for Sting to return and save the day.
Sid Vicious retained the World title in a triple threat match against Scott Hall and Jeff Jarrett.
Rulers of the World, guitars and ref bumps- Vicious retains vs Hall and Jarrett
The main event featured Sid Vicious defending his title against two members of the newly reformed nWo: Scott Hall and Jeff Jarrett.
The match is immediately handicapped somewhat due to time constraints. There were 10 other matches on the card, and also a 15 minute segment featuring James Brown (more on this later in the column). As a result, it's a bit of a rush-job and winds up being much shorter than I'd have actually liked. It's also choc full of ref bumps (Jarrett administering most of those) which do absolutely nothing for it, especially when you cram so many of them into only seven minutes!
Overbooked finishes and matches were part and parcel of late nineties/early noughties wrestling, so I can't get on their backs about that too much, but the blatant referee assaults were just stupid. Accidental bumps are one thing, but Jarrett hitting several Strokes on different officials got tiresome really quickly. Nothing wrong with the Slick Johnson part (Stopping at a 2-count for Hall because he pretended to pull a muscle. Great heat for that!) or the actual presence of the Harris brothers, but when you simply add too much of those ingredients into a match which isn't very long, then it becomes quite the cluster. It also dilutes the impact of any major events that happen within it -like Roddy Piper's appearance- which kind of fell flat in the midst of all the commotion.
But to be truthful, if you take out the silliness of the referee interactions and the frequent interventions of the Harris Brothers, they were actually putting together a pretty good triple threat outing. If they had more minutes to spare on the clock, this might've been one of the best bouts of the year for them.
Looking back, Jarrett actually looked like he belonged in the main event scene for a major promotion, and he looked to have really good chemistry with Hall (who didn't put in a bad showing himself actually, in his final WCW appearance). Sid had the crowd in the palm of his hand again, so all in all you've actually got something of a winning formula there if you book things sensibly.
Speaking of Sid, I think he made a good babyface World Champion for them in the wake of Benoit's departure. Maybe that's nostalgia clouding my judgement, and I know the crowd were pulling for a Scott Hall victory here, but I thought he was doing a decent enough job.
Flair vs Funk- Deathmatch style
For two old-timers, Ric Flair and Terry Funk put on one hell of a show. I think this was comfortably the match of the night and actually a very enjoyable brawl, which would've probably looked more at home in something like the ECW arena rather than in a WCW ring.
You could be cruel and say that for a “Deathmatch” this doesn't even come close in the violence stakes compared to matches previously put out under that moniker. You could also argue that rather than a deathmatch, this is basically a glorified hardcore match, something which was becoming a common phenomena across the mainstream promotions.
But that being said, they worked their arses off to make the match into something worth watching, and for a company so often accused of over exposing their older stars without making room to create new ones, this is one instance where you can let them off the hook and salute two legends who just went and destroyed themselves for our entertainment.
By no means was it pretty, and admittedly your enjoyment of it will largely depend on how big a fan you are of the performers in question, and whether or not you enjoy matches in the hardcore/garbage/plunder filled genre. Even if it doesn't cater to your tastes, you can't knock them for effort.
Is Hogan still the total package? - Hulk vs Lex
Hogan often divides opinion, and 2000 in particular would go down as quite a notorious period in his storied career. He's often the first man that people use as an example of a main event headliner who loves to politic, and someone who steadfastly refuses to give up his spot.
As I stated before, I don't want to dwell too much on stuff behind the scenes and instead focus on the actual shows. And in this show, he whipped the crowd up into an absolute frenzy, therefore actually doing a good job of getting the bout over with them.
The match itself didn't do much for me at all, chiefly because Luger moves around the ring with the turning circle of a lorry and his offence looks like garbage, and from Hogan's p.o.v it was nothing we hadn't seen before. Sting's return at the end was interesting, but otherwise this was very forgettable, save for Hulk's pandering which at least ensured we had a boisterous crowd for it.
It ran too long and the “Action” was questionable, but if the crowd are enjoying everything, does that mean it worked? You be the judge!
Midcard musings- The rest of Superbrawl.
The opener for the vacant Cruiserweight title opened the PPV much more convincingly than Souled Out did. Also, it was nice to see the horrid Oklahoma gimmick make way for -get this- proper cruiserweights getting time to strut their stuff. Lash LeRoux and The Artist weren't exactly living up to the division's past history of great performers and contests, but for an opener this was actually fine, if a bit run of the mill.
Another improvement from last month saw a much better Hardcore title bout, though it was still messy in places. Bigelow was actually a good choice for the belt, but they insisted on giving it back to Knobbs, which just made the initial switch to Bigelow a waste of time in the first place. Knobbs' no-selling his hand injury and the confusion surrounding his alliance with Finlay (I thought Finlay turned on him in the build-up to the show?) really hurt the fun-factor. Still, this was infinitely better than the awful four-way bout from Souled Out.
Norman Smiley taking on 3-Count was really good fun, largely due to Smiley's infectious enthusiasm and 3-Count's willingness to bump around like they were on crack. For a gimmick that people largely crapped on, the heels were easily getting heat from the crowd and seemed to be having some fun with it too. All in all, short, inoffensive and surprisingly enjoyable. Extra points for the Big Wiggle!
The Wall's push continued as he ran through the Kiss Demon. The latter's gimmick was a direct result of a deal struck with the legendary rock band in the hope of some cross-promotional value, but it didn't have the desired effect. It was also given a “Special Main Event” tagline, because of a clause in the deal where the character had to appear in a certain number of WCW main events. Nice way of getting around that, I suppose! If I can clutch at straws, at least the match served it's purpose of giving The Wall another win to further cement his monster status, though the crowd weren't really buying it.
If the previous match started to cool the crowd down, then the Tank Abbott/Big Al pole match sucked the life out of them completely. It had absolutely nothing going for it, and just when you thought it might get interesting, Abbott climbs the turnbuckles with Al on his back, only to stumble and DROP him all the way to the floor! As if that lunacy wasn't enough, Abbott grabs a knife, puts it to Al's throat and threatens to kill him afterwards. WOW. Can anyone tell me what happened with this? Did Tank lose his cool (how could they allow him to keep a knife on him, or hidden in his jacket?!) or was it something the booking team cooked up to emphasise his hard-nut reputation? Either way, baffling.
Booker T was still stuck in a rivalry with Stevie Ray and Ahmed Johnson at this point. For the second month in a row, he carried an inferior worker to something that was just about watchable, only for the heels to upend him and introduce another person to the “new and improved” Harlem Heat. Same shitaki, different month. It was painfully obvious that Booker should've been higher up the card and not stuck in stupid feuds like this, and the crowd reaction towards him from the 'Frisco faithful further emphasised this. Thankfully, he did make that leap as 2000 rolled on.
Billy Kidman and Vampiro brought the quality up slightly with an energetic affair, which by that point was easily match of the night, not that it took much. Maybe instead of the two matches that came before it, they could've given these guys a few more minutes together. It wasn't spectacular, and it had it's share of screw-ups, but at least it was watchable enough.
The tag titles match also had its fair share of energy packed into it, with Crowbar in particular managing to gel well with the Mamalukes. Speaking of Crowbar (aka Devon Storm), his offence was actually quite easy on the eye, and I'd like to have seen him utilised a bit more because I think he'd have impressed given a bigger platform on which to do so. Flair was awful, but apart from him stinking things up, this wasn't a bad brawl at all. There wasn't much need for the stip, especially as we still had a “Deathmatch” to come later, so it in retrospect perhaps it contributed to a bit of hardcore overkill on the night, but analysed on its own this was fine.
Finally, The Cat got to do some dancing with singing God, James Brown, which I think turned him face in the process after he honoured his bet with The Maestro. Cat's reaction was actually pretty funny, but overall it was poorly executed and ran for a ridiculously long time. This just didn't need to run for 15 minutes, and matches later in the show suffered for time allocations in the process.
The 411: The problems are still apparent, like their inability to make new stars and giving older workers far too much exposure. But if I'm being totally honest, I actually found most of it to be relatively easy to watch. Maybe I'm being too kind, but I can remember them putting out far, far worse than this. It pales in comparison to the WWF's output at the time and it definitely doesn't have the fun factor of an ECW show, but it didn't totally suck. It's a mess in some parts and at times feels devoid of structure and organisation, but it was still much better than Souled Out.