The SmarK Retro Rant for WCW Spring Stampede 1994
– Okay, for those not aware, the original rant for this show was done REALLY early in my retro-ranting career, and in fact may have been the first. Either that or Slamboree 94, I can never keep them straight. Anyway, fans of mine probably know exactly how much I hate my old stuff and how more than happy I am to redo the pre-99 works in most cases. And since I get lots of requests to repost this one, I figured, what the hell, let’s redo it. Besides which, if I can get the proposed third book about WCW sold, I’ll need better material to recycle.
(This was written in 2002 and may or may not be due for another go-around, I dunno. I figured I might as well repost it because the next issue of the Observer has the review and I’ve been away for Christmas and I’m in need of content with Brian on baby-related hiatus as well. Now that I’m back we should be into a regular schedule again as we get into the new year.)
– Live from Chicago, IL
– Your hosts are Tony & Bobby.
– Opening match: Diamond Dallas Page v. Johnny B. Badd.
Ah, back in the days when DDP wasn’t having himself pushed to the main event and we didn’t have to listen to Kimberly talk. Page attacks, but gets rolled up for two. He bails and gets dragged back in by Badd. Page takes him down for two, but Badd works the arm and they mess up a drop toehold spot. Badd stays on the arm, but Page tries some stuff which I guess could be laughably called mat wrestling until Badd dropkicks him for two. DDP introduces him to the top turnbuckle and takes over with a backdrop suplex and a gutbuster. Tony and Bobby have a really weird verbal exchange here (after Tony declares that the winner of this match will be “in line for a title shot of some sort” in that wonderfully vague wording of the wrestling world) in relation to the gutbuster. (Was it a “championship opportunity”?) Tony starts by calling it a gutbuster, and Bobby breaks in (I’m paraphrasing here). “You know, Page has a name for that move.” “Really?” “Yes. You want to know what it’s called?” “It’s called a gutbuster.” “No, he has a special name for it. You want me to tell you?” “Sure.” “It’s called a…uh…stomach buster.” “That’s what I called it!” They actually proceed like this for like another minute while my head spins. Anyway, Page gets something that looks like a cross between a suplex and a slam for two. We hit the chinlock. Badd escapes and makes the comeback with an atomic drop and backdrop, and the Kiss That Don’t Miss puts DDP on the floor. Badd follows with a pescado. Back in, sunset flip finishes at 5:54. It astonishes me that WCW kept Page long enough to get any good. Well, actually, it doesn’t. *
– World TV title: Lord Steven Regal v. Brian Pillman.
Ah, the dead zone of Pillman’s career post Hollywood Blonds, pre-Horsemen. (Yeah, and he had just re-signed immediately before the PPV!) It’s weird this is 8 years ago as of this writing, and Regal still looks pretty much the same. Pillman, on the other hand, only three years later looked 20 years older. Pillman attacks to start and goes for the taped leg of Regal, but gets reversed into the quick pinfall sequence. That’s the tragedy of this match Regal may as well have had a big sign on his leg saying “KICK ME HERE” and they ignored it the whole match. Pillman keep son the leg and Regal bails, and that’s it for the leg. Pillman goes after him and switches to the arm instead, and wraps it around the post. Regal finally cheapshots him and works a wristlock, but Pillman fights back. Regal suplexes out of that for two. He pounds away and goes to a body vice, which is reversed to a cradle for two by Pillman. Regal reverses a leglock into the Regal Stretch, which doesn’t yet have a name at this point. Neat counter, though. Brian backslides to block a forearm, but Regal counters into a modified Rita Romero Special, back into a chinlock. Brian fires back, and snaps off a rana for two. Regal blocks a crucifix with a Regal Roll in an awkward sequence, and that gets two. They take it back to the mat, as Regal goes into a bow-and-arrow, but Pillman punches free. Regal quickly grabs a leg and takes him down into a half-crab, however. Regal ties him up, but Pillman keeps coming back. Regal rollup gets two. Back to the mat with a half-nelson stretch, but Pillman keeps fighting. Regal slugs him down, but Pillman gets a dropkick. Regal blocks another try, but Pillman finally gets an enzuigiri to cue the comeback. Regal blocks a monkey-flip, but Pillman gets one more dropkick and gets all fired up.with about 30 seconds to go. The offense is all weak, however, and they tumble out for the draw at 15:00. This is a really weird match, with Regal completely gobbling up Pillman and not really allowing him any hope spots or strong offense, especially considering the bad leg. It had some neat stuff, but as a fan I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief and pretend that Pillman had even a shot to win. ** (I haven’t read that Observer yet, but I’m assuming it’s because they weren’t 100% sure he was signing.)
– Chicago Street Fight: The Nasty Boys v. Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.
This match is interesting for about a billion different reasons, chiefly among them that it made Mick Foley into a player in the business once and for all. Up until this point, he was just the wacky midcarder who got one run with Vader, but after this people really took notice of him. But this match also established a template for tag matches that ECW completely lifted for themselves and built the career of Public Enemy on. Third, the basic template was then refined by the WWF into the style of match that came to be the TLC match chaotic brawling with highspots built around weapons and bumps rather than athletics. In fact, you could even extrapolate even further and say that the long-standing “WWF Main Event Style” characterized by brawling in place of resting also stems from this match, but that’s a bit of a stretch it’d be more accurate to trace that to the Benoit-Sullivan series of matches from 1996. I have, however, often wondered why this match wasn’t used to spruce up the tag division in the WWF more, as it’s a very easy style of match to work and not only fires up the crowd, but disguises the weaknesses of the people involved. Look at the New Age Outlaws, for instance: there’s a reason why their matches with Cactus Jack & Terry Funk in 1998 did so much to get them over. Huge brawl to start, as Payne spikes Sags in the ring and Knobs beats on Jack outside. Jack & Knobs head in and Jack beats on him with a pool cue and takes him out with a Cactus Clothesline. Knobs hits the railing, but Sags saves and we trade dance partners for a bit. The faces pound the Nasties on the floor, and Jack & Sags fight on the ramp and back into the ring. Knobs & Payne end up heading down the aisle, delivering brutally stiff shots to each other, to one of those suspiciously-placed souvenir stands. At ringside, Sags & Jack dish out super-stiff chairshots, while Payne puts Knobs through a table. This was likely unintentional, as table-scoring didn’t start until ECW made it a tradition. He then chokes him out with a t-shirt, as Tony gets right into the spirit of things (“I’m not sure that shirt even fits him!”). All four guys end up at the stand, and Jack takes a sick bump over the railing, while Payne goes through the souvenir stand. Sags batters Jack with a table (which is no small feat of strength, actually) and brings it up onto the ramp, which draws Cactus up there too. Jack steals the table and suplexes it onto Sags, with Sags not even able to get his hands up to block, which even makes Tony cringe. Poor Bobby is just rendered speechless by the whole thing. Knobs stops the count with a shovel, but Payne steals it and pounds him. Meanwhile, Sags piledrives Cactus through the table. Jack gets tossed to the concrete floor, and Sags delivers a SICK unprotected shot to the head with the shovel, and even Tony is glad that it’s finished at 8:58 as a result. You have to understand how revolutionary this was for WCW at the time, in that stuff like going through tables and brawling into the crowd was at best the sole highspot, even in wild brawls. This match turned them into TRANSITION moves and built the drama around other facets of the storyline of the match, and that was what ECW needed to do to make Public Enemy into stars. Some say matches under 10 minutes shouldn’t be ****+, but I’ve never been one to conform to convention. ****3/4
– US title match: Steve Austin v. The Great Muta.
Muta was the ultimate recipient of good luck with regards to WCW, as he would come in for one or two matches, still super-over due to fans’ memory of him from 1989, be booked strong, and then leave again before WCW could cut the legs out from underneath him. In retrospect, he was one of the few people ever to be booked properly by WCW all the time. Feeling-out process to start, and Muta works a headlock. Austin stomps him down and grabs his own, but walks into an abdominal stretch. Everyone backs off to regroup. Muta rollup gets two, and back to the headlock. Austin can’t escape until a pair of backdrop suplexes get two. Muta suplexes him right back and drops the power elbow, but that burst of offense just leads to another headlock. Yeesh. Criss-cross and Muta goes right back to the headlock. Austin reverses and everyone backs off to regroup again. Austin rollup gets two, but Muta gets a hammerlock. They work off that for a while. I pity the crowd here. Parker trips up Muta and Austin tosses him as it looks good for SOMETHING to happen. Austin drops a knee for two, but then goes to an abdominal stretch to burn some time. Muta finally escapes and makes the comeback, but misses the dropkick and Austin drops an elbow for two. Muta makes another comeback with a spinkick, but doesn’t follow up. Suplex and dropkick allow Muta to go up, but he puts the “miss” in “missile dropkick”. Austin’s toehold attempt sucks, so they regroup and Muta hotshots him and gets the handspring elbow. Now the crowd is finally alive. Top rope rana and everyone is prepping for the big finish, but it never comes as Muta dumps Austin over the top by accident for the DQ at 16:30. This would be what happens when Muta DOESN’T try, in case you’re wondering. *
– WCW Saskatchewan Hardcore International World Gold Belt Western States Heritage Mid-South Missouri title: Rick Rude v. Sting.
You wouldn’t think they could fit all that on one belt, but it’s a pretty big belt. Harley Race challenges the winner on behalf of Vader, and gets beat up as a result. Rude attacks to start and gets dumped and suplexed on the floor. Back in, Sting pounds him down and gets a backdrop suplex for two. Sting grabs a facelock and drops the elbow, three times. That gets two. Back to the facelock, and Rude is frustrated and can’t escape. Finally he crotches Sting and dumps him. Rude beats on him, and back in he works on the back. Backdrop suplex gets two. Rude grabs the rear chinlock and that goes on for a while. Sting escapes and they do a rollup reversal spot, but Rude gets a sleeper. Sting is all “BRING IT ON, BITCH!” and makes the comeback with a pair of atomic drops and a clothesline. Ref is bumped with cheese and Sting gets the Scorpion Deathlock, and even tries to revive the ref at the same time. Race returns with Vader, however, and both get clobbered. Then it’s a horribly blown sequence as Rude is supposed to go for the Rude Awakening and get accidentally nailed by Race, but Race completely misses his cue and poor Rude has to stand there “fighting” for the move for like a minute before giving up and pounding Sting down again. Race finally remembers his spot and grabs a chair, and this time they get it right, with Rude going down like a ton of bricks and Sting getting the title at 13:09. You could really see Rude’s deterioration, and in fact the rematch with Sting was his last match. **1/2 (As we’ve been following along with the ending of Rude’s career in the Observers here, you can see him getting worse and worse with every show due to numerous injuries, and then finally he just punched that last spot on his bump card and was done.)
– Bunkhouse match: Dustin Rhodes v. Bunkhouse Buck.
Hey, it’s Jimmy Golden v. Goldust. This was pretty much Dustin’s prime as a worker, although given his currently motivated status and the possibility of Stardust booking RAW pretty soon, you never know. (Unfortunately it took another decade and trip in and out of the promotion to find that motivation again.) Dustin lays him out to start and pounds away. Suplex gets two. Buck takes a powder and they brawl, won by Dustin. Back in, Rhodes misses a crossbody and hits the floor, allowing Buck to break a piece of wood on his head. Even Tony is lost as to the source of that wood. Dustin bleeds. I know, shocking. Buck clotheslines him on the ramp and chokes him out. Back in, Buck stomps stomps away and works on the leg. Dustin pulls out a package of white powder (so THAT’S where the Goldust character came from.) and evens the score, however. Buck re-evens the score by whipping him, whipping him like a dog, Tony, with the belt. Buck goes low to put an exclamation point on that beating, and he slowly pounds away in the corner. Dustin finally comes back and beats on him in the corner, then uses that belt himself. Now Buck is bleeding. Dustin drops a cowboy boot on his head and proceeds to whipping, and Buck ends up on the floor. Back in, Buck loads up the glove (always a classic), but Dustin elbows away in the corner. Bulldog, but Dustin is of course an idiot and chases Col. Parker. Buck rolls him up for two. Slugfest is won by Dustin, but Parker slips Buck the knuckledusters, and that finishes at 14:18. Solid but overly long brawl. ***
– Vader v. The Boss (Man, Is He Big).
Boss clotheslines Vader into the ring to start, and gets a big boot, and Vader is out again. They fight on the ramp and Vader sends Boss back in. He follows with a running dive over the top, which misses. Boss dumps him again, and Vader meets the railing. Twice. Back in, Boss with the corner splash and a slam. Vader dumps him to turn the tide, however. Suplex back in and a splash gets two. Vader slugs the shit out of him, but gets suplexed. Boss comes back with a clothesline, but Vader responds in kind. He goes up, but Boss slams him off. A sort-of tornado DDT then gets two. This is BIG FRIGGIN BOSSMAN we’re talking about here. He goes up with a flying bodypress for two. Back up, but Vader powerslams him and adds the pump splash for two. Back up, Vadersault finishes at 9:18. This was a war of attrition. ***1/2 Boss goes nuts with the nightstick, which leads to Nick Bockwinkel stripping him of his gimmick. (Which we will get to in the Observers right away.)
– WCW World title: Ric Flair v. Ricky Steamboat.
This didn’t really have any long-term storyline reasoning, it was just Flair wanting to put on a great match to highlight a PPV. Wacky concept, I know. It was also the subtle beginnings of Flair’s heel turn, as he attacked Steamboat leading up to this. Flair takes him down and we do a bit of mat wrestling. Stalemate results. Steamboat overpowers him and they do more mat wrestling and start with the fisticuffsmanship. Criss-cross and Flair gets pressed and headscissored, twice. Dropkick puts Flair on the floor, and back in Steamboat gets the FLYING KARATE CHOP OF DEATH for two. Flair bails and regroups. Back in, he starts chopping, and they do that thing they do as Flair slowly goes heel. Steamboat holds onto a headlock, confounding Flair. That goes on a while, until Flair escapes, but gets headscissored back into a headlock again. Steamboat overpowers him, and a rollup gets two. Back to the headlock, and Steamboat grinds it in. It’s little touches like that which keep the match interesting, as opposed to Austin and Muta laying around for five minutes. Flair chops out, but Steamboat goes back to it. Dropkick misses, however, and Flair is chopping again. Kneedrop and Flair pounds and chops, and drops another knee for two. Elbow gets two. They chops away and a crossbody puts both on the floor. Steamboat reverses a piledriver attempt, but charges and splats on the railing. Back in, Steamboat superplex gets two. Flair Flip and he walks into a chop and Steamboat follows with a flying chop to the floor. Back in, Steamboat pounds away in the corner with chops, and it’s a Flair Flop for two. Sunset flip is blocked by Flair, but Steamboat blocks a kneedrop and hooks a figure-four. He keeps pulling Flair into the middle of the ring. The old shot to the jaw breaks it up. Flair gets a suplex, but his knee buckles and Steamboat gets two. Into the pinfall reversal sequence. Small package gets two. Flair chops him again and Steamer returns fire. Flair bails to the ramp, but gets chopped back in. Flair Flip and out, and Steamboat follows him out again, but this time Flair is one step ahead and gets a foot up to block. Flair heads back in, but Steamboat stalls until they slug it out on the apron. Flying bodypress gets two for Steamboat. Flair lays him out again, and goes up, but you know what happens next. Steamboat goes back up, but misses the flying splash and hits his knee. CUE OMINOUS MUSIC HERE. Figure-four, but Steamboat eventually makes the ropes. Flair stays on the knee and goes back to the move, but Steamboat reverses for two. Backslide gets two. Superplex and both guys are dead. Rollup gets two. Double chickenwing looks to finish, but Flair falls back (ala Clash VI) and this time BOTH guys are pinned at 32:20. Tie goes to the champion, so Flair retains. This one was lacking a certain spark to it, and it hurt a lot. ****1/4
The Bottom Line:
This show is notable only for two matches, really, but they’re two AMAZING matches and both are well worth searching out from an era where ONE ****+ per show was something to talk about. Unfortunately for those in 1994, this was year of the Shawn-Razor ladder match and nothing else from 94 was gonna touch that match at voting time for Match of the Year, but Spring Stampede 94 is still one of the best PPVs that WCW ever did.
Highest recommendation. (Yeah, I’ve always loved this one and would happily watch it again.)