Six of the Best – WCW Slamboree

Back once again to this feature, with us taking a look at WCW’s annual May event of Slamboree. Originally conceived as a “Legends Reunion” type show for it’s first three years, and flirting with the Battle Bowl format in 1996, Slamboree eventually became just a standard pay per view event from 1997 onwards and was often a show that was rarely treated as a big deal. The fact the 95, 97 and 98 events were all main evented by almost throw away tag matches would be a good example of that. Slamboree was really just there to bridge the gap before the two major summer events of Great American Bash and Bash at the Beach.

That’s not to say that nothing of any value happened at the events of course. Ric Flair’s brutal beatdown of Angelo Poffo at the 95 event started a blood feud with Randy Savage that actually drew good money at house shows, whereas the 98 show saw the unthinkable happen as Scott Hall turned on Kevin Nash to break up The Outsiders tag team. However, these moments were normally the exception as opposed to the rule. By the 2000 event WCW was on it’s last legs, a situation that wasn’t helped by having David Arquette competing in the main event as defending WCW World Champion.

Compiling this list was kind of tricky as Slamboree had quite a lot of middling bouts over the years that weren’t especially bad but also weren’t the sort of exciting and classic matches that immediately jumped out at me as ones I just had to include. Despite this, I eventually found six matches that I was happy with and I had to leave a few out in the end as well, which shows that there was ultimately a healthy amount of decent bouts when all was said and done.

I would just like to give a special shout out to Gorgeous George Vs Charles Robinson from the 1999 event as well, because my word is that match a hundred times more enjoyable than it had any right to be. George looked great for someone with so little experience whilst Little Naitch was making the absolute most of his 15 minutes by giving a brilliant Ric Flair impersonation, complete with all of Flair’s tradional spots. It really is absolutely mountains of fun and I can strongly recommend it as one of the best comedy/manager matches I’ve ever seen.

As always, these are just my own personal picks. This isn’t supposed to be some sort of objective list or anything. If I leave out a match that you think warrants inclusion, then please feel free to put it down in the comments section below. As with previous lists, I’ll be listing the matches in chronological order.

So without further to do, let’s take a look at Six of the Best for WCW Slamboree!

Slamboree 1993
Nick Bockwinkel Vs Dory Funk Jr

This match will definitely divide people, and I reckon quite a few of you reading this will be baffled that I’ve included it, but I really do enjoy it quite a lot. Essentially it’s a great exhibition of technical wrestling from two highly experienced veteran wrestlers. The work isn’t overly flashy, but it is executed exceedingly well and the two men tell a good story in the allotted time as the match gets more fraught and frantic the longer it goes on.

As I mentioned in the intro, the early Slamboree events were presented as “Legend Reunion” styled shows, and wrestling stars of the past would occasionally come in to work a match. These days that’s basically what the major shows in WWE are, but back in 1993 the concept hadn’t been beaten into the ground yet and it gave these shows an interesting feel, even if the matches themselves were hardly classics.

Of all the Legends matches from the early Slamboree’s, this would most certainly be my favourite (There’s a great Terry Funk Vs Tully Blanchard brawl form 1994 as well that’s definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it). The match really starts to gather pace in the closing couple of minutes as both men try to desperately close things out before the 15 minute time limit reaches its end. Ultimately neither man is able to pick up the victory, but the crowd shows both of them appreciation with a standing ovation in a really nice moment.

It’s also pretty cool to see one of the biggest stars in the AWA in Bockwinkel do battle with one of the faces of the NWA in the form of Funk Jr. Even at their advanced age here the two Legends went out to the ring and wrestled 15 minutes like it was nothing. I could only imagine what a 60 minute epic between them when they were both in their primes would have been like.

I’d cautiously recommend this match, but I’ll warn that it isn’t for everybody. There’s a chance you might love it for being a slice of something different, but there’s also a good chance that you might find it boring. It ultimately depends on your own personal tastes when it comes to what you like from wrestling. For me, I find the AWA Vs NWA aspect of the match intriguing and I really like good technical wrestling, so it’s an easy thumbs up for me, but your own personal mileage may vary.

Slamboree 1993
Barry Windham Vs Arn Anderson

Windham’s reign is often remembered for the torrid way it started in a terrible match with Great Muta at Super Brawl III and the inauspicious way it ended in a so-so match with Ric Flair at Beach Blast 93, but in between those two disappointing bouts was some really good work from the “Lone Wolf”. A match with Too Cold Scorpio at Clash of the Champions impressed and this match with Anderson is also a highlight of the near 5 month reign Windham enjoyed.

Windham adorns the famed “Crimson Mask” in this one, as Anderson busts him open in his quest to wrest the title from his waist. What I like about this one is that Anderson is the face but he spends a lot of the match as the aggressor by working Windham’s cut and really taking the match to the Champion. Ultimately this match is two respected pro’s going out there and putting together a gripping contest where both of them come out of it stronger.

Windham gets to look good by fighting through the blood to eventually retain his Title, whereas Anderson looks good by having the Champ so close to defeat and entering such a strong challenge. It helps of course that both men are so smooth between the ropes that everything looks great and the selling is on point throughout. Windham actually does a fine job in the Flair role here, and shows just how great a Champion he could have been had he been more motivated in his younger days. The belt shot finish is the icing on the cake, as it puts the full stop on proceedings by having Windham out Horseman “The Enforcer” in order to get his hand raised.

This one is definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen it and you want to know why wrestling fans of a certain age make such a fuss about both men, but especially Windham. On his day he really was an incredible worker and 100% deserving of being the Champ, he just didn’t have it in him to sustain it over a prolonged period of time and it eventually led to his career dwindling. Some guys just don’t have it them to be “The Guy” sometimes I guess.

Slamboree 1994
Broadstreet Bully Match
Cactus Jack and Kevin Sullivan Vs The Nasty Boys

This match was ostensibly a rematch from Spring Stamped 1994, with Sullivan taking the place of Maxx Payne. The big difference between the two matches is the presence of former Philadelphia Flyers player Dave Schultz, who famously used to brutalise players on the ice. Here he gets a chance to dish out a beating to The Nasty’s, something he was apparently nervous about according to Mick Foley’s book until he was told that he could just lay the punches in, at which point he had a beer and just teed off on poor Jerry Saggs when the opportunity presented itself.

The match itself is both teams destroying each other with assorted weaponry, as they go all over the building in classic Memphis hardcore brawling style. This was a big match at the time, as the WWF didn’t really do stuff like this and ECW was still essentially just a popular Philly Indy group that had yet to have any real national exposure. As a result, the two matches between Team Cactus and The Nasty Boys were unlike anything else in mainstream American wrestling at the time.

Both of the matches are great, and I’d heartily recommend both of them. The roar from the crowd when Cactus and Sullivan manage to claim the belts really is something else, and they get just as loud when Payne and Kevin’s “brother” Dave get their vengeance on The Nasty’s as well. This match is a whole lot of brutal, violent fun and it introduced a whole new generation of fans to hardcore wrestling, continuing the genre of tag mayhem introduced by The Tupelo Concession Stand Brawl all those years previously.

Slamboree 1997
Ric Flair, Roddy Piper and Kevin Greene Vs Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Syxx

What I love about this match is that it’s one of the rare occasions that someone representing WCW was actually allowed to get a clean satisfying win over the nWo, as Flair, Piper and Greene were victorious in front of a raucous Charlotte crowd. Obviously this couldn’t happen on every show as the nWo wouldn’t have any heat left, but an argument can certainly be made that having the nWo come out on top so many times eventually did more harm than good in the long run. There’s a line between having strong heels and having heels that are so dominant that the babyfaces cross the line in to being ineffective chumps, and WCW sadly went too much in the direction of the latter more often than not.

Therefore, seeing the faces not only win but give the nWo a pretty solid kicking for large sections of the match makes this contest far more enjoyable than the usual WCW main event fare from their hot period. It helps that the match has a lot of action as well, with both Hall and Syxx selling big time for their opponents and not being afraid to bump around for them. The Charlotte crowd being in to basically everything the faces do also plays a big part, as they go wild for nearly everything and it really adds to the match.

Sometimes a good main event with a clean face win is all you need to send the fans home happy, and this was one of the rare occasions where WCW actually delivered on that front during the nWo years, so it gets a place on the list for that more than anything else. Watching stuff like this match really makes you wonder how WCW managed to blow it in the end. All their fans wanted was some good wrestling and for the heels to get foiled once in a while, yet they still found a way to drive them off in droves.

Slamboree 1998
Dean Malenko Vs Chris Jericho

Dean Makenko and Chris Jericho’s feud in 1998 is possibly one of my favourite feuds of all-time, with this match being a big reason why. For those not familiar, Jericho defeated Malenko at Uncensored 1998 and a dejected “Ice Man” decided he was going to head home for some soul searching. However, Jericho wouldn’t leave the matter alone and continuously mocked Malenko every week on WCW television. In the build up to Slamboree, JJ Dillon announced that there would be a battle royal to decide Jericho’s next challenger, with the Title match to follow straight after.

The battle royal itself isn’t especially great, although Jericho’s hilarious introductions for the wrestlers is a genuine highlight, but it’s how it ends that makes everything so special. The final two end up being Ciclope and longtime Jericho rival Juventud Guerrera. However, before the two men start battling, Ciclope says something to Juvy which causes the “Youth Warrior” to voluntarily eliminate himself. At this stage a buzz begins to fill the arena as Ciclope removes his mask to reveal none other than Dean Malenko!

The reaction to Malenko unmasking is still genuinely one of my favourite WCW moments, as the crowd goes absolutely nuts. What I really love about it is Tony Schiavone’s call as he yells “That’s not Ciclope!” I don’t know why that cracks me up so much but it always does. Indeed, Tony used to get quite a bit of stick for his announcing back in the day, but I genuinely think he and Bobby Heenan do an excellent job in this match in getting the storyline over as well as the two competitors.

The eventual match between Malenko and Jericho is hardly a classic from an in ring perspective, but it’s a solid bout that delivers everything the crowd wants to see after months of Jericho flapping his gums. This really is an incredible piece of business and remains something I regularly enjoy going back to watch. There have probably been better overall worked matches in Slamboree history, but none of them elicited such a strong emotional reaction for me as this one did. It just goes to show that if you have talented people and a story that a crowd can connect with then anyone can be part of one of the most heated angles in the company.

Had WCW actually started building around these guys when they had the chance instead of shunting them to the background, the company might not have collapsed the way it did.

Slamboree 1999
Perry Saturn and Raven Vs Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko Vs Rey Mysterio Jr and Kidman

Having 6 talented men all in one match make the chances of this match being enjoyable almost automatic, but what makes it all the better is Benoit and Malenko really committing to being heels. Whereas the two babyface teams focus on hitting big moves and popping the crowd, Benoit and Malenko focus on being as big a pair of jerks as they can in the quest to regain their Tag Team Titles from Rey Jr and Kidman. As a result, the crowd is more invested in the match because they want to see the heels defeated and one of the face teams prevail.

Watching Benoit and Malenko genuinely get heat on four men is pretty great, if only because they take what should be a ridiculous premise and make it work by being spot on in the way they work it. There’s also a great contrast between the three teams, with Rey and Kidman bringing high flying to the table, Raven and Saturn being more about brawling and The Horsemen focusing on technical ability mixed with heel antics. It means that no interaction between all the different men feels the same, and also allows us to get to see Rey getting in there and working with someone like Raven who he wouldn’t usually take on.

Arn Anderson even comes it at one point to help his fellow Horsemen by delivering a spinebuster to Saturn, only for Kanyon to then assist Saturn and Raven by crotching Kidman on the top rope, which leads to a finish where Raven pins Kidman before Saturn has time to submit in Malenko’s Texas Cloverleaf. It’s a clever ending as if Malenko had tried to pin Saturn then his team might had won, but he just had to win with his signature hold in a show of heel hubris, which in turn cost his team the match.

1999 was not a banner year for WCW, but it still featured some great wrestling on occasion and this match is a great example of that.

Honourable Mentions
The Hollywood Blondes Vs Dos Hombres (Slamboree 1993), Davey Boy Smith Vs Vader (Slamboree 1993), Terry Funk Vs Tully Blanchard (Slamboree 1994), Sting Vs Vader (Slamboree 1994), Ric Flair and Randy Savage Vs Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero (Slamboree 1996), The Giant Vs Sting (Slamboree 1996), Lord Steven Regal Vs Ultimo Dragon (Slamboree 1997), Fit Finlay Vs Chris Benoit (Slamboree 1998), Gorgeous George Vs Charles Robinson (Slamboree 1999), Sting Vs Goldberg (Slamboree 1999), Mike Awesome Vs Chris Kanyon (Slamboree 2000), Shane Douglas Vs Ric Flair (Slamboree 2000)