Thanks to all who read my ambitious attempt to review Every WrestleMania Main Event. Seeing as crowdless shows just can’t entice me, I’ve decided to go back to the retro well to find some stuff to review. I’ll still keep my reviews of ECW Hardcore TV from 2000 ticking away, but I’ll also try to keep up these Main Event reviews every weekend as well.
Today we’re looking at the event that was traditionally WCW’s April offering (If you ignore the two years when they didn’t have it for whatever reason) in the form of Spring Stampede. I decided to pick this one as there are only five Spring Stampede Main Events, so I can easily stick them all in to one article. I’ll probably attempt this with Backlash at some stage as well, though I’ll need to break that one up into smaller bitesize chunks as there’s been quite a few more Backlash events than there has been Spring Stampede one’s.
Anyway, I hope you’re all keeping safe and this provides a bit of a distraction from the pandemic.
Right, that’s enough chatter, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
Spring Stampede 1994
Champ: Ric Flair Vs Ricky Steamboat
Flair was not only the Champ but also the head booker during this period, so he decided to book himself in a Main Event with Ricky Steamboat, because he knew it would be a good match that would allow him to start subtly turning heel again. Yeah, Ric Flair always had it in his mind that he was a terrible babyface, so whenever he was a face and had any control over his career direction the first thing he seemingly always tried to do was to get himself turned back into being a heel. I find this a shame to be honest, because I genuinely believe that Ric Flair is a really good babyface. Is his heel act stronger? Yeah, probably, but his babyface act is darn strong as well, mostly because deep down people want to cheer him because he’s RIC FLAIR and RIC FLAIR is awesome!!
Steamboat had kind of just been milling around the Tag Title and TV Title scene for most of 1993, but he fit nicely into being a contender again, because he’s also awesome and had an instant legitimacy with the crowd due to years of excellent in ring performances. This event was actually in Chicago, which was where Steamboat once defeated Flair for the World Title in 1989, which gives the match some added gravitas. It actually sounds like Steamboat gets some boo’s on the way down to the ring, which is interesting because Steamboat is a career babyface that I couldn’t ever imagine getting booed. It just feels wrong, but I guess that shows how popular Ric Flair is. He can actually get people to boo Ricky Steamboat for crisps sake! And he thinks he’s a bad babyface?!?!
Flair’s then missus, Beth, is watching on, looking glum and bored out her mind. That would have earned her an embittered paragraph in an autobiography if Flair were Bret Hart. Both men do some nice technical wrestling, whilst commentator Tony Schiavone pushes on commentary that Steamboat has beaten Flair for numerous Titles in the past, thus pushing the idea that The Dragon has The Nature Boys number. That’s a great bit of commentary actually. Tony can be really good when motivated. Steamboat shines on Flair with some dropkicks, with one of them sending Flair to the floor, and he continues to control things back inside, which causes Flair to bail and catch his bearings.
It’s not long before chops are thrown, as it looks like things are heating up between the two men. Steamboat is showing plenty of determination here and isn’t playing this as a nice smiling babyface. There’s plenty of stink behind what he’s doing, and even talks some trash at points, showing that neither man is going to be an angel here, which is probably the best way to do a babyface match. At the end of the day these are competitive men who want to be the best, regardless of them both being on the face side of the divide. Steamboat continues to have control of things, working holds and staying one step ahead of Flair at all times.
Steamboat eventually misses a dropkick however, which allows Flair to start working his way back into the running with some nasty knife edge chops and some well-placed punches. We get the 15 minute call, which is crazy to me as it feels like they’ve only been wrestling for 5 and we’re only just getting into the heat segment. I honestly think Flair could get away with giving one of his challengers a 30 minute long shine if he wanted, he’d sell and bump around enough to make it work. Steamboat starts trying to fight back, but that ends with both men taking a spill to the floor, where Flair tries a piledriver.
Steamboat blocks that and brings Flair back in for a superplex, which gets two from the ref. Flair sold the superplex like a big painful move though, which earns him bonus points from me. Flair outright starts begging off now, fully embracing the heel role after being a subtle heel in the early going. I honestly think these two could work a match together in their sleep at this stage in their careers. They fit so well into their usual roles that you wouldn’t think it’d been 5 years since their last big match with one another. Steamboat tries to put Flair away with his own Figure Four Leglock, but Flair refuses to tap and eventually goes to the eyes to break the hold after teasing making it to the ropes.
I love that, as Flair struggled like a gallant babyface for a while before finally just giving in to his inner heel and cheating, because when the chips are down it’s who he is. Steamboat gets the dramatic backslide attempt, which gets an equally dramatic two count from Nick Patrick, and that leads to a chop battle. Steamboat gets the better of that and the Flair Flop™ sees the Champ take a spill to the floor. Steamboat tries to follow with a chop off the apron, but Flair gets his foot up to block that, which leads to a chop battle on the apron that Steamboat wins. A top rope cross body follows from the challenger, but Flair manages to kick out at two in a good near fall.
Flair heads up, which goes about as well as you’d imagine, and that sets up Steamboat going up top for a splash, but there’s no water in the pool. Flair targets the knee following that and locks in the Figure Four, after a great struggle where Steamboat tried to block the leg going across his ankle. I love the little touches between these two. Steamboat bravely makes the ropes, to scattered boo’s, but Flair just goes right after the knee again before attempting the hold again, only for Steamboat to counter it into an inside cradle for two. We get the 30 minute call, as Steamboat gets another big superplex, but he hurts himself as well for a double down.
Steamboat eventually manages a cover, but the delay in making the pin allows Flair to kick out at two. I like that they protected the big move and didn’t just have Flair kick out. Steamboat goes for the double chicken wing hold that he used to win a fall over Flair in their classic “Rajun Cajun” match from 1989, but just like in that match his knee goes out and both men fall down to the mat for a double pin, thus meaning that Flair retains and we get a rematch on Saturday Night (Which I’ve never seen, but I’ve been told its excellent and possibly even better than this match)
DRAW: DOUBLE PIN
It’s Flair Vs Steamboat, so it’s always going to be good, but the finish was a bit flat and it just didn’t have the same “feel” as the classic 89 matches, so it gets a slightly lower rating from me as a result. Still, this was some darn good professional wrestling, with crisp execution, good character work and consistent selling throughout. You could show this at a seminar or something, because they hit all the beats they needed to and the work was spot on whilst they did it.
Spring Stampede 1997
Randy Savage w/ Elizabeth Vs Diamond Dallas Page w/ Kimberly
WCW skipped doing a Spring Stampede in 95 and 96 but brought it back for 97, although it was presented as a slightly less important show due to World Champ Hollywood Hogan not competing. Instead they used it as a way to get newest babyface DDP over, by having him get in there with respected veteran Randy Savage, who had just reinvented himself by going heel and teaming up with the New World Order faction. I think it sometimes gets forgotten just how over DDP got in his WCW days, and this match was a big reason for that popularity.
Savage and Liz had spray painted Kimberly to get DDP all good and mad before laying him out for good measure, so he’s looking for payback here. They show Savage and Liz walking from the locker room to the entrance area to help give the match an important Main Event feel. Savage is hilarious as he’s already planning his victory celebration and asks Elizabeth if she’d be okay with him inviting “14 to 22” women to the after party, which she seems cool with. “Slim Jim’s for everybody!! Oh YEAH!!! Which way to the ring?”
Savage just embracing his heel act is a joy to see, especially when he tries to intimidate some kids on the front row by flexing his biceps and they just look at him nonplussed. DDP does a backstage promo with Mean Gene Okerlund once Savage makes it to the ring. DDP cuts a very good promo, and Kimberly adds that she’s just going to let DDP unleash his rage tonight. Savage grabs the mic before the match, saying that this isn’t DDP’s big day but his last day. The combination of the big match feel and Savage playing his heel character to the hilt has succeeded in getting the fans behind DDP for this one, and it gives the match a good atmosphere.
The brawl is on right away, as both men fight on the outside. Things head back inside and DDP goes for the Diamond Cutter, but Savage grabs the top rope to block it and then drags DDP outside for some more brawling. There’s great intensity to the fighting, as Savage is always fantastic at playing a crazy mad man and DDP is doing a strong job selling his anger at what happened to Kimberly. Speaking of Kimberly, Savage actually uses her as a human shield at one stage, which allows Liz to rake DDP’s back and Savage to shove Kimberly at DDP before heading up with an axe handle smash to the floor whilst DDP tries to get back up.
It’s interesting seeing Liz as a conniving heel manager, because even when Savage was a heel in the WWF she would often just watch the action whilst looking worried rather than getting physically involved in the match. Here she not only gets involved but also yells at the referee and just generally acts like a rotten cow. Savage harasses the ring announcer and time keeper by stealing one of their chairs and then giving David Penzer a sly kick and stomp whilst Michael Buffer looks on thinking that he probably isn’t getting paid enough for this nonsense. DDP manages to fling the chair at Savage to buy himself some time and then fights back with some punches until Savage cuts him off again.
The crowd reacts whenever DDP gets some form of offence in, as he’s doing a great job as the gutsy babyface fighting from underneath. It’s impressive how DDP was able to reinvent himself as a solid babyface act after being a career heel up to that point. Savage goes after poor Penzer again before grabbing the ring bell and heading up top to give DDP the old Ricky Steamboat treatment, but Kimberly grabs the bell off him. Undeterred, Savage tries the elbow drop from there instead, but DDP gets his feet up to block it and then goes for the Diamond Cutter, but Savage slips out and makes use of the No DQ stip to get a blatant mule kick for two.
Savage is unhappy at the kick out and piledrives referee Mark Curtis. Seeing as Curtis had experience as a wrestler, he sells this really well. The crowd chants for Sting to come down and rescue DDP, but this match is about DDP proving he can get stuff done on his own, so Sting remains in the rafters whilst Savage crushes poor DDP with the elbow drop. However, Savage’s earlier attack has left him without a referee, so he has to call down evil heel ref Nick Patrick to count. Kevin Nash comes down to gloat over DDP’s impending defeat, but DDP manages to catch Savage with the Diamond Cutter OUT OF NOWHERE and Patrick makes the fair three count to give DDP the win and to start his own redemption arc.
WINNER: DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
As a match it was merely decent, but the selling and storytelling were on point and the end result was that DDP immediately grew in stature thanks to the big win and the WCW fans were actually given something to celebrate for once as it wasn’t a LolNwoWins result like it had been for every other pay per view Main Event so far in 1997.
The nWo of course don’t let that one go lightly; as pretty much the whole group sans Hogan comes down to threaten Patrick for his fair refereeing. The fans chant for Sting again, whilst Nash gives Patrick an absolute monster of a powerbomb. Savage grabs Kimberly, but Eric Bischoff comes in to talk him down, so Savage pops him instead and the nWo teases “dissention” for one of the many times in the group’s history.
Spring Stampede 1998
Champ: Sting Vs Randy Savage w/ Elizabeth
WCW had built to Sting winning the Title for all of 1997, but then they botched the Starrcade Main Event big time by having Sting lose to a referee fast count that wasn’t actually fast, meaning that the Title had been held up as a result. Sting finally won the belt officially at SuperBrawl VIII, but by then his aura had pretty much evaporated and he just became another guy on the show. Sting had been teasing some kind of alliance with Savage, but Savage had clocked him at Uncensored the previous month to set this up, although really the storyline was all about the fussing and feuding nWo members.
Savage’s goal here was to win the Title and then usurp Hogan as the leader of the New World Order, and in the build-up it looked like Kevin Nash was siding with him instead of Hogan. Hogan had hit Nash with a baseball bat earlier in the night to set the wheels in motion for Nash to form his own faction, and make it so he had to hitch his wagon to Savage instead. Thus Sting, the World Champion I’ll remind you, was basically relegated to the background whilst the nWo continued their spat, with the story all being about whether Savage would win and take control of the group for himself rather than whether Sting and WCW could hold on to the belt.
Savage is kind of carrying himself as a face here, due to the fact that the Nash faction of the nWo were going to be faces, but ostensibly he was still a heel because Sting is representing WCW and was one of the top guys on the babyface side. Of course, Sting himself would join the Nash nWo alongside Savage about a month later anyway, so the point is moo. The brawl is on right from the off, but the crowd is kind of burnt out on brawling due to the previous Raven Vs DDP match also being a weapons filled battle. Savage is working with a big knee brace and an injured wrist here, thus further placing him as a gutsy face, but he works the match like a vicious heel. I really hate this shade of grey crap sometimes.
Both men brawl down to the barn themed entrance set, which leads to one of Tony Schiavone’s more infamous lines of commentary where he talks about how the hay can be very abrasive. People make fun of him for that, but it kind of ignores the fact that Sting and Savage decided to hit each other with HAY and act like it was a devastating weapon. It’s not like Tony was given much to work with there you know. At least he was TRYING to make such a stupid spot sound like it might hurt somehow. The fight heads back down to ringside, where Sting shockingly misses the Stinger Splash whilst Savage slumps against the guardrail, making it roughly the 778th time such a thing has happened.
Savage chokes away back inside following that, but Sting quickly fights back and flings him outside for a vertical suplex on the mats around ringside. That’s quite a big bump for 1998 era Randy Savage to take to be honest. Savage goes after Sting’s nether regions back inside, but Sting shrugs off the damage to his Borden’s and fights back, which leads to ref Charles Robinson getting bumped in the process. Liz comes in to clock Sting with a chair and gets Stinger Splashed for her efforts, albeit by accident as Savage pulled her in the way. This is Hogan’s cue to run in and shove Savage off the top when he tries the elbow, which allows Sting to capitalise with the Scorpion Death Drop. Nash strolls down to powerbomb Sting though, and that’s enough for Savage to win the belt.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: RANDY SAVAGE
You’d think Sting Vs Savage in a wild brawl would potentially be entertaining, but it ended up feeling rushed and the crowd wasn’t really into it until the run ins started. Hogan is of course furious that Savage won the belt, but he ended up winning it himself the following night on Nitro when Bret Hart turned heel, thus putting us right back where we started before Starrcade. This Hogan run would at least only last a couple of months until he got Goldberg’d, but it’s such a shame that Sting’s big win ended up getting ruined only for the belt to find its way back to his Hulkness a mere few months later.
Spring Stampede 1999
Guest Referee: Randy Savage
Champ: Ric Flair Vs Diamond Dallas Page Vs Hollywood Hogan Vs Sting
The story here was that Flair had won the WCW presidency at the turn of the year and then started feuding with Hogan, which had led to them having a cage match the previous month at Uncensored. Flair used his position as president to win the match in screwy fashion, which led to him going heel (As previously mentioned, Flair hates being a babyface) and Hogan in turn went babyface. Sting had recently returned and DDP hadn’t really done much since the turn of the year, so they decided to throw all four guys into a four corners match to try and juice the buy rate for the show. Basically Sting and Hogan are faces, DDP is mostly a tweener and Flair is a heel, whilst Savage’s allegiance isn’t really known, although he has had feuds with all four of the men in the match.
Even the pre-match video package is basically just “These four guys are having a match for no adequately explored reason and Savage is reffing. Exciting huh? Huh?? Huh?!?!”
Savage has Gorgeous George with him, who is a blond lass that looks a bit like Liv Morgan actually. He was actually dating her in real life at the time and their relationship was…stormy to say the least. This is one fall wins it, rather than elimination rules, which is handy because it means only one person has to do a job. Hogan actually comes out to the Wolfpac theme here, but by August he’d be back to doing the red and yellow thing, which got a monster reaction the first time he did it but soon started to fade as people realised that old school babyface Hulk Hogan just wasn’t to going work in 1999 when the Attitude Era and ECW were happening on other channels.
Everyone takes turns pairing off with everyone else to start, and it’s not bad in all honesty, especially as you wouldn’t think this sort of match would play to Hogan and Flair’s strengths. Sting and DDP in particular do some nice stuff, as they were really on a roll during this era when it came to working with one another, as their Nitro classic not soon after this showed. Seeing as Hogan isn’t winning, he decides to bow out early by having DDP put him in a ring post Figure Four. This leads to Hogan being helped to the back, turning the match into a triple threat. Sadly this takes some of the air out of the match, as watching all four of these wacky guys interact with one another was part of the matches charm. It was nice of Hogan to give DDP such a scalp though, especially as I don’t think they ever really feuded following this, so Hogan never got his revenge.
Sting actually does manage to finally successfully Stinger Splash someone whilst they’re on the guardrail, but then ruins it by going for it again and missing. Oh Steve, you flew too close to the sun. They try and make the Hogan injury look like it’s legit, but if it was I think they would have probably got a stretcher for him and the crowd doesn’t buy it. DDP wisely hangs back whilst Sting and Flair go at it with their usual good match, getting a cheap shot in Sting after he sends Flair to the outside. This now becomes your standard triple threat, with two guys going at it whilst the other rests, which is a shame as I was enjoying the dynamic of all four guys going at it.
The work is decent though, because DDP and Flair almost always turn up for the big matches and Sting is thankfully motivated for this one and is putting in pay per view effort. We get the triple sleeper spot, which is always a cute thing to do in a multi person match and it gets a nice reaction from the crowd. Flair and DDP try to double on Sting, but he starts Stingering up for a big pop and runs wild on the other two. Man, when he could be arsed Sting was absolutely fantastic. He just had a connection with the crowd that most wrestlers could only ever dream of.
Flair looks to have Sting beat in the Figure Four, but Savage strangely decides that now is the time to act, and he drops the elbow on Flair from the top rope to put a stop to that. Savage and Flair would of course end up aligned against Kevin Nash later in the year, with Flair helping out Savage in that feud through some evil authority antics. However, at this stage they were feuding, so Savage breaks up the hold and DDP adds a Diamond Cutter to get the pin on Flair and an improbable World Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
DDP was a bit of a controversial choice as Champion, as he had a close friendship with Eric Bischoff and a lot of people pointed to that being the reason for him winning. Honestly I never really had a problem with DDP being the Champion as he’d been a genuine big star in WCW for a couple of years and he was mostly just a transitional Champ at the end of the day, so I didn’t really see anything particularly egregious about it. I will say that it would have made FAR more sense to have DDP win the belt when he was still hot as babyface feuding with the nWo though, rather than waiting until he’d cooled off significantly.
The match itself was basically fine, with some good work on display. However, it just wasn’t as fun for me when it came down to three guys, as I was enjoying the four way action up to that point and taking Hogan out of the match made it into just another standard triple threat match, when the four corners section had felt fresh and interesting. Still, this wasn’t a bad match by any means and all four guys had their working boots on. A solid enough way to end one of WCW’s greatest pay per view events ever.
Spring Stampede 2000
Jeff Jarrett Vs Diamond Dallas Page
Spring Stampede 2000 was the first pay per view of the New Blood Vs Millionaires Club feud, which saw Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo creating a stable of the younger and overlooked guys to take on the established Main Event guys. Strangely the younger guys were supposed to be the heels, even though in such a story you’d imagine that they’d be the babyfaces. The company had just been “rebooted” six days prior to Spring Stampede, which led to all the belts getting vacated and tournaments getting set up. DDP defeated Lex Luger and Sting on Nitro to qualify for this match, whilst Jeff Jarrett had to both forfeit his US Title and defeat Curt Hennig on the same show.
The New Blood had already won all the belts except for the Hardcore Title, so Jarrett needed to win this for the mostly clean sweep. We get the “watch both men walk from the locker room to the ring” entrances to make this seem like a big deal, but it’s Jeff Jarrett Vs DDP. I like both guys, but come on, this was a TNA Main Event even back in 2000. They haven’t even bothered to fly Michael Buffer in to do the ring announcing. Some of the DDP signs at ringside are so ridiculously generic that I have to ponder whether they were handed out before the match took place.
DDP gets the better of things early on and gets a jumping DDT for two. The fight spills outside and DDP holds Jarrett so that Kimberly can slap him. We head into the crowd following that, but the camera man can’t work his way through the crowd to film the brawl, so we get a long wide shot instead. Ah WCW, never stop WCW’ing you magnificent bastards!
A camera finally catches up with them and we see that they’re hitting each other with trash cans. Jarrett uses Kimberly as a human shield to get a cheap shot in, but DDP soon regains control. DDP heads up top but Jarrett jams the ropes and DDP ends up crotching himself on the top turnbuckle. Jarrett brings DDP down with a superplex and then goes outside to grab a chair. Jarrett hits DDP with the chair in the ring a couple of times, in full view of the ref, but isn’t disqualified for it and the ref eventually just takes it off him. This was during a period where WCW was “relaxing” the rules on what constituted a DQ, but often it just meant the definition of what was DQ worthy changed depending on the match in question.
DDP had just returned from a back injury, so Jarrett targets that area, but DDP gets a back elbow to buy himself some time. DDP gets a sit out powerbomb for two, which is Eric Bischoff’s cue to walk out, but he stays in the aisle way for now. The two brawl around ringside, with Jarrett ripping up a copy of DDP’s autobiography that a plant, err, I mean “fan” brought to the show with them.
Jarrett pulls DDP crotch first into the ring post, but when he tries it again, Kimberly pulls him away by his hair. Jarrett surprisingly lets that go and doesn’t go after her, but the distraction is enough to give DDP some time to recover and get away from the corner. Jarrett stomps away back inside but DDP fires back with some punches and then pulls Jarrett crotch first to give him a taste of his own medicine.
Jarrett blocks the Diamond Cutter by grabbing the ropes and the referee takes a stray elbow to momentarily daze him. With the ref woozy, Jarrett brings the title belt into the ring and clocks DDP with it for a two count. Why even bother doing that behind the refs back when you’ve already used both a trash can and chair blatantly in front of him? This is why this “relaxed DQ” thing was so bloody stupid.
Fans react to the kick out, so they’re at least somewhat engaged in this contest. Jarrett goes to the Figure Four Leglock, as Kimberly grabs the guitar and Bischoff advances to ringside. The fans get behind DDP and he manages to make the ropes. It’s amazing really, if you put a decent match in front of a WCW crowd and they’d almost always react to it because the actual wrestling was the thing they liked the most. It always baffles me that Vince Russo couldn’t see or understand that and instead focused on trying to “retrain” them to like late 90’s WWF Attitude styled violence and smut. Even the WWF was starting to tone itself down at this point and focus more on the in ring aspect.
DDP gets a couple of roll ups for two and then counters a second rope attack from Jarrett with a sambo suplex for two. Jarrett goes to a sleeper hold but DDP won’t stay down and counters to his own before turning it into a sort of neck breaker. Bischoff and the ref scuffle on the apron, as DDP calls in Kimberly so she can hit Jarrett with the guitar. But it’s a SWERVE and she actually hits DDP instead. I’d ask why you’d need the ref to be distracted when previous run ins on the show haven’t resulted in DQ’s, but then what’s the use at this point? Jarrett pins DDP to win the title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: JEFF JARRETT
As per the laws of wrestling physics, Kimberly becomes roughly 63% hotter the minute her heel personality kicks in. This match was pretty good, as they gave them time to tell a proper story and the crowd was with it throughout. The New Blood celebrate in the ring with their titles as the show comes to a close. Jarrett’s reign wouldn’t last all that long, as he’d drop the belt to DDP on Nitro a couple of weeks later, who then promptly lost it to David Arquette. Jarrett had won the belt something like four times by the time summer rolled around.
Kimberly’s reason for the heel turn was that she was sick of just being DDP’s wife/valet and she wanted all the attention on herself for a change, which led to a period where “paparazzi” would show up to take pictures of her when she came to the venue and she’d wear outfits that had “ME” written on them. It was kind of like the gimmick Karen Angle/Jarrett would go on to play in TNA, but Kimberly eventually ran afoul of Scott Steiner and decided she didn’t want to be around anymore, thus killing the gimmick and storyline abruptly.
It’s funny how DDP featured in three of these matches. You could make an argument that he was “Mr. Spring Stampede” based off this review. Most of the matches here were decent, with only one being bad and one of them being excellent, so I had fun for the most part. Spring Stampede 1994 and 1999 are both great shows and I heartily recommend them if you’ve never watched much WCW and want to start with some of their better shows.