Urgh, Road Wild
I have never really enjoyed this event, even though the visual of them setting up a ring in the middle of a biker rally always looked cool. The atmosphere on the shows was inconsistent to say the least and some of the work was below standard as the wrestlers just wanted to get in and get out without drunken bikers throwing rocks at them.
I’m not overly optimistic at the thought of watching these, but who knows, maybe some of them will have gotten better with age?
Let’s tentatively watch some chuffing wrestling
WCW Hog Wild 1996
Champ: The Giant w/ Jimmy Hart Vs Hollywood Hogan
Hogan had gone heel to join up with the New World Order at Bash at the Beach 96, so WCW decided to strike whilst the iron was hot and get the big belt on him ASAP. Unfortunately that required inexperienced heel Champ The Giant to essentially turn face in order to oppose him, which was a role he wasn’t really ready for. It also probably would have been better for Hogan’s big Title win to happen in an arena in front of real fans who might boo him, as opposed to in front of a group of casual fans on bikes who just wanted to rev their engines.
Hogan stalls early on, which is the sort of basic cheap heat stuff that probably works best for the bikers but isn’t especially entertaining to watch back at home on TV. Hogan has his fans in the crowd, despite clearly positioning himself as the villain. I’d be shocked if the bikers were actually following the product at the time, so to them they probably just thought it was the same old Hogan and he was wearing a themed outfit or something. On a house show they could have called an audible and have Hogan work as a face, but on pay per view they don’t really have that luxury and have to play out the storyline as written.
At one stage Hogan pulls Giant’s hair and then does the big heelish shake of the head when questioned by the ref, and when the ref turns to the crowd expecting to get them to tell him Hogan was cheating, they instead agree with Hogan and actually back him up! The action is pretty dull to be honest, with Giant having to spend time selling rest holds and vocal parts of the crowd cheering when Hogan cheats to stop him from fighting back.
Giant does finally get a comeback but it feels kind of flat due to the crowd not buying into him. In an arena with actual fans they might have been drawing some good heat here. In a funny spot Giant actually does the Hulk Up routine on Hogan and preps for the choke slam, which leads to Kevin Nash and Scott running down to help Hogan. Giant takes care of them, but that allows Hogan to clock him with a belt shot and pin him for three to a big pop from most of the crowd.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HOLLYWOOD HOGAN
This was a pretty boring match to be honest, with the crowd not helping with their reactions. They were building the whole match to Giant making this big comeback after selling in hope that it would pop the crowd, and instead the crowd didn’t really care and it meant all the previous storytelling was for naught.
Following the match Booty Man Ed Leslie tries to join the nWo with a birthday cake for Hogan, but he gets beaten up too so that Hogan can show how gosh darn evil he is. Leslie would eventually join the group down the line of course as The Disciple.
WCW Road Wild 1997
Champ: Lex Luger Vs Hollywood Hogan
Luger had defeated Hogan on the previous episode of Nitro in a great moment, but the vultures were already circling around him and it wasn’t due to be a long reign. Luger does get an impressive fireworks display during his entrance, but it feels like a concession for what is about to come. The crowd seems more into the storylines this year, as there is an audible “Hogan Sux” chant. Luger doesn’t really get much in the way of a shine, with Hogan mostly dominating and him getting the odd flurry in reply. It’s quite an anaemic performance from him actually.
I really do find Hogan’s heel act to be pretty boring actually. It’s not like what he’s doing is especially poorly executed, but the appeal of Hogan as a worker was that he’d sell and make the big comeback to pop the crowd. As a heel he’s required to spend a considerable amount of time controlling the match, and he’s just not exciting enough as an actual wrestler to really make that work. As a face where he gets a shine, sells and does the comeback he’s fine, but if you ask any more of him than that then you’re heading down a slippery slope, especially once the latter half of the 90’s kicked in.
Another issue is that the heat drags on for a while and Luger’s selling just isn’t there, with a lot of it being insular and not outward towards the crowd. The crowd are pretty muted as a result and it just adds to the general feeling of boredom that permeates the bout. Luger does finally get to make a comeback, but it quickly gets put to a stop by Hogan.
Goodness me this match has been structured horribly, with World Champ Luger getting battered non-stop. It’s like the sort of structure they’d use if they wanted to get the guy losing over by having him take most of the match before getting caught at the end, but Hogan is winning here so it only makes Luger look like even more of a plum that he’s been dominated for this long. The nWo comes down to the ring just as Luger threatens to do something other than get his arse handed to him, and he does at least get to fight them off. However, a guy in a Sting mask comes down to hit him with a baseball bat and Hogan ends up stealing the pin.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HOLLYWOOD HOGAN
So after one blissful week it’s back to #LolNwoWins once again, with Luger looking like a chump in the process. This was pretty much a burial and a really boring match to boot. If Luger HAD to lose, could they at least let him give Hogan a good kicking prior to it happening so that he wouldn’t look like such a weak Champion? The heel getting clobbered but then sneaking a win at the end through cheating doesn’t hurt anyone and would have made far more sense here. It probably would have worked better with the crowd as well, as they were ready to boo Hogan and have a good time watching him get pin balled, but they never got it.
WCW Road Wild 1998
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff w/ The Disciple and Elizabeth Vs Diamond Dallas Page and Jay Leno w/ Kevin Eubanks
Following the Main Event of Hogan and Dennis Rodman Vs DDP and Karl Malone at Bash at the Beach 98 doing good business, WCW decided to again try and ride the celebrity train by having Bischoff mock Jay Leno and the Tonight Show in order to set up a tag match for Road Wild. Leno didn’t really have the same pay per view magic that the two basketball players did and the media hype wasn’t as big this time around. It also led to some excruciating segments on Nitro where Bischoff would do his own talk show segments to diminishing returns.
DDP and Leno actually come down to the ring to the theme from Leno’s show, which isn’t exactly as blood pumping as DDP’s theme. The heat for this one actually isn’t too bad, with Leno having the freak show appeal that a crowd like this can appreciate. DDP and Hogan do a fun shine, with Hogan stooging and the crowd being into it. Man, it’s amazing how some crowd heat can lift a match sometimes, even if the actual wrestling isn’t amazing or even particularly good.
Bischoff does only punches and kicks when he comes in, just like his character on WCW Revenge for the N64. Hogan and Leno actually do a segment together, with Hogan even being willing to sell for Leno in a wrist lock at one stage. Never underestimate how much of a media whore Hulk Hogan is I guess. He’ll do anything to get some attention, no matter how silly he has to look in the process. If that means selling for a TV talk show host then so be it.
The crowd enjoys it all for the most part, with DDP eventually getting cut off and worked over, mostly by Hogan although Bischoff gets some kicks and punches in occasionally too. The work isn’t especially great aside from DDP, but Hogan’s stuff is serviceable and Bischoff is smart enough not to try anything he can’t do. They also don’t drag the heat out for too long either, which is a smart call considering that really only Hogan and DDP know how to wrestle.
Leno and Bischoff get to do their thing, with it being as awful as you’d expect, but the crowd doesn’t hate it and chants along when Leno rams Bischoff’s head into the corner. Heel miscommunication sees Hogan punch Bischoff by mistake, which leads to Eubanks (Leno’s manager) coming into the ring and hitting Bischoff with a Diamond Cutter so that Leno can pin him whilst DDP deals with Hogan and Disciple.
WINNERS: DDP & LENO
It wasn’t especially good from an in-ring perspective, but it was fine for a celebrity bout and the crowd dug it for what it was. They pop the crowd again following the bout by having Goldberg save the faces from a post-match heel beat down.
WCW Road Wild 1999
Loser Leaves WCW
Champ: Hulk Hogan Vs Kevin Nash
Hogan had turned face and gone back to the red and yellow classic Hulkster gimmick for this one. The Nitro where he comes back with that gimmick is pretty great actually, as the crowd loves it and WCW looks like the hottest company in the world for one last night. On that same episode of Nitro they also tacked on a stipulation to this match where the loser had to leave, even though the build-up hadn’t really warranted such a big stip.
The crowd here loves Hogan, even though his red and yellow act looked pretty outdated in the jaded second half of the 90’s. It would do much better in the 00’s of course. Cool heel Nash having to do the 80’s styled heel stooging just seems so strange to me, but he dutifully goes along with it and the crowd is into Hogan, so they work the traditional Hogan match and it’s fine. If you like a Hogan match then this will likely tick the boxes for you.
Even in 99 Hogan was still a great performer that knew how to pop the crowd with his babyface act, so having an easy crowd who are there to see him do his thing only helps with things. The crowd really has no interest in Nash himself, and see him as just the villain of the day who is there so Hogan can do his usual spots.
The work is basic for the most part, but it’s not awful or anything and it honestly doesn’t really need to be anything more. People haven’t come for high spots, they’ve come for the Hulk Up, punches, big boot and Leg Drop of DOOM™, and that’s what they get as Hogan kicks out of the powerbomb and finishes Nash with the usual.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: HULK HOGAN
It entertained me well enough, but it was a kind of paint by numbers outing and really didn’t have the epic feel that a Career Vs Career match should have, probably because the stipulation really felt like an afterthought. Still, this was what the crowd showed up to see and that’s what they got, so you can’t really complain that much
Not much in the way of good wrestling here, but the last two matches were fine for what they were. Obviously you’d hope a pay per view Main Event could get above **, but that just wasn’t going to happen in this sort of setting, which is probably why I’ve never really been into these Road Wild events.
It just amuses me that a show in front of some bikers in Sturgis was what WCW felt would match up to Summer Slam, the WWE’s second biggest show of the year. It was like WCW voluntarily accepted defeat before a shot was even fired.
I’m thinking I might take a break from reviewing pay per view Main Events for a while. I’ll either bring it back in September with Unforgiven or in October with Halloween Havoc before tackling the mountain that will be Survivor Series. In the meantime I’ll find something else to stick in my Saturday slot (Ooo err matron) but I’m not sure what yet. We might return to reviewing some classic ROH or we might look elsewhere. There’s plenty of wrestling out there.
Either way, I’ll have something for next Saturday along with ECW Hardcore TV from 2000 on Wednesday’s, so keep a look out for some more Mike Reviews!