It’s another Stinker review next week, so as is usually the case I’ve decided to watch a show I actually like this week because I sometimes deserve nice things too!
WCW was still a distant second to the WWF when this show took place, but they had a few things going for them that might have led to a concerted revival in their fortunes. Firstly, Bill Watts’ reign of terror had finally come to an end after his big mouth had written a racist cheque that Turner wasn’t prepared to cash, so they would be permitted to present a more modern product again. Secondly, Ric Flair was returning to WCW after a stint in the WWF, which would hopefully give the company a much needed shot in the arm. Thirdly, British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith had climbed aboard the WCW ship after being booted out of the WWF for a supposed drug failure, meaning that WCW could grab themselves a stronger foothold in Europe, which had become a lucrative territory for the WWF in recent years.
Of course, the new management brought with them a slew of additional issues and it took Flair stepping up and bailing the company out at Starrcade later that year for WCW to see out 1993 in one piece, which led to them bringing in Hulk Hogan to the company in 1994. However, for their first pay per view effort of 1993, WCW more than delivered.
The Main Event for this show is a strap match between Vader and Sting (Set up by Sting visiting Vader in his White Castle of Fear. No, I’m not kidding) along with The Great Muta flying in to defend the NWA Title against Barry Windham. In addition to that we’ve got The Heavenly Bodies and Rock ‘n’ Roll Express paying WCW a visit from Smokey Mountain Wrestling in one of the last deals that Watts brokered before his run came to an end.
So without further ado, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from Asheville, North Carolina on the 21st of February 1993
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura
Eric Bischoff and Missy Hyatt introduce us to the show, where we are informed that Maxx Payne will be replacing Ron Simmons in the US Title match later. Missy adds that she’s going to get an important interview, Johnny B. Badd comes over to join them and hypes up the Bulldog’s debut later.
Maxx Payne, despite being a heel, plays the National Anthem on his guitar. This of course gets him cheered. Oh WCW…
The Hollywood Blonds (Flyin’ Brian and Stunning Steve) Vs Marcus Alexander Bagwell and Erik Watts
The Blonds may be better known to you as Brian Pillman and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Bagwell would go on to turn heel in the second half of the 90’s and join the nWo, whilst Watts would eventually leave WCW and go the WWF as one half of the tandem known as Tekno Team 2000 with Chad Fortune. The Blonds had come close on a few occasions to beating Shane Douglas and Ricky Steamboat for the tag belts and would eventually win them as the year wore on. Being the fact they are a regular unit, you’d expect The Blonds to be the favourites here, especially as the commentators are talking about them getting another Title shot.
Austin and Bagwell do a decent opening section where Bagwell gets to shine, and the crowd is okay with it, but once Watts gets in the crowd quickly turns on him despite him being a face. This was a reaction to Watts getting heavily over-pushed due to his dad running the joint, and he sadly goes on to do a pretty rough segment with Pillman, where Pillman has to essentially wrestle himself to make it work. That is the ongoing theme of the opening sections of the bout, as Bagwell comes in and looks mechanically sound (If a bit generic) whilst Watts comes in and looks pretty sloppy. Austin and Pillman are good enough that they can mostly cover for Watts and the stuff with Bagwell is decent, so the match is fun for the most part.
This is classic tag wrestling, where we get the elongated babyface shine and they tease the cut off many times, only for the faces to always turn it around, until finally both Blonds send Watts out of the ring with a double back elbow. Getting the heat on Watts is questionable in that the crowd dislikes him so much that you’re not going to get much sympathy on him, but you also wouldn’t really want him working the hot tag segment either, so it’s probably the lesser of two evils. He sells well enough in the heat though and The Blonds are super entertaining as snide heels, so the match continues to be fun.
Bagwell does eventually get the hot tag and does a very nice job of it, showing good fire whilst the heels bump all over the place for him. We even get a ten punch, which is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Watts still gets booed when he comes in to help and then ends up distracting the referee by mistake, which allows Austin to come off the top rope with a cheap shot to Bagwell whilst he has Pillman pinned, which allows Pillman to get the win. So not only did Watts look bad in the match but he was directly responsible for them losing too. Honestly, these days they would have just turned him heel.
WINNERS: THE HOLLYWOOD BLONDS
This was a fun opening tag match, as The Blonds did everything they could to make their babyface foes look good and then won thanks to some heel chicanery. They were such an entertaining act and it’s a real shame they were split up so quickly
Missy tries to get an interview with Ric Flair, but his security won’t allow it to happen.
Chris Benoit Vs Too Cold Scorpio
Benoit had come in for a tag team tournament and had impressed enough in the process to get some more bookings. He wouldn’t stick around though and would end up in ECW for a bit before coming back to WCW in 1995. Scorpio had come in to WCW in 1992 as a partner for Ron Simmons and would team up with Bagwell later on in the year before also leaving for ECW. Benoit plays to the crowd quite a bit here in an effort to draw heel heat, whilst Scorpio does his trademark dance during his entrance to get over with the crowd.
The action here is excellent from the opening bell, with both men able to go on the mat whilst Benoit is good with strikes and Scorpio has a strong high flying game. It’s just really good wrestling and the crowd responds to it positively. Some of the counter sequences are great, especially as it feels like both men are actually trying to win the match whilst doing them rather than just doing flashy spots for flashy spots’ sake.
Benoit eventually gains control of the match after Scorpio misses a spin kick and he tries to grind him down with strikes and holds, with Scorpio selling it all well. Benoit succeeds in drawing heel heat from the crowd and he plays up to it. It’s fun seeing Benoit when he was a more traditional styled heel worker actually, as he was more into his serious crippler act when he returned to WCW in 95. One of the biggest compliments I can give this match is that it goes nearly 20 minutes and it feels more like 5 because both men work so well and the action is so much fun.
Eventually Benoit gets a super back suplex from the top but hurts himself in the process, which delays him in making the cover and allows Scorpio to kick out at two. I love little things like that as it protects the big move as you can suggest the kick out came because of the delay rather than the move itself not being powerful enough. They up the ante with bigger and bigger moves as the match progresses and it looks like it might go to a time limit draw, with the crowd getting more and more into the near falls as the clock ticks away. However, Scorpio catches Benoit with a pin counter right at the end and wins it at 19:59 to a big pop from the crowd who thought they weren’t getting a finish.
WINNER: TOO COLD SCORPIO
This was excellent and well worth a watch if you’ve never seen it. Really great wrestling and a good story told around both men trying to win it before the time ran out and that allowing Scorpio to catch Benoit because he was pre-occupied with the clock
Maxx Payne cuts a pretty lousy promo ahead of his US Title match. He goes for crazy but just comes across as cheesy.
Bill Irwin Vs Davey Boy Smith
Irwin would eventually go on to be The Goon in the WWF, but here he’s playing a cowboy gimmick, complete with a bull whip. Davey is pretty over with the crowd and gets a good reception. Tony is already hyping up the European Tour in March, making it pretty clear why they brought Davey on board.
Irwin actually gets a reasonable amount of offence in here, even though he’s essentially here to be a warm body to get Davey over. Davey does all of his traditional spots like the Gorilla Press and the hanging vertical, and the crowd is into it. Irwin sells it all well too. Davey’s cornrows are kind of out of control here, to the point that I want to post that Monica gif. He eventually catches an Irwin cross body and finishes him with a Running Powerslam.
WINNER: DAVEY BOY SMITH
This was fine as a way to introduce Davey to a new WCW audience, as he hit all his trademark spots and then won clean with his finish
Davey cuts a promo with Tony Schiavone, where he’s super blown up following that. He makes the famous comment of wanting to win the “World Championship Heavyweight Champion of the World” which Maffew immortalised in one of the earliest editions of Botchamania. This was not a good promo, but the crowd was exceedingly generous and cheered for it at the end.
Badd and Missy talk about the UK Tour. Yes, yes, we get it, Davey will be on the tour you bunch of septics. If we buy loads of tickets for it will you shut up about it?! Boiled beef, warm beer and hey Harry how’s your father, boy the Queen Mum sure has a lovely smile don’t she, jellied eels and Marmite on me toast guvnor!
Falls Count Anywhere
Paul Orndorff Vs Cactus Jack
Cactus had gone face after beating up some of the heels with a shovel, with Orndorff being one of them, and he interrupts an Orndorff promo by chasing him to the ring with said shovel in order to start this off. This is a really good brawl, with Cactus taking plenty of his trademark big bumps, including some where Orndorff suplexes him neck and back first onto the metal railings at ringside, which is a pretty crazy bump to take as it could do serious damage if you got it wrong. I mean, it looks great in that you think it will kill Cactus, but that’s probably because it actually could.
Cactus does the silliest move in wrestling by leaping off the second rope to the outside in order to do a sunset flip, which of course leads to him splatting on the concrete with a gruesome sound and allows Orndorff to take over back inside even though the move itself gave Cactus a near fall. Orndorff takes quite a lot of this actually, and I think the match may have benefitted by being a bit more back and forth. I can appreciate the story they are trying to tell though, with Cactus taking a battering but refusing to stay down, leading to Orndorff having to dish out more and more pain.
Orndorff does look great here actually, and I remember from reading Mick Foley’s first book that Orndorff actually thanked Foley following this feud as he credited it with helping to get him signed up to a full time WCW deal. Heck, I’d sign him to a contract after watching this, so I totally buy that. Orndorff decides to target Cactus’ legs after a certain point; even locking in a Figure Four at one stage, but Cactus holds on and refuses to tap out.
Cactus of course takes the Nestea Plunge at one stage for good measure, as he seemed to be on a quest to destroy himself back then, and Orndorff takes a chair to his leg back inside. I do love the finish of this one as Orndorff starts calling for a piledriver and the fans start cheering, but he doesn’t realise that it’s because Cactus has grabbed the shovel, leading to him turning around into a shovel shot to give Cactus the three count to a big crowd pop.
WINNER: CACTUS JACK
This was a really good intense brawl but I think it would have been better had Cactus been allowed some more offence so it wasn’t so one sided. It did its job of getting Cactus over as a face though based on that finish
Missy is still annoyed that she didn’t get to interview Ric Flair earlier, whilst Johnny B. Badd thinks that Maxx Payne is ugly, which sowed the seeds for their feud later in the year. There’s a pretty abrupt cut following that to the next match though. Answers on a postcard as to what they removed.
The Heavenly Bodies (Stan Lane and Tom Pritchard) w/ Jim Cornette and Bobby Eaton Vs The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express
The Bodies’ music is heavily inspired by YES here but it’s managed to survive getting dubbed out. This feud came about because Jim Cornette and Bill Watts had a good relationship from when Cornette used to work in Mid-South, so Watts decided to give Cornette and his Smokey Mountain Wrestling company some exposure by bringing them in for a mild invasion angle, especially as this show would be taking place on SMW’s doorstep. Thus there was the surreal image of The Bodies and Cornette storming Centre Stage to cut the big “They don’t even work here” promo. However, that promo ended up getting edited on the WCW edition of the show, which basically made up Cornette’s mind to no longer work with WCW going forward and he actually ended up working with the WWF later in the year.
Eaton gets sent to the back before the match can start and that leads to The RNR shining on The Bodies, with the Asheville crowd being totally into it. The action is really good as well due to all four of these guys being well versed in the art of tag team wrestling and this is the perfect crowd for them to work this style of match in front of. The Bodies are fantastic stooging heels, and even Cornette comes in to take some pratfalls as well, which the crowd loves. The only criticism I can give it is that it sometimes almost veers into looking too choreographed with the way it’s structured, but the crowd doesn’t seem to mind.
Eventually The Bodies are able to cut off Morton (Ricky Morton taking the heat in a tag team match? Next you’ll be telling me water is wet!) and work some heat on him. Morton of course sells the heat really well, as he was seemingly put on this Earth to get battered by heel tag teams. Morton gets a hope spot here and there to show he’s still alive and a double DDT finally allows him to make the hot tag to Gibson, who runs wild on the heels with some good stuff. The Bodies try to double on Gibson, but he slips out of that and we head into the finishing segment. Eaton tries to help out his buddies but hits Pritchard by mistake and that allows Gibson to get the pin to pop the crowd.
WINNERS: THE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL EXPRESS
Tony and Jesse ponder how the late replacement will affect Dustin Rhodes in the next match.
WCW United States Title
Champ: Dustin Rhodes Vs Maxx Payne
Rick Rude had been stripped of the US Title due to injury and Rhodes had subsequently won it, which would lay the groundwork for a Rude/Rhodes feud down the line. Payne would eventually go on to join the WWF as Man Mountain Rock, whilst Rhodes would go down a long winding road that would see him wrestle in most of the major companies in America before finally joining AEW, where he remains to this day.
Payne has the hairdo and entrance gear, but his actual wrestling gear is pretty generic and he doesn’t really maintain the air or danger or threat once he actually starts wrestling. Rhodes controls things with basic stuff like arm drags and whatnot in the early going, and it’s fine if not especially thrilling. I actually enjoy the 92-94 era Dustin and he had plenty of good matches from this period, but Payne doesn’t really match up well with him stylistically and the match is a bit dull as a result. Mechanically it’s not terrible though, and it makes sense from a psychology standpoint as Payne eventually cuts Rhodes off and goes after his arm in order to weaken it for his arm based submission hold.
Dustin sells well during the heat, but the crowd isn’t especially into the action and you can see that some of the seats opposite the hard cam have emptied, possibly because those fans would rather go and purchase some concessions rather than watch this match. Dustin does eventually make a comeback, showing some good fire, and he succeeds in getting some of a reaction from sections of the crowd (Mostly the female contingent it must be said). They do an abdominal stretch as a submission tease, but Payne decides to manhandle the referee rather than tap, thus giving us a super lame DQ finish.
WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: DUSTIN RHODES
Not a bad match as such, but it was pretty boring and the finish was absolute cack. I’m guessing they didn’t want Payne doing a job, but why did he HAVE to be the replacement? Just put someone in there that Dustin can actually beat so that the crowd at least gets a finish
Payne tries to beat Dustin up following the match, but The Champ fights him off and sends him fleeing with a dropkick.
Ric Flair makes his return to WCW prior to the next match. He wasn’t actually allowed to wrestle yet due to an agreement with the WWF for being allowed out of his contract early, but he’d do stuff like this and would eventually get his own chat show too before finally wrestling again later in the year. The crowd is fired up to see him and he cuts an energetic promo about the next match, as he’ll be ringside doing commentary for it.
NWA World Heavyweight Title
Champ: The Great Muta w/ Hiro Matsuda Vs Barry Windham
Muta had defeated Masahiro Chono for the belt at the Tokyo Dome on the 4th of January, whilst Windham had never worn the big belt despite having many attempts over the years. Windham had gone heel towards the tail end of 1992 after being a face for most of the year. This was during a period where both the NWA and WCW belts were classed as separate Titles, so WCW essentially had two World Champions. Vader was currently the WCW Champion at this time. The big difference here is that NWA rules allow you to come off the top rope, which wasn’t currently allowed in WCW due to Bill Watts’ mental decree to ban it. Thankfully that rule would soon be done away with.
This match is pretty infamous for being overly long and outrageously dull, but maybe time will have been kind to it? Muta could be known to take it easy a bit when he’d come over to the States sometimes, but he seems to be trying in the early stages here. They do the old tenacious headlock spot early on, with Muta holding on whilst Windham tries to shake him off. Ironically, Windham did a similar spot with Ric Flair during one his babyface attempts at the belt back in the 80’s, but now he’s a heel finding himself stuck in the same situation as Flair was. I wonder if that was an intentional call back or just happenstance.
We reach the ten minute mark without much really happening, but the actual wrestling itself has been fine, with Muta getting a prolonged shine. The crowd heat isn’t really there for it though, which means it feels pretty flat. It’s not as boring as I remember it thus far though, so that’s a bonus at least. Eventually Windham decides to throw some strikes due to the technical wrestling section of the match going Muta’s way, and that leads to him spiking Muta with a DDT and then adding a back suplex onto the floor for good measure like the good heel he is. Windham works some heat back inside the ring, and it’s well executed, with Muta selling it well also, especially when Windham puts him in a sleeper at one stage.
The heat (Along with the match itself to be honest) probably goes on for too long, as they could have told the story they wanted to tell in 15 minutes but have decided to go 25 instead and it’s caused the match to drag a bit, even though the wrestling itself has been fine. There are just too many slow points for it to ever really get good, but it’s not bad either and there are sections that are fun, which are mostly when Muta gets to do some quicker paced offence like a cross body or the Power Elbow. Windham looks to finish things with a Superplex, but Muta fights him off and then comes off the top with a big chop before getting the handspring elbow to wake the crowd up.
The Moonsault looks to end things for Muta, but Windham manages to get out of the way (Only just though). Muta actually gets booed a bit as he goes for another Moonsault, but Windham gets his knees up this time and follows up with an Implant DDT to pick up the win and Title for a pretty sizable pop. Maybe that was their issue; they should have just booked Windham as the face and hoped the crowd would cheer for the American rather than trying to make Muta the face?
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: BARRY WINDHAM
Match went on for too long and dragged a bit, but the work was mostly to a good standard and the crowd was happy to see the Title change hands.
Flair actually puts the belt on Windham following that, but Windham doesn’t really like that and this sows the seeds for them to eventually meet one another for the Title.
Non-Title Strap Match
WCW Champ Big Van Vader w/ Harley Race Vs Sting
Vader and Sting had started their feud back in 1992 when Vader injured Sting at The Omni and then defeated him for the WCW Title at Great American Bash 92. Sting had rebounded by defeating Vader at Starrcade 92 in the King of Cable Tournament, so Vader has now upped the ante by introducing a leather strap into proceedings. The match itself is non-sanctioned, which is why the Title isn’t on the line even though this is essentially the singles blow off between them for a while at least. As with most strap matches, this is being fought under “drag your opponent to all four corners to win” rules.
They do some fun spots in the early going to show that Vader has a better understanding of the match stips as he flings Sting around using the strap and then pulls him in so he can clobber him. Sting fights back by pulling the strap right up into Vader’s Rocky Mountains though and then hits an enziguri of all things to pop the crowd. Who does he think he is, Antonio Inoki?! Sting manages to hit a couple of splashes from the top rope following that and then adds some shots with the strap itself, with the crowd going BANANA for it all. Race of course takes his trademark beating as well; as he was want to do in Vader’s matches.
Vader appears to have cut his back open from that, even though Sting looked to be pulling the strap shots somewhat, and he rolls outside for some rest bite. Sting follows though and almost wins it out there by dragging Vader around ringside and touching the posts, which is a cool spot that I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else try in one of these things. Maybe Stone Cold and Savio Vega perhaps? It’s been a while since I’ve seen that one but it’s really good so I should probably give it another watch sometime. Vader actually takes a pretty heavy kicking in this one, which wasn’t always the case in this feud, with Sting usually being the one to get clobbered and make sporadic comebacks whilst Vader controlled things.
Vader does eventually regain control after Sting misses another splash and then takes him up to the second rope for a big Samoan Drop. These two just beat the toffee pudding out of one another in their matches, doing stuff that they didn’t really do with anyone else. They really were made for one another, as Sting was big enough that you could believe he could actually throw Vader around but it was still believable that he’d be an underdog fighting from underneath against him too. Vader heads up to squish Sting once and for all, but Sting tugs on the strap to send him tumbling down into the ring, which is another good example of them using the stip to add to the story of the match itself. I think it’s very important to actually make the item itself an integral part of the match in one of these, otherwise it just becomes a match with a strap/chain/rope as opposed to an actual strap/chain/rope match itself if that makes any sense?
Both men’s selling in this one is absolutely first class, with Sting doing an awesome job and being punch drunk but still being gutsy and fighting on. It’s an underappreciated aspect of his game. He eventually makes the comeback and gets Vader with a super impressive release German Suplex before showing some good fire and ruthlessness by throwing punches at a downed Vader in the corner. Sting actually gets Vader in a fireman’s carry following that and carries Vader to three corners, but the ref takes a stray boot from Vader along the way and that leads to Sting tripping over the ref just as he’s about to reach the fourth corner, leading to Vader falling on top of them. Vader looks to be bleeding from the ear now and essentially hogties an out cold Sting in order to touch all four corners and win, which is a pretty definitive victory all things considered, although Sting accidentally kicks Vader into the fourth corner almost to allow him to save face somewhat.
This is one of the best versions of this style of match that I’ve seen. Definitely one you need to seek out
Barry Windham cuts a promo saying he’s not stopping with just the NWA Title and that he’ll be coming after many other belts as well.
Tony and Jesse wrap things up and we’re out.
Shoutout to “A Classy Limosine Company” for providing Flair’s wheels earlier according to the closing credits!
This is an easy thumbs up, with two matches at ****+ by my watch and three others at ***+, which you can’t really argue with for an eight match card.