Kevin Nash vs. Wrath (and other Dream Matches!)

PPV REVIEW: WCW Halloween Havoc 1998 ~ Retro Pro Wrestling Reviews

When a five-minute match ends up still being talked about 20 years later.

Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This one features the famous Nitro bout between Main Eventer Kevin Nash and the rising star Wrath! And totally isn’t just an excuse for me to write a mini-column whining about that match and then put up random other weird shit I found to pad it out!

Also here: one of the Headhunters being the hardest working guy in a match involving four former major stars and then-current major lucha acts, plus did you know that Flash Funk and the GOON crossed paths? Well now you do!

KEVIN NASH vs. WRATH:

(WCW Nitro, Nov. 23 1998)
* So THIS turned out to be one of those things that always sticks to Kevin Nash, and is still talked about to this day. So Nash was heading towards his big Title match with Goldberg at Starrcade. Wrath, meanwhile, was getting bigger and bigger reactions for going from a midcarder to ANOTHER Goldberg-style squash artist, just wrecking guys on the undercard for months, to the point where he was getting great reactions. As he was a huge guy who could really move, and had good monster charisma, he was over and he had a lot of potential. Buuuuuuuuuuuut since Goldberg famously had an unbeaten streak, Nash was thought to need to “warm up” by fighting ANOTHER guy with a “streak” going. And so Wrath, in the middle of a hot streak, is booked against a main eventer who can’t afford to lose.

Tonight, Nash is is black (with the Wolfpac nWo logo) and Wrath in black & turquoise. Wrath looks like an absolute fucking superstar, while Nash’s hair has seen better days- but hey, the man is over.

They lock up after taunting to start (Nash uses the DX crotch-chop), Wrath powering Nash into the corner and pounding away. Nash elbows out after a corner whip, but Wrath levels him with a fucking HUGE pump kick, absolutely wowing the crowd and commentators. A dropkick sends Nash over the top rope- okay, he’s bumping, I’ll give him that. He takes his sweet time getting into the ring, but dekes Wrath out by teasing another lockup and hits a big knee, then adds more in the corner, doing his “picture-frame” taunt before a last one. Wrath escapes Snake Eyes and hits a backdrop suplex, and a Flying Clothesline gets two. Stomps and flash-elbows get another two, but Nash gets his foot up in the corner and hits his side slam for the same. Wrath ducks a clothesline and hits a jumping shoulderblock for only one, and Nash reverses a whip with a corner clothesline- Big Boot! And then, famously, Nash hits the Powerbomb for the three (5:44) and gives Wrath the “Wow, this guy was tough” look of surprise, in a measured head-shake he does twice, despite never once being in major trouble. This makes it come off as super-sarcastic.

Rating: **1/2 (Actually a good little Big Man Match! Kept short but sweet, let each guy hit some good stuff and then reverse on the other to get their own moves, and the stuff they hit all looked good. But hoo boy- less than five minutes? During the push WRATH was getting?)

If there’s one thing Brandon Stroud was good at, it was grooming teena– I mean, explaining the hows and why of why certain angles and stories worked and why others didn’t. He elaborated the build-up and the results of this one pretty well- not only did Wrath LOSE here, but he lost in mere minutes, and within a month or so had lost a screwjob finish to the bottom-tier DISCO INFERNO. This wasn’t just Nash needing cred- this was someone having their knees cut off and ruined before you could ever see how high they could have gotten. This one CLEARLY never needed to happen- Nash could have gained credibility against any number of opponents. Nash has said he wasn’t booking during this time, but you know that old Mark Twain quote: “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies, and Things Wrestlers Say in Shoot Interviews”.

So this wasn’t just a top guy beating an up & coming guy and giving him a “nod of respect”- in Japan, you frequently had matches like this where one guy looks great in defeat after bringing a Main Eventer to the limit… but in THOSE matches, the lesser guy tends to kick out of a finisher, or take the guy to 15-20 minutes before going down- a valiant effort, let’s say. Having a five-friggin’ minute match and going down to the Powerbomb, then just getting dumped to midcard thereafter? Never needed to happen- you could have booked anything else, and given Wrath a TV or US Title run to see where he’d end up.

But it’s no coincidence that WCW was a place where a poorly-timed loss could unnecessarily kill a potential big star. This is the place that killed Sting’s huge Main Event run with years of build-up inside of a month, remember. Certain guys in the back (Nash takes the lion’s share of the blame for this one, but SOMEONE could have said “no” back there) just didn’t want certain folks elevated, and that was that. Nash beating Wrath handily this one time of course didn’t kill WCW, and he wasn’t a good enough talker to be a legit Main Eventer, but WCW died a death by a thousand cuts, and one of those cuts was this night. And of course the WWF picked up all those same habits later on, with guys like RVD, Kane, Booker & even Goldberg getting the same treatment.

LA PARKA (not the cool one), LATIN LOVER, THE ANIMAL & EL ZORRO vs. HEAD HUNTER 1, RIKISHI, RON “THE TRUTH” KILLINGS & SABU (w/ Konnan):
(AAA, July 27 2007)
* haha, WHAT? This is the most random mish-mash of guys since that Yoko/Scorpio/Bad News team I found months back. Team 1 is a bunch of big Lucha stars, but Team 2 is one half of the garbage wrestlers the Headhunters, Rikishi is recently exiled from the WWF after his star faded, Ron Killings is from TNA at this point, as his main event push fizzled out, and Sabu is the ECW superstar, though he’d been released from WWE only two months before this. So they’re the Isle of Misfit Former Big Names… and Headhunter 1. This La Parka is the second one (the one who died last year, not the WCW Chairman), Latin Lover is a Shawn Michaels-esque big star, and El Zorro (“the Fox”) is… some guy I’ve never heard of. Lotsa Titles, though! Former AAA World Champ. Animal has no Cagematch data that I can see. LuchaWiki says he’s Toro Irisson (??) doing an “infamous one-shot”. No idea.

The clip starts with other match clips, including CIMA of all people fighting an obese guy in KISS gear. Also some brawling from the “Pregnant Old Men” genre of lucha. Headhunter’s in purple & black and looks to have slimmed down from the ’90s, Rikishi’s in his black thong, Killings is in black jeans & Sabu is in silver. Zorro’s got a skeevy beard and is in a black swordfighting outfit like the Zorro of pulp novel & film fame, Lover’s in teeny black undies (and his theme song is bleeped), La Parka’s in the Calavera gear (and comes down to friggin’ “THRILLER”) & Animal’s in some kinda scarred-up bodysuit/mask with fur on it (a “Gran Surpresa”- Mystery Entrant!).

La Parka mimicks a dog peeing, so Killings bails in disgust- Sabu takes over with arm stuff. La Parka & Rikishi do a dance-off, then Rikishi actually drops to Parka’s cartoonishly-delicate strikes and even begs off like a coward! Headhunter & Lover go next, Lover preening and getting clotheslined for it, leading to the Hunter mimicking it like Aja Kong would in that situation. I approve. Clothesline & splash get two. Lover uses speed & chops to come back, clotheslining HH over the top (he actually bends back over the ropes BEFORE impact so it works). Killings & Lover in now (remember, hitting the floor = a tag in lucha)- Killings hits Lover with his spinning forearm, but they clothesline each other. Lover’s kick is caught and he hits an enzuigiri, then superkicks Killings & Sabu. Animal does some bad mannerisms to Rikishi, who misses a buttdrop but gets a superkick. HH bails from Zorro, so Killings does his “dancing dodge” into a spinkick. Zorro sells this as a deathblow right through the commercial break.

Back with the ref missing a tag, but also misses Ron’s small package. Killings slugs away as Zorro is like a dead body in there (from one shot?), but the crowd is into a potential comeback- Rikishi cuts it off with punches, and HH drops the leg for two. More pounding leads to an HH avalanche, but Rikishi misses his ass-first version- Lover & Parka tee off on him, then the natives beat down the foreigners all over the ring. Some guy working for the heels keeps coming in, but he’s chased off, too. Double-kick from Zorro & Parka puts Rikishi down, then Headhunter splashes him by mistake and gets superkicked out by Lover. Killings boots him and hits his wicked ax kick. Parka nails him but gets hammered by that interfering guy, who gets a big superkick from Zorro. Rikishi eats some shots, but superkicks him down and preps a Banzai Drop- landing dick-first on the knees! Parka misses a shot on Killings and goes out, but Konnan hits a haymaker on Zorro and Rikishi finishes him with a Butt Drop at (17:33).

Oh man, this was bad. Like… the usual “no contact is made” issues with AAA stuff, but also guys doing the “RAW Sell” with no damage done, EIGHT GUYS in the ring yet we see restholds and 1-minute pauses for posing, and more. Of all people, the HEADHUNTER seemed to have his working boots on- Killings was also good as normal during this time period, doing flashy stuff to wow the fans. The Animal looked barely trained (and they kept his segment to a single minute and he never did anything else- looks like Mexico keeps the “Disappointing Mystery Man” trope going, too- nice to see some things cross cultural barriers), and Zorro looked pathetically clumsy, his entire offense consisting of spirited comebacks while selling death from a single shot.

Ratings: 1/2* (this looked like a big show, but only 1/4 of the ring was showing any kind of effort. Sloppy, uncoordinated, lazy work)

whip it on Twitter: "The original Funkadactyls were known as the  "Funkettes" (Tracy & Nadine) & would dance through Flash Funk's entrance  https://t.co/jJZMNXCXC0"

Flash Funk with the Funkettes. At the time, I considered them total weaksauce compared to Sunny and Sable. I have since… reversed that decision.

FLASH FUNK (w/ Tracey & Nadine) vs. THE GOON:
(WWF RAW, Dec. 2, 1996)

* Wow, the Goon lasted into 1997 according to Wikipedia. This is only weeks after 2 Cold Scorpio debuted in the WWF, going by the silly appellation “Flash Funk” as a dancer in a hideous outfit rather than his indie & WCW name, Because WWF. He has the Funkettes dancing with him- not only would this gimmick be revived with the Funkadactyls, but Nadine actually went on to an acting career in BET shows. Vince McMahon insists Lawler “Shake that thang!” as a pimp-dressed Funk dances with the Funkettes, wearing a banana-yellow bodysuit with an open chest. Of course they stop in front of Vince, who has a… thing with black people dancing on his shows, I think.

The Goon charges Flash before the bell, and the Funkettes merely look surprised and borderline amused. He drops an elbow, but Flash gets out of a chinlock and pounds away. Joshi-style spinning sunset flip out of the corner gets two, but the Goon catches him with a clothesline. They trade armlocks as Vince recaps an Austin/Bret/Sid angle in London, and Flash dropkicks Goon out and follows with a clothesline off the second rope to the floor. Goon goes to the eyes but charges into the post, and Flash leads with an insane MOONSAULT TO THE FLOOR, which was mind-blowing for WWF TV in 1996. We come back from break with a Vader Bomb spun into a legdrop from Flash for two.

The Goon recovers with brawling and a big vertical suplex, then a diving elbow off Bret’s Rope for a slack cover, getting two. He continues to throw shots, even hitting the KICK OF FEAR (why is the hockey player using kicks?), and Lawler cracks jokes about the recent death of Tiny Tim, to be current. Flash hits a jumping kick, but misses a Moonsault Press and looks to be in trouble. But Goon just whips him into the corner, Flash leaps over him and hits a backdrop suplex, then goes up and finishes with a Moonsault LEGDROP at (5:33). Wow, in no world would that ever work for any wrestler- the momentum is just too weird and it’s impossible to aim- Flash barely tagged him with his ankle on the way down. Did it ever look good in ECW? Sisco says that was called “Drop the Bomb” over there.

Huh- interesting sorta match, as it’s a pretty slow pace but Flash pulls off some amazing feats of agility, especially for the time period. Bill “Goon” Irwin was a veteran enough to hang with him and could be trusted to take his high-flying moves, so they meshed alright, but the pacing was all over the place thanks to probably a desire for “recap space” from Vince on commentary- so you saw all these good moves, but then it’d stop-and-start and they’d rest and then Goon would make arbitrary comeback just from punching. Flash also has this thing where he does something INSANE but then he just kinda stands there and yells instead of adding anything else. You have a dancing gimmick! Do some dancing! I mean yes that’s an ethnic stereotype but that’s literally his gimmick and it’s at least SOMETHING.

Rating: **1/4 (fine enough TV match- some great moves but few were really followed up on)