WCW’s manliest tag team in a pairing that would probably have gotten a lot more love in today’s era than 1996- Fire & Ice!
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This time, we have the beginnings of the Fire & Ice tag team, as Scott Norton & Ice Train wrestle a match on the D-show and are suddenly filled with manly feelings of respect! Also, the time Jerry Lawler cuts a horrific promo about Goldust in a King of the Ring Qualifying Match… and gets a face reaction for it! Plus after the oddly-good Henry Godwinn vs. Bradshaw match I was compelled to watch their later matches in 1997… and immediately regretted that compulsion! Also since those matches sucked, I added an extra bout- Sid & The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Aldo Montoya… and AVATAR! He’s back! Read on!
As always, these matches are all available on YouTube.
SCOTT NORTON vs. ICE TRAIN:
(WCW Pro, 1996-02-24)
* So weirdly enough we have the future Fire & Ice wrestling on the WCW show even *I* didn’t watch, even at the peak of my “watch EVERYTHING in wrestling” fandom. Norton’s in a red & black singlet, while Train’s in… kind of the same gear, making the Mirror Match even more obvious. Train’s looking more slender than I remember seeing him- he obviously got more swole later. Both guys nave near-identical builds, though Train is puffier and Norton more of a solid barrel.
Norton throws some vicious shots in the corner to start, but Train whips him into the corner and throws punches to the gut. Norton reverses a whip to a short-clothesline, but it’s no-sold, leading to my favorite spot- FAT GUY NO-SOLD RUNNING MOVES! They gear up for more, and a double-clothesline puts them both down! Big test of strength has Norton roaring, and he knees Train down- Train fights up and clotheslines Norton down, then works the arm for a couple minutes with basic stuff, but runs into a boot and gets slammed. Norton methodically puts the boots to him after a suplex, ending a Hulk-Up with an eyepoke and a release suplex (dropping Train on his ass in a move I’ve not seen before). Train Hulks up again after a kneelift and just starts cuffing the shit out of Norton, putting him down. Second-rope clothesline by Train! But he’s slow to get up and is selling hard (ie. probably actually blown up), so Norton clobbers him down, then hits a corner clothesline & slam, but misses another clothesline and gets powerslammed for two. Both guys are just DYING here. Norton Samoan drops Train for two, and TV time expires after another powerslam gets two at (10:00). The exhausted giants just stare each other down, but Norton extends the hand and they have RESPECT, DUDE. Yeah, this has gotta lead directly to their short-lived team. That’s pretty great.
Hey, not bad! I mean, I HATE Norton in WCW (no-selling charisma-free grump almost always being protected) and Train was never very good, but they had a good, methodical Hoss Match out there, realistically fill the huge match-time without looking too lazy. Like, with big beefy dudes like this you can justify taking your time selling between giant forearms to the back. Though they were well and truly blown up by the end, Norton still using power spots because he’s just so goddamn strong, but they were huffing and puffing and moving super slow as it went on. But I liked the whole “Story”, like each guy had too much raw toughness to go down, and not enough cardio to put on a protracted beat-down to cause a pin, so neither could get the other, and in the end they respect each other’s toughness so much they’re bros.
Rating: **1/2 (I was thinking even higher until they just fell apart in the end, but even that’s kind of a good story, so what we get is a pretty good Hoss Match with a lot of slapping beef and clotheslines and such. Good stuff!)
KING OF THE RING 1997:
* Okay, so far less of this is available online- they also don’t have Qualifying Matches at all! Yes, for whatever reason, this tournament only consists of four Quarterfinal Matches on TV, then the Semis & Final match at the PPV. The mission here is to do what they were planning on doing last year- give Hunter Hearst-Helmsley a push. Granted, by this point he was already the IC Champ once, but the office clearly ADORED him following him accepting his “punishment” (being jobbed out for four months and immediately rewarded), and so here we are.
GOLDUST (w/ Marlena) vs. “THE KING” JERRY LAWLER:
(WWF RAW, May 27th, 1997)
* Goldust was a babyface at this point, doing a series of sit-down biographical interviews with Jim Ross in order to mimic Mick Foley’s success for the same thing (it didn’t take in this case- it just led to a heel turn). Lawler cuts an all-timer “you couldn’t do that nowadays” promo in the back, stating “We all saw you last week, tears running down your face, wondering why your father- Oldust- don’t love you anymore! Well I KNOW Dusty Rhodes, and I asked him why! He says it’s because you married the biggest gold digger in all of Georgia, then you put on a woman’s wig, and ran around the ring kissing men like a flaming f*g!”, then adding that he should have named his daughter Dakota “Target- because I heard everybody in Atlanta had a shot at it!”. WELL THEN. At least he was the heel- fuck, one year earlier and Piper would have cut that as a BABYFACE promo! ‘Course, Lawler gets a pop anyways.
Goldust, having heard that, naturally charges Lawler at the bell and beats the fuck out of him- Lawler is no great worker, but he could ALWAYS sell. He catches Goldust with his head down, but then puts his own down for the same effect. Lawler avoids the Inverted DDT and catches Goldust coming off the top. Shitty Memphis Piledriver! The Evansville crowd, pointed out by JR on commentary as a regular USWA stop, loves him for it. He talks to Marlena and gets slugged by Goldust for it, eating a piledriver in return for two- King makes the ropes. Crowd chants for Lawler (after THAT PROMO- fuck YOU, Evansville yokels!), who goes to the eyes and chokes away repeatedly. Goldust gets a bulldog and a series of throat-thrusts & punches, but runs into the corner- Lawler talks shit to Marlena again and gets a slap for it, but back in the ring, he just pulls Goldust down and puts both feet on the ropes for the roll-up win at (5:20) to a huge pop. Goldust gets his heat back by beating him up on the ramp.
Not a great match- since it’s these two, it’s almost entirely punches and choking with very few other moves. Neither was good at that point, but both were still very quality sellers (Goldust sold that eye injury repeatedly, even throwing a blind punch and doing a bump off of it), but it’s just five minutes of basic stuff and then JERRY LAWLER makes the PPV, years after his credibility was gone. Yeah, this was still not a very good era for the WWF- it had all the Attitude Era accoutrements, but few wrestlers were firing on all cylinders and the angles were still mostly subpar.
Rating: ** (okay match flow and good selling, but weak offense- the Memphis Special)
So the tournament itself played out a bit oddly- HHH fought Ahmed Johnson and lost by DQ, but through Jericho-style antics, he threatened to sue the company because he was “not given proper instruction before the match” and was awarded another spot in the tournament, facing Crush (as Vader, the scheduled opponent, was injured). Hunter then beat Crush to make the PPV- clever booking that makes the heel look like an undeserving prick. Mankind disposed of Savio Vega (whose push had then died) to make the show.
At the PPV itself, HHH & Ahmed had a rematch- Chyna distracted Ahmed and HHH scored the Pedigree for the win after seven minutes. Mankind dispatched Lawler with the Mandible Claw in ten minutes. HHH vs. Mankind was a hellacious 19-minute brawl, ending when constant Chyna interference and a scepter shot put down Mankind. The two would then feud for the next several months in a rivalry that ended up helping “make” both of them and push them to the next level, and would get brought up during Foley’s retirement angle in 1999. So in all, this abridged tournament full of pretty nefarious victories served its purpose- HHH never really boasted about being “King” that I can remember (he in fact smashed most of the accoutrements of royalty over Foley’s back), but it gave him another credibility boost in his way to being a “Made” guy in the upper midcard. This era’s booking is so random at times that I remember NONE of this show, and it’s the prelude to Canadian Stampede the next month! Better times were forging ahead… though the next RAW leads to the Stable Wars, so it wasn’t ALL great.
“1997 WWF is the best the company ever was”- Some fans.
HENRY O. GODWINN (w/ Phineas Godwinn) vs. BLACKJACK BRADSHAW (w/ Blackjack Windham):
* HOO BOY. Not a good time for the tag team scene. It’s the Godwinns fighting the New Blackjacks, tag team style, as Bradshaw is paired up with washed-up Barry Windham for a silly nostalgia run (verrrrrry few of 1997’s fans remembered the freaking Blackjacks). Probably just something meant to give Bradshaw some experience run-off from a vet because they obviously saw something in him. Godwinn’s been in the same gear since 1995, while Bradshaw’s in all black with his hair and ’80s ‘stache also dyed. This is a rematch from the previous year’s King of the Ring Qualifiers.
HOG hits a belly-to-belly for two off a criss-cross, but eats a huge big boot. He builds his SmackDown! meter but ends up launched over the top on Godwinn’s feet (just like last year’s match between them!)- Bradshaw rushes back in but eats a clothesline, but boots HOG and hits a short clothesline. Both guys sell after HOG reverses a suplex, but Bradshaw goes to the eyes and hits a nervehold, and a double-clothesline drops them both again. HOG reverses a whip for a snap powerslam for two, then hits a back elbow for the same. Now Bradshaw reverses a whip with a Russian legsweep for two. He gears up the Lariat, but misses- Slop Drop puts him down! But they’re way near the ropes, so of course Windham jabs him in the eye to break the pin at “2”. The ref allows this, then gets distracted by Phineas on the apron like an idiot, and the Blackjacks actually do the switcheroo! So Henry picks up “Bradshaw”, only for Barry to hit the clumsiest-looking inside cradle in history for the win (4:49).
Interesting match to weigh against the previous year’s, as it’s even got some of the same moves and sequences, but wrestled much lazier and weaker- like both guys knew their pushes were floundering, or it was a fuck finish anyways so who cares? The Blackjacks thing, obviously, did not work out- Barry went into the “NWA” angle soon thereafter. Cornette put these guys over a ton on commentary, talking about how big and tough the originals were, but the New Blackjacks’ only legacy ended up being in Mick Foley’s book, where he described a young Dewey opening up a Christmas present of their tag team two-pack toy and going “Doesn’t Santa know I hate the Blackjacks?”.
Rating: * (some okay stuff, but mostly filler)
HENRY O. GODWINN (w/ Phineas Godwinn) vs. BLACKJACK BRADSHAW (w/ Blackjack Windham):
(WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, 1997-03-22)
* Only twenty days later, we have a rematch. Now it’s the night before WrestleMania (where the tag teams will fight in a four-way to figure out the next challengers), with Brian Pillman & Jim Ross on commentary. Henry’s at least in a black shirt this time.
Both guys lock up and brawl right to the floor while Pillman just talks shit about the second-tier tag teams “languishing in mediocrity” and trying to rise above it. Big clothesline from HOG back in the ring, but they do some meaningless back & forth while Furnas & LaFon come out to scout their opponents. HOG hooks the Slop Drop, but Bradshaw grabs the ropes so Henry crashes to the mat. Bradshaw flies off the top, but Henry catches him with a powerslam for two. Back from break with a belly-to-belly from HOG getting two, then a powerslam for the same as the Headbangers attack Furnas & LaFon from behind. Aaaaaaand then everyone just hits the ring for the DQ (5:50).
Yeah, this was just a delivery system for a “Pre-PPV Shmozz”. Which is fine, but this angle was total death. It’s not for nothing that Russo’s Attitude Era takeover resulted in almost all these guys being dumped eventually, or at least repackaged.
Rating: 1/4* (just kind of a bunch of basic nothing with the outside stuff being the meat)
Well that’s a fascinating look at how a good match can lead to increasingly-shitty matches as time marches on and the company values in-ring product less and less.
When a gimmick is so bad that AVATAR is less infamous by comparison.
SID & THE 1-2-3 KID (w/ Ted DiBiase) vs. ALDO MONTOYA & AVATAR:
(WWF Superstars, 1996)
* Man, I didn’t realize Avatar was around long enough to be a tag team JTTS guy. Here he is with the jockstrap-wearin’ Aldo, against what is now DiBiase’s top team, post heel turn for Sean Waltman. Who, as Scott Keith and Edge have noted, more or less played this same greasy shitpiece heel for the rest of his career, which is why “X-Pac Heat” became a thing. Sid’s in black trunks and the Kid’s in a red & white version of his gear- Aldo & Avatar are in their usual (the latter, of course, is Al Snow in parachute pants and a mask).
Aldo & Avatar attack right out of the gate, putting Sid on the floor and dropping the Kid with a double rolling clothesline. Avatar trips up Kid and hits a big wheelbarrow German, impressing everyone. The faces hit three straight “tag the guy in for a flying hammer to an armbarred arm” spots in a row, then Aldo gets a chop off the ropes and Avatar lands a superkick. The Kid appears in trouble, but ducks a shot and wipes out Avatar with a spinkick. Avatar rolls him up before he can tag out as I observe this is actually reversing the “Hot Tag Formula” for some reason, with the babyfaces controlling the weakest heel and cutting off the ring. But then Aldo runs too close to that corner and gets wiped out by Sid- Sid gets the tag and just throws clubbing blows until Aldo’s dead, hits a one-handed chokeslam, and ends with the Powerbomb. But he tags in the Kid, who runs in like a true heel just to score the pin- Avatar uselessly running in too late and getting clotheslined by Sid anyways- the Sid/Kid Connection wins at (3:47).
Kind of odd, as I said, with the babyfaces throwing some pretty good offense against the Kid, with the “Hot Tag” going to a heel who kills Aldo with ease- Avatar not really getting involved after that point.
Rating: *3/4 (decent offense from the babyface duo, keeping up the pace, and the Kid sold well and did good comebacks, but it was very short and over super-fast)