Almost 20 years ago to the day (we’re a month out but it’s been a busy month) was the first Pay Per View of the new millennium. Featuring gimmick matches galore as WCW reached the height of its dysfunction with Vince Russo at the wheel.
The show kicks off with a LOT of pyro as the three-man commentary team consisting of Mike Tenay, Bobby The Brain and Tony Schiavone welcome us. They then give us a run through the card for the night. Bret Hart was originally due to defend the WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Sid Vicious but was forced to vacate the title due to a concussion received at the hands of Goldberg at the previous month’s Starrcade.
Jeff Jarrett also suffered a concussion following a diving headbutt from the top of a steel cage from Chris Benoit. Much like Hart, he was forced to relinquish his WCW United States Championship. As a result, Jarrett’s defence of the title against Chris Benoit was also cancelled.
The match between Benoit and Jarrett was scheduled to be a Triple Threat Theater series (Catch match, Bunkhouse Brawl, and Caged Heat). In a bid to not disappoint the fans, the match would go ahead with Billy Kidman contesting the series against three separate wrestlers. The rescheduled main event of the evening would instead see Chris Benoit take on Sid Vicious for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Much like all WCW PPVs of the era, we opened with the cruiserweights (not the cruiserweight title match, however, more on that later). The opening bout was the first in Kidman’s Triple Threat Theatre series, which saw him face off against Dean Malenko in a catch-as-catch-can match. The match ended abruptly when Malenko went to the outside of the ring, something that is not permitted in a catch as catch can match, giving Kidman the victory.
Watching this match it quickly becomes clear that Kidman was incredibly popular with the audience at this point. There have been many examples of misused WCW talent jumping ship to WWE and becoming huge stars, but Kidman is somewhat of an oddity where it seems the opposite happened. Kidman was a huge star in WCW but was in lower midcard purgatory for the majority of his WWE run.
We cut to a clip of Vampiro getting beat up by Tag Team Champions David Flair and Crowbar earlier on the pregame show. This was originally scheduled to be a singles match between Flair and Vampiro, however, Vampiro demanded it becomes a three-way dance with Crowbar added so that he could “get his hands on him too.” We are treated to two backstage interviews, firstly Vampiro and then David Flair, Crowbar and Daffney. Little sense was made of either promo, with Chono interrupting Vampiro’s interview for seemingly no reason.
As the match starts it is basically a handicap match – Flair and Crowbar were the tag team champions. Despite that, Vampiro leads early on with offence to both men, taking barely any damage, until Crowbar hits a Tope con Hilo onto Vampiro as he is about to Uranage David Flair on the outside of the ring. This would prove to be the turning point in the match as the pair beat down Vampiro, with Crowbar hitting a splash to the outside of the ring.
Momentum swings the way of the Tag Team champions as David Flair and Crowbar beat down Vampiro. That is until Flair applied the Figure 4 leglock on Vampiro while Crowbar attempts to pin Vampiro. This prompted the two to start fighting. It is a real triple threat now as Daffney kisses Flair, causes a distraction due to a botched interference, allowing the opening for Vampiro to hit Flair with the Nail in the Coffin for the win. Certainly not the greatest match you’ll ever see, but a fun match with some good moves and made Vampiro look strong as it was basically a handicap match.
Backstage, Mean Gene interviews The Mamalukes, made up of Jonny the Bull, Vito, Disco Inferno, and Tony Mamaluke, ahead of their match with Harris Brothers – Ron & Don. Disco Inferno just doesn’t fit into this faction at all, but I think that’s the joke here. It was Disco inferno that proved to be the difference, however, pushing one the Harris brothers off the top rope (can anybody tell them apart?), allowing Vito and The Bull to pick up the win.
The commentators contradict themselves by talking about how Arn Anderson had ruined the tag-team division by letting Flair and Crowbar win the tag titles, but then sang his praises by saying that his involvement in the main event is going to help. What.
There have been times the Cruiserweight title matches have stolen the show. This was not it. Madusa vs Oklahoma for the WCW Cruiserweight championship was… something. Despite clearly not being a cruiserweight, Oklahoma had possession of the title after stealing it from Madusa by attacking her with a broom and dousing her in BBQ Sauce. Mike Tenay compliments Oklahoma by saying he knows how to fill out a singlet, and The Brain adds “and a hat.”
Oklahoma gets on the mic and says males are superior as he proceeds to cut probably the most sexist promo ever. It’s pretty shocking to hear the kind of stuff that was allowed back then. Oklahoma acknowledges this by adding that it’s “not pc but it’s the goddamn truth.” Oklahoma picked up the pin with a schoolboy, pulling Medusa’s skirt down and using it as leverage. Afterwards, Madusa and her accomplices beat up Oklahoma and cover him in BBQ sauce. What even is this show?
The Four the Hard Way match saw WCW Hardcore Champion Brian Knobbs defend against ‘Screamin’ Norman Smiley, Fit Finlay, and Meng. Brian Knobbs was interviewed by Mene Gene and says he owes Finlay for showing him the eye of the tiger. Finlay had attacked Knobbs backstage on the previous Monday Nitro, firing Knobbs up to win the title three days later on WCW Thunder in an outdoors match. Brian Knobbs retains pinning Smiley after thwarting him with a police riot shield.
The second match in the Triple Threat Theatre Series saw Kidman facing off against Perry Saturn in a bunkhouse brawl. The rules of the bunkhouse brawl are essentially that of a falls count anywhere match, where all weapons are permitted. The main drawback with this match is that it was blindingly obvious that Kidman would win this from the outset, as the third match in the series was already scheduled. Despite that, a very solid match.
An incredibly put together video package hyping a Booker T vs. Stevie Ray match plays, as Stevie Ray revisits his past in the ghetto. Stevie reminds Booker that’s where they are from, and accuses Boker of trying to forget his roots. Mean Gene interviews Stevie Ray, who says Booker will always be his little brother and tonight he’s gonna teach him a lesson. After a bit of back and forth, the match ceased when Ahmed Johnson interfered, as he and Stevie Ray beat down Booker, causing a DQ. The Johnson person would reveal his new name to be Big T, and Stevie Ray would call them the new Harlem Heat.
In a match billed as a ‘Shoot fight’ which was essentially a worked MMA fight, Tank Abbott defeated Jerry Flynn in very quick time. There’s not much else to say here.
A hidden gem of this card saw Diamond Dallas Page take on Buff Bagwell in a Last Man Standing match. A vignette recapping the feud plays, and it seems there has been a love triangle of sorts, with Buff pursuing DDP’s wife, Kimberly Page.
The two brawled around the arena from the get-go. Buff climbs the set and elbow drops DDP through a table. Buff gets busted open and there is a flurry of offensive moves and near 10 counts. The battle returns to the ring where there are some further near 10 counts. Just as DDP is about to get counted out, he gets up at nine and hits Buff with the Diamond Cutter. That would not be enough to win the match, as Bagwell gets up before 10 count. But DDP doesn’t have anything left in the tank and is unable to stand. Buff is then distracted by Kimberly which creates an opening and DDP beats down Bagwell post-match.
The third and final match in Kidman’s Triple Threat Theatre Series commences with Shane Douglas coming out and cutting a promo, announcing that Kidman’s mystery opponent is The Wall. The ‘Caged Heat’ match is what would be known today as a Hell in a Cell match, a steel cage with a ceiling that extends outside the ring. That being said, there was not much point in this being a cage match, it was mostly a standard match besides the occasional cage spot. The Wall wins after catching Kidman jumping from the top rope and then chokeslamming him. An anticlimactic ending to the series.
In a match that Tony Schiavone ironically calls a match for the future of WCW, we see Kevin Nash take on Terry Funk in Hardcore match. As well as being a hardcore match, this match also had the added caveat that if Nash won he would replace Terry Funk as the commissioner of WCW. While if Funk won then the nWo would disband. Funk, who had recently signed from ECW after ‘retiring’ and had a stint at WWF before that, was 54 years old at this point but showed no sign of slowing down.
The match starts on the outside when Nash attacks Funk before he gets to the ring, and the two brawl outside for a bit. Nash Jackknife powerbombs Funk through the announcers table, before grabbing a mic and taunting Funk. Nash says Funk has a lot of heart but no common sense. He teases Funk saying if he can crawl back into ring he can keep the commissioner job. Funk struggles back in but then Nash calls himself a lying son of a bitch and resumes the attack on Funk. With Funk busted open, a viscous Jacknife Powerbomb through multiple chairs saw Nash pick up the win, and become the new WCW Commissioner in doing so.
The main event of the evening saw Chris Benoit and Sid Vicious compete for the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship, Arn Anderson servicing as the Special Guest referee. Early into the match, both Perry Saturn and David Flair walked out on top of stage to watch the match. The locker room would soon empty to the stage to watch the match, such was its importance to the future of WCW.
The two wrestling styles in this math couldn’t be more different. Sid wrestling that of a big muscular wrestling ‘hoss’ that had been popular in the USA in the 80s and 90s and Benoit wrestling a more technical style. In many ways, this match was a metaphor of what led to the death of WCW, pushing older, established, and often past their prime stars to the top while overlooking younger, hungrier talent like Benoit.
A Crossface saw Sid tap out and Chris Benoit become the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. Benoit celebrates as he gives an Interview to Mean Gene and is congratulated by Arn Anderson. Kevin Nash then approaches and berates Benoit, stating that at midnight the belt would be going back to the nWo.
This would prove to be true as it was Benoit’s last match for WCW, and he was stripped of the title the following night on Nitro. The kayfabe reason given was that Sid’s foot was under the rope, which was true, however, Benoit had now left the company and signed with rival promotion, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. As a result, WCW did not recognise Benoit’s title reign, however, the reign was later recognised by WWE upon acquisition of WCW the following year.
While this will probably go down as one of the worst WCW Pay Per Views, I really enjoyed this show. Despite not having watched much WCW, you instantly get to know the characters, and they do a really good job of recaps, explaining the storyline through the video packages. On the flip side, everything seems to change so quickly that I can see it sometimes being difficult to keep up with what’s happening.
Benoit’s title win should have been a monumental moment in the company’s history, but it was quickly swept under the carpet. Kidman’s triple threat theatre could have kickstarted Kidman’s momentum by beating three opponents in one night, but the unexpected loss put a halt to that. Overall, an enjoyable evening in front of the WWE Network.
Rhys’ rating: 4 Horsemen/10