Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1994)

The final SuperBrawl before the Bischoff Era.  Was it any good?  Let's find out...

SuperBrawl IV - Albany Civic Center - 2.20.94

I went into this show expecting to like it pretty well.  But I didn't really.  WCW's booking under Flair felt very disorganized, like they were trying to adhere to the tropes that had worked for them in the past, but weren't fully committed to the idea.  So it became an awkward hybrid of 1991 WCW and 1991 WWF almost.  And neither company at that time was producing very good results.  Sadly this was the beginning of the end for WCW as we knew it; the roster would very soon resemble the late 80s WWF and the company would hit its creative nadir.

The show began with the introductions for the scheduled opener, Johnny B. Badd vs. Michael Hayes, only for Hayes to roll out in a wheelchair and claim he was too injured to compete.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel then announced that Jimmy Garvin would take Hayes' place, but not until later.  So they used up ten minutes on this foolishness.

The actual opener was Harlem Heat vs. Thunder & Lightning, in a pretty well-worked tag bout.  Both teams looked good here and it made me wonder what became of Thunder & Lightning after this (Just looked this up - Lightning was Jeff Farmer, or the future nWo Sting, while Thunder went on to own NWA Ohio).  The ending was a little weak, as Stevie Ray took advantage of a distracted referee to kick one of the babyfaces in the ear, which was somehow enough for the win.  But not a bad way to kick things off.

Next up was a laughably bad match between The Equalizer (later repackaged as Kevin Sullivan's simpleton brother Dave), and, get this, "Jungle" Jim Steele.  Jungle Jim.  Get it?  Jim was more or less a discount store Ultimate Warrior ripoff, with vaguely similar ring gear, a comparable build, and a few of the same mannerisms.  But yeah, this was terrible.  Tony Schiavone actually went on about the great opening matches we'd seen at previous SuperBrawls, as if to say, "...and now we get crap like this."

Jeezus, did Page EAT his future self?
Clearly DDP Yoga wasn't around yet.

Two rather dull matches followed, the first of which pitted a pretty portly Diamond Dallas Page against Terry Taylor.  This started out fairly strong, as Taylor was always a good worker and DDP seemed determined to prove he was more than just a gimmick.  But the bout dragged on several minutes longer than it probably should have.  Taylor won with a quick rollup after nearly 12 minutes.  Heenan's commentary kept this entertaining....

...And saved this next match, Johnny B. Badd vs. Jimmy Garvin.  Badd looked, well, good here, using some solid grappling moves.  Garvin had returned after a two-year layoff and looked like someone's dad in wrestling tights.  This match was a glorified squash that lasted 10:48.  Garvin hardly showed any offense until after the match when he attacked Badd and hit him with the 9-1-1, or as it would later be known, the Stone Cold Stunner.  Not much to this one.

The TV Title was on the line next, as Lord Steven Regal defended against the returning Arn Anderson (who'd missed a few months after the hotel stabbing incident with Sid Vicious) in a special 30-minute time limit match.  Yeah, that time extension was a mistake; this match was incredibly dull for nearly the entire duration.  Neither guy seemed to know what to do to fill thirty minutes (29:54 to be exact), nor was there any urgency to anything they did do.  Aside from a few near-falls toward the end it didn't feel like Anderson was really trying to win the match; at one point with less than a minute to go he broke out a side headlock before remembering this was supposed to be the climax.  What a disappointment.  How much better would a fast-paced fifteen-minute bout have been here?

Ladies and gentlemen, the first fifteen minutes....

The surprise hit of the night was a chaotic Tag Team Title match pitting The Nasty Boys against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  Payne broke out several suplexes early on (and one botched belly-to-belly at the end that nearly crippled Brian Knobbs), and Cactus did his usual cringe-worthy spots, like taking a back bump off the apron to the unprotected concrete.  This certainly wasn't pretty but it also wasn't boring.  The finish stunk though - Saggs broke a guitar over Payne's head to draw a DQ.  But shockingly this was the best match on the show so far.


GAHD-DAMN!

The last two matches were both Thundercage bouts.  You remember the Thunderdome match from the first Halloween Havoc?  Same thing but without any of the weapons or window dressing.

The semi-main event was Sting, Dustin Rhodes & Brian Pillman vs. Rick Rude, Steve Austin & Paul Orndorff, in an enjoyable, chaotic six-man.  I've always wondered why WWE hasn't done any team vs. team Hell in a Cell or Chamber matches; that'd be fun.  Anyway, this was engaging and energetic but pretty tame for a cage match.  The babyfaces won after a British Bulldogs-type spot where Sting press-slammed Pillman on top of Austin.  After the match Rude slammed the cage door on Sting's head and hit the Rude Awakening to keep the feud going.  Easily the best match on the show but not really above three stars.

The main event was a Starrcade '93 rematch of Ric Flair vs. Vader, but inside the Thundercage and with The (Big) Boss(man) as the guest referee.  After about seven minutes of brawling, The Boss found himself handcuffed to the cage while Vader and Harley Race beat the tar out of Flair.  Arn Anderson and Ricky Steamboat ran to the ring to try and break the cage door open but were unsuccessful, and finally The Boss broke the handcuffs, dispatched Race, and after Flair applied the Figure-Four, instantly called for the bell despite Vader not visibly submitting.  What is this, Montreal??  This was an overbooked mess, and Flair sadly never had the chemistry with Vader that Sting did.  Flair's offense didn't look like it would affect a guy with Vader's size and power, so he just seemed hopelessly overmatched.  Not much of a main event unfortunately.

Flair's stompin' a mudhole in Vader's ass!  Wait, was that a thing yet?

This show looked better on paper than it actually was.  Thank god for Bobby Heenan, as his commentary on this show was hilarious and kept even the dull matches from totally sinking.  This was also before he realized no one in WCW knew how to keep up with his comedic style.  The show itself only had one truly bad match but there wasn't much I could classify as good either.  The six-man wins Match of the Night by default.  WCW was in an odd state of flux, as the company's identity was about to be stripped entirely in favor of recreating 80s WWF, but they'd already started abandoning the WCW-esque things that had worked in the past.  But things were about to get much worse....

Best Match: Sting/Dustin/Pillman vs. Rude/Austin/Orndorff
Worst Match: Jungle Jim Steele vs. The Equalizer
What I'd Change: Cut the Steele match, reduce the TV Title match by ten minutes, give that extra time to the double main event, lose the outside the ring shenanigans in the Flair-Vader match, and book Steamboat on the show for Chrissake!
Most Disappointing Match: Regal vs. Anderson
Most Pleasant Surprise: Nasty Boys vs. Cactus & Payne
Overall Rating: 5.5/10


SuperBrawl III

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