Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1991)

Welcome to another Enuffa.com PPV History series!  Today we'll be talking about WCW's secondary tentpole show, SuperBrawl!

Introduced in 1991, SuperBrawl was obviously meant as a flagship show on par with Starrcade.  The first edition was in May of that year before it was moved to February going forward.  In many cases SuperBrawl featured rematches from the previous Starrcade, and in some cases, particularly when Starrcade had a non-traditional format, SuperBrawl felt like the bigger show.

But let's take a look at the full history of this PPV series.....

SuperBrawl - Bayfront Arena - 5.19.91

The inaugural show was built around an international rematch from the WCW/NJPW Supershow, where Tatsumi Fujinami defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Title, but not the WCW World Title.  This was during the messy NWA-to-WCW transition period, where the lineage of the two championships was muddy at best (New Japan only recognized the NWA Title in the first match).  So a rematch was signed to reunify the belts, but in the US only the WCW Title was acknowledged for some reason.  The PPV was loaded up with 12 matches, several of which could've easily been trimmed, but still had some worthy bouts, particularly toward the end.

The show opened with The Fabulous Freebirds vs. the Young Pistols in a decent little tag bout for the vacant US Tag belts.  Pistols got screwed thanks to outside interference.  Nothing compared to the Pistols' match with the Midnight Express, but solid enough.

Dan Spivey vs. Ricky Morton was a shockingly entertaining squash, and what's more shocking is how agile Spivey used to be.  If only that Dan Spivey had played Waylon Mercy, he'd have been a great upper midcard heel in the WWF.

Nikita Koloff vs. Tommy Rich was another glorified squash to get Koloff over again as a monster heel.  Rich's career high took place when he won the NWA Title at 21.  He never got pushed hard again.

Dustin Rhodes vs. Terrence Taylor was pretty good.  Dustin looked more jacked than I ever remember seeing him.  He'd just returned to WCW and got an undefeated streak, which continued here after failed outside interference from Mr. Hughes.  I definitely underrated Dustin for many years, as even in a minor undercard match he could go.

Two pointless squashes followed, taking valuable time away from the real bouts.  Big Josh (soon to be Doink the Clown) beat Black Bart, and Oz (soon to be Vinnie Vegas, later to be Diesel, later to be Kevin Nash, later to be Mr. Quad Tear) killed Tim Parker.  Why anyone thought these were PPV-worthy I don't know.

Lotta blood

A shockingly good Taped Fist match was next (what a dumb stipulation) as Barry Windham beat the piss out of Brian Pillman.  Both guys bled early and this had some pretty violent action, particularly a spot where Windham pulled Pillman off the entrance ramp and carried him down head-first on the security railing.  Looked great.  For only six minutes this was pretty damn good.

Another pointlessly short match followed, as El Gigante fought Sid Vicious in a Stretcher Match (except it was just a regular pinfall finish).  The only noteworthy thing about this was how small Sid looked by comparison.  But otherwise just an abbreviated Giant Gonzales-Undertaker fiasco.

This was the most exciting part of the match

The former Doom partners Butch Reed and Ron Simmons faced each other in a Steel Cage match with Teddy Long suspended in a cage above the ring.  This was structured like the old Mid-South grudge matches where the heel works over the babyface for like 80% of it, until the face makes his big comeback.  Long threw a chain into the ring, Reed picked it up and swung at Simmons, but Simmons hit a spinebuster for the win.  Clunky ending but the match itself was okay.

The final three bouts of this show were quite good.

In the first, The Steiners defended the WCW Tag belts against Sting & Lex Luger in a huge dream match.  Traditional wrestling psychology was out the window in favor of monster babyface vs. monster babyface.  All four guys hit their big moves in succession, creating a non-stop high-impact shootout.  A few miscues aside this was quite something and the participants clearly set out to do something unprecedented in North American wrestling.  This had the feel of a big New Japan match.  Nikita Koloff interfered at the end, hitting Luger with his chain and allowing the Steiners to retain.  Kind of a weak ending but a highly enjoyable match overall.

1991 Match of the Year according to PWI

Next up was the TV Title bout between Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton, which was probably the best straight-up wrestling match on the show.  This only went about 12 minutes but they packed a ton of action into it and the crowd was hot.  Strange seeing Eaton as a singles babyface.  Barry Windham tried to interfere at the end but was thwarted by Brian Pillman, which allowed Eaton to hit the Alabama Jam off the top for the win.

The main event was of course the rematch from the Tokyo Dome, as Ric Flair defended against Tatsumi Fujinami.  The live crowd was pretty dead for most of this, which detracted from it a bit.  I got the impression most of them weren't terribly familiar with Fujinami.  A few times it seemed like the two guys weren't quite on the same page, like when Flair went to do his "slammed off the top rope" spot and quite obviously tried to place Fujinami's hand on his chest.  Things picked up late in the match though, and the final five minutes or so were quite good.  After the Japanese ref (Tiger Hittori) got bumped, Flair rolled Fujinami up and hooked the tights, and secondary ref Bill Alfonso counted the fall.

What a devastating maneuver!

Overall the first SuperBrawl was a pretty solid PPV that just had way too many matches.  The undercard was sprinkled with some fun stuff that didn't get enough time, and then the last hour of the show provided a pretty darn good three-match stretch.  Cut out some of the filler and you'd have a real PPV of the Year contender.

Best Match: Steiners vs. Sting & Luger
Worst Match: El Gigante vs. Sid Vicious
What I'd Change: Cut the Oz squash, the Big Josh-Black Bart throwaway, and the Sid-Gigante fiasco
Most Disappointing Match: I guess the main event, for being good rather than great
Most Pleasant Surprise: Windham vs. Pillman, which was one of the better six-minute bouts you're likely to see
Overall Rating: 6.5/10
Better than Starrcade '90? - It was indeed

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