|SuperBrawl III - Asheville Civic Center - 2.21.93|
WCW circa early 1993 still fell under the Bill Watts regime, when the product was stripped-down and gritty. This made for a nice focus on the in-ring product but also made the bigger shows feel very plain. I've never been huge on pomp & circumstance, but a touch of it is nice on the big PPVs. Anyway, the company had come off a creatively pretty successful 1992 and had built up a solid roster of older stars and solid young workers, and their biggest-ever star would make his return on this show.
Steve Austin & Brian Pillman vs. Marcus Bagwell & Erik Watts was a very fun opener. The future Hollywood Blonds already had great chemistry and used old-school diversionary heel tactics, while Bagwell was once a capable babyface and Watts, despite not at all being over, could work a decent match. This went probably five minutes longer than it needed to but it was quite good for its place on the card.
Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio was an excellent mix of grappling, counterwrestling, and aerial moves. These guys meshed really well and despite some slow points in the third act this was easily watchable all the way through. The finish came when they traded rollups with only seconds left in the time limit, and Scorpio caught Benoit with a pin at 19:59. Nice timing to get the decision just before the clock reached zero. Helluva good match, though I wish it had been a few minutes shorter. By the end it felt like they were filling time to get to the final second.
|Wait, I thought top rope moves were banned at this point....|
Davey Boy Smith had recently debuted in WCW (a surreal sight if there ever was one), and the third match on this show was a glorified squash to showcase his remarkable skills. His opponent was the doughy Bill Irwin, who was given very little offense. The match was passable just because Davey's moveset was entertaining. But otherwise a throwaway.
Next up was a helluva wild brawl, as Cactus Jack took on Paul Orndorff (freakishly shriveled right arm and all) in a Falls Count Anywhere match. While tame by today's standards (hell, even by 1996 standards), this was highly engaging and featured several unique Mick Foley spots, like when he got suplexed across the security railing; in 1993 that must've made people cringe. Orndorff dominated much of the action but Jack secured the win by bashing him over the head with a shovel. Fun stuff.
Another fun match was next as The Rock n' Roll Express faced The Heavenly Bodies. This match would oddly take place nine months later on a WWF PPV, which I believe makes it the only match to happen in both companies during the same year. The only difference was the presence of Stan Lane, who would retire shortly after this and be replaced by Jimmy Del Ray. This was your basic 80s style RnR Express match, where they control the first half and Jim Cornette's team play the buffoons for a while, then take over on offense after an underhanded spot. The finish was overbooked and pretty clumsy, like no one was sure how to end it. Bobby Eaton unsuccessfully ran in, and after several bad-looking near-falls, Robert Gibson won with the worst-executed splash ever. Decent match overall though.
The US Title was up for grabs as Dustin Rhodes defended against Maxx Payne. Rhodes became the Champ by winning a tournament final against Ricky Steamboat for the vacant strap. Why that match couldn't have taken place at SuperBrawl instead of this one is beyond me. This was not good. Rhodes did what he could with the nearly immobile Payne, but there's only so much even an accomplished worker like Dustin is capable of. Payne didn't belong anywhere near a major Title match, and this was a plodding eleven-minute affair that ended by DQ when Payne pulled the referee into an oncoming Rhodes. Yeesh.
The most disappointing match was next as The Great Muta defended the NWA World Title against Barry Windham. Problem was, hardly anything happened in this bout. Of the 24-minute running time probably 15 were spent with someone in a headlock. I dunno who was to blame here. Windham looked sluggish and unmotivated despite this being a big moment for him, and Muta seemed to be phoning it in, having totally abandoned his flashy style in favor of lazy rest holds. The crowd was mostly dead for this too; Muta was supposed to be the babyface I think but he was booed solidly, while Windham was mostly met with indifference. These two just didn't click at all and it's a shame the returning Ric Flair wasn't called upon to challenge Muta instead (Don't get me wrong, I was a huge Windham fan, but he just didn't look good here).
|Yup, it was all downhill from here.|
The main event, a rematch from Starrcade '92, was Vader vs. Sting in a non-sanctioned (I've always hated that gimmick; if it's "non-sanctioned" why is it happening in a company ring with a licensed referee instead of in the parking lot with no cameras?) White Castle of Fear (Uhh, I didn't see one scary cheeseburger thrown in this match) Strap Match (I've also always hated the "drag your opponent to all four corners" gimmick). True to form, Sting and Vader worked great together and this was a pretty brutal fight. Sting actually cut Vader's back open by whipping him with the strap, plus both guys bled hardway by the end. The false finish was creative, as the referee got knocked down before Sting carried Vader on his back to three corners and then tripped over the ref, falling just short of the fourth corner. Vader then hit a seated senton and dragged Sting to all four corners to win. Solid main event, but not on the same level as the Starrcade match due to the stipulation. Also if Vader was going to win anyway, why not make this a Title match?
|That's a non-sanctioned splash|
Overall SuperBrawl III was a quality PPV. Two matches of the eight were bad and one was tremendously disappointing, but the other five were different degrees of good. WCW was about to hit a pretty rough patch with Ole Anderson as the head booker, before Eric Bischoff took over and changed the place into WWF-Lite in 1994. Not a great show here, but not a bad one either.
Best Match: Vader vs. Sting
Worst Match: Dustin Rhodes vs. Maxx Payne
What I'd Change: Since Flair was debuting again here anyway, put him against Muta. Hell, they brought Hogan in the following year and gave him the World Title in his first match. Also, move the Dustin-Steamboat tourney final to this show and leave Maxx Payne out of it.
Most Disappointing Match: Great Muta vs. Barry Windham
Most Pleasant Surprise: Cactus Jack vs. Paul Orndorff
Overall Rating: 7.5/10