Monday, June 17, 2019

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1997)

SuperBrawl VII - Cow Palace - 2.23.97

We've entered the first full year of the nWo era, when WCW was killing the WWF every week in the ratings.  Hogan & co. had taken the company by storm, winning most of the belts, and by this point even Eric Bischoff had joined the heel supergroup, which put them more or less "in charge" of everything.  It got to where nWo guys would lose a belt and Bischoff would just reverse the decision the next night and give the title back to his buddies.  This of course begs the question, "Why bother having the match then?"  But whatever, it was working like crazy for ratings in 1997.  Between that and the wild Cruiserweight action, Nitro had become destination TV, while RAW scrambled to counter it with anything they could think of.  The WCW PPVs on the other hand suffered a lot due to the overemphasis on storylines over in-ring action.  SuperBrawl VII is one such example...

Once again, Dusty Rhodes joined Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan on commentary, more often than not blathering on about god-knows-what and offering little to no insight.  No disrespect meant to Dusty, but as a color commentator he was approximately as bad as Booker T is now.

Syxx vs. Dean Malenko was a solid Cruiserweight opener, with Malenko out for revenge against Syxx for insulting his father.  Malenko laid into Mr. Waltman from the opening bell and dominated the first half, even pulling Syxx up during two early pin attempts so he could inflict more punishment.  Syxx came back in the second half and was about to hit Dean with the belt until Eddie Guerrero ran down and tried to yank the belt away, only to lose his grip on it, allowing Syxx to whack Malenko in the face and score the pin.  A decent match but already with the run-ins??

Gee, I wonder where this is gonna go....

Next up was a lucha showcase six-man with Konnan, La Parka and Villano IV facing Juventud Guerrera, Super Calo and Ciclone.  This was your basic late 90s spotfest with everyone doing as much as possible in nine minutes.  At one point Ciclone went for a twisting Asai moonsault and completely missed Villano, landing on his face on the floor.  Late in the match they broke out some over-the-top moves that involved all six guys (like four of them doing "The Star" while La Parka put Guerrera in a Mexican surfboard in the center).  Finally Konnan nailed Juvi with Splash Mountain to win a pretty sloppy but mildly entertaining schmozz.

The next two matches were shaping up to be solid outings until outside nonsense happened.  TV Champion Prince Iaukea defended against Rey Mysterio in a fun little match that featured crisp action and some nice death-defying lucha stuff from Rey.  But then Steven Regal showed up at the end and cost Rey the match, pulling him off the ring apron in such a way that Rey hit his face on the apron and Iaukea was able to just pin him.  Stupid ending to a decent bout.

Then Diamond Dallas Page faced Buff Bagwell in a match that was loads better than it looked on paper.  Bagwell's nondescript heel work was fine, and this was the beginning of DDP being really motivated.  The end of the match saw DDP hit the RKO-- er, I mean Diamond Cutter outta nowhere, only to run away when he saw the nWo fellas storming the ring to draw a disqualification.  What a pointless finish.  Had DDP just pinned Bagwell he still could've slid out to avoid a beating, and this match would've been pretty solid.

Vintage Page

The best match of the night by far was the US Title match pitting Eddie Guerrero against Chris Jericho.  Sadly the live crowd didn't seem to realize how good this match was.  They reacted to roughly nothing, despite Eddie and Chris put together an excitingly intricate 12-minute bout.  Had Jericho been his heel persona by this point this match probably would've torn the house down.  Unfortunately it was two white meat babyfaces with no beef between them, and the audience wasn't into it.  Eddie won with a sunset flip after a series of counters for the only clean finish of any title match on this show.

Good stuff here.  Too bad the crowd didn't care.

The next three matches were inoffensive but forgettable, starting with Harlem Heat vs. Faces of Fear vs. Public Enemy.  This clusterfuck had some decent energy and Barbarian especially worked hard, hitting some crazy power moves like a belly-to-belly superplex.  The finish was pretty spectacular, as Rocco cannonballed off the top rope only for Barbarian to catch him in midair and go for a powerbomb.  But Johnny Grunge dove on top of both of them to pin Barbarian and win the match.

Next was a generic bout between Jeff Jarrett and Steve McMichael for a spot in the Four Horsemen.  McMichael came off as very green and messy, and of course this ended with outside shenanigans, as Debra McMichael got into a spat with Mongo before tossing his briefcase to Jarrett, who whacked Mongo in the head and scored the pinfall.

One of the criminal things about WCW in the late 90s was how few chances Chris Benoit got to show everyone what he was capable of.  On this show one of the best workers in the world was relegated to a silly, sloppy brawl with Kevin Sullivan, where for some reason Woman and Miss Jackie also fought the entire match while joined by a leather strap.  The crowd was mostly into this, but it was a pretty dumb affair overall.  Eventually Benoit set Sullivan up on a table, Jackie crawled on top of Sullivan to protect him, and Benoit splashed them both anyway.  The table didn't break and Benoit pinned both Sullivan and Jackie under it.  Pretty goofy match.

The semi-main event slot went to the Tag Team Title handicap match, as The Outsiders faced The Giant.  This was originally supposed to include Lex Luger but Eric Bischoff banned him from the match due to an injured arm.  So The Giant mostly held his own against Hall and Nash, all three guys using mostly nondescript brawling tactics.  Then late in the match Kevin Nash powerbombed The Giant but hurt his back and all three men were down.  Luger showed up in the entranceway, was chased by Bischoff, tossed Bischoff aside, and somehow got added as The Giant's partner, picking Nash up for the Torture Rack for the submission and the belts.  Bischoff would strip Luger and The Giant the next night due to Luger "not getting medical clearance" before wrestling.  Whatever, this match mostly stunk.

But not as bad as the Hulk Hogan-Roddy Piper main event.  Jeezus.  In my review of Starrcade '96 I said their non-title match was kinda fun to watch in a guilty pleasure sort of way.  This wasn't.  This match was pure drivel.  About halfway through the match, after Ted Dibiase, Vincent, and Michael Wallstreet tried to interfere, Sting and Randy Savage appeared in the entranceway, Savage began walking to the ring, Sting stopped him, and Savage proceeded anyway, spending the rest of the match at ringside.  About a minute later Sting left.  What the hell was that all about?  The nWo era was full of these illogical moments of guys just showing up simply to pop the crowd but having no discernible reason for their actions or presence.  Anyway, Piper locked Hogan in the sleeper for the apparent win, but Savage pulled Hogan's legs under the bottom rope, the referee waived off the decision (even though the referee presumably saw prior to this that Hogan's legs were fully inside the ring), Savage slipped Hogan some brass knucks, and Hogan knocked Piper out with them to retain the belt.  Then the nWo guys laid out Piper and Savage spray painted him.  Where the fuck was Sting here??  This main event was shit.

Age Not In the Cage

SuperBrawl VII, like most WCW shows at this point, had some decent undercard action which then gave way to insipid headliner matches involving the nWo and excessive shenanigans, to the extent that the matches themselves became pointless.  If every match has run-ins, interference, decision reversals, etc. why are we maintaining the illusion of a legit sporting contest?

Best Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Jericho
Worst Match: Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper
What I'd Change: Maybe don't recycle main events from 12 years earlier?
Most Disappointing Match: Syxx vs. Dean Malenko thanks to the stupid finish
Most Pleasant Surprise: Probably Rey vs. Iaukea
Overall Rating: 3.5/10

SuperBrawl VI
SuperBrawl VIII

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