Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

My Favorite Wrestling: WCW Pro 4/6/96 & 4/13/96 Redux

ER: Rachel and I had some drinks on a Saturday, and played Tokyo Jungle, then I got the craving to watch some WCW syndicated pro wrestling. What I didn't realize, was that I grabbed a disc of WCW Pro that I already reviewed, three years prior. I obviously had no memory of it, it all felt new to me, but I went through two full episodes of Pro before finding the old reviews. So I thought it would be fun to post both of my reviews side by side, with drunk me from Saturday night, reviewing the same matches as (presumably also drunk) me from 2015. It's kind of fun to see me comment on different things in the matches, comment on things I possibly missed, but also make some of the exact same jokes, and act like I'm saying something profound and for the first time (when I turns out I had some of the same revelations years earlier, apparently). Oh, and also, I skipped the Konnan match. Once I knew I had already watched it, I decided that in life there's just no need for a man to double up on Konnan matches. Here are the musings from the two viewing sessions:

4/6/96

Barrio Brothers vs. Craig Pittman/Jim Duggan

ER15: I have no memory of Sierra and Santana actually being called "Fidel Barrio and Ricky Barrio". I mean I have no memory of Ricky Santana in WCW, let alone as Ricky Barrio. And this was not good.   Sierra leaned out of all of Duggan's clotheslines (which were not thrown with much authority anyway), and then Pittman/Duggan just worked arm wringers on Sierra for what felt like 3 minutes. This has a classic WCW syndicated finish. The call to go home happens right at the 4 minute mark, except only the ref and Duggan know about it, so Santana breaks up the pin at the 2 count and Nick Patrick just calls for the bell anyway. This really seems like it happens every few shows. I mean Santana literally pulled Duggan by the leg off of Sierra, and Patrick didn't even count the 3, just called for the bell after 2. Usually it seems to happen in Konnan matches.


ER18: Whoa I had no idea Pittman and Duggan were ever a team, and this starts the night off with classic innocent 90s jingoism. A flag waver and a drill sergeant taking on a couple of mulleted ambiguously brown people. But it's strange to me that a team of Cuban/Puerto Rican workers wouldn't be huge territory babyfaces at the Florida tapings. If they did there shows in a Florida neighborhood and not a theme park for white families, you would get a totally flipped reaction running this match. I want the entire fucking series. Duggan throws some big meaty fists and I am much more of a Duggan apologist the older I get. This was fun, though I wish it had a bit more clubbering and less "Pittman holding an arm". Still, there were some nice shots, Santana takes a big backdrop bump, you'd dig this.

Scott Norton vs. One Man Gang

ER15: I had no idea these two ever matched up, and right when Gang came out I realized it was a match I REALLY wanted to see without having ever thought about it existing before. Like, Norton walked out and I was like "oh okay, a Norton singles match. Didn't realize he was getting singles matches this early in WCW." and then Gang came out and I was like "I WANT TO SEE THIS SO BAD!!!" I had no idea Gang was still working WCW at this point. The Konnan US Title loss was a few months before, and I don't remember much of him after that. So was surprised to see him pop up here. And it was awesome. BUT only 3 minutes long. Heartbreaking. But these 3 minutes are really good with both men working stiff with big clubbing blows and punches. Gang towers over Norton here which shocked me. I mean Gang looked enormous here, a good 6" over Norton. Rachel, not knowing the size of these two relative to others, thought Gang was Big Show size. Really carried himself like a giant, but worked really quick here. He took a huge bump off a Norton lariat, hit a super fast avalanche in the corner, really able to both bully Norton around while also look vulnerable. Norton will never have a problem clubbing a dude, and the match-ending powerslam he hits on Gang was epic. Picture Norton doing his normal fast high arc powerslam, but to a guy as large as Gang. Crazy finish. Two more minutes, shoot probably even one more minute and this would be a great find. As it is, it's wonderful, and they cram a lot of stiff action into three minutes, but just needed a *bit* more.

ER18: Ohhhhhh shit this is a big boy banger right here! One Man Gang is such an undeniable wrestling badass. He throws these hard downward elbows, big fists, and has a couple different super nasty face rakes on Norton, ripping at his nose and clawing at his mouth. No more than one minute into the match, this turns into a straight up shoot, as Norton stands up and punches Gang right in the fucking ear a couple times. This cruelly only goes 2.5 minutes, and you want 5 more minutes of these two beating the shit out of each other, but Norton hits a big ass rotating powerslam for the win, and I can't complain too much. But with even 2 more minutes this match would be legendary status.

Men at Work vs. Public Enemy

ER15: Boy there were a lot of Public Enemy tags on syndicated WCW TV. Many of them not good. This one? This one totally worked. PE just throw out nothing but clotheslines, and Mark Starr and Kanyon bump all over the place for the clotheslines. Men at Work would gain a minor advantage, stop and mockingly do the PE dance for all the white-shirted losers, and then PE would hit another clothesline. Clotheslines all around! Sometimes double clotheslines! There were no less than 13 clotheslines in this match. Clothesline, flat back bump. Then Rocco hit the asai moonsault on both guys, and put it away with the Drive-By. There must have been some kind of in-joke here. Or, Grunge and Rock just wanted to throw all of the clotheslines, and Men at Work had no problem with that. Men at Work did throw a nice double elbow drop at one point. Whatever, this all worked for me. Most of these guys are dead now.

ER18: Well, when you watch wrestling from 20+ years ago, you're going to eventually hit a match where everybody in it has been dead for 5+ years, and it takes the mood into total Bummersville. But these guys ain't dead in April '96, and this match rules. There must have been a backstage bet going on at these tapings because we've seen some nice stiff work from everyone tonight. Men at Work were a fun team that probably never had the chance at a great match, but they worked as really fun fake Barry Windhams. PE kinda suck but Rock's somersault senton lands hard, and the match was good.

Shark vs. Pez Whatley

ER15: Tenta...doesn't give Pez a whole lot here. There's a good leapfrog segment that allows Pez to show off his hops, Tenta crushes him with a nice elbow, hits a real nice falling slam, steps on him a bunch. After Shark gets the never-in-doubt win, Chris Cruise says "Well...it would appear...that maybe Pez Whatley never had a chance." It would appear so.

ER18: Pez goes for a single leg and Dusty freaks the fuck out and starts screaming that Pez is trying to bite Shark in the knee. Shark's singlet is one of my favorite outfits in wrestling. I love Tenta. Shark hits a big elbow drop and leg drop, big avalanche, hits the Shark Attack reverse bulldog (a pretty cool finisher that was only used a short time). We're on a pretty bleak run of dead guy competitors, and Pez really didn't offer a ton, but I always love seeing Tenta.

Ice Train vs. Lex Luger

ER15: So before you know what happens in this match, let me ask you how you would have guessed this match going. I would have guessed "test of strength, couple of shoulderblocks where neither man goes down, Ice Train gets a miniscule advantage, Luger calls for it to go home out of nowhere 2 minutes in." That sounds like exactly what you were picturing, right? Don't act like you expected this - what actually happened:

The match went almost 10 minutes, Luger gave Ice Train practically the WHOLE match, Ice Train won by DQ when Jimmy Hart attacked him with the megaphone, then Luger got punked out by Norton and Train after the match. Seriously. That's what happened. Luger stooged for Train the whole match. Train worked over Luger's arm and Luger put it over huge, sold his left arm, clutching it to his side, even setting up runs for Ice Train by doing things like missing a corner charge with his bad shoulder/arm. He gives Train everything. He even puts over Train's strength by going for a pinfall and then comically launching himself off of Train on the kickoff. And Ice Train really really really does not make the most of this gift. He looks so bad throughout so much of this. His punches are just impossibly bad. His arm work and Fujiwara armbar are surprisingly good, even tossing out a legdrop to Luger's wing at one point. But then he went and hit the worst drop toe hold I've ever seen. Luger didn't know what it was supposed to be. None of the announcers had any idea what it was supposed to be.

Actual exchange after the alleged drop toe hold:

Chris Cruise: Well I...believe that may have been some...maybe a drop toe hold?
Larry Z: Well we might never know unless we get...Quincy on the case.
Cruise: Quincy!?
Dusty: Quincy!! Quincy hasn't been on the air in 10 years!
Cruise: Maybe 20!
Larry Z: Look...with 80 cable channels you can find anything...
Dusty: Quincy Adams! Quincy Jones!
Larry Z: You know what...

Norton runs in after the interference, Luger clubs him and Norton completely no sells it, then Luger BEGS OFF!

I mean, this was awesome. Luger just totally stooged the whole time for a guy who really didn't deserve it. 1996 Luger has been just so consistently good.

ER18: Luger in '96 was really good, and I'm not sure why a bunch of us were such idiots back then. Was it always uncool to like Luger, like it would take points off your smart cred? Luger in '96 was like Big Match John Cena, if he embraced a heel side. Luger had this cocky smirk and gave Ice Train 4 straight minutes of big bump selling, getting leveled by shoulderblocks, stumbling and falling on his face, begging off, and after that he starts raking Train's face on the ropes and dropping big man elbows. He grabs a bearhug on a guy bigger than him, AND IT LEADS TO AN ICE TRAIN BEARHUG REVERSAL!! Ice Train pulls of a credible press slam kick out. Luger hits a big backdrop slam that Ice Train has the balls to stand right up from and Ice Up. And Luger generously shows more ass, taking a backdrop bump, getting DQ'd when Jimmy Hart hits Train with the megaphone, begging off from Scott Norton postmatch and eating a double clothesline. Luger was a fucking god in 1996. He is so much better than people ever gave him credit for.

4/13/96

State Patrol vs. Fire & Ice

ER15: This was really fun, and according to Chris Cruise the debut of Fire & Ice!! Historic!! Parker is a guy who won't back down and he jumps Train and immediately stiffs him up. It doesn't last long as Train gives Buddy a massive backdrop and a lariat right into Parker's throat, then Norton tags in and steamrolls him with a shoulderblock. State Patrol get to double team him for a bit, choking him out on the ropes and clubbing him, until Norton does a cool double vertical suplex on them. Finish is Norton hitting his nasty shoulderbreaker on Parker followed up with a huge standing splash from Train. Really fun tag.

ER18: Chris Cruise is saying this is the first time we've seen the Fire & Ice team, I am on such a great run of Pro because you know all of these dudes are gonna beat the shit out of each other. State Patrol are probably a team worth of a Complete & Accurate (though I'm leaning Beverly Brothers), and Parker is great. A C&A Buddy Lee Parker really should happen. He stiffs up Ice Train with elbows, takes a ridiculously high backdrop bump, eats a shoulderblock from Scott Norton that would separate my shoulder, but work convincing double teams and strike hard. Fire & Ice dish it right back though, and Norton hits an absolutely world shattering shoulderbreaker on Wright (rough enough that Rachel asked if those were illegal now), and Train laid it in with a super high Big E style splash. This was really damn good.

V.K. Wallstreet vs. Cobra

ER15: This was maybe the most offense I've ever seen Cobra get. He throws a nice dropkick, some decent-ish punches, threw a really nice high arc powerslam. A lot of guys threw pretty nice powerslams during this era WCW. But Cobra really was a guy who seemed green for several years. I once saw somebody selling a "Super J" comp tape from their tapelist. I assumed initially that it was some Super J Tourney Comp, but no, it was legitimately a Jeff Farmer comp, just during the time he went by Super J. That is probably the weirdest comp tape I've ever seen.

ER18: Cobra is a guy who really should have better, but he was a fun generically handsome 90s straight to video hero, the kind you'd see opposite of Lance Henriksen and think "Man why doesn't this Lance Henriksen guy get better gigs?" Wallstreet has a rep as a boring guy who would hold an abdominal stretch too long, but he's popped up for me in a few weirdly good performances these last few months. He had an awesome IRS/Kerry Von Erich match that I'd never seen before, that had this cool section with KVE fighting for a claw and IRS trying to tangle him up in the ropes. And here Wallstreet is throwing sharp back elbows and big shoulderblocks against a big dude, planting him with a powerslam, really looking like a tough guy. There are some good Rotundo performances out there, and I'm happy for him.

ER18: We get an amusing promo from Ric Flair, sitting with champagne in front of a lavender backdrop, with Woman at his side and Elizabeth lying down behind him like Simone Simon in Cat People, and Flair just talks about what a lucky guy he is and how much he loves women and how jealous Randy Savage must be of him. This guy needs a beating.

The Giant vs. Butch Long/NOT THEE Manny Fernandez

ER15: Manny Fernandez is announced as Vern Henderson here. I always feel for jobbers when they get their name announced wrong. But an onscreen graphic to boot? Ouch. So Manny and Long didn't actually get any offense here. I'll give you time to collect yourselves. Giant threw a nice corner clothesline, and (recurring theme!) a big powerslam. Cool spot where Manny was trying a single leg on Giant, Long flew in with a crossbody that got caught, Giant did a huge kneelift to Manny and then a fallaway slam on Long. This maybe went 90 seconds.

ER18: Manny and Butch have sorta matching tights. Were they going to be a regular team that ended up forgotten and lower on the totem pole than Disorderly Conduct? Sadly for Mr. Fernandez, the prematch graphic said he was Vern Henderson. Chris Cruise does him right during the match and calls him by his true name, but man that's gotta be frustrating to show up on TV and not even get to see your name. Giant shows off some cool stuff, a big powerslam, a great kneelift, throwing a guy like a basketball into the other's face, a fun throwback squash. Both guys were big enough that it looked extra impressive.

Men at Work vs. Brad Armstrong/Steve Armstrong

ER15: This was awesome. It's a fun example of WCW syndicated hierarchy, as there are still matches that surprise me with who's going over. I didn't see Norton going over One Man Gang, and here it was more of a toss-up. Armstrongs don't win a lot, neither do Men at Work. Armstrongs won this one, but ask yourself if the result wouldn't have been different if it were Scott and Steve instead of Brad and Steve. Steve/Scott seems like a team that could feasibly lose to Men at Work. But man this was good. Starr and Brad had glorious slicked down tightly curled mullets, you got a shit ton of dropkicks (and Brad is a guy with a great dropkick), Kanyon showed off a beautiful piece of underrated pro wrestling by nailing Brad with a big right hand coming out of an arm wringer (think about it, picture a guy doing an arm wringer, twisting up and under, only to be met with a right hand on the other side. You love it.), Steve continues the TREND by hitting a big rotating powerslam on Starr  (seriously, EVERYbody did a powerslam and it's the best), Kanyon predicts indie wrestling 15 years into the future by hitting a urunage onto his own knee, and that early match urunage leads to a great finish where Brad scouts it, reverses it later when Kanyon goes for it and slips right out the back into a dynamite Russian legsweep. This was just wonderful classic tag wrestling.

ER18: Armstrongs were so safe and wholesome and professional. They're working axe handle to arm spots, they're throwing armdrags and dropkicks, they're setting up miscommunication spots with Men at Work colliding on a rope running spot, and the white middle class fans are eating it all up! Steve hits this great high angle powerslam like he was Rick Steiner, but Kanyon drops a pitch perfect elbow drop across the back of Armstrong's head while he's pinning Starr. Seriously the perfect elbow. We get a nice long FIP section with Starr capturing Steve in a body vice and Kanyon dropping knees. We get a cutaway that makes Scott Armstrong look like a real weirdo: He's been out there the whole time at ringside, rooting for his boys, and wearing black windbreaker pants and a turquoise Universal Studios shirt tucking into them. And 3 minutes into the match we get a camera angle way from the back of the studio, a crane shot moving away from the action, the kind they use to get a look at the crowd...and all of the ring crew visible in the shot (camera man on the apron (a role that doesn't exist in modern TV wrestling), camera man on the floor, guy in charge of how much slack cable a camera operator needs)...are wearing the exact same thing as Scott Armstrong. They all got tucked in Universal Studios shirts, tucked into their black workout pants. Why did Scott Armstrong come out to ringside, wearing the exact same gear as the WCW ring crew? He could have worn anything. You don't want to be the guy wearing a red polo and khackis to Target. Did the Universal Studios security not believe Scott Armstrong was a wrestler so he had to sneak to ringside as a member of the ring crew? I'm so in the weeds on this clothing choice. Earlier in the match Steve Armstrong went for O'Connor roll and Kanyon broke it up by waiting for Starr to kick out, then hitting a uranage backbreaker on Armstrong. I thought it was dumb, as it was a bit too much of Kanyon's NOVA-ish side, but more that he was just assuming Starr would kick out. "I'm gonna hit this big innovative move once my partner kicks out of that plausible pinfall." BUT at the end of the match Brad gets an O'Connor roll on Starr, Starr kicks out, Kanyon grabs Brad in a uranage...and Brad reverses it to snap off a Russian leg sweep for the win. That move that I thought stood out as stupid, paid off in the end, and I left this match a happy man, other than the fact that I will never ever get an explanation for Scott Armstong's attire.

Lex Luger vs. Vern Henderson

ER15: Henderson is a fun old roided guy who pops up a couple times of year in WCW. He always tries, attempts offense he probably shouldn't, and takes at least one big bump a match. I always smile when Vern pops up. Luger is a little more controlling here than he was against Ice Train, but he still gives Vern a lot. Vern breaks out a neat little floatover armdrag that you wouldn't expect him to, and as advertised gets tossed to the floor and takes a big back bump without getting slowed down by the ropes. His punches are bad and Zbyszko calls out how awful his hammerlock is. "Luger must just be letting him put that thing on to be kind!" Luger hits a powerslam (THEME!) and runs nicely into Vern's corner boot. But then it's torture rack time. Fun little match. Luger was like Bill Dundee in terms of 1996 WCW studio taping mastery.

ER18: We get two straight weeks of Luger main events, and Vern Henderson gets his name graphic on two different matches AND a main event slot. Vern Henderson is having the best week ever! But then Dusty calls him Florence Henderson, and that good week window slams shut. Henderson is an older musclehead that I always end up liking, he bumps big for a guy who looks like he can't move his torso much, and he always tries new offense that he's probably too big for. Luger is way too generous in these matches but it's awesome, he gets a couple of early elbows and throws Henderson to the floor through the middle rope (with Vern taking a nice no hands bump to the floor), and the rest of the match he totally gives to Henderson. Henderson does this very slow but very awesome Tim Horner armdrag, rolling over Luger's back. He also hits a big flying back elbow that looked nice, all of this with Luger bumping all over for him. The only actual drawback to syndicated WCW is that the finishes can get lazy (which is a dumb statement coming right after the fun ending to the previous match). With the big stars you often get them showing ass until it's time to go home, and then just hitting their finisher. Macho Man obviously did this a lot, Flair not shockingly as well, and here Luger bumps all around for Vern until he just kicks him and gets him in the Torture Rack. Still, we got a fun match up until that bit of uninspiration.

Barbarian vs. Konnan

ER15: Woof. What a waste of Barbarian. Let me be the first person to talk about how awful a wrestler Konnan was. At this point he had been given the US title, yet still clearly had no idea how to take offense. He had no idea how to fall, and many times came off like a totally untrained wrestler. At one point Barbarian hits a lariat and Konnan puts his arms at his side and just tips over. Later he spun around twice before hitting a kick to the stomach. I can't actually figure out a way to type what he did, to properly convey how misguided it looked. Barbarian was in the ropes, Konnan right in front of him, in place, just spun around clockwise - twice - on his feet, and at the end of the second spin just threw his leg out, so it was like a sidekick to the stomach. Barbarian sold it properly, like a confused man who kind of got flicked in the nuts by a good friend. Just holding his stomach and looking up at Konnan, confused. Later Konnan has problems getting up on a powerbomb (didn't seem like he intentionally sandbagged Barb, just looked like he was clueless) so Barb muscled him up and planted him anyway. The finish is Klassic Klueless Konnan, as Barbarian goes for another powerbomb, Konnan is supposed to do a rana, but Konnan instead manages to completely brain himself, just awkwardly dropping right onto his own head and neck. Barb tries gallantly to roll through it, and Konnan ends up sitting on Barbarian's chest holding his own head for the pin. A true champion.


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