“Terry Funk, you’re just too damn old”
Vince Russo, April 2000
In last week’s column we looked at the first pay per view of WCW’s controversial 2000 “reboot” in Spring Stampede 2000. For those who didn’t join us, I thought the actual wrestling on the show wasn’t great, as there were too many short matches with rubbish finishes, but there was so much going on in every segment that I at least wasn’t bored by the show.
This week, we’ll be looking at the final show from this “Reboot Trilogy” as I watch the Nitro from the night after Spring Stampede. With the heavy lifting of assigning champions and starting all the major feuds out of the way, will Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff calm down and start letting the storylines breathe? Or will they continue with the break neck speed, to the detriment of the in ring product? Let’s read on and find out!
The event is emanating from Rockford, Illinois
Calling the action are Tony Schiavone, Scott Hudson and Mark Madden
We open the show with still clips from Spring Stampede and then cut to find security sealing off the entrances to the building to stop the Millionaire’s Club coming in. serves the MC right to be fair, if they’d come to work early they could have pre-empted this little ruse.
We go to the ring where ticker tape and balloons fall from the ceiling to welcome the New Blood of Vince Russo, Shane Douglas, Buff Bagwell, Chris Candido, Tammy Sytch and Scott Steiner. They bring their Tag Team (Douglas and Bagwell), Cruiserweight (Candido) and United States (Steiner) titles out with them. This big display looks pretty expensive. Maybe wait till the company is actually profitable again before spending so much money on stuff like this eh chaps?
Russo grabs a microphone and brags about the New Blood winning all the titles last night, the Hardcore Title aside, which was won by Terry Funk. Russo says that will be addressed tonight as Funk is just “too damn old”. Russo then gets a jab in at Jim Ross, saying he held the next man down, before introducing new World Champion Jeff Jarrett down to the ring. Jarrett comes out with the belt and also takes a shot at Ross.
With the petty sniping out of the way, Jarrett then addresses Diamond Dallas Page and challenges him to a match at the upcoming Slamboree in the three tiered cage from the “Ready 2 Rumble” movie. Oh dear, I’ve just had a premonition of where this storyline is going. Russo gets on the mic again and introduces Eric Bischoff, who comes out to the ring with Kimberly Page, who had turned on her husband the night before.
We see that riot police are surrounding the ring. Given that Vince Russo is booking, I imagine that those riot police outfits are to disguise some people so they can unmask for a surprise reveal? We’ll see if I’m right. Bischoff says he’s going to team up with Kimberly to make DDP’s life a living hell. Kimberly gets a chance to speak and says that she was sick of being in DDP’s shadow so she turned on him so that she could now be the star of the show.
As Bischoff continues to rant, we see DDP pull up in his car and fight off security to enter the arena. He rushes the ring and gets overwhelmed by the superior numbers until, wouldn’t you believe it, the riot squad unmask as Sting, Lex Luger and Ric Flair! Haha, called it!! The Millionaire’s Club clear the ring and stand tall.
We get a video recap of the opening segment and then cut of Bischoff dressing down Lash Leroux, Bam Bam Bigelow, Hugh Morrus, Chavo Guerrero Jnr, Jerry Flynn and Booker T about not helping out the New Blood in the previous segment. Booker says they weren’t invited out for the celebration, so didn’t think they’d be needed. Bischoff admonishes him for that and tells everyone in the room that they have a finite amount of time to impress him before he starts wielding the unemployment hammer. As they all trudge out, Bischoff makes a request to Russo to book DDP against Mike Awesome. Russo goes off to arrange this whilst Eric gets a phone call from Hulk Hogan, saying he’s on his way to the show tonight and will be kicking his ass in 5 minutes.
The announcers discuss what we have just seen, as Tony asks if there is any dissention within the New Blood? Bloody hell, they’ve been together for all of a week and they’re ALREADY teasing dissention? It took them literally MONTHS before they started teasing that with the nWo.
“Perfect One” Shawn Stasiak Vs Curt Hennig
We’ve waited close to half an hour for a match and this is what we get? Worth waiting for eh readers? Miss Hancock (Stacy Keibler) comes down to take notes on this match, but it’s not revealed why. After a brief token wrestling sequence, Hennig drags Stasiak outside and the two begin brawling. Hennig throws Stasiak into the commentary table and then throws a bottle of water onto Madden.
Back inside the ring, Stasiak gets a vertical suplex but eats a knee lift in response. Hennig clotheslines Stasiak, but also manages to take the ref out in the process. Hennig gets the Fisherman’s Suplex, but there’s no one to count, so Hennig goes to revive the referee. This allows Stasiak to take an international object out of his trunks and clock Hennig with it. With the ref waking up, Stasiak hits Hennig with a modified TKO called “The Perfect Plant” to pick up the win. At least he hit the move properly this time after botching it last week.
WINNER: SHAWN STASIAK
Only a couple of minutes long, if that, but at least they hit all their spots. Still a miserable opener though.
Stasiak works over Hennig post-match, but the cameras cut to the back to see Hogan pulling up in his car. The police try to prevent him from entering the building, but Hogan just stares them down until they let him pass. What awful police officers! Try that in real life the next time you’re in bother with the law, I doubt they’ll be so quick to crumble. Hogan comes down to the ring to rescue Hennig and helps him up as we go to a break.
We’re back with some Hogan promo time. He cuts a good promo saying that Russo and Bischoff are no longer just messing with the character Hulk Hogan but the man Terry Bollea. He then calls out Kidman, who shows up on the video wall and tells Hogan to come and find him, which Hogan sets off to do. Considering how long it took him to find Eric Bischoff last week, this could end up taking a while.
We’re back with Hogan looking for Kidman. As predicted, he’s not doing an especially good job of it. He’s like a bloodhound with no sense of smell or directional sense.
Cut to Mean Gene Okerlund with Jeff Jarrett in the interview area. Jarrett insults Gene and then says he’ll hang up an open contract on his locker room for any New Blood member to sign and get a title shot tonight.
WCW Hardcore Title
Champion: Terry Funk Vs The Wall
Wall demands Funk hit him with a chair right from the start, but won’t go down. Funk was thankfully pulling those shots a bit as Wall wasn’t putting his hands up. Outside we go, where Funk wears Wall out with the chair before hitting an insane moonsault off the top rope to the outside. Funk was 55 at this time by the way.
Funk amazingly is able to get up after doing that move, but Wall is also up and drills him with a big boot. Wall now hammers Funk with the chair and hits a piledriver on the commentary table, but neglects to pin Funk for some reason. Wall starts pummelling Funk up the aisle way and mauls him with a guardrail.
Over we go to the entrance way, where Wall traps Funks head in a piece of the set and sets him up for a choke slam. However, there’s a stack of tables next to both men which mysteriously topple over and land on Wall’s head. With Wall down, Funk traps him under one of the tables and picks up the win to retain.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TERRY FUNK
Funk was an expert at playing the “stubborn veteran who won’t stay down” character and was very entertaining in that role. I’m not sure if they ever revealed that the deal with those tables was. I assume someone pushed them over deliberately to ensure Wall didn’t win the title, but it’s just as likely that it was all forgotten by the next show.
Funk doesn’t even get a moment to celebrate as we cut backstage right away to see Brian Adams and Brian Clark demanding a title shot from Vince Russo for helping Douglas and Bagwell against Flair and Luger last night. Russo says they will get their shot but it won’t be tonight and asks them to be patient. They let him go for now.
We see the aforementioned contract for a shot at Jarrett. We see a hand signing their name, but don’t see who it is.
Jarrett sees who signed the contract, and he isn’t happy about it.
Diamond Dallas Page is with Mean Gene in the interview area. DDP is angry about last night and looks directly into the camera to tell Bischoff that once he’s dealt with Awesome he’s coming for him!
The Mamalukes are in the ring waiting for the Harris Boys to face them in a match, but we cut backstage to see Adams and Clark destroying the Harris’. With the Harris’ battered, Adams and Clark then come down and put a big beat down on the Mamalukes as well, as Tony says on commentary that the former Crush and Wrath are going by the team name of “Kronik”. After quite an impressive assault, Adams grabs the mic and warns Russo that he doesn’t want Kronik to work against him and that any team that face them will face a nightmare. This was a good segment that got Kronik over and made them look like a dangerous team.
As the commentators muse over who could have signed the contract, Vampiro’s music hits and he comes down to the ring with a microphone. He addresses Sting, saying he knows nothing of pain and challenges him for Slamboree. Vamp’s delivery isn’t great and is quite stilted. Sting comes down from the rafters to attack, but takes ages to undo the harness so Vamp has to stand their making stupid faces whilst he waits. Urgh, that was horrible. Sting finally unties himself and promptly destroys Vamp with a baseball bat whilst chastising him on the mic. He leaves Vamp a broken mess and declares that WCW “runs through his veins” before leaving.
Okay, why on Earth would I want to see the Sting Vs Vampiro match on the pay per view now? Sting not only beat Vamp clean as a sheet at Spring Stampede but he also came out here and thoroughly and utterly decimated his rival all by himself. What’s the point in having them wrestle now? We’ve seen it multiple times and it’s been made completely clear that Sting is superior to his rival. Is Vamp now going to have to get the heat all over again? Because you can only do that a limited amount of times before fans stop caring and tire of the storyline. This was an awful segment, with an abysmal promo from Vampiro and a nonsensical beat down from Sting.
We get a recap of what just happened and then cut to Hogan still looking for Kidman. Godot is probably going to get here before Hogan finds him at this rate.
Cut to Jarrett complaining to Russo about the open contract idea. Russo says he’ll go to talk to the person who signed the contract.
Diamond Dallas Page Vs Mike Awesome
DDP hammers away on Awesome to start but Awesome gets a springboard back elbow and a splash. DDP gets a jumping DDT for two but then walks into a clothesline, which gives Awesome a two of his own. DDP gets a sambo suplex for two but gets sent out and Awesome follows with a plancha. DDP comes back with a chair but Awesome punches it into his face, which is Kanyon’s cue to run down and attack Awesome for the disqualification.
WINNER: MIKE AWESOME BY DISQUALIFICATION
Just a collection of moves with a cheap finish. Awesome delivers a vicious release German Suplex to Kanyon, dropping him right on his head, before bringing out a table. Kanyon looks to be heading for Table Town but is rescued by Kevin Nash, who comes from the crowd to attack Awesome. Why on Earth would I want to boo Awesome here? He’s fighting three on one and got jumped from behind by one of them to boot. That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Anyway, Nash powerbombs Awesome through the table. Awesome has been in WCW a week and has already done a submission job to Scott Steiner and been put through a table by one of the few people in the company who is actually taller than him. Yup, that sounds like WCW alright!
We see Russo talking to the contract signee, trying to get them not to go ahead with the match later.
Cut to Tank Abbott walking backstage. Madden is terrified.
Mean Gene is with Douglas and Bagwell in the interview area. Bagwell targets Luger whilst Douglas has a go at Flair, as it’s revealed that both men will face the object of their ire at Slamboree. Luger walks in and challenges Douglas to a match tonight, but only on the condition that if Russo runs in then Douglas and Bagwell would forfeit the tag titles.
Cut to Tank Abbott coming down to the ring as Madden freaks out. Abbot challenges Goldberg again and repeats that he’ll keep attacking people until he shows up. He tries to attack an Ice Hockey owner by dragging him out of the crowd into the ring, but one of the players from his team runs in before too much damage can be done and Abbot skulks off.
Cut to Hogan, who is still looking for Kidman. Terry Taylor shows up and tells Hogan he saw Kidman outside. Hogan thanks him and heads off for a fight. Is that Taylor’s official role at this point? It’s like the third time in a week where he’s stooged off a heel’s location to a baby face. This must be an in-joke of some kind?
Jarrett is still worried about this main event. Russo comes in and delivers the bad news that the mystery opponent won’t give up the title match. He tells Jarrett he’ll get him out of this somehow.
Lex Luger w/ Miss Elizabeth Vs Shane Douglas
If Russo interferes then Douglas and Bagwell forfeit the WCW Tag Titles
Punching and kicking from both men to start, which leads to Douglas choking Luger with some wrist tape. Luger gets some clotheslines and calls for the Torture Wrack, which is Buff Bagwell’s cue to come out to his music and pyro, which allows Douglas to give a distracted Luger a low blow.
Someone in the crowd wearing a Sting mask high fives Douglas, who thinks that it’s Russo in disguise, but then hits him with a bat. The person unmasks to reveal Ric Flair, who assaults Douglas for the apparent disqualification.
WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATION: SHANE DOUGLAS
Barely anything before the finish. The Champions bail out and then yell at Russo for not helping them out. Russo correctly explains that they would have lost the titles if he had come out during the match. The booking on this show is so nonsensical that even the wrestlers forget the stipulations!
Hogan enters the car park and finds the Humvee that crashed into his limo last week.
We’re back with a Hogan and Kidman brawl in progress. Torrie tries to help Kidman with a feeble shot from a 2×4, so Hogan grabs her around the throat and threatens to punch her before Kidman rescues her. Hulk Hogan, hero to millions! Hogan continues to dominate Kidman and throws him into a dumpster, which causes Bischoff to flee on foot when he can’t get the Humvee to start up. Hogan is able to start it and rams the dumpster a few times before driving off after Bischoff.
We recap what just happened and the return to live action to see Kidman being loaded into a stretcher. After being thoroughly out-fought by Hogan on three occasions now, he’s practically dead as a threat to the Hulkster and we’re not even a week into their program yet.
WCW World Title
Champion: Jeff Jarrett Vs The Mystery Opponent of DOOM!!!
It turns out that it’s Scott Steiner, who comes down to the ring with Midajah, Shakira (Not that one) and Tylene Buck. Of the three, Shakira is by far the one with the most enthusiasm for the role and the most committed to the gimmick, so she was let go in July whilst the other two were kept around because,
Steiner bulls Jarrett around at first and gets a clothesline followed by an elbow drop. Steiner gets a military press drop but Jarrett fires back with right hands and a second rope axe handle smash. Jarrett heads up top and gets a cross body block for two but Steiner fires back with a belly to belly suplex for two. Both men trade low blows, with Steiner getting his in last and then going to the Steiner Recliner, but Booker T runs in to attack him and save the title for Jarrett.
WINNER BY DISQUALIFICATIO: SCOTT STEINER
You know what? That match had potential to be good and you could tell the fans were interested in seeing it, so that makes the shortness and crap finish even more aggravating. Booker must have decided to rescue Jarrett in order to get into Russo and Bischoff’s good graces. This match made Jarrett look like a really weak champion by the way. In other news, water is wet. You know, for being such a good pal of his, Russo sure did his utmost to make Jarrett look like an absolute chump the minute he won that title didn’t he?
Meanwhile, Hogan is looking for Bischoff. Of for the love of fudge, can we please knock the “baby face wandering around trying to find the heel” thing on the head please lads?
We get the Spring Stampede recap again in order to hype the encore presentation.
Hogan finally finds Bischoff and chases him down to the ring and corners him. Hogan throttles Bischoff as Russo comes down with a baseball bat, only to have Bret Hart run past him with a chair. Hogan sees Bret get in the ring and encourages him to hit Bischoff with the chair. Bret takes a swing as the show cuts to black. (Spoiler, it was a SWERVE and he hit Hogan)
Okay, first the good;
– They’re doing a great job in making Steiner look like a star
– They made Kronik look like a dominant threat to the tag titles
– They announced four matches for the pay per view whilst still being a few weeks out
Now the bad;
– They made Jeff Jarrett look like a whiny and undeserving champion and weren’t consistent in their portrayal of him. Why would you have Jarrett be confident and challenge DDP to a big cage match at the pay per view, which as the champ is something he doesn’t need to do, only to then have him crap his pants over facing Steiner? Either have him be a confident heel champion who will take on anyone or make him a snivelling heel hiding behind Russo. Pick a side of the fence and stick with it. And, if you are going to book him against Steiner, make him look more competitive during the actual match if that’s the finish you had planned.
– The wrestling is abysmal, with short matches that have no time to tell a story and a whole host of awful finishes. As mentioned last week, WCW fans were always more into the in ring aspect than the other stuff, so if you gave them a couple of decent matches on a Nitro, and a main event with an actual finish, they were usually happy. Russo’s desire to turn WCW into Attitude Era WWF was never going to work because what made WCW work in the first place was that it was an ALTERNATIVE to the WWF. Most WCW fans watched it because they didn’t like the WWF’s crash TV and liked WCW expressly because it was different. Making WCW into a poor man’s WWF was not what the fan base wanted and only made it look like a cheap imitation to casual fans. This is the exact issue that TNA ran into when Russo was booking it.
– Having all the faces leave their heel foes lying only a week into the storyline killed all of those feuds. I’m not saying you have to have the heels destroying the faces every week, but you should at least have them get out of dodge before the faces can properly get their revenge. With the Kidman/Hogan angle for instance, instead of having Hogan pummel Kidman and then destroy him with the Humvee, why not have him shine for a little bit in the brawl until Torrie distracts him. With Hogan distracted, Kidman could get a quick shot in before speeding off in the Humvee with Torrie and Bischoff whilst Hogan looks on and fumes. You still let Hogan get a little piece of Kidman but Kidman also manages to get away before Hogan can fully extract his revenge, thus giving us a reason to tune in next week to see if he can get it then. After that angle tonight, why would I want to see Hogan and Kidman do anything again? Hogan already got his revenge and made Kidman look like a loser, why would I want to see any more of it?
It reminds me of a story Jim Cornette told on one of those Kayfabe Commentary DVD’s, where he said that after Kane debuted in the WWF at Badd Blood 1997, Russo wanted Undertaker to choke slam Kane through a table the next night on Raw, even though they were supposed to build to that match for WrestleMania in five months. When Cornette said that this was too much too soon as the feud had just started, Russo replied that “We can always do something else next week to keep it going”.
That, in a nutshell, is Vince Russo’s booking. Every week is the blow off with another blow off the due for the following week. You just can’t book wrestling like that. Every time you have the heel “redress the balance” as it were by getting the heat again, the fans will always care less and less each time you do it. Again, I’m not saying you can’t have the baby faces get one over on the heels some weeks, but there are ways of doing it without killing off the storyline.
Ultimately, that is Vince Russo’s biggest issue. He can’t, or won’t, comprehend the subtleties of wrestling storytelling, which is why by and large he’s always been rubbish at it unless he’s had someone like Vince McMahon (who for all his faults does understand the subtleties) watching over him and keeping tabs on things. Writing wrestling is different to writing other forms of TV, and unless you appreciate and accept that, you’re doomed to failure.
Thanks for joining me for this journey through the dying days of WCW. Russo and Bischoff’s teaming would last until July, at which point Bischoff would leave with Hulk Hogan and the company continued to lose money. Both Russo and Bischoff, as always, had their excuses for why things didn’t work and their apologists would repeat them like the gospel. Ultimately the two had different visions for how they wanted WCW to go and they weren’t able to reconcile them into something that worked. Thus, WCW died in March 2001 and was gobbled up by Vince McMahon’s WWF, giving him a monopoly on American wrestling that he still enjoys to this day.
I hope you’ll join me next week where I venture to 1997 and take things to the Extreme!
Thanks for reading
Thanks must also go to Adam Matters for providing the art work for the featured image and to www.networkplaylists.com for providing so many of the pictures