Saturday, April 18, 2015

WCW Road Wild '98 - The One With Jay Leno

Look, the only reason there's even a blog post regarding this is because it popped up on the WWE Network and it's a WCW Pay-Per-View event from 1998... oh, and it also featured Jay Leno in the main event. Yes, kids. That Jay Leno. The one formerly of the Tonight Show. The one with the chin.

WCW was at that weird point in 1998 where, after a year and a half of ratings dominance in the Monday Night Wars (tm), they were faced with stiff competition from a resurgent WWF. Despite having a super popular superstar in form of Goldberg (in the midst of his legendary win streak), WCW felt they needed more "starpower". So they bring in guys like Dennis Rodman and Carl Malone to do a match at their Bash At The Beach PPV... which I barely remember because it's been ages. And then, we get to this show... the one with Jay Leno.

For the most part, you bring up Road Wild '98 to anyone well versed in wrestling and they'll usually tell you that it's that show in Sturgis with all the bikers where Jay Leno wrestled Hulk Hogan. That one bit is the only defining aspect of this one show. And perhaps it's for the best because the rest of the show?

Meh... it's pretty bad.

First match on the card is Meng vs. Barbarian. Meng is otherwise best known as Haku in WWF; the tough Samoan dude who was once tag-team champions with the late Andre The Giant... or, if you prefer, the tough Samoan dude who had funny hair and made a surprise appearance at the 2001 Royal Rumble shortly after having won WCW's version of the Hardcore title. All of this information is more intriguing than the match itself, which is about as intriguing as a 20-minute HHH promo. Anyway, it's a nothing match between two big guys that Meng eventually wins with the Tongan Death Grip submission move. Apparently, that Death Grip move was a big deal back in WCW. If only Meng was a bigger deal in WCW than he actually was... after all, aren't Samoans supposed to be big deals in wrestling?

Now we got a tag-team match between the team of Disco Inferno (best known for being Vince Russo's buddy) and Alex Wright (best known for being that kid Hacksaw didn't want to do business with) versus the Public Enemy (best known for their ECW stuff). Well, it starts off as a tag match, but eventually becomes a street fight when Wright gets a trash can involved. There's a bit where the Public Enemy put poor Disco through three tables and that's enough to get the win. Think hardcore match, but without the blood or the excitement. Eh, it was fairly harmless, at least.

Next up is a three-way match (dubbed a "Triangle" match by Schiavone) between Raven (complete with overdubbed WWE entrance music), Perry Saturn (complete with overdubbed WWE entrance music), and Kanyon... who I assume still retained his original music here... it's been a good long while since I saw this one live, folks. Anyway, it's another hardcore match type thing with run ins and things of that nature. Saturn eventually wins the match with a pin over Raven. I don't recall if they had another match at the following PPV or if Saturn went ahead to feud with Jericho.

Rey Mysterio... JUNIOR... beats Psychosis in a dull match... yeah, I wasn't feeling this one. You'd figure the Lucha stuff would be somewhat energetic, but this was about as energetic and exhilarating as a typical modern-day WWE Divas match.

So Chavo Guerrero comes out, wants a match with Stevie Ray, and decides on a handshake. Stevie Ray then beats Chavo up for a bit, pins the guy, and beats him up some more until Uncle Eddie comes along to make the save... Stupid. Just stupid.

There was supposed to be a Steiner vs Steiner match, but Big Poppa Pump hurt himself while trying to learn the English language, so the match is called off. JJ Dillon sets a match for the next PPV... boy, that was well worth your money, wasn't it?

Steve "Mongo" McMichael beat Brian Adams (no, not that Bryan Adams) in a match so bad that it made me wish I was watching a David Arquette WCW World Title defense.

Juventud Guerrera defeated Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho to win the title. Special referee is Dean Malenko. I miss Jericho when he was the whiny crybaby heel. I also miss Juventud before drugs fucked him up real bad... allegedly. This match was okay... nothing groundbreaking or anything, but it was merely fine. On a card that has largely been morbid thus far, that makes it match of the night by default. Incredible.

By the way, it should be noted that Chris Jericho's original Evenflow-knockoff theme that he used in WCW was replaced with his generic WWE theme. Because WWE ruins everything.

There's a battle royal between four members of nWo Hollywood, four members of nWo Wolfpac... and WCW World Heavyweight Champion Goldberg. This show is so bad they couldn't give their WORLD CHAMPION anything meaningful to do. Anyway, it's a battle royal that's short, pointless, and is eventually won by Goldberg... knowing what I know now, I'm surprised nobody optioned Goldberg losing at this match as a means of "protecting" him or whatever. Now, the match itself was a throwaway, but there is one point I'd like to note here... something that is a minor point, but is something that I actually did appreciate in watching this today.

There's nine participants in this match; four Hollywood guys, four Wolfpac guys, and Goldberg. The feuding nWo guys go at it, leaving Goldberg to sort of bounce around and survey what's transpiring, waiting for the right moment to pounce and strike. While this is a clear stall tactic on Goldberg, it's a rather nice touch in that while Goldberg isn't fighting anyone for the most part, he's still scouting around to pick his moments to strike. He isn't resting in the corner or laying low outside the ring; he's moving about, being active without being too active. It added an otherwise subtle layer to Goldberg's character beyond the straight-up killing machine he had been presented as previously and it was a notable, but largely insignificant, attempt at giving the viewer doubt that Goldberg would win this one... although for those who know better, there was no way they were going to waste a big deal on something insignificant.

Going back to this year's Royal Rumble debacle and the way they dropped the ball with Roman Reigns, if I were to have rebooked the way Roman was presented, it'd be that way. He'd come in, strike a few guys, and when he had nothing to do, he'd bounce around and scout everyone out, waiting for his chance to strike. It wouldn't solve all their woes, but it'd make his Rumble win a bit more believable and he wouldn't need help from Dwayne to try (and fail) to get a pop.

But I digress.

In the main event, Jay Leno and Diamond Dallas Page defeated Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff when Leno pinned Bischoff after Tonight Show bandleader Tony Eubanks did a Diamond Cutter on Easy E... that the crackshot WCW editing team almost cut away from. This was a fairly mediocre match, but not necessarily terrible. DDP and Hogan did most of the work and what little Leno did (a nutshot, a couple weak punches, and a 2-count pinfall attempt on Hogan) was harmless. I must protest at the missed opportunity for Jay Leno to pull off a Chin Drop Of Doom finisher. It would've been something cool... but it was not to be, sadly.

There was a Travis Tritt mini-concert following this, but naturally WWE cut it from the broadcast.

Hey, you know what? Say what you will about Jay Leno wrestling - and no doubt a lot has been said - but he did more in this match with his meager efforts than Drew Carey did at the Royal Rumble... so why the fuck isn't Jay Leno in the WWE Hall Of Fame?

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