Friday, August 7, 2015

WCW Souled Out 2000 - The Exodus

WARNING: The following post contains mentions of Chris Benoit. Discretion is advised.

WCW Souled Out 2000 opens with the typical WCW signature video that had opened many WCW programs since mid-1999 and from there, instead of an opening video montage detailing the card for the program, we go straight to the arena shot and pyro, where announcer Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the first WCW Pay-Per-View event of the 21st century. And we begin with about five minutes worth of recaps. This is the sign of a program that has been rewritten (almost literally) at the last second, which might be the norm for WCW, but the reasons here are far more grave than the typical excuse of nobody having a clue as to what the show's about.

The original card for Souled Out was to feature Bret Hart defending the WCW World Heavyweight title against Sid Vicious and Jeff Jarrett defending the US title against Chris Benoit. Of course, with Bret suffering from a concussion that would end his wrestling career and Jarrett also saddled with injuries that forced him out of action for the short term, WCW was forced at the last second to rebook the top of the card. And that's how we ended up with the main event of Sid vs. Benoit for the vacant World title.

Going into this viewing, I had not seen the PPV in years; more than likely since its original airing back in 2000. However, one thing I remember was that in the weekend of the show, I'd watch the PPV preview channel and I'd distinctly recall a card that would pop up and announce that Bret Hart would not compete and the main event was going to be Sid vs. Benoit for the World title. Whether that was a WCW thing or a Viewer's Choice thing, I thought that was a cool bit for them to update the card so that fans would not have false expectations. It is generally a rule of thumb to not mention these things until the show is taking place. So, this forward thinking is actually a surprising gesture. Whether it'd helped or hurt the buyrate... I'm probably the wrong guy to ask about that.

Anyway... on with the show... as it were...

First match on the card is Billy Kidman vs. Dean Malenko in Catch As Catch can match, where you lose the match if your feet touches the floor. The majority of folks who have heard of or seen this match know what's coming, but for those who don't, Dean Malenko rolls out of the ring and loses the match... My guess is he forgot the rules or he didn't follow the script... Well, that was a waste of time. What a way for Dean to go out on.

Next up, we got a three-way match between Vampiro, David Flair, and Crowbar. Most people nowadays probably don't remember David Flair as a wrestler and after watching this match, there's probably a good reason for it; he wrestles about as well as David Arquette... not high praise. I forgot how much of a shrill Daphney was back in the day, but unlike Stephanie McMahon, she's not the kind of shrill that equates to ear rape central. At point, there's a very mild "Vampiro" chant from a bunch of girls, leading me to assume he's the "good guy" here. This match is hard to watch; I'm practically falling asleep here. The finish comes when Daphney interrupts a Vampiro win and Vampiro teases hitting her, but Flair shows up and misses the mark, allowing Vampiro to hit Flair with the Nail In The Coffin (yes, that's the name of his xxx move) and scores the pinfall.

Big Vito and Johnny The Bull beat Ron and Don Harris when Big Vito got pushed off the top rope by Disco inferno and Vito just so happened to have landed on one of the Harris twins... Look, on one side, you've got the stereotypical Mafioso gimmicks with the two Italian guys and on the other side, you have the "constantly repackaged and repurposed and still nobody cares about them" Harris Twins. I'm sure Vince Russo was thrilled with this one because the Italian guys won, but honestly, even the crowd got bored with this one.

Oklahoma, the horrible Jim Ross parody portrayed by Ed Ferrara, defeated Madusa for the Cruiserweight title. It was short, at least. Just... not short enough. But, for those wondering what Madusa was referencing to when she pulled out a bottle of BBQ sauce during her Hall of Fame speech, I direct you to the WWE Network for... well, you know.

Brian Knobbs defeated Fit Finlay, Norman Smiley, and Meng to retain the WCW Hardcore title... in a hardcore match that would barely pass for a Bingo Hall classic. It's not a bad brawl or anything; but it's also nothing special, really.

Billy Kidman defeats Perry Saturn in a Bunkhouse Brawl... meh. It's alright. Nothing noteworthy or anything, but at the very least, it's relatively inoffensive.

Booker T defeated Stevie Ray via DQ when the former Ahmed Johnson (now dubbed Big T and for good reason) came in and attacked Booker... it's sad that the best part about this match was the loud "Ahmed" chant. This was the kick-off to a ridiculously retarded storyline where Booker T would lose the rights to the letter T and would get different music and one wonders why this company didn't go out of business sooner. The storyline itself had no real resolution, as the great reboot in April 2000 came along and killed the angle dead. No tears were shed in that regard, I assure you.

I don't usually touch on the interview segments much, but watching Sid's interview where he's talking about having to fight his friend for the World title, I'm thinking that this is perhaps the most coherent Sycho Sid Justice Vicious promo I've ever heard. Never thought I'd see the day.

Tank Abbott defeated Jerry Flynn in a quick shoot fight... did you know that Vince Russo suggested putting the World Title on Tank Abbott and everyone thought that was a stupid idea? I have to admit the possibility kinda intrigued me, but after watching this match, all intrigue went out the window. I guess the thing with Tank Abbot is that, yeah, he was a former UFC guy and had the look of an imposing bad ass, but the problem was that nobody gave a shit about Tank Abbott; nobody had a reason to care about Tank Abbott. We were (are) beyond the point where all you need is a goofy gimmick or unique look to get people to notice. They also have to care. People cared about Steve Austin's battles with Vince McMahon. People cared about the eventual confrontation between Sting and Hollywood Hogan. People cared about Goldberg and the streak. People cared about the feud between WWF and WCW... who gave a rat's ass about Tank Abbott at that point? Nobody...

Buff Bagwell defeated Diamond Dallas Page in a so-so Last Man Standing match that saw DDP hit a Diamond Cutter on Bagwell, but ol' DDP wasn't quick enough to beat the count and Buff wins... I'd imagine if DDP discovered yoga earlier, he would've beaten the count easily. Kimberly shows up to distract Buff, who then gets a DDP beating... this was okay.

In a Caged Heat match (which takes place in a steel cage that looks suspiciously like a Hell in a Cell), Billy Kidman falls to the Wall, the supposed mystery man that was teased throughout the whole show. Would've been interesting if the mystery man turned out to be Eddie Guerrero and Kidman beat him too on his way out. As it is, it's just there.

Kevin Nash defeated Terry Funk (yes, he unretired again) to win the WCW Internation World Western States Heritage Commissionership... it's a garbage brawl, of course... that's how many we've got on this show thus far? Fifty?

And in our main event, officiated by Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit defeated Sid Vicious to win the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Title. The match isn't quite a timeless classic, but it's a fairly decent match for what it's worth and probably one of Sid's better showings. There's a particularly nice touch where the locker room empties out, not to do run-ins or anything, but just to watch the match. It sorta emphasizes the importance of the match and the stakes that are on the line. There's a nice bit at the end where Sid chokeslams Benoit and just as Arn is about to administer the three-count, he sees Benoit's foot under the rope, signifying a break. Just then, Benoit catches Sid in his signature Crippler Crossface and Sid taps... while his foot is underneath the bottom rope. Despite this being visible on screen, Arn somehow doesn't see this and awards the match to Benoit.

This one plot thread could've been the launching point for a feud between the two, with Sid disputing the win and accuse Arn and Benoit of collusion. Hell, with Kevin Nash becoming the commish and no doubt wanting to bring the World Title back into the fold of the nWo (yes, they were a thing again), the possibility of Benoit having the stack against him would've seen potential in revitalizing interest in WCW... hell, one could wonder what would happen between Benoit and Goldberg, who would no doubt be iffed at Benoit being able to do something that he couldn't do; make Sid tap. And while Bret Hart was as good as done thanks to his concussion, Benoit vs. Jarrett was still a match waiting to happen, but with much higher stakes. There were so many possible directions you could've gone with this.

Alas, nothing would come of this, as the next night, Chris Benoit, along with Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero would give their notice and leave WCW for the WWF, depriving the company of four of its workhorses. WCW would continue to stumble and fumble along the way, making a series of decisions that would prove fatal in some regards until the organization's eventual sale to WWFE in 2001.

It is difficult to judge Souled Out 2000 because it's a show that had to be restructured due to two major participants suddenly being unfit to perform. It's difficult to tell how much of the show was the booking team of Kevin Sullivan and crew doing their own thing and how much of it was carried over from Vince Russo's original plans for this show before he went home. However, for all intents and purposes, watching this show for the first time in over a decade, I was pretty much on cruise control until the main event because nothing else mattered. I didn't care about the Kidman trifecta, I didn't care about the battle over the commissionership, and I didn't care about Oklahoma.

A lot of the stuff on this show left no impression with me and I'm the kind of guy who can watch an old show with as little context as possible and get some mild enjoyment out of it. That's not what I got from Souled Out. Like I said, in my mind watching this, Souled Out was a one-match show and even then, that one match was more out of historical curiosity than any semblance of intrigue or interest... and given the modern mindset and given things that has happened in the time since this show, I don't know if this match is worth pursuing. I guess for those who want to see Benoit's last big moment in WCW, it might be worth checking out. But again, given what happened with the guy, I don't know how big that group is today.

I didn't care for this show, in all honesty, and it felt like I was wasting time watching this. Regardless of what context you try to bring into this, this was not a good show, by any stretch. This was dull, boring, and served no genuine purpose other than to be the swan song for the WCW careers of three great wrestlers who'd move on to greener pastures. And if nothing else, served as a prologue to the woes and perils that WCW would face in the coming year. Is it one of the worst shows ever? Not necessarily. But in regards to points of interest, that's another story.

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