Wednesday, February 28, 2018

WCW Slamboree 1998

The following bit is the closing statement on my recent Elimination Chamber musings:

"A couple hours later, I load up the WWE Network and I start up an old WCW Pay-Per-View. And the first thing I see is Eric Bischoff reading a letter from Vince McMahon's legal attorney saying that Vince wouldn't show up. I remember this bit being completely ridiculous, but completely forgot about the bit where WCW head of security, Doug Dillinger, went out and asked if anyone had seen McMahon. In Doug's hand was a ready-made backstage pass with Vince's face on it. It was absurd, but also outright hilarious.

"Already, I got more entertainment value out of the first five minutes of an old WCW Pay Per View than I did three plus hours of a modern day WWE B-Level PPV. What a world."

Let's continue that train of thought with a full-blown musings of this "classic" WCW Pay-Per-View event, courtesy of the WWE Network, because I clearly had a good time... or did I?

The show opens your commentary team of Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan (who clearly looks like he'd rather be anywhere else and I can't say I blame him) running down some of the major matches taking place on the show before cutting to a clip of Eric Bischoff reading a letter from the attorney of Vince McMahon chastizing Bischoff for advertising Vince to show up by saying he wouldn't show up... because that's a thing you do in wrestling for some reason. Believe it or not, that one statement was the basis of an ACTUAL LAWSUIT that the WWF filed against Turner around that time. Again, what a world.

Despite this letter, Bischoff pushes forward and we see Doug Dillinger, the aforementioned head of WCW security, questioning a small crowd of people (and quite possibly the worst plants in the history of plants with acting talents that could rival Ronda R... actually, I take that back, that would be a cruel comparison and these plants deserve better than that) on whether they've seen Vince or not. In a rather cute touch, they've even produced a backstage pass for Vince, complete with his mugshot on it, which I found hilarious.

Throughout the show, there'd be additional backstage bits where you'd have a "Vinnie Mac Cam" on the lookout for Vince. At one point, a white limo pulls up and in a moment of brilliance that just pushes this thing over the top, Schiavone hits the line of the entire show. "If Jim Ross comes out and carries his bags, you know it's Vince."

Sadly, the cameras cut away before we can find out... but chances are Jim Ross didn't come out and thus no Vince. This is a really fascinating and utterly ridiculous little bit that, even watching back then, I got a decent chuckle out of it just for the absurdity and the audacity that Bischoff showed in hyping up a match that had no chance (in hell) of happening. I mean they even have a dressing room set up for him, complete with nickname.

I'd imagine Stephanie's nickname would be "The Reason For The Lack Of Ratings."

But anyway, I'm jumping ahead here, so let's dial back and begin with a match that will make everyone feel uncomfortable.

WCW Television champion Fit Finlay defeated Chris Benoit to retain the title. A decent opener with some technical submission bits and some straight-up brawls. That one bit where Benoit slams into a chair Finlay was holding up might've seemed cool back in the day, but watching this today, I just get a sick feeling in my stomach. The distraction from Booker gives Finlay the opening he needed to put Benoit away for good and some folks were upset because Benoit was getting popular and they wanted him to win a title of some sort.

Lex Luger defeated Brian Adams (the former Kona Crush) in a short match that wasn't very exciting nor was it very interesting. But at least it was fairly short and that's all I could ever ask for.

Next up, we have the Cruiserweight Battle Royal featuring most of the WCW Cruiserweights and Marty Jannetty. Winner gets an immediate title match against Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho, who pulls double duty by serving as ring announcer for this match. Really, the only notable highlight in this Battle Royal is the entrance portion, where Jericho spews out a quick quip for each guy. I'm not going to do the list here because plenty of other people have done it and really, you should find the match yourself and watch it because they're fun.

Anyway, it's your typical Battle Royal with some Cruiserweight bits with nothing of note until it's down to Juventud and Ciclope, a masked luchador. In a strange twist, Juventud offers a handshake to Ciclope and eliminates himself from the match, making Ciclope the winner of the battle royal and number one contender. So down comes Jericho to prepare for his match against Ciclope, only for Ciclope to pull off his mask and reveal the face of Dean Malenko. And the place goes nuts.

A bit of context here; Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho had been feuding for some time and had a final encounter at Uncensored 98, which Dean lost and subsequently went away. During the two months in between, Jericho made a mockery out of Malenko's career, family, and whatever. Pretty much doing anything and everything to tear the hero down without so much as a peep from the man himself.

So you can imagine the massive reaction triggered when Malenko pulled off his swerve and got Jericho within his grasp. Shit's about to going and shit does indeed go down, with Malenko beating the living piss out of Jericho. Shit goes back and forth until Malenko sticks Jericho in his Texas Cloverleaf submission (a sort of Sharpshooter/Scorpion Deathlock-ish variant move) for the submission and the title. Now see, that's how you do the conquering hero bit. Nothing too extravagant or overly complicated and it turns into a big deal or something.

Of course, due to a loophole, Malenko was stripped of the title two weeks later... but even that knowledge of what came after doesn't take away from the moment and remains a highlight in WCW's later history.

Diamond Dallas Page defeated Raven in a Bowery Death Match, which is basically last man standing rules in a steel cage match with weapons scattered about and a roof on top. Around this time in WCW, Raven is the head of a stable called the Flock, featuring a bunch of guys wearing rags and looking rather unkempt for lack of a better term. And because we have a stable, we have the staple WCW run-in with a bunch of guys, despite there being the presence of a riot squad (no, not THAT Riott Squad - these are just dudes in black gear). This was a straight-up brawl in a cage that didn't need to be there other than to serve one purpose, which is coming up now.

After the match is over, the one riot guy cuffs all the Flock members to the cage and eventually removes his helmet to reveal the mask of Mortis, a gimmick originally intended as an opponent for Glacier - WCW's failed attempt at cashing in on the Mortal Kombat craze. Mortis removed his mask to reveal the face of Chris Kanyon, otherwise known as "that vendor" to the announcers in a bit that probably makes more sense in context. Kanyon then whacks Raven with a chair, similar to a bit that Tommy Dreamer did back in ECW.

Eddie Guerrero defeated Ultimo Dragon in a fairly decent match, but not much more than that. The story here was that Eddie had his nephew, Chavo, under his control and if Dragon won the match, Chavo would be free. Dragon didn't win the match, so not only did he fail to free Chavo, but he also gets beat up by Chavo after the match. And then he wonders why he bothered trying to free Chavo if Chavo was just going to be an asshole about it.

United States champion Bill "Playstation" Goldberg defeated Perry "Sega" Saturn to bring his undefeated streak to 88-0. This was supposed to be a Gauntlet match of sorts, but Saturn said no and so we have Saturn losing. Nothing of note to be said here; it's a pretty standard Goldberg match that felt a bit competitive for a bit, but even back then, I knew Saturn had no chance.

In the culmination of all the in-between bits, we have this "match" between Eric Bischoff and Vince "The Reason For The Ratings" McMahon. And WCW pulled no stops; here's Michael Buffer doing ring announcing and giving full blown introductions. We have full entrances with Bischoff coming out, full of energy and pumped up for a fight he knows isn't going to happen. And then... we have no McMahon. We try again... no McMahon. Finally, Bischoff invites the crowd to count McMahon out and declare himself the winner because, really, where else did you think they were going with this?

For all intents and purposes, this was a complete waste of time that would've been better served by adding in another match or maybe add time to one of the pre-existing matches. Critics certainly didn't see this whole "feud" as it were very favorably. I, on the other hand, did get a bit of a kick out of this whole deal due to the absurd nature of it. And I've got to give Bischoff credit here; I could've easily gotten some shitty impersonator to come out and get his ass kicked, but instead did the classy thing and won by countout for a guy who never showed up in the first place. More wrestling matches should end this way, methinks.

Bret Hart defeated Macho Man Randy Savage via submission with outside interference from Hollywood Hogan who clipped. Roddy Piper is special referee for this match and that earned him a punch from Bret with an international object towards the end... and even (not Miss) Elizabeth got in on the run in action with some pepper spray on her ex-husband. You know, I would've loved to have seen a Bret Hart vs. Randy Savage match... in the WWF, where both guys would be slightly younger and there'd be less run-ins. In WCW, we've got run-ins galore and that seemed to be a rule of thumb for the main event scene in the company. And when you have moments where both guys just wrestled each other, there were signs of this being a pretty good match that could've been better elsewhere... alas, I'm left wondering what if rather than care about what was.

Sting and The Giant (a.k.a. Big Show) defeated WCW Tag-team champions Kevin Nash and Scott Hall when Hall turned on Nash to win the tag titles. By the time 1998 came to a close, Nash and Hall would reunite and this whole thing would've been forgotten, thus rendering that whole exercise entirely pointless. This was a convoluted scenario because this was the beginning of the whole nWo Hollywood (who had white nWo logos) vs. nWo Wolfpac (who had red nWo logos) thing that would dominate the rest of 98 to the detriment of almost everything else. So we have three nWo guys (Giant recently rejoined after spending a year plus out of their good graces) and one WCW guy in Sting and... oh wait, Dusty Rhodes is an nWo guy too... fuck me, this is too much.

The following month, Sting would defeat the Giant to win both tag titles and he'd give the other belt to someone else. I'd go into more detail, but the WCW tag title scene is so convoluted and stupid going forward that it's best not to think about it.

Slamboree 98 has three key points to it and only one is arguably seen in any semblance of a positive light. The Cruiserweight Battle Royal and the subsequent match between Jericho and Malenko told a great story that would've been better served having a bit of context to it, but still remains an effective bit that is helped by the commentary (for once.) The tag title match where Hall turns on Nash is notable for the outright illogic of such a thing happening and a clear sign that this nWo thing is going off the rails in a bad way. And while most won't see the whole Bischoff vs. McMahon story in any positive light, I did get a kick out of it just based on the ridiculousness of the whole deal.

Other than that, though, this was a fairly average show with a couple so-so matches and not much else going for it. To be perfectly frank, this wasn't too bad of a show on the basis that it never truly felt like a waste of time. There was never anything truly bad or boring and even the worst this show had to offer was merely below average fare that left me underwhelmed but otherwise inoffensive fluff. Not necessarily a must see or anything since you can probably check out the highlights on Youtube or something, but as far as throwaway PPVs go, Slamboree 98 isn't too bad.

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