Saturday, June 23, 2018

WCW Superbrawl III

This past week, news broke that Leon "Big Van Vader" White passed away after a month long battle with pneumonia. In his prime years, Vader was a monster of a big man who not only looked intimidating, but also had fiercesome speed and agility for a man of his wide size. A presence in the old WCW, WWF, and Japan, he has made a mark on this business like no other and he will be missed by fans and peers alike.

And so, as a tribute of sorts, I decided to go back and rewatch an old WCW PPV featuring Vader as the headliner. The PPV in question is Superbrawl III, from February 1993.

Now most people remember the infamous White Castle Of Fear mini-movie; this elaborately cheesy production to promote what was essentially a strap match between the reigning WCW World champion Big Van Vader and The Man Called Sting. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to look it up online and see for yourself the absurd lengths WCW would go to promote a main event match... or just sit through the PPV. This was Final Deletion before Final Deletion.

And to think this took place during the Bill Watts era of WCW.

But while most people may remember the mini-movie, how many of those folks have actually watched the match it was hyping up? Well, this is where we dive in. So, grab your baby blue biker jacket, board your helicopter, and mind the little person. It's Superbrawl III in the White Castle Of Fear!

The Hollywood Blondes (Stunning Steve Austin and Flyin' Brian Pillman) defeated Erik Watts and Marcus Alexander Bagwell in a match that featured the son of Cowboy Bill Watts making his best effort to stink up the joint and is nullified by three better wrestlers to do the work. No, seriously, whenever poor Erik Watts is in the ring, people SHIT on the guy. And it isn't helped by the fact that his moves were really bad looking... yes, folks. This match even featured the tremendously godawful Erik Watts dropkick and it is gloriously bad here. But once you take Watts out of the picture, we have a really good tag team match because the Blondes were really fucking good at what they do and Bagwell was a good foil saddled with a bad partner.

2 Cold Scorpio defeated Chris Benoit in a pretty good match that seemed to be running at a slower pace for the expressed purpose of running nearly the entire 20 minute time limit for the expressed purpose of Scorpio scoring the last-minute roll-up pin. Not that I minded such a thing; a split-second finish is not something I've exposed myself to all that often; I just wished I didn't notice that sort of thing. Other than that, great match.

The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith defeated Wild Bill Irwin in what was essentially a quick squash match where Smith more or less dominated the man who eventually become a Goon in the near future. The crowd was really into Bulldog, which makes me wonder why he didn't make a bigger splash than he did while in WCW.

Cactus Jack defeated Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff in a falls count anywhere match with the help of a snow shovel. This was a pretty fun match and that's a surprise because I didn't a guy like Paul Orndorff, who once headlined the first Wrestlemania and had a WWF Championship match against Hulk Hogan, would stoop to the Cactus Jack brawling style, but he busted his bum and brought it to Jack before the shovel came into play.

The Rock 'N Roll Express defeated the Heavenly Bodies in a nice little tag match that felt like a throwback to not only classic 80s-style tag-team wrestling, but a throwback to the days when tag teams actually mattered and were actually worth watching... and not just spot monkeys.

United States champion Dustin Rhodes defeated Maxx Payne via DQ when Payne grabbed the ref during a scuffle. Well, the good times had to end sometime and it might as well be here. I don't know why, but for some reason, I couldn't get into this one. It was just... meh.

Barry Windham defeated NWA World Heavyweight Champion The Great Muta to win the title in an extremely long match that killed the momentum somewhat. The only thing worth noting is that just before the match, Ric Flair made his return to WCW after spending a year or two in the World Wrestling Federation and made his intentions known. And yes, this was the period in WCW history where we had both an NWA World champion and a WCW World champion. That's about all I have in regards to noteworthy bits in terms of this match, which didn't hold my interest for too long.

WCW World Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader defeated the Man Called Sting in what was billed as a White Castle Of Fear Strap Match. And all this really was is the usual strap match, where whoever touches all four corners of the ring in a single sequence wins the match, so the fancy name is just that; a fancy name. In an attempt to make this match seem like an even bigger deal, they give it the old "unsanctioned by WCW" to indicate that this match was going to be brutal... as well as give folks a good reason why Vader's WCW title was not on the line in this match.

And ladies and gentlemen, you may remember the stupid mini-movie that was used to hype this match up and might go into this thinking that the match itself would be stupid. But the truth of the matter is that this is one of the best strap matches that I have seen. And one of the simplest stories you can tell in a wrestling match; the small favorite taking on the giant monster and not only that, but the hero has to find a way to drag the monster's carcass around so that he can touch all four corners to win the match.

Vader was at his absolute best in this match. ... And despite bleeding buckets, he was able to rope up Sting and finish the match, like a fierce, wounded warrior would. Even though he's supposed to be the villain in this match, you can't help but admire that kind of grit and tenacity in a man. Something I feel is lost today.

Superbrawl III was pure joy. Save for that one stretch of two matches, which were mostly boring than bad, there was not a single ounce of truly terrible television to be found here. The good stuff was really good, the great stuff was off the charts, and then you had one of the best strap matches in the history of strap matches.

And how did the WWF counter this awesome wrestling card of awesome? They countered with Wrestlemania IX.


Godspeed, Leon. Thanks for the memories.

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