Seven teams remain in the hunt to win a tag team title nobody cares about! Sting defends the world heavyweight title against Big Van Vader! Summertime extravaganza! Hi, everybody, this is Tony Schiavone along with the boss, Magnum T.A.! Tony and Magnum talk. Backstage, Bill Watts and Eric talk. Those guys probably have a lot in common. Let's go HOOK 'EM UP!!!
Flyin' Brian & "Jushin" Thunder Liger v. Ricky Steamboat & Nikita Koloff
Hey. Betcha Nikita's strong. Yeeeep. Strong. The parts with Steamboat early on are solid, and it's very interesting to see the Dragon in with the fast-movers of the time. Steamboat and Koloff try to keep it grounded, which makes sense but is pissing me off and making me look forward to the eventual pick-it-up desperation pace from the lil' fellers. Of course Pillman is really no smaller than Steamboat. Liger gets in and gets the moonsault to a big pop. Here comes the tombstone -- hey! Not reverse, Liger just tombstones Steamboat. There's a real buzz here once Liger is in with Steamboat, and I think it's pretty clear that WCW fans took to Liger in a big way. Steamboat gets a suplex counter and tags Nikita in, so Nikita kicks Liger in the face and drops some elbows. He's really strong. Pillman and Steamboat get in there and Flyin' Brian chops away, then dropkicks Koloff off the apron. The Nikita Koloff I know would have jumped in the ring and clotheslined a fool for that, but this weak-willed sucker just gets back on the apron and encourages his partner to "come on." Liger and Nikita get in, and Liger kicks away at Nikita's leg. But Koloff is way too strong. Pillman dropkicks Nikita in the back of the head, but Nikita is so strong he doesn't fall down. Same with a dropkick to the face. Finally, a third dropkick takes him down. I kind of, sort of appreciate what Nikita's doing in this match, and I get it, but the Steamboat portions are the obvious money and such that I have little interest in seeing Nikita in this match at all. The crowd really starts rolling with this one, though. Steamboat rolls through Pillman's crossbody for the finish in about 20 minutes.
Backstage, the Steiners talk to Eric Bischoff. Scott says that Muhammad Ali and Harley Race were never undefeated. Race might not have been, but Ali as a professional was undefeated from 1960 into 1971. I'm pretending I don't get what he means.
Hashimoto is replacing Akira Nogami, who suffered an eye injury. As you might expect, this has all the chemistry in th world and the Freebirds don't at all look completely shot and out of their element. Garvin works up an enormous sweat on the apron clapping while Hayes takes a beating from the Japanese guys that nobody cares about because they didn't bother getting them over before this stupid tournament, I assume thinking, as WCW had done before and would do again, that if you just go, "These guys are good, trust us!" that it would work, but it just doesn't, and never did. Garvin's hot tag consists of clotheslines and body slams because Jimmy Garvin is year since effective in the ring. Fans yell about the DDT as all four men do battle. Hashimoto kicks Garvin in the face, and Hase finishes it with a Northern Lights suplex. The crowd boos, but it feels more like they really don't appreciate that the foreign guys are going on while the Freebirds are out of this. Me, I'm perfectly content. The Freebirds, God bless the name, really, really sucked at this point once Michael Hayes got past the pre-match moonwalk and googly eyes.
Tony and Magnum are with Cowboy Bill Watts, who has the old NWA world heavyweight title. Watts and Hiro Matsuda announce a tournament for the belt. Watts shows the nameplate of Ric Flair, and even says "Ric Flair" on TV. That was pretty bold for the time. Watts also mentions that Sting has a win over Ric Flair, and that after the NWA tournament, they want to have a unification bout with Sting. Back to the tournament!
Hey look. It's another Dangerous Alliance v. Rhodes and Windham match. It is, as always, solid wrestling. It is, as always by this point, old hat. Everything has been done before, Windham's had his hand taped for almost a year, Ventura's still complaining about it, nobody's doing anything about it still, and the excitement of the early matches in the rivalry is just gone. Rude's piledriver on Windham maks me wish they'd had a good series of matches one-on-one, in part because I'm not exactly sure it would have been as good as I'd like to think it could have been. They seem like two good guys who might have somehow lacked chemistry. Rhodes gets the hot tag and stuff happens and the babyfaces move forward to face Hase & Hashimoto.
Backstage, Eric is with Harley Race and Big Van Vader.
Steve Williams & Terry Gordy v. Ricky Steamboat & Nikita Koloff
Dr. Death and Bamm Bamm are your NEW world tag team champions, having dethroned the Steiners in Atlanta on July 5. This squeaky ass ring is annoying as all hell, especially when Williams runs in place on the apron. This is another Gordy/Williams drag of their would-have-been-forgettable WCW run in '92. It would have been forgettable if (1) they weren't pushed so hard, and rightfully pushed so hard, and (2) it wasn't such a disappointment from what was one of the best tag teams in the world. And it's not that they seem like they're not trying hard enough, and not that they didn't get good opponents, and not that it doesn't seem like it SHOULD be working. It just doesn't work. The crowds aren't into their wear-down holds, or their Realistic Shows of Amateur Wrestling Techniques. Steamboat gets his rib(s) fucked up by a backbreaker from Williams, so they turn it down even further than it already was, at a point when turning it up really would have helped. Koloff gets the tag so they slow it down with Koloff. After a really laborious 20ish minutes, Williams and Gordy advance when Doc takes advantage of Steamboat's rib injury on a half-spinebuster, half-Oklahoma Stampede.
Hiroshi Hase & Shinya Hashimoto v. Dustin Rhodes & Barry Windham
Another competent and dead match. One thing it took WCW forever to learn is that these gimmick shows, with tournaments or lethal lotteries or whatever, tended to wear on the live crowd who saw the same type of match over and over. Or maybe it's mostly just me that I give a fuck about here, but this show is just a fucking bore despite the overall rather incredible level of talent represented throughout the night. Windham pins Hase with a lariat, so they'll meet Gordy and Williams in the finals.
Ron Simmons is with Tony and Magnum. He has aspirations.
Sting starts red-hot and dominates the first 5+ minutes or so, really taking it to Vader and refusing to be the typical roadkill, which makes Vader taking the match over all the more effective. In a way it's too bad that Watts had a vision for Simmons -- not because of Simmons, who was a worthy choice for a grand vision, I think. It was just more that I think Sting finally got to exhibit his upside again working with talents like Cactus Jack and Vader instead of Black Scorpion. Sting wasn't drawing as champion, but who was going to, and who had before? It's not to argue that Sting would have become a legit all-time great instead of a longevity all-time great of his era had he been more involved in Watts' plans, just that title reign number two being cut short made it feel a lot like title reign number one all over again, just with better opposition. Sting never really did catch on as Mr. WCW. Like the greatness thing, he did become Mr. WCW, but it was more because he just never left. And this isn't a dis on Sting, either. I've got no problem with Sting. He was about as reliable as it gets, you could always plug him into the main events, and he was the face of the promotion along with Ric Flair. But I'm of the opinion that he's not a legitimate great, just a long-time star. Undertaker is in the same league. If it were baseball, they'd both be Fred McGriff.
Sting cracks his head on a missed Stinger splash in the corner (actually, he quite clearly doesn't really hit his head on anything, but they can sell that it hit the hook). So Sting is concussed or the like, and busted open. Sting throws goofy punches at the air, then falls over. Vader decides that this is an opportune moment -- POWER BOMB! 1, 2, 3, and we have a new world heavyweight champion. The crowd reacts with some legitimate surprise, it appears. Ron Simmons, Grizzly Smith, Ole Anderson and others come to aid Sting. There's Nikita Koloff.
The Steiners come down to ringside to yell about stuff and be the general sore losers and dickwads that they are, but they're ejected. They come out shirtless in pajama pants, like a couple of guys at Wal-Mart. HEY! Is that Buddy Lee Parker and Joey Maggs as security?
The whole deal here, really, is that Williams and Gordy are trying to unify the WCW and NWA world tag team titles. This is kind of annoying because you and I both know all these years later that the return of NWA titles meant absolutely nothing, and we also know that Terry Gordy leaves in October and Williams leaves in December, and the whole thing doesn't much fucking matter, and sadly the matches we're getting aren't even much good. You'd like to think with this one they'd just go Southern tag a little bit, but they're stuck in AJPW mode.
And it's another slow ass, boring ass, tired ass tough guy tag match. THE PAIN AND THE AGONY, THE GUTS AND THE WRESTLING. Thanks. It's great. These guys, good as they were, have me dying for the return of Sid Vicious. At least he does stupid shit that amuses me. These guys are working chinlocks 60% of the match. Fuck this shit. Williams and Gordy win and I'm out of goodwill, and tired of trying to convince myself that the Gordy/Doc run of WCW '92 was worth a shit, because it was not worth a shit. Both their matches on this show sucked and the two Steiners matches at Beach Blast and the Clash were letdowns.
GREAT AMERICAN BASH POLL
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Sting vs. Big Van Vader 1
Steamboat & Koloff vs. Gordy & Williams 1
Based on phone calls, letters and fax messages to Tape Machines Are Rolling as of Tuesday, 1/25. Margin of error: 100 percent.
"You can go cry in your soup now, Ross."
"Alright, thanks very much for that advice."