Time to have a look at the dying days of WCW. It’s the 7th March 2001 (taped on the 5th) and we’re in the Bi-Lo Center of Greenville, South Carolina for an episode of WCW Thunder! Your main event tonight: a non-title match between WCW Champion Scott Steiner and The Cat! Sign me the F up, am I right?
Oh Thunder. I know a lot of people say that the creation of WCW’s second weekly two-hour show was the beginning of the end, and it’s hard to get away from the feeling that the company was over-extending itself to a crazy extent. Of course, it’s all especially pointless in March 2001: WCW is within a few weeks of becoming little more than an enlarged heel faction on WWF television, so this should be considered to be real “on the brink” stuff. Thunder at that time was an afterthought of a company that was in its death spiral, with ratings in the toilet, the finances a horror show, a bloated roster filled with unmotivated “stars” just there to wring their lucrative contracts for as much as they could and an undeniable sense that nobody could in any way right the ship, even for two hours of wrestling. I think Terry Taylor and John Laurenitis were in charge creatively at this point? Not that it really mattered. Flair was kayfabe boss, not that it really mattered.
WCW intro, and a video package follows with rapid fire recaps of ongoing feuds that lack so much context you haven’t a clue of figuring out whats going on. Scott Steiner and Booker T! And DDP! And Ric Flair is wearing a latex face mask! And Dusty Rhodes is here to confront him about it! Sean O’Haire is on-screen briefly for some reason! Oh boy, this is already a mess. The main thing is that DDP and Steiner brawled on Nitro after that show went off the air. The Cat helped Page out with a chair shot, so I guess that’s why we have the main event tonight that we do.
Thunder intro, that includes a surprising lack of thunder claps. We do get some pyro though, money well spent. Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay on commentary. We’re 11 days from the final WCW PPV ever, Greed, and the amazingly mis-timed tournament to crown the inaugural Crusierweight Tag Team Champions will make-up our first contest.
Jason B & Scotty O vs 3-Count (Evan Karagias & Shannon Moore) (WCW Crusierweight Tag Team Championship Tournament Quarter-Final)
B and O are WCW newcomers, and I wonder if anyone had the heart to warn them. Reminds me that Jerry Lawler allegedly tried to get into the company at this time. Moore is the only one of these guys that I am familiar with. Still, crusierweights, right? This has to be half-decent.
Karagias (pronounced “Courageous”) and B to start, and some very fast chains with high-impact moves straight away. Some stiff chops from Karagias after a corner clothesline, then B nails a drop-kick to Karagias coming off the second rope. He gets in a big drop-kick of his own, B back with a handspring elbow, and Moore in. B going for a Dominator, Moore out with an arm-drag, more chains, ends with a Moore rana. Hard to get across just how fast this is, and the crowd is loud.
Blind tag puts O in, and he and B deliver a double arm-drag, then a double reverse suplex from the floor to Moore. Looked amazing. O with a springboard crossbody for two, big air. Scoop Slam, but no one home on a Lionsault. Karagias in, snap powerslam to O, Moore back in to land an assisted running senton, only two. If you did’t know WCW was on its way out, you’d be looking at this and thinking they must be the best wrestling show on the planet. Moore floors O with a clothesline, Karagias in, blind tag to B and he double clotheslines his opponents, but then suddenly it’s topes from everyone to everyone one after the other, and some of them are huge. O’s Asai Moonsault especially, is a thing of beauty.
Karagias and O in the ring, O hits a Flatliner but Moore breaks up the pin. Crowd is super raucous. Moore calling for something big, and hits a sort of jumping leg drop. B breaks up the pin, hits a Reverse Tombstone and the ref counts the pin even though he isn’t the legal man, Kargias breaks it up, hits B with a DDT, 450 Splash, and now O breaks it up. You can’t take your eyes off of this one. Karagias fighting off the double-teams, dumps B out, O lining him up, but his charge countered into an assisted top-rope leg-drop. Moore gets the pin in just under eight.
Winners: 3-Count, and fond memories of WCW’s better elements.
Verdict: You should definitely check this one out. Four guys killing themselves in the opener of an afterthought, what a match.
3-Count barely get time to swivel their hips in celebration before we are thrown backstage. Scott Steiner is upset, and is looking for the Cat.
After the break, out comes Big Poppa Steroid himself. Gets a big reception, and even though WCW was doing everything possible to alienate its fanbase, the live crowds are still loud. Steiner on the mike, calls out “white trash” DDP, who’s scared of the genetic freak. He’s going to join the list of others that Steiner has beaten. On Nitro Steiner was about to take DDP out, but Cat interfered. For every action there is a reaction, so Cat is going to be Steiner’s warm-up for the title match. Disappointingly straight-forward promo from Mr Steiner-Math, gotta be honest.
Out comes Miller, who talks into a non-functioning mike for a few seconds. Calls Steiner “Big Poppa Dunk”. He’s going to beat Steiner all over the place. Steiner disagrees, rails about all the people he has beaten before, and Cat warns him to calm down. Cat says he isn’t alone tonight, and here comes DDP through the crowd. Says it must be killing Steiner that he can’t put him down, and he’s going to haunt Steiner. Suddenly Rick Steiner attacks DDP from behind, then Hugh Morrus is here to back DDP up, and wow this is over-booked. DDP and Morrus retreat, the Steiner’s run after them, and that’s it for this mess of a segment. The crowd loved it though.
Shawn Stasiak vs Screamin’ Norman Smiley
The commentators decide that Smiley’s entrance is the best time to announce Rick Steiner vs Hugh Morrus later. I had forgotten Stasiak’s terrible entrance music. “PerfecShawn” says Tenay, and yeah that isn’t going to fly. Stasiak has been beating people and leaving them signed autographs, which is a neat gimmick I’ll admit. Stasiak less than a month from nearly ruining the Invasion story-line single-handed by blabbing about WCW’s presence at Wrestlemania X-7.
Smiley gets two off a Victory Roll straight away. Pushes Stasiak out of the ring and does some dancing. Stasiak with a cheap shot, beating down Smiley in the ring. Takes less than one minute for Tenay to bring up Stan “The Man” Stasiak. Smiley with another roll-up for two, going for a Chicken-Wing, but Stasiak to the ropes. Leapfrog chain, Stasiak dodges a drop-kick, Catapult into the ropes. Backbreaker for two. Big suplex, beating down Smiley, another Smiley roll-up gets two, then hits a Wind-Up Slam. Stasiak back in control quick enough, some dueling slaps, Stasiak hits a Scoop Slam, to the top and the elevated positions allows us the chance to see plenty of empty seats. I now think some of that noise might be canned.
Smiley dodges the splash, inadvertent low-blow from Smiley, Atomic Drop, Inverted Atomic Drop and then the world’s most telegraphed drop toe-hold. Stasiak back with a Bulldog, then a swinging neckbreaker, then a terrible looking uranage where Smiley lands on his shoulder. Stasiak gets the pin in just under seven.
Winner: Stasiak, WCW’s answer to the “Aww, we did bad” guy in that Simpsons episode.
Verdict: Was just a forgettable extended squash, until Stasiak finished it with a botch.
Stasiak leaves another autographed picture, then gets on the mike to run down the crowd, despite being gassed as F. On a hiding to nowhere, for sure.
In the parking lot, Smooth the limo driver is accosted by Chris Kanyon, for reasons that are not clear to me. Smooth appears to have the upperhand, but after Kanyon slinks away he used a forklift to flip the limo over with Smooth inside it. It was done so gently, you can tell they were trying desperately to minimise damage to the car. If Smooth had his belt on he might not even notice. I presume this is an effort to pull the same stuff that WWF was doing with cars, but there’s a big difference between this, and dropping one from a height with Triple H inside it.
Back from the break, and WCW staff attend to the overturned car and a seemingly badly injured Smooth. I’ve seen chops with more impact mate, you’ll be grand.
“Primetime” Elix Skipper vs Shane Helms
This one comes as a result of some tag team shenanigans the previous night on Nitro. Skipper I know had a bit of a half-decent run with TNA after this. Helms of course is a just a few months from hitting wrestling paydirt with The Hurricane gimmick. Helms out with some dancing girls, which given the state of WCW’s overheads at the time, is a hilarious waste of money for what is, being honest, barely a mid-carder.
Skipper with a takedown early, which Helms, heel, applauds sarcastically. Helms with his own takedown, and a neat fireman’s carry into a knee smash, then a cool-looking running neckbreaker. Skipper out, Helms follows, back in the ring but then Primetime misses on an elbow. Back out, ringside brawling, and Skipper into the crowd. Crowd brawling, I assume the ref isn’t counting. Back to ringside, Helms with a terrible looking “crossbody block” off the barricade.
Into the ring, Helms gets two. Gutwrench Suplex, backbreaker, Helms to the second rope and hits a falling fist. Schiavone calls a basic pin a “pinning combination”. He’s losing it. Skipper rallies back, and hangs Helms on the ropes off an inverted suplex. Helms out, and Skipper hits a sweet springboard twisting “crossbody block” says Tenay again. It’s just a crossbody man. Back in, Skipper choking Helms on the ropes, so I’m a bit confused as to who is working heel here.
Helms rallying back, slams Skipper to the mat, leg-drop from the second rope, only two. Looking for a suplex, Skipper fighting off, and nails a belly-to-belly. Mouths off to the crowd, I guess he’s the heel? Scoop Slam, knee-drop, only two. Another big belly-to-belly, Skipper can go. To the top, missile drop-kick, two. Helms able to get in a bridging Northern Lights for two, then Skipper with a bridging German for two, nice sequence. Dueling strikes, Helms dodges a corner charge, nails a super-kick, but only two. This one has really picked up.
“Sugar Shane” to the top, and nails a huge Frog Splash, but only two again, it’s Cena/Rock out there. Skipper dodges a clothesline, Helms pivots to a “Nightmare”, aka, the Final Cut. Hits the Vertibreaker, cool-looking finisher and that’s it in about nine.
Winner: Stay In The Back
Verdict: A few sloppy spots, but otherwise this was red-hot.
Kid Romeo attacks Helms after, and suddenly a maskless Rey Mysterio and Billy Kidman are out, and this ends messy. This is all part of the larger Crusierweight Tag Tournament, but they did a poor job of explaining it.
We get WCW’s answer to WWF’s “Lugz Boot Of The Week”: It’s Wolverine’s “Stomp Of The Night”. Following in WWF’s footsteps, it does not involve a stomp, but is instead the Vertibreaker we just saw.
Rick Steiner vs Hugh Morrus (non-title)
Steiner, the “Dog Faced Gremlin”, is the US Champ, which on the list of pointless belts is pretty high up there at this point. I’m sure a guy like DeMott would make plenty of backstage hay out of Steiner’s nickname. Tenay decides now is the perfect time to start talking about the feud between Flair and Rhodes.
The bell rings to start this one with Steiner on the outside, so even the ref’s have started to not care. Gingerly into the ring, and nails Morrus with a low blow right in front of the ref, but no bell. Elbow to the back of the head. Morrus prone for a while, wonder if it was a bit stiff. Eventually up, gets hit with a big clothesline for two. Steiner dominating, while Schiavone and Tenay talk about the incoming “new owners” of WCW. I’ve got some bad news for you guys.
Steiner continues the beatdown. Morrus is described as “the heart and soul of the WCW locker room” and boy has that statement not aged well. Steiner continues the beatdown, locks in a modified Figure 4 with Morrus literally right next to the ropes, but no sign of a rope break. Now a terrible half-Boston Crab for a bit, that Steiner just lets go of. Definitely piped noise for this one, that is remarkably slow. Steiner takes a break to go jaw with some fans at ringside.
Chin-lock spot for a while, DDT, and now Morrus finally mounts a comeback. Hits a clothesline, a swinging elbow, but only gets two. Steiner hits the world’s laziest clothesline for two, with Morrus’ foot under the ropes. Steiner going to the top, but suddenly Lance Storm is here to distract the ref, and Mike Awesome pushes Morrus off the top. Steiner with the Steiner Driver, and that’s it in around ten.
Winner: Legend of the Dog Faced Woman.
Verdict: Terribly slow match, with a stupid ending.
Team Canada ready to continue the beatdown, until Konnan arrives to save the day. No context for any of this.
Chuck Palumbo vs Lex Luger
Had honestly forgotten that Luger was still wrestling for WCW at this point. His last title run, for reference, was the US belt two-and-a-half years previously. Commentators more interested in talking about the previous match, until Luger gets on the mike. He’s won hundreds of big matches, won lots of titles, ended Bill Goldberg’s career, but is annoyed by a loss he suffered last Wednesday to Chuck Palumbo. Luger says that Palumbo’s tag team partner Sean O’Haire is at home nursing an inured leg, after Luger “beat his brains out” on Monday. Umm, Lex, that doesn’t track. Calls Palumbo out, and the future life-partner of Billy Gunn comes straight out.
Three matches left in this card and only 25 or so minutes, so this will be short. Luger ambushes his opponent as he enters the ring. Leapfrog chain, and Palumbo hits a beauty of a one-legged drop-kick. Arm-drag gets two. Luger back on top with shots to the back, then a clothesline, and yet to actually hit anything resembling a wrestling move. Palumbo dumped to the outside, some brawling, and man Luger looks a state. Looking at Cagematch, he actually only has around 12 matches left in his career.
Luger shutting down some Palumbo rallies, including a roll-up for two, and hits a powerslam. Going for his Torture Rack, Palumbo out, roll-up, and of course that’s it, in around four-and-a-half.
Winner: Youuuuu looooook soooooo…good to me.
Verdict: At least the young up-and-comer beat the old guard.
Backstage, Luger throws things around in a rage. In the locker room, Konnan talks about how there are still a few good guys left in the locker room, and things are “about to go off like illegal fireworks”. What things? Against who?
Recap of the tag tournament, and the card for Greed, which is uninspiring in the extreme. I suppose Dusty and Dustin Rhodes vs Flair and Jarrett is the stand-out in terms of star-power, but all the matches feature at least one person I would call washed-up or no longer having any business in a ring.
Konnan vs Lance Storm
Storm not too far away from being ruined in the WWF, though his dumbass “If I can be serious for a minute” shtick did actually originate here. Never has so good a wrestler been shackled to so bad a gimmick. On the mike, the leader of Team Canada says he likes beating up Americans, but will settle for a wannabe American in Konnan. “Oh Canada” starts playing, but Konnan comes through the crowd to attack.
This one actually has potential, and some quick chains to start, with Konnan hitting a Reverse DDT, then a regular one, both for two. Flung to the outside, some brawling, you could use that as a tagline for this whole show. Back in, Storm on top, rest-holds, leg-drop for two, rest-hold, yet somehow he makes this not super exciting offence seem dynamic and exciting. Lots of knee shots to the back, Scoop Slam, but eats a boot off a top-rope nothing. Konnan back with stiff shots, Rolling Thunder Clothesline, Facebuster. Going for a drop-kick, Storm dodges, locks in the Maple Leaf and Konnan taps out almost immediately, in just over four minutes.
Winner: Lance Storm, in what is basically a squash
Verdict: Disappointing considering how good these two usually are.
Mike Awesome in after, but chased off by Morrus. He then challenges Team Canada to a match against himself and Konnan at Greed. Now that’s a match I might actually want to see.
We get thrown to a pre-taped interview with Booker T. He’s been out for a few months after being injured by Steiner the previous year. It was a legit injury, but don’t think Steiner caused it. Booker will wait for his shot at Steiner as DDP is next in line. Only a few weeks away from becoming four time, four time, four time, WCW Champion.
The Cat vs Scott Steiner (non-title)
Recap of the brawl earlier ahead of this one, and the backstage stuff from Nitro, as the announcers struggle to talk over Cat’s music. Steiner on the offensive early. Inverted Atomic Drop, big belly-to-belly, then jawing with the ref. Just waiting for the usual WCW interference from everyone involved in the feud. Cat floored on a few clotheslines, Backbreaker, and this is rather dull, even for a beatdown. Cat does get a comeback, and able to nail a super-kick for at least one big spot. Leg-split upper cut, elbow drop, but WCW would have to do a lot to make me think that the Cat is going to win this.
Some kicks to the chest, but Steiner has had enough of selling and hits another big belly-to-belly. Cat to the outside, but Steiner drags him back in. Cat whiffs on one kick, but then hits an enziguri. Here comes the interference, and Rick Steiner and Booker T come out to brawl, while Steiner puts in the Steiner Recliner for the submission in just over five-and-a-half.
Winner: Roidy Mc Roidface
Verdict: Smart move to put the belt on Booker T before the end of the company, because Steiner as the headliner going into the takeover would have been a disaster.
Now we get the WCW free-for-all as DDP, then Jeff Jarrett and Lex Luger, hit the ring. Time runs out on the broadcast as DDP gets overwhelmed, and that’s all. Wow, what a bad show.
Best Match: The opening tag by a country mile. Fast-paced, big moves, just four guys clearly trying to make names for themselves.
Best Wrestler: I’ll go for Shane Helms, for much the same as the above. He had something, and with the right push he could easily have erupted into the main event scene.
Worst Match: Main event. Dull squash made even worse by WCW’s penchant for over-booked nonsense finishes.
Worst Wrestler: Rick Steiner was wrestling as late as last year, but already looks done as done can be in 2001.
Overall Verdict: You can sense the impeding doom in the lack of care from certain wrestlers and the production. In terms of advancing story-lines ahead of a PPV this just about gets the job done, but it certainly wouldn’t make me want to see Greed. Too many passengers on this roster, and no amount of fake crowd noise is going to make up for that. Avoid.
Quick Thoughts On NXT Takeover: War Games 2020
Women’s War Games – Suffered a little with the lack of a decent story other than “Faces vs Heels #3789”, and at times it was a bit chaotic in a bad way, with plenty of mistiming. The few big spots were decent though. Makes you realise how much star power the NXT Women’s division has: any one of the eight involved here could become champ soon and it would be buyable. Check it out.
Ciampa/Thatcher – Stiff tech fest that played to the strength of both guys, but I do think the wrong guy lost. Thatcher needs a bit of a run. However, this was interesting, if not your typical Takeover thrill fest. Worth watching.
Lumis/Grimes – This feud has gone on for way too long, and what I presume is the finale suffered from being too samey. Not sure where either of these two guys go from here. Can be skipped.
Ruff/Gargano/Priest – Really good story matched by frantic Triple Threat action, I enjoyed this one a lot. They’ve done a good job “making” Ruff, and now we get to see more “One And Done” Gargano drama. Check it out.
Men’s War Games – Loved this feud, and the match was great, the right mix of physical story-telling and ridiculous spots. McAfee is like the new Shane McMahon, an amateur taking crazy risks to prove he’s legit. I’ll look past his lack of selling because of that leap. Ending was a little messy, but it’s forgivable. Must watch.
Overall – The last two matches made the show, but the rest weren’t bad at all. I enjoyed it and want to see where things go for everyone: what more can you ask for?
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