Corny is here to save wrestling (again). It’s the 19th March 1994 (filmed on the 7th) and we’re in the glamorous surrounds of Dungannon Elementary School in Dungannon, Virginia for an episode of Smokey Mountain Wrestling! Your main event tonight: Chris Candido and Tracey Smothers in a ladder match! What are they climbing a ladder for? We’ll find out together!
SMW, Jim Cornette’s desperate mid-90’s efforts to keep old-school wrasslin alive and well, was heading towards its bitter end at the time of this show, operating mostly as development territory for whatever wrestlers the WWF, and to a certain extent WCW, either had nothing for or wanted to get some experience away from the main stage, hence why the Network thumbnail for this one has a very young Chris Jericho and Lance Storm front and centre.
A view of the titular mountains as squares of wrestling highlights zoom by like we are still in Cornette’s hallowed 80’s, and we are introduced to what I can only assume is a rabid crowd of children by some guy whose name I didn’t catch and Dutch Mantell, who sports a “Will Coach Tennessee Basketball” sign. “The Heavenly Bodies and…the…Rock and Roll…one of them will be leaving Smokey Mountain”. Even by the standards of the territories this is bad commentary. Anonymous and Mantell stumble over a few more wrestlers names and then we go to our first contest.
Larry Santos vs Bobby Blaze
Two little-remembered guys here. Blaze is your face. Think it’s Cornette on commentary, but the audio is poor. Blaze throws Santos around until the heel takes a powder on the outside. When he comes back in he eats a super-kick for two, as commentary ranks Blaze a 2.3 for some reason. Exchanging shots, Blaze drops a knee as Cornette plays up SMW’s own superstar line, and I’m sure that was flooded with calls. Blaze with a corner splash, but Santos dodges a second, before walking into a belly-to-belly with the bridge, and that’s all in around two or so minutes.
Winner: Bobby Blaze, who might as well be called Baron Blade
Verdict: Quick, barely memorable.
Commissioner Bob Armstrong is interviewed “backstage” (in front of a curtain) and reads off a cue card to plug an upcoming PPV, the “Bluegrass Brawl”. I’m a bit confused, but he basically outlines possible alternates for a tag match? He’s also got a match with Jim Cornette and “a mystery man” at an upcoming show. Cagematch tells me it turned out to be Bruiser Bedlam. Hmm.
After a break, we get a recap of a backstage catfight between Tammy Fytch (and yes, that’s Sunny) and Dirty White Girl, and with a name like that you better believe that a bra ended up being shown. Embarrassing. White Boy and Girl are interviewed, and Boy announces he and Girl have a tag match at Bluegrass Brawl against Brain Lee and Fytch, that will be, essentially, a bra and panties match. Of course Cornette would be all onboard for this crap. Girl at least insists she will be tearing Fytch’s head off as well as her clothes, and everyone makes sure to say the date of the upcoming PPV.
Killer Kyle (c) vs Mike Furnas (SMW Beat The Champ TV Championship)
Wow, an honest-to-goodness title match. Couldn’t tell you who either of these two are, though Furnas gets some hillbilly guitar as entrance music while the camera stays locked on the ring. Wiki tells me that this title was defended weekly against a randomly drawn opponent, if the champ won he got a $1000 dollars, and if he won four times in a row he got a $5000 dollar bonus and then vacated. Oh, and there was no actual belt. Welcome to Carnyland, indeed.
Kyle knocks Furnas around for a bit, getting in a Scoop Slam for two. I notice that Cornette is putting on a bit more of a southern accent than he actually has. Furnas back with an elbow, a few clotheslines that don’t fell Kyle, but a big shoulder charge finally does. Sudden cover, and that’s it in barely a minute-and-a-half.
Winner (and new SMW Beat The Champ TV Champion): The boyhood dream has come true for Mike Furnas
Verdict: A nothing match for a nothing championship.
Furnas interviewed behind the curtain about his first title win in SMW, though, again, there is no title belt. He is bewildered, and walks off from the interviewer after 10 seconds. Mick Foley he ain’t.
Back from break we get thrown to some highlights of a recent “marathon match” – ie, an Iron Man match – between the Heavenly Bodies and the Rock ‘N Roll Express. We get the last three minutes, which is mostly rest-holds and roll-ups while bored-sounding commentary keeps reminding us that Jim Cornette is going to interfere at some point. Lo and behold he does, and he turns up with an oxygen mask for Tom Prichard of all things, to give him an extra boost. Perhaps more importantly he nails Ricky Morton with the oxygen bottle, and that’s enough for the winning fall. This clusterf**k has led to their cage match at the upcoming PPV.
Cornette is in a locker room with the Heavenly Bodies, playing up the PPV by just running down the feud and the stipulation. For their part, the Express basically do the exact same thing. These kind of promos are so dull, it’s like the wrestlers are just reading a Wikipedia page for the show. To spice things up a bit, the Express imply that Cornette is in a homosexual relationship with the Bodies. Wonderful.
Another break, and more interviews, this one in the ring. Mantell speaks to Brian Lee and Tammy Fytch, and once again they just talk about their match at Bluegrass Brawl, the stipulation, it’s like Howard Finkel explaining how a Royal Rumble works. The very young crowd doesn’t really pop for the idea of people getting stripped like you might expect, or at the insult that Dirty White Girl will take her clothes off for ten dollars. Sunny tries at least. Girl shows up in the ring, then Boy and we get a brawl. Boy pulls Lee’s clothes off, with a bit of difficulty it has to be said, before the heroic faces skitter away.
After the break, another interview. Are the next wrestlers late or something? And it’s Cornette again to boot, to talk about his Bluegrass Brawl match. It’s a tag match, it’s a cage, it’s for the titles. the losers have to leave SMW (though Cornette acts like it’s an all-out retirement match). He teases his partner being a big star like Yokazuna. Don’t bet on it. We learn no new information or motivations here. Pointless.
The Infernos (Fire & Brimstone) vs the Thrillseekers (Chris Jericho & Lance Storm)
The reason you all here. Jericho and Storm are only a few years into their careers at this point, and have tagged on-and-off for that period, between Canada, Mexico and Japan. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think SMW was their first proper American gig. They get an electric guitar entrance here, and the crowd is into it. Their opponents are two no-name jobbers in luchador onesies.
Storm and…one of the heels, they looks the same, starting off, Storm with the take down, then a shoulder-charge. Leapfrog chain and Storm hits a second rope springboard crossbody, then a big drop-kick, and the crowd is screaming. Jericho in against the other heel, spinning kick from the future Y2J, then a springboard shoulder charge. Sweet, smooth offence. Jericho hits a suplex for two, and I don’t think the commentators even know which heel is which.
Storm in, and the Thrillseekers hit a double clothesline after a double leapfrog for two. Storm with a snap suplex, drop-kick, two. Jericho back in, leaping clothesline, Scoop Slam, tag to Storm. Stereo missile drop-kicks from the top, and that will be all in just over three.
Winners: The future best trainer and the future conspiracy theorist.
Verdict: A one-sided squash, but fun to see these two this early, with even Cornette praising them.
An interview with the Thrillseekers follows. Storm hopes the SMW is ready for them, because they are ready for more. Jericho, playing a white-as-white-can-be babyface it seems, says their win is only the tip of the iceberg. After the break, time for our main event.
Chris Candido vs Tracey Smothers (Ladder Match)
Candido is adorned with two title belts ahead of this one, but they don’t say what they are and Cagematch is no help. Looking it up told me that Big Dirty Boy is the SMW champion right now, but they never mentioned it once earlier. Smothers gets the full entrance, with even his own camera shots, and this Virginia crowd loves that waving Stars and Bars. This ladder match will see the two men trying to grab a small envelope suspended above the ring that apparently contains $2500. This set-up looks hokey as hell. I wonder how long we’ll get for this one.
Smothers laying in the shots, whiffs a drop-kick badly, and then out to grab the sole ladder. Candido tries to intervene and gets the ladder to the gut, but basically no-sells. Back in, Candido with open-handed chops in the corner, then Smothers has a turn as commentary hypes up some personal appearances at a local Papa Johns. Smothers with a one-legged kick off a springboard, then a Wrecking Ball drop-kick to Candido on the outside. Smothers sets up the ladder, Baseball Slide to Candido, but another no-sell and Candido is straight back in to stop the climb.
Mounted punches from Candido, but Smothers knocks both him and the ladder to ground when he tries a climb. Candido gets caught in the ladder, and Smothers starts throwing him around, and then a head shot. Shots in the corner from Smothers, sets up the ladder, starts the climb but Candido pulls him off after a few rungs. Foot choke in the corner, head smashed off the ladder to screams, then a shot to the gut, the back, and these guys are happy to see the ladder go flying in a manner that actually makes me a tad nervous, given the enclosed nature of the crowd. Smothers choked with the ladder, “Tracey” chants, Candido hits a suplex. Goes for another, Smothers reverses and lands a belly-to-belly, then a falling knee, but Candido up way too quick really. Hits a Scoop Slam onto the ladder, to the top, but nobody home on a splash attempt onto the ladder, with Smothers dodging way too early.
Smothers with a jumping headbutt off a whip, mounted punches in the corner, then a jumping heel kick that sees Candido hit the ladder. Again Candido up way too quick to take a double axe-handle off the top, then a shoulder-block off the top where Smothers obviously had to wait for Candido to take a few steps towards him. Ladder set-up, both men climbing, Candido looking for a suplex, but he gets tossed instead. Smothers grabs the envelope in just under eight.
Winner: Smothers, in the shortest ladder match I have seen in ages.
Verdict: Lots of dodgy spots in this one, in more ways than one. Candido needed to learn how to sell.
Candido attacks after the bell, slams Smothers into the ladder, and takes off with the envelope. After a break Smothers is interviewed, and says he isn’t worried about the money, it’s Candido’s hide he’s after. “We got a lot of ladder matches coming up” he says, which is a weird thing to say, and adds that soon the south will rise again, OK then. Dirty White Boy and Girl are next, and hey, there is the title belt. It’s the same plug for the Bluegrass Brawl, and that is all.
Best Match: I suppose I have to give it to Jericho and Storm on the basis that they can just go in a manner that so many of the others featured just can’t.
Best Wrestler: Hmm. Smothers could tell a bit of a story in-ring?
Worst Match: Kyle/Furnas meant nothing and was treated as such by the two wrestlers.
Worst Wrestler: Sell Candido, sell! No, don’t get straight back up after getting slammed with a ladder!
Overall Verdict: Oof. I know this stuff is Cornette’s wet dream, but this was shoddy even by mid-90’s territory standards. Stands to reason that Jericho and Storm would be wrestling with real companies soon enough. Avoid.
Quick Thoughts On Elimination Chamber 2021
Ali/Morrison/Ricochet/Elias – Thrown together affair, but these four could pull an above-average spotfest on the fly no problem. Nothing you haven’t seen before, but chaotic fun nonetheless. Give it a look.
Smackdown Elimination Chamber – The close-up cameras are a bad choice as they expose more whiffs and lack of contact. Other than that it was fine, a few good spots here and there, everyone got over save for the sense of pointlessness given what was coming right after. Alright.
Reigns/Bryan – Exactly what you would expect. Not sure this was justified by a Chamber match beforehand. Is what it is.
Lashley/Morrison/Riddle – Good dynamic with two smaller guys going up against the monster. Could have been longer, but it frees up Bobby for a main event programme and Riddle could do with a strap. Watchable.
Womens Tag Titles – Meh, very forgettable just waiting for the excuse for the faces losing, Hopefully these belts end up on NXT soon. Skip.
Raw Elimination Chamber – A few odd booking choices like Styles volunteering to enter early, but another standard, mostly enjoyable, Chamber match. Nothing too special, but still worth watching.
McIntyre/Miz – Hey, it’s different, and Miz has been so good for so long now that giving him even a brief run with the top belt is far from the worst thing ever. Presume it’s leading to Lashley/McIntyre as well, so, you know, aweeeeesome. Actual match just your standard cash-in.
Overall – Only alright I suppose, the Chambers were OK and nothing else really popped. A real “we need to set-up stuff for Mania” show.
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