Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Then, Now Whatever: The Worst Tournament Ever? The WCW Title Tournament, October-November 1999

Hello everyone,

Sorry it's been a while since I did one of these. Hope you've all been enjoying the podcast in general.

Having covered how Kyle became a fan in our previous episode, it was now time to delve into the story of how my fandom started. As covered in Episode 6, going off my memories of seeing a Sting vs Goldberg match on WCW Worldwide I figured out that WCW Mayhem 1999 was the first Pay Per View to occur after I became a fan.

The backdrop to this show was a 32 person tournament for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship. I'd like to reiterate my recommendation you check out "The Death of WCW" by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez for their take on it. However, I have taken the trouble of watching every match from the tournament prior to Mayhem, and as a companion piece for our Mayhem 99 episode, I've reviewed them all for you here. These matches were spread over the course of the four episodes of Nitro between Halloween Havoc and Mayhem. The brackets were split into four groups, each group winner going on to the semis at Mayhem.

 October 25th

Group 1 Round 1 - Norman Smiley vs Bam Bam Bigelow

In a pre-match promo Smiley promised to show off his technical skill. This is the "Mayhem Match of the Week" - if you can remember the winner, you get the chance to win tickets for "WCW Nitro New Year's Evil" from the Houston Astrodome December 27th!
ONE MATCH in to this tournament & it has already descended into bollocks, as Bam Bam decides to challenge Smiley to a hardcore match, since he's "such a scientifical wrestling technician". So the wrestlers can just decide the stipulations to their matches?
The finish: Thoroughly idiotic, as Bam Bam covers Smiley's head with a trash can and accidentally bumps into said trash can, which supposedly keeps him down long enough for Norman to do his "Big Wiggle" dance & cover for 3.
Winner: Norma Smiley @ 1:24
Verdict: DUD

Group 1 Round 1 - Perry Saturn vs Eddie Guerrero

Saturn got tonnes of smoke for his entrance. Brain: "Who started wrestling, Cheech & Chong?". Perry tells Eddie's fellow Filthy Animals to leave ("Hit the bricks jabronis"). In the distraction Eddie attacks Perry's leg. Are those Eddie sucks chants? But he's the babyface!? Eddie's got busted ribs, so Saturn's offence focuses on that, including a cool suplex and a dive taking him & Eddie off the apron.
The finish: David Flair sneaks out to crowbar Eddie in the ribs & Saturn locks in the Rings of Saturn back in ring for the tap out.
Winner: Perry Saturn @ 3:40 via submisson
Verdict: 3/10. They did what they could for the time given, but why the need for the run in?

Group 2 Round 1 - Madusa vs Meng

I've just noticed Dave Penzer's rainbow cummerbund! 

Tony upon finding out Madusa's wrestling Meng: "That's gotta be a rib, right?" Madusa fires up lots & Meng no sells like crazy, not going down despite Madusa getting a dropkick & enzughiri.
The finish: Meng mares Madusa off a sleeper and locks in the Tongan Death Grip  for the pin.
Winner: Meng @ 2:33
Verdict: 3/10. Madusa showed good fire & frustration at being unable to knock down Meng.
Evan Karagias flirtily checks on Madusa post match.

Group 2 Round 1 - The Total Package vs Rick Steiner

Immediately Jeff Jarrett comes out to join commentary. Steiner controls, and after a belly to belly Jeff sees his chance to stalk Liz. This somehow results in Jarrett accidentally whacking Steiner with the guitar (the old "El Kabong"), so he groggily chases Jeff to the back & gets counted out.
Winner: The Total Package @ 2:59 via count out
Verdict: DUD

Group 1 Round 1 - Billy Kidman vs Konnan

Both men were too distressed about Torrie Wilson being held captive by The Revolution to cut a coherent pre-match promo, yet Konnan's still happy enough to do his little pouncing out to the ring. And he needs to pull his trousers up! After a rolling clothesline by Konnan & BK Bomb by Kidman we get a ref bump, yay! Harlem Heat arrive to clubber them both. Eddie & Rey Mysterio chase them off & Kidman covers for 3.

Winner: Billy Kidman @ 1:53
Verdict: DUD

Group 2 Round 1 - Sting vs Brian Knobs

Sting wins in 13 seconds after walloping Knobs with the baseball bat.

Group 2 Round 1 - Diamond Dallas Page vs David Flair

Incensed at Page for injuring his dad last night, David sneak attacks DDP with a crowbar before the match can even begin. It's not obvious what the result is & naturally they just cut to the next segment in 1 second. More on next week's episode.

Group 1 Round 1 - Goldberg vs Bret Hart

Bret supposedly has a "hairline fracture" in his ankle & gave his Tito Santana "I'm gonna do my best" promo earlier in the night. This match is also for Goldberg's United States Championship because why the heck not. After a Gorilla Press Powerslam Goldberg gets a pair of leg grapevines - the first Bret scrambles to the ropes immediately, the second Goldberg lets go of willingly!  Bill: "You gotta stop." Bret: "I ain't stopping for nothing!" Goldberg mared out of Bret's sleeper, causing another ref bump wohoo!
The finish: Bret get shit canned outside, The Outsiders & Sid Vicious arrive to hit their trademark moves on Goldberg & Bret rolls in to get the 3.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 7:52
Verdict: 2.5/10. More angle than match.

* Notable signs from that show: "Saturn Slangs Bean Pies", "That Was Weak!", "Russo, Where's The Gambler?", "Jericho 4, Greenberg 0"

Thanks prowrestling.wikia.com for the tournament brackets

November 1st

Group 4 Round 1 - Vampiro vs Berlyn

Berlyn's bodyguard "The Wall" evidently didn't have a name at this point, while Vamp only had eyeliner, no facepaint. Berlyn controls early, hitting a nice Saito suplex. Vamp replies with a decent mule kick. Rock band The Misfits arrive and guess what? There's a ref bump. Yay! Cue brawling between The Misfits & The Wall.
The finish: The Misfits sweep Berlyn's leg away during a slam attempt & hold his limbs down so Vamp can get the 3.
Winner: Vampiro @ 4:11
Verdict: 2.5/10. Sloppy but watchable before the shenanigans dragged things down.

* It turns out DDP was awarded the victory last week, but is unable to compete through injury, so The Total Package gets a bye to the Quarter Final.

Group 3 Round 1 - The Cat vs Lash LeRoux

Tony puts over that Cat returned from his knee injury 2 weeks early for this. So, naturally, his leg buckles on an Irish whip & Lash hooks an Indian Deathlock variant for the submission.
Winner: Lash LeRoux @ 0:56 via submission
Verdict: ANGLE

Group 4 Round 1 - Buff Bagwell vs Stevie Ray

LOL you can see the camera man encouraging the crowd to "raise the roof" when Stevie arrives. He informs Buff The Powers That Be have made this a Strap Match. TPTB hate Buff. This match is basically just choking & clubbering.
The finish: Creative Control enter the ring & the bell rings(!?) as Buff runs away (he got unstrapped quickly). DQ IN A STRAP MATCH FFS.
Winner: Buff Bagwell @ 2:49 vis disqualification
Verdict: DUD. This was hot garbage.

Group 4 Round 1 - Curt Hennig vs The Disco Inferno

In a pre-match promo Hennig referred to "The Powers To Be" and "Disco Infurro". Yep, he ain't Perfect any more. The show is in Curt's home state so his Dad Larry "The Axe" is front row, refuses Disco's handshake & levels him (no DQ?) between a nice brisk rope run routine by Curt. Disco's able to block the Hennigplex but Tony Marinara arrives & informs Disco "it's time to collect", so he abandons the match & Hennig wins by count out.
Winner: Curt Hennig @ 3:30 via count out
Verdict: 3/10. Nice, pacey & competent before the daft finish.

Group 4 Round 1 - Jeff Jarrett vs Booker T

Jarrett jumped Book during his entrance & the ref actually prevents a guitar attack! Of course Creative Control arrive. Book rolls through a crossbody for 2. They trade sleepers, then Book gets the Book End, Scissors Kick & Harlem Side Kick, but Creative Control's distraction allows Jeff to "El Kabong him for 3.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 2:38
Verdict: 3/10. Loved Booker's offence. Jarrett's selling? Less so.

Group 3 Round 1 - Madusa vs Evan Karagias

Yep, Madusa gets another chance for some reason. They basically just flirt all match long. Madusa gropes Evan & slaps his cap off, then he frisks her escaping a headlock (Tony: "Keep yo' miind on yo' business boy."). Fucking hell Madusa just thrusts her crotch towards Evan in the corner.
The finish: Madusa sort of Thesz Presses out of a hug & kisses Evan for 3.
Winner: Madusa @ 2:11 via sexuality.
Verdict: BOLLOCKS. Totally went against Madusa's story of wanting to be seen as a peer and not just a model for perfume or evening gown matches.

Group 3 Round 1 Steel Cage Match - Chris Benoit vs Dean Malenko

Not sure why this is a cage match. These two wrestled in a Last Man Standing Match the week before so maybe it was to maintain the same level of violence?

Ha, Penzer introduces Malenko, who's already in the cage, as we see Benoit come out, so it looks like he messed up. Neat spot where Benoit Alley Oops Dean into the cage & immediately powerbombs him. Dean gets crotched climbing up & dropkicked into the cage, but counters a second with a catapult to the cage. Benoit climbs after a Tombstone but gets Electric Chaired.
The finish: Saturn climbs up & tosses a chain in the ring, but falls off when Malenko's knocked into him, allowing Benoit to punch Dean with the chain & hit an amazing headbutt from the cage top for 3.
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 4:29
Verdict: 5.5/10. A super efficient match with some good spots.

Group 3 Round 1 - Scott Hall vs Sid Vicious

TROLLOLOL a Fingerpoke of Doom reference sees Hall trick Sid into a roll up for 2. Fans chant Goldberg to taunt Sid as he backbreakers Hall. He cuts off a Hall comeback with a chokeslam.
The finish: Bret, on crutches, comes out, hits Sid with a crutch to prevent a powerbomb, misses his crutch shot to Hall, and Hall scootches around the other side of the ring to get the 3.
Winner: Scott Hall @ 4:53
Verdict: 2/10. What a whole lotta blah.

* Notable signs: "Buff is the real people champion", "Last Call for Alco-Hall"

November 8th

* It's revealed an injury to Meng means Sting gets a bye to the Quarter Final next week, where he'll face The Total Package.

Group 1 Round 2 Hardcore Match - Billy Kidman vs Norman Smiley

Smiley's all in hockey gear & Brian Knobs is on commentary. Norm spanks Kidman while holding him in a wheelbarrow.
The finish: Knobs attacks Smiley on the outside with a hockey stick (for some reason Jimmy Hart felt the need to distract the ref from this) & Kidman covers back inside for 3.
Winner: Billy Kidman @ 2:12
Verdict: DUD

Group 3 Round 2 - Madusa vs Chris Benoit

Benoit outwrestles Madusa with ease in some decent exchanges. She hits a Frankensteiner but Benoit chops back. Evan comes out & brawls with the ref!? Jarrett arrives & brawls with Benoit too, so Madusa's DQed I guess?
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 1:49 via disqualification
Verdict: 1/10. Felt like the tentative opening exchanges to a good match and then bollocks ensued because it's late 99 WCW.

Group 4 Round 2 - Buff Bagwell vs Vampiro

A Misfit greets Buff on the ramp in a TRAP. Vamp's somersault misses & Buff gets a neckbreaker, then knocks all The Misfits off the apron.
The finish: Berlyn attacks Vamp with a chain while the ref was still groggy from (take a guess) a ref bump. The Buff Blockbuster gets the win.
Winner: Buff Bagwell @ 1:22
Verdict: 1.5/10. So little of note, and ANOTHER run in? Jesus.

Group 1 Round 2 - Bret Hart vs Perry Saturn

Shane Douglas is on commentary, calling Saturn "a jack of all trades" & Bret "a washed up has been". Decent wrestling to start & a big springboard kick by Perry gets 2. He focuses on the "injured ankle" & scores a T-Bone suplex but the Asai Moonsault missed. Bret comes back with his five moves of doom. Douglas sneaks a cast shot when Bret goes for the Sharpshooter & Saturn gets the Death Valley Driver! But it only gets 2!
The finish:  Benoit arrives to brawl with Douglas, & after Perry dives onto both, his Sunset Flip is beautifully countered to the Sharpshooter for the submission.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 5:01 via submission
Verdict: 5/10. Maybe I've just become desensitised to all the run ins, but that was a pretty good effort for the time allotted.

Group 3 Round 2 - Scott Hall vs Lash LeRoux

Kevin Nash, who's kayfabe retired, has gained a license to manage Hall so he's out dressed as The Grand Wizard.

Thanks legitshook.com for the gif & earlier tournament brackets

It's interesting to hear Bobby Heenan so full of praise for Lash. He somersaults out of a hammerlock after being slapped around but Hall quickly returns to raggin' on heeyum & hits the Chokebottom.
The finish: Lash comes back with more basic flying strikes but falls pray to the discus punch, Fallaway Slam & Outsider's Edge for 3.
Winner: Scott Hall @ 6:14
Verdict: 4/10. Decent layout and fun in general but Lash's offence was so cookie cutter.

Group 4 Round 2 - Curt Hennig vs Jeff Jarrett

Hennig suffers a load of roll ups early & complains to Heenan about the ref being out to get him. Creative Control arrive again. Hennig blocks the Figure 4 & counters the Stroke leading to ANOTHER ref bump! The Hennigplex gets Curt the visual 3 but Creative Control beat him up & slam him through the announce table. Realising they've fucked up & that TPTB's edict was Curt only retires when he gets pinned, they scramble to get him back in the ring but can't beat the count.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 5:19 vis count out
Verdict: 2/10. Nothing leg work by Jarrett followed by a nothing comeback by Hennig.

* Only notable sign from this show "World Wussie Federation".

November 15th

Group 3 Quarter Final - Chris Benoit vs Scott Hall

Bret's out with Benoit to counteract Nash being with Hall. Benoit snotted on Hall after having the toothpick thrown at him. Ew.  Hall teased a test of strength so he could thumb the eye but still gets outwrestled, then he starts chopping Benoit because he has no common sense. The ref somehow misses sneak attacks by Nash. Where's Bret to get on his case? A Fallaway Slam & sleeper wears Benoit down but he comes back with a lariat, backbreaker and baseball slide. Bret saves Benoit from a slam by Nash, and while the ref tries to separate them Sid comes out to powerbomb Hall.
The finish:  Benoit get the flying headbutt but has to fend Nash off again. Hall tries to attack with some knucks in the distraction but winds up in the Crossface for the submission.
Winner: Chris Benoit @ 9:38 via submission
Verdict: 3.5/10. Too much stalling & shenanigans, not to mention poor selling by Hall surviving both Sid & Benoit's finishers.

Group 1 Quarter Final - Bret Hart vs Billy Kidman

Bret smothers Kidman early with an atomic drop & clothesline, then rolls through a Sunset Flip ala his match with Saturn, but Kidman blocks the Sharpshooter, so Bret slingshots him over the top instead! Kidman comes back with a Tornado Bulldog for 2. The Outsiders arrive to sexually harass Torrie Wilson. Seriously. While The Animals brawl with them, Bret blocks a Frankensteiner into the Sharpshooter for the tap out.
Winner: Bret Hart @ 3:46 via submission
Verdict: 3/10. Outside of the wicked catapult, call back to the Saturn match & the finish there wasn't much to this.

Group 4 Quarter Final - Jeff Jarrett vs Buff Bagwell

Buff gets a neat leapfrog & dropkick followed by an atomic drop, clothesline & dance. Guess who's here? No, not Jushin Thunder Liger, but Creative Control! After dodging an El Kabong, Buff El Kabong's one of Creative Control only to fall prey to the Stroke for 3.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett @ 2:05
Verdict: 2/10. Buff's offence was actually decent but my God how many "Jarrett does nothing but wins" matches do we need in this tournament?

Group 2 Quarter Final - Sting vs The Total Package

Luger looked surprised Sting was able to come out. Apparently he tried to get some tainted brownies to Sting but WCW Janitor Hacksaw Jim Duggan intercepted them. I shit you not.


Sting whacks Lex in the leg he claimed he hurt last week slipping on a wet floor. Sting's really fired up. He blocks Package's attempt to atomic drop out of the corner ten punch, hits a pair of Stinger Splashes & hooks on the Scorpion Deathlock, but Luger trips the ref up & Liz maces Sting!
The finish: With the ref still down Package applies the Torture Rack, but Meng arrives to Tongan Death Grip Luger, dragging Sting on top of him for 3.
Winner: Sting @ 4:03
Verdict: 3/10. I always love Sting when he gets all fiery but besides that this was a poor match.

* One final sign of note: "Sid fears box".

Final Thoughts: You can probably tell from all the ratings for these matches that the company wasn't in the best of form going into Mayhem 99. Nitro was still 3 hours long at this point yet the vast majority of these matches were squeezed into 2-5 minutes. Only having tournament matches on Nitro was a big mistake for me. You still had Thunder and Saturday Night on the air at this point - both of those shows could have easily accommodated some of the matches involving lower card talent.

Not only were the wrestlers in these matches hampered by a lack of ring time, they also had to accommodate CONSTANT BOLLOCKS such as run ins, mystery DQs or lack there of and random stipulation changes. For some reason 6 of these matches weren't regular wrestling matches. There were only 7 clean finishes and  (counting all of the people involved) an incredible FORTY EIGHT (48) instances of outside interference over the course of the tournament so far.

So in general, the matches from the tournament before the Pay Per View offered up nothing I can categorically recommend. If there are any unusual pairings which make you think "Oh I've always wondered if they'd wrestled" & feel like watching out of curiosity, knock yourself out. If there's anything I've described here that's made you think "It can't be THAT bad surely?" & want proof yourself, again, go ahead. But I seriously can't remember a set of matches put together with one central "focus" that has been as terrible as the matches collected over the course of these four Nitros.

Is there anything redeemable to come from the Semi Final and Final matches? Well, you can check out our episode on Mayhem 99 in full below to find out for yourself, and look out for the blog edition with "director's commentary" etc in the near future.

In addition, you can come follow us on Twitter and Facebook and Soundcloud, where you'll find all of our episodes so far, or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher radio (search tnwpodcast). See you soon.