Monday, 27 February 2017

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Event poster
August 10, 1996
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Sturgis, South Dakota

Largely criticized as being little more than an excuse for Eric Bischoff to indulge his love for motorcycles, WCW Hog Wild 1996 served as the first PPV featuring Hollywood Hulk Hogan as a fully fledged villain. 

So, quite why the original VHS cover for this event still features The Icon in all his red-and-yellow babyface glory is anyone's guess, but hey, let's not bogged down in details. Instead, let's focus on tonight's show, a free, open-air event held as part of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which would see Hogan, now leader of the industry-changing new World order, looking to dethrone The Giant for the WCW Championship.

Would he succeed? Would the nWo continue the reign of destruction they'd waged on World Championship Wrestling ever since the infamous night of Hogan's heel turn back at Bash at the Beach 1996?

Let's cut the intro here and find out together, shall we?

Welcome to Sturgis 

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' HeenanOur show tonight began with an opening video which focused not on the superstars of WCW nor any of the matches taking place, but instead on Sturgis itself and the popularity of the biker rally. After shots of women flashing their bras and riding almost bare-assed down the street (this from a company who had spent the past month's worth of Nitro shows in residence at Disney), we were taken to our commentary team, which tonight would consist of The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan.

As the trio began hyping tonight's matches, two things quickly became apparent:

  1. Schiavone looked ridiculous in his "biker costume" (complete with fake tattoo)
  2. The sound of the Sturgis crowd revving their engines was going to be a big distraction, drowning out the commentators and getting pretty annoying, pretty quickly. 
With that out of the way, it was on to our first match. 

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio vs. Ultimo Dragon (w/ Sonny Onoo) 

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW - Ultimo Dragon Challenged Rey Mysterio Jr. for the Cruiserweight title
With Iron Mike Tenay joining the commentary team, Rey Mysterious successfully defended his cruiserweight title against Ultimo Dragon in a spirited, though somewhat disappointing match. 

Of course, that's not to say there was anything wrong with it, but given the caliber of the performers involved, it's fair to say that your reviewer set his expectations perhaps just a little too high. 

Indeed, whilst this wasn't the captivating cruiserweight classic we might have hoped for, it was a decent, straight-forward opener with a couple of cool spots thrown in for good measure. 
Your Winner and Still WCW cruiser weight champion: Rey Mysterio Jr. 

Out in the crowd, Mean Gene Okerlund, looking just as ridiculous in his fake biker costume as his broadcast colleagues, shilled the WCW hotline before the announcers went back to telling us how cool Sturgis was. 

Scott 'Flash' Norton vs. Ice Train 

True story, for a time when I was maybe eight or nine years old, ITV, one of the main broadcasters here in the UK, showed WCW's Disney Studios shows on Saturday afternoons. During this period, for reasons which are largely unfathomable to me now, Ice Train was my absolute favourite wrestler. 

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Ice Train had a grudge match against Fire & Ice partner, Ice Train
Here, my one-time hero sought to gain revenge on his former Fire & Ice tag partner Scott Norton after flash turned on him a few weeks earlier on Nitro.

Not that he would have much success tonight. 

Earlier in the evening, on WCW Saturday Night, 'Train had apparently gotten himself caught up in the conflict between his manager Teddy Long, and WCW Champion The Giant (Long's other charge, Sgt. Craig Pittman had lost a match against The Giant on Nitro) after which both he and Long were chokeslammed by the champ). That hadn't ended well for Ice Train, who also found himself on the wrong end of a Giant attack, and was forced to wrestle this grudge match with his arm and chest heavily bandaged. 

Naturally, his adversary took full advantage of this, working over Train's arm with a series of submission holds which, quite frankly, bored the pants off your writer. 

After a short bout, the referee decided that Ice Train could no longer continue, and this snore fest was over. 
Your Winner: Scott Norton 

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Ric Flair promised revenge on the nWo
In a brief interlude, we were next shown a recap of a sit down interview with The Nature Boy Ric Flair which had originally played out earlier on WCW Saturday Night. 

The clip saw Flair promising revenge after the nWo attacked his best friend, Arn Anderson two weeks ago on Nitro, and vowing that the Four Horsemen would do whatever it took to rid WCW of the New World Order. 

Up next, we were given a look at the official WCW Hog Wild 1996 merchandise.

WCW HOG WILD 1996: Jimmy Hart shilling epic merchandise
The voiceover man assured us that the t-shirt and denim jacket were the coolest items of clothing around, though one look at them was enough to assure you that this wasn't the case. 

Just to prove how 'cool' they were, the company had Jimmy Hart of all people feature in the commercial.

I don't know about you, but when I think of cool, the last person I think of is the Mouth of the South.

Finally, after more talk about how great Sturgis is, it was back to ringside. 

Battle of the Bikes
Bull Nakano (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Madusa

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Madusa beat Bull Nakano in a Battle of the Bikes
In a rematch from their Summerslam 1994 encounter, Madusa and Bull Nakano locked up in a match in which the winner would be allowed to smash the loser's motorcycle with a sledgehammer.

As dumb as it such a stipulation may sound (especially since Nakano didn't seem to give a damn about her bike), you have to hand it to WCW, it did work. 

For the first time on the show, the crowd really came alive, rallying behind Madusa and taunting Bull Nakano with chants of 'USA! USA!' 

The crowd involvement seemed to help too, in turning this short little bout into the most enjoyable one on the card up to that point. 

The ending however was a tad confusing; Nakano hit a suplex and seemed to pick up the win, after which Sonny Onoo picked up the sledgehammer and went after Madusa's bike. Madusa gave chase, was declared the winner (apparently she'd raised her shoulder and Nakano hadn't) and proceeded to attack Nakano's bike. 
Your Winner: Madusa 


WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Steiner Brothers play on the internet
Backstage, the Steiner Brothers were chatting to fans online via Compuserve (remember that?) until Rick Steiner found a "game" and wouldn't let Scott play on it.

The two began playfully jostling behind two laptops, neither man seeming all that concerned with their upcoming WCW tag team title shot against Harlem Heat.

If that sounds weird, believe me, that's because it was.

Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit (w/ Woman & Miss Elizabeth)

In between my Bash at the Beach 1996 review and tonight's show, I watched every single Nitro and clued myself in as best I could on the storylines taking place at the time. That includes the ongoing rivalry between The Four Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom, which somehow saw Jimmy Hart hiring Dean Malenko to take out Chris Benoit once and for all.

WCW Hog Wild 1996 REVIEW: Jimmy Hart paid Dean Malenko to take out Chris Benoit
Despite this, I just can't tell who -if anybody- is supposed to be the babyface in this story. As far as I can tell, it's all just a bunch of heels hating on each other. You know what? If that's what it took to produce matches like this, then I'm all for it.

Yes, I'm aware of what Benoit did, and no, I'm not in the camp that thinks he should still be revered by fans after the crimes he committed, but for the sake of these reviews, I've decided to just judge Benoit's matches on their own merit,and as such, I'm happy to report that yes, this one was a good one.

A true 'wrestling' match in the purest sense of the word, The Crippler and The Ice Man atacked each other with everything they had in a gruelling, hard fought contest that was spoiled only by a general lack of interest from the Sturgis crowd.

Despite this, the two kept going, first wrestling each other to a time limit draw, and then taking the match into not one, but two five minute over-time periods. In the second of these, Woman got involved, allowing Benoit to roll-up Malenko for a somewhat anti-climatic finish.
Your Winner: Chris Benoit

After more shots of the live crowd, it was straight on to our next match.

World Championship Wrestling Tag Team Championship
WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri & Col. Parker) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick &  Scott Steiner)

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Harlem Heat defended the tag titles against the Steiner Brothers
Just when it looked as though the subdued crowd had possibly fallen asleep for good during that last bout, Booker T, Stevie Ray, Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner certainly did a terrific job of waking them up again with a fun, by-the-numbers bout for the tag team titles.

Getting the crowd pumped up in a way that they hadn't been all night, both teams went at it in a hard-hitting battle that was made all the more enjoyable thanks to the excitement generated by the live audience.

Just when it looked like The Steiners may have secured the victory, Col. Parker and Sister Sherri got involved, the latter blasting Scott in the face with white powder, and the former drilling Steiner over the head with a cane. That was enough for Booker T to make the cover, get the count, and win the match for his team.
Your Winners and Still WCW Tag Team Champions: Harlem Heat

Up next, we were shown footage various WCW superstars riding to Sturgis, along with more generic shots of people riding through the streets on bikes. You know, just in case you hadn't already figured out that this was a biker ralley or something.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW United States Champion Ric Flair (w/ Woman & Miss Elizabeth) vs. Eddie Guerrero 

WCW HOG WILD REVIEW 1996 - Ric Flair defended US title against Eddie Guerrero
For the second pay per view in a row, United States Champion Ric Flair had one of the best matches on the show, this time in a solid defence against future legend, Eddie Guerrero.

With the sun setting on Sturgis and the crowd now finally alive, both men went at it in an exhilarating, see-saw battle which up to this point was your writer's favourite match on the entire show.

After plenty of back-and-forth action, Woman once again got involved, giving Ric Flair the assist by pulling on his arms for extra leverage as he held Guerrero in the figure four. Apparently passing out due to the pain, Guerrero lay on the mat, shoulders down, and was pinned.
Your Winner and Still WCW United States Champion: Ric Flair

Somewhere out in the arena, Mean Gene interviewed Jimmy Hart and WCW Champion The Giant about the latter's upcoming match with Hulk Hogan. Hart warned Hogan not to fall over "because nobody will be there to pick you up," whilst Giant himself spoke about how Hogan had betrayed WCW, and how it was up to The Giant himself to end Hulk once and for all.

Sting & Lex Luger vs. The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash)

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: The Outsiders faced Sting and Lex Luger
Though the ambiance of being outdoors in the dark did lend a certain aesthetic appeal to this match, the actual in-ring action did nothing -and I mean *nothing*- to warrant anybody ever watching it more than once.

To say it was boring would hardly be doing it justice. Honestly, from the moment it started to the moment it finished, it seemed as though neither Lex Luger, Sting, Scott Hall, nor Kevin Nash actually wanted to be there. All four men simply showed up and did as little as they possibly could to get through a dull, lifeless bout.

Thankfully, Luger and Hall eventually put us out of our misery when the former picked up the latter for a torture rack. Referee Nick Patrick got in the way, coming up short on the reeving end of Hall's boot and taking a tumble. In a move which must have seemed bizarre at the time -but which now makes plenty of sense with hindsight- Patrick "accidentally" chopped Luger around the back of the leg, causing Hall to fall on top of him.

One very fast three count later, and this one was finally over.
Your Winners: The Outsiders 

With all that over and done with, it was on to our main event of the evening.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
WCW Champion The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan

WCW HOG WILD 1996 REVIEW: Hulk Hogan defeated The Giant for the WCW Title
Perhaps the four men in our previous match should have been watching closely as The Giant and Hulk Hogan locked up in the final match of the evening. Why? Because this was a perfect example of how to do very little and actually make it work. 

Indeed, whilst the last match had seen the two tag teams sleep-walk their way through things with all the passion and emotion of a dead tree, Hogan and Giant actually made what little work they did do look like it matters. 

Hogan played the cowardly heel role to perfection, stalling for as long as possible and doing everything he could to avoid actually getting involved with the champion, before finally both men ended up trading the advantage in a heated test of strength. 

It may not have been much, and it certainly wouldn't qualify this for "classic match" status, but it certainly worked, and was at least reasonably entertaining. 

Towards the finish, The Outsiders returned to the ring, only to get planted by the champion. This however, was enough to distract the referee long enough for Hogan to grab the title, drill The Giant with it, and win the match.
Your Winner and NEW WCW Champion: Hollywood Hulk Hogan

WCW HOG WILD 1996: The Booty Man brought a birthday cake for Hulk Hogan
Post match, The Booty Man with two men carrying a birthday cake for Hogan. Presenting it to the new champion, the man formerly known as Brutus Beefcake played up his real-life friendship with Hogan and implied that he was the much-talked-about fourth member of the New World Order. 

Man, was he ever about to be disappointed. Hogan took to the mic, first hyping his upcoming title defence against Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions, then turning his attentions to Booty Man and, after declaring his love for the erstwhile Barber, ordering Hall and Nash to attack him. 

"If that's what I'll do to my best friend," he yelled. "Imagine what I'll do to you, Ric Flair."

Finally, in a historic moment, Hogan took black spray paint and defaced the WCW title belt with the nWo logo, bringing the show to a close as he, Hall, and Nash ushered in the new era of the New World Order.

Though WCW Hog Wild 1996 may have been only marginally less historically important than the game-changing Bash at the Beach '96, the show was certainly far superior from an in-ring stand-point. The two main event matches may not have been up to much, but Flair/Guerrero, Harlem Heat/Steiners and Benoit/Malenko all made this one well worth the watch. 

Next time on Retro Pro Wrestling, I'll cover the Clash of Champions match which saw Hogan make his first title defence against Flair, followed by Fall Brawl 1996, featuring nWo vs. WCW in War Games. Until then, thanks for reading, and be sure to come join me on Twitter @Retropwrestling.http://twitter.com/retropwrestling

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Retro Pro Wrestling

New reviews of classic WWF/WWE events recalling every moment from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. You'll also find reviews of WCW, ECW, TNA and the occasional indie event, along with a look at old school magazines, merchandise and more.