Wednesday, 22 March 2017

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Event poster
September 15, 1996
Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

It had been only two short months since Hollywood Hulk Hogan shocked the wrestling world by turning his back on WCW at Bash of the Beach 1996 to form the New World Order. That the move should serve as the catalyst for the company's most successful and profitable period in its entire history was at least somewhat ironic, given that the nWo's storyline M.O was simple:

Bring World Championship Wrestling to its knees.

To that end, Hollywood Hogan and his fellow nWo founders Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had been entirely successful.

After dropping his WCW Heavyweight Championship to Hogan the previous month at Hog Wild 1996, The Giant had sided with his once sworn rival to become the latest addition to the New World Order.

That however, wasn't the biggest surprise defection to the renegade outfit. That honour would go to WCW franchise player, Sting.

At least it was if you were to believe the Stinger's best friend Lex Luger and the WCW broadcasters. As Sting and Luger looked forward to teaming up with long-time rivals Ric Flair and Arn Anderson against the nWo at War Games, Luger was attacked on an episode of Nitro by a man who wearing Sting's facepaint and attire.


Luger, who had a long, storied history with Sting, apparently couldn't tell this stranger apart from his supposed best friend, and genuinly believed Sting had turned his back on World Championship Wrestling.

Would Luger realise what an idiot he was? Would the Stinger prove his worth to WCW by helping his team defeat the nWo? We were about to find out as WCW Fall Brawl 1996 came to us live from Flair country.

You Want a War? You Got One

Tonight's show began with a video package detailing the rivalry between the New World Order and WCW mainstays Sting, Lex, Luger, Arn Anderson, and Nature Boy Ric Flair.

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Bobby Heenan, Tony Shiavone, and Dusty Rhodes commentated the event,
The video, set to that Seal rip-off used as both the Bash at the Beach 1996 music and The Outsiders theme music at said event, recapped everything we just talked about in the introduction to today's review.

So too did our commentary team for this evening, the ever-present trio of Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan, and 'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes, who still hadn't wrapped their heads around the idea that fake nWo sting and Steve Borden sting were not one and the same person.

Not willing to waste any more time on the matter for now however, Schiavone and co. took us down to ringside for our first match.

Diamond Dallas Page vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. 

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: DDP beat Chavo Guerrero
If you recall, the rivalry between Diamond Dallas Page and Chavo Guerrero Jr. began exactly one month earlier at WCW Clash of the Champions 33, when Page attacked Guerrero's uncle, Eddie Guerrero, after the latter beat him for the Battle Bowl ring. 

Back then, Guerrero had run to the rescue, and tonight was out to avenge his uncle in our opening contest. 

As for the match itself, this one started strong, with a red-hot Guerrero wasting no time in attacking his rival. 

In an exciting start to proceedings, Chavo battered Page both inside and outside of the ring, before the dastardly DDP managed to regain the upper-hand for a large portion of the bout. 

For this writer, it was those moments when Dallas was in charge that the bout suffered the most, with only the occasional kick out or hope spot from Chavo doing anything to elicit a reaction from the live audience. 

One of the biggest pops of the entire match came when DDP threw Chavo from ring one into ring two, after which his tilt-a-whirl sitout powerbomb for a near fall served as a true match highlight. 

At this point, I legitimately thought Chavo was going to mount a comeback and pick up the win (I've never seen this event before I sat down to review it), but alas, it wasn't to be. One Diamond Cutter later, and this one was over.
Your Winner: Diamond Dallas Page 

Back in the locker room, Booker T and Stevie Ray were bullying some guy to respond to fans on their behalf via Compuserve. Meanwhile, Col. Parker and Sister Sherri got involved too, generally flapping and jabbering and making the whole thing seem much more stressful and complicated than using the internet ever needed to be, even in 1996. 

Mean Gene's Special Report on The Attack 

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Mean Gene presents a special report on the nWo invasion
Up next, we were taken to a pre-taped special report from Mean Gene Okerlund. The subject of our report today was the ongoing invasion of World Championship Wrestling by the New World Order, an event that both Okerlund and Tony Shiavone (in introducing the segment) insisted that everybody was referring to as The Attack. This despite the fact that at no point on WCW Nitro nor Hog Wild, nor Clash of the Champions, had anybody ever used the words The Attack to talk about this angle. 

But hey, if 'everybody' was calling it this, then who am I to argue, right? 

Mean Gene's recap doesn't tell us anything we don't already know, so let's move straight on to our next match. 

Submission Match
Scott 'Flash' Norton vs. Ice Train (w/ Teddy Long) 

If you're just catching up, Scott Norton and Ice Train (who at one point was your writer's favourite WCW wrestler) were a short-lived tag team named Fire & Ice, who broke up when they couldn't agree on whether to play by the rules or cheat to win. 

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Ice Train beat Scott Norton in a submission match
That kicked off a lukewarm rivalry between the two, with Norton emerging triumphant from their first encounter back at Hog Wild in August. Not content to leave it at that, Flash would continue to attack his former partner and injure his arm, leading to tonight's return match. 

This wasn't just any old match however. This was a special 'submission match' which, given that both men were effectively powerhouses or -at the very least- brawlers, seemed to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. 

The end result was a slow, dull-as-dishwater encounter in which nothing exciting happened for the first few minutes, and then barely anything happened at all for the remaining minutes. 

Honestly, there's only so long you can watch Scott Norton hold somebody in an armbar before you want to fall asleep. 

Thankfully, Teddy Long finally put us out of our misery by hopping up on the apron, threatening to throw the towel in for his charge. That caused Norton to break the hold, allowing 'Train to drill him from behind, slap on a full nelson (of all things) and win this truly terrible, lifeless match. 
Your Winner: Ice Train

By the way, you know what I always loved about WCW? The way they would have Bobby Heenan do those post-match analyses after every bout. To me, it just seemed to add a sense of legitimacy to the occasion which, in my mind, was always welcomed. 

'Mexican' Heavyweight Championship
AAA Americas Heavyweight Champion Konan (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Juventud Guerrera 

At this point, Konan was now a fully-fledged heel and card-carrying member of the Dungeon of Doom, complete with Jimmy Hart as his manager and street clothes attire he would wear for basically the remainder of his WCW run.

Here, he defended what WCW always referred to simply as the "Mexican Heavyweight Championship" though what was actually the AAA Americas Heavyweight Championship, a title so short-lived that Konan was the first and only guy to hold it.

His challenger for tonight was relative newcomer Juventud Guerrera, who looked like a tiny child during the early part of his WCW run.

Looks aside, I will admit to thoroughly enjoying this match. Though I never quite got any of Konan's gimmicks, and found him terribly annoying on the microphone, I always felt he was rather an underappreciated wrestler when it came to the actual bell-to-bell stuff.

Working with Juvi, the champ was able to deliver a performance which -though not exactly breathtaking- was at least entertaining, and ended with a top-rope powerbomb to give a win to the champion.
Your Winner and Still AAA Americas Champion: Konan

From there, the show (or at least the version I'm watching on the WWE Network) wasted no time in getting right on to the next match.

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

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Chris Jericho made his WCW PPV debut against Chris Benoit
There are some matches (take Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect for example)which, whilst they may look like a dream match on paper, only serve to disappoint once the bell rings 

Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit was -thankfully- not one of those matches. 

Making his WCW PPV debut (and for some reason being billed as coming from Calgary), Jericho clashed with Benoit in a match that was every bit as good as it could have been given the time allowed and both men's status in the WCW hierarchy. 

The only drawback here, at least for Jericho, is that all his attempts to be the babyface were lost on a crowd who were largely -and loudly- in favour of the Four Horsemen. Despite this, both men worked hard at making the most of what they had, putting together a truly solid bout which served as the match of the night up to this point. 

The end, in case you were wondering, came when Benoit suplexed Jericho off the top rope for a three count.
Your Winner: Chris Benoit 

Again, we're not wasting any time here. No between-match segments or interviews, just one match after the other. Nice. 

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Super Calo 

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Super Calo challenged Rey Mysterio for the WCW Cruiserweight title
By this point there lifeless, uninterested North Carolina crowd are really starting to have a toxic effect on the entire event.

Having previously woken up for the earlier Jericho/Benoit encounter, they once again went back into a coma for this cruiserweight title match and reacted to almost nothing that Rey Mysterio Jr. and Super Calo did. 

The lack of reaction really took something away from the match -especially since the whole point of pro wrestling in the first place is to entertain the live crowd- but for what both men did manage to pull together, this was a very good effort indeed. 

Super Calo and his awesome mask dominated much of the bout before Mysterio made the inevitable comeback, picking up the win and heading on to intensify his ongoing rivalry with Dean Malenko. 
Your Winner and Still WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Rey Mysterio Jr. 

At this point, it occurs to me that most of the pictures I've used so far in this thing have been of guys working some kind of arm-bar. Let's try and change it up for our next match, shall we?


World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) w/ Sister Sherri and Col. Parker)

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Harlem Heat successfully defended the WCW Tag Team Championship against the Nasty Boys
The North Carolinans may not have had much interest in seeing Rey Jr. and Super Calo trade planchas and reversals by the truckload, but give them a straight-up, hard-hitting tag match between Harlem Heat and The Nasty Boys, and they were all for it.

Proof, if ever it were needed, that it's really the crowd reaction that makes or breaks a pro wrestling match, this WCW tag team title match was a sheer joy to watch, primarily because both teams excelled in ensuring that the crowds were totally into every single move.

OK, so this match may not have been a technical wrestling masterclass, but then it was never intended to be.  Instead, it was a classic, by-the-numbers tag bout which delivered on all fronts and came second only to the Benoit/Jericho match in terms of pure enjoyment factor.

As they had done at the last two events, Booker T & Stevie Ray retained their titles thanks to outside shennanigans from Col. Parker and Sister Sherri, bringing to an end a surprise highlight of the show.
Your Winners and Still WCW Tag Team Champions: Harlem Heat 

Prior to an upcoming interview with Macho Man Randy Savage, we get Nature Boy styling and profiling in the official Fall Brawl merchandise. Shilling for all he's worth, Nature Boy was more excited about these t-shirts than I've ever seen anybody get excited over an item of clothing in my life.

Still though, I have to admit that I preferred the ads Flair did for Southpaw Regional Wrestling back in the day.

Mike Tenay Interviews The Macho Man 

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Macho Man Randy Savage faced The Giant
Noting how ironic it was that 'the man who has been fined and suspended more than any other wrestler in World Championship Wrestling is now the saviour this evening at Fall Brawl,' Iron Mike Tenay did a great job in playing up the wild, unpredictable nature of the Macho Man before the man himself walked on screen, ready to verbally tear into his opponent for this evening, recent nWo convert, The Giant.

Wearing a hat that I'm not sure isn't the same one he wore at WWF Wrestlemania 9, Savage called himself WCW's 'evil necessity,' a force that was just what the company needed to finally put an end to the New World Order's reign of terror.

Tonight, Savage promised that he would start ending said reign of terror by toppling The Giant before going on to next month's Halloween Havoc to defeat Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

This was Savage at his most insane and brilliant, making for a promo that was just a joy to watch. Ohhh YEAH! 


Macho Man Randy Savage vs. The Giant 

Having done such a stellar job of building up the intensity of his rivalry with the New World Order, Savage almost immediately killed it by handing out Slim Jims on his way to the ring, as if to say Sure, I've got a war on my hands, but first let me please my sponsors. 

The Giant was out next, first to his old Dungeon of Doom  Theme Music before somebody realised he was now in the nWo and switched to the outlaw faction's Porno Production Track #12 tune.

From there, we subject to a slow, sluggish outing which saw The Giant dominate, battering his adversary into the corner before working over the spine with a backbreaker and boston crab which almost sent this writer to sleep. 

Things only really picked up when Savage mounted the inevitable comeback, only to be lured outside the ring by Hollywood Hogan. Naturally, this was all a set-up. As The Giant kept corrupt official Nick Patrick busy in the ring, Hogan was joined by The Outsiders in putting a wicked beatdown on the Macho Man.

Their work done, the trio rolled Savage in the ring, giving The Giant an easy cover, count, and victory.
Your Winner: The Giant 

After a quick promotional video for Slim Jim's Halloween Havoc staring Mr. Slim Jim himself, the Macho Man, the lights dimmed and we were treated to pyro galore as the two cages lowered for what Tony Shiavone called "The Moment the Wrestling World Had Been Waiting For."

Yes folks, it was almost time for War Games.

First through, we got a backstage promo in which Mike Tenay interviewed Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Lex Luger. Flair insisted that after what he believed to be Sting's betrayal of WCW, he,

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Sting confronts Luger, Flair, and Arn Anderson
Luger, and Anderson would enter the war against the nWo without a fourth man involved. Anderson then added his own choice words, basically reiterating Flair's statement that it would be three vs. two tonight then, just as they were about to head to ring side, Sting -the actual Sting- arrived to tell his team mates that it wasn't him who attacked Luger.

In response, Luger told Sting that he had looked him "right in the eye" and knew it was him. Again, I remind you that this is a man who had known Sting very well for many years, and yet couldn't tell him apart from some other guy wearing Sting makeup.

Unhappy, Sting stormed off, leaving Flair to call Luger a "lean, mean, wrestling machine" and then strut off-camera, on his way to the match.

WAR GAMES
WCW (Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, and Sting) vs. NWO (Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Fake Sting, and WCW World Heayweight Champion Hollywood Hulk Hogan w/ Ted Dibiase)

In a break from tradition, both teams were kept backstage and made separate entrances, rather than all surrounding the ring at the same time and entering at their allotted time.


Ostensibly, this was because the rivalry was so intense that both teams had to be contained backstage, though in reality, I suspect that this had much to do with heightening the sense of surprise when Real Sting and Fake Sting proved to be the fourth men for their respective teams.

WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Sting confronts Luger, Flair, and Arn Anderson
As far as the actual action went, this was a perfectly fine match. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a technical masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but then again, it was never supposed to be. This wasn't about the bell-to-bell stuff at all but rather about the story, about the shift of power in the New World Order's favour, and about how Team WCW had felt let down by Sting, even though it was they who had let him down by not believing him in the first place.

Speaking of The Stinger, the man of the hour made an appearance as the fourth man for Team WCW, going straight after his evil doppleganger before laying waste to the entire nWo squad.

Just when you thought it was time for a kiss-and-make-up session with his team mates however, a visibly pissed off Sting yelled at Luger, asking him whether Sting's actions in the War Games cage was enough to prove that he hadn't sold his soul to the dark side. Before Luger could respond however, Sting told him to stick it, then left the cage, signalling the beginning of the end for Team WCW.

As the others brawled around the ring, Hall and Hogan wrapped The Total Package in a submission move until he passed out, giving the win to the bad guys.
Your Winners: The New World Order


WCW FALL BRAWL 1996 REVIEW: Miss Elizabeth tries to stop Hulk Hogan from attacking Randy Savage
Not content to merely win the match, Hall, Hogan, Nash, and Fake Sting continued to beat down on their adversaries, prompting a run in from non-other than the number one contender to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, Macho Man Randy Savage.

Savage attempted to rescue his fallen colleagues, only for The Giant to reappear, joining forces with the rest of the nWo in giving Savage the latest of the 5,000 beat-downs he would receive from the nWo before eventually joining forces with them.

Miss. Elizabeth, ran down, throwing herself over her ex in attempt to shield him from any further attacks at the hands of the nWo, though all this achieved was getting herself spraypainted by Hogan, who once again vowed to destroy Savage when the two met at Halloween Havoc.

That event, ladies and gentlemen, is another review for another day.

For now though, all I have to say is that WCW Fall Brawl 1996 was a mostly enjoyable show. Take away the illogical and ill-recieved submission match between Ice Train and Scott Norton, and what you're left with, is an event which ranged from good to great, depending on who was in the ring at the time. 

It's just a shame that this one was so let down by a lifeless crowd. Still, I suppose you can't have everything. 

I'll return to covering the New World Order's reign of terror at a later date. For now, thanks for reading, and be sure to join me on Twitter @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.