Tuesday, 4 July 2017

WCW Slamboree 1996 - PPV Review

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Event Poster
May 19, 1996
Riverside Centroplex, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Notable for being World Championship Wrestling's last Pay Per View offering without any involvement from members of the New World Order, Slamboree 1996 also held the distinction of giving us the last ever appearance of WCW's Lethal Lottery / BattleBowl concept.

For the unfamiliar, the idea was that make-shift teams would be drawn out "completely at random," to compete in a two-round tournament, with the winners of those tag matches eventually colliding in an over-the-top rope battle royal. 

Unfortunately, the WCW Brain Trust didn't exactly do the best job of convincing anyone that the draw was in any way even remotely random. 

Here's what went down when WCW held their final BattleBowl live from the Riverside Centroplex in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as the main attraction of Slamboree '96.

It's Time For Lethal Lottery 

Tonight's show began with the customary video package, this one telling us all about the supposedly random drawing of tonight's main feature, which would pit friend against friend and friend and foe on the same page.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Dusty, Tony, and Bobby commentary team
It's funny how, despite having a larger budget and actually being part of a huge media conglomerate, WCW's video packages always seemed quite tame compared to the WWF's, lacking that sense of drama and suspense that Kevin Dunn's creations often added to a World Wrestling Federation broadcast.

That aside, this was all standard stuff, leading us into the obligatory intro from Tony Schiavone, The American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan.

The three expressed their excitement about tonight's show before sending us down to ringside for our opening contest.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Road Warrior Animal & Booker T vs. Road Warrior Hawk & Lex Luger 

This was exceptionally dumb and mostly dull.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Booker T teamed with Road Warrior Hawk to face Animal and Lex Luger
With Schiavone still trying to convince us that the teams had been drawn absolutely at random (thus meaning the odds on Hawk and Animal ending up on opposing teams must have been astronomical), we were presented with the idea that tonight, for the first time ever, we might actually see The Road Warriors fight each other.

Not only did that not happen, but Hawk didn't even get in the ring, allowing Lex Luger to wrestle Animal and Booker T by himself in a match that was 80% chin locks, 10% stalling and 10% uninspired brawling.

Thankfully, nobody had to endure the pain of watching this one for too long, as it was thrown out when all four men brawled to the outside, leading to a double count out.
No Contest (double countout) 

With a lot to cram in tonight, we wasted no time in getting straight on to the next first round match.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
The Public Enemy (Flyboy Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. Chris Benoit & The Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan (w/ Jimmy Hart) 

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Kevin Sullivan teamed with Chris Benoit to face The Public Enemy
Honestly, we were supposed to believe that a completely random drawings just happened -by sheer coincidence- to put tag team partners on the same team.

Seriously, so far this show had proved to be nothing but stupid, but hey, at least this one proved to be a better match than the last one, especially when it descended into the kind of wild, out of control chaos Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge were good at.

Kept short and sweet, this brief but hard hitting contest delivered more than just a quick blast of entertaining brawling, it also set up one of WCW's most intense rivalries when The Taskmaster walked out on The Crippler, leaving Chris Benoit to eat the pin from The Public Enemy.
Your Winners: Public Enemy (advance to round 2)

Once again, a quick recap of the finish was all we got before it was on to our third first round match.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Scott Steiner & Sgt. Craig Pitman (w/ Teddy Long) vs. Rick Steiner & The Booty Man (w/ The Booty Babe)

Although it isn't necessarily saying much, this was so far the best match on the card.

Sgt. Craig Pittman worked his ass off in the early going, even managing to get a solid performance out of The Booty Man in what had to have been the best match Ed Leslie had been involved in for years.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Rick Steiner teamed with Booty Man to face Scott Steiner & Sgt. Pittman
That said, Booty Man and Pittman were merely accessories to the star attraction here; a captivating exchange between brothers and tag team partners Rick and Scott Steiner.

With the future Big Poppa Pump narrowly getting the better of The Dog Faced Gremlin, the two began by exchanging Wrestling holds and takedowns before building into a heated back and forth where they basically just slammed the living daylights out of each other.

It was, in a word, fantastic.

In the end, it was Booty Man and the elder Steiner who prevailed when Rick tried to smash Craig Pitman through the canvas with a German suplex but just pinned him instead.
Your Winners: Rick Steiner and The Booty Man (advance to round 2)

Moving swiftly on...

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
The Blue Bloods (Lord Steven Regal & Squire David Taylor w/ Chives) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan and V.K. Wallstreet 

Yes, I know that The Blue Bloods' butler was called Jeeves, but I always find it hysterical when I hear Dusty refer to the character (performed by the same guy as the company's freaky-looking mascot Wildcat Willy) as 'Chives.'

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Hacksaw Jim Duggan & V.K. Wallstreet faced The Bluebloods
So, from here on in, all mentions of the butler -not that I expect there will be many- will see him go by the name of Chives.

Anyway, Chives' employers only got to team up here after Steven Regal's original partner, arch-nemesis Fit Finlay was taken out of the competition due to getting glass in his eye during a recent parking lot brawl with Regal.

Here, the duo went up against bitter rivals Hacksaw Jim Duggan and V.K Wallstreet in another bout which really made the whole 'random drawing' thing seem like compete BS.

The match itself, whilst not exactly terrible, was certainly nothing special.

The main story here was sworn enemies Duggan and Wallstreet picking up the win despite being unable to get along.

As the former I.R.S tried occupied the referees attention, Hacksaw pulled tape from his pants and used it to knock regal out for the count of three.
Your Winners: Hacksaw Jim Duggan and V.K. Wallstreet (advance to round 2) 

With a lot to get through on this show, it was straight on to the next match.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Dirty Dick Slater & Earl Robert Eaton (w/ Col. Robert Parker & Chives) vs. Alex Wright & The Disco Inferno 

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Dirty Dick Slater teamed with Bobby Eaton to take on Disco Inferno & Alex Wright
Like much on this show so far, the best anyone could probably say about this one is that it was short and fairly painless.

A few brief minutes of back-and-forth action ended with Dirty Dick Slater planting the Disco Inferno in the back of the head with his boot and picking up the win for our second foreign object finish in a row.
Your Winners: Dick Slater and Robert Eaton (advance to round 2) 

Again, there was no time for 'tween-match fluff today, it was all about the action.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Diamond Dallas Page & Barbarian vs. Hugh Morrus & Meng 

One of the better first round matches on the show, Diamond Dallas Page teamed up with Barbarian to face the latter's Dungeon of Doom stablemates Meng & Hugh Morrus in a fun and furious contest.

Every time Dusty mentioned The Barbarian by name, it sounded like he was calling him 'The Ballbearing,' but as funny as that was, it wasn't the most entertaining part of the match.

That honour goes to the simple joy of watching four rough and ready wrestlers just knocking the hell out of each other for a few minutes.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - DDP teamed with Barbarian to face Meng & Hugh Morrus
The ending came courtesy of a double pin with The Faces of Fear each getting a pin - Meng covering DDP and The Ballbearing covering Morrus.

Page managed to get his foot under the ropes though, so the referee gave the fall to Dallas and Barbarian.
Your Winners: Diamond Dallas Page & The Barbarian 

Can you believe we're still in the first round here? It already feels like this show has been going on forever.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Big Bubba & Stevie Ray vs. Fire & Ice (Scott 'Flash' Norton & Ice Train) 

Oh look, another team that just coincidentally happened to be drawn randomly together.

Not that this was the biggest problem with this one.

For a match that was 95% clotheslines, the match went on far too long, so it came as sweet relief when Fire & Ice finally picked up the win, even if they did use a move as lame as a double shoulder barge to get the job done.
Your Winners: Fire & Ice (advance to round 2) 

Finally, we came to the last first round match, and the one bout the announcers had spent more time tonight talking about than even the upcoming World Heavyweight Championship match.

Lethal Lottery: Round 1 Tag Match
Eddie Guerrero & Arn Anderson vs. Macho Man Randy Savage & The Nature Boy Ric Flair (w/ Woman & Miss. Elizabeth) 

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Woman & Miss. Elizabeth
A short yet explosive bout, this was less your standard tag match and more of a 2-on-1 beatdown of Macho Man Randy Savage, interspersed with flashes of brilliance from Eddie Guerrero.

After Ric Flair beat up his own partner, he went toe-to-toe with Guerrero in an exchange which served as a a taste of what was to come when the two eventually met for the US title later that year at WCW Hog Wild 1996.

The veteran, 13 time champion took charge of his younger opponent, grabbing him by the hand and forcing him to tag Arn Anderson.

Flair then elbowed Savage in the head and tug him in so that the beat down could continue.

When babyface Eddie tried to keep this as a fair fight, he received a Double A DDT for his troubles. The Enforcer then went back outside to continue stacking Savage whilst Flair flopped on top of Guerrero and got the three count.

That was fun.
Your Winners: Ric Flair & Randy Savage (advance to Round 2)

Afterwards, Anderson, Flair, and even Liz continued to beat down on Savage.

Mean Gene Gives Fire & Ice a By 

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Mean Gene Okerlund perved on some Hooters Girls
Flanked by three blonde beauties from the local Hooters, Okerlund told us that, as a result of the double countout in tonight's first match,  one team would receive a by straight to the BatttleBowl.

After what seemed like a lifetime of stalling and general faffing about, one Gene's beauties picked Fire & Ice to be that team.

Two more teams were picked out, Duggan & Wallstreet, and Slater & Earl Robert Eaton.

This was the first match of the second round in the Battlebowl tournament.

This segment was so tedious that your writer was just glad that it ended.

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Dean Malenko vs. Brad Armstrong 

At this point in the show, the Baton Rouge crowd decided to take a nap and would remain more or less silent for what was otherwise a solid Cruiserweight title match.

Though the audience's deathly quiet apathy was understandable given what they'd had to endure so far (and knowing how much was still to come), it must have been a disappointment for Dean Malenko and Brad Armstrong, both of whom worked hard from start to finish.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Dean Malenko defended the WCW Cruiserweight title against Brad Armstrong
After a fun bit of back-and-forth in the opening moments, the bulk of the bout saw the champion methodically working over the challenger's knee.

Armstrong made a brief comeback, even trying up The Man of 1,000 Holds in his own Texas Cloverleaf finisher, but alas, it wasn't to be.

Malenko forced his opponent to break the hold by grabbing the ropes, fought back, and hit his patented top rope gutbuster for the three count.
Your Winner and Still WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Dean Malenko 

Heading back to Mean Gene and his Hooters Girls, the final two second round matches were announced as Public Enemy vs. Flair and Savage, and DDP and Barbarian against Booty Man and Ric Steiner.

Lethal Lottery Round 2
Earl Robert Eaton & Dirty Dick Slater (w/ Col. Parker) vs. Hacksaw Jim Duggan & V.K Wallstreet 

To give credit where it's most certainly due, this one was actually better than it looked on paper.

That's not to say it was a masterpiece by anyone's standards, but as a short little bout designed only to advance the story, it worked and was reasonably entertaining for it.

Duggan, being the typical big dumb lummox that he was, spent most of the match trying to beat up his own partner, a move which cost him dearly when he punched Wallstreet directly into a roll-up from Eaton.

A three count later, the Earl and Dirty Dick were through to the Battle Bowl battle royal.
Your Winners: Robert Eaton & Dick Slater 

Afterwards, Duggan continued to beat on Wallstreet and chased after him with his 2x4.

Lethal Lottery Round 2
The Public Enemy (Flyboy Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. Ric Flair & Randy Savage 

WCW Slamboree 1996 - Public Enemy bt. Ric Flair & Randy Savage via Forfeit
After Savage failed to appear when his music struck (just as Flair had done in the first round match), The Nature Boy began heading to the ring, only to be attached by his arch rival, the Macho Man.

A gaggle of security guards rushed to separate the two, and when they failed, Sgt. Pittman and the American Males took over, finally bringing some peace.

The referee declared Rocco Rock & Johhny Grunge as the winners, and thus Public Enemy were through the final as a result of one of their opponents leaving the match, and two others never making it in the first place.
Your Winners via Forefeit: The Public Enemy 

Moving on, we went straight to our third and final second round match.

Lethal Lottery Round 2
Diamond Dallas Page & Barbarian vs. Rick Steiner & The Booty Man (w/ Kimberly) 

There were that many matches on this show that it was hard to still care much by this stage.

When your writer paid attention, this looked like a passable, by-the-book tag bout that ended when DDP intercepted a pin attempt by drilling booty Man round the back of the head with an elbow.

The Ballbearing made the pin, and this one was over.
Your Winners: DDP and The Barbarian 

Wasting no time, it was straight on to our next match.

World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW United States Champion Konnan vs. Jushin 'Thunder' Liger (w/ Sonny Onoo)

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - Jushin 'Thunder' Liger challenged Konnan for the US title
One of the better matches on the show so far, both champ and challenger exchanged the kind of offence not seen anywhere else on the show.

That made this one as refreshing as it was enjoyable.

Again, I'm not saying this was five star stuff, but compared to what else was on the card, it was a good effort.

In the end, Konnan got the pin and kept his title for a little while longer.
Your Winner and Still US Champion: Konnan 

Out by the entrance, Mean Gene brought out Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Woman, and Elizabeth.

In one of his typical bat shit crazy promos, Flair faces about how he had finally sent Randy Savage away to the loony bin for good, before turning his attentions over to football player, Steve McMichael.

First seen on a wrestling pay per view back at 1995's Wrestlemania 11, McMichael had been a thorn in the Four Horsemen's side over the past few weeks, something The Nature Boy was willing to stand no longer.

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - The Nature Boy Ric Flair called out Steve 'Mongo' McMichael
McMichael came out to confront his rivals, prompting Flair to challenge him, and a partner of his choosing, to a pro wrestling match. Mongo said he already had a partner, and brought out Kevin Green, who continually yelled at Flair and Anderson, inviting them to "rock 'n' roll."

This segment was mostly fine up until Green came in and cut his promo. It sounded like the kind of thing you hear when a sitcom has a pro wrestling storyline despite the sitcom's writers never having seen actual wrestling. What you usually end up with in those situations is some over-the-top version of what somebody who has never seen wrestling imagines it is like. That was how Kevin Green's Slamboree promo came across.

Battle Bowl Final: Eight Man Battle Royal
Featuring: Scott 'Flash' Norton, Ice Train, Dirty Dick Slater (w/ Col. Parker), Earl Robert Eaton, Flyboy Rocco Rock, Johnny Grunge, Diamond Dallas Page, The Barbarian

As baffling as it was boring,  the first part of this match was your standard battle royal stuff. In other words, everybody just beat on each other without anything exciting happening.

A quick succession of eliminations then left us with four men remaining. Ice Train body slammed the other three of them, after which DDP responded with a Diamond Cutter.

Two more Diamond Cutters followed, on each for Johnny Grunge and Ballbearing.

Then, in the most confusing moment so far, DDP pinned -yes pinned- Grunge and Ice Train.

In a battle royal. 

That you win by throwing your opponent over the ropes. 

With no mention at all that pins were allowed.

The final few moments, in which Page and Barbarian went at it, were actually decent, but it was certainly a relief when Dallas eventually hit the match winning Diamond Cutter.
Your Winner and Lord of The Ring: Diamond Dallas Page 

I'd say something about the prize being an actual ring which you couldn't actually see on camera, let alone if you were live in the arena, but this show feels like it's been going on for so long now that I'm just glad it's almost over.

Mean Gene Interviews The Giant & Jimmy Hart 

WCW Slamboree 1996 Review - The Giant defended the WCW title against Sting
Backstage, Jimmy Hart used his promo time to express how scared he was about being handcuffed to Lex Luger for the duration of tonight's title fight, and begged The Total Package to let him off.

For his part, The Giant called Sting a thorn in his side, a rat under his bed, and a cockroach in his apple pie (is that a thing?) and promised to squash not only tonight's challenger, but also the new Lord of the Ring, DDP.

World Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship
WCW World Heavyweight Champion The Giant (w/ Jimmy Hart) vs. Sting (w/ Lex Luger) 

This might not have been the longest title fight in history, but Sting and The Giant certainly used their time effectively to create a surprisingly good main event.
The most enjoyable part of this was the way that The Giant looked like an absolute monster whilst at the very same time Sting looked like he had a very credible chance at capturing the title.

Sure, the two ref bumps were totally unnecessary, but that aside there was actually a lot to enjoy here.

The finish came as Luger and Jimmy Hart (who were handcuffed together) were grappling on the apron for control of Hart's megaphone.

Just as Sting looked to have the match won, the thing slipped from their grasp and clonked him on the head, allowing The Giant to grab the big win and retain his title.
Your Winner and Still WCW World Heavyweight Champion: The Giant 

From there, it was back to Tony, Bobby and Dusty for our final comments, and that was all she wrote for WCW Slamboree 1996.

And so that was that.

If anything, WCW Slamboree 1996 felt very much like a midcarder's show. Despite obvious appearances from stars like Sting, Luger, The Giant, Flair, and Savage, the majority of this show was focussed around midcard performers. 

What made this one worse, was that the majority of those midcarders were not exactly the type of performers anybody should have been making the focus of their PPV. 

That aside, there were a few worthwhile matches on here, whilst it was good to see where the push of DDP -who would go on to be one of the hottest stars of the late 1990s- really began. 

Honestly, there's nothing here to make me really recommend this show to anybody, but if you do happen to check it out, I'd say skip about 60% of the Lethal Lottery stuff. 

Next time, we'll review WCW Great American Bash 1996. To be among the first to read that review when it is published, join me on the Retro Pro Wrestling Facebook page, or follow me on twitter at @Retropwrestling. twitter.com/retropwrestling


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