Mega Powers Running Wild!

The legendary 'Macho man' Randy Savage teams up with 'The Immortal' Hulk Hogan to take on Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant in the first ever WWF Summerslam!

Shawn Micahels vs. Mankind

The Heartbreak Kid defends the WWF Championship against Mankind in a thrilling main event at WWF In Your House: Mind Games.

The Birth of the nWo

From Hulk Hogan's shocking turn at WCW Bash at the Beach 1996 to the addition of Ted Dibiase, THe Giant Syxx and more, relive the very beginning of the New World Order.

Austin 3:16 Says I Just Kicked Your Ass

It's one of the most famous promos of all time; Stone Cold Steve Austin wins the 1996 King of The Ring and serves notice on all the WWF superstars. Check it out in our complete review

Wrestlemania 12 Review

The boyhood dream comes true as Shawn Michaels battles champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart in a classic 1-hour iron man match. Plus, Diesel vs. Undertaker and more.

WCW Fall Brawl 1996 Review

Was Sting in cahoots with the New World Order? Would Lex Luger be able to get along with the Four Horsemen as they faced the nWo in War Games? Find out in this review

Monday, 29 January 2018

WWE Royal Rumble 2018 - What I Learned as A Cynical, Old-School Fan

2018 Royal Rumble Review
I sometimes feel that I'm too old to be watching wrestling. 

I don't mean that I feel any embarrassment about spending my spare time running this blog, or even that I should put a hold on my goal to watch and review every WWE pay per view from Wrestlemania 1 - 30. I enjoy this. It's harmless escapism and something that I still find myself oddly passionate about even 25 years after I first started watching.

No, it's more that I feel like the aging rocker who just doesn't get all this new-fangled noise the kids are into, I feel like the product, in an effort to reinvent itself and appeal to a younger audience, has evolved into an entirely different beast than the one I'm familiar with from my own youth and has -dare I say it- passed me by.

I turn 34 this year. I run a full-time business, I have family, relationships, a home to run and bills to pay. I don't even have time to keep up with Raw and Smackdown every week, let alone NXT, and 'The Indies' are like some magical Narnia that I've only ever glimpsed at from outside the wadrobe without ever really stepping foot inside.

I don't know what 'strong style' is or why that weird gremlin-looking guy is the king of it.

I don't know when it became normal for wrestlers to pretend to hate each other for two hours on TV but then 30 minutes later share Instagram pics about what an honour it is to be working together.

I don't know when the object of pro wrestling became about "tearing the house down" and not, you know, winning matches.

Every year I commit to staying up until 4AM to watch the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania (ask any fan from the UK, that's never easy), and every year the cast of characters that I actually find it possible to become emotionally invested in gets smaller and smaller.

I start thinking that it's time to call time on this weird and wonderful little hobby of mine. That I should just stick to occasionally reviewing old Clash of the Champions shows and leave the kids to their Alexa Blisses and their Shinske Nakawhatsisfaces.

Then I stay up one last time for the 2018 Royal Rumble, and WWE puts on a show that reminds me why I still do this whole staying-up-all-night watching wrestling thing:

Because when its done right, there's nothing else on earth like it.

No movie, no TV show, theatre performance or video game can take such an immediate and vice-like hold on the emotions and drag them along the proverbial rollercoaster with such heart-pounding intensity that within the space of half an hour you find yourself going from not recognising who any of the characters are to bouncing on the edge of your seat, utterly desperate to see them overcome the odds.

The characters may have changed, the presentation may be entirely different, and the memory of kayfabe may turn in its grave every time a pro wrestler updades their Instagram account, but if the Royal Rumble taught me anything last night, it's that, when you strip all of that away, pro wrestling is still capable of telling some incredibly captivating stories.

Here's a few of my thoughts on the stories that were told last night.

Pre-show

This is where my Angry Old Man Who Doesn't Understand Youth Culture thing really flares up.

The lack of a crowd really killed the opening six-man match, though I'm not sure how much better it would have been had there been a roaring audience of thousands passionately cheering on every move. It was like watching a bunch of guys just playing wrestling amongst themselves whilst nobody paid attention.

Very weird.

I don't really get the appeal of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and I'll be honest, I had no idea who The Revival were, but I will be paying more attention to them. I thought this match was pretty fun, though again it was just something that happened in the background to kill time before the main show started.

The Bobby Roode vs. Mojo Rawley thing felt the same way, though I must admit, I've always liked Bobby Roode since his days playing a rich guy gimmick in TNA. His entrance proved to be the best part of the match, and just watching it made me glad to see a guy I've cheered on for years doing so well.

Mojo Rawley on the other hand, is just awkward. Watching him, I always get this uncomfortable sense that the guy's own body doesn't quite fit him properly, and I don't get what he has to offer other than being tall.

WWE Championship match 

I saw WWE get a lot of backlash on Twitter for putting this match on first, as though AJ, Owens, and Zayn were somehow being relegated to curtain-jerker status.

I may have had some issues with the layout of the card early on in the night, but this one wasn't one of them.

As became glaringly apparent after the men's Rumble match, pacing is vital to keeping the crowds emotionally invested, and kicking off the show was the perfect way to ensure this one got the crowd at their hottest and most lively.

Had they put the handicap match anywhere else on the card, it risked either playing out to a dead crowd or at the very least losing its significance among a crowd of other marquee contests.

As it was, the opening segment was ideal and created a match which I felt was pretty underwhelming to begin with, heated up with some pretty exciting spots, and then ruined somewhat by the ridiculous "Zayn can't reach Owens to make the tag" spot.

I'm not saying the ending was bad, given the story they'll no doubt tell on Smackdown (Aj didn't pin the wrong guy, ergo, this ain't over!), but the actual spot with Zayn trying to make the tag was as unconvincing as those Sasha Banks kicks to Lita later on in the Rumble - talk about breaking suspension of disbelief.

Smackdown Tag Team Championship 

Overall, I thought this was a fun match with a bizarre ending. I get that bucking the trend can add that element of unpredictability, but I really felt that these two teams could have been given more time to tell the usual two-out-of-three-falls story of both sides scoring a pin and going to the tie, and make it work.

Still, it was enjoyable for what it was, and further helped convince this old-timer that some things never change - great wrestling can still capture the imagination and provide a level of excitement that no other form of entertainment - live or otherwise- can match.

Men's Royal Rumble 

As you might have gathered by now, I'm an old-school guy. So when they announced that the classic 30-man battle royal was kicking off in the first hour of the show, I was convinced that it was stripping the event of all its mystique, and that yes, this pro wrestling stuff really had evolved to a point that it was completely unrecognisable from the product I used to love.

When the entrants started coming in thick and fast, I even complained that the whole thing was being rushed, taking the shine off the event even further.

Then the match went on, and on, and the longer it went, the more utterly enthralling it became.

Royal Rumbles of the past few years have become a lot more dynamic, interesting, and spot-based than the "let's just all hang out by the ropes brawling for an hour" stuff that I remember from being a kid - and that's a good thing.

Most of this stuff was a joy to watch, and when it came down to that "Old school vs. New Blood" staredown between Cena/Orton/Mysterio and Reigns/Balor/Nakamura, I genuinely got chills.

From that moment on, I was hooked in a way that I haven't been hooked on a pro wrestling match in a long time.

Every moment as they worked down from the final six to Nakamura winning the whole thing was a pure work of art.

I honestly didn't care who won (I don't think Reigns is as bad as all the hate he receives would warrant), but the story they told was truly captivating, and it was this that made me realise that yes, pro wrestling was something that was still worth staying up all night for.

Raw Tag Team championship 

You could have put Undertaker vs. Cena, AJ vs. Nakamura, or just about any dream match you could think of in this spot and it still would have been met with the same level of apathy from a burned out crowd that this one did.

The lack of any reaction for this match was more a compliment to the emotional rollercoaster of the Rumble match and not a criticism on what was otherwise a decent effort from all concerned.

Call me optimistic, but I don't believe that the outcome leads to Rollins vs. Jordon at Wrestlemania, either. In an ideal world, I think Rollins vs. Jordon at Elimination Chamber, followed by a big return to the ring for Kurt Angle to take on Rollins on The Grandest Stage of Them All makes much more sense.

Universal Championship 

I've never cared much for Kane and Brock Lesnar, though I admit I do find Braun Strowman impressive.

This match was exactly what everyone thought it was going to be and what it really needed to be - short and destructive.

Title matches at Royal Rumbles always have the weird distinction of being "just another match" and not the marquee attraction they would be on any other show, so I don't feel bad that this wasn't my favourite thing on the show.


Women's Royal Rumble 

Last but not least, this wasn't just a good women's Royal Rumble match, it was a good Royal Rumble match period.

Though it lacked a lot of the nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat stuff until the final moments, I thought this was a very compelling and wonderfully entertaining contest.

Admittedly, I wasn't into the Ronda Rousey stuff, mainly because I have no interest in MMA and don't get why she's a big deal, but also because the whole "Point to the Wrestlemania Sign" stuff is already overplayed, and Ronda's take on it just seemed very forced and unnatural.

Still, the actual Rumble match was a great end to great show which proved to a cynical old fan like me that, whether I continue watching or not, pro wrestling is going to continue to be the most engrossing, emotionally-charged form of entertainment there is.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Album Review: WWF - Piledriver: The Wrestling Album 2 (1987) - A Track-by-Track Review

Album REVIEW: WWF: Piledriver - The Wrestling Album II

Not to be confused with the Status Quo album of the same name, WWF Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II was the 1987 follow-up to the World Wrestling Federation's first foray into the popular music market, The Wrestling Album.

Unlike its predecessor, Piledriver lacked the 'tween-song banter between commentators Vince McMahon, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, and Mean Gene Okerlund, but made up for it in spades with a collection of some of the 1980s most popular WWF theme tunes, two of which just happen to be among this writer's all-time favourites.

But hey, I'm getting ahead of myself, but first, it's time to go track-by-track through the good, the bad, and the ugly of Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II.

When I say track-by-track, I mean through the actual music album, not the accompanying video album that was so well covered by Wrestlecrap.

I'm obviously not going to try and compete with the mastery of Wrestlecrap, but what I am going to do, is give you my own take on all ten songs that make up this little gem of an album.

And it is a gem, too. Here's why.

1: Robbie Dupree & Strike Force - Girls in Cars 


To this day, I still haven't worked out if Tito Santana and Rick Martel had some kind of sexual fetish for females in automobiles, or if they just liked the reassurance that they could always get a lift home.

Whatever the case may be, here they 'teamed up' with one-time Grammy Award-nominated performer Robbie Dupree to profess their love of girls in cars.

I say 'teamed up' like that because this song was 100% Dupree, who had a top ten Billboard hit in 1980 called Steal Away.



That song is pretty much the most awful thing I've ever heard, but Girls in Cars...

Well...Girls in Cars is probably one of the catchiest songs ever committed to record.

And I hate saying that, because the first time I heard this song I hated it...

It was so..80s! So outdated and cheesy and blah, yet the more I listen to it, the more I find myself going about my day merrily singing its irresistible chorus.

I wonder if Santana & Martel had the same problem when they used the track as their theme music during their run together?

If they didn't, I bet Jimmy Hart certainly did.

In an oft-forgotten classic, Jimmy performed the song live at the 1987 Slammy Awards and the results were..well..take a look:



It's up to you:

Shall we talk about the wildly out-of-time dancing first? or the fact that a performance of a song called Girls in cars featured girls on bicycles and roller skates?

What's that?

You'd rather just move on to the next song?

You and me both.


2: Koko B. Ware - Piledriver



Still on the subject of Jimmy Hart for a moment - it was only this week that I actually learned that he didn't sing this song, but that WWE Hall of Famer Koko B. Ware did.

I mean sure, it's obvious *now* that there's no way those could be The Mouth of the South's distinctive vocals, but for the longest time I listened to this without paying any attention to the track listing, so there you go.

As most long-time fans (or at least most fans who read that Wrestlecrap piece) know, the song sees Koko crooning over some upbeat jazz-pop in an effort to inform us that love, that most complex and overwhelming of emotions, isn't always a good thing.

Sometimes, Koko tell us, it feels fake, like a great big mistake, and sometimes, apparently, love even feels like getting dropped on your head by a pro wrestler like a piledriver.

We can mock the lyrical content of this one all we want, but let's be honest, much like Girls in Cars, Piledriver is a pretty catchy jam in its own right.

I don't know about you, but I can't help but bust a little move or two whenever Koko starts telling me that love 'sounds like an ah-goo-ment.'


3: The Honky Tonk Man  - Honky Tonk Man 


He's cool, he's cocky, he's b-b-b-bad, and here he sings the iconic theme tune that would follow him to arenas across the country for the remainder of his WWF run.

I can't say I was ever a huge fan of the Honky Tonk Man, but I do have to admit that his entrance was always one of the best parts of his performance, and this swaggering rock 'n' roll number is a huge part of the reason why.

I'm only disappointed that, in the video for the song, Peggy Sue was played by an actual cute blonde, and not Sensational Sherri in a blonde wig as was the case when HTM defended the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Brutus Beefcake at Wrestlemania IV.

That aside, this is a fun song, though -like most wrestling themes from this era- not the sort of thing you're going to pop on your iPod and take everywhere with you.  What you absolutely should do, however, is watch this video of Honky performing his theme tune at the 1987 Slammy Awards, with Jesse Ventura on piano and a hilarious cameo from The Hart Foundation.


I swear, that might be one of the greatest things I've ever seen.

4: Derringer - Demolition 


Having played such a vital role in the success of The Wrestling Album, Derringer returned to his rightful place as King of the 80s Wrestling Themes with one of the most memorable riffs in sports entertainment.

Not content to give us the iconic Real American, Derringer turned up his guitar to go full-on metal to make sure that two of his themes from that time period would still be regarded as among wrestling's best-ever themes even several decades later.

And this is -no doubt about it- one of the best wrestling themes ever recorded.

Of course, as a metalhead at heart, I'm likely to say that, but even if you're not, there's no denying that the crushing riff, menacing beat and threatening vocals were just perfect for Ax & Smash (and later Crush, too, I suppose).

By the way, did you know that -prior to Piledriver's release- Ax & Smash had used a different, vocal-less version of their famous theme, apparently recorded by Jimmy Hart?


No? Me neither.

5: Slick - Jive Soul Bro 

Remember earlier? When I said that Piledriver had produced two of my all-time favourite WWF wrestling themes?

Demolition's theme was one, the other was this - Jive Soul Bro. 


For the unfamiliar, Jive Soul Bro is the story of The Doctor of Style trying to convince us that he really is a good guy despite being a liar and a bit of a sex pest.

Though I doubt there's any way that they could get away with putting out a song like this today, it isn't the lyrical content that makes this one so fun - it's Slick's delivery, perfectly encapsulating everything that made his character so wonderfully entertaining back in the 1980s.

Honestly, The Slickster is as hilarious here on this song as he was that time at the 1989 Royal Rumble when he got Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase confused with 'homebody Ted what does my shoeshine.'

6: Jimmy Hart - Crank it Up 



Demolition and Jive Soul Bro may be my personal favourite themes from this album, but there's no disputing the fact that -in terms of pure musical quality- Crank it Up is one of the best things on the album.

Fusing the spirit of The Beastie Boys' Fight For Your Right (To Party) with an insatiable refrain and unbridled enthusiasm, Crank it Up could have been a hit single in its own right, even in a mainstream pop/rock market that rarely wanted much to do with fake wrestling.

So it's strange then, that of all the songs on the album, this is only one of two that didn't get its own video.

Still, at least The Mouth of The South did get some mileage out of one of the best songs he'd ever written: He led The Hart Foundation into a feud with The Young Stallions (Jim Powers & Paul Roma) over who got to use the track as their theme music.

Fortunately, The  Young Stallions won.

I mean seriously, can you imagine how different Bret Hart's career might have been if he'd started his career with an upbeat party track rather than his own famous theme tune?

7: Hillbilly Jim & Gertrude - Waking Up Alone 


Serious question now: 

Does anybody know anything about who Gertrude was? I've spent far too much time trying to find out who Hillbilly Jim debuted with on his second wrestling album appearance, and can't find even a scrap of information. 

You know what though?

It actually doesn't surprise me. If I'd played any part in this horrible, horrible song, I'd make sure nobody could ever find me, either. 

The song sees Jim and his mystery singing partner crooning over an acoustic-led soft-rock ballad about the loneliness that can haunt a working pro wrestler on the road.

"By God, I'm tough. Lord knows I'm big and strong," he croons with 100% sincerity, "but nothing hurts as much as waking up alone." 

Much as I did with The Wrestling Album, I'm trying to approach this one as more of a novelty thing than a serious artistic endeavour, but even keeping that in mind, Waking Up Alone is one novelty this writer can well do without.

8: Vince McMahon - Stand Back



Back in the late 90s, the original D-Generation-X made fun of Vince McMahon for performing this song at the 1987 Slammy Awards.

Truth is, McMahon had nothing to be embarrassed out - he delivered a solid performance on a song which, if it wasn't written specifically for him, was absolutely perfect for him.

Growling in a way that made you think he was going to yell "YOU'RE FIRRRRRRRRRRRRRED!" at any moment, the most powerful man in pro wrestling got on down with his bad self whilst warning all of us (especially his competition) that he had big plans to reach the top, and could not be stopped.


OK, so the song may be a little outdated 30 years later, but it's still an awful lot of fun to listen to, and so perfect for McMahon.

9: Mean Gene Okerlund & Derringer - Rock and Roll, Hoochie



As we've already established, Rick Derringer was an integral part of the original Wrestling Album, whilst Mean Gene's take on Little Richard proved to be a highlight of that very same album.

So it simply made sense here to team the two up for what was once again an album standout.

Keeping up the harder-edged rock/metal sound that had permeated the album so far, Rock 'n' Roll, Hoochie Coo saw the WWF announcer taking lead vocals on one of Derringer's most popular tracks whilst the man himself blasted out a fearsome riff and sang backing.

It's a joy to listen to, and like Crank it Up, the kind of thing you wouldn't be embarrassed to listen to in a non-wrestling environment.

Nice.

10: WWF Superstars - If You Only Knew



Last but by no means least, we end with a big sing-along featuring most of the World Wrestling Federation roster from that time.

A thousand times better than Land of 1,000 Dances, this rap-lite R&B jam saw the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan, Ted Dibiase and others making vague threats to beat up other people.

Some of the lyrics are questionable sure ("I've got some real bad news," / "And it may involve your body"), but for a novelty pop song performed by a bunch of pro wrestlers, If You Only Knew is a fine way to end the album.

100% a product of its era, Piledriver: The Wrestling Album II has the 1980s written all over it, but the likes of Crank it Up and Rock 'n' Roll, Hoochie Koo still stand out as great tracks in their own right, even as I write this at the end of 2017.

Even if you're not a fan of those tracks, there's no denying that the album was an important landmark in the evolution of Vince McMahon's sports entertainment vision, giving us a number of memorable theme tunes which remain iconic to this day.  




Thanks for reading. Next time I review anything music-related, it will be a track-by-track review of the terrible pop-attrocity that was 1993's Wrestlemania: The Album

Don't miss that, or any other Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following @Retropwrestling on Twitter or liking the Facebook page

Thursday, 18 January 2018

PPV REVIEW: WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge Of The Taker

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
April 20, 1997
Rochester Community War Memorial, Rochester, New York


It was the dawning of a new era in the World Wrestling Federation, an era of darkness, ushered in by new WWF Champion The Undertaker and his first proper title reign. 

Yes, The Phenom had enjoyed all but the briefest of stints with the title back when he beat Hulk Hogan for the title at Survivor Series 1991 then promptly lost it a week later at This Tuesday in Texas, but this was the first time The Undertaker had been given the ball to run with for any length of time.

Tonight, he rekindled one of his most violent rivalries, putting the title up for the first time against Mankind.

What was the WWF like during The Dead Man's reign of darkness? Let's head down to ringside to find out.

Revenge of the Taker 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker
After the classic WWF signature, we kicked things off with one of the World Wrestling Federation's awesome video packages, this one reminding us that Mankind had constantly got the better of The Undertaker throughout the previous year, including that big win in the Boiler Room Brawl back at Summerslam 1996.

Tonight though, with the World Wrestling Federation Championship around his waist, The Phenom would finally get his revenge against his most fierce rival.

That fantastic opening video led us to Vince McMahon's impassioned welcome to the show.

Tonight, McMahon would be joined by Jerry 'The King' Lawler and Jim Ross, who only spoke once we got into our opening match.

World Wrestling Federation World Tag Team Championship
WWF Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & WWF European Champion The British Bulldog vs. The Legion of Doom (Hawk & Animal) 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Owen Hart & British Bulldog faced The Legion of Doom
The last time Hawk and Animal won the WWF Tag Team Titles, it was back at Summerslam 1991 in a match against the Nasty Boys.

Tonight, they looked set to repeat that moment of glory in a terrific opening contest against Owen Hart and The British Bulldog.

There have been better opening matches in the history of wrestling sure, and even better tag team matches, but if the only purpose of the opening match is to get the crowd pumped for the show, then this one certainly did its job well.

The action itself was enjoyable, but it was the plot twists that really made this match riveting.

At one point, The LOD pinned The British Bulldog and celebrated with the titles, only for a second referee to inform the match official that, actually, it had been Owen Hart who was the legal man.

The legendary Howard Finkle then told us that the match would continue, but Owen and Bulldog wanted none of that.

After coming to blows on a recent episode of Raw, the Tag Champions had healed their rift thanks to Bret Hart and now, as members of The Hart Foundation ,were squarely on the same page.

Together, all they wanted was to get their belts back and go home, but the ref insisted that if they didn't hit the ring by the count of ten, they would lose their titles.

The match continued, with a title win for The Road Warriors seeming almost inevitable until The Hitman himself ran in to cause the DQ.
Your Winners Via Disqualification: The Legion of Doom (Owen & Bulldog retain the titles)


Afterwards, Doc Hendrix caught up with the tag champs backstage and called them lucky to still have the gold around their waist. Naturally, both Owen and Davey Bot refuted this and were quite content to brag about their title reign until Hendrix told them that Stone Cold Steve Austin had arrived in the building.

The two were surprised, and a little bit in denial.

"Are you sure it was him?" Asked Owen. "There's a lot of bald guys walking around." 

I can't tell you why, but that made me laugh my ass off.

Sunny and Brian Pillman Grope Each Other 


WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Sunny and Brian Pillman
Up next, Sunny and Brian Pillman tried to convince us to call the WWF superstar line by basically fondling each other for the camera.

I'm serious. The two were all over each other as they told us that we could get all kinds of juicy gossip just by picking up the phone.

This was all kinds of disturbing, but probably a better way to shill a hotline than Mean Gene Okerlund's usual efforts over in WCW.

Rocky is Ready 

Backstage, Doc Hendrix stood by for an interview with reigning WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia.

In one of those goofy babyface promos that hadn't really been seen on WWF TV since the 1980s, Rocky gave it the old 'I'm going to go out there and give it my best' routine, as he talked about his rivalry with Savio Vega and The Nation of Domination.

This was a far cry from the ultra charismatic ass-kicker that Dwayne Johnson's character would become by the end of 1997.

World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship
WWF Intercontinental Champion Rocky Maivia vs. Savio Vega (w/ Clarence Mason, Crush, D-Lo Brown, and PG13. 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Rocky Maivia defended the Intercontinental title against Savio Vega
I kinda liked Savio in his Nation of Domination run; he was cooler during this period than at any other time in his WWF career.

Recently on Raw, Vega had beaten Rocky Maivia in a non-title match, after which the entire Nation had jumped on the man who would one day be their leader.

That set up tonight's match, which was decent for what it was, even though it seemed only to serve as something to put in the background so that Farooq could come out to do guest commentary and issue a challenge to his long-time rival, Ahmed Johnson.

With more focus on him than the match itself, Farooq challenged Ahmed to face him, Savio, and Crush in a gauntlet match.

Speaking of Crush, it was the former Demolition member who brought about this match's end.

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Savio Vega challenged Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental title
In the ring, Savio had control of the match and sent his opponent hurtling to the outside, where he accidentally knocked into Crush.

That enraged the man from Hawaii so much that he picked up the Champion and nailed him with the heart punch.

Rocky could not get back into the ring before the count of ten, and thus this one was over.
Your Winner Via Countout: Savio Vega (Rocky Maivia retains the title)

Post match, Savio was visibly and understandably upset about the match ending that way as it meant he was unable to win the title.

He and Crush almost came to blows until Farooq stepped in and United his Nation in a good ol' fashioned beat-down of Rocky.

Ahmed Johnson then ran down in his pyjamas to save the day and accepted Farooq's challenge. This was a decent ending to an otherwise weird finish, especially since Rocky just kind of loitered around whilst Ahmed was on the mic, seemingly unsure of what to do with himself.

Marc Mero and Doc Hendrix Hang Around Outside The Men's Room 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - Marc Mero & Sable
A brief clip aired next which showed Ken Shamrock and some computer geek talking to fans via America Online, complete with McMahon telling us that Shamrock was going to issue a challenge to Mike Tyson -McGregor/Mayweather this would not be.

From there, we went to Doc Hendrix, who chose the outside of a men's bathroom to interview Marc Mero and Sable.

Mero had been out of action with a knee injury, but told Doc that he was planning to be back by the summer, and was looking forward to getting back into the ring.

As Mero's promo continued, the randomness of conducting an interview outside of a toilet turned out to be a huge coincidence, as cameras were able to catch Stone Cold marching in there.

A bunch of commotion was heard behind the closed door, after which Owen Hart and British Bulldog came out clutching weapons. When they realised there was a camera there, they looked at it sheepishly then ran off like mischievous cartoon characters.

It was way funnier than it was probably supposed to be.

Jesse James vs. Rockabilly 

There was a time in early 1997 when The Honky Tonk Man was scouting the WWF roster in search of a new protege.



He had offered the position to Jesse James, formerly The Roadie, who had returned to reveal that he was the one singing Jeff Jarret's hit 'With My Baby Tonight' back at In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks.

James had refused, but had agreed to a match tonight against whomever Honky has picked.

It turned out that the former Intercontinental Champion had picked Billy Gunn, despite Gunn also refusing and punching out Honky on a recent WWF show.

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Rockabilly Billy Gunn faced Jesse James
According to HTM, Billy Gunn was now known as Rockabilly, and here tonight to whoop Jesse James' butt.

Thus we had our match tonight and the start of one of the most popular tag teams of the modern age.

The match itself was fun, but, watching it back years later, it's the knowledge of what was to become of Jesse James and Rockabilly that really makes this one seem special 20 years later.

After an enjoyable but immediately forgettable match, James got the win via a quick roll up to give us our first actual pin fall victory of the night.
Your Winner: Jesse James 


Afterwards, HTM went to hit James with a guitar, but the former marine ducked out of harms way and went to the back.

Next, Doc Hendrix tries to sell us some really evil looking Undertaker thing that he promised us all kids would love to have on their door.

I'm a grown man and having that on my door even today would creep me out no end.

Gorilla Monsoon Gives Steve Austin More Time 

OK, here's a thing:

There once was a time when the WWF was a friendly place where clowns ran free, Bret Hart was a good guy, and nobody swore.

Then, Gorilla Monsoon takes over as WWF President and all of a sudden we've got people like Steve Austin bleeding all over the ring, cursing like a sailor and generally causing chaos all over the place.

If this were any other business, I'd be thinking 'damn, that company really went to hell when Monsoon took over.' 

Anyway, that aside, here Monsoon stood by as Austin himself told Kevin Kelly that he didn't care about getting beaten up earlier and was still going to compete.

Monsoon then told Kelly that he had given Austin more time by switching the card around and making Mankind/Undertaker our next match.

In other words, Hart/Austin III was to be our main event tonight.

Who The F*** Is This Guy? 

News of Monsoon's ruling got back to Bret Hart by way of some kid with a microphone called Lance Wright.

I've been watching wrestling for 25 years and I have legitimately never heard of this guy before tonight.

I don't mean that I forgot about him, or that I knew him better as another character, I mean literally never heard of him.

So, as he caught up with Bret, Owen, and Davey Boy in the locker room, I spent the whole time trying to figure out who he was.

It turned out he'd been in ECW for the briefest of periods and had enjoyed the proverbial cup of coffee with the WWF as a general microphone holder.

It's Time For Our Title Match 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of Taker - Mankind & Paul Bearer
Prior to The Undertaker's first defence of the title he won back at Wrestlemania 13, we got an insanely good video package highlighting the dark, scary nature of his rivalry with Mankind.

From there, our buddy Doc Hendrix caught up with the challenger and his increasingly overweight manager, Paul Bearer.

I mean seriously, the split from The Undertaker did nothing to help Bearer's figure. He looked larger than ever here.

Still, appearances aren't everything, and what really counts here is what was said.

Predictably, what was said was that Mankind was going to beat The Undertaker just like he had done many times before, and was going to become our new World Wrestling Federation Champion.

World Wrestling Federation Championship
WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Mankind (w/ Paul Bearer)  

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - WWF Champion The Undertaker vs. Mankind
Sandwiched between their earlier classics in 1996 and the infamous Hell in a Cell the following year in 1998, this 1997 world title match between The Undertaker and Mankind often goes overlooked.

On the one hand, there's probably a reason for that:

This wasn't the best match these two ever had together.

On the other hand, it was still very, very good.

Both champ and challenger absolutely destroyed each other, first in the ring and then, inevitably, outside of it.

The highlight came as Mankind was stood on the ring apron. The Undertaker ran at him from inside the ring and drilled him with the ring steps that the challenger has brought in earlier.

This sent Mankind flying head-first through one of the announce tables in what had to be one of the sickest bumps of the entire year.

Yet that still wasn't enough to put away Mankind, nor was a choke slam, so The Undertaker hit the Tombstone Piledriver and made his first successful WWF title defence.
Your Winner: The Undertaker 

Afterwards, The Undertaker went to attack Paul Bearer, only for Mankind to wake up and follow the two of them around the ring, clearly holding something in his hand.

The defeated wrestler was trying to set a fireball off in The Undertaker's face, but it was obvious -and I mean *glaringly* obvious that the lighter wasn't working.

In the end, The Undertaker got hold of both the lighter and the flash paper, decided to hell with any sense of illusion, and held both up to the camera before setting the fire off in Paul Bearer's face.

Bret Hart is Ready For War 

Flanked by Owen Hart and The British Bulldog, Bret Hart told Doc Hendrix that he was ready to go to war with Steve Austin and would kick his ass all over the arena.

That match was next.

Bret 'The Hitman' Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin 

WWE / WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker - Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
As The Hitman made his way to the ring, officials had to interject to stop Owen and The Bulldog from following him.

The two were sent packing, only to return -somewhat inevitably- for the finish.

In between, we got another solid outing from Austin and Hart that suffered for the same reason as the earlier Mankind/Undertaker match.

Yes, it was a great match, but simply not up to the level of high drama and intensity as the all-time classic that was their Wrestlemania 13 submission match.

After a wild, lengthy brawl, Austin got Bret in the Sharpshooter, only for Davey Boy to hit him with a chair and cause the DQ.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Stone Cold Steve Austin 

Afterwards, Bret went to attack Austin with the ring bell, only for Stone Cold to land a chair shot of his own and reapply the Sharpshooter until Pat Paterson and a gaggle of referees came to The Hitman's aid.


Despite some lacklustre performances on the undercard, this was a reasonably entertaining show that was so different from what the WWF had been putting out even six months before.

By this point, they were starting to develop the style and format that would be such a big part of the Attitude Era, and this is the first real example of that kind of show.

For that reason alone, In Your House: Revenge of The Taker is worth watching.


1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1997
Be the first to catch the latest Retro Pro Wrestling reviews by following on Facebook or Twitter @RetroPWrestling.


Thursday, 11 January 2018

GAME REVIEW: WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It - PS2

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Game Review
Released: November 2001 

Unlike most reviews of WWF Smackdown: Just Bring it for the PlayStation 2, this one won't be written from the perspective of a seasoned gamer. 

Truth be told, I'm not very good at video games, and I lack both the time and patience to really improve, so instead, this is exactly what you'd expect from a site like Retro Pro Wrestling:

A review of a (somewhat) old-school wrestling game written from the perspective of an old-school wrestling fan.   

Ready to dive in with me?

Let's do it.

First Impressions 

As everybody knows by now, Smackdown Just Bring It was the first game in the WWF Smackdown series to be featured on the PlayStation 2, and the last WWF game to be, well, a WWF game. 

Seven months after this was released, the World Wrestling Federation became WWE, and we all know the story from there. 

Like any good WWF Superstar, Just Bring It makes a memorable debut on this new console with an impressive intro video.



Set to the Smackdown TV theme from the time (the one with Jim Johnson randomly shouting gibberish), the video splices shots of stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Kurt Angle competing in the ring with shots of them standing around and looking broody and mean.

As first impressions go, it's a strong one. The portrayal of each superstar is much more detailed and refined than what you get in the actual game, but still, it's a good start.

After that, you press the start button and Michael Cole -of all people- yells out the name of the game.

It's annoying, but certainly not the most annoying thing you'll hear from Cole.

More of that later.

For now, let's look at the roster.

Roster 


Though there are some notable absences due to the time period of the game's development, there's a stacked roster here with all the big names from the time.

Along with the stars listed above, you've got everyone Test and Albert to Big Show, Billy Gunn, The Dudleys, Edge & Christian, The Hardys, Chris Benoit, and Chris Jericho.

There's also a slim selection of women, including Trish Stratus, Ivory, Lita, and Molly Holly.

For a starting roster, it's pretty deep and certainly helps keep you interested in the game long after you've completed all the initial story modes.

Speaking of Story Mode, completing the game's storylines also unlocks a number of hidden characters, including Mick Foley, Tajiri, and Rhyno - the latter two you unlock by beating them in Story mode.

Match Types

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Big Show vs. Crash HollyYou can put any one of these 40+ characters through their paces in an impressive number of matches.

Along with standard singles, tag, and six-man action, you also have a Royal Rumble, Survivor Series Elimination match, and even a King of the Ring tournament.

When I tried the tournament, my custom character found himself beating Perry Saturn and Devon Dudley to face 1996 King of the Ring Winner, Triple H, in the final.

I must admit, I loved the randomness of the King of the Ring tournament.

The two qualifying matches took place at Backlash and then Wrestlemania 17, with the final randomly taking place on an episode of Sunday Night Heat.

That randomness is just one of the quirks of the game that pops up in other areas, but we'll get to those later.

Disappointingly, there's no cut scene showing you being given the crown and cape when you win the King of the Ring, so you might have as well not bother and just play three random single matches instead.

Elsewhere, you also have hardcore and Falls Count Anywhere matches, which are both pretty much the same thing but are also a lot of fun, allowing you to roam all over the arena and even outside, where you can cross the street to brawl inside WWF New York, which is all kinds of cool.

Special Matches 

Special matches are your typical gimmick matches, including
  • Cage 
  • I Quit
  • Table 
  • Ladder 
  • Special referee
  • Hell in a Cell
  • TLC
  • Iron Man
  • 3 Stages of Hell
  • Slobber Knocker.

So a pretty good selection, plus you can also unlock a Street Fight, Last Man Standing Match and one other match type as a result of completing story mode.


I didn't play all of these, but I admit I did play Hell in a Cell, and it looks dreadful.

The cage comes right up to the ring ropes, so there's no room for playing outside the ring, plus half the time the camera angle is so poor that the cage obscures what you're trying to do in the ring.

Now I know how Randy Orton felt in that Punjabi Prison match.

One cool feature though, is that you can smash your way through the cell wall and climb to the top for some Foleyesque antics.

Graphics and Appearance

Like I say, I'm not the biggest gaming fan in the world, so I'm not as taken with graphics as other WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It reviewers might be, but still, I can appreciate a good looking game when I see one, and for the most part I see one here.

Though the Smackdown and Raw arenas look a little boring after you've played this game for the thousandth time, special PPV arenas like the aforementioned Wrestlemania 17 set and the Summerslam set all look incredible, and really add to the enjoyment of the game.

So too do the entrances. Each superstar gets their own fully-animated entrance, complete with music, Titantron, and special moves to fully replicate here theatrics and spectacle that you'd see at a real WWF show.



Triple H spits his water and hits his signature poses, Biker 'Taker rides his Harley to the ring, and each wrestler enters the ring the way they do in real life.

Though not perfect by any stretch, they do look good and are a great addition to the game, though once you've seen your guy come to the ring once, the novelty does soon wear off.

Most of the actual wrestlers look as good as you could hope for from a PS2 game released in 2001.

Again, that doesn't mean they're perfect, but they are good for the time period and all the wrestlers do clearly look like their real-life counterparts, albeit with much less detailed facial features, square shoulders and the occasional flat nose.

I say all the wrestlers look like their real-life counterparts, but that doesn't include the women, who for the most part look terrible.

I know game developers aren't exactly known for being hugely popular with the female of the species, but you'd think they'd seen enough women in their lives to know that they don't look anything like how they're depicted here.

Ivory, for example, looks like a fat, crudely-drawn Stephanie McMahon.

In fact, I'm sure that if I just showed you a picture of her in this game, you'd swear that's it was.

Trish Stratus, meanwhile, looks even worse.

One of the most naturally beautiful women to ever grace a wrestling ring is depicted here as a beefy, flat-faced shemale with biceps almost as big as her enormous boobs.

What's worse, is that the developers didn't even bother to give Trish proper wrestling attire. Instead, she competes in a leather mini-skirt and knee-high boots.

Look,

I know this was the tail-end of the Attitude Era, a time light-years away from the 'Women's Revolution' of the last few years when women were still seen far more as eye candy than legitimate competitors, but would it have killed someone to give Trish perhaps some tights and a singlet?

Though it may not be a Del breaker, this does limit your enjoyment somewhat - it's hard to take the game seriously when you've got a woman in a miniskirt and huge-heeled boots throwing around dropkicks and suplexes.

Gameplay 

The key to success with Smackdown: Just Bring It is timing:

You need to know the right moment to strike and just the right moment to attempt a grapple move. Get it right, and you inflict damage, get it wrong and you end up lunging for thin air, leaving yourself vulnerable so that your opponent can attack you.


The good news, is that once you get the hang of the timing, you quickly develop a way of playing that enables you to smash through all your opponents with relative ease.

I say relative, because there are still a few gripes with the gameplay itself.

The first is that the bar meters across the top of the screen when you're playing are there mainly to count how close you are to landing a finishing move, so there's no clear indication as to how close you are to actually beating your opponent.

Instead, you just have to take your chances every now and again until you score a pin or submission at random.

Speaking of random, the things that will leave you groggy/stunned are likewise just as random. I could kick you in the face and you'd just hit me back as if it were nothing, but should I duck your clothesline attempt you'll be rendered unable to move for a good few moments.

I know, don't tell me, it's weird.

Damn you, Earl

My other big problem with the actual gameplay is Earl Hebner.

Yes, you read that right, Earl Hebner.

One cool thing about the referee in this game is that he will interact with you in tag team matches to try and stop you interfering and coming into the ring illegally.

During singles matches, however, he just gets in the way, literally.

I've lost count of the number of times I've charged at an opponent only for gormless Earl to get in the way, throwing my focus off so that my opponent can attack.

Likewise, if he gets too close, he gets caught up in the action and you end up attacking him. That would be fine, except whilst you're trying to turn your attention away from the ref, your opponent is kicking your ass and all you can do to retaliate is beat up on Earl.

Those grumbles aside, there is a lot to enjoy about playing Smackdown: Just Bring It.

The sheer volume of moves is impressive and makes for great fun in seeing them executed, whilst the fast-paced, arcade-style means that -whilst there may be dull moments elsewhere in the game- there certainly aren't any whilst you're in a match.

I also happen to love the reversals feature, which you trigger by pressing the square button to block and counter an opponent's attack.

Though it doesn't always work quite right, sometimes you can set off a sequence of three or four reversals all linked together that is beautiful to watch, like seeing your favourite technical wrestlers put on a five-star chain-wrestling clinic.

Finishers are another good feature, though I did find some impossible to land because I could never get into the right position.

Story Mode 

Other reviews have criticised the Story Mode element of this game, and I can totally understand why.


First of all, it's incredibly short, with each wrestler having more or less the same story, which is this:

Vince McMahon offers you a tag team title shot.

If you accept it, you fight the champions, win the titles, and that's the end of the story.

If you deny it, you then interrupt another superstar as he is challenging the Champion.

You can either then challenge that guy to a match, or pretend you were just messing, in which case Commissioner William Regal (or Vince if you're playing as Regal) calls you into his office and randomly gives you a European title shot.

Take it, you fight for, and win, the title. Deny it, and you then face Tajiri and subsequently unlock him as a character.

Meanwhile, if you choose to challenge the first guy, that sets you on a course where you can win one of three titles, Hardcore (unlocks Rhyno as a character), Intercontinental, or World.

That's it.

All stories contain at most, three matches, occasionally four, so the whole story is over in about half an hour.

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Michael Cole & Steve Austin
Sure, there are some differences, such as Kurt Angle responding to a challenge by arriving on his famous milk truck, or Austin mixing up the dialogue to add in his famous catchphrases, but that's it. Once you've played this a couple of times over and explored the limited options there's very little reason to ever play it again unless you're determined to unlock all 50+ hidden features.

That's not the biggest problem though - the actual storylines are quite fun at first. No, the biggest problem is that the cut scenes, where your wrestler interacts with other characters to get to the next plot point, are just awful.

For one thing, they're way too long, so you get moments were it takes Vince McMahon two full minutes of gesticulating and gum-flapping to say 'do you want a title shot?'

They're also really, really badly written, so you get wrestlers saying things like 'you'll never get away like this!' and other nonsense that no English speaking person has ever said ever.

The worst part is that there's simply no way to skip past these scenes. Pressing start or X or any other doesn't get you onto the next screen. Instead, you just sit there for minute after minute of crudely-animated, poorly written scenes that are a far cry from anything you'd actually see on a wrestling show.

With the exception of the world title, which does at least require you to beat two other dudes to become number one contender, title shots aren't actually earned in Just Bring It - authority figures simply offer you them for no reason, so you don't really feel like you're accomplishing much by getting a shot at the gold.

Create a Superstar 

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Psycho Storm CJ Scholes
I still remember the days when this kind of feature was so brand new to wrestling games that I would spend ages on the old PS1 games doing nothing but creating characters.

Now that I'm a grownup with responsibilities, I don't have time to do that any more, but I easily could have done, it's that indepth.

Seriously, you can change everything from the size of a guy's elbow pads to the shape of his nose and chin.

This doesn't always work out well. If you ask me, the created characters are uglier than the real-life Superstar characters and no matter what you do to them -including adding all the extra outfits you can unlock- you still end up with a weird, jobber-looking character that looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.

WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It (PS2) Ragin Angel Axl Diablo
Still, I did my best, and created Psycho Storm CJ Scholes (that would have been my wrestling name if I'd ever been interested in learning to wrestle)

And The Ragin' Angel Axl Diablo, who I actually think is pretty cool, so there.

Sound and Commentary 

Most of the background music here is basically stock techno-drivel that sounds like it would be more fitting as the menu theme for a game about the Matrix than the World Wrestling Federation.

It's fine though, and not really offensive, unlike the commentary, which is just the worst thing you've ever heard.

Matches are 'called' by Smackdown hosts Michael Cole and Tazz, who randomly shout out absolutely nonsense throughout the match.


'This is fine' says Cole, really demonstrating all the heart and passion you'd expect from a top-flight commentator.
'I think this is good,' agrees Tazz, before inexplicably asking 'what? That's not good?' 

Cole then tells you that your wrestler 'really is a nice person' (because that's what you really want from your tough-as-nails WWF wrestler) after which Tazz tells us that your wrestler 'was great the other day.' 

Whether he means great in the ring, in bed, at bowling remains a mystery.

My favourite Tazzism, however, comes when you're fighting as a female character.

At random points, Tazz will yell out 'I can't believe she's a woman!' with a genuine sense of surprise and alarm as though the fact that Molly Holly doesn't own a penis has come as a complete shock to him.

Now, given that the developers made Trish Stratus to look like a meaty transsexual, I can sort of understand Tazz's alarm, but still, that one makes me laugh, whereas the rest of the commentary just makes me cringe.

Other gems include 'he's the World Wrestling Federation Superstar' and -get this-

'He's the wrestling entertainment.' 

Honestly.

OK, the bad writing I can understand, but I have a hard time believing that Cole and Taz walked into a recording studio, looked at the script and said 'yep, that's completely realistic.'

Seriously, was everyone on crack the day they recorded the commentary for this thing?


Theatre 


Finally, we come to The theatre, which originally just features the trailer for another video game.

After capturing the title for the first time, however, you not only unlock the credits but also several 'movies.'

These are commercials for WWF Smackdown and Smackdown 2, plus behind-the-scenes 'making of' vignettes for each commercial.

The first behind-the-scenes clip for The Rock's commercial isn't all that interesting, but the second one featuring Kurt Angle is far better.

It's longer and much funnier because it's in character; Angle never breaks from his arrogant, egotistical heel persona, and it's a joy to watch,

Three also a clip titled 'Recent Smackdown Moments,' which is just a highlight reel of spots set to an ill-suited piece of classical music with bad graphics that look like your 12-year-old cousin had made the whole video on an early version of Windows Movie Maker.



Lasting Impression 

In the words of Michael Cold, this is fine. 

There's a lot to like about WWF Smackdown: Just Bring It, like those sweet-looking reversals, fun gameplay, and awesome entrances, but the short storylines, terrible commentary and Tranny Trish Stratus do let it down. 

On the whole, this is a good game to pass away a few hours, but no more than that. It's fun at first, but quickly gets repetitive and eventually boring, leaving you longing for more of a challenge. 


Thanks for reading. For more reviews of retro pro wrestling games, shows, and more, follow RPW on Twitter or like the Facebook page here.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

PPV REVIEW - WCW Spring Stampede 1997

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Event Poster
April 6, 1997
Tupelo Coliseum, Tupelo, Mississippi

After first introducing the world to Spring Stampede back in 1994, with an event which featured Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat for the World Heavyweight Championship, WCW had apparently proceeded to forget all about their April PPV show for the next three years. 

Tonight, all of that changed.

As the pro wrestling boom period of the late 1990s got underway, World Championship Wrestling dug out their stetsons and chuck wagons and brought the show back for the first time since that Flair/Steamboat showcase back in 1994.

Could a modern, nWo-led Spring Stampede compete with the greatness of Flair/Steamboat?

Let's head down to  Tupelo, Mississippi to find out.

Spring Time Has Arrived

World Championship Wrestling must have been taking notes from the WWF; their usual opening video didn't look like a reject from a late-80s kids TV show.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Dusty Rhodes, Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan
What it did do, was run down tonight's card before sending us to Tony Schiavone, Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan and The American Dream Dusty Rhodes.

As always, Tony led the conversation, hyping up the big matches on the show.

He also told us that Scott Hall had been AWOL for a few weeks, so Kevin Nash had to defend the tag titles solo.

Nash, apparently, had agreed, but only if his demands were met.

Quite what these demands were, nobody knew.

Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. 

I refuse to refer to the man from the Orient as Ultimate Dragon as he was known here.


As the former J-Crown champion locked up with Rey Mysterio Jr., Mike Tenay reminded us that this was the third time the two had met on PPV, first at WCW Hog Wild 1996 and then again at World War 3 1996.

Tenany and Heenan also reminded us of the rumour circulating at the time that Mysterio was dating Jennifer Aniston.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Ultimo Dragon
That rumour was BS. This match was not.

I'm not sure that it was the best out of the three PPV bouts that these two had, but it was certainly a very enjoyable opener that was only marred slightly by a cut away to the backstage area.

There, we saw Lee Marshall trying to get a word with Kevin Nash, only for Syxx to tell him to get lost.

Back to the match in hand, Mysterio basically got his ass handed to him by the Dragon before stealing a win.
Your Winner: Rey Mysterio Jr.

Afterwards, we went back to the nWo Locker room, where Lee Marshall once again tried to get a word with Kevin Nash.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - The Steiners get tackled by WCW Security
This time, Nash himself appeared, insisting that whilst he was happy to fight The Steiner Brothers by himself, he wanted Nick Patrick as the referee.

Whilst all this was going on, Rick and Scott turned up, and acted a little bit angry.

One member of security tackled Scott Steiner to the floor whilst  Doug Dillinger sprayed mace in his eyes. As he did so, Tony Sciavone yelled 'mace in the face!' over and over like he were dropping vocals for a dance track.

Talk about over excessive.

World Championship Wrestling Women's Champion
WCW Women's Champion Akira Hokuto (w/ Sonny Onoo) vs. Madusa 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - WCW Women's Champion Akira Hokuto w/ Sony Onoo
After hiring Madusa for the sole purpose of putting the WWF Women's Championship in the bin, the company had to do something with her to warrant the cost of her contract, so they created the WCW women's division, which basically focussed on Madusa failing to become champion.

Tonight was no different, as the former Alundra Blayze lost to Akira Hokuto in a fun match.

After several minutes of entertaining action, Madusa looked to have the match won, but Sonny Onoo caused a distraction which allowed Luna Vachon to run in and cost her the win.
Your Winner and Still WCW women's champion: Akira Hokuto 

No Mean Gene yet, so it was straight on to our next match.

World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship
WCW TV Champion Prince Iaukea vs. Lord Steven Regal 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Steven Regal challenged Prince Iaukea for the TV title
Prince Iaukea was always a strange one. Here we had a guy that WCW was willing to put the TV title on and feature on multiple PPVs. Yet instead of using this to make him into a star, the company had their announcers basically put over the Prince's success as a fluke, as though telling us that he didn't really deserve to be where he was at.

If they'd just told us he'd earned his success by being very good, we might actually be talking about him in a whole different way today.

Here, Iukea defended his TV title against former champion Lord Steven Regal in the culmination of a several-month rivalry.

Much as you'd expect from anything involving Regal, this was a very good wrestling match, with the emphasis very much on the actual wrestling.

The only thing that tarnished it was the announcers, who apart from making the reigning champion sound like a lucky loser, often ignored him and Regal altogether in order to talk about Kevin Nash and The Steiners.

In an update, Scott Steiner had been arrested for apparently assaulting a police officer and had been hauled off to jail. That meant that tonight, the WCW Tag Team Titles would be defended in a singles match between Kevin Nash vs. Rick Steiner.

Yep, this was WCW.

Back to the match, Iukea won, the announcers told us it was a fluke.
Your Winner and Still TV Champion: Prince Iaukea 

Afterwards, Regal beat up the champ and put him in the Regal Stretch until the referee broke it off.

Ric Flair Announces His Return 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Ric Flair announced his return to action
After Mean Gene Okerlund told us to call the WCW Hotline to find out about the new backstage clique in the company, he introduced his guest, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Flair put over the rest of the Four Horsemen before telling us that he was cleared to compete as of May 1st.

As if that wasn't enough, The Nature Boy also revealed that the Horsemen would be joined at this year's Slamboree by Kevin Green (who they actually faced in a match at the previous year's Great American Bash).

Their opponents, should they accept the challenge, would be none other than the nWo.

The Public Enemy (Flyboy Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. The Four Horsemen (Steve 'Mongo' McMichael & Jeff Jarrett w/ Debra McMichael) 

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Debra & Steve McMichael
This match had originally been scheduled for the previous month's WCW Uncensored before Steve 'Mongo' McMichael and Jeff Jarrett found themselves in the main event of that show.

The match had then been rescheduled for tonight, though why the bothered I couldn't tell you.

This was sloppy at best, mind-numbingly dull at worst, and certainly the poorest match on the show so far.

The end came when Jarrett had Johnny Grunge in figure four. Just when Jarrett looked to have the whole thing won, Rocco Rock hit him with Mongo's briefcase behind the referees back.

The ref then turned around, counted Jarrett's shoulders down for a three count and gave the match to The Public Enemy.
Your Winners: The Public Enemy  

Afterwards, Debra showed concern only for Jarrett, furthering the story that she actually liked him more than her own husband.

Hulk Hogan, Booker T is Coming For You, N***a

Yes, this was *that* promo.

Tonight, Booker T and Stevie Ray would be fighting in an every-man for-himself match against Lex Luger and The Giant in a four-way match to determine the number one contender to Hollywood Hulk Hogan's WCW title.

Booker said...

Well, you know exactly what Booker said, because this is one of the most famous promos of all time, for all the wrong reasons.


World Championship Wrestling United States Championship
WCW United States Champion Dean Malenko vs. Chris Benoit (w/ Woman)

There were times when this one displayed all the signs of the classic you'd expect from Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Sadly, those times were interspersed with long periods of not much happening, making this a very disappointing match indeed.

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Dean Maleno vs. Chris Benoit - US title
To make matters worse, the ending was exactly the kind of situation that the word 'clusterfuck' was invented for.

Jacqueline ran down to attack Woman on the outside whilst Jimmy Hart tried to steal the United States title, only to be stopped by Eddie Guerrero. Whilst all this was going on, Arn Anderson came out and attacked Dean Malenko, then Kevin Sullivan hit Benoit with a big stick.

In the midst of the madness, the referee threw the match out.
No Contest

Afterwards, the Dungeon of Doom members put the US belt on Eddie Guerrero's shoulder then dragged him backstage as though he were on their side and doing them a favour.

Malenko then stood by Benoit until The Crippler came round. Clearly, this whole thing was far from over.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Championship
WCW Tag Team Champion Kevin Nash (w/ Syxx & Ted Dibiase) vs. Rick Steiner

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Kevin Nash (w/ Syxx)
And so for the first -but by no means the last- time, the tag team titles were defended in a singles match.

I say match, this was really just several long minutes of Nash humiliating Rick Steiner, beating him from pillar to proverbial post without mercy or regard.

At one point Syxx exposed the top turnbuckle and Nash began dropping Steiner, snake-eyes style on the exposed steel.

He did this over and over again, so much so that even Ted Dibiase tried to convince him that enough was enough.

Eventually, Dibiase could stomach no more of this wanton abuse and left the ring. Meanwhile, nWo referee Nick Patrick began to have pity on Steiner, and was even reluctant to count the eventual pitfall, before storming off, turning his back on the nWo once and for all.
Your Winner: Kevin Nash

Out in the back, Mean Gene spoke to The Giant and Lex Luger about tonight's big four-way match.

The Giant told us that Hogan hadn't counted on he and Lex being such good friends that they'd be prepared to wrestle one another and accept that the best man had won, whilst Lex said he was ready. Repeatedly. That's all I heard from this promo; Luger saying 'we're ready.'

Anyway, that match was next.

Number One Contenders Four-Way Match
Booker T vs. Stevie Ray (w/ Sister Sherri) vs. Lex Luger vs. The Giant

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Lex Luger & The Giant interviewed by Mean Gene
This was billed as every man for himself, but given the four corners stipulation, in which a wrestler had to tag in to be legal, it was mostly a tag match between Harlem Heat and Luger/Giant.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.

Though this one was hardly going to win any Match of the Year awards, it was a relatively entertaining match which came to an end when The Giant looked to have Stevie Ray beat and was setting him up for a chokeslam.

Instead, the big man sacrificed his potential title shot by tagging in Luger and telling him to rack big Stevie.

Lex did just that, and a few seconds later we had a new number one contender to the WCW title.
Your Winner: Lex Luger

Prior to our main event getting started, we were shown a hype for next month's Slamboree, featuring Bobby Heenan, Tony Schiavone, and Larry Zybysko.

Mean Gene Interviews Page and Kimberley

WCW Spring Stampede 1997 - Gene interviews Kimberly and Diamond Dallas Page
With his opponent, Macho Man Randy Savage already in the ring, Diamond Dallas Page promised to kick some ass in their no holds barred match.

Gene then introduced Kimberly. We were apparently supposed to forget all about the rivalry she had with her husband last year, as the two were very much now on the same, ahem, page.

Kimberly told us that Page's rage was going to make all the difference here, and with that, it was on to our main event.

No Disqualification Match
Macho Man Randy Savage (w/ Elizabeth) vs. Diamond Dallas Page (w/ Kimberly)

This was every bit as good as you might expect it to be, if not better.


The two bitter rivals wasted no time in beating the tar out of one another, brawling wildly around ringside, through the crowds, and eventually back to the ring, where Savage took full control over his opponent.

When DDP refused to lose, however, Savage took his frustrations out on the referee, first nailing him with a piledriver then whipping the poor guy with his own belt.

Kevin Nash then sent Nick Patrick in as a replacement, but DDP recovered, hit the Diamond Cutter, and got the three count when Patrick made a normal three count.
Your Winner: Diamond Dallas Page

Afterwards, the majority of the nWo came out to point at Patrick and look angry whilst Nash picked up the official and powerbombed him right out of the New World Order.


It's funny that the most memorable thing to come out of tonight's show was Booker T's N-Bomb promo. Yet whilst that may be the moment that defined the show, there was still lots to enjoy from an in-ring standpoint.

That main event was very enjoyable, whilst the opening matches also had a lot to be praised.

As PPVs go, Spring Stampede 97 wasn't exactly a game-changer, but it was certainly a decent show that should serve you well if you're looking for something to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon or something.


1997 events reviewed so far:

  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1997
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1997
  3. WWF - In Your House 13: Final Four 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl VII 
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1997 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 13
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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.