PPV REVIEW: WCW Fall Brawl 1997

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - Event Poster
September 14, 1997
Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The long-term success of the New World Order angle meant a lot of positive benefits for World Championship Wrestling. 

For one thing, it meant a remarkable change in fortunes and unprecedented profit. For another, it meant that for the first time in the company's short history, they could legitimately claim to be the number one pro wrestling company in North America, if not the world.

It also meant that they didn't really need to put too much effort in creating compelling storylines and matches; simply pit someone from the nWo against someone from WCW and you had a feud all lined up.

Thus it was that, for the second year in a row, we got some variation of World Championship Wrestling vs. The New World Order in the company's flagship match - War Games.

At Fall Brawl 1996, it had been three of the nWo's biggest stars - Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall teaming up with a fake Sting to battle Lex Luger and half of the Four Horsemen, with the briefest of cameos from the genuine Stinger.

This year, only Nash remained to do battle once more for the renegade faction, with B-Level players Konnan, Buff Bagwell and Syxx joining him for a match against all four members of the current incarnation of The Four Horsemen.

Yet just because it worked once, we were about to find out that WCW vs. NWO in War Games wasn't guaranteed to work again, and the lack of star power may well have been a factor.

Here's what went down when WCW presented Fall Brawl 1997...

It's War Games, And It's Personal 

Our show tonight began with a recap of the August 25th episode of Nitro, where Arn Anderson retired and Curt Hennig became an official member of the Four Horsemen.

That led to the infamous Four Horsemen parody by the nWo, which in turn led to Rowdy Roddy Piper (who was now in an authority figure role similar to the one he'd held in the WWF prior to Wrestlemania 12) booking nWo vs. The Four Horsemen in War Games.

The video took us to the arena, where Tony Schiavone welcomed us to the show and intrigued us to his broadcast colleagues Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan and -for the first time in forever- not The American Dream Dusty Rhodes but Iron Mike Tenay.

The announcers talked up tonight's main event before turning their attention to ringside for our opening contest.

World Championship Wrestling World Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero 

The last time we saw Chris Jericho on PPV, it was at the previous month's Road Wild 1997, where he unsuccessfully challenged Alex Wright for the Cruiserweight Championship.

Since then, Jericho had won the title and came to the ring to defend it tonight accompanied by Break The Walls Down, which was impressive considering that theme wasn't written for another two years.

I'm kidding of course, Jericho came down to his Pearl Jam rip off theme that WWE Network dubbed over.

Meanwhile, his opponent Eddie Guerrero had recently turned heel and sauntered to the ring wearing a brilliant scowl and accompanied by a theme song that sounded like a cross between Bad Street USA and Don't Step to Ron.

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - Chris Jericho defended the Cruiserweight Champion against Eddie Guerrero
But hey, the entrances were hardly the talking point of the match.

No, Sir, that honour went to the action itself, which was nothing short of fantastic.

One of those matches that you could use to show non-fans why you like pro wrestling, Jericho/Guerrero was every bit as good as you might expect it to be, if not better.

After a great effort, Eddie picked up the win with a beautiful frog splash, ending what Tenay told us was the one-month reign of Chris Jericho.
Your Winner and New WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Eddie Guerrero 

Backstage, Jeff Jarrett spoke to an interviewer from WCW.com not about his upcoming match with Dean Malenko tonight, but a different match against Curt Hennig on Friday.

The interviewer did then ask about Malenko, but we cut back to the ring before we could find out what Double J had to say.

Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Jacqueline) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner w/ Ted Dibiase) 

With Larry Zybysko now taking Mike Tenay's place on commentary, we got one of those rare matches that pitted two teams of actual legitimate brothers against one another.

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - The Steiner Brothers faced Harlem Heat
I'll be honest with you, I've never been as big a fan of Harlem Heat as lots of other people, but I have to give them their due here - they worked hard against Rick and Scott Steiner and delivered a good -if not great - match that at least had the live crowd fully hyped and popping for just about every move.

After some good action, The Steiners got the win and the crowd just about lost their minds.
Your Winners: The Steiner Brothers 

Moving swiftly on...

World Championship Wrestling World Television Championship
WCW World TV Champion Alex Wright vs. Ultimo Dragon 

For the second PPV in a row, Alex Wright successfully defended a title.

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - Alex Wright defended the TV title against Ultimo Dragon
This time, it was against Ultimo Dragon in what has to be considered one of the best of his career.

The crowd were not into it even half as much as they were for Steiners vs. Harlem Heat, but that was a shame because Alex Wright vs. Ultimo Dragon was tremendous.

I've said it before that because of the dumb Dancing German Guy gimmick and lack of any meaningful storylines, Alex Wright was grossly underrated.

Actually watch his matches such as this career-defining performance, his outing against Chris Jericho at Road Wild or his highly enjoyable bout against Dean Malenko at Clash of the Champions 32 and you'll see a guy who would really go.

Not only could he go, he could also win, picking up the victory via -fittingly- a German Suplex.
Your Winner and Still WCW TV Champion: Alex Wright 

Out in the back, Mean Gene Okerlund told us to call the hotline for an exclusive interview with Arn Anderson, but as he did so, Konnan, Buff Bagwell, and Syxx, and Kevin Nash all stormed past him, barged into a locker room, and then barged out again.

When Gene went to investigate, we found Curt Hennig lying on the floor in that room, the implication being that the New World Order had gone in and beaten him up.

Match to Decide the Number One Contender to the US Title
Jeff Jarrett (w/ Queen Debra) vs. Dean Malenko 

At the risk of sounding like a stuck record today, this was yet another fantastic match.

Nothing fancy, nothing elaborate, just proper, old-school professional wrestling at its very best is exactly what Jeff Jarrett and Dean Malenko delivered in a bout that deserved to rival anything else on the card for Match of the Night honours.

After a long and very enjoyable battle, Jarrett made Malenko submit to the Figure Four, earning himself a shot at the US title currently held by his arch nemesis, and husband of his valet Debra, Steve McMichael.
Your Winner and New Number One Contender to the US Title: Jeff Jarrett

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - The NWO cut a backstage promo about their War Games match with The Four Horsemen
In one of those edgy, black and white promos that was the staple of their presentation, the nWo War Games team (Nash, Syxx, Bagwell, Konnan) cut a long and tiresome promo in which they none-too-subtly bragged about attacking Curt Hennig before claiming, over and over again, that they wanted to end The Four Horsemen once and for all.

Wrath & Mortis (w/ James Vanderberg) vs. The Faces of Fear (Meng & Barbarian) 

Yes, Wrath and Mortis were still a thing at this stage.

Meanwhile, after The Dungeon of Doom had effectively ended following Kevin Sullivan's retirement at Bash at the Beach 1997, Meng and Barbarian had apparently lost Jimmy Hart but gained some shiny new red pants.

The match itself was a little underwhelming compared to the awesome card we'd had so far, but that doesn't mean it was a bad match.

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - Wrath & Mortis beat the Faces of Fear
Far from it.

With Barbarian taking the bulk of the abuse and Meng being just the personification of brutality in his inevitable hot Tag moment, The Faces of Fear worked well with James Vanderberg's men to create a decent hard-hitting big man match.

Towards the finish, Meng got both Vanderberg and Mortis in the Tongan Death Grip, but that allowed Wrath to come up from behind and slam his opponent down for the one, two, three.
Your Winners: Wrath & Mortis 

Out in the back, Chris Benoit, WCW US Champion Steve 'Mongo' McMichael, and Nature Boy Ric Flair were interviewed by Mean Gene Okerlund.

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 Review - 3/4s of the Four Horsemen cut a backstage promo about their War Games match with the NWO
Benoit had choice words for everyone in the nWo War Games team, including this zinger:

'Nash, you've been so many different characters that nobody knows what you're about.' 

Mongo followed that by promising an apocalypse for the New World Order, and Flair styled and profiled whilst declaiming that he had more heart and determination than Nash.

Nobody will ever list this as their favourite promo, but it was short and effective, with perfectly acceptable performances from all involved.

Scott Norton vs. The Giant 

Honestly, I groaned when this was revealed to be the next match. I mean, Giant vs. Scott Norton? There was. I way this could be good, right?

Well, no, there wasn't, but at least it was short, and at least both men did their best to make it entertaining, with a violent brawl on the outside proving to be legitimately enjoyable.

Still, when The Giant choke slammed Norton for the win, it came as a big relief.
Your Winner: The Giant 

From there, it was straight onto our next match.

Diamond Dallas Page & Lex Luger vs. Macho Man Randy Savage & WCW World Tag Team Champion Scott Hall (w/ Miss. Elizabeth) 

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 - Randy Savage and Scott Hall faced Lex Luger and Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page and Lex Luger had originally been in the WCW War Games team until the nWo attack on the Four Horsemen prompted a change in the card.

That left DDP to once again get his hands on Macho Man Randy Savage after the two had a terrefic match at Spring Stampede 1997,  with Luger and Scott Hall thrown into the mix to make this a tag match.

On an unrelated note, Elizabeth looked incredible here, what a truly beautiful woman she was.

The action in this one was merely a build up to the bizarre ending, which started when Hall and Savage took out the referee (just as the announcers had suggested they might in the previous Giant/Norton match) and then took out their opponents.

The nWo beat down was so intense that it prompted Larry Zybysko -who had been having a feud of his own with Hall- to come down to the ring and square off with his nemesis.

Hall mockingly backed off from Larry, straight into a prone Lex Luger, who wrapped Hall up for a pin.

Zybysko, using some hitherto unknown authority possessed by retired-wrestlers-cum-commentators, then made the three count, and this one was over, apparently.
Your Winners via Larry Zybysko pin: Lex Luger and Diamond Dallas Page 

Our main event was next, which gave Mean Gene just one last chance to shill the hotline - don't forget - kids, get your parents permissions.

A Slim Jim commercial aired, and then it was on to a match that Michael Buffer told us would be unlike any other match (apart from all the other War Games matches, of course).

War Games
The Four Horsemen (Nature Boy Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, and WCW United States Champion Steve 'Mongo' McMichael) vs. New World Order (Kevin Nash, Syxx, Buff Bagwell, and Konnan) 

WCW Fall Brawl 1997 - Curt Hennig betrayed the Four Horsemen and joined the nWo
Like the previous match, this one was all about the finish.

Unlike the previous match, everything leading up to the finish was mind-numbingly tedious.

That finish see Curt Hennig come to the ring and -predictably - revealing that he wasn't hurt at all, and hadn't been attacked by the nWo.

Instead, he was with the boys in black and white, and helped Nash, Bagwell, Syxx and Konnan to handcuff Benoit and Mongo to the cage and basically destroy the Horsemen until Mongo volunteered to surrender so that Hennig wouldn't slam the cage door on Flair's head.
Your Winners: New World Order 

Naturally, Hennig slammed the door on Flair anyway, and this one was over.

Apart from a very boring main event and a weird finish to the Hall/Savage vs. DDP/Luger match, this was a fantastic show with lots to enjoy.

That said, even the main event -poor as it was- had a genuinely exciting finish.

All in all, one of the best PPV shows of 1997, and one of WCW's best of the past few years.

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
  8. WWF - In Your House 14: Revenge of The Taker
  9. WWF - In Your House 15: A Cold Day in Hell
  10. WCW - Slamboree 1997
  11. WWF - King of the Ring 1997
  12. WCW - Great American Bash 1997 
  13. WWF - In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede 
  14. WCW - Bash at the Beach 1997 
  15. WWF - Summerslam 1997
  16. WCW - Road Wild 1997
  17. WWF - In Your House 17: Ground Zero
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  1. I remember during this time period that the WCW PPVs the undercard was best and the main event was usually boring and/or pointless while the WWF PPVs were exactly the opposite, the undercard wrestlers were listless and just going through the motions while the main events were pretty awesome.

  2. Why would they have Jarrett win a U.S. title shot for Halloween Havoc when a week later he was on Saw?