Thursday, 8 November 2018

PPV REVIEW: WCW Fall Brawl 1998

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 - Event poster
September 13, 1998 
Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

A Dusty Rhodes creation inspired by the Mel Gibson blockbuster Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, the WarGames cage match was one of the most unique and most popular contributions made to pro wrestling by the NWA/WCW. 

Year after year, the match was wheeled out.

Year after year, it worked.

Nothing had to change. No special gimmicks or bonus features had to be added to keep it popular.

The match itself was so simple in both its premise and execution that to this day, long-term fans still remember the early WarGames matches fondly.

So if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

You'd think so, but this was WCW remember?





This was a company who, after kicking ass left, right and centre in the Monday Night Wars, was rapidly becoming a victim of its own success and spiralling out of control, one bad decision at a time. 

So tonight, we had ourselves a three-team WarGames match with new rules. 

Would fixing what wasn't broken prove effective for WCW? Or was this just another bad decision that would send the company spinning closer towards its demise? 

Let's head to Winston-Salem to find out. 

Professional Wrestling's Most Dangerous Night

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 - Mike Tenay, Tony Schiavone, and Bobby 'The Brain' HeenanWe began tonight with a video package introducing us to the participants in tonight's three-team War Games match.

Clearly, somebody in WCW production had finally decided to watch the WWF's product, because, although this wasn't as good as some of the dramatic, emotionally charged openings presented by the Titan Sports crew.

 It was far slicker and far better put together than the usual cheesy, poor-quality videos World Championship Wrestling normally started their Pay Per Views with.

As always, the opening video led us to a welcome from Tony Schiavone and the introduction of his broadcast colleagues Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan and Iron Mike Tenay.

Schiavone told us that tonight was "professional wrestling's most dangerous night" and that tonight's War Games match had different "sudden death" rules.

This meant that anyone could win the match for their team at any time rather than needing all competitors in the ring before a submission could take place.

We also found out that Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Diamond Dallas Page would be the first two men to compete in War Games tonight, after which Tony told us that there was something serious going on backstage that we had to take a look at.

The way Schiavone worded this, it was as though whatever was occurring backstage had something to do with tonight's main event.

Instead, it was just Ernest 'The Cat' Miller being held back by WCW security and yelling his "I'm the greatest" catchphrase.

"Ernest Miller has had a lot of problems with people not thinking he's great," said Schiavone, which for some reason sounded hilarious.

Chris Jericho Announces a Match with Goldberg

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 - Mean Gene Okerlund interviews Chris Jericho
Up next, we went to the usual Mean Gene Okerlund segment where Gene would shill some of the undercard matches and remind us to call 1-900-909-9900.

Instead, he got no further than telling us about a Dean Malenko/Curt Hennig match which sounded awesome before he was interrupted by Television Champion Chris Jericho.

One of the most entertaining acts in pro wrestling during 1998, Jericho was a riot as he informed us that Goldberg had been calling him all day.

Apparently, the two had agreed to settle their differences in a Champion vs. Champion match later on in the show.

The crowd lapped it up like it was legit whilst the announcers basically made it clear that we shouldn't get our hopes up.

With that, it was onto our opening match.

The Dancing Fools (Disco Inferno & Alex Wright) vs. The British Bulldog & Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart.

As a big Davey Boy Smith fan (we come from the same hometown, dontcha know?), it saddens me to watch how poorly he was used in his second WCW run.

Whether it was because the company weren't invested in him that Davey Boy had quite obviously stopped giving a crap (he looked bloated and terrible here), or whether it was because he'd stopped giving a crap that the company weren't invested in him I couldn't tell you.

But, what I could tell you is that despite being in bad shape, Bulldog and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart worked well together to put on a passable opening contest against Disco Inferno and Alex Wright.

Whilst this was a far cry from the kind of five-star opening matches WCW used to put on their PPVs, it still did its job well and was a decent effort in its own right.

After a fairly long battle, The Englishman picked up Disco and hit him with his patented Powerslam to pick up the win for his team.
Your Winners: The British Bulldog and Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart.

Note: It was only after I'd watched this match that I realised this was the one where Bulldog landed awkwardly on Warrior's trapdoor and was so injured he wouldn't compete in WCW again. He'd later go back to WWF but was never the same.

Scott Steiner is Fake-Injured Again

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 - Mean Gene interviews Scott Steiner & Buff Bagwelll
Backstage, Scott Steiner and Buff Bagwell  attempted to pull the exact same stunt they'd pulled at last month's Road Wild 1998.

They told Mean Gene that Scott was injured and that they had an official document from a doctor called Cecil Schwartz who had declared that Steiner was in no fit state to compete.

Comically, Steiner even wore a tiny band-aid on his enormous arms and kept pointing to it as if it was going to prove how injured he was.

Whilst Buff and Scotty may have been entertaining, they weren't exactly convincing, so it came as no surprise that J.J. Dillon was having none of it.

He arrived on the scene next, ripped up the "bogus" doctor's note and reminded them of the stipulation he had laid down back at Road Wild:

If Scott Steiner didn't compete against his brother Rick Steiner tonight, he would be banned from WCW for life.

Up next, it was time for Chris Jericho to troll the entire wrestling world.

World Championship Wrestling Television Champion Chris Jericho vs. "Goldberg"

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: This fake Goldberg battled Chris Jericho
Heading out for the title vs. title match he'd promised us earlier, Jericho emerged from his dressing room flanked by Jericho Personal Security (one of whom was Ralphus, who looked like he'd been possessed) in a mockery of Goldberg's usual entrance, then paid tribute to Spinal Tap by getting lost backstage (as mentioned in A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex).

When Jericho finally did make it to the ring, it wasn't World Champion Goldberg who came out to face him, but a short, tubby bald guy who looked like how Goldberg would look if he was one of those rubber thumb wrestlers from the 1980s.

The whole thing was played for laughs but got a big "BULLSHIT!" chant from the live crowd instead.

Naturally, Jericho destroyed his opponent then put him away with the Walls of Jericho.
Your Winner: Chris Jericho

Backstage in the "Internet Location," Rick Steiner told Lee Marshall that he had no choice but to kick his brother's ass.

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Rick Steiner talks to Lee Marshall
Curiously, Steiner forgot about the kind of snappy, nasal accent he normally had on TV and spoke "normally."

Up next, we saw a pre-recorded segment in which Mike Tenay attempted an interview with current WWE official Scott Armstrong and his brother Steve Armstrong.

The interview was interrupted by Ernest Miller who attacked the Armstrongs before being confronted by Norman Smiley.

As the two were pulled apart by officials, The Cat called out the most menacing insult imaginable:

"You can't dance with me!"

All of this had to lead somewhere, which is why we got the following match.

Norman Smiley vs. Ernest 'The Cat' Miller

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Ernest Miller gives Norman Smiley five seconds to leave the ring
I swear this show was shaping up more like an episode of Nitro than a major PPV. Even the Jericho stuff, whilst entertaining for what it was, would have easily been better suited to TV than a big event like this.

Anyway, blowing off the "Ernest Miller is Mad Because Nobody Thinks He's Great" thing, The Cat next came down to the ring and told his opponent Norman Smiley that even though he could tear him apart in five seconds, he didn't really want to because they were both "brothers."

Instead, Miller said that he was going to turn his back, and if Smiley didn't leave the ring by the count of five, he would "eat him alive."

Obviously, Smiley didn't leave (because what would have been the point in that?) and decked The Cat instead, leading to another reasonable outing.

Whilst 'reasonable' may not be bad, I'll remind you that Fall Brawl was typically one of the company's biggest pay per views, and we were already three matches in without anything exciting to watch.

Sure, Smiley got a big pop for his delayed vertical suplex on Miller (for good reason too, it looked awesome), but again, this could have worked better as a filler match on Nitro rather than a main attraction on a PPV.

After several minutes of not-very-exciting action, Miller slapped Smiley with a spinning roundhouse kick for the win.
Your Winner: Ernest Miller

Prior to the next match, we were reminded that Scott Steiner had turned on his brother Rick at Superbrawl VIII, and how the two would feud for the rest of the year leading up to tonight.

Scott Steiner (w/ Buff Bagwell) vs. Rick Steiner

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Big Poppa Pump poses before his match with Rick Steiner
Rick Steiner came out with his new theme music, which was a rip off of Welcome to the Jungle.

Hitting the ring with intensity, The Dog Faced Gremlin laid into Big Poppa Pump in what was -to a point- the most exciting match on the show so far.

Finally getting his revenge, Rick battered his brother inside and outside of the ring, much to the delight of the audience who finally came alive for this.

After a while, Scott cut off his brother's momentum with two low-blows behind the referee's back, but even that couldn't derail what looked set to be a solid grudge match.

However, this was WCW.

Let me rephrase that:

This was WCW at its worse.

Totally turning what looked to be a good match into an absolute farce, Rick Steiner hit Buff Bagwell, who collapsed on the apron and began complaining that Steiner had reinjured his neck, the same neck he'd just had surgery on.

This was apparently so serious that referee Mark Curtis decided to stop the match because of an injury to somebody who wasn't in the match in the first place.
No contest

For the second time on this show, the crowds chanted "BULLSHIT!"

This time, I couldn't agree more.

For the next ten solid minutes, Fall Brawl 1998 ground to a halt.

A host of EMTs all came down, put Bagwell on a stretcher and led him into an ambulance. All the while, the announcers commentating as though this were a shoot.

Once both Steiner and Buff were in the ambulance, they immediately left again, revealing the whole thing to be a rouse and attacking Rick Steiner.

Again, this lasted easily 10 minutes.

Bullshit indeed.

World Championship Wrestling Cruiserweight Championship
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Juventud Guerrera vs. Silver King

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: WCW Cruiserweight Champion Juventud Guerrera
The best praise you can give to Juventud Guerrera vs. Silver King is that over the course of the match, the crowd went from still being angry and frustrated with the show in general and the Buff Bagwell thing in particular (even venting their frustrations by chanting for Goldberg) to actually getting really into the match and rooting for Juvi to get the job done.

As it turns out, both men were the most motivated wrestlers to hit the ring so far, and despite a couple of sloppy moves, this turned out to be the best match on the card so far.

I grant you, that isn't exactly saying much, and as cruiserweight title matches ago, this one isn't going to end up in any "best of" collections any time soon.

Still, it was actually exciting, and on a show like this, that's the best you could ask for.

Juvi hit the Juvi Driver to retain the gold in case you cared (which nobody in Winston-Salem did on this night).
Your Winner and Still Cruiserweight Champion: Juventud Guerrera

Meanwhile, out in the 'Internet Location,' Konnan began talking to Lee Marshall about his upcoming match with Scott Hall. Konnan had no sooner told us that Hall was going through some 'personal stuff' than The Bad Guy himself showed up, wasted and clutching a beer.

The two got into an argument and Hall, naturally, threw his beer onto K-Dogg.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was during the infamous 'Last Call Scott Hall' run.

Alcoholism = Buy Rate, obviously.

The Saturn vs. Raven Rivalry Comes to An End

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Raven gets ready for battle against Saturn
Prior to the next match, we took an extended look back at the rivalry between Raven and Saturn.

Without recapping the entire history between the two, we started with Lodi promising to leave The Flock if Saturn could beat him, but insisting that Saturn be his servant if he (Lodi) won.

Lodi must have won because we then had several weeks of Raven and Kanyon (who was now aligned with Raven) using Saturn's servitude to Lodi to get under his skin, even interrupting a match Saturn had with a young Nick 'Eugene' Dinsmore.

This all came to a head tonight, where if Saturn won, Raven would have to 'Set the Flock Free' but if Saturn won, he would have to be Raven's servant for the rest of his career.

Raven's Rules Match
Raven (w/ Lodi and Kanyon) vs. Saturn

Apparently, a new stipulation had been added which stated that Kanyon had to be handcuffed to the ring post to stop him interfering.

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Saturn gets ready for battle against Raven
"I am not an animal!" yelled Kanyon. "I'm not the Elephant Man!"

I don't care, that was funny.

With Kanyon handcuffed, the keys were handed the referee, making a ref bump at some point in the match just inevitable.

This really was a match of two halves.

Everything that took place before the obligatory run-in by The Flock was tedious to the point of being unbearable.

Then, everything after the likes of Scotty Riggs and Horace Boulder made their cameos was so dramatic and exciting you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a Wrestlemania main event.

Seriously.

The real turning point came when Kidman arrived and turned his back on Raven by planting the Flock leader with a top-rope dropkick.

The crowd went BANANA for that, and from that point on Raven and Saturn had every single person in the arena eating out of the palm of their hand.

It truly was a work of art that made the first ninety minutes of the show worth suffering through.

After an emotional journey (including the inevitable ref bump), Saturn landed the Death Valley Driver to earn his freedom and the freedom of The Flock.
Your Winner: Saturn

Afterwards, Tony Schiavone gave us an update on Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who had been taken out with a cancerous tumour. The good news was Duggan was doing well and beating cancer.

In a touching moment, all the announcers gave us a "Hooo!" in tribute to Hacksaw.

Interestingly, it would be a year from now, at Fall Brawl 1999, that Duggan would return to action. Shortly after, WCW decided to honour a man who had just beaten cancer by saddling him with a janitor gimmick.

This company, seriously.

Speaking of weird decisions WCW had made, the company had previously booked Curt Hennig vs. Dean Malenko in a cage on Nitro and were now doing the return match -a generic singles match- here on Pay Per View.

Surely that's the very definition of backwards booking?

Curt Hennig (w/ Rick Rude) vs. Dean Malenko

WCW Fall Brawl 1998 Review: Dean Malenko vs. Curt Hennig
Booking aside, this was a short yet decent encounter which saw Deano Machino go after Hennig's previously injured leg and work it over and over again.

Though not the technical spectacle this could have been, it was still fun for what it was and ended when Rick Rude ran in to stop The Ice Man from pinning Hennig with Hennig's own fisherman suplex.
Your Winner by Disqualification: Dean Malenko

Afterwards, Rude and Hennig both put the boots to their rival until Arn Anderson -who had been grooming Malenko to take his place in an upcoming Four Horsemen reunion- ran in.

Anderson's goal was to make the save here, but instead, he just got his ass handed to him. Rude and Hennig worked over Arn's arm because he had an arm-wrestling contest against Eric Bischoff coming up in which the future of Ric Flair's WCW career was at stake.

That would take place soon on Thunder.

Releasing the Havoc of Halloween

Prior to the next match, we got a commercial for next month's Halloween Havoc. It tried to be all scary and sinister but actually came off as quite silly because it had a druid carrying a big, shiny pumpkin.

World Championship Wrestling World Tag Team Champion Scott Hall (w/ Vincent) vs. Konnan

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that alcoholism really isn't funny.

Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell World Championship Wrestling that.

The company were playing Scott Hall's drink problems as a storyline, and here they had him come out either actually wasted or doing a very good impression of someone who was wasted.

Knowing with hindsight how hard Hall would fall off the wagon and the journey that lay ahead for him, this was painful to watch, and not just because it sucked.

After slurring his way through his usual survey, Hall made it clear that he really had no interest in wrestling, and would frequently go to get a sip of his drink from Vincent.

Whilst that was part of the story of the match, when Hall was actually supposed to be "wrestling" he clearly had no concern about doing his job properly.

At one point, he slapped a surfboard onto Konnan that looked so weak and pathetic you almost felt embarrassed for Konnan who, to his credit, sold it like the most painful move in the world.

After a disaster of a match, K-Dogg slapped on the Tequila Sunrise and won the match.
Your Winner: Konnan

I forgot to mention earlier that, despite being a three-team event, the main event was unofficially every man for himself, with the winner earning a title shot against Goldberg (who, as champion, wasn't even on this show) at Halloween Havoc.

War Games
Team nWo Black & White (Hollywood Hulk Hogan, WCW United States Champion Bret 'The Hitman' Hart and Stevie Ray) vs. Team Wolfpac (Kevin Nash, Sting and Lex Luger) vs. Team WCW (Diamond Dallas Page, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Warrior)

It says a lot about this company that this was the WCW PPV debut of the man better known as  Ultimate Warrior yet not once had the announcers even mentioned it, let alone made a big deal out of it.

Whilst I won't tell you that Warrior had suddenly become a great wrestler, he did look to be in impressive shape, looking just as good as he did back in his early-90s heyday.

Sadly, Warrior's appearance was literally the only impressive that happened in this match.

After a couple of minutes where barely anything happened, Hulk Hogan snuck in early and laid out everybody except for Stevie Ray with one of Ray's Slap Jacks (to this day, I still don't know what a Slap Jack actually is).

The ring then filled with smoke and a fake Warrior appeared, who Hogan beat down. The smoke then filled the ring again, only this time the real Warrior ran from the dressing room and went after Hogan.

Hogan bailed and locked Warrior in the cage, but Warrior broke out and gave chase.

With everyone distracted by that, Diamond Dallas Page hit Stevie Ray with the Diamond Cutter and won the match.

Nobody cared.
Your Winner: Diamond Dallas Page

I mean really, nobody cared. You had a bunch of certified legends in that ring, but it could have easily have been a bunch of jobbers for all it mattered.





Save for a bit of Jericho comedy and a riveting second half of the Saturn/Raven match, this was the third terrible WCW PPV in a row, if not the fourth or the fifth.

There once was a time when the company were tearing it up on every show, but those days seem so very, very long ago.

Secretly, I've committed to reviewing every WCW show from the start of the nWo in 1996 to the company's closure in 2001. I can't tell you how glad I am that I've only got two more years of WCW shows to go if this is any indication of how bad things are going to get.



1998 events reviewed so far
  1. WWF - Royal Rumble 1998 
  2. WCW - Souled Out 1998
  3. WWF - In Your House 20: No Way Out of Texas 
  4. WCW - Superbrawl 1998
  5. WCW - Uncensored 1998 
  6. WWF - Wrestlemania 14 
  7. WCW Spring Stampede 1998
  8. WWF - In Your House 21: Unforgiven
  9. WCW Slamboree 1998
  10. WWF - In Your House 22: Over The Edge
  11. WCW Great American Bash 1998 
  12. WWF - King of the Ring 1998
  13. WCW - Bash at the Beach 1998 
  14. WWF - In Your House 23: Fully Loaded 
  15. WCW - Road Wild 1998
  16. WWF - Summerslam 1998
Other WCW Fall Brawl Reviews
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