topcenter

WRESTLING COLUMNS

Gimme Some Truth
January 18, 2005 by Bobby Berens


Four years....It seems so much longer and yet I remember it like it was yesterday. Monday nights....Saturday Evenings....it had always been there, and then it was gone. Even though I knew why it was gone, it just didn't seem real, or even fair. Four years ago, WCW closed its doors, leaving behind a legacy of poor management, bad booking, and stale storylines. At least that is how most people remember WCW. Which is kind of odd, because so much good came of the organization. For every rehashed nWo angle, there was an amazing cruiserweight match, for every Big Josh and his dancing bears, there was Big Van Vader destroying some hapless victim, and for every Ding Dong match, there was The Steiner Brothers, making up suplexes on the fly. With all the attention ECW has been recieving lately, I think it is high time to shine the spotlight on the perrinial #2 of the "Big Two". Rather than retell the entire history of WCW (which would be rather lengthy), I present to you the "WCW Top Ten". This is the list of the most important people, intriueging angles and ideas that graced WCW programing. For those whom have forgotten, sit back and reminice with me and for those who are too young to have seen what WCW had to offer, here is your chance to hear the truth about WCW.

(Disclaimer: This list will span the years of 1983 to 2001. WCW fell under the NWA banner until 1991, at which time WCW withdrew its membership, so before I get any wrestling purists panties in a bunch, there, we've covered that. Ever onward) Now....THE WCW TOP TEN!

#10: Booker T-If, in 1992, the "Ghost of Wrestling Future" had come to me and said, "hey, keep your eye on that Booker T cat, he's WCWs' last great hope", first I would have choked on my Crystal Pepsi...cause there's a ghost talking to me...then I would have said, "who the hell is Booker T", to which the ghost would reply, "you know, Kole from Harlem Heat," and then I would say, "which one is Kole", and the ghost would say, "the one with talent". Looking back now, it is pretty clear Booker T had all the makings of a future superstar. He had the moves, he could connect with the fans, and he had a unique look. It took several years for him to be seen as a true "playa" but the fans were determined to see Booker succeed. And in spite of all the shit WCW put him through (G.I. Bro) Booker did succeed. Go back to some old WCW tapes circa. 1998 and check out the fan response to Booker T..it was unbelievable. Whether it was intentional or not, Booker was able to grow into his spot, something other performers were unable to do. Look at Goldberg. He was like a rocket ship, pushed to the moon, but soon gravity took hold and pulled him back to earth. Booker, on the other hand, was given the slow burn to the top. Fans genuinaly cared about Booker, just check out The Best of 7 Series with Chris Benoit, or SuperBrawl VIII, where he beat Perry Saturn and Rick Martel in back-to-back matches, or his first WCW World Title victory over Jeff Jarrett at Bash at the Beach 2000, he made those feel like "events". Now, try to find a match that Booker half-assed. You won't find one...Booker was a consumate pro and a true team player...he never balked at doing a "job", always made his opponent look good, and always gave the fans their money's worth. There may have been some who could talk better and some who could wrestle better, but Booker T put it all together better than most, a true "Total Package". I truely believe Booker is the last link to WCW, I mean who else openly brags about being a former (5 time) WCW Champion" He carries the torch for a fallen promotion, just as he carried WCW on his back in its dying days, and for that he deserves so much more. Though his body of work isn't as expansive as Ric Flair, Sting or Dusty Rhodes, he has earned his spot amonst WCWs' elite.

#9: Big Van Vader-Ok, its time for a flashback...ready" It's the mid 1980's in the WWF. You turn on Superstars of Wresting and are bombarded with cartoonish monsters, Giants and other assorted freaks. King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, Andre the Giant, One Man Gang...and on and on. Some snarl and grunt, some stand stoic and silent, and one of them speaks with a French accent....well, thats kinda scary. And then they enter the ring....and it's real scary....seriously....I'm afraid....I'm afraid I'm going to fall asleep! These "monsters" were nothing more than fodder for Hulk Hogan to beat. The term "big man fetish" is tossed around when referring to Vince McMahon and never was that fetish more evident than in the 1980's. Now we fast-forward to WCW circa 1990. WCW had managed to avoid having to use the "monster" heel, on the grounds that they already had a plausible heel in Ric Flair, not to mention they didn't have a bankable babyface for said monster to feud with. That all began to change with the dawn of the new decade, as Flair's days as a top draw seemed to be numbered (HA!) and it looked as though Sting and Lex Luger, two bodybuilders turned wrestlers, much in the same mold as Hulk Hogan, were set to take the helm of WCW. Enter Big Van Vader. Vader made his debut at "The Great American Bash '90", and with his exotic, albiet unusual headpiece, and his brutally stiff style, it was clear, Vader was WCWs' first true monster...no, let me rephrase that...he was WCWs' first true MONSTER. Though he would come and go through most of '90 and '91, by the time '92 rolled around, the fans saw him as a legit bad-ass. WCW had a gold mine on their hands, and they knew it. No matter how tough the WWF tried to make The One Man Gang look or how mean and ugly Bundy was, they didn't hold a candle to what Vader brought. At nearly 400 lbs, Vader could move like a cat, with a moveset that included one of the nastist powerbombs ever, the stiffest punches outside of boxing, and a moonsault (!) Vader was unstoppable. Remember how he murdered Sting at the Bash '92, or how he squashed Nikita Koloff at Halloween Havoc the same year, or the carnage left in the wake of Vader vs. Cactus Jack. While Vince would never allow his "monsters" to lose control, WCW insisted Vader be uncontrollable, and that made all the difference.

#8: The Cruiserweights-It is entirely possible, that if someone were to make a list of the most important figures in WCW history, and the most damaging figures in WCW history, that Eric Bischoff might be the #1 person on both of those lists, but while any other author will surely tell you why he is the latter, I am here to tell you why, in this instance, he is the former. In 1991, WCW, taking a cue from New Japan Pro Wrestling , began dabbling in a Lightheavyweight division. It was seemingly an experiment destined to fail from the get-go as WCW didn't have enough credible performers to make the division a success and despite two remarkable, groundbreaking US matches between Brian Pillman and Jushian Ligar, the WCW Lightheavywieght Title died a slow death under the reign of lead booker Bill Watts in the summer of '92. But by 1995, pro-wrestling was changing, and fans wanted more than 'roided freaks, bearhugging each other into oblivion. ECW was providing their fans with a true alternative, and Eric Bischoff took notice. With his fledgling WCW Monday Nitro Eric wanted to give fans something they had never seen before. And thus the WCW Cruiseweight division rose from the ashes of its predacessor, only this time Eric made sure the division was stocked, having made a deal with Konnan to bring fellow luchadores from AAA. The popularity of the division was astounding, fans had never seen action like this on a wrestling show before and Eric had found the balance his Monday Nitro needed. He could give fans a little of everything within the confines of 2 hours. But let's not give all the credit to Bischoff, it took a roster of cruisers, that sometimes rivaled that of the heavyweights in sheer numbers, to keep the action fresh. Billy Kidman's Shooting Star Press, Juventuud Guerrera's 450 Splash, Eddy vs. Rey at Halloween Havoc '97, and Shane Helms' Vertabreaker, they were all worth sitting through so much filler and crap. And more often than not, it was more memorable than what ever retread main event WCW was throwing at us that night. (Wrap your brain around this little nugget, during WCW's peak, Monday Nitro was a 3 hour live telecast, with the Cruiserweights getting 1 hour of airtime per week on average. Compare that to the WWE's Cruiserweight division. Sigh....) But, nothing lasts for ever, and by 1999, without Eric Bischoff's directon, the cruiserweight division was dead. But it's legacy still remains today...and no, I don't mean in the WWE Cruiserweight division, silly...I mean in the heavyweight division. Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, all alumns of WCW's Cruiserweight division. It can also be seen in NWA-TNA's X division, featuring former WCW cruisers like Kid Kash, AJ Styles, and Elix Skipper. Eric Bischoff knew that to succeed, in business and life, you must evolve, and luckily for him, and us, the evolution was televised.

#7: Gimmick Matches-Today, the wrestling landscape is filled with all kinds of matches; Hardcore, Ladder, Cage, Hell in a Cell, etc., etc. The Monday Night Wars dictated that wrestling couldn't just be two men with a grudge, it had to be 3 men with a vauge grudge, with steel chairs, oh, and falls count anywhere, and we better have 14 run-ins and 6 ref bumps. And that's just the opening match! But there was a time in the not so distant past, when wrestling was about settling scores in the appropriate fashion. A Gimmick match! And nobody did the gimmick match better than WCW. The steel cage match had been a staple of NWA(WCW) since the dawn of time, therefore it had kind of lost its luster with many fans, however, the WWF dared not have cage matches, at least none that you would want to sit through. So the braintrust in the NWA (namely, Dusty Rhodes) had to come up with new and inventive matches in an appempt to lure the average viewer away from Vince's clean, kid-friendly WWF. And how do you do that" Well, you tell people that they are going to see something that they can't see anywhere else, and then you follow through with that promise. And they did. The greatest of all the gimmick matches, undoubtably was War Games: The Match Beyond. The first War Games took place during the Great American Bash tour in '87, and to this day it rivals anything put on by any other promotion. For those who don't know, the War Games goes as follows: Two rings are placed side by side and surrounded with a giant enclosed steel cage (it had a roof, if I didn't word that well) The match is contested between two teams of 5 (sometimes it's been 4). The match begins with one member of each team entering the rings, and those two men battle it out for 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes, there is a coin toss to detemine which team gets to send another member in, giving them a 2-on-1 advantage. The match proceeds like this until all 10 wrestlers are in the rings. Then The Match Beyond begins, anything goes, no pinfalls, no dqs, only way to win is to make one of your opponents submit or surrender. One word describes this match: VIOLENT. If you've never seen one, you are truely missing out one one of the most barbaric experiances in wrestling. But they were also emotional, these men were ripping and tearing at each other, in an attempt to make the other say those dreaded words, "I Quit".

And the images..they stay with you forever. Arn Anderson having his head piledriven between the two rings, JJ Dillon being gouged with the spike from The Road Warriors shoulder pads, Brian Pillman being used as a human superball by Sid Vicious, and The Dangerous Alliance cannabalising the ring itself, in an attempt to vanquish their foes. But when talking about a match that leaves lasting images, none was as visually impressive as the scaffold match. The showcase of both Starcadde '86 & '87, this match does not always fare well when talking about wrestling as sport, but for sheer drama, it is unbeatable. The Road Warriors standing tall after disposing of The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette, and Billy Kidman and Madusa taking the plunge at the hands of Shane Douglas were two of the most unreal moments provided by the scaffold match. And you weren't going to see that in McMahonland. The other gimmick match that gets no love is called BattleBowl: The Lethal Lottery. Now I know I am in the minority here, but the idea was a good one. No, it should not have been given the Starrcade slot in '91 and '92, but we got to see some really interesting match-ups and some solid storytelling. Sting's win in '91, Vaders' domination in '93, Rick and Scott Steiner, on opposing teams, putting on a wrestling clinic if only for a few scant moments in '96. These are what gimmick matches are all about, putting extrodinary men in extrodinary settings, and waiting for those career defining moments to happen.

#6: Announcers-Would any of the above mentioned matches be half as good, were it not for the top-notch announce crews that covered WCW over the years. Now...I'll bet right now you're thinking about how much you hated Tony Schivone during Nitros heyday, and trust me, you aren't alone, but we'll come back to Tony in a while, first, let's talk about the man whom defined what a wrestling commontator should be. Gordon Solie. In an era of wrestling where you have to be over the top, and extreme, to be heard over the next guy, Gordon Solie brought class and dignity to everything he called. I could not imagine hearing Flair vs. Race, or Rhodes vs. Murdoch called by anyone else. He gave you the big match feel that you couldn't get from all the Micheal Buffer's in the world. Listening to Gordon Solie call a match was such a juxtaposition: such a civilized man, telling you about all the violence he was witnessing. He didn't need a catchphase to scream, he didn't wear a hat, nor did he need a sidekick to play off of, he was simply the best play-by-play man ever. But if you had to pick a number two, that choice is pretty simple as well: Jim Ross. Before he was screaming "Austin, baw gawd, Austin!!!". he was the dignified southern gentleman, who could tell you where "wrestler x" played football in college. And as with Gordon before him, Ross was the voice of a brand, he was WCW. He made every wrestler seem like a future superstar, now matter how low on the card he was. He gave legitamacy to angles that few would have been able to salvage (I'm looking at you Black Scorpion). I guess this brings us back to Tony Shivonie, the ultimate shill, but like Jim Ross before him, Tony was quite a decent announcer. He was reserved but opinionated, he knew his subject, and he could stay on point. These may seem like basic requirements for someone who speaks to the public, but with Tony it was all he needed, and before Monday Nitro, he was one of WCW finest announcers. Tony became a parody of wrestling annoucers, because thats what he was told to do. You can't fault a person for wanting to make a living. These men, in their prime, gave WCW a legitamacy that every other promotion lacked, and in an age of Lingerie Pillow fights and baby killing angles, we, as fans need some dignity returned. O, Bob Caudle, where art thou!!!

If I get response (good or bad) and you enjoy my list, I would love to finish it. If nobody cares, and I get no response, well....Thanks for reading.

by Bobby Berens ..


William McCracken wrote:
"Vince would never allow his 'monsters' to lose control . . ." Does the name "Kane" ring a bell" And please do finish the list.
Sean Schloss wrote:
When is the article going to be finished" It's great!!
sfhardrock wrote:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Top ten got demoted to top five.. not even the first numbers of the line either! Sorry, but this is funny. "I will count the top ten." Either WCW rotted your brain away and you forgot how to count from ten to one or WCW just didn't hae any true top tens. There is one thing I have to talk smack about. The gimmick matches. WCW did come up with probably more origional gimmick matches, but lets be honest.. they get too confusing. If there are eighteen wrestlers out intefering in one match, then twenty others in the second match, how is that going to make the main event any more exciting. That's what killed them. They gave actors the titles! They let ICP and basketball and talk show hosts go in to be the main event! I wanna see Billy Kidman, Nash, Booker T, or possibly Jeff Jarrett going for the title, not some 40 year old talk show host! >.< That's what killed WCW, while their cruiserweights were the only ones giving impressive matches, they're killing their flagship by having someone like David A. win the title. "Shaaaaaadduuuuuup!"
Al "The Fuze" Fucsko wrote:
I TOTALLY AGREE THAT WCW WAS A GREAT COMPANY IN THE LATE 80'S AND FIRST HALF OF THE 90'S. I WAS JUST LOOKING THROUGH SOME OLD WCW MAGS THE OTHER DAY AND I FORGOT THE GREAT TALENT THEY HAD BACK THEN. I'M TALKING '91-94 IN PARTICULAR. RICK RUDE WAS THE GREATEST CHAMPION AND HEEL EVER AND HE WAS GIVEN THE BALL BY WCW AND DID A FANTASTIC JOB. HOW ABOUT VADER" SAME THING!

YOU HAD STING IN HIS PRIME, NONE OF THAT CROW CRAP! YOU HAD A HEALTHY MICK FOLEY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! BAGWELL WAS STILL A YOUNG DUDE WITH SOME HUMILITY AND A HIGH FLYING STYLE THAT WAS GREAT. THERE WERE SO MANY GREATS DURING THIS PERIOD. RON SIMMONS, LEX LUGER(DON'T LAUGH, BACK HERE THIS GUY WAS FANTASTIC!), THE STEINERS, FLAIR, DUSTIN, REGAL, 2 COLD, HARLEM HEAT, AND SOOO MANY MORE GUYS WERE HERE AND MOST OF THEM WERE IN THEIR PRIMES AND NOT STUCK W' EMBARASSING GIMMICKS LIKE WHEN THEY JUMPED OVER TO WWE LATER ON.

WATCH SOME WWE FROM '93 AND YOU'LL GET MEN ON A MISSION, ADAM BOMB, SPARK PLUGG, THE QUEBECERS, AND DUKE THE DUMPSTER. HOW CAN YOU EVEN COMPARE"
wrote:

If you have any comments, reactions, rebuttles or thoughts on this column, feel free to send them to the email below,
If your email is intelligently written, they will be posted underneath this messege..
We at OnlineWorldofWrestling want to promote all points of view, and that includes YOURS.




© 2007, Black Pants, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective holders.

[ CHAT ROOM | FLASH | SEARCH | FORUMS | DOWNLOADS | TAPES | WRESTLINKS | GUESTBOOK | THANK YOU | CONTACT ]