Spring is just beginning to peak out from around to corner, so let’s look back on one of those super fun WCW themed shows: Spring Stampede 1994.
This was during Ric Flair’s run as booker, which actually proved to be pretty great. As with most bookers, he pushed himself. But Flair wasn’t your average wrestler, so him being on top made a lot of sense. There was also a distinct hardcore vibe coming from the company at this point, as they were sharing talent with ECW, and lifting some ideas from them as well. This all ended a few months later when Hulk Hogan signed and the dork age began, but for a moment here WCW was legitimately hot.We last left off with Ric Flair defeating Vader with the help of The Boss (the Big Boss Man with a total rip-off gimmick). With Vader disposed of, Flair would move on to an old rival: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. One last round between two great rivals? Sounds good to me.
A video package of little note opens the show.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Johnny B. Badd
The crowd is actually pretty into Badd and his confetti gun. Page jumps Badd from behind before the bell rings, though the camera is focused on Kimberly and doesn’t catch it. Badd quickly responds with a Clothesline out of the ring and some work on Page’s arm. It’s a pretty basic match here, as both guys stick to mat wrestling for the most part. DDP gets a Back Suplex after throwing Badd into the turnbuckle.
Page follows up with a Gutwrench Rib Breaker and a Snap Suplex. Badd escapes a Chinlock and connects with a Back Suplex. Mero follows that with a sloppy Back Drop and a Headscissor Takeover that drops Page on his head. He hits his big left hand punch finisher, which drives DDP out of the ring. Plancha by Badd! Back in, Badd connects with a Sunset Flip from the top rope for the win at 5:55.
Analysis: *1/2. Nothing particularly wrong with it, but it looked like a match you would see between two students at a wrestling school. Page would get much better. Badd never really would.
Gene Okerlund talks with Jesse Ventura about the matches we’re going to see tonight. Nice to see Jesse still around.
WCW World Television Championship: Lord Steven Regal (c) vs. Brian Pillman
This will be contested under the standard 15 minute time limit. Pillman starts hot and beats Regal all over the ring. Pillman connects with a Japanese Arm Drag and Regal bails. Pillman slams Regal’s arm into the guardrail several times. Regal’s selling is fantastic. It’s expressive, but not too over the top. Regal takes over and does some work on Pillman’s arm. The TV Title suits Regal well: the 15 minute time limit makes his methodical style make sense and really builds drama.
Regal stays in control and then does a really cool rolling leg vine into the Regal Stretch. Regal lets Pillman out of the hold, which always bothers me. In a real fight, you wouldn’t give up a hold. Regal then transitions into some kind of Surfboard hold, except he has his knees in Pillman’s back.
Regal goes for an Underhook Suplex, but Pillman counters into a Hurricanrana. Regal gets control back with a Rolling Samoan Drop. Regal locks on a Bow and Arrow. Pillman punches his way out, but Regal picks his leg and goes to a Half Crab and then an Indian Deathlock. Five minutes left in the match. Regal still has a hold on with four minutes to go. Pillman hits a Dropkick with three minutes left. Pillman blocks a Boston Crab attempt with two minutes to go. Enziguri by Pillman.
Regal blocks a Monkey Flip with one minute left. Regal goes off top, but gets Dropkicked as he comes off. Third seconds. Backdrop by Pillman. They both spill over the top with fifteen seconds left. Time expires as Pillman Suplexes Regal back into the ring.
Analysis: **1/2. I liked Regal’s heat segments, but this match could have used more offense from Pillman. He really just got his ass kicked the entire match, and spent most of his desperation period lying on the mat.
Chicago Street Fight for the WCW World Tag Team Championship: The Nasty Boys (c) vs. Cactus Jack and Maxx Payne
Oh fuck yeah. Never seen this before, but heard very good things about it. This match is also Falls Count Anywhere. Payne slams Sags in the ring while Cactus and Knobbs fight on the ramp. Cactus bashes Knobbs in the head with a pool cue. Cactus Clothesline over the top rope! Sags blasts Payne with an unfolded chair. Then he hits Cactus with a nasty chair shot to the back. Cactus gets the chair and drops Sags with it, then gets taken down by Knobbs. Sags Clotheslines Cactus into the ring from the ramp. Sags knocks Cactus over the top with the pool cue. Knobbs and Payne are fighting out by a souvenir stand in the crowd. Cactus and Sags fight into the crowd and Cactus takes a chair shot to the head. Cactus gets the chair and hits Sags with it. None of this looks gimmicked. I think they’re just actually hitting each other full force.
Payne slams Knobbs through a table. Knobbs gets hold of one of the table legs and beats Payne with it. At this point, Cactus and Sags make their way to the souvenir stand where Payne and Knobbs have been fighting. Cactus gets thrown into a railing and takes a nasty bump onto the concrete floor. Knobbs slams Payne through a table. Meanwhile, Sags gets hold of a table and repeatedly bashes Cactus over the head with it. Cactus hits the Double Arm DDT on the ramp. He takes the table and basically Suplexes it onto the downed Sags. Fuck, that sounded like it hurt.
Knobbs grabs a shovel and heads over to Cactus, then proceeds to hit him with a sickening shot to the head. Sounded like he just whacked him full force. The Nastys had a well-deserved reputation for stiffness, and they are earning it here. Payne gets the shovel away from Knobbs and beats his ass with it. Meanwhile, something happens that causes Sags and Cactus to fall through the table. I think Sags was trying to Piledrive Cactus, but it was hard to tell. The crowd is just absolutely roaring at this point. Sags casually throws Cactus off the stage onto the concrete floor. And that’s why Mick Foley had to retire when he was 33. Sags blasts Cactus in the head with the shovel and mercifully pins him at 8:54.
Analysis: ****. Jesus, that was like watching a series of car crashes. That was one of the absolute stiffest matches I’ve ever seen, to the point where it’s hard to call it a wrestling match. It was more like a cooperative fight. Those four just absolutely beat the shit out of each other, with Cactus taking the brunt of the punishment. I feel like Cactus and Payne should have gone over, but that’s a pretty small complaint. Really great brawl, and way ahead of its time. This was like an ECW match before anyone knew that ECW existed.
WCW United States Championship: Steve Austin (c) vs. The Great Muta
Tough act for these guys to have to follow. The feeling out process goes on for several minutes. Five minutes it and it’s been almost all Headlocks. The Headlocks continue until Muta lands a Dropkick and Austin bails. Then Muta…grabs another Headlock. Sigh. Austin cheap shots Muta to the outside and drops him on the railing. Back in the ring, Austin locks in an Abdominal Stretch. Austin gets Muta down and connects with a Forearm from the middle rope. Muta blocks a Suplex attempt and slams Austin into the corner. Spin Kick by Muta. Backdrop.
Austin dodges a Missile Dropkick and locks in a Toe Hold. Muta escapes and hits Austin with the Stun Gun. Handspring Elbow by Muta! Muta sets Austin up on the top rope…and hits a Hurricanrana! Rob Parker gets up on the apron, so Muta Superkicks him. Austin charges Muta and is Backdropped over the top rope. That’s a disqualification at 16:20.
Analysis: **. The last couple minutes were really hot, but everything before that was super boring. The crowd was so into Muta they really should have mixed it up more and given him more offense. Or just worked a shorter match.
WCW International World Heavyweight Championship: Rick Rude (c) vs. Sting
Rude really just wants all those fat, out of shape Chicagoans to sit down and shut their mouths. Alas, they refuse. Sting interrupts him and knocks him to the floor. Sting beats on Rude before he can even get his robe off. Sting gets Rude in the ring and grabs a Front Facelock. This Facelock goes on for several minutes. Finally, Rude lifts Sting and crotches him on the top rope. He then Clotheslines him off the rope to the floor. Rude gets Sting back to the ring and Back Suplexes him. Rude applies a Rear Chinlock. Sting eventually Electric Chairs out, but Rude gets a Victory Roll to counter.
Sleeper Hold by Rude. Rude breaks the hold voluntarily so he can beat on Sting some more. Rude lands some punches, but Sting stops selling and Hulks Up. Atomic Drop, then an Inverted Atomic Drop. Sting Backdrops Rude and he does a full 450 in the air. That was risky. Sting throws Rude into the corner and sandwiches the referee, then follows it up with a Stinger Splash. Sting locks on the Stinger Splash while the referee is down. Harley Race and Vader both hit the ring. Sting knocks Vader out of the ring and gets his knee clipped by Rude. Race tries to chair shot Sting, but ends up hitting Rude instead. Sting rolls Rude up for the pin at 12:50.
Analysis: **1/2. Decent match with too many holds. Unfortunately, this would be Rude’s last pay-per-view match as he would suffer a career-ending back injury during a match with Sting in Japan a few weeks after this.
Bunkhouse Match: Bunkhouse Buck vs. Dustin Rhodes
Most of us would probably recognize Bunkhouse Buck as the guy who played Jack Swagger dad a few times in 2010, if we recognized him at all. My understanding of the rules is just that it’s a Street Fight. Not sure if falls count outside the ring or not. Dustin beats on Buck at the start. They exchange punches out on the floor. The go back in the ring, where Dustin misses a Body Block and falls to the floor. Buck beats on Dustin with some kind of wooden stick. Buck takes off his suspenders and uses them to choke Dustin. Dustin is bleeding everywhere now. Dustin fights back with some kicks and then throws powder into Buck’s eyes. By the time Rhodes gets to his feet Buck has recovered and beats Dustin with a leather belt. Buck proceeds to straight-up kick Dustin in the balls. Nice. Dustin dodges a corner kick and hits some punches in the corner. Dustin takes his belt off, wraps it around his fist, and knocks out Buck. Dustin takes his boot off, goes to the middle rope, and drives the heel of the boot right into Buck’s face. Dustin pulls Buck’s shirt up and whips him with his belt.
Dustin Clotheslines Buck over the top to the floor. Dustin hits an Atomic Drop, then loads up his fist and does a Ten Punch, and caps it with a Bionic Elbow. Dustin hits the Bulldog, but gets distracted by Rob Parker. Dustin wears Parker out with his belt, but gets rolled up by Buck. That only gets two. Dustin hits a big punch and Buck kicks out… at one. That’s a little strange after all the punishment he’s taken. Parker passes Dustin a pair of brass knuckles and he drops Dustin with them for the pin at 14:11.
Analysis: ***. Another surprisingly intense brawl. Lots of good, stiff action here.
Vader vs. The Boss
The ring announcer labels this a “gigantic grudge match.” I guess the guys involved are pretty big. Boss jumps Vader in the aisle, then boots him once they get into the ring. There’s some serious clubbering going on here. Vader’s mask has already come off, so you know this is going to get ugly. Vader slams Boss over the top into the ring. He then runs down the ramp and jumps over the top for a Splash, but Boss gets his knees up. Boss Clotheslines Vader over the top to the floor. He then whips Vader into the guardrail, causing Vader to tumble into the crowd. Impressive bump by the big man. Boss drops Vader on the railing. Back in the ring, Boss slams Vader.
Vader gets up and stiffs Boss with some punches. Vader Backdrops Boss over the top rope. Race stomps Boss while the referee is keeping Vader from leaving the ring. Vader Suplexes Boss back into the ring. Big Splash by Vader. Vader hits some more punches that don’t really appear to be pulled. Vader has a pretty nasty gash over his eye. Vader Clotheslines Boss and goes for the Vader Bomb, but Boss grabs him and throws him off the middle rope. Boss hits a sloppy DDT off the top that was so bad Schiavone refers to it as “kind of a DDT.” Boss goes up top and hits a Shoulder Block. Boss comes off again and gets Powerslammed. Vader drags Boss to the corner and hits the Vader Bomb, but Boss kicks out. Huh? Vader goes the top again… and hits the Vadersault! That’s enough for the win at 9:02.
Analysis: ***1/2. Really solid match. These guys were huge, but could both move and managed to put on a great fast-paced match.
After the match, Boss dickishly beats Race with his nightstick. Nick Bockwinkle steps in and forces him to the back.
Gene Okerlund shills for the hotline, which apparently will have Sting on it after the show.
We go backstage, where Jesse Ventura is with Nick Bockwinkle and The Boss. Bockwinkle takes away Boss’s handcuffs and nightstick, then declares that he is “no longer ‘The Boss.'” Oh, also the WWF was threatening to sue them for trademark infringement because the gimmick was too similar to The Big Boss Man.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Ricky Steamboat
Five years after their classic series in 1989, these two great old rivals lock up one last time. Not to mention, they’re in the same city they were in when Steamboat defeated Flair at Chi-Town Rumble to win his only world championship. Steamboat doesn’t look Flair in the eyes during introduction, refusing to let himself get sucked into Flair’s mind games. Little things make a difference. They run through a mat wrestling sequence for the first several minutes. It’s incredible how fluid these two are. Then Steamboat slaps Flair right across the face. Rope-running sequence ends with a Steamboat Press Slam, the a Flying Headscissor and a Dropkick that sends Flair over the top. Steamboat immediately throws Flair back into the ring (can’t win the title out there) and then connects with a Flying Chop from the top rope. Flair rolls out for a breather.
Flair heads back in starts with the chops. Steamboat then hits the hardest chop I’ve ever seen and knocks Flair down. Steamboat then grabs a Headlock, going as far as the run up the ropes to get the momentum to take Flair down. Flair gets out, but quickly gets Headscissored and put back into the Headlock. Flair throws Steamboat over the top, but Dragon skins the cat and rolls Flair up for two. Steamboat goes back to the Headlock. Flair escapes and hits some shoulder tackles in the corner. Flair goes to work with chops. Knee Drop by Flair. Steamboat chops his way back and then Flair connects with a Body Press that sends both guys over the top rope. Flair tries to Piledriver Steamboat on the floor but Steamboat escapes with a Backdrop. Steamboat goes for a Body Avalanche, but misses and lands on the guardrail. Back in the ring, Steamboat Superplexes Flair. Steamboat throws Flair to the floor.
Steamboat springboards off the top rope and Chops Flair. Steamboat completes a 10 Punch and then chops Flair. Flair counters a Sunset Flip attempt with a big fist and then connects with a Knee Drop. Wait, Steamboat caught the leg and locks on the Figure Four! Flair thumbs Steamboat in the eye to escape. Flair goes for a Suplex,but his knee gives out. Bridge leads to a Backslide leads to a two count for Steamboat. Steamboat shoots Flair to the corner, resulting in a Flair Flip and Flair falling all the way to the floor. Steamboat comes off the apron, but Flair gets his foot up. Flair gets back into the ring and Steamboat connects with a Flying Body Press from the top rope. That gets two. Flair immediately connects with a Back Elbow and then goes up top, where he is thrown off by Steamboat. Steamboat goes to the top rope, but misses a Superfly Splash. Flair immediately hooks the Figure Four. Steamboat blocked it, but Flair kicked him in the face and cinched it in. Steamboat gets the the ropes. Flair goes for the Figure Four again, but Steamboat reverses into a Small Package for a two count. Steamboat chops Flair and sets him up for the Superplex. He hits it!
Flair is convulsing on the mat, but Steamboat landed on his head and is knocked silly. Steamboat finally covers and Flair just barely kicks out. A Steamboat pinning combination knocks down the referee. He has Flair pinned, but by the time the referee gets over to make the county Flair has recovered and kicks out. Flair goes for an Atomic Drop, but Steamboat escapes and lands on his feet. Steamboat grabs the Double Chicken Wing, the hold he made Flair tap out with at Clash of the Champions in 1989. Steamboat drops to his knees, then bridges back into a pin. The referee counts three at 32:19.
Analysis: ****3/4. Another great match, but not quite at the level of their previous encounters. They were five years older and couldn’t quite match the pace of their previous matches, resulting in a slower middle section. Still an absolutely pleasure to watch, with tremendous action, execution, and psychology. Flair and Steamboat are two of the greatest wrestlers ever and they worked together about as well as two guys possibly could. In that respect, it’s not surprising that it was a classic every time they hooked up.
Everyone thinks Steamboat won, but a second referee comes in to argue with Nick Patrick. We overhear the conversation between the two referees and Nick Bockwinkle, where Patrick insists both men’s shoulders were down. Flair is announced as the winner, but the title would later be held up. Flair defeated Steamboat in a rematch on Saturday Night to become undisputed champion.
Overall: Great show. Classic main event, a couple really good hardcore matches on the undercard, and a surprisingly good match between Boss and Vader. I would definitely recommend checking this one out, as it offers a couple great matches and some really good variety. This show was definitely the highlight of Flair’s run as booker, as his strategy of pushing himself and his friends resulted in one really great night of action.