1. Hollywood Blondes vs. Dos Hombres – Cage Match – (WCW Slamboree ’93) – 7
2. Steve Austin vs. Brian Pillman - (WCW Clash of the Champions XXV) - 4
3. Steve Austin vs. Ricky Steamboat - (WCW Clash of the Champions XXVIII) - 6
4. Steve Austin vs. The Sandman vs. Mikey Whipwreck - 3
5. Steve Austin vs. Savio Vega - Caribbean Strap Match - (WWF IYH: Beware of Dog 2) - 7
6. Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart - (WWF Survivor Series '96) - 9
7. Steve Austin vs. Yokozuna - (WWF Summerslam '96: Free For All) - 3
The first match on the set is a really terrific tag match from Atlanta. Dos Hombres were Steamboat and Tom Zenk (substituting for a recently fired Shane Douglas) wearing ridiculous red and green costumes and masks. The match is even better than I remembered it, with the Hollywood Blondes just being great, especially Austin, who takes a lion’s share of the matches’ spectacular bumps, eating the cage roughly a handful of times. All of the selling in the match is really good, the only time the match itself feels like it drags a bit is the extended section where Zenk is being worked over, but once he tags in Steamboat we’re back rollicking and rolling. Even with a stupid-ass outfit on Steamboat’s impeccable sells shine through. The finish gets kind of bumbled, as Ricky jumps from the top of the cage onto both Pillman and Austin, makes a cover, and the ref counts to three and signals for the bell which rings. Alas, that wasn’t the scripted ending, so unexplained it continues, and they try to pull off “Plan A” but it looks rushed and sloppy. Still, this is one of the better tag team cage matches I can recall offhand.
Pillman and Austin, while having great chemistry together as a team, didn’t seem to click well in their singles encounter. The match, around ten minutes, didn’t feel like the story it was trying to tell was adequately fitting in the allotted timeframe. Granted, the selling was uniformly good, but not spectacular, and the botched finish really hurt matters. The referee gets in the way as Austin’s executing his “Hot Shot” finishing move, making a blunder of things, and then Pillman tries to springboard into the ring but gets tripped up by Austin’s manager Colonel Parker, in an unsightly spot, mercifully ending this disappointing trip down memory lane. The match against Steamboat is much, much better with them not getting ahead of themselves and working a consistent and entertaining match. Austin’s being really aggressive and a true prick, slapping Ricky like a common thug, taunting and raising his ire throughout. Steamboat’s selling is fantastic, everything seems to be absolutely punishing him, and it calls to mind cinematic visions of Renaissance-era dungeon torture scenes like something from Goya’s Ghosts. The last act is full of great near fall sequences, ultimately ending with Ricky scoring the win with an inside cradle in a thrilling finish to a really good match.
The ECW match is honestly a waste of time, granted, it’s somewhat significant being that it’s one of Austin’s only in-ring performances there, but it’s largely garbage so you decide. Mikey has no emotion in his eyes or face, just looking like basically what he was, just a dude from the crowd, and it’s especially hard seeing him in there working with such a professional like Austin. The Sandman is drunk, of course, and falling all over himself trying to get his shit off, bringing Austin down to his level of crappy brawling. The “Caribbean Strap Match” has a lot of fans that applaud it and insist on its greatness, you’d be hard pressed to disagree with their sentiment. It’s extremely physical, while not being over-the-top, and both guys gut it out and put on solid performances. These guys deserved the spotlight, both coming up the hard way, Austin in Dallas and Memphis, and Savio in Puerto Rico, so they’d paid their dues and were finally given an opportunity to shine. They beat the hell out of each other, taking tons of stiff strap shots, and there’s some built-in drama as Austin’s manager “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase has put his career on the line.
Hart handpicked Austin as his opponent for his return match, on the epic stage of a major pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden. While their WrestleMania match overshadows it in the public’s eye, it truly deserves its own recognition. Jim Ross is great here, calling it like a real, true athletic sporting event, giving it a sense of importance and excitement. Austin is very physical throughout, just pounding away on Bret’s back with big shot after big shot, they even spill out to the floor, breaking down a steel guardrail and brawling on top and over the Spanish announcers’ table. It looks like Austin is going to win, but Bret kicks out of the “Stone Cold Stunner”, stunning us all, so Austin goes to another standby, the “Million Dollar Dream” submission. Just like he did to Piper years ago, Bret pushes himself off the turnbuckles landing on top of Austin, pinning his shoulders to the mat and getting the victory in a thrilling finish. If anyone ever asks me, “what is professional wrestling?” you’d better believe I’m showing them this and not an over-choreographed TNA three-way. The last match is from the extras portion of the disc, and features a short throwaway bout with Yokozuna, where the ropes break and Austin gets a sudden roll-up for the win. Austin does say in a video introduction for the match that he really wishes Yoko was still around day, and that he respected him a lot as a worker.
So, that does it for disc one… am I ready for disc two? Oh, hell yeah!