Friday, December 10, 2010

WCW Spring Stampede '97

1. Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Último Dragón - 9
2. Akira Hokuto vs. Madusa - 4
3. Prince Iaukea vs. Lord Steven Regal - 5
4. Public Enemy vs. Steve McMichael and Jeff Jarrett - 4
5. Chris Benoit vs. Dean Malenko - 6
6. Rick Steiner vs. Kevin Nash - 3
7. Lex Luger vs. The Giant vs. Booker T vs. Stevie Ray - 7
8. Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page - No DQ Match - 7

This is probably my favorite WCW pay-per-view of the second-half of the 1990's, it's a notch below some of the best offerings of theirs from that entire decade like Great American Bash '90 and Wrestle War '92, but that's good company. It's arguably the most underrated, overlooked, and unheralded WCW PPV; but, that's just one man's opinion.

This was Mysterio and Dragón's third PPV encounter and ended the trilogy splendidly. To me, this is the personification of this lightweight style these guys really helped to usher in to new audiences. Último is the aggressor, really beating Rey down, with Rey's offense often coming in spurts trying to rally back against his foe. They absolutely make everything matter, it's clear each motion in the ring has significance to the endgame, and with flawless execution, this is like a little time capsule I can recall at my leisure and be brought back to a phenomenal, exciting time for in-ring action. The rare perfect match.

Next is a match that was sort of a wasted opportunity. It's about as one-sided as it gets, as Hokuto just beats Madusa around the ring at will. It was nice seeing the joshi veteran looking strong. The finish was a massive failure, though; Luna runs down and kicks Madusa while she's powerbombing Akira, but instead of countering it, Hokuta stills lands right on her head then just sort of sits on Madusa's face in a bungled, overwrought finish.

Iaukea in retrospect was a lot of wasted potential, the guy could have really made an impact but didn't have a real memorable career. Back then, he never stuck out to me, but watching his stuff from this era now it's clear that he had the goods just no opportunities. He's channeling Ricky Steamboat here clearly, and while this may not quite be up to the level of previous Regal versus Steamboat battles, it's quite good. Regal has a way of working the crowd that's fantastic, riling up the Mississippi rubes pre-match, simply walking away casually dodging a flying Prince attack, etc. I loved the finish, too; you often see counter-wrestling, but here, we got a counter within a counter. We don't see that enough and it makes Iaukea come off looking smart and prepared.

The next match, on paper, is a bit of a mess and in execution is only slightly better than expected. The real problem is McMichael, who's terrible, just greener than one of my shits after drinking a blue slushee (that ever happen to anybody else?). Steve's timing is woeful as he's often several seconds early on spots which is totally business exposing. There's some fun elements, Grunge going through a table on the floor from off the top, Rocco getting tossed around the "Old West" set, into a wagon and fake cattle, etc. The finish looked weak, too; Jarrett had Grunge in the figure four leglock when Rock came off the second rope nailing Jeff with a briefcase, problem was the shot looked incredibly weak and Jarrett sold it like death.

Malenko was stolid as ever but he and Benoit, their respect for each other shining through in each and every sequence, gave us a nice, hard-fought battle. In delivery it was certainly different than anything else on the bill, or happening in the company period at the time, but while it moved at a rather languid pace the intensity and fierce focus of its combatants made for a revelatory watch. The finish was terrible as after nearly 18 minutes of work it all built up to nothing as Jacqueline, Kevin Sullivan, and Arn Anderson all made their presence felt. The following match was supposed to be a tag, Scott Hall didn't show up (no big surprise), so they did a bit backstage earlier in the program where Scott Steiner got maced and detained, giving us this little turd. It ended up being Nash manhandling Steiner, commendable only for the beating Rick suffered, but was mostly designed to further the tension in the New World Order storyline by having both Ted DiBiase and referee Nick Patrick feeling Nash was going too far.

I really liked the four corners match as it felt different and fresh, something the company wasn't exactly known for, and also, one of my favorite teams Harlem Heat really got a chance to shine in a semi-main event. Given the four guys involved, everyone squared off against each other at least once, making for some interesting showdowns and interactions. Booker was great, his vocality while just doing simple things like arm-work is so loud and terrific. Luger and Giant aren't known as workhorses but held up their end of the bargain. The finish where Giant stepped aside and allowed Luger to get the pin (and subsequently a title shot at Hogan) didn't really make sense to me seeing this show out of context.

The main event I'd mistaken for a different match, these guys had a wild brawl in a falls count anywhere match at Great American Bash '97 (which i reviewed here as part of the Savage DVD set) that I've always adored; but while this one isn't the spectacle the GAB '97 thriller is, it makes up for it in sheer physicality and sounder psychology. There's one sequence that goes out into the crowd highlighted by some garbage can shots where trash juice flies out everywhere seeing the guy's slipping on the concrete like hired help on the set of a bukkake shoot. Savage is certifiably nuts throughout, brutally beating the shit out of ring announcer David Penzer, stalking Page's wife Kimberly, etc. The finish really pops the house and feels like a big moment as DDP gets a major win and the show ends with the further dissolution of the nWo.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Nice review and I just love the site, Brian. Spring Stampede 97 definitely is an underrated PPV for whatever reason. Gotta love how Randy Savage abuses Kimberly during this time period, then DDP goes completely off the deep end when it comes to Undertaker's wife four years later. It's like he forgot what it felt like!

Not to pull a Mick Foley with a cheap plug, but I'm getting ready to recap this PPV on my site here in the next week or so.