Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My WCW WorldWide '97 ballot

I was driving around today listening to a wrestling podcast and got struck with nostalgia for the days when NHO was firing on all cylinders. When we were pushing out new posts almost daily, hosting DVD nights regularly, and generally consumed by all things pro wrestling. While the posts are archived, and the memories of fun nights spent studying Dusty Rhodes and sharing uproarious laughter are intact, those glory days are long past. The best way to encapsulate NHO was our big group projects (all listed here) most notably the audacious Monday Nitro project that saw us ranks its 200 finest matches. Relishing memories of the work we put it on that and the lively conversations that took place as we unveiled the results reminded me that I had an unfinished ballot for what was to be our next project that never saw fruition: WCW WorldWide '97.

Adam, Jessie, and I were to tackle the complete year's run of episodes and compile our opinions on the good, the bad, and the Konnan into a list similar to our past ventures. I was the only one to finish my initial third of the set via a stack of discs that were then meant to be swapped with my compatriots. Unfortunately the project lived and died with yours truly. So, while this list doesn't represent the true "best" of the show in 1997 it does reflect on at least a portion of it that I enjoyed with great zest. There were tons of squash matches that were fun but forgettable. There was also a ripe amount of pure excreta. But below were my favorite finds:

1) Damian & El Dandy vs. Masahiro Chono & Great Muta - 9/28
2) Public Enemy vs. Steiner Bros. - 7/6
3) Rey Mysterio vs. Ciclope - 2/23
4) Meiko Satomura & Sonoko Kato vs. Akira Hokuto & Karou - 2/23
5) Harlem Heat vs. Steve & Scott Armstrong - 6/1
6) Ciclope vs. Damien - 11/23
7) Super Calo vs. Buddy Lee Parker - 6/22
8) Madusa & Meiko Satomura vs. Kaoru & Akira Hokuto - 2/9
9) Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera - 6/22
10) Randy Savage vs. Bobby Eaton - 9/21

My #1 was probably a lock to finish highly at least on my ballot: a battle between lucha and puro demigods. PE vs. Steiners was just nuts with some crazy bumps. Ironically Cicople vs. Mysterio earned my #1 spot in my controversial Nitro ballot and while this was several steps behind that it was still light years ahead of any 2014 Orton matches. Yes, joshi, I still adore you and your high-pitched screams of agony. Meiko was foating around WotY territory this era so nice to see her pop up working sprints in-front of theme park yokels. Harlem Heat had two tags versus the Armstrongs but this one was completely different than the other with the Armstrongs wearing camo and working a more aggressive style in what I can only imagine was a failed short-lived gimmick change. Calo was the king of the squashes as almost every match he had that made tape was sublime inc. whacky unnecessary bumps. I believe it was this match that saw him somersault over the top onto Parker who was prone on that rotating wooden floor. Savage and Eaton was like a '89 dream match come to life.

11) Super Calo & Juventud Guerrera vs. Tokyo Magnum & Judo Suwa - 11/23
12) Chris Benoit vs. Syxx - 11/16
13) Konnan vs. Super Calo - 5/25
14) Eddie Guerrero vs. Psychosis - 2/9
15) Super Calo vs. The Punisher - 7/13
16) Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio - 2/2
17) Dean Malenko vs. Norman Smiley - 11/23
18) Ciclope vs. Shima Nobunaga - 11/30
19) Arn Anderson & Chris Benoit vs. Faces of Fear - 2/16
20) Malia Hosaka vs. Meiko Satomura - 2/16

More lucha vs. puro fun as the Torymon/DragonGate forefathers took the AAA class to task. Benoit vs. Syxx was one of the few "main event" matches that actually felt appropriately big. Smiley broke out some UWFi tricks on Malenko. Really dug Shima (CIMA) working one of my all-time favorites Ciclope. Horsemen versus Faces of Fear was only slightly less violent than a prison riot.

21) Super Calo vs. Meng - 9/21
22) Public Enemy vs. Robbie Brookside & Doc Dean - 6/29
23) Jeff Jarrett vs. Psychosis - 9/14
24) Harlem Heat vs. Steven Regal & David Taylor - 11/30
25) Faces of Fear vs. Sumo Fuji & Shima Nobunaga - 11/19
26) Greg Valentine vs. Bobby Eaton - 6/22
27) Chris Jericho vs. Steve Regal - 6/1
28) Sonoko Kato vs. Kaoru - 2/2
29) Ciclope vs. Miguel Perez Jr. - 2/9
30) Chris Jericho vs. Ciclope - 9/14
31) Yuji Nagata vs. Super Calo - 7/6
32) Steiners vs. Texas Hangmen - 10/5

My later ballot was stuff that kept getting pushed down and down into eventual extinction (remember I had roughly another 35 episodes or so left to watch). Cool seeing Brookside and Doc Dean working Euro stuff with PE who'd just finished eating gas station chili dogs and snorting blow. Was disappointed by some match-ups that held intrigue on paper like Nagata/Calo and Jericho/Regal.

It was definitely an interesting glimpse into an overlooked part of WCW history. The fun in marathoning these old TV shows is you see a lot of pedestrian stuff but there's also great little moments you'd never have known about be it goofy sells, vicious bumps, slick transcendent moments of athleticism or ring psychology, etc. As for now it appears the large-scale projects are a thing of the past here on Never Hand Over but sometimes that itch manifests itself and the only way to scratch it is to bury yourself in discs and lists and put a definitive stamp on history with your own ballot. I'm sure there's some Droz matches from Sunday Night Heat that need reassessment.

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