Shahid’s Blog: A Ride Down Memory Lane – WWE Network and An Appreciation of WCW

Robocop off duty Cage Destroyer with Sting

When WWE announced its plans for its own network, I was extremely skeptical.  With the current cable climate, a dedicated paid channel seemed outdated. The idea of watching old Raw and Nitros with bargain basement reality shows and the occasional documentary didn’t strike me as a scintillating product; using dubstep in its promo videos didn’t help either.  So of course Vince McMahon presents a revolutionary product – an internet only streaming service, combining its massive library with new material that may actually be worth a damn, plus every future PPV….for 9.99 a month.

I’ve been a wrestling fan for close to 30 years, and I can honestly say this is the most groundbreaking event in my fandom.  Being able to watch a 1992 WCW PPV in HD on my iPad?  Watching World Class on my big screen TV?  Getting WrestleMania and Summerslam for free? Not only would I save money on my cable bill, I could kiss the days of 12 part YouTube videos with crappy resolution good bye.  I won’t discuss the initial hiccups or improvements which could be made.  Right now, I’ll dive into a few things I’ve experienced so far.

One thing I’ve realized during my initial weeks of watching was the in ring quality of WCW.  Say what you want about their goofy and often idiotic booking – popping in a random PPV will usually be an enjoyable experience.  It’s not hard to see why, considering their talent base during the late 80’s to mid 90s – Sting, Flair, The Steiners, Ricky Steamboat, Rick Rude, Gordy/Williams, Steve Austin, Barry Windham, Pillman, Vader……it’s a murderer’s row of talented in ring workers and/or compelling characters.

What also helped was the excellent announcing of Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura, which gave it a sports feel and made every match seemed relevant.  Plus there is an added bonus of red hot crowds, which makes a huge difference to the enjoyment level – listening to Sting/Koloff vs Anderson/Blanchard would make you think it was WrestleMania. Although I could do without the inane stipulations from Bill Watts – how you can bring in someone like Jushin Liger while outlawing top rope maneuvers is mind boggling.

Even without the context of WCW Saturday Night, Clash of the Champions or other weekly shows, WCW PPV’s tend to hold up very well during that time frame…..at least until Hogan came and brought in the era of the Three Amigos (Hogan, Sting and Savage) running roughshod until the formation of the NWO.  But thats a story for another week.  And by the way, to hell with the Shockmaster, Robocop, Johnny Gunn and Paul Roma, Horseman. -Shahid

Eric’s Blog: One of my top 5 favorite matches, Ric Flair vs. Vader, 20 years ago today

Once upon a time, World Championship Wrestling, and Jim Crockett Promotions before it, promoted Starrcade as its most prominent and preeminent event of the year. Originally held Thanksgiving night, pressure from the WWF in 1988 forced WCW to move its flagship event to the week of Christmas, which means if the event were being held today, well, it might be held today.

In fact, 20 years ago today, the 11th Starrcade was held in Charlotte, N.C., with the original plans pitting WCW Champion Big Van Vader against Sid Vicious in a bitter battle of former tag team partners who were, well, thrown together about six months earlier, um, because they were both big and, uh, they both used a power bomb as their finisher.

In December 1993, Vader was 18 months into a spectacular run as a monster heel champion, and Sid was, you know, Sid, the underachieving heel whose babyface turn was predicated on a fumbled, accidental double-cross by his comedic manager, Col. Rob Parker, and who could never connect with a crowd at-large beyond the pop he received on his entrance. (Never mind the fact that Dusty and I think he’s, as Sid himself used to say, “the man.”)

And then came the little issue of the night Sid stabbed Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors 20 times in a hotel in England that October, effectively removing himself from the main event of WCW’s biggest show of the year. This put Eric Bischoff’s team of bookers in quite a pinch, and what did WCW pretty much always do when they were in a pinch?

Paging Ric Flair.

Flair was programmed with Vader beginning at Battlebowl, a half-crocked concept launched by Dusty Rhodes at Starrcade 1991 that, somehow, got its own pay-per-view in November 1993. During the ceremonious final battle royal, Vader attacked Flair outside of the ring, eliminating Flair from the match.

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Top 10 Vader Times: A Big Van Vader mini retrospective

With the one-night return of Vader to WWE on last night’s Monday Night Raw, I feel the need to dig up 10 of the biggest moments (for one reason or another) in the career of Big Van Vader, one of the best big men in the history of pro wrestling and a wrestler after whom many super-heavyweights should work to model themselves. Vader is at least 50 percent responsible for a number of my favorite matches in pro wrestling, two of which are listed below.

Vader’s eye pops out in a match with Stan Hansen, from All Japan:

Vader wins the WCW World Title from Sting, at the Great American Bash 1992:

More with Sting and Vader: Promos for the Superbrawl III White Castle of Fear match…

… and Part 1 of the good match that followed:

Vader powerbombs Cactus Jack on the cement, April 1993 WCW Saturday Night…

… and the grudge match, a Texas Death Match, from WCW Halloween Havoc 1993 (one of my all-time faves):

Vader vs. Ric Flair, WCW World Title vs. Flair’s career, WCW Starrcade 1993 (another all-time fave):

Vader makes, well, a splash in his WWF Monday Night Raw debut, January 1996:

Vader vs. Shawn Michaels, Summerslam 1996:

Vince Russo is a genius: Vader calls himself a “big piece of shit”:

We didn’t see a whole lot of Vader after that promo, until last night. In the 14 years since that moment, I’ve personally dreamed of pro wrestling seeing another super-heavyweight as monstrous, agile, evil and believable as Big Van Vader, but it’s highly unlikely we ever will. -Eric

WWE Tough Enough winner Andy Leavine released, “Silent Rage” T-shirt production ceases

Jesus, he can't even do "gay cowboy" well.

According to PWInsider.com by way of Prowrestling.net, WWE has released relaunched “Tough Enough” winner Andy Leavine. Raise your hand if you knew Andy Leavine was still under a WWE contract (or if you have good penmanship). I didn’t think so. Leavine had been working for Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Kevin Hackman, which makes sense given two things: 1) WWE’s disposition for giving people the last names of famous actors or their movie characters (see: Ryback), and 2) because Andy Leavine is a hack, and I dare say Steve Austin & Co. made a horrible error naming this future flop the winner of their highly regarded reality series. Good riddance, “Silent Rage,” you make the Equalizer look like Big Van Vader. -Eric

Headlines: Heath Slater is an idiot, Vader’s offspring comes to FCW

L or R (not sure): Heath Slater, her biggest fan

According to Prowrestling.net, Heath Slater, who looks like a woman and is lucky as fuck to have a job in professional wrestling, was suspended by WWE for 30 days for violating the wellness policy. What in the hell is with some of these guys? DUIs, wellness policy violations… I know you’re living the dream, and part of the dream involves ballooning up right in front of Vince McMahon, but when you’re Heath Slater and have no business ever being on my television, you protect your spot like it’s your mother’s ashes. (No offense if Mrs. Slater is dead, I don’t have time to check Wikipedia.) If a person stood in front of me and held a million-dollar check at arm’s reach, I wouldn’t start kicking him in the nuts; I’d be polite and gracious, then I’d hire a huge posse to walk me to the bank, put them on my payroll, throw lavish parties, and end up homeless like MC Hammer. But I sure wouldn’t screw up a good thing.

Also according to Prowrestling.net, Big Van Vader’s son Jesse is now a member of the Florida Championship Wrestling roster. He’s going by the name of Jake Carter, which isn’t McGillicutty-level bad, but it’s pretty nondescript. He does have an interesting, sarcastic-Sheamus-like look to him, which is funny, because his picture on that roster page is right next to that of Husky Harris, who looks more like Vader than Carter does…

OK, time out. Did you click on that link? My god, what a bunch of misfits. That page is just one bad decision after another, save for the former Claudio Castagnoli. I mean, look at CJ Parker, for god’s sake. Is he Carlito? Or Darren Young? Or my grandma on my mom’s side? And Bo Rotundo looks like a cross-eyed drag queen, which, believe me, is no fun to deal with. And don’t even get me started on how many of these guys look like they came straight off the porn set (I’m looking at you, former Tyler Black). Just call Ricky Steamboat’s kid up to the main roster and burn the rest of that thing to the ground. -Eric

Mick Foley shares YouTube video of ear loss incident

Mick Foley made a pro wrestling career out of getting beaten up, beating himself up, never being in shape (oh, I’m sorry, “looking different than everyone else”) and generally being a garbage wrestler before, during and after the term “garbage wrestling” was cool. And he wears the whole concept as a badge of honor. Or, in some cases, he wears it no longer: Foley Tweeted a link to a YouTube video, taken March 16, 1994, from a WCW house in Germany, of the match where he lost his ear while wrestling Big Van Vader. If you’re not familiar with the story (and if Foley ever found out that you aren’t familiar, I’m sure he’d offer to sell you a copy of his New York Times best-selling book, “Have a Nice Day”), Foley, as Cactus Jack, used to love to tie his head up between the top and middle ropes; one night in Germany while wrestling Vader, he couldn’t get his fat head out from between the ropes without, well, his ear tearing right off of his head. (Kinda like how he hasn’t learned that if you’re still holding a cookie while you’re hand is in the jar, it’s way harder to pull out. Speaking of which, I wish Mr. Foley would have pulled out 46 years ago.)

Start watching at about the 50-second mark and you’ll see his ear totally fall off while he throws a punch, followed by the referee picking it up and showing it to folks at ringside. It’s a historic moment and a turning point in the career of a man who prides himself on sustaining great deals of physical punishment and always working through the pain to finish his job and perform for the fans.

The real takeaway from this Tweet, though, is that Mick Foley spends a great deal of time at home googling “mick foley.” -Eric

Abdullah The Butcher Hall Of Fame Video

In case you were wondering just who got inducted this week; WWE finally got around to putting up the latest induction video. It is for Abdullah The Butcher. It contains no blood so I am not sure this is legit or not.  I was under the impression there was blood in every one of his matches at least five seconds in to them. Apparently I was wrong. Well,  I could be or WWE has done an amazing job of editing it all out.  So for those keeping track at home; Koko B Ware is in the WWE Hall of Fame as well as Abdullah The Butcher but the following people are not: -Jeremy

Randy Savage

The Ultimate Warrior

Psycho Sid

Big Van Vader

Owen Hart

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