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Default March 24th, 2002: Clash of the Champions

March 24th, 2002

From the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia

Attendance: 13,500 (sell-out!)

Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart

Ultimate Fan Series Semifinal Round: #2 Agents of Chaos vs. #8 The Wild Cards (Wild Cards lead 2-1)
"Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner (w/Midajah) vs. Jamie Knoble

There's a huge gulf in popularity levels here. Knoble's a promising prospect who has seen his stock increase pretty steadily since I bought the company, but he's still nowhere close to Steiner's level. He wasn't booked like he didn't belong in the ring with the former world champion though. On the contrary, the story of this match was that Knoble seemed to have Steiner well-scouted as he had an answer for everything Scotty tried. Most suplex attempts were countered, usually into some sort of takedown that allowed Knoble to get him in a submission hold. Most strikes were blocked or at least didn't lead to a string of blows, and Knoble was always prepared to either roll free, slip out or go to the ropes any time Scott tried to get him in the Steiner Recliner.

Steiner found himself trapped in the guillotine choke, and Knoble left his feet in order to put all of his body weight and force into the hold. Just when Scotty seemed to be fading, he used his incredible strength to pry Knoble's hands apart and then fling him halfway across the ring with an overhead belly to belly suplex. Knoble was too dazed to prevent the application of the Steiner Recliner this time, and had little choice but to tap once those massive arms were locked into place.

Grade: B-

Satyr's Hopeful Few (minus Buff Bagwell) cut a backstage promo about Vampiro's match with Kidman. Helms was frankly awful here; he was supposed to talk about the opportunity he'd gotten here as a replacement for The Destroyer, but he rambled on and made pretty much no sense. Isaac did a better job as he transitioned the segment to the Salvation members, and Mortis was good at talking about the mistake Kidman was making by thinking he could stand in their way. Vampiro did most of the talking since it was his match, and he was decent. He talked about finding power through Salvation, and how with Father Isaac and his "brother" Mortis lending him their strength, there was no way he could fail in this must-win match.

Grade: C-
The Hardys vs. Totally Buffed

This was the PPV debut of the Hardys as a team. They not only have lots of experience as a team, they work really well together on an instinctual level too. That said, it was blatantly obvious that one of these four guys is just on a completely different level than everyone else who was in the match. Matt and Buff did just fine, but Jeff looked like a world-beater every single time he was in the ring. His style has always excited the fans, and now with his increased muscle mass he looks like a big time star. I'm not sure anyone on the entire show had a better overall performance than Jeff (and that's saying something considering some of the later matches.)

His polar opposite is Lex Luger. I knew that he'd be a bad fit for my product with its emphasis on ring work, because let's be honest: he stinks. He's kept his job solely because canning him would upset Sting, but he's practically an albatross at this point. He drags down virtually every match he's in, and such was the case again tonight. The match turned out good, but it was really in spite of Lex. Watching Lex try and wrestle either Hardy, and Jeff in particular, he might as well have been underwater with how slow and lethargic he was. That was sort of the story we told in the match too, as Totally Buffed's attempt to slow the match, ground the Hardys and use their strength was ineffective. They couldn't keep up with the fast-paced offense and double teaming of the Hardys, and the Extreme Combination finished Luger.

Grade: B

Torrie and Stacy were shooting a (tasteful!) photo spread for an upcoming issue of the WCW magazine when Christopher Daniels interrupted. He told them that they may think the fans will enjoy looking at these pictures, but it will pale in comparison to the enjoyment they will get out of seeing him grace the cruiserweight division with his presence. Chris' delivery was fairly good here, but he looked lost and uncomfortable in this segment. Stacy was very good though. No, she didn't actually say anything. Her role was to look sexy, and she nailed it.

Grade: C
"Nature Boy" Ric Flair vs. Chris Candido (w/Tammy Sytch)

This match was honestly pretty sad to watch. It wasn't awful or anything, but Flair just isn't capable of working at a level anywhere close to his peak anymore. Candido still has plenty of room to grow though, and I thought he showed real improvement in both his brawling and mat wrestling skills during this match.

This, like most Flair matches these days, was less about the action and more about the story being told. The story here was that Candido seemed to be a step ahead of his older opponent, but then he made one critical mistake, or more accurately the crafty Flair suckered him into making a mistake, when he came charging at Flair on the floor but cracked his head on the ring post instead. Flair saw his opportunity and pounced, taking Candido back into the ring and throwing all of his strength into one big offensive flurry. After a big series of some of his familiar signature spots, Flair locked on the figure four! Candido taps!

The referee didn't see it though, thanks to Sytch hopping up onto the apron, and while she was distraced Bischoff snuck out from the back and bashed Flair with the bat in a replay from Starrcade! That obviously broke the hold, and Candido rolled on top of Flair for the one...


...but Flair got a shoulder up! The fans popped for that, but Bischoff was livid. He looked to the back and nodded meaningfully, then got in Charles Robinson's face and started shouting about a slow count. It was all a ruse, because...

...King Corino ran down the ramp, spun Flair around and spiked his head on the canvas with the piledriver! Candido could've pinned him after that no problem, but he delivered the fisherman buster for added emphasis before making the cover and getting the win.

Grade: C+

The action continued after the match, unfortunately for Flair. The Empire (minus TAKA and Etsuko Mita, who were in preparation for their championship matches) not only added insult to injury by passing the microphone around and taunting the fallen Nature Boy, they added INJURY to injury by beating him up at the same time! All three men really heeled it up, but you could see that Eric continues to draw more heat by the day in his role as this smarmy, power-hungry person of authority (or imagined authority I guess.) He drew some real jeers as he prodded Flair with the baseball bat and put his foot on his throat.

The beating continued until Sting came running out from the back! He was wielding a bat of his own, and Bischoff dropped his own bat in his haste to get the hell away. The Empire retreated back up the ramp, and Sting picked up Bischoff's discarded bat in his free hand and pointed both bats at the group! He didn't speak, but Sting was fantastic here; the crowd loves him. We tried to put this angle over big on commentary, but Tenay went a little over the top and hammy as he reacted to Sting's run-in.

Grade: B

The Agents of Chaos delivered a backstage promo. Scott Steiner did most of the talking, and he was pretty good at it. He mocked Jamie Knoble for correcting his grammar on Nitro.

"I went to a highly educated university, the University of Michigan! Did you do that? Hell no you didn't, because you're just a dumb redneck! And tonight you found out that I'm not only the man with the largest arms in the world, I'm the man with the largest brain in the world! I knew all I'd have to do was let you think you had me beat, and then I could just throw you from Australia all the way back to whatever damn trailer park you crawled out of! You thought you were gonna knock us out tonight, but instead you got knocked the hell out, boy! And tomorrow night, me and my brother are gonna show those Steiner Brother wannabes the Natural Born Thrillers that we're still the best damn tag team in the world, because we're gonna win that tiebreaker and go to the finals of this tournament! Holla if ya hear me!"

Rick grunted and barked, and Jindrak pretty much just stood there and nodded along, but The Unnatural had comments of his own. He cautioned Scott against overconfidence, because with overconfidence came carelessness.

"You think you have it all, Mr. Steiner. I once thought so too, and then my entire life went up in a towering inferno. There I stood, helpless to extinguish the flames, clueless as to how to pick up the pieces and begin anew. I was fortunate enough to find Salvation before it was too late, but with your braggadocios attitude, I worry that you won't be so lucky. I would hate to see your arrogance undermine the greater good of this unit, because the consequences would be dire for us all."

Dustin was decent here, and Isaac's presence standing in the background and nodding in solemn agreement with his speech only enhanced it. Scotty took off his shades and looked as if he wanted to deck Unnatural right in the face, but Rick and Jindrak wisely stepped between the two men and made sure it stopped at that.

Grade: C+

American Dragon vs. TAKA {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

The first of two title defenses for The Empire was up next. I had high hopes for this match and considered it a dark horse to steal the show. Unfortunately I made a mistake that hurt the match, because I told them to hold nothing back in pursuit of a classic match, but I also gave them over twenty minutes of match time to work with. That was simply too long for them to maintain the pace they were going for, and it hurt the match. It was still a good match, but it could've been a great one if I'd been a bit smarter when laying it out. I made this exact same mistake in TAKA's match with Liger at Starrcade, so I really have no excuse.

Anyway, Dragon used his technical skills to put TAKA on the ropes, and as the match wore on his submissions had increasing effect on the champion's legs, slowing him down and weakening his flying. I'm sure a lot of fans were expecting more involvement from Bischoff and the rest of The Empire at this point, but Eric stayed out of the way and let the match play out. While I'm not afraid to use interference and screwy finishes when the story calls for it, I don't want to overdo it. I also don't want to do it in the cruiserweight division in particular. With Bischoff a non-factor, it was up to TAKA to overcome his pesky challenger himself. He broke free when Dragon tried to take him down to the mat for Arms Across America, dazed him with a bicycle kick and hit the Michinoku Driver for a successful (and clean) title defense.

Grade: B

Alexis Laree vs. Etsuko Mita {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

Eric stayed at ringside, because the women's title match immediately followed TAKA's victory. Mike and I stressed the prestige of this women's championship. Not only did we again bring up its origins with Mildred Burke in 1937, we went over its more recent history as the top championship in the All Japan Women's group, where it was the prize in some of the best wrestling matches anywhere in the world in the 80's and 90's. Now it had a new home as the top prize for the ladies to fight over in WCW's new women's division, which is going to change the game and raise the bar for women's wrestling here in the US (or so we hope.)

I could've gone with a more seasoned and talented challenger for Etsuko Mita to start with, but I went this way instead. I think Alexis has loads of potential, but she's still got room to grow. She performed adequately, but I could see that she was winded towards the end of the match. That's somewhat concerning since the match was only about eleven minutes long. I think, like some of the older members of the roster, she was struggling because of the intensity and danger of our brand of wrestling (which is nowhere near Japanese levels, but is well above what you see from WWF.)

Anyway, we told a story of Alexis trying to overcome her much more experienced opponent and beat the odds, but the difference in skill level was very apparent, with Alexis getting in these momentary offensive flurries to build hope, only for Mita to inevitably cut her off. Mike and I stressed the importance of Alexis avoiding Mita's devastating Death Valley Driver finisher which she innovated. She slipped out of that move a couple of times, but when she attempted a Tornado DDT Etsuko countered into the DVD to retain the title. It was a solid match; not bad at all considering both of these women are pretty much unknown at this point.

Grade: C+

Mita and Bischoff weren't satisfied merely with beating Alexis. On the contrary, they seemed angered that the young upstart did as well as she had, and Mita rubbed it in by raking her boot across Alexis' face in a face wash of sorts.

Madusa did not appreciate the disrespect; she ran down the ramp and yelled at Mita that she'd already made her point and there was nothing left to prove. Mita seemingly backed up, but then swung her title belt right at Madusa's face! But she anticipated it, ducked, and threw the champion to the mat with a German suplex! Mita rolled around on the mat and clutched her neck as Madusa called for a microphone. She said that she didn't come here tonight to fight; she considered herself retired in fact, and was focusing on her new career in monster trucks. She'd flown to Australia solely because she'd strived for years to build a legitimate women's division here in WCW, and she wanted to be here to see the fruits of that work.

But Mita, who Madusa called a great athlete, showed no respect to her opponent after what had been a good match and a really great performance from a young girl still learning the ropes. It turned Madusa's stomach to see it, so she ran down here and got involved. Mita needs to show respect if she's going to represent WCW as its women's champion, and Madusa will knock it into her if need be! Madusa's old school face gimmick was okay, but her microphone performance left something to be desired. Maybe she's rusty?

Grade: D-
Ultimate Fan Series Semifinal Round: #4 The Dead Jesters vs. #6 Satyr's Hopeful Few (Dead Jesters lead 2-1)
Billy Kidman (w/Torrie Wilson) vs. Vampiro

I used this match to give the crowd a breather, a chance to calm down before the final three matches. It was a simple match, but one with gigantic implications as a must-win for Vampiro if the Hopeful Few were going to extend this series into a tiebreaker. Vampiro used an aggressive, power-based attack against his smaller opponent, and it put him in the driver's seat late in the match. He tried to seal the win with the Nail in the Coffin, but Kidman squirmed free and hit the Kid Krusher for a long near-fall. Not discouraged by the kickout, Kidman went right to the top rope and connected with the Shooting Star Press! One, two...and three! Kidman defeated Vampiro in a bit of an upset, and the Dead Jesters advanced to the Finals!

Grade: C+

Booker returned from his "strike" to appear on Piper's Pit. After a brief introductory thing where he thanked Booker for showing up, Roddy gave his guest the microphone so he could speak his piece. Booker was still angry about not receiving the world title match he earned (in his words) at SuperBrawl, and he wasn't shy about letting people know. Booker did a respectable job here as he complained about Rey Misterio getting the title shot tonight even though Booker beat him last month in a match that was SUPPOSED to decide the next challenger for Rob Van Dam's world title--or, as Booker put it, the world title that RVD was wearing, but really belonged to him! He'd had enough of WCW management refusing to give him the opportunities he'd earned time and time again, so until they finally gave him his world title rematch he was going to remain on strike!

Roddy sighed and shook his head as he took the microphone back. Roddy isn't as mentally quick as he used to be; sometimes he stumbles mid-promo, which is something I can't remember him ever doing in WWF. But when he's 'on', very few have ever been better. Tonight was one of those nights; he was awesome as he revealed why he'd brought Booker onto the Pit.

"I was afraid this would happen, man. You're one heck of a wrestler, but that world title's fried your brain! Your brother tried to warn you about this, and you beat him up for it! And maybe you'll try to do the same thing to me too, but I can't stand here and listen to this verbal diarrhea any more! Can you hear yourself? Can you hear how pathetic you sound? You used to be a stand-up guy, a guy who was always game for a fight, a young kid that was hungry to prove himself and busted his butt every single night in the ring to do it! Where did that kid go? Where's the kid who wrestled a grueling seven match series against one of the greatest technicians I've ever seen to win a championship? Where's the guy who took on every top tag team in the world with his brother and won the tag team championship of the world ten times? Where's the guy who was one of the lone bright spots in the darkest days of WCW as he gave a crumbling mess of a company a world champion to be proud of?

"You think moaning, complaining and sitting at home is gonna impress anybody? You think it's gonna get any fans to side with you, or make the corporate suits change their minds? If you wanna be a champ again, you need to stop acting like a chump! You want to impress WCW? You want to prove that you deserve a shot at the world title? Quit whining and start ACTING! Get your rematch the old-fashioned way: go out there and TAKE IT!"

Grade: A

Natural Born Thrillers vs. True Heroes {}

These teams had a good match back at Starrcade, and this rematch was more of the same. Palumbo again demonstrated that he's just not as good as the other three, but no surprise there. Punk did show off some increased technical skills as he and Lance used a scientific approach early in the match. Working with Storm probably has a lot to do with that.

Mike and I pushed the idea that even if True Heroes came away with the win the first time these teams met, the Thrillers had to be feeling confident after a huge win on Nitro over the World and US champions. They overcame the early technical attack of the champions and used their superior size and strength to take control, and it looked for all the world like they were well on their way to regaining the titles they'd had a stranglehold on for almost a full year. Yet Storm saved Punk by grabbing his foot and pulling him back onto solid ground as O'Haire had him positioned for the Widow Maker, and the two of them sent the recent US title challenger through the ropes and to the floor with a double dropkick. Palumbo tried to fight them both off himself, but he was overwhelmed and then dismissed with the Heroic Finish.

Grade: B

There was a brief segment in which Bobby Heenan interviewed Kimberly, who joined the show via satellite from back home in the States. She gave some generic comments about how Dallas didn't need her help and would defeat Shane Douglas all by himself tonight, but the real purpose of this was to establish that she wasn't in Australia and thus wouldn't be getting involved in the match.

Grade: D+
I Quit:
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Shane Douglas

The buildup had been fantastic; now it was time to find out if they could deliver a killer match to go along with it. Going in I would've been satisfied if they'd simply equaled their Starrcade match, but DDP and Douglas had other ideas. The fact that this was an I Quit match added an extra level of intensity and drama to the action. Douglas in particular really elevated his game. He seemed right at home in this match type with its heavy emphasis on brawling, which shouldn't come as any surprise given his ECW roots. DDP held up his end of the bargain too though, and these two guys had one heck of a match. They fought in the ring, on the ramp, around ringside and into the crowd, punching and kicking each other, slamming each other on the floor, throwing each other into the guard rail, the post and whatever other inanimate objects they could find. Whatever objects they stumbled across that couldn't be used to ram someone into, they instead picked up and turned into a weapon.

Yet it wasn't simple hardcore weapon stuff with no rhyme or reason to it. It came across like two guys who hated each other and would do anything, withstand anything and resort to whatever lengths necessary in order to make their enemy say those two magical words: I Quit. If RVD and Misterio were watching this match on the monitor as they got ready, they knew they were going to need to produce something truly special in order to follow this one.

After a snap suplex on the ramp, Douglas wrapped an electrical cable around DDP's throat and attempted to choke him into submission. Just when Dallas looked to be fading, he broke free and slammed Douglas down on the ramp with a back suplex. Dallas flashed the Diamond Cutter sign, and when Shane got back to his feet, he went for it all.

Douglas blocked it though, shoving Dallas off. Dalls turned back around, and Shane kicked him in the gut and then drove his head onto the ramp with a DDT! That did significant damage to DDP's neck, and the problem was only worsened when Douglas put him in a crossface. Mike and I reminded fans that Douglas had been using this hold to win matches in recent weeks and had obviously been working on perfecting it, and now was reaping the benefits. Page was stranded on the ramp with a weakened neck, no clear path to escape and no energy remaining to fight out. He reluctantly voiced his submission to the referee, handing the victory to Douglas.

Grade: A

We gave the fans a brief moment to exhale in between the I Quit match and the main event. Arn and Tony were backstage, and they promoted WCW's next PPV event. We'll be back on PPV in Japan on April 21st with the return of Slamboree (replacing Spring Stampede, since we already have Calgary Stampede in November.)

Grade: D-

Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Rob Van Dam {}

Here we were with the main event. They were going to have a tough job trying to top that I Quit match, but it became obvious pretty early on that they were going to give it a strong run for its money at the very least. While the match having no established heel of course hurt it some, it didn't change the fact that these two guys just tore the house down with their athletic brand of wrestling. They didn't go full-on all out, and that was probably a good thing. They had plenty of time for this match, so they were able to hold something back and pace themselves a bit more so they'd still have plenty left in the tank at the end.

This was pushed in the buildup as a match between two of the most innovative and exciting wrestlers in the world today, and that's exactly the story we strove to tell in the match itself. Watching both of these guys putting their respective styles to work made for a tremendous match. It was really interesting to see, especially as they were able to provide some unique moments where one guy used his style to counter the other. For example: Rey tried a springboard attack, but RVD hit him in mid-air with a flying martial arts kick instead. Rey returned the favor by ducking underneath a spin kick, hitting the ropes and pulling off an incredible springboard headscissors.

The match was chock full of moments like that, and the crowd ate it up. They not only matched the DDP/Douglas I Quit match, they surpassed it. I think the crowd reaction for the Scott Steiner vs. Keiji Mutoh match in Japan put it above this one ever so slightly overall, but in terms of pure athletic action this has to be the best match we've put on since I bought the company. Rey was very good here, but Rob was awesome. This was the kind of monthly performance I imagined when I made him champion. I couldn't have been prouder of these two guys, or our fans for that matter. Some fans (Vince plants I'm pretty sure) tried to get a WWF chant going during this match, but they were quickly drowned out by the fans who knew they were seeing something great and WCW was the company giving it to them.

The athletic spectacle reached its apex, with both guys trying to land that one big highlight reel spot that would give them the victory. Finally RVD had Rey down on the mat with an elevated facebuster and went for the Five Star Frog Splash, but Rey got his knees up to block it! He saved himself, but so much had been taken out of him that he could not follow up. Both guys laid on the mat, trying to summon a second (or third or fourth) wind.

We got a gate crasher in the form of Booker T. Ref Nick Patrick asked him what he was doing, and Booker responded by shoving him to the mat! He then began putting the boots to both men, causing Patrick to ring the bell and rule the match a no contest at 23 minutes, 38 seconds.

Grade: A

Show Overall Grade: B+

Credit and thanks to K-Nection once again for the poster.

The Douglas/DDP match was an A, but only just: it was an 89 that came up on the A side. The show itself was also an 89, but on the wrong side of the B+/A split. Still ranked as the third best show I've run though, behind WCW vs. The World (my only A, so duh) and a Nitro in December that was also a B+ at 89. A lot of my Nitros seem to hover around that 88/89 range now, so as I continue to try and build the younger members of my roster up there's a good chance I'll start hitting the A rating for my shows pretty regularly.

The main event was a 92, so obviously that was match of the night. It was also just one point behind the best match yet, the Steiner/Mutoh match in Japan.

Last edited by The Final Countdown : 07-26-2017 at 06:11 PM.
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