February 2003: Road to SuperBrawl XIII, Part I
January 27th, 2003Sean O'Haire's first challenger was his former Natural Born Thriller stablemate, Shawn Stasiak. The careers of the two men have gone in opposite directions since that group split, and it was no different tonight. O'Haire was never seriously threatened before beating Stasiak with the Widow Maker. (B-)
From the Florida State Expo Hall in Tampa, Florida
Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart
We opened up with Arn Anderson in the ring. He said the majority of the focus right now was on the upcoming PPV SuperBrawl on February 23rd, and rightfully so. But he wanted to take a moment to look a bit further ahead, to Slamboree in March. It had been all but forgotten since the last ceremony took place in 1995, but in the early '90s WCW established a Hall of Fame to honor the all-time greats who paved the way in not just WCW, but around the world of pro wrestling. With the reflection and reminiscing brought on by the announcement that this December will be the 20th anniversary of Starrcade, the Hall of Fame was being revived. He and a panel of experts had identified a strong class that will be inducted at Slamboree, and he was pleased to introduce the first name on that list right now...
Without entrance music or any other accompaniments, Ric Flair strutted to the ring in his suit. He was smiling as he walked up and took the microphone out of Arn's hands. He said there were still problems between the two of them, but he appreciated that Arn did the right thing and approached him about this Hall of Fame.
"Let's face it: there wouldn't be a WCW without Ric Flair!" he said. "All of these flash in the pan punk kids like Rob Van Dam owe their careers to me! I'm the only reason any of them are able to come here and make a living, and they should be worshipping the ground Ric Flair walks on, WOO! Everybody's tried to shove the Nature Boy to the side, but at the Hall of Fame ceremony you'll all have no choice but to pay homage to THE MAN! And Arn, I'm still pissed off with you for screwing me over and ending my career, but you did the right thing in giving me this moment in the spotlight." Ric improvised well here. He's always been great at promoting his own accomplishments and importance to the business, and this was no different.
Arn awkwardly told Ric he was only partially right. Yes, Ric was absolutely a member of the 2003 Hall of Fame class. Arn didn't dispute anything Ric said about his importance to WCW's history. He rode by his side for all those years in the Horsemen as his right hand man, and if someone wanted to call Ric the greatest of all time, Arn wouldn't argue the point. But it wasn't actually Ric that he'd come out to introduce right now. Ric was a slam dunk inductee, but he's someone the fans have been able to watch on their screens regularly. The inductee he was bringing out right now was a man the fans hadn't seen for years.
The fans gave Macho a very strong reaction as he came to the ring. He hasn't been on TV in several years, and it was a nice surprise for him to pop up here. He hasn't missed a beat on the microphone either; he fed off of the fans and cut a fantastic promo in his own inimitable style. He thanked Arn and the Hall of Fame committee for this honor, and also told the fans it was great to see them again. Unlike the fans, Flair wasn't at all happy to see him. He called this yet another betrayal from his FORMER best friend Arn, and accused Savage of stealing the moment that belonged to him. Randy fired back, telling Ric he was insecure about his own legacy.
"You ain't got nothing to be insecure about, yeah," Savage said. "You had a great run, Nature Boy, one of the greatest ever, yeah. But you need to know when it's time to let the next generation take over, dig it? Don't be like that prima donna Hogan, hanging on years after he shoulda hung up his red and yellow boots for good! Macho Madness was powerful, and I've done things most wrestlers will only ever dream of, yeah! And these fans will never ever forget it in a billion years; just listen to the reaction when the Macho Man came out here! But the Madness had its time, and now it's time for the new cream of the crop! Now WCW's got Rey Mysterio, the Hardys, and yeah, Rob Van Dam at the top, and that's cool! Don't be mad that your time is over, Flair. Be glad that it happened, and know that these people will never forget what you did!"
Randy turned away from Flair and played to the fans some more, saying he'd see them at Slamboree for the Hall of Fame ceremony before finishing with an "OOOOOOOHHHHHH YEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!" The fans loved it, but Flair scowled at the spotlight being on someone else.
The cameras are invited as Rey Mysterio Jr. and AJ Styles are going over strategy backstage before their huge main event tag match tonight where they'll take on True Heroes, and if the Heroes win, not only will Punk will get his desired World Heavyweight Championship match at SuperBrawl, Storm will also challenge AJ for the US title at the same event. King Corino interrupts and tells Rey he doesn't need to worry about the True Heroes or SuperBrawl. His real problem is next week, when Corino beats him to get the Ultimate Fan Series off to a great start for Scotty's Band of Misfits! (A)
Nostalgic fans were happy to see the Nasty Boys pop back up tonight, but they couldn't keep up with the speed and agility of Aguila and Volador Jr. Youth was served as the masked men got the win. (C+)
Jamie Knoble goes to the Empire dressing room asking for Corino, but Palumbo and Candido prevent him from entering. Bischoff comes out when Knoble refuses to leave and tells him Corino is too busy preparing for next week's big UFS match to give the likes of Knoble the time of day, but Eric will hear him out on his behalf. Knoble says he's ashamed of himself for quitting at SuperBrawl and he wants, no, he NEEDS a rematch! Bischoff laughs, tells him to call out someone closer to his own skill level, and shuts the door in his face! (B)
Post-show footage from Sin: Stacy Keibler and the Jung Dragons confront the Hardys as they're about to leave the building. Keibler calls Matt a coward for intentionally getting himself disqualified to save their titles, but warns them that they won't get away with it. After a quick deliberation, Arn Anderson and the championship committee agreed to give the Dragons a rematch at SuperBrawl, so those belts will soon be handed to the rightful champions! The Hardys watch them walk away, looking baffled. (C+)
The Steiner Brothers followed their announcement about their intentions to focus on the tag team division by dominating Billy Kim and Mike Sanders. When Made in Italy stepped into the aisle to watch, Scott made sure to taunt them and flex in Dawn Marie's direction. (C)
Vignette: Bobby Roode catches up to Booker T at a mandatory autograph signing and asks why he left Sin without saying a word to him. Booker tells Bobby that he's been doing a lot of soul-searching and he's not sure what the next step in his career is. When Bobby tries to ask him about the note he received at Sin, Booker refuses to say who it was from or what it was about. (B-)
Vignette: The Unnatural kneels on the floor, with the rest of Salvation standing in a circle around him. He apologizes for falling short at Sin. "Last night, I stood at the precipice and was deemed unworthy," he remarks. But he says this is not the end for him or for them. "No one ever said Salvation would be easy to attain. But attain it we shall." (B+)
A pair of former Cruiserweight champions met up as Bryan Danielson wrestled "Sugar" Shane Helms. It was an even contest, but more problems between Helms and Kimberly allowed Danielson to take Helms to the mat and submit him with Cattle Mutilation. (B)
With Brian Adams beside him, Christopher Daniels comes to the ring to gloat over his success. "When I arrived in WCW, I declared myself God's gift to the Cruiserweight division. Now no one can doubt the truth of my words!" He says that he has proven that there is not a single man in the Cruiserweight division that can defeat him silence the gospel according to the Fallen Angel. Arn Anderson comes into the aisle and applauds Daniels for his confidence. He says that he and the rest of the Horsemen had been confident like that. They ran their mouths, and when it came time to back it up in the ring, they did. Now he was going to give Daniels a chance to do the same, because his comment gave Arn an idea. There will be two qualifying matches between now and SuperBrawl, and the winners of those two matches will meet Daniels in a three way match for the title! (B)
Backstage, Billy Kidman thanks Teddy Hart for having his back when Brian Adams interfered in his match at Sin. Teddy says it was his pleasure, and the two of them agree that they felt they had great potential as a team in their match against Daniels and Adams last week. Teddy suggests they pool their efforts and see how far they can go as a team. Kidman says that sounds like a good idea, and the two seal their new team with a handshake. (C)
Rob Van Dam was in action against Cash. The often-overlooked Cruiserweight gave a good effort and picked up multiple near falls on the former World Heavyweight Champion, but ultimately it was Van Dam who hit the Five Star Frog Splash to get his hand raised. (B-)
After the match, Ric Flair attacks RVD from behind with a steel chair! Flair gives Van Dam a beating and gets on the microphone to rant. "You see what happens, Van Dam?" he shouts. "I'm the greatest of all time, and my so-called best friend wouldn't even give me my moment to celebrate going into the Hall of Fame! No one is going to hand you anything in this business, and if you want it, you've gotta take it!" (A*)
Right before True Heroes went through the curtain for the main event, CM Punk cuts a promo. He says that anyone who thought the True Heroes were a thing of the past is sorely mistaken. "We're the best team in the world, and once the Hardys lose the titles and we're eligible to challenge for them again, it's only a matter of time before we win them for a third time! But after we go out there and dominate like only we can tonight, Lance and I will prove we're just as dominant on our own by winning the top two singles championships in the world!" (A)
The fans in Tampa were treated to a big time main event with huge SuperBrawl implications. Styles and Mysterio were great individually, but they obviously didn't have the team experience to fall back on that True Heroes did. The fast-paced offense from the singles champions helped make this a strong back and forth match, but the teamwork of the Heroes always allowed them to cut it off before long. As Punk and Styles fought, Storm made a blind tag and hit a springboard spinning heel kick to the back of AJ's head. Punk cut Rey off on the apron, and Lance made the pin to earn both of the Heroes their title shots at SuperBrawl XIII. (A)
Show Grade: A
February 1st, 2003
From the Hokkaido Sports Center in Hokkaido, Japan
Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks
We began in the ring, where Daffney and LuFisto defeated independent workers Tanny Mouse and Aki Kombayashi when LuFisto connected with a moonsault. (C)
Melissa Anderson hits the ring to try and exact some vengeance on Daffney and LuFisto, but the numbers game work against her and she's quickly beaten down. (C)
In her first televised match since failing to win the AAAW Singles title from Aja Kong, Chigusa Nagayo recovered to get the pin over freelancer Yuu Yamagata. (C)
Cameras rush to the back, where Meiko Satomura is being beaten down by Devil Masami! Satomura tries to fight back, but Masami slams her head against the wall and uses the sleeper to incapacitate her. Devil shouts that this is just the beginning and much worse is yet to come for Meiko, but we're left to wonder why she attacked her in the first place. (B-)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #2 The Phenomenal Enigmas vs. #7 Bonnie's Dingos
The 2003 Ultimate Fan Series began on Renaissance, with the Enigmas' Alexis Laree taking on Aja Kong from the Dingos. The dingo is seen as a fearsome predator in Australia, and Kong looked similarly fearsome as she shrugged off everything Alexis could throw at her and finished her with the Uraken. (B-)
Lengthy video highlights of the Rey Mysterio vs. King Corino Stu Hart Classic finals at Calgary Stampede are used to promote a rematch between the two this coming Monday on Nitro as part of the UFS. (B+)
Toshiyo Yamada and Etsuko Mita met to determine Manami Toyota's next challenger. Yamada used a heavily kick-based offense that had her seemingly on the cusp of winning the match more than once, but one Death Valley Driver changed all of that. (B)
Mita cuts a post-match promo in which she promises to hit the DVD and take back her title on behalf of herself and The Empire. Manami Toyota is shown backstage watching on a monitor, title over her shoulder. She remains in the back and allows Mita to bask in her win, but the time will soon come for these two women to come face to face once again. (B+)
Show Grade: B
|February 2nd, 2003
Bret Hart's office
"Are you kidding me?"
I looked at Candido in disbelief, sure this had to be a rib. After all we've done to help this guy turn his career around, he pulls THIS?
"No, I'm not. I'm unhappy here, and I want out."
All I could do was shake my head. "Is this because I refused to give you a raise?"
"That's part of it. I'm also angry that you suspended me in August."
"For your SECOND drug test failure," I pointed out. "The first time I let you off with just a fine, but that obviously didn't get through to you, so I hit you harder the second time around. You were lucky I didn't fire you. Honestly, I thought it took a lot of nerve for you to turn around and demand a raise a few months later."
He had no response to that, and the room fell into a tense silence. Tired of dealing with this, I threw up my hands and moved on. "You're really sure about this?"
"Fine. I'll let you out of your contract, but I'm not paying you one cent more. Not now, and not ever again."
He just nodded and left the room, and I made no move to stop him. Tammy watched him go but stayed in her chair and continued to fidget. She'd been silent the whole time, so I wasn't sure how she felt about all this.
"What about you?" I asked her. "You want out too?"
She seemed to think about it for a second, then slowly shook her head. "No. Chris' mind is made up, but I'm happy here, and I don't think it would work out in WWF even if Vince wanted to bring me back. I don't want to leave."
"Then don't," I said. "You're already managing Palumbo too, so we'll just keep you with him for now."
She nodded, looking relieved, and we shook hands before she left the office. I was frustrated but bore no ill will for Tammy, because this obviously wasn't her fault. Candido, though...
February 3rd, 2003
From the DC Armory in Washington, DC
Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart
The show opened with one of the two qualifying matches for the triple threat match for the Cruiserweight title at SuperBrawl. Hayabusa and Psychosis left it all on the line in a high flying match, with Hayabusa earning the spot thanks to his Phoenix Splash. (B)
The Empire, noticeably without Chris Candido, join Bobby Heenan for an interview. Without using his name, Bischoff references trimming the fat by firing an underachieving, useless member who was dragging the entire group down, and promises you will never see him in a WCW ring ever again. The group will be stronger than ever now, because King Corino will beat the undeserving World Heavyweight Champion in tonight's main event, and before that TAKA will embarrass a champion of his own when he beats US Champion AJ Styles in the UFS. (B)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #4 Satyr's Hopeful Few vs. #5 The K-Nections
The series between the fourth and fifth seeds began with Cruiserweight Champion Christopher Daniels taking on young Harry Smith. Harry had the size and strength advantage and was able to make use of it by throwing Daniels around the ring, but the nine year pro capitalized on a rookie mistake and finished him with Last Rites to win the match for the Hopeful Few. (B-)
The Steiner Brothers come to the ring and demand that Made in Italy come out and fight them. They step into the aisle to respond. They say they'll have no problem giving the Steiners an education, and here's the first lesson: greatness can't be rushed. They'll fight Rick and Scott on their own time. (B-)
RVD cuts a promo on Ric Flair, saying Ric should be happy he's going into the Hall of Fame at Slamboree, but he continues to get in Rob's way. He has nothing to gain from beating up an old retired man, but if Flair keeps this up he'll leave him with no choice. The Unnatural interrupts, telling RVD it's not Ric Flair he should be worried about. The two of them have a date with destiny at SuperBrawl, and unless their series has already been wrapped up by then, it'll also be the deciding match between the Hopeful Few and K-Nections. (A*)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #3 Sin-free Society vs. #6 The Dead Jesters
The first match in this series saw the Society's Kaz Hayashi locking up with Jamie Knoble of the Jesters. Hayashi has been wrestling with newfound confidence after some recent success with the Jung Dragons, but Knoble proved to be the superior singles wrestler by successfully implementing a technical wrestling attack to weaken Kaz's legs and paying it off with a submission win via the figure four (interestingly, the same hold King Corino has taken to using.) (B)
Post-match: Knoble grabs the microphone and calls King Corino out. He says that sending Bischoff out to respond to his challenge last week was the act of a man "too big for his britches", and wants Corino to look him in the eye like a man and respond to his challenge. Corino never shows up, leaving Knoble to exit the ring in frustration. (B-)
True Heroes send in a pre-taped promo gloating about last week's tag win. Storm says if beating the icon Sting wasn't enough, he proved his worthiness beyond all doubt last week by making the United States champion tap out, and he'll repeat the result and take his title at SuperBrawl. Punk echoes that sentiment, again referencing the submission win he gained over Rey in a tag match before Starrcade. "Don't make the mistake of thinking it'll go any differently for you just because I won't have Lance on the apron with me at SuperBrawl. Don't forget, Rey: SuperBrawl is in the Chicago area, and the Second City will be there to watch its favorite son become the World Heavyweight Champion!" The Heroes sarcastically wish their SuperBrawl opponents good luck in their UFS matches tonight and say they'll be watching very closely from the comfort of their own homes. (B+)
Billy Kidman and Teddy Hart, now collectively known as The Shooting Stars, lived up to their moniker by beating Shane Helms and Cash with beautiful stereo Shooting Star Presses. Perhaps the match would've gone better for the losers if Helms hadn't been so focused on bickering with his manager Kimberly. (B-)
In a backstage promo, Sean O'Haire says it doesn't matter who Bonnie's Dingos name as the replacement to face him in the UFS and challenge for the TV title at SuperBrawl, because he'll run right through anyone and everyone put in front of him. (A)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #2 The Phenomenal Enigmas vs. #7 Bonnie's Dingos (Dingos lead 1-0)
The Dingos were in a state of flux, needing to replace one of their members, but they could take a 2-0 lead if TAKA could beat AJ Styles. TAKA surely hadn't forgotten that it was Styles who ended his reign as Cruiserweight Champion last April, and that plus the importance of the UFS brought out the best in the skilled flier from Japan. TAKA gave as good as he got and pushed the US Champion hard, but AJ caught him on a springboard and hit the Styles Clash to get the Enigmas on the board. (B+)
In a chat session for WCW.com, the Jung Dragons mock the Hardys and warn them that the belts will belong to the rightful champions after SuperBrawl. The Hardys say they're tired of listening to the Dragons make a big deal out of Sin's finish when it was them who brought the chair into the ring and tried to use it because they knew they were losing. As the session breaks up, Shane Douglas gets in Matt Hardy's face and tells him to focus on what's really important: his UFS match against CM Punk next week. "Knoble did his job tonight, and next week you better do yours!" Douglas shouts at his fellow Dead Jesters member. (B)
A morose Booker T visits the office of Arn Anderson to ask him who will be the replacement member of Bonnie's Dingos. Arn says that'll be up to the team manager and no decision has been made yet, and Booker shakes his head. "Everything's going against me, so why should this be any different?" he asks, seemingly to himself since he's not even looking at Arn. (A)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #1 Uncrewed's Crew vs. #8 Scotty's Band of Misfits
Anticipation was high for this rematch of the excellent Stu Hart Classic finale, and both Mysterio and Corino approached this like another PPV caliber matchup. Corino brought a different gameplan to the ring this time. Instead of focusing on Rey's legs as he did the first time, he heavily attacked the champion's neck, building off of some of the damage he'd taken in the physical match against Unnatural at Sin. That didn't keep Rey from executing some of his vaunted aerial offense though. A spectacular running flip dive took a lot out of both men near the end of this lengthy bout, and it was some time before Rey started to stir. He was just about to roll back into the ring, but Corino crawled over and grabbed onto his leg to stop him as the referee's count reached ten. The finish: a double count out, meaning neither team made any progress towards a series victory. (A)
Show Grade: A
February 8th, 2003
From the Tokuyama Sports Center in Tokuyama, Japan
Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks
Melissa Anderson had a chance for revenge against one of her antagonists in an official match this week as she went one on one with LuFisto. Melissa seemed to have things going her way after pulling a page out of Uncle Arn's book with the spinebuster, but Daffney tripped her foot as she ran the ropes. Melissa fell on her face and was finished by a LuFisto moonsault. (C+)
Etsuko Mita cuts a backstage promo before she steps through the curtain for her UFS match against Daffney. She talks about the match briefly but spends most of her time focusing on next week, when she'll get her rematch against Manami Toyota for the Women's World Championship. She says she hopes Toyota has enjoyed carrying that title around for the past few months, because she's about to bring it back to The Empire. Toyota has heard enough of her boasting and confronts her, telling Etsuko that she's good, but has never been good enough to beat her in a fair fight. Etsuko shakes her head and says one Death Valley Driver is all it'll take for Manami's delusions of grandeur to be shattered. (A)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #3 Sin-free Society vs. #6 The Dead Jesters (Dead Jesters lead 1-0)
Mita certainly didn't want to suffer a defeat one week before her championship match, but this was an important match for Daffney too. If she lost, the Sin-free Society would be one loss away from a first round exit. Daffney fought with tenacity, aggression and downright meanness, but the superior skill of Mita shone through as she outwrestled her unpredictable opponent and hit the DVD to put the Dead Jesters one win away from advancing. (C+)
Kyoko Inoue approaches Devil Masami backstage to warn her that she won't allow herself to be bullied or sneak attacked like Masami had done to Meiko Satomura, and she'll prove that the Devil isn't so fearsome after all during their UFS match in tonight's main event. Devil says that she'll beat Kyoko up and put her to sleep tonight, and if she feels like doing it to Satomura or anyone else, she can do it anytime she wants. (C)
The plucky Allison Corino gave her usual hard effort in a match against Momoe Nakanishi, but the "Genius of Pin" again lived up to her name by pinning Corino with a La Magistral cradle. (C-)
Several of the Renaissance women are asked to make their predictions on who will win next week's title match between Toyota and Mita. Takako Inoue and Shinobu Kandori predict it'll be Mita regaining the title, while Chigusa Nagayo and Meiko Satomura think the belt is staying with Toyota. Aja Kong just yells at the person asking the question and says it doesn't matter, because she's the true world champion and she could beat up either of them easily. (C)
A video recaps the double countout finish between Rey Mysterio Jr. and King Corino to close out Nitro, and poses the question of what happens if Uncrewed's Crew and Scotty's Band of Misfits split the remaining four matches, meaning neither team hits the three wins required to close out a series? (A)
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #1 Uncrewed's Crew vs. #8 Scotty's Band of Misfits
After the draw between Rey and Corino, both teams were still looking to get their first win of the contest. Both teams had to feel confident in sending out Devil Masami and Kyoko Inoue respectively. Devil's feared reputation preceded her into WCW and has only grown during her time on Renaissance, but one woman who is not intimated by her is Kyoko Inoue. Kyoko fought the Devil head-on, trusting in her own toughness and the effectiveness of her signature Victoria Driver. She was never quite able to land that sure match-ender though, and eventually she got caught in Masami's sleeper. (B)
Show Grade: B
I haven't tallied them up yet, but it feels like there was some even support for several teams and no clear front-runner. That seems about right. Heck, even I'm not sure who will win yet! (I'm pretty set on the final two, but the winner is still up in the air.)