March 2003: Road to Slamboree, Part I
February 24th, 2003
From The MARK of the Quad Cities in Moline, Illinois
Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart
We begin with backstage footage after SuperBrawl went off the air last night. Rey Mysterio Jr. returns from ringside after having retained his World Heavyweight Championship against CM Punk, but out of nowhere he's attacked by Shane Douglas! Douglas slams Rey's head against the wall, slams him on the floor and bashes him in the face with his own title belt! In a voiceover, Mike and I let fans know that Douglas will step into Piper's Pit tonight to explain his actions. (B+)
With his tutelage under Booker T seemingly over and having just lost to Fit Finlay in a decisive UFS match, Bobby Roode's career looked to be in flux. He got his hand raised tonight with the Northern Lariat in a convincing win over Jason Jett. (C)
Satyr's Hopeful Few are cutting a promo on tonight's 4 on 4 elimination-style tiebreaker against The K-Nections (with The Unnatural doing most of the talking) when Ric Flair struts into the camera shot. He tells "Dustin" that this tiebreaker never would've been necessary if he hadn't been disrespectful just like his old man, because Ric would've been more than happy to help him beat RVD. Unnatural begins to chastise Flair, but Father Isaac cuts him off. "I think we got off on the wrong foot," he says to Flair. "Perhaps you and I could go and speak in private?" Flair agrees to that, walking off with Isaac after a parting "woo" in Dustin's face. (B)
The Shooting Stars soared (get it?) to victory against independent wrestlers Chris Bosh and Jerrelle Clark. (B-)
One of the UFS Semifinal series is already set: The Phenomenal Enigmas will take on the Sin-free Society. All the male members of those teams assemble in the ring for a promo, and it unsurprisingly gets heated. Of particular notice was CM Punk, who did almost all of the talking for his team, trashing AJ Styles on Lance Storm's behalf and saying that he should just hand that US title over to the real champion. No blows were thrown, but the series will get underway next week when Rick Steiner wrestles Lance Storm. (A)
The Empire (sans Eric Bischoff and Etsuko Mita, but including reluctant new member Jamie Knoble) are gathered backstage by King Corino, who rallies the troops. "The CEO extended his hand to Steve Austin in friendship last night, and that SOB bit that hand like the snake he is! Tonight, we're going to call him out to the ring and make him pay for it!" (B+)
Last night's "Armani emergency" had apparently been resolved, because Made in Italy competed tonight. They had no trouble disposing of Lash Leroux and Big Vito. (B-)
The Steiners attempt to attack Made in Italy after the match, but Dawn Marie catches Scott's attention long enough for Parisi and Mamaluke to escape. (B-)
24 hours after overcoming a massive size difference to beat The Destroyer and send Uncrewed's Crew into the Semifinals of the UFS, Bryan Danielson took on someone his own size in Cash. Cash gave a good effort but was defeated by Cattle Mutilation. (B)
Bobby Heenan interviews the male members of The K-Nections. After Scott Steiner, DDP and Harry Smith get their turns to comment, RVD says that he would've ended this series last night if it wasn't for Ric Flair, but tonight all four of them would work together to do so. With three former World Heavyweight Champions and a future superstar among them, they were going to be a winning combination. (A*)
The legend Sting showed he's still a force to be reckoned with by tapping Shawn Stasiak out to the Scorpion Deathlock. (B-)
Bobby Heenan visits the locker room of Steve Austin for a reaction to King Corino's comments earlier in the night. Austin says that he's not in a match tonight and was just going to drink some beer and have a good time, but if Corino calls him out, you can bet your last dollar that The Hellraiser will answer the call, son! (B+)
Volador and Aguila recovered from their loss last night by defeating the team of Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Psychosis, Volador taking care of Chavo while Aguila finished Psychosis with a beautiful moonsault. (B-)
Shane Douglas on Piper's Pit: "Why did I attack Rey Mysterio Jr. last night? It should be obvious: because it's past time for me to get my shot at the title! After that punk AJ Styles allegedly made me submit in my US title rematch, I could only watch as Bobby Roode came up short and got my team eliminated from the UFS. My stock was fading, and who knows if I would ever be given a fair shot? Front offices don't like someone like me, someone unafraid to speak his mind and unafraid to call them out on their garbage. I couldn't afford to wait for an opportunity to be given to me: I had to take it. And I took it by laying Mysterio out last night. Now he'll have revenge on his mind--and he'll be willing to put that title on the line to try and get it." (A)
Main event time. One team advances, one team goes home. The K-Nections were dealt a horrible blow early on in the match when, during a wild brawl between the two teams that the referee couldn't control, Ric Flair snuck in and knocked RVD out with brass knuckles. He was the first elimination of the match moments later, and the K-Nections were trying to play catchup from then on. DDP eventually found himself in an unenviable 3-on-1 situation. He opened the door after hitting the Diamond Cutter on Alexander and pinning him, but The Unnatural and Mortis exploited their two on one advantage to the fullest. Page fought hard, but Unnatural Selection finished him off and set up a Semifinal series between Uncrewed's Crew and Satyr's Hopeful Few. (B+)
As promised, The Empire came to the ring and Corino called out Austin. He promised that the unprovoked assault of Eric Bischoff would not go unpunished. Since he figured Austin would be too afraid to come down there and get his butt kicked by the entire group, he'll personally guarantee that only one member of The Empire will make any attempt to beat him down tonight. "After all, we don't need the numbers! One's all we need to take you out, you stupid redneck!"
Whether Austin believed Corino's guarantee or not probably made no difference, because he stepped out from the back like he was fully prepared to take on every last member of The Empire. The crowd rose to their feet as Austin started walking down the aisle. Before he could make it all the way down, though...
He was attacked from behind by Booker T! Austin was too surprised by the ambush to mount much of a defense, and he was soon laid out with a Book End on the floor! Corino had a huge grin on his face as he watched.
"I'm a man of my word, Steve. I promised that only one member of The Empire would attack you, and that's just what happened! Eric might not be here with us tonight physically, but his presence is still being felt. He reached out and offered Booker T a position in our growing Empire, and Booker made the wise decision to join our ranks. You could have too, Austin. You could have shook Eric's hand and joined the winning side, but instead you chose to stand alone. And now you'll be destroyed, alone."
Show Grade: B+
March 1st, 2003
From the Sendai City Gymnasium in Sendai, Japan
Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks
In the opener, Chigusa Nagayo beat Sonoko Kato with the Super Freak. (B)
Post-match: Nagayo grabs the microphone and says that she was just trying to pass some of her wisdom as a 22-year veteran on by reassuring Etsuko Mita that her failure to regain the title wasn't the end of the world, but Mita threw it in her face, and she won't let that stand. Mita comes into the aisle and tells her she didn't ask for or want her advice, and she doesn't care if Chigusa is insulted or not. (A)
Aja Kong and Meiko Satomura cut brief pre-taped promos for tonight's singles main event, with Kong's AAAW Singles title "unofficially" on the line. (B-)
Shinobu Kandori used her judo skills for a submission win over luchadora Mary Apache. (C)
Backstage: Our Generation confront Daffney and LuFisto. Melissa tells them that Nattie has been cleared to return to action after being hit with Daffney's mist at Dancing with the Devil, and she'll be wrestling LuFisto one on one next week. (C+)
Veteran Kyoko Inoue and youngster Momoe Nakanishi joined forces to defeat Takako Inoue and Katarina Waters (borrowed from 5SSW for this show) when Momoe pinned Waters with the Momo*Latch. (C+)
Recap video: King Corino goads Steve Austin into a trap, where he's attacked and laid out in the aisle by Booker T, the newest member of The Empire! (A*)
Many feel that Meiko Satomura could be the standard bearer for Renaissance in the future, but facing Aja Kong was a big test to find out where she stands in the present. She acquitted herself very well, executing a smart gameplan that was all about fast, high-flying offense and not allowing Kong to use her size and strength. She even showed veteran poise in ignoring the presence of Devil Masami when she showed up halfway through and began watching the match from the aisle, but she made one big mistake. As she came off of the top rope for an aerial attack, Kong smacked her with her Uraken backfist. That was all it took for Aja to maintain her grip on the title she's held since January 2002. (B-)
Post-match: Manami Toyota comes to the ring to confront Kong. She says that a showdown between them has been a long time coming. She's the officially recognized Women's World Champion in WCW, but Kong keeps calling herself the true champion--and it's a fact that Aja never lost the belt Manami now holds. She says there's only one way to settle this: Manami puts up her belt, Aja puts up hers, and we have a title unification match to determine once and for all who the champion truly is! A grinning Kong says that sounds like a great idea to her. She'll happily bash in Manami's pretty face, the face that WCW has sold Renaissance on, and in the process she'll prove she's the most dominant wrestler in the world today, regardless of gender! (A*)
Show Grade: B+
March 3rd, 2003
From the Ralph Englestad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota
Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart
We opened with The Empire in the ring. They were out to explain how and why Booker T came to join the group. Booker said that everyone saw what happened to him after Starrcade, after the World Heavyweight Championship was taken from him. After spending over a year trying to get that belt back, he couldn't cope with losing it all over again. He hadn't known what to do next--and that's where Eric Bischoff came in.
Corino took over and explained the Bischoff side, since Eric was still selling the Stunner and wasn't here to handle this part. He said that it had been Eric who saw the potential in Booker in the first place and brought him to WCW, and he'd always believed that Booker would be great one day. Even though their paths hadn't often diverged, he was proud of Booker for achieving so much success. Eric was content to leave Booker to do his own thing, but he saw what happened to Booker after Starrcade and felt that he needed a helping hand. Eric was happy to provide that, and with Booker now joining the fold, the World Heavyweight Championship would soon belong to The Empire! Both of these guys did a pretty good job with their delivery
Out came Austin to crash the party, steel chair in hand. He said that he didn't give a damn about empires, helping hands or anything else. What he cared about was Booker T whipped his ass last week, and he wasn't about to let that stand. He said that he knew the odds were against him, with all of The Empire standing there and him being by himself. But he did have a steel chair in his hands, and even if they did eventually overwhelm him, you could bet he was going to take a couple of them out first!
Corino hastened to say that wouldn't be necessary. There was no reason for Austin to enter a fight he had no hope of winning; The Empire was all about sportsmanship and fair play! (Mike and I were quick to say that Corino just didn't want anything to do with a chair-wielding Hellraiser.) Booker agreed, saying that he can beat Austin up all on his own any time he wants, just like he did last week. This led to Austin challenging Booker to a one on one match, right then and there! Booker agreed to face Austin in his first match back in WCW--but not tonight. "If I'm gonna send 'The Hellraiser' back where he came from, I'm gonna do it on pay-per-view! I'll see ya at Slamboree, sucka!"
Steve was really good here, and this was a great start to the show. The fans loved it and are already looking forward to Austin versus Booker in Steve's WCW (re)debut.
Ultimate Fan Series, Opening Round: #2 The Phenomenal Enigmas vs. #3 Sin-free Society
This Semifinal series opened with Rick Steiner taking on Lance Storm. Steiner connected with a couple of Steiner-lines and used a few effective suplexes, but Storm was able to outwrestle him and earn a tapout with the Calgary Clutch. (B)
After the match, AJ Styles steps into the aisle. He says Lance has a right to be upset with the way their match at SuperBrawl ended. AJ's upset about it too, because even if he was still the champion, he still didn't get to prove he can beat Lance. That's why he went to Arn Anderson and requested a rematch at Slamboree--this time with no time limit! Storm nods in approval, obviously happy to be getting a second shot at the US title. (A)
Per Rey Mysterio Jr's request, both he and Shane Douglas are summoned to Arn Anderson's office. Rey says there was no need for Douglas to attack him from behind like a coward; if he wanted a title shot, all he needed to do was ask. Douglas laughs and says Rey knows nothing about the politics of wrestling if he really believes that, because people have been denying him the things that he's deserved for years. Rey asks Arn to sanction a title match between he and Douglas at Slamboree, and despite his unease about rewarding bad behavior, Arn gives the champion what he wants and makes the match official. He also reminds Shane to prepare himself, because he's wrestling Bryan Danielson in tonight's main event. (A)
Ultimate Fan Series, Semifinal Round: #1 Uncrewed's Crew vs. #4 Satyr's Hopeful Few
It was The Empire against Salvation here: Chuck Palumbo against Mortis. Fans might not have known who to cheer for here, but the match was of critical importance to both teams as they tried to start the series off right. It was Mortis who did so for the Hopeful Few with his Flatliner. (B)
Stacy Keibler leads the Jung Dragons to confront Sean O'Haire at an autograph signing. Stacy brags that Kaz will not only beat O'Haire in their UFS match next week, he'll be taking the World Television Championship while he's at it. O'Haire grins and says he looks forward to it. (B-)
The entirety of Satyr's Hopeful Few gathers backstage, where The Unnatural delivers what is apparently supposed to be a motivational speech. Mortis and Alexander naturally follow their fellow Salvation member's line of thinking, and Christopher Daniels seems receptive to it as well. This leaves Melissa Anderson as the only one standing there looking absolutely baffled as she tries to decipher what was just said. (B+)
Jamie Knoble took on Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a #1 contender's match, with the winner to challenge Christopher Daniels for the Cruiserweight title at Slamboree. Knoble wrestled his normal mat-based style of match, but received unexpected aid when TAKA attacked Chavo on the outside of the ring. Knoble's back was turned when it happened and he was seemingly unaware of it, but it worked to his benefit and allowed him to win the match not too much later. (B+)
The Sin-free Society gather backstage. CM Punk congratulates his friend Lance Storm on getting the series started with a win over Rick Steiner. Daffney cackles and says she'll do the same to "pretty little Alexis Laree" this week on Renaissance and put the team one win away from the finals. (B+)
Harry Smith is still trying to find his way in WCW, especially now without his father there to support him, but he did get his hand raised tonight when he beat Shawn Stasiak. (C+)
The Steiners confront Made in Italy backstage, and Scott wants to know when they'll "stop runnin' and stand and fight!" Mamaluke says they are not afraid of the Steiners and will be happy to prove it at the appropriate time. Scott asks when that will be, and Parisi says they'll check their schedules and get back to them. (B-)
The Shooting Stars have shown some promise in their early days as a team, but they had a huge test tonight as they met the Hardys in a non-title match. Kidman and Teddy Hart put up a good fight against the champions, but Teddy missed on a Shooting Star Press and was subsequently finished with a Twist of Fate from Matt. (B)
Post-show footage from last week: Rob Van Dam is unwrapping his wrist tape when Ric Flair struts into his locker room. Flair taunts him, saying he'll soon be forgotten after being eliminated in the first round of the UFS, but promises to make sure he gets an invite to Slamboree so he can watch the Nature Boy get inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame. RVD gets up and shows uncharacteristic anger as he shoves Flair backwards. Ric, surprised and no longer smiling, hurries out of the room. (A*)
Shane Douglas now has the World title match he wanted, but he needed to get his head in the game if he wanted to defeat one of the brightest young superstars in WCW, Bryan Danielson. Danielson used his masterful technical wrestling skills to put Douglas on the defensive, and Shane, while a fair technical wrestler, could not match him in that department. Danielson proved himself a capable brawler as well when Douglas tried to turn the match into more of a fistfight. This left Shane to try and win the match with his mind. When Danielson attempted a top rope headbutt, Shane proved that he'd been playing possum as he jumped up, ran over and brought him back down to the mat with a huge superplex for the pin. (B)
Show Grade: B+
March 8th, 2003
From the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, Japan
Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks
In her first match since Dancing with the Devil, Nattie Neidhart looked as good as ever in defeating LuFisto via submission. (C)
It is officially announced that Manami Toyota and Aja Kong will meet in a title unification match in the main event of the next Renaissance PPV on April 6th, which will appropriately be titled 'Unified.' Both women give pre-taped comments about the match and plug the contract signing that will take place next week. (B+)
Ultimate Fan Series, Semifinal Round: #2 The Phenomenal Enigmas vs. #3 Sin-free Society (Society leads 1-0)
Alexis Laree looked to get the Enigmas on the board in a match with Daffney. She performed well and seemed to be closing in on the victory, but Daffney rolled her up and held onto her pants for additional leverage to get the pin and put the Society up 2-0. (B-)
Vignette: Meiko Satomura approaches Melissa Anderson during a public appearance and wishes her luck during her UFS match against Devil Masami next week. Devil is also on hand, and she mocks both of them. She says Meiko should just be happy it'll be Melissa getting beat up next week instead of Meiko. (B)
A video promotes a battle of champions coming up Monday on Nitro, where Rey Mysterio Jr. of Uncrewed's Crew will wrestle Christopher Daniels from Satyr's Hopeful Few. (A*)
Her title unification match is already official, so tonight's match pitting Manami Toyota against Momoe Nakanishi was obviously not for the title. That didn't mean it wasn't a huge match though, especially for Momoe. She gave the Women's World Champion everything she had. The 'Genius of Pin' nearly pinned Manami several times with some of her sudden pin combinations, but Toyota prevailed by brilliantly countering a Nakanishi victory roll attempt into her Ocean Cyclone Suplex. (B)
Show Grade: B
Originally Posted by James Casey
TFC, I've been reading this one on and off for a while now, but every time I seemed to make real headway your page count leapt ahead again
It probably helps that my pace has slowed down quite a bit!
It's such a good read, and I'm really pleased to be caught up. I've enjoyed the rise of Rey Mysterio, the fantastic tag matches, the slow dismantling of the old big names... you've even found a use for Shane Douglas, who I thought peaked around about 1994 and then fell off a cliff.
Big night coming up for Douglas, too. He's got some big shoes to fill, trying to follow some of Rey's recent big matches.
For a resurgent WCW to have Steve Austin on board is great news. I'm curious how good he'll be in the ring - Austin in 2003 was just about done, match-wise, I think? But maybe in-game he'd dinged up but can still go.
It still remains to be seen since I haven't actually put him in a match yet, but it at least looks like he should be up to the task.
I love the fan interaction you've got going - the prediction contests, the UFS... I know that must be so difficult for you to keep organised, but it really works (and I love seeing the UFS winners get their own angle on a show, too!)
It can be difficult to track at times, yeah. Tallying up the prediction scores is pretty tedious. It usually takes me a bit to try and piece together how the UFS will play out each time, but it's also led me in some interesting directions I probably wouldn't have taken on my own.
I also like that Bret hasn't become the focus of the show too much. Obviously in real life he was physically incapable, but in a diary it would be excusable for him to get involved to some degree. It's cool you haven't gone that way (says someone who does often go that way...)
I don't think there's any other way you COULD go, playing as Ric Flair. Especially when he's still an active wrestler!
Excellent work all 'round, and now to see what Vince can put together for WrestleMania!
Thanks man! I appreciate the comment, and I'm a big fan of Dangerous Territory. As for Mania, well...that'll be in the hands of the winner of this prediction contest, assuming they want it.