The Way Too Long Review of The Rise & Fall of WCW: Disc Two
by Charlie Reneke on September 4, 2009

What is the single best disc the WWE has ever produced?  Ultimate Ric Flair Collection, disc one?  Pretty good, but only three matches long.  One of the Chris Benoit discs?  Loaded with quality, no doubt.  How about the Undertaker disc that had his matches with Shawn Michaels?  Some of the Bret Hart discs?

No folks, this is it.  The best single disc collection of matches the WWE has ever put out.  All the reasons to buy The Rise & Fall of WCW are in disc two.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.

And for those of you curious, NO, blood is not censored in this set.  I’m told that blood censoring will likely not happen in DVD format and that any set that could potentially show a lot of gore, such as a War Games set, will carry a higher rating.  So fear not, your War Games set or the next Flair set that will come out as sure as the tide will come in will not cut to black-and-white whenever someone blades.

Match #1: $1,000 Challenge Match
Ric Flair vs. Magnum T.A.
6/15/85 NWA World Championship Wrestling

Never saw this one.  Then again, I had just turned four at the time this aired.  At this point, everyone knew that Magnum had the potential to one day be the world champion, but they were still slowly building him up.  It wasn’t until September of 1986 that it was decided he would be champion for sure.  One month later, his career ended in a car accident.  Anyway, Flair cuts a promo about how big a poser everyone but him is.  Magnum comes out and challenges Flair to a match with the TV time that is remaining, fifteen minutes.  He puts up $1,000 to get Flair in the ring.  Flair accepts, and we head to the ring with a ten minute time limit.  The bet is Flair can’t beat him in ten minutes.  Flair is the NWA Champion here, while Magnum is the United States Champion.

Lockup up and Flair chops Magnum in the corner, only to get smacked down.  Shoulderblock and a dropkick by Magnum sends Flair to the corner.  Flair lures Magnum in close to chop him and ram him into the turnbuckle.  Flair gets reversed on a whip and backdropped.  Forearm leads to Flair flopping down.  Flair dumps Magnum through the ropes while the Andersons come out to watch the match and declare that they’re Flair’s cousins.  Magnum fires off a suplex for two.  Flair fires away at Magnum’s gut, then snapmares him over and drops a knee.  Gutwrench by Flair gets two.  Chops and an abdominal stretch by Flair, and he holds the ropes for added dickery.  Magnum hip-tosses out of it, and he’s bleeding for some reason.  Shoot off and Magnum gets a small package for two.  Slug-off by Magnum and then a hard whip that sends Flair up and over to the floor.  The Andersons cry for a DQ, but Magnum did not intentionally throw him over and thus we continue.  Flair hangs up Magnum on the ropes, then comes off the top with a sledge that actually works.  Elbowdrop gets two.  Flair dumps Magnum through the ropes and to the concrete.  Flair smacks Magnum around and tosses him into the post.  Back in, Flair grabs an armbar.  Magnum keeps trying to muscle out, so Flair takes him down by the hair, then chops him in the corner and wrings his arm on the ropes.  Magnum reverses a whip and sends Flair into the turnbuckle.  Stomping by Magnum and a wristlock, which is torques up on.  Flair reverses and is shot off into a shoulderblock.  Rollup by Magnum gets two.  Standing elbow gets two.  Flair yanks Magnum down by the hair, but that just pisses Magnum off.  Shoot to the corner and a backdrop gets two.  Big splash is blocked by Flair’s knees.  Both guys fight over a backslide, which Magnum wins out on for two.  Shoulderblock by Flair leads into a press-slam by Magnum for two.  Punches in the corner by Magnum, then he cuts off Flair from coming back and hiptosses him across the ring.  Dropkick by Magnum whiffs and Flair covers for two.  Not sure why it makes a difference if he hits it or not, because he still hits the canvas either way.  Less then a minute left in the match and Flair climbs.  Magnum is up and tosses him off the top, then slaps on the figure-four.  Time runs out and Magnum wins the challenge because Flair did not beat him.  Magnum still goes after Flair, so the Andersons come into the ring and the three of them beat the shit out Magnum.
****1/4 Amazing stuff for such a short match.  Perfect timing, psychology, excellent storyline.  I shudder to think of all the great matches we lost because of Magnum’s accident.  These two had chemistry off the charts.  Way more then Sting and Flair had together.

Match #2
Sting, Lex Luger, & Barry Windham vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, & Tully Blanchard
4/3/88 NWA Main Event Wrestling

Speaking of chemistry, holy poop, this could be good.  Windham and Tully start.  Barry quickly gets a hiptoss and a chop.  Stall leads to Tully getting a knee up, but the babyfaces cut off a potential big brawl and pop the shit out of the crowd in the process.  Weird clipping issue follows, as we get shots of a crowd followed by a shot of two heels down on the mat, followed by Luger picking up Tully and tagging in Barry Windham.  Barry comes off the top with a big chop, then powerslams Tully for two.  Tully uses momentum to send Barry to the outside, where he hits hard.  Barry no-sells this and drags Tully to the floor and smacks him around.  Camera angles are just fucking horrible for this.  Barry grabs a sleeper on Tully, so Flair comes in only to get snatched in one.  Back suplex by Flair to escape, only for him to miss and elbow.  Headlock takeover leads to a bridge-out spot where Barry gets a backslide for two.  Slug-out sends Flair over the top and to the floor, causing J.J. to bitch about the lack of a DQ.  Flair fakes bailing on the match, then comes back in.  Arn Anderson tags in.  Barry headlocks him then tags Sting.  Huge pop for that tag.  Shoot off Sting does a hard scoop-slam to him.  Flair climbs for no reason and gets tossed off the top by Sting.  Arn tags Tully so that he can enjoy a beating.  Sting takes him down with a head-scissors.  Tag to Lex, who smacks Tully around and whips him hard into the turnbuckle.  Vertical suplex, then a shoot to the corner.  Lex charges but gets caught with a knee.  Tully comes off the top and gets caught in a bearhug.  The heels cause things to break down and Lex ends up on the canvas.  Shoot off his reversed by Lex but he lowers his head into a sick DDT.  Kneedrop gets two for Arn but Lex power-kicks out.  Tag to Flair who snapmares Luger over and drops a knee.  Anderson back in to send Lex into the corner.  Arn chokes Lex on the ropes, then tags in Tully, who comes in with a chop.  They send Lex to the floor where Flair smacks him on the guard rail.  Tully grabs a front-chancery and tags Flair.  Chops in the corner, then he shoots Lex into Anderson’s knees.  Tag to Arn who hits the spinebuster for two.  Double knuckle-lock pin by Anderson, but Lex powers out.  Anderson’s comical selling of Lex’s comeback is priceless.  Tully gets the blind tag and takes Lex down, then fires off a neck breaker.  He spits at Sting to draw him in and allow the heels the cheat.  Tag to Anderson who slaps on a chinlock.  Lex tries to fight out but he bounces off the ropes and into a knee from Arn.  Tag to Flair, which almost gives Lex enough time to get to his corner.  Flair stops him and hits a delayed suplex.  Lex pops up from this and fires off a clothesline.  Flair tags Tully, but Lex gets the hot tag to Barry.  Punches for all.  Powerslam for Tully gets nothing because the ref was late on making the count and Barry knew better then to see if it would work.  Barry charges but gets low-bridged out of the ring.  Tully drags him back in only for Barry to flip over him and get a rollup for two as Flair saves.  Things break down as Sting comes in to beat up Flair, while J.J. tosses a knuckle-duster to Tully.  He uses it on Barry and covers for the pin.
****1/2 Really, really hot tag match.  Sting wasn’t really used a lot, which is likely for the best because he was so green during this period.  Production problems aside, what you get here was that classic Mid-Atlantic tag formula that worked so well.  The psychology between all these guys was just light-years beyond anything the WWE was doing in 1988.  And to all those people who say Lex Luger was a nothing wrestler, shut the fuck up.  Before his motorcycle accident, he was better then most of the people in his position on the card in the business.  I can’t say enough good stuff here.  And this set is really looking like a contender for WWE DVD of the year.  Hell, at the rate it’s going, it could end up being the best set ever.

Match #3: United States Championship
(c) Barry Windham vs. Dusty Rhodes
7/10/88 Great American Bash

Dusty’s self-serving booking was completely out of control by this point.  He was the United States Champion before this match, but then got suspended and stripped of the title for attacking the horsemen with a baseball bat.  Did he need surgery?  No.  Did he take a break from booking?  No.  He simply did not want to job the title in the ring.  Weird shit, especially when you see how this match plays out.  Windham was really trim here, as I think he dealt with a stomach aliment during the year that caused him to drop weight at a shocking rate.  Now, it’s no secret I’m not a fan of Dusty Rhodes at all, as far as his matches go at least.  When I took a break earlier this month, I brought all my unwatched DVDs on vacation with me so I could get some of the requests you guys have been giving me done and posted.  I tried to finish the Dusty Rhodes set but gave up during the “don’t try this at home” opening.  I’m fifteen matches into it, and I just can’t bring myself to finish it.  But for you Dusty fans, you can pick up that set in the discount bins at select Wal Marts for $5.  The highest rating I’ve given any match thus far on it is ***, so you get what you pay for.

Circle to start, then Dusty locks up and fires off a hiptoss.  Barry charges at Dusty but backs away when Dusty shows off his elbow.  Lockup and Barry shoots him off into a shoulderblock.  Barry oversells this, then bails.  Back in, lockup and Dusty shoots him off into a cross-cross.  Dusty ducks for a leap-frog but Barry puts the breaks on and drops an elbow.  Dusty comes back with a scoopslam and a DDT.  Elbow by Dusty and he climbs.  Crossbody off the top gets a very close two.  For a second there I actually thought that was the finish.  It would be so Dusty.  Barry bails again and tries to get counted out, but Dusty keeps breaking the count, so Barry returns.  Back in, lockup and Barry slugs it out in the corner, but his punches might as well be healing spells because Dusty no-sells then and brawls Barry around, leading to him bailing again.  Back in, Barry asks for a test of strength, then kicks away.  To outside, where, Barry brawls Dusty on the guardrail.  Barry goes for a piledriver on the concrete, but Dusty backdrops out of it.  Big pop for that, then a clothesline.  Barry sells this brilliantly.  Barry is slow to get back in, but then he gets his wind back ten-punches Dusty in the corner, then takes him down.  Back to the outside, where Barry rams him into the apron.  Dusty up to the apron, where he grabs the ropes and slings Dusty over the top rope and only the concrete floor.  Sick bump there.  Dusty follows this up with a scoopslam on the concrete.  J.J. Dillon distracts Dusty, giving Barry a chance to attack Dusty from behind.  Scoopslam and an elbowdrop.  Barry calls for the claw, shoots Dusty off and applies it to his face.  He takes Dusty down to the canvas and gets some near falls with it.  After a long while, Dusty gets to his feet, only to collapse to his knees again.  Dusty tries to fight back again and ends up on the ropes, claw still being applied to him, ready to come off with an elbow, but again the pain becomes too much and he falls off the top.  Funny camera angle makes it look like Dusty is blowing Barry.  Dusty tries to fight back with some weak punches.  After roughly five minutes in the hold, Dusty fights out with some elbows.  He doesn’t even bother to try to sell having it on him for five minutes and immediately goes for a figure-four, but Barry grabs the claw again.  Dusty climbs the ropes to try and escape, but Barry lets go of it and sets up for a superplex.  Dusty pushes him off and wipes out the referee in the process.  To the opposite corner, Barry climbs but Dusty catches him and slings him off the top.  Big elbowdrop by Dusty hits but there’s no referee to count it.  BUT WAIT~! because Dusty’s newest BFF, Ronnie Garvin, comes in and drops Dusty out cold with one punch.  Fans are stunned.  Barry back in just as the referee wakes up.  Barry applies the claw again and Dusty is out cold and it gets the pin.
*** Considering that half this match consisted of Barry holding his hand up to Dusty’s face, most will likely say I’m being too generous with this score.  You know what, at least they worked the hold and it made the context of the match interesting.  Plus Barry took some really sick bumps.

That said, I hate Dusty Rhodes with a passion.  As a creative mind, yeah, he’s pretty good.  As long as he’s being creative for someone else.  But as far as wrestling talent goes, I never saw an up-side to Dusty.  One of the most ungiving, selfish wrestlers ever.  Nobody came out of a match with Dusty looking better then they did before.  He made nobody’s career.  He would no-sell the best offense from up-and-comers who could have benefited from looking strong against a star of his caliber.  All he did was take, never give.  I’m sure people will say all that stuff applies to Hulk Hogan as well, and maybe it does, but there is a big difference: Hogan drew money.  Dusty did not.  Oh sure, he was popular and the fans popped for him, but where’s the money?  If he was as big a draw as people say he was, he would have been the NWA Champion for more then the cups of coffee the board of directors allowed him to be.  I cringe every time I see a Dusty Rhodes match in a DVD listing, because they’re all the same, with him making the heels look like shit, no-selling their best offense and booking himself to go over strong.  Just plain can’t stand him

Match #4: NWA World Heavyweight Championship
(c) Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat
2/20/89 Chi-Town Rumble

This is the first part of their famous trilogy of matches, the final two parts of which are on Ric Flair’s DVD set.  Lockup,  Steamboat gets a quick shoulderblock for two.  Headlock, Steamboat ends up with a rollup for two and Flair bails.  Back in, they lock up to the corner, and Flair chops.  Steamboat chops, and we’re having a chop-off, won by Steamboat.  Ricky grabs Flair’s foot, so Flair grabs Steamboat’s hair.  Chop by Flair, HUGE CHOP by Steamboat that echoes in the arena.  Hammerlock, dropkick by Steamboat and a headlock takedown for two.  Ricky tries to use leverage and Flair ends up getting a rollup for two, but the Steamer holds on to the headlock.  Another chop-off, and another HUGE chop by Ricky for two.  Damn man, those are some sick ass chops.  Flair bails again.  Back in, they lock up, and Flair chops off.  Shoulderblock by Flair, but Ricky chops him to the outside.  Back in, another lockup, Flair chops, but Ricky catches a shoulderblock, and a dropkick, and some wild version of a victory roll, and a headlock takeover for two.  Headlock, which turns into a lockup, and Flair grabs some hair and chops away.  Elbows to the head, but Steamer fights back.  Shoulderblock, but Flair catches a backelbow.  Steamboat no sells and chops Flair furiously, dumping him to the outside.  Flair pulls Ricky to the outside and brawls away, raking the eyes and chopping him down to the floor.  Elbow by Flair on the apron, and he stomps away.  Snapmare and kneedrop for one.  Double arm suplex for two.  More chopping, but Steamboat fights back.  Note to self: Don’t chop Steamboat.  It’s like his fuel.  Flair whipped into the corner, does his Flair twisty upside down spot, but lands on his feet and runs to the other turnbuckle to hit a crossbody block, but Steamboat rolls through… for two.  Everyone thought that was the finish.  And that’s amazing because nobody thought Ricky would walk out with the world title.  Figure four by Flair, and he uses the ropes to his advantage.  A couple two counts.  Ref finally catches Ric using the ropes after a long figure four sequence.  Flair slugs off, but Ricky chops back, and a wild chop misses and both guys tumble over the top rope.  Thankfully, it’s not a DQ.  Flair throws Ricky into the post and gets back in the ring.  Flair suplexes Ricky back into the ring for two.  Another two, and another two.  Backdrop for two.  Flair wants the ref to count faster, so the ref pushes him.  Heh.  Backbreaker, then he covers with his feet on the ropes, and how the hell did the referee miss that?  A bunch of two counts, Steamboat schoolboys Flair for two, then misses a big cross body off the top.  Both guys reverse some moves, and Ricky uses a power bridge into a double arm suplex for two.  Backslide for two, and then back to the chop-off.  Clothesline by Steamboat.  Flying tackle by Steamboat.  Big chop off the top rope, and the fans are buzzing.  Crossbody off the top, but Steamboat wipes out the referee.  Flair rolls up Steamboat and grabs the tights, but there is still no ref.  Flair dumps Ricky, but Steamer holds on to the ropes and fights his way back in.  Crossbody off the top misses, and Flair goes for the figure four, but Ricky small packages him and another referee comes in to count the three!  Ricky wins his only World Championship.  The original referee wakes up and everyone thinks it’s going to be a Dusty Finish, but the original ref raises Steamboat’s hand!
***** Great match, but scary enough, not even the best match these two had that year or even close.  These guys had chemistry like no other wrestlers had.  And I especially loved the ending that capitalized on all the previous Dusty finishes, but was done in such a way that the fans thought they had been screwed like they had so many times in the previous years.  They popped for the count that referee Teddy Long made, but then pop louder when referee Tommy Young recovered and immediately raised Steamboat’s hand.

Match #5
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express
2/25/90 Wrestle War

Last month, in my review of Allied Powers, I gave a match with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express five-stars.  I’m guessing this won’t top that, but I’m hopeful.  Robert Gibson starts with Stan Lane.  Lockup and Gibson fires off an armdrag.  Hiptoss by Lane to counter out of it.  Lockup and Gibson knocks Lane down with a shoulderblock.  Another shoulderblock, then Lane drops down for a leapfrog and gets elbowed.  Lane bails, then Jim Cornette and him jaw with the referee.  Cornette completely freaks out and tries to pick a fight with referee Nick Patrick.  It actually works and Patrick puts his dukes up with some prodding from the faces.  Cornette chickens out and bails.  Fans are totally fired off.  Match starts again and Ricky Morton is in.  He gives Lane an atomic drop that sends him into Bobby Eaton, knocking them both to the floor.  The Midnight Express get pissed at each-other and jaw a bit.  Back in, Lane and chops away hits a slam.  Tag to Eaton who eats a couple arm drags.  Stall, followed by a test of strength.  Eaton wins out on it for a bit but Morton ends up climbing up Eaton like a rock-wall at a gym, then comes off his shoulders and chops Lane down, while Gibson takes out Bobby.  Awesome spot, due for a comeback.  Lane in and he puts his dukes up, then bails to the ropes.  Morton kicks him in the ass to send him to the floor.  Another stall follows, then Eaton comes back.  Shoot off and Cornette trips up Morton, who then attempts to kill Jimmy, and they take him to the floor.  Cornette sells this whole thing so well.  I miss him as a manager.  Gibson and Eaton lock up and RRE double backdrop Eaton, then double clothesline Lane, then dump Eaton to the floor with a double clothesline.  Stall, then back in Eaton kicks Gibson in the gut.  Tag to Stan but Gibson gets the best of him and the faces beat him back and forth.  Tag to Morton and a double elbow.  Morton gets dumped through the ropes only to fight back and send Lane into the ring post.  Eaton tags in and Morton applies a wristlock, but Eaton slaps him and chops him.  Morton charges and both guys tumble over the top rope and to the floor.  Lane runs around and scoopslams Morton on the floor.  Gibson helps Morton to his feet.  Back in, Eaton hits his sick diving back-breaker.  Tag to Lane who doubles up on Morton and hits a head-of-steam.  Cornette gets a cheap shot in while the ref isn’t looking.  Lane with a superkick, then a tag to Eaton for a drop-toehold/elbowdrop combo for two.  Beautiful brainbuster by Beautiful Bobby gets two.  Tag to Lane who hits a powerslam for two as Gibson saves.  Lane knocks Gibson off the apron, which draws him into the ring and distracts the ref.  Morton gets dropped on the guard rail.  Ricky fights back by ramming Eaton into the post, but back in he gets taken down by an invisible clothesline from Lane for two.  Sunset flip by Morton but the referee is jawing with Cornette, allowing the heels to cheat with some choking.  Blind tag by Eaton while Morton grabs another sunset flip, but Lane is no longer the legal man and Eaton kicks him down.  Morton charges but eats a snake-eyes in the corner.  Lane back in and he stands on Morton’s face in the corner.  Shoot off but Lane lowers his head into a kick.  Morton is out of it and can’t make the tag, so Bobby tags in and takes Morton down with an armbar, then grounded into a hammerlock.  Morton to his feet and he bounces off the ropes, but the heels make another blind tag and Lane gets a throat-thrust.  Wristlock by Lane.  Morton tries to fight back so Eaton tags back in and brawls him to the corner.  Scoopslam by Eaton who climbs and hits a Macho Man-like elbow off the top rope for two.  Tag to Lane who grabs an armbar.  Morton tries to fight back so Lane elbows him down and tags Eaton.  Bobby sends Morton shoulder-first into the post, then fires off an armbar-takedown.  Another grounded hammerlock by Eaton.  Morton gets to his feet and a shoot to the corner leads to both guys cracking skulls.  Tag to Lane who its a nasty back-suplex.  Tag to Eaton and the Midnight Express go for the rocket launcher, but Morton gets his knees up.  Hot tag by Morton.  Punches for all.  Scoopslam for one heel, dropkick for another, and a sunset flip to Morton for two.  Things break down and Cornette gets a hard shot with his racket to Gibson.  It gets two and Cornette has a heart attack.  Midnight Express go for a flapjack but Gibson turns this into a body press on Lane while Morton holds Eaton down and it gets the pin.
****3/4 Well that was fucking amazing.  I don’t score against wrestlers on the basis that they’ve had better matches against each-other.  It’s twenty years later, so it’s safe to let matches on sets like this stand alone.  On that basis, this is one super hot match.  I wish the hot-tag moment had been a little more dramatic given the build to it, plus I think the finish looked a little wonky, but otherwise I have no complaints.  These two teams were made for each-other.

Dear WWE: Please give us a “Best of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express” DVD set ASAP.  Do not include their match against The New Midnight Express from Unforgiven ’98 in that set.  In fact, nothing past 1990 at all.  Thanks.

By the way, five matches in and I think it’s safe to say that anyone dreading that the WWE would pick matches that trashed WCW or Jim Crockett promotions can breathe easy now.

Match #6: United States Tag Team Championship
(c) Midnight Express vs. Tracy Smothers & Steve Armstrong (The Southern Boys)
7/7/90 Great American Bash

I’ve never seen this one but I know of it’s reputation.  I’m guessing anyone not in the know would look at the “Midnight Express vs. Southern Boys” on the match listing and wonder what the fuck was up this making the cut?  Well here’s a heads up: in a shoot interview I’m pretty sure Jim Cornette named this the best match this version of the Midnight Express ever had.  That’s about the highest praise a match can get.  Big brawl to start, ending with the Boys getting a double backdrop on Eaton, then a double shoulderblock.  They knock Lane off the apron, then the heels take a breather.  Back in, Armstrong gets an armdrag on Eaton.  Lockup and Eaton gets some punches and a scoopslam.  He climbs but Armstrong catches him and tosses him off the top rope.  Monkey flip by Armstrong (the brother of Road Dogg Jesse James) and a beautiful dropkick.  He climbs and hits a bit flying clothesline off the top, leading to Eaton bailing again.  Back in, lockup and Smothers gets the tag for a double wristlock.  Stall, and then a lockup.  They trade reversals until Smothers gets a savant kick.  Cornette bitches that karate is not legal.  Another stall while Cornette heats up the crowd.  Smothers reverses a whip and backdrops Eaton, then hits another savant kick.  Fans actually aren’t that much into the Southern Boys.  Lane tags in, who knows karate.  He gets a karate punch in on Smothers, then a few more, but Smothers catches a kick and hits his own karate chops, then gives Lane a savant kick.  Bobby runs in and eats a third savant kick himself.  Fans are warming to the faces after that sequence, and we have another stall.  Lockup and Lane tries to get a hammerlock, but Smothers comes out on top.  Rake of the eyes by Lane and a tag to Eaton, who eats an armdrag.  Eaton takes Smothers to the corner with some punches, but Smothers springs over the ropes and then back with a dropkick-like-move all in one motion.  Smothers on the outside of the apron, where he flips himself backwards over the ropes and then dropkicks Eaton through the ropes.  Smothers takes his eye off the ball and gets hit from behind, but he avoids getting beat down by the heels.  Armstrong comes off the ropes with a crossbody, then we have this wild pinning sequence while things break down, with the faces covering the heels one after another.  Fans are going crazy for this whole thing.  Southern Boys then ram the heels into each-other and send them out of the ring.  Jim Cornette is completely freaking out during this whole sequence.  We get a breather, then Smothers goes for a rollup on Eaton, but a blind-tag is made and Cornette distracts the referee, allowing them to dump Smothers over the top.  More distracting allows Cornette to get a shot in with his trusty tennis racket.  Smothers to the apron where he gets knocked off the apron and into the guardrail.  Just nasty as hell.  Lane tosses Smothers into the ring and tags Eaton.  Lane atomic drops Smothers into a Bobby Eaton back-breaker.  Eaton cuts off a comeback with a clothesline.  Tag to Lane who hits a leap-frog sledgehammer to Smother’s back.  Tag to Eaton who covers for two.  Smothers fights back with a couple kicks to the gut, then another savant kick but he’s too pooped to catch it all and can’t make the tag.  Scoopslam by Eaton and he climbs.  Legdrop off the top hits for Eaton but… PYSCHOLOGY… it takes as much out of him and he has to make the tag.  This is just basic stuff that is missing in modern tag wrestling.  Lane in where he chokes Smothers on the ropes.  Shoot off but Lane lowers his head into a sunset flip for two.  Tag to Eaton and Lane kicks Smothers in the gut to set up Bobby’s swinging neck-breaker.  They toss Smothers to the floor, then sling him over the apron and back in.  Tag to Lane who hits a butterfly suplex for two.  Tag to Eaton who smacks Smothers and sends him to the floor.  Tag to Lane, then Eaton tries to again sling Smothers into the ring.  Smothers reverses momentum and sends Eaton over the top and to the floor, but this comeback is short lived as Lane is legal and he fires off a clothesline.  To the corner where Smothers blocks a ram into the turnbuckle and fires off a couple of his own.  Lane rakes the eyes and tags Bobby in, who quickly tags back out so they can go for a double-backdrop, but Smothers counters that with a DOUBLE SUNSET FLIP~!  Nice.  Hot tag to Armstrong.  Punches for all.  Chops for all.  Noggin-knocker to the Express and a flying shoulder to Lane for two.  Smothers slams Eaton, who made the save.  Smothers hoists up Lane for the dropkick off the ropes, but the referee is distracted and doesn’t make the count.  It only gets two.  Eaton pushes Armstrong off the ropes and the heels get the rocket launcher for two.  Fans are all standing.  The Boys pull the blind-switch and Smothers gets a small-package… for two?  After the blind-switch spot?  That’s not how these things usually go.  Lane gets a savant kick on Armstrong and Eaton gets a small package for the pin.
***** I wouldn’t call it the best Midnight Express match ever, but it certainly ranks up there.  Just really great action that made the Southern Boys instant contenders in the eyes of the fans.  You could feel the heat for them build up during the match.  And they put together such a great story here, not only putting the Boys over as good wrestlers but also helping to define their character and personality by incorporating spots like the karate skit early in the match.  It seems like a comedy spot, but then they pay it off several times over the course of the match.  Story telling like this just doesn’t happen in wrestling these days.  The innovative moves these guys busted out would hold up today, almost twenty years later.  Super hot ending too, even if the fans were deflated when the heels went over.

Six matches in and the average rating is 4.41 stars-per-a-match.  Jesus fucking Christ.  It would be 4.7 if you discount the Dusty match.  Leave it to him to drag everything down.

Match #7: WCW World Tag Team Championship
(c) Steiner Bros. vs. Sting & Lex Luger
5/19/91 Superbrawl

Lex and Rick start with a lockup that goes nowhere.  A second lockup goes to the corner, where they break clean.  Lockup #3 and Lex fires off an armdrag.  Another lockup doesn’t happen as Rick gets a waistlock-takedown and another clean break.  Another lockup and Lex gets a headlock, taken over by Rick.  Both guys up where Rick takes Lex down again, into a clean break.  Crowd isn’t really buzzing for this one.  Side headlock by Rick, but they get to the ropes for a clean break.  Lex grabs a headlock, shot off by Rick who fires himself at Lex and bounces off like nothing.  Lex shoots him off and powerslams him for two.  Shoot to the corner and Lex misses a charge, leading to a German suplex and a clothesline for two.  Shoot to the corner and a backdrop by Rick, then another shoot to the corner.  This time Lex explodes out with a big clothesline that Rick sells like he was hit by cannon.  Press-slam by Lex and a tag to Sting, who dumps Rick with a clothesline.  Plancha by Sting, then he tosses Rick back in and bulldogs him.  Rick no-sells this, so Sting picks him up and fires off the Steiner Stampede in the corner.  Ooooh, stealing signature spots.  It’s on now.  Sting goes for the Stinger Splash but it whiffs and Scott tags in.  SICK Tiger Driver by him fires up the crowd.  Tilt-a-Whirl slam fires up the crowd even more.  Sting reverses a whip and hits a nasty, unprotected hot-shot on Scott and the crowd is in a frenzy now.  Tag to Lex who fires off a vertical suplex.  Tag to Sting who walks right into an atomic drop.  Belly-to-belly throw off the top gets two for Scott.  Scotty puts Sting on the top rope and tries to clothesline him off the top and too the floor but that whiffs and Scott wipes out onto the announce table.  Lex tags in and slams Scott in the ring and covers for two.  Scott flips out of something and gets a sambo suplex.  Shoot off is reversed by Lex into a powerslam, which Lex tries to use as a set-up for the torture rack.  Scotty turns this into a Russian-legsweep.  Blind tag to Rick while Lex hits an elbow on Scotty, but Rick comes off the top with a bulldog and then an elbow for two.  Sting comes out of nowhere with a missile dropkick on Rick, which pisses the Steiners off.  Rick wipes out Sting, then runs into Lex for a double knock-out.  Hot tags around, and Sting ends up hitting a back-suplex on Scott.  Sting lowers his head into a club by Scotty, who sets up a tombstone.  Sting reverses into his own sick-ass Tombstone for two as Rick breaks it up.  Lex wipes out Rick and takes the referee out in the process.  In the ring, Sting hits the Stinger Splash, BUT WAIT~!! because Nikita Koloff shows up with a chain and tries to kill Lex with it.  Sting pushes Lex out of the way and eats the chain himself, allowing Scott to cover him for the pin.
****3/4 Holy poopie, this disc fucking rules.  Scott Keith actually went the full-monty on this one, so your mileage may very.  I’m not scoring against the ending, but rather the shortness (roughly 12 minutes) that these guys were given.  But I loved every minute of it.  With two baby-face teams, there was no point in having a heat section of the match.  Instead, these guys played a game of ‘can you top this.’  Imagine a TLC match without the tables, ladders, and chairs.  That’s what this was in essence.

Match #8: WCW World Heavyweight Championship
(c) Sting vs. Big Van Vader
7/12/92 Great American Bash

The cool match streak is in jeopardy here, as I’m actually not a fan of the endless Vader/Sting feud, mostly because I think Sting didn’t play is role correctly.  Instead of being the plucky underdog, most of the matches involved him trying to out power-wrestle Vader, and that’s just not the way these types of matches should go.  That said, I vaguely recall that at this point in the feud Sting was still getting manhandled and thus this match should play out the way every big-man/little-man match is supposed to go.  To the match, where they lockup, only for Vader to quickly release and pose to the crowd.  Another lockup and Vader gets Sting to the corner and pounds the ever loving shit out of him.  The ref goes to break it up and Vader just swats away at him.  Fans boo the crap out of him.  Clothesline and Sting has to bail.  We’re already going completely against the formula WCW (and Crockett Promotions before it) established for these kinds of matches.  A heel dominating right out of the gate?  Practically blasphemy.  Sting comes back in and gets shot off the ropes.  He ducks a clothesline and hits one of his own, but Vader no-sells it.  Crossbody by Sting is caught by Vader who casually slams him down like a sack of shit.  Sting is selling his part brilliantly here, backing away into the ropes while he tries to figure out something to do.  Lockup and Vader smacks him around, but misses a charge in the corner.  Back-suplex by Sting and a clothesline to dump Vader to the floor sends the crowd into a frenzy and gives them hope where none had previously existed.  Brilliant way to pay off the early beginning and capitalize on what an average WCW fan’s expectations were for a match opening.  Vader takes a long breather on the outside, then comes back in.  He wants a test of strength, then bitches at the crowd for egging Sting on.  He goes for another one, but this time Sting backs off to ask the crowd for more support.  Finally they get it the knuckle lock hooked on, but Sting punches out of it and punches Vader down.  Dropkick sends Vader down under the bottom rope.  Sting suplexes Vader over the top rope and back inside the ring (see what I mean about him trying to out-power Vader?) and it gets two.  Sting charges right into a standing splash by Vader.  Shoot off by Sting grabs the ropes and kicks away, then fires off a small package for two and Vader bails to get advice from Harley Race.  Back in, Sting goes for a sunset flip but Vader drops his full weight on him.  He jaws with the fans, then drops a big elbow.  Another big elbow, and man, nobody dropped sick elbows like Vader.  Big Splash from Vader gets two.  Vader dead-lifts Sting off the canvas by the throat, then slings him down.  Vader shows off his bully ways by hooking in a stump-puller, then turning it around into a scorpion deathlock.  Meanwhile, Ron Simmons looks on, telegraphing him as the next big challenger.  Sting teases making a comeback, so Vader again drops his weight down on him.  I have to say, this version of the deathlock looks not so good, but that’s okay.  If Vader actually sat down on the move it would truly crippling.  Sting pushes out of the hold, but he’s too injured to fight back and Vader casually smacks him down.  Another big punch sends Sting to the corner.  Shoot off by Vader and a sick clothesline, then a powerslam gets two.  To the corner where Sting tries to fight back.  He ducks a shot by Vader and hits a rolling wheel kick to knock Vader down.  DDT leads to a double knock-out.  Both guys get up and Sting launches himself at Vader with a shoulderblock that knocks him to the apron.  Vader gets up first and starts to climb, allowing Sting to knocks him across the ropes and get some free kicks in.  Sting lifts Vader onto his shoulders.  He holds Vader as if he’s trying to figure out what to do from here, and ends up firing off a Samoan-drop for two.  Vader goes for a back-suplex but Sting flips out of it and wipes out the ref in the process.  Stings fires off a German suplex for two as the ref was out of position to count it.  Dropkick sends Vader to the corner, where he hits the Stinger Splash.  He sends Vader to the opposite corner and then kills himself hitting another Stinger Splash on Vader’s back, only he jumps too high and hits his face on the post, busting himself open.  Vader covers for two.  Sting has nothing left and collapses after missing a punch.  Vader loads up a powerbomb, hits it, and wins the world title.  Fans are pissed.
*** Streak ends.  I still think Sting is the most overrated wrestler of the 90s and this did nothing to prove me wrong.  He did not carry his end of the match (or any other match he ever appeared in) and Vader basically had to walk him through a relatively simple, stiff brawl.  And again, I don’t think the Sting/Vader series was ever structured quite right.  But what was here was fun, albeit slow and sloppy when it was Sting doing his stuff.  Vader paced it out and got the best match anyone could get out of the Sting.  I truly dread a ‘best of’ set from him.  Truth be told, I would rather review the Best of Kane set.

Average match rating goes to 4.2 stars.  Still amazing.

Match #9: WCW International World Heavyweight Championship of the Universe and Beyond
(c) Rick Rude vs. Sting
4/17/94 Spring Stampede

And there goes the average.  This was close to Rude’s last match ever, and Sting is dogshit on his best day.  This is not going to be pretty.  BUT FIRST~!! Harley Race is out to challenge the winner on Vader’s behalf.  Race then tries to smack Sting for no reason and gets killed.  Rude tries to jump Sting and gets backdropped before he can disrobe.  Sting dumps Rude with a clothesline, then suplexes him on the floor.  Back in, Sting clotheslines Rude, then brawls him to the corner.  Back suplex gets two.  Now a front-facelock that sends the fans into a coma.  Scoopslam by Sting and a big elbow wakes the fans up.  Another elbow, then another, then Sting draws a blank before deciding to cover for one.  And back to the front-facelock.  This goes on forever.  Rude tries to lift out of it but can’t.  Rude finally fights out of it and crotches Sting on the ropes, then clotheslines him to the floor.  Tony asks for a DQ.  If that’s the case, why wasn’t Sting’s clothesline to the floor a DQ?  Rude bails to ram sting into the guardrail, then back in Rude fires away at the lower back.  Back suplex gets two.  Posing by Rude, then the camel clutch.  Rude drops his weight on Sting, gyrates his ass, and slaps the clutch back on.  He again drops his weight on Sting, jaws with the fans some more, then drops a forearm for two.  And back to the clutch.  The fans rally Sting to set up Rude for an electric chair, but Rude turns it into a horrible looking victory roll for two, turned into two for Sting.  Horrible kick by Sting in what I’m guessing was a brain-fart moment, but then Rude catches him in a sleeper.  The fans die instantly from it.  Rude breaks the hold on his own to go for some punches instead.  Sting hulks up from this, catches Rude trying to bail, and gives him a big atomic drop.  Both guys botch an atomic drop so Sting fires off another.  Clotheslines and a backdrop where Rude lands feet-first.  Oy, Rude should have already hung it up by this point.  Stinger Splash by Sting kills Rude and the referee.  Sting hooks in the Scorpion Deathlock, BUT WAIT~!! because Harley Race is back.  Sting kills him getting in the ring, BUT WAIT~!! because here comes Vader.  Sting kills him as well, but Rude has enough time to fight back and chop-block Sting.  Rude sets up for his neckbreaker while WCW commissioner Nick Bockwinkel bitches at Race and Vader.  Rude brawls Sting a bit, then sets up for the neckbreaker.  Harley comes in with a chair, Sting ducks, and Rude eats the worst chair shot ever.  That shot was so weak I’m sure Harley Race was spinning in his grave.  Oh wait.  Sting knocks Race out of the ring and covers Rude for the pin and the title.
DUD Blown spots, horrible pacing, and a dead crowd:  it’s the trifecta of shit.  Horrible choice for the set, and hopefully it’s never spoken of again.  I think Rude retired shortly after this match.  He tried to make a comeback in 1999 but his heart wasn’t into it.  Or up for it.  Either way.

Match #10: WCW Championship
(c) Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan
7/17/94 Bash at the Beach

I think WCW made a mistake having this match right out of the gate.  They should have saved it for Starrcade.  Hogan powers out of a lockout a couple times.  Flair struts around, drawing scattered boos and a couple “woos.”  Hogan mocks Flair with a strut of his own, looking like Dusty Rhodes as he does it.  Flair gets a single-leg takedown and a wristlock.  They work with that for a while.  Hogan does a wristlock sequence and flips over into an armbar.  Flair bails and jaws with the fans.  Back in, Hogan beats Flair from pillar to post.  Flair begs off, but Hogan doesn’t care.  Hogan goes for the big boot but Flair sees it coming and bails.  He uses Scary Sherri as a human shield.  Back in the ring, Flair chops Hogan’s nipples off.  Shaq is at ringside, in Hogan’s corner.  Flair snapmares Hogan but misses a kneedrop.  Hogan bites Flair in the corner and gets a mounted ten-punch.  Whip to the corner and a clothesline.  Sherri grabs Hogan’s knee, allowing Flair to hit a knee from behind.  Flair knocks Hogan out of the ring, where Sherri tries to KO Hogan with a chair, but Jimmy Hart makes the save.  Flair attacks Hogan and brings him into the ring.  Sledge off the top rope and a kneedrop.  Punch is blocked and they have a chop-off, won by Hogan.  Yeah right.  Flair begs off in a corner and tries to blow Hogan.  No wait, he tries to roll him up, but the spot goes wonky and he only gets a one count.  Snapmare into a headlock.  A long headlock.  A boring headlock.  A long boring headlock.  After like two years, Hogan gets to his feet and hits a pair of shoulderblocks.  Flair begs off to the corner.  Big punches by Hogan.  Flair flip into the corner, clothesline to the outside.  Hogan hits a backdrop suplex on the outside to Flair.  That took the energy out of the crowd, for some damn reason.  They must have been expecting a countout.  Hogan gets Flair into the ring and suplexes him back in.  Legdrop misses and Hogan sells it like death.  Damn, wouldn’t hitting the move hurt just as much.  Flair goes for the figure-four but Hogan small-packages him (!!) for two.  Flair goes for the figure four a couple times but Hogan kicks off.  Delayed suplex by Flair, which Hogan no-sells.  Finger wag, big boot… no legdrop??… for two as Sherri pulls the referee out.  Flair clips the knee as there is no referee, as Sherri climbs the ropes and hits a big splash on Hogan off the top.  Man, that was weird.  A new referee is out, just in time to see Flair slap on the figure-four.  Hogan gets to the ropes.  Hell, he was in the boring ass headlock longer.  Sherri chokes Hogan with her nylons and rakes his eyes.  Hogan, who should be legally blind at this point (Sherri’s nails are like three inches long), gets to his feet.  Flair chops the shit out of Hogan, but he Hulks up again.  Hogan throws Flair into the corner but ends up walking into a backelbow.  Sherri goes for another splash and misses.  Hogan catches Flair on the ropes and throws him down.  Clothesline to Flair and Sherri, then he slaps on the figure-four on Flair.  Whoa.  Hogan throws Sherri out to Mr. T, who carries her away.  This is like an LSD trip.  Flair gets a pair of brass-knucks and KOs Hogan with them… for two.  This is so crazy.  They’re teasing the fans with every heel-finish in the WCW Playbook.  Hogan Hulks up.  Big Boot, legdrop, and Hulkamania lives in WCW.  Bobby Heenan starts to cry on commentary.
***1/2 Well, that was interesting.  Major league over-booked with extra cheese.  But still entertaining I must admit.

Final Disc average is 3.7.  Way to go, Sting and Rude.   As punishment for ruining the DVD, I will now hand out sentences.  For Rude, death.  For Sting, you shall be cast away into wrestling oblivion, working for a promotion that’s so inept at booking that people openly mock it.

Wait, what do you mean it’s already done?  Damn you Pulse guys work quick!

Disc Three is coming soon.  To say you should expect a dip in quality is to say you should expect Batista to blow out both his knees and dislocate his thumb while climbing into the ring when he comes back.   It’s practically a certainty.



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Charlie Reneke

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  • Mark Allen

    Charlie, I have to disagree with on some of your ratings here. I feel you are on with the Southern Boys and Steiners tag matches and Ric-Ricky, but you vastly underrated the Sting-Vader match, completely buried the Sting-Rude and way overrated the Hogan-Flair and Dusty-Windham matches. Plus that R’n’Rs-MX match wasn’t even close to a five star match compared to their earlier outings. That being said, good review.

  • Charlie Reneke

    “Plus that R’n’Rs-MX match wasn’t even close to a five star match compared to their earlier outings.”

    Well I made a point of saying that with these compilation DVDs each match has to stand out on it’s own because you can’t tell someone to go pick up a non-existent DVD that has a better version of the same feud on it. Yes, they had better matches, but you’re not getting ripped off here.

    On everything else, wrestling is really subjective and one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Most people like the Vader/Sting series. I did not.

    “completely buried the Sting-Rude match”

    Well yeah. They botched several fundamental spots and kept up a horrible pace through-out that killed the crowd. It was vicious. At least with Dusty/Windham they worked with the claw spot and did more then lay on the canvas.

  • Michael L

    Good calls, although to call this the best single-disc that the WWF/E has ever put out is a bit of an exaggeration, especially considering the greatness of Disc 2 of Flair’s first DVD set. That disc feature Flair/Steamboat at Clash of Champions, Wrestlewar, and Flair/Funk also at the Clash. All matches are at 5 stars, are among the most epic matches of the 80′s, if not all time.

    I also think you highly underrate Sting/Vader. Sting turned into shit in the late 90′s, but in his early to mid 90′s prime, he was awesome. And Vader was arguably Sting’s best opponent (with Flair being the only other contender). The two worked the big/little man formula about as well as it can be worked. The GAB 92 was their first major match, and it was solid, although not as awesome as some that have followed. I’d say that match was at least 3 1/2 stars, with them having 4 star matches to follow (especially their Superbrawl 3 strap match).

  • James

    “And for those of you curious, NO, blood is not censored in this set. I’m told that blood censoring will likely not happen in DVD format and that any set that could potentially show a lot of gore, such as a War Games set, will carry a higher rating. So fear not, your War Games set or the next Flair set that will come out as sure as the tide will come in will not cut to black-and-white whenever someone blades.”

    My question is, if this is so, then why was there censoring in the ’90s set, apparently? And why is there a moratorium on classic ECW, or so it seems?

  • Charlie Reneke

    “My question is, if this is so, then why was there censoring in the ’90s set, apparently?”

    People keep bringing this up. I think there was some black-and-white stuff in the feature documentary, and I’m guessing that’s because the documentaries created to be aired on pay per view. Remember, the matches that come with these sets are considered ‘extra features’.

    “And why is there a moratorium on classic ECW, or so it seems?”

    It’s likely due to the fact that the last two ECW sets (Blood Sport and Extreme Rules) bombed pretty significantly.

  • James

    I kind of figured that much about the ’90s set (that it would be seen on PPV). How about the blurred middle fingers in the SS98 match (an “extra”)?

    “It’s likely due to the fact that the last two ECW sets (Blood Sport and Extreme Rules) bombed pretty significantly.”

    …both of which I think came after WWECW was launched. Coincidence? You decide ;-)

    Seriously, though, I didn’t mean another all-ECW disc. I mean would it hurt compilations to use a few matches from them?

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