It’s 1996 and I’m all of 16 years of age, having a punch on with puberty and wondering when exactly the women in my school life will fall for my untamed projecting voice, lack of hair and facial peach fuzz. And while wondering that, I was well and truly deep into the wacky and wild world of World Championship Wrestling.
Fast forward to 2023 with even less up top but a chin stubble that could sand a Sherman tank, I’m curious to find out if I’m still as passionate now as I was back then about World Championship Wrestling. Maybe a deep look back will ignite a lost passion of mine. Or maybe I’ll just laugh at the silliness of it all now that I’ve supposedly grown up. Either way, I’m looking forward to the reminiscing (or cringing.)
Wish me luck, this trip back is going to take a while.
Getting into the grap game early
It started with the rare glimpse of wrestling on Wide World of Sports on a weekend and when I say glimpse, it’d be more like a highlights reel of a big match between someone like Hogan and the Warrior. In the early 90’s my brother and I were hiring as many tapes of WWF (at the time, now WWE of course) Pay Per View tapes as we could carry from the local Movieland and watching on mouths agape as Shawn Michaels kicked Marty Janetty through Brutus The Barber Beefcake’s shop window or Outlaw Ron Bass carved up Brutus with a spur. Bret Hart was my Idol, the Legion of Doom seemed like gods.
And don’t get me started on Jake the Snake and his actually…eh snake.
How long did it take us to work out it was a shoot though? Er, next question. (Although how good is it when you allow yourself to suspend belief for a time?)
Then the 90’s came crashing all around us and I started to get dragged down into the hypnotising rabbit hole that was Paul Heyman’s madhouse, aka ECW. But not before we spent quite some time diving into the weekly activities of World Championship Wrestling aka WCW, thanks to my brothers friend Red and a trade deal that involved quite a lot of blank tapes. I’d buy a pack of three blank tapes, Red would tape the wrestling off cable TV for us on two of those tapes and keep the third. And this was a deal that worked out really well for quite a few months until Red decided that he was getting tired of taping things and so that ended that. (From memory this was also the time the famous New World Order faction started splitting into strange sub groups and by then both ECW and that cute girl in Geography seemed far more appealing.)
But until things started to tail off I was really getting into the adventures of Sting, laughing at Lex Luger’s finisher (Some kind of bouncing rack on his shoulders) and marvelling at the high flying antics of Psychosis and the other luchadores. Eric Bischoff was giving me the shits (as all good heel characters should), Chris Jericho was really riling the crowds up and there wasn’t a single McMahon family member to be seen for miles.
And suddenly that time has come back again.
The truth (and World Championship Wrestling) is out there!
And thanks to The Internet Archive and a handy link from Reddit, suddenly my random tape collection has reappeared! Okay no, not the original VHS from Red’s handiwork, think more along the lines Mp4s. And now I’m watching them on a TV at least three times the size of the one mum and dad rocked back in the 90s.
But still, it’s the 90’s warts and all (well a big chunk of 1996 in particular according to the file names) and this is either going to make me reminisce about long lost loves or make me glad I never became a professional wrestler (actually watching the gripping Dark Side of the Ring series has already made me think that..)
WHAT AM I EXPECTING?
High flying Luchadore matches, lots of recognisable faces and a few forgotten grapplers, possibly some Dusty Rhodes screw jobs and a very young Eric Bischoff becoming a bad guy. There’ll be people still going strong (hi DDP) and those sadly missed. It’ll be awesome to hear Bobby The Brain Heenan as part of the World Championship Wrestling Commentary team again but also I’m expecting some dud promos, some stinkers match wise and plenty of blunders. Because if I remember correctly at the time WCW had a great undercard and terrible main events where as their direct rival World Wrestling Federation (now Entertainment) had the exact reverse.
What a great time for wrestling!
So without any further ado, let’s delve into our first download! World Championship Wrestling take me back will you?
WCW Atlanta GA, January 1st 2006
Yes I couldn’t start this wild journey any earlier into 2006 as World Championship Wrestling kicked things off that year with a live show on the very first day. Yes while I was probably nursing a hangover from underage drinking somewhere, WCW was busy throwing their all into a one hour show.
Yes, one hour. (Well it’s an hour minus the ad breaks, so maybe 1.5?)
Which is crazy when you look at how long an average wrestling show is nowadays, especially a bustling PPV such as Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble. But hey an hours worth of programming at a time works for me here just fine so let’s have at it!
Electricity arcs, the streets catch on fire, a traffic light explodes and Hulk Hogan suddenly tries to overshadow a building which is terrifying. I don’t know if this is a true reflection of nightlife in Atlanta Georgia back in 06 (let me know if you were there and if it was back then) but that’s how we’re getting this punch party started tonight. Good evening everybody and welcome to the first edition of World Championship Wrestling for the year, happy new year, let’s go to our commentary team!
Completely forgetting that he was once a commentator (amongst other duties he had back then) it’s Eric Bischoff relaying the action tonight at high speed while Bobby The Brain Heenan brings the laughs and lots of them and Steve Mongo McMichael holds a dog.
Yes Pepe is a real dog even though I confused it for a puppet and wondered why he’d be holding either while commentating and adding ‘Baby’ to just about every sentence. But don’t mind me, I haven’t been here for a while.
This of course is pre New World Order too which means we still get to hear plenty about Hulk Hogan (Jimmy Hart hates him, the Dungeon of Doom hates him, anyone who doesn’t like to be called ‘Brother’ hates him etc) but nothing about Kevin Nash and Scott Hall yet and even better the Hulkster is up against Ric Flair tonight for a title shot (Ric’s got it again for the 136th time, Hulk wants it back naturally.)
During a back and forth and in the first Heenan Highlight for the night, Bobby calls Steve ‘McNugget’ which amused me to no end and that’s what I’ll be referring to him as for the rest of this post. I can’t say I got into McNugget as a commentator ever but then he wasn’t that great in the ring either so maybe the dog is his gimmick – is it psychic like the doll the Legion of Doom used to take orders from? Before I have time to wonder, it’s down to the ring for the first match.
MATCH ONE – MACHO MAN RANDY SAVAGE VS ARN ANDERSON (FOUR HORSEMEN)
First match of the brand spanking new year and the bookers have decided to kick things off with an absolute cracker. Savage hasn’t ballooned up like he was hit with a bike pump at this stage yet (although it looked like he skinned one hell of a set of 70’s couch cushions for his outfit for this one) while Arn Anderson in his Horsemen enforcer gimmick through 2023 eyes looks like Stone Cold Steve Austin’s angry woodwork teacher from shop class in high school.
This man can break every bone in a chicken leg and not touch the skin!-Bobby Heenan on Arn Anderson in the ring
It’s two sets of capable hands with this one and given the hour show duration, there’s some very quick back and forths but not as quick as Eric on the mic who I don’t remember speaking so fast (he’s since slowed down since then and I’m a big fan of the podcast stuff he does nowadays with Conrad Thompson). Interestingly for the first match of the night it wraps up with a ref bump and while he’s down Arn reaches for the taped up brass knucks in his tights (or as Bobby puts it ‘He’s rearranging his inner tights!’) Only Savage gets a hold (of the weapon, not his inner tights) and clocks him for the win. Loose Cannon Brian Pillman and Chris Benoit run in for revenge but Captain Oooh yeah is long gone.
Not a good start for the horsemen but as a former mark for the Macho Man, I’m happy he got a win here.
During the match Eric gives a whole heap of local sports team a shout out and while McNugget had plenty the say, Pepe hasn’t made a squeak this entire time. Maybe it’s a robot after all?
3.5 out of 5
MATCH TWO – CHRIS BENOIT (FOUR HORSEMEN) VS LORD STEVEN REGAL
Say what you want to say about Chris (and for the record I hope he pays eternally for what he did) but you can’t argue that he was a great wrestler, especially with the technical stuff. And here in the 96 we’re harking back to the glory days when he was half his mass later on but still just as vicious. Back then I found him far more a vital part of the Horsemen than McNugget was.
As for Regal well he’s probably forgotten more wrestling moves that some of the current crop of wrestlers can perform these days even though he looks like a P.E teacher from the 80s who’d chug away on the smokes while parked on the steps of the pool, shouting out commands on correct swimming strokes. He could pull a fine match out of just about anyone given half the chance although they both know what they’re doing.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone use a headbutt in wrestling, Regal here uses three in quick succession. This just makes the Canadian Crippler angry and you know nothing good comes of that. Man could he do some solid looking belly to back suplexes!
We get word during this match about what’s still to come on tonight’s World Championship Wrestling feast and that’s the match where Sting and Luger are suffering friendship issues but are still teaming up to face the hilariously named Super Assasins. Which prompts another great Heenan moment:
Friends are like fish, after three days they stink!-Bobby again
In a very interesting twist for this match though after the pile driver above is reversed and Regal rolls out of the ring to collect his thoughts, Benoit launches himself over the ropes and misses, slamming into the mats outside. In his ‘confused’ state he’s rolled back into the ring and pinned easily and that’s the second loss in a row for half the four Horsemen.
I wonder if there’ll be any ramifications for this?
4 out of 5 for skill level and that ending.
PROMO TIME – THE RAMIFICATIONS
Confession time, I’ve never seen Flyin Brian Pillman (aka The Loose Cannon) actually wrestle. I’ve read plenty about the man including his time with Steve Austin in the World Championship Wrestling days as the Hollywood Blondes, but I’ve never seen match wise why he lived up to the name Flyin Brian.
Tonight will also not be one of those moments either.
No, clearly not amused by the supreme lack of Horsemen victories just two bouts in, Brian decides for a public tongue lashing with the legendary Mene Gene Oakerland standing by to help direct traffic. And can Brian cut a promo, reminiscent of this glorious effort that he actually did later that year in a completely different federation! Yes he turned up in ECW later in 96 and had plenty to talk about (and I had no idea about the timeline until today!):
Brian tries to get the Horsemen on track, Benoit’s mullet starts showing off and Arn wonders if the kids should make a book end or a bird box next. Then all of a sudden a mardi gras breaks out!
Kevin Sullivan dressed up as Alex Kidd from Miracle World has to be held back by super manager Jimmy Hart before he stomps three out of four horsemen and right behind him is…Danhausen from AEW’s dad? No, it’s the ECW Zombie! No wait, is that Seven? (No that was Dustin Rhodes later on.) None of those, it turns out that’s actually…The Zodiac.
Yes, I don’t know either.
Is he named after the series of star signs or the water craft? And why does he look like Brutus The Barber Beefcake dressed up as a drunken zebra of all things?
(Ahh, because it is Brutus! I’ve just given myself a point for getting at least one thing correct on this show so far). Apparently he’s from the Land of Ying and Yang and answered just ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ during interviews. How thrilling that must have been for Mean Gene during promos.
Anyway Sullivan wants to fight the Horsemen (even though apparently he also has beef with Hogan) and Zodiac wants to…well I’m not sure. I’m guessing it’s not karaoke unless it’s something along the lines of 2 Unlimited’s ‘No limit.’
Luckily neither happens because while Jimmy holds back Kev, the Zodiac is directed back to his box by a friendly giant, the actual Giant aka Paul Wight with hair.
Order is restored, The Zodiac goes back to sleep and we all move onto:
MATCH THREE – STING AND LEX LUGER VS THE SUPER ASSASSINS (W COL. PARKER)
Assassins of Superheros or just Assassins who were super good at their job? No idea sadly. And while this only tag match of the night was on, I found myself busy trying to work out who was under the masks. There’s not enough height nor body hair to be Hall and Nash so maybe it was a pre NWO Buff Bagwell and Scott Norton? Maybe it was the Steiners to be revealed later on in the year. It kind of looks like Roddy Piper up front however…(a quick google is needed here) …holy hell, that’s actually the Powers of Pain in that get up! Apparently they only ever had five matches looking like this including this one before the Warlord and Barbarian parted ways and tonight we get to see them go two on two with the Stinger (who looks to have raided Macho Man’s closet earlier) and the Flex (sorry, Lex.)
Well that was the idea really until the opening minutes and focus of what’s happening ringside were suddenly shared by a guy called Pitbull (not of ECW fame) who decided that was a good a time as any to swing by the commentary booth to see if McNugget was free to mentor him. Why he couldn’t swing by after the show is anyone’s guess (no wait, it’ll be the timing again – you’ve only got so much to play with in a hour long show) and unfortunately for Pitbull, one dog is enough for McNugget and he politely passes.
Hands up who sniffs an upcoming feud because of this rejection?
Meanwhile back in the ring things are shaping up just as you’d expect them too with too sides of beef, one of lean muscled ham and Sting. Sting takes a hell of a pasting while the commentators spend most of the match pointing out that the friendship between him and Luger is on the rocks. They came out separately ergo, fireworks must be about to kick off.
But no friendly fire happens at all as the ref misses a hero tag, Sting continues a pasting and I suddenly realise when someone mentions the name ‘Sensational Sherri’ in passing, that not a single woman has been seen anywhere, a trend that continues right across tonight’s show. Eventually the obviously blind referee sees the hot tag, Luger marches in to wreck shop and the match ends with Luger doing the rack, Stinger locking in his Scorpion Deathlock and 2625 mentions of the friendship being on uneven ground.
But again, nothing actually happens friendship wise – they do the match and high five, job done. Obviously the bad blood starts next week then?
Heenan calls for a replay, Eric explains they don’t have the time.
But at least we got to meet Pitbull I guess, that’s got to count for something.
It’s an okay tag match, nothing special. 3 out of 5. Just.
UP NEXT – IT’S ANOTHER PROMO!
A young looking Jimmy Hart joins Mean Gene and an even younger Giant to rant and rave about Hogan. All wrestling roads lead to Hogan it seems and somewhere along the line Paul is announced as ‘The Son of Andre the Giant.’ (I’ve checked the dates, the timeline is possible even though we all know it’s a work.) Jimmy waxes lyrical about Hogan, the Giant yells about Hogan, Heenan points out that Jimmy would even manage the stadium janitor if the guy hated Hogan.
There’s no friends in wrestling obviously and especially in World Championship Wrestling. Sting and Luger should do well to remember that!
We’ve got just enough time for the Macho Man to hypnotise us into buying some Slim Jims..
…before we’re back into the thick of it, wooing and strutting as Ric Flair enters the ring. Then flexing and ripping off our Aliexpress made shirts like only Hogan can because it’s main event time!
MAIN EVENT – HULK HOGAN VS RIC FLAIR
And what an amazing digital time capsule of World Championship Wrestling this has been so far too, taking us back to a time when Hogan’s skin was more seasoned ham than over done crispy bacon and Ric Flair didn’t look like a rough sock caught at the back of a washing machine for three decades.
And this match has everything I expected from both seasoned pros – Ric strutted, skinned the cat, woooed and thumbed the eyes before working the leg and locking on the figure four leglock. Hogan hulked up, shook his head a few times and dropped the boot. God only knows how many times these two have met up but I reckon their match plan hasn’t deviated much in each incarnation.
Anywhoos this went just fine for an 80s, wait 90’s WCW main event and ended just as many people guessed it would – in chaos.
Jimmy Hart ran in and became annoying with his megaphone distracting Hogan. The match continued, Jimmy struck again allowing Arn Anderson to run in with the knucks again, he pasted Hogan only for the Hulkster to get right up again and paste him.
Pillman runs in and gets pasted. Benoit runs in and gets pasted. Hogan has them all on the ropes as only the Hulkster can (and paints them as a pretty ineffectual group in the process.)
But not before the Giant shows up, bringing a stool as a courtesy in case anyone wants to sit down. Macho runs in and and decides he wants the stool now and takes it off the big guy, only to get pushed over for his efforts.
Hogan lamps the son of Andre with the knucks and I’m deeply surprised he doesn’t try and body slam the son of Andre right there in front of 13 million people, brother. That should be the end of things surely but no, we forgot all about Alex Kidd and the Sagittarius Boat who run down the aisle again but can’t seem to make it into the ring for whatever reason. Macho grabs the stool, the giant grabs uh…something in a black tablecloth?
On his way back to the locker room Zebra face has seemingly learnt a couple of news words, adding ‘Friend’ and ‘Hurt’ to the staggering list of ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ Seriously, who’s stupid idea was this gimmick?
Now if remember correctly usually at this moment there’s a quick bye bye everybody from the World Championship Wrestling call team while the faces pose in the ring and things fade to black but that comes later on in the years…right now we’ve got enough time for…
Let me save you some time on this one: Hogan says brother and guts a lot. Macho Man agrees with him with some hearty Ooooh yeahs. A match is planned for next week – it’s the dynamic duo against the Joker and the Penguin. No wait, Ric and Arn. And possibly Benoit and Pillman thrown in for good measure.
But why stop there? Why not give Pepe and Pitbull a shot too? This is WCW, there isn’t enough chaos already throw some more in the mix.
Phew! I’m spent. Time for a fade out, yes?
It’s back to the desk where Pepe still hasn’t made a sound (McNugget has made plenty for it) and we preview the next week of wrasslin action. Featuring of course the Hulk, Ric, Arn, Flex, Sting and maybe Pitbull. If we’re really unlucky.
Until then I hope you’ve enjoyed our first look back, plenty more on the One Man Many Plans radar once I recharge my mental batteries for the chaos first.