March 20, 2011
WCW Thunder, March 21, 2001 (Taped March 19), O'Connell Center, Gainesville, FL
Announcers: Tony Schiavone & Mike Tenay
With the death of WCW ten years ago, many things in the wrestling world were lost. The Monday Night War, one of the most exciting periods in wrestling history with the top two shows going head to head each week was now over. WCW itself had a loyal fanbase that supported the company through think and thin, but for those that rejected the WWF, they now had nothing to watch. However, one aspect of wrestling history, whose legacy predated both of those also came to an end that week, and that is the run of pro wrestling on Superstation TBS. A staple of the station since 1972, fans were able to see promotions such as Georgia, Mid South, Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW, and even the WWF on the variety of shows they carried over the years with nearly every major star of the 70's through the turn of the century appearing on the station at some point. It was a lot of the time the place to go to be seen by the largest possible audience. The decline from those highs was kind of sad to see as first the 6:05 Eastern Saturday show that was once the flagship was stripped of it's relevance by the new reality of weeknight primetime shows to the point where it was quietly cancelled without even a chance to say goodbye. Thunder remained for a while longer, but in the end fell victim to the whim of a new executive who is said to have never even attended a wrestling show in his life. Which brings me to today's review. What I'm going to watch here today is not necessairly the best example of what aired over the years, but I still think it's appropriate to mark the anniversary of the closing of the book by rereading the last chapter. So here we go with Thunder from March 21, 2001, the final wrestling show ever seen on Superstation TBS.
This was taped the same night as the penultimate Nitro so we start with a recap of that show. Unfortunately they try to cover several items here and do so by cutting back and forth between them which just makes it all confusing. The jist of it is, Eric Bischoff announced the Night of Champions format for next week's Nitro with WCW Champ Scott Steiner facing US Champ Booker T, Rick Steiner was accused of laying out a variety of people, and Ric Flair and Jeff Jarrett were literally forced to kiss Dusty Rhodes' ass (as in his donkey).
Opening Match: Air Raid vs. The Jung Dragons
This is in the Cruiserweight tag team division, which was established just last month with Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo winning the Titles last Sunday at Greed. Air Raid is Air Paris, who is no one of note and AJ Styles who went on to become a multi time TNA Champion. For the Dragons we have Yang and Kaz Hayashi. They go with a fast pace early on and show off lots of flips. Kaz kicks out of a Styles Clash around 2:00 in so I guess that's not his finisher yet. The action continues with Kaz briefly in peril before making a warm tag to Yang who cleans house before getting caught himself. Air Raid uses the Crash and Burn double flapjack, but Kaz makes the save at 2. Yang then powerbombs Paris out of the corner and makes the tag. From there it goes into all four guys trading moves, covers, saves, and misses. There's an obvious edit as Air Raid takes Kaz to the top together and then next thing we know they're all on the mat with no impact seen or heard so something must have looked really bad. The echanges continue for a bit longer until Kaz hits Styles with the Hayashi Cutter for the 3 count at 8:15. This was a fun little match to kick things off here. **1/2
I also have the commercials here so if you're wondering, among the things being advertised on WCW TV at the end were HBO Boxing, America Online, Wolverine workboots, Pokemon for Game Boy, the movie Blow, and Right Guard deodorant.
We get a more detailed recap of the Dusty/Dustin vs. Flair/Jarrett feud, and are then joined by Dustin Rhodes with a bag of props. No one reacts to his promo mocking Flair and Jarrett for having their faces shoved in Dusty's ass on Monday. He pulls out of the bag, among other things, some chapstick, mouthwash, and a hotel key so Flair and the donkey can have some privacy. This was as boring and bad as it reads. Flair mercifully appears on the screen to save the segment and cuts a good promo in spite of the terrible material. He's also the CEO at this point so he books Dustin against Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner in a handicap match for our main event. Flair's crazy rambling was the only worthwhile thing here.
Jason Jett vs. Cash
The announcers talk about Jett being on a three match winning streak and building himself up as a Cruiserweight Title contender, and here he faces Cash, who is Kid Kash from ECW, making his WCW debut on the next to last show in company history. So we get another crusierweight style match with lots of flips and flying. They do a lot of stuff that goes nowhere. It's just taking turns doing moves to each other really, and the crowd's not in to it much either. They do start picking this up a bit with a series of pinfall reversals, but then it's right back to the moves. Jett finally gets his finisher, the Crash Landing, and that gets the 3 count at 8:24. What they did looked fine for the most part, but it was still nothing more than an exhibition of the moves they knew, although that's about what I expected from a couple of ECW alumni. *1/2
We come back with Rick Steiner chatting with Ric Flair. Flair apologizes for Steiner being accused of beating everyone up, which Steiner seems to accept.
Kanyon & Road Warrior Animal vs. MI Smooth & The Cat (w/Ms. Jones)
Cat is the first guy tonight who gets a reaction for his entrance. He starts with Kanyon and controls before tagging out. Smooth wants Animal and Kanyon obliges. They take turns no selling each other and then Cat gets another chance, but ends up getting powerslammed. He fires back with a superkick, but Kanyon saves at 2. Tag to Kanyon, who has a cast on his wrist courtesy of Smooth and he uses it as a weapon. So now they have Cat isolated and he gets how to be the face in peril. Nice to see some attempt at psychology and storytelling after those first two spotfests. Animal stalks Jones, and the camera focusing on that actually causes us to miss the tag to Smooth as when we cut back he's just in there cleaning house. In the ensuing four way, Cat trips up Kanyon to setup a splash from Smooth and that gets the pin at 8:10. It was a nothing match in the end. 1/2*
Rick Steiner vs. Hugh Morrus
Morrus saved Konnan from a Stenier beatdown on Monday to set this up. They quickly brawl out to the floor where Morrus goes to the post to put Steiner in command. The announcers hype up Nitro, mentioning that all former WCW Champions have been invited to appear, and that if they come the need to bring their gear. Steiner works him over for a bit, hitting the tp rope bulldog for 2. He makes the mistake of stopping to jaw with some fans and that allows Morrus to make the comeback. Steiner uses the ref as a shield to cut that off and connect with a low blow. He then grabs a chair and nails Morrus, right in front of the ref which is not a DQ. And then who needs this match because now he stops to grab the mic and call out Shane Douglas stemming from a confrontation on Nitro. Douglas comes out and they go at it, which is again no DQ, and that leads to Douglas nailing him with his cast into a German suplex by Morrus and that gets the pin at 5:51. What a mess that was. -* for all the crap at the end there. Douglas hands Dave Penzer a videotape on the way out and Tony promises we'll try and find out what's on it.
Back from commercial we have the tape ready to roll, which turns out just to be to Douglas going over the reasons for his return and then challenging Steiner to a match this Monday which would end up not happening.
Elix Skipper, Kid Romeo, & Chavo Guerrero, Jr. vs. Shane Helms, Rey Mysterio, Jr., & Billy Kidman
Skipper and Romeo are the Cruiserweight Tag Team Champions having defeated Mysterio and Kidman at Greed while on that same show Helms defeated Guerrero for the Cruiserweight singles Title so they all come together for a six man here. Kidman starts with Guerrero and then tags Helms, who gets kicked from the apron by Skipper and then clotheslined. Tag Romeo, who takes it to Helms for a bit before Helms gets away and tags Mysterio, who they're talking about as basically the elder statesman of this division. He goes with Skipper who gets him with a springboard clothesline. Mysterio then avioids a charge and Skipper goes to the floor. He follows with a dive and then everyone else follows in turn. Back in, Mysterio gets Skipper with a springboard crossbody for 2, but then gets nailed with a dragon suplex. He takes a beating in the corner for awhile until coming back with a tornado DDT on Romeo and making the tag to Helms who runs wild on all three guys. Tag to Kidman, who drops a top rope elbow on Romeo for 2. All six guys are in now, trading the big moves and when the dust clears Kidman gets Romeo with the Kid Krusher for the 3 count at 9:23. This was easily the best match on the show. ***
Chuck Palumbo talks about he and Sean O'Haire losing a non Title match on Monday to Lance Storm and Mike Awesome. Tonight he'll face Awesome one on one and he lets Storm know that if he interferes, O'Haire's gonna have his back.
Mike Awesome vs. Chuck Palumbo
The announcers speculate that the non Title win may put Storm and Awesome in line for the Tag Team Title shot on Nitro. They go back and forth early with Awesome then clotheslining him to the floor and nailing him with a springboard clothesline. Back in, a splash gets 2 as the announcers bury Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell for their loss to the champs at Greed. Awesome keeps on him, working over the back and then taking it to the floor where he whips Palumbo to the rail. A chair gets involved and they trade shots with it like it's no big deal and then just get back in the ring. Palumbo gets a double underhook suplex and a dropkick and then they go back to the floor where Awesome gets sent to the rail. Top rope shoulderblock gets 2 and he follows up with a bulldog and corner clothesline. Awesome takes over again and sets up the top rope splash, but Palumbo moves. Lance Storm comes out and attacks Palumbo to keep his partner in control, but as promised, Sean O'Haire is right there to take care of him. He then provides enough of a distraction for Palumbo to catch Awesome coming off the top with a powerslam, and then Palumbo hits the Jungle Kick for the pin at 9:59. Nothing special here. *
Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett come out with Jarrett promising to kill Dustin Rhodes tonight and then he hands it off to Steiner who basically promises to do the same thing to Booker T on Monday. We then go backstage to Road Warrior Animal who walks in to Ric Flair's office only to find that he's been laid out by the mystery man. It's noted that Rick Steiner was the last man seen entering the office before that.
And finally, 29 years of professional wrestling on Superstation TBS comes down to this:
Main Event: Jeff Jarrett & Scott Steiner (w/Midajah) vs. Dustin Rhodes
Jarrett starts for his team while Steiner goes to the apron, but with how lenient the refs have been tonight I don't get why they wouldn't just double team him. Rhodes holds his own until getting caught with a clothesline by Steiner from the apron. Steiner then gets the tag and works him over. He tags back to Jarrett with Rhodes getting hin in a small package, but the ref is with Steiner. Rhodes gets Steiner with a low blow and bulldogs Jarrett, but Jarrett gets the foot on the ropes. Steiner then gets the lead pipe from Midajah and clobbers Rhodes (with them at least making a point of distracting the ref while he did that), then puts him in the Recliner and the ref calls it off at 4:16. The beating continues after the match until Booker T makes the save and clears the ring as the final build for his match with Steiner on Nitro. The match was not good under any circumstances, and it's made worse by knowing it's the final match of a 29 year legacy. 1/2*
After the Steiner/Booker pull apart, the last image on the screen is a picture of the crew together on the ramp with the caption "THANKS!".
Overall Thoughts: With the exception of that six man and maybe the opener, there was nothing that good wrestling wise on the show, but for a free TV show that's a less important consideration then it would be for a PPV, and the fact that there was even a couple good matches on what was really a lame duck show is defintely a positive. Another positive was the build for Nitro, which was all they had left after this, and they did a good job of making it seem like a big deal with several matches built up and or teased as well as talking about how the past champions were all being invited and so on. I nitpicked a few things throughout the show, and obviously none of them mattered in the long run so I won't harp on them again and instead will say that Thunder from March 21, 2001 is a Thumbs Up and a recommended watch just based on nothing more then its historical value as the final TBS wrestling show.