RIPPA ‘RONA REVIEW #1
(By Phil Rippa)
At some moment in time board poster Smelly McUgly took advantage of the payola program and paid me to review a random Hodge Podge of matches. There isn’t really an order to them. Also a quick note – on Smelly’s list was also the Midnight Express vs Fantastics from Clash I which Rev Ray selected for the DVDVR #100 and the Taylor Wilde/Sarita vs. Awesome Kong/Ayako Hamada match that I put on the 1001.
I should also note that I started these reviews like two months ago but then I got writer’s block over how irritated I got over the Rope a Dope comment so the rest of the reviews can be considered the first of what could potentially be several ‘RONA REVIEWS~!
VADER/MR. HUGHES vs. RICK & SCOTT STEINER – WCW CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS XVIII (01/21/92)
Now that I am in my mid-40s I have realized that one of the things my brain does to help contextualize wrestling (well especially old WWE and WCW) is to think about things in terms of the more famous things that occurred around it. So for example…
This is Clash 18 which almost no one talks about because when people talk about Clashes it is always 1, 10 and 19. So being the Clash BEFORE the most tape traded Clash… talk about a forgotten moment in time. It is also the Clash AFTER Ricky Steamboat being the best mystery partner ever. God fuck this non-descript show.
This match is the opening match on a Clash that was basically the setup show for Super Brawl II where the only real memorable thing was the Cactus Jack/Van Hammer falls count anywhere match. I mean it is in Topeka, Kansas. No wonder no one talks about this match.
Hey Rick Steiner was in the Main Event of the last Clash just two short months ago getting a World title shot against Lex Luger. Now he is in the opening match trying to “move up the tag team ranks”. And Jushin Liger is nowhere to be found. Fuck this company.
Anyway, for me (especially with the benefit of hindsight) an enjoyable aspect of a lot of Clash matches is the quaint beauty behind “Well – we got our finish I guess we just have to throw shit against the wall for five minutes till we get there.” You just need to look beyond the ugliness to see it. Like there is no reason for Rick Steiner to just randomly jump on Vader from the outside. Nor is the anything beyond “Aww fuck it” for them to unofficially work the match like a Texas Tornado. It is four large men hitting some clotheslines and suplexes while Mr. Hughes ridiculously over-emotes with his selling. Then Hughes eats the fall as we all knew he would.
It is what would pass as 2nd hour RAW match now. Though I am fairly certain no one would no sell the finish like Hughes. That was some Hulk Hogan level bullshit right there.
RICK & SCOTT STEINER vs. DOOM (BUTCH REED/RON SIMMONS) – WCW CLASH OF CHAMPIONS X (02/06/90 – Titles vs. Masks)
Remember all that stuff I wrote in the last review placing Clash 18 in its proper moment in time. I could literally almost write the same exact thing for this match/show. Follows one of the most beloved Clashes of all time and the match is overshadowed by other events on the card (specifically Sting being kicked out of the Horseman and then blowing out his knee)
Side note – this Clash has the Skyscrapers vs. Road Warriors match that Undertaker talked about on the Austin interview when crazy ass Dan Spivey beats the shit out the Roadies and then decides to quit the company.
It is also at this point that I realized I should have written these reviews in chronological order. Oh well, the tube is out of the toothpaste there.
The stipulations are a World Tag Titles vs. Masks and, legit, one of my all-time favorite things in wrestling history is Jim Ross and Jim Cornette pretending that they had no idea who was behind the Doom masks. I mean fucking Ross goes “It is said that one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling is he is behind the masks but I don’t believe it!” God Bless you kayfabe.
Second side note – technically the tag titles were still the NWA ones as the split didn’t occur for another couple of months, ironically, when Doom beat the Steiners.
I have a soft spot for Doom. I freely admit that anytime try to think of a list of my all-time favorite tag team, I never consider them. Maybe because of the short time they were together as a team. Maybe it is because I think of them individually first. Also, I will never be able to fully appreciate their importance to black men of a similar age to me. I can tell you unequivocally that they could make chicken salad out of chicken shit and the Doom gimmick was some chicken shit.
The match itself is nothing you haven’t seen a 100 times over. However, you haven’t seen Doom doing their damnedest to get over the “importance” of their masks and how they can never lose them. They are jawing at the crowd, jawing at Nick Patrick, jawing at the Steiners. These mask might hide our identities worse than Clark Kent’s glasses but no one is taking them dammit!
You can hear this all clear as day because I don’t recall hearing a ring mic’ed up this loud ever. Like I might as well be in the arena. And boy oh boy are the ring ropes loose and the cables just screaming each time these big boys hit them. So much so that Scott Steiner gets severely fucked up taking a stumble into the ropes that leaves half his face with a bruise. So that must have been fun.
This finish is fucked up too as Rick Steiner blows the ripping off of Butch Reed’s mask so they kinda just have to wing it and then Reed gets rolled up as he is apologizing to Ron Simmons… errr… Doom 2 for having his mask ripped off. Then Simmons takes his mask off and fuck that we need to go to commercial so we can know more about Sting!
Yeah… now I remember why I wasn’t really blown away with this match originally.
STING VS. VADER – WCW STARRCADE ’92 (12/28/92 – King of Cable Finals)
Hoo boy… do I talk about the King of Cable Tournament or Battlebowl first? Okay – I will just count my Dustin Rhodes/Vader review from DVDVR #181 as the King of Cable recap. Just remember keep that tournament in mind when you are all I CAN’T BELIEVE THE WWE CREATED A TITLE JUST TO KEEP THE USA NETWORK HAPPY?!?!?!?!
And yes that means I am also glossing over the fact that a tournament designed to make their broadcast partner happy had its Finals on a PPV. And keep that in mind when wondering why AEW is having its TNT Finals on a PPV. Time is a flat circle.
Battlebowl… motherfucking Battlebowl. Where is my Vice Documentary about this? Fuck, I don’t have the patience talk about how angry Battlebowl as a concept angers me. What I am going to focus on is the absurdity of it in the context of the entire PPV.
Not counting the dark match, this is a 10 match show. Six of the 10 matches are either tags or the Battle Royal. You know how many total wrestlers appear? TWENTY! TWO-ZERO! FIVE! guys work THREE! Times. Yet, somehow Ricky Steamboat and Jushin Liger only work ONCE! Fuck the only reason, Liger even gets on the card was that fucking Erik Watts needed a tag partner who could wrestle for two because God Fucking Forbid Erik Watts wasn’t on the show. Every single challenger for a title on this show was also in the Lethal Lottery but not the champions. So… sure??? Talk about a champions advantage. (One slight note here – technically Ron Simmons challenger was supposed to be Rick Rude but he got injured and Steve Williams got the shot instead)
All this is to get me to my central point which is this Sting/Vader match is fucking good but it isn’t their best affair and the big reason for that is because they had already worked a match AND had to work another match immediately after this one. Nope. Nope. Not going down that path. Oh wait yes I am because the match is fucking announced as “One Fall or TV Time Remaining”. Can you imagine… can you FUCKING imagine if the match had gone so that they didn’t have the main event of the fucking PPV? You don’t have to imagine because Halloween Havoc 98 happened.
I lied. My central point is that this match became one of those GREAT PSYCHOLOGY BECAUSE JR AND JESSE VENTURA SAID STING WAS USING ROPE A DOPE~! internet things. So yes… I am going to start shaking my fist at clouds now. First of all – JR just speculates that maybe Sting is trying to rope a dope and Jesse is all “Sure???” Second, the internet told me that was the psychology so clearly it is true because clearly when Mohammed Ali and George Foreman were in the fucking jungle, Ali hit his finisher five minutes in. Then he rope a doped for less than two minutes without actually ever leaning against the ropes which is the WHOLE FUCKING REASON IT IS CALLED THE ROPE A DOPE and then Foreman was only tired for about 90 seconds and had a big comeback after Ali stopped rope a doping. Oh and they fought two other times on the evening. God that is an ugly ugly run on sentence but grr… am I irritated.
The folks designing this PPV were about as sharp as a bowling ball but that it doesn’t mean that Vader and Sting weren’t going to entertain the fuck out of you. This is not the Strap match but it does have doo-rag Vader so it is probably their second best match. I will never get tired of them beating on each other, a hot crowd and JR yelling. If you haven’t watched a big batch of their matches then what the fuck are you using the WWE Network for? You deserve not to get any more Hidden Gems.
RICK & SCOTT STEINER vs. THE BEVERLY BROTHERS – WWF ROYAL RUMBLE ’93 (01/24/93)
Have I seen this match before? Clearly I have seen this match before, right? I mean I know I watched this PPV. Fuck, I bought this PPV. Was this the first WWE PPV I ever bought? Was there any build up to this match? Was it seriously just “Who are the better brothers?” Who am I? Why am I here?
Listen – I am just gonna say Wayne Bloom and Mike Enos because it is WAY easier than remembering who was Beau and who was Blake. (Beau is Bloom, Blake is Enos. I just looked that up and will forget in two minutes.) And we could bemoan the WWE’s usage of the Beverly Brothers till the cows come home but Bloom deciding to quit the company shortly after this match put the wheels in motion for Enos to work New Japan and then have his criminally underrated run in WCW.
If this match was on RAW every week, I would watch the hell out of it. As the opening, match of a PPV, even for 1993, ehhh…. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it but I have seen A LOT of “better worker of babyface tag team (in this case Scott Steiner) works 95% of the match against a talented heel tag team that is just there to make the babyface team look good” matches and this is just goes on the pile. Now, one of the three things Rick does is murder someone with a clothesline so he makes his time count. And the finishing sequence could easily be replicated in today’s WWE without looking out of place at all right down to it looking like someone landed on their neck.
RANDY SAVAGE vs. CRUSH – WWF WRESTLEMANIA X (03/20/94 – Falls Count Anywhere)
Oh sweet, sweet irony that I am watching this the day after the abomination that was the Bataan Death March of Edge/Randy Orton Last Man Standing Mania match. This is about as far on the other side of the spectrum as that match could get.
I should first explain that this is called a Falls Count Anywhere match but the rules are basically Last Man Standing… sorta. All falls must occur outside of the ring and then the person who was pinned has 60 seconds – a whole god damn minute – to get back into the ring. Now normally, I loathe to do a move by move write-up of a match but you will understand in a moment why I am making an exception here.
Randy Savage enters first. He jumps Crush in the aisle. Crush immediately rallies, hits a reverse atomic drop and a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and then press slams Savage onto the guardrail and pins him. So Fall #1 happens less than a minute in. Savage then takes 59 of the 60 seconds to get back into the ring. Crush ties Savage to the tree of woe and punches him in the junk three times (I don’t think he meant to be punching him in the Mini Madness but that is what was happening.) The ref then gets distracted untying Savage so Crush loads up his hands with ceremonial salt. Mr. Fuji – oh I guess I should have mentioned Mr. Fuji is managing – then distracts the ref so Crush can throw the salt in Savage’s eyes except of course Savage counters and Crush gets salted.
I was gonna pause here for a second to say “Okay – I guess you can get DQed” which makes sense with all the ref distractions. Problem is Vince McMahon on commentary immediately goes IT’S NO DQ!!! (He also said it was No Holds Barred at one point but salt throwing isn’t a move per se.) So booker Vince and announcer Vince weren’t on the same page. Anyway, Savage hits the top rope axe handle and top rope elbow and then awkwardly has to push Crush under the ropes since pinfalls can’t occur in the ring. That is Fall #2.
During this 60 seconds, Crush is portrayed as being knocked out so Mr. Fuji pours a pitcher of water over his head to revive him. The WWE, always on the cutting edge of concussion protocols. Crush makes it back in with two seconds left. Savage fights with the ref because sure, why not? He then charges Crush which turns into a Jerry Bump which is really quite fitting since Savage has on an outfit Jerry Estrada totally would wear.
Now they are brawling on the floor. Crush takes a super realistic ring post bump so there was that. They brawl up through the crowd in the aisle below the hard cam. Savage throws Crush through some doors and pins him?!?!?!?! Okay that was an anti-climatic fall. There is a conveniently placed batch of scaffolding that has winch even more conveniently placed than the scaffolding itself. Savage ties Crush to said winch and then stands in the ring for 20 seconds and wins. Well, that was even more anti-climatic than the actual fall… especially when factoring in the great build up they did for the feud.
All told the match was less than 10 minutes so you could watch it three more times and it is still better than Edge/Orton. I mean it is good in a blowoff match on a Saturday Night’s Main Event. Problem is, this was on a Mania (and one that also happened to have two of the all-time best matches in WWF history).