Welcome back to another edition of this series of rants! Today it's all about crap writing, bad production values and tasteless stunts! Yes, it's WCW in the final years!
I remember the first time I ever really encountered pro wrestling. I'm from Australia and so the notion of it ever coming to my shores back in the mid 90s was a bit of a pipe dream, so most of my 'knowledge' came from advertisments on the back of old comic books- spruiking the latest Game Boy game like Steel Cage Challenge or whatever.
As a young kid I remember guys like Hulk Hogan, Sergeant Slaughter and others pulling all these angry faces and poses.
And then there was this other guy. He had a black hat on his head, with long hair over his face. He didn't make an angry face nor did he attempt to flex his muscles. Instead he seemed to capture something eerily cool that, as a 10 year old I found compelling.
Since then the Undertaker has always been my favourite wrestler. And I think if many on this site were to be honest, guys like Undertaker and Mick Foley- while not faces of the company- have allowed the WWE to become a more interesting and colourful place to watch. It is the same reason that Bray Wyatt has been such a breath of fresh air in an age when tweets and apps were being shoved down our throats.
However, for every Undertaker or Bray Wyatt, there has been five Papa Shangos- gimmicks that have not worked at all, despite the fact that the supernatural was supposed to draw people in.
Don't believe me? Remember him?
In 2000 WCW tried to elevate one of its stars with a supernatural gimmick against one of its older stars with a supernatural gimmick.
Did it work? Well, no...
In the beginning of 2000 Vampiro and Sting formed an alliance known as the "Brothers in Paint". Vampiro, however decided to turn on his partner in order to show Sting that he was the true dark and twisted one.
Both men were in the US Title Tournament that had been set up by the old/new creative team of Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff. On the way through both had interfered with each other's matches and Sting had beaten Vampiro, allowing him to progress to the final against Scott Steiner at Spring Stampede.
And here's where the ridiculousness begins.
Look, I realise sometimes a bit of pageantry and smoke and mirrors are good for wrestling. But there are times when over the top antics just look stupid and this was one of those times.
In the middle of the Steiner/Sting match, Vampiro managed to come out from beneath the ring and drag Sting down with him, only to deposit him moments later unconscious with 'blood' (I would rather call it strawberry jam, but for continuity purposes we'll go with the announcers) smeared across his mouth and cheek. Steiner would clamp the
Camel Clutch- I mean the Accolade- sorry the Steiner Recliner on him and that was all she wrote.
I'm not going to go into the next few weeks in detail because they more or less blend in together but suffice to say that the next few weeks there must have been an invisible tether between Sting and Vampiro considering the amount of TV time they spent together. Sting would have a match, Vampiro would interfere and vice versa.
And the 'blood' got more and more ludicrous.
The second Nitro after Spring Stampede, the two Main Evented in a First Blood Match. At about the 3 minute mark of the match, Vampiro gets onto the announce table and runs his hand across his throat in a manner very similar to the Undertaker. Suddenly 'blood' pours from above as if Russo and Bischoff thought the famous scene from Carrie was too subtle. There's so much 'blood' (or 'mysterious red liquid' as the announcers hilariously refer to it as- keeping in mind that one of the wrestlers is called Vampiro and this is a First Blood match) that Sting, Vampiro and the rest of the New Blood who come to assault Sting begin sliding around the ring like bars of soap on a bathroom floor.
At Slamboree, the Stinger beat Vampiro with two Scorpion Death Drops, and believed their feud settled. But Vampiro still demanded satisfaction and so in the next Nitro, when Sting was competing against Jeff Jarrett for the world title, Vamprio once again pulled the Stinger under the ring and covered him in 'blood'
Y'know we sometimes criticise the WWE for not moving forward with their feuds, but I would watch 10 Bray Wyatt promos, than see one of these WCW so-called 'match finishes'.
Soon though the 'mysterious red liquid' was replaced by a new weapon.
In the lead up to the Great American Bash, Vampiro challenged Sting to an Inferno match, where one of the wrestlers would have to set the other on fire. Sting- showing considerable foresight for a babyface in modern wrestling, simply said that Vampiro was a psycho and refused. However, after saving Hogan from a gasoline attack from Vampiro, Sting amended his answer to saying that the match idea was 'stupid' but he had never shirked from a challenge.
Essentially, Sting was saying "I don't agree with the idea of setting someone on fire, but since I have been challenged to do so I don't see that I have another choice."
Oooh! Oooh! I know this! How about saying no?
I don't understand why babyfaces have this stupid compunction to agree to matches they find horrific. Sting had won all of the matches so far- what did he need to prove?
And in case you didn't know it was about fire, almost all the interference that Sting and Vampiro did to each other was now fire related, instead of, letting the WCW audience enjoy, oh I don't know, A WRESTLING MATCH!!!
I'm sorry, I am calm...
All of this culminated at the Great American Bash where Sting put the torch above the Turnertron (can someone tell me exactly why Sting was able to position the torch? That doesn't strike me as exactly fair) in order to take advantage of Vampiro's fear of heights (a notorious affliction for vampires). They then work for about 5 dull minutes in the ring at which stage Vampiro manages to douse Sting in gasoline. They then proceed to the TurnerTron where the flashing lights are used to mask what is going to happen next.
Luckily the fact that Sting's hair suddenly changes as well as his height allow the audience to see that it's patently a professional stuntman who gets lit on fire by Vampiro and dives 30 feet onto a air mattress below.
While the match is, to put it bluntly, pretty terrible, the real problems come after with WCW announcers attempting to convince us that Sting is dead, or close to it. It really lends a bad taste in the mouth, particularly when the tragic death of Owen Hart was still in everyone's minds. The fact the commentators essentially seem to try and ape JR's call of that night's awful events doesn't help with Scott Hudson saying "We just watched Steve Borden try to kill himself."
The sad thing is that before this 'feud' Vampiro looked like something like a future prospect. Had they done something better with this feud and allowed him to win one or two of the matches at Spring Stampede, Slamboree as well as the Nitro match they had in between (a Hell in a Cell match where the stipulation was to handcuff the opponent to the cage to win...), he could have been built as a credible threat. However, the more people saw him just resort to stupid gimmicks revolving around fire, gasoline and blood, the more they saw him as faintly ridiculous rather than bad ass. For every supernatural thing that the Undertaker does, he also backs it up with a Tombstone Piledriver or a Chokeslam or something else. Because of Russo's fascination with everything aside from what should be going on between those four ropes, he never got that chance and got stuck in a feud that not only had him become Sting's personal jobber, but also ended with a bad taste in the mouth.
Well, that's article 35 in the books. Join me next time as we look at sequels and why they are almost never as good as the original.
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action