"Just sign on the dotted line? Ok sure. I mean, why would I read the stipulation?"
Over the series of these articles, it is amazing how many of them come back to having something to do with the nWo. Now, many will think that this means that I, your loveable Cageside grump, feel nothing but contempt for the nWo and what they did for the company. But actually, I do have a lot of time for the nWo and I do believe it breathed new life into a tiring franchise (I am not about to fawn over it like Matt Striker does, however...). The real reason that I believe that many of my WCW articles have something to do with the nWo is that after they surfaced they were everywhere and became such an integral part of the storyline that often the creative team would corner themselves trying to figure out what to do.
This is a great example of that.
A couple of months after the nWo were formed at Bash at the Beach 2006, another former WWE superstar turned up on Nitro. At Halloween Havoc, Rowdy Roddy Piper confronted Hogan and tried to get the Hulkster to admit that Piper was just as big an icon as Hogan was.
Ok, let's consider this for a second. Sure, Piper was a big star but Hogan-level? Hogan main evented SIX Wrestlemanias- and that's not even counting his cameo with Bret Hart and Yokozuna. Piper headlined one. Any wrestling mark out there in the audience would have surely called bullshit on that and that would have been fine...if Piper was the heel. But he wasn't.
Faces shouldn't come off as 'entitled'-particularly when they are asking for entitlements that are genuinely not theirs to have. If Piper had said to Hogan that he was a better wrestler than Hogan, then that's a story you could work around (after all, that's what a title is for, isn't it?). But a bigger star just makes look Piper look insecure.
So Piper demands a match at Starrcade, claiming that (again, not entirely correctly) that Hogan has never beaten him. However, Bischoff, decided not to give it to him for some mysterious reason. Indeed, Bischoff claimed that that cur Piper was in fact not returning his calls! Something wasn't right. Was Piper playing silly buggers with the head of WCW, or was there something more malign?
So when Piper came to confront Bischoff, the nWo beat the living crap out of him while revealing that dear old Eric was in fact a member of the nWo! It looked like poor Roddy would have to go through some sort of torturous test in order to be able to confront Hogan now. I mean, with everyone against him the odds must have been-
Oh, Hogan just decided to sign the contract at the World War 3 PPV? Well, so much for trying to push the guy by legitimising him in the freakin' ring. Instead in the contract confrontation Hogan lifted up Piper's kilt in order to show his scar from his hip operation and called him 'Pegleg Pete'. Such obvious indicators to Piper's hip operations would come back to haunt the match when the locked up at Starrcade.
See the thing is, despite the fact that these two were legends of the wrestling industry, it didn't take a genius to realise that they'd been around the block a few times. So, it perhaps wasn't the best idea to point this out to an audience who may have been expecting something closer to their 1980s encounters.
It's actually difficult to know how much of the fault for the match is down to Piper and Hogan's conditioning and how much is due to WCW bizarro booking. This is due to the fact that every time it looks like Hogan and Piper are going to come to grips with each other in the middle of the ring, something happens to put a massive pause in the action.
To be fair there is a kernel of an idea here. Hogan's cronies obviously cannot storm the ring- they'd get disqualified. So you have the nWo surround the ring and Hogan tries to lure Piper to the outside where they can do the dirty work for him. The problem is that it takes an age to work and too often Hogan just goes outside the ring expecting Piper to follow him only for Piper to stay in the ring for what seems like friggin' eternity. All it does is seem to draw attention to the fact that the bookers are not that confident that these two can tango for very long without it going to hell.
Secondly what does it take to get DQed in WCW?! At one point in the match Piper gets the belt from his kilt and chokes Hogan with it. The commentators applaud the ref letting this go because apparently they want this resolved satisfactory but if a face chokes a guy, surely he should be denied the win? I understand if a heel champion slaps a ref to try and get DQed and is denied it by said ref- that makes sense. But this made Piper look like an evil jerk that couldn't beat Hogan on his own terms.
And that's not even bringing up the ending.
Just like a great ending can make a ordinary match into a good one, a poor one can turn an ordinary one into a worse one. Firstly the Giant (later known as the Big Show in WWE) comes into chokeslam Piper after what can only be described as the worst distraction in wrestling history, with Hogan essentially blocking the ref from seeing anything by literally standing in front of him despite the fact that the Giant is a good 8 inches taller and was attempting to chokeslam Piper. Surely, surely the ref could have seen something.
This ridiculousness is compounded by the fact that a fan somehow gets into the ring and actually distracts everyone while security attempt to grab the fan and escort him from the ring, leading to the Giant actually holding Piper in the air for what feels like an eternity. While this may not be WCW's fault (although it does smack of something that would never occur at a Wrestlemania) it does make the ending worse.
After the fan is subdued, Piper fights out of the Chokeslam and manages to lock Hogan into a Sleeper Hold. And chokes Hogan out.
Now I don't want to come off as all anti-sleeper hold. Waylon Mercy's sleeper hold finisher was an integral part of his character. When he locked that hold on and grinned like an insane motherfucker, it really added to his character. However, the fact of the matter is that a sleeper hold for many wrestlers is just a rest hold- an integral part of the match to build tension until the face mounts a comeback, or for both wrestlers to catch a breath. Hell- even the name of the move implies rest. Even the crowd are not into it, going silent awaiting Hogan's comeback until his arm goes down for the third time and then cheering when the bell has been rung as if to say "Oh shit he's won!!"
Well at least Piper would get the title now...
Or so we'd thought...
For you see, it soon became clear that the title was not actually on the line despite the fact that Piper had drawn up the friggin' contract. If the World Champion does not defend his title at the Biggest PPV of the year where does he defend it?! In what would become typical of WCW in later years, the company had a feel good moment and essentially ripped the rug out from under the fans in order to protects some long term goal.
It is emblematic that Starrcade 1996, 1997 and 1998 all had bum main events, despite the fact they were in WCW's boom years. None of the three events really had a clean wrestling match- instead all three were an overbooked mess that mystified many and alienated others. When WWE got its act together in the Attitude era, its main events: Austin vs HBK; Austin vs Rock 1; the 4 Way; and Austin vs Rock 2 were all good events that had definitive endings.
And that is Article 41! Next time I shall turn my attention not to a match or a feud, but to a whole championship reign. But whose? Find out next time!
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