So many damn rules!
In March of 1999 WCW was not in the middle of the decline that would consume them, but there was no doubt that the company was no longer the front runner in the Monday Night War. WWE had suddenly made groups like the nWo seem not hip, but old with guys like Austin, the Rock and D-Generation X. Actions like the Fingerpoke of Doom probably didn't esteem viewers to Bischoff and his creative style either...
However, WCW wasn't exactly bereft of options. There was talented workers such as Jericho, Benoit, Guerrero and Saturn and Goldberg had been built into a phenomenon that the crowd loved. So what did they do?
Roll out another Flair vs Hogan match.
The story behind the match was screwy enough. Flair, who was kayfabe president of WCW at the time, had been a thorn in the side of the villainous nWo, despite Hogan having the Big Gold Belt. Flair, having been granted a title match at Superbrawl after winning the presidency was screwed over by his own son, David who joined the nWo for...some reason, thus robbing Flair of the gold.
But not to worry, WCW fans! Flair got a rematch where he could show that bald idiot who was the true head honcho of WCW! What could possibly go wrong?!
Well, quite a lot as it happens.
Firstly, WWE had spooked WCW in the Monday Night Wars and it would be safe to say that Bischoff was looking for the new angle to get people to try and switch over again. The problem was that WCW had basically run with the nWo angle for 2.5 years. Sure WWE had the Reign of Terror, but at least it had another brand. WCW seemed to have the novel idea of having this stable (and it's two offshoots) dominate all of its programming from mid-1996 to early 1999. What made it worse was the fact that you had to make a new angle with essentially all the ingredients of the old angles, because the older workers had politicked themselves into positions where they made the main event unattainable for anyone but their friends.
In these circumstances Bischoff, it wouldn't shock you to find out, went back to the past for inspiration. He turned Flair heel and Hogan babyface. At least that was the idea.
Flair, for his part, was fully down with the notion of being the dirtiest player in the game again. He thought he would be able to achieve the double turn and have the fans booing him out of the building at Uncensored. However, Flair had underestimated his own worth to the WCW fans. Having given 25 years of his life to the business where he was known to put countless talents over, and never being recongnised as 'the man' by Bischoff the way that Hogan was, it seemed like a massive task to get Flair to be booed over the guy who many saw was taking a massive dump on their beloved WCW, despite the fact that he wasn't half the worker that Flair was.
Furthermore, this was the same Hollywood Hogan who had participated 2 months earlier in the Fingerpoke of Doom. It seemed a little jarring to believe that because of one match Hogan would suddenly have a Come to Jesus moment. But if Hogan was to continue as a draw, something had to change. The nWo were looking increasingly tired next to WWE's D-X and because they had hogged so much of WCW's TV time, they didn't really have a massive face like Austin (except for Goldberg, who they buried), or a rising star like the Rock or Triple H (except for Jericho and Guerrero, who they buried), or compelling outsiders like Foley and the Undertaker (except Sting, who they bu- look, you get the idea).
So the question was, could this be handled in a logical progression that would allow the audience to accept the turn?
Possibly, but since this WCW Uncensored, they thought they'd go for a clusterfuck...
The idea seemed to be sound- a First Blood Match in a Barbed Wire Steel Cage- the perfect place to attempt the sort of shenanigans that would be needed to get this turn anywhere near working. Add to that the extra spice that Charles Robinson, a massive fan of Flair's, was the referee. This obviously got the crowd asking if he was able to call it down the middle. Indeed, Flair told Robinson that for the bell to be called for the end of the match "blood was really going to have to flow". As if these two would have it any different...
And so that leads us to the match.
Firstly, can we all agree that the nWo theme in 1999 sucked. The porno theme had a scuzzy, sleazy attitude about that was hard not to enjoy. But this is a weird semi-hip hop thing that feels a little on the nose.
The match is pretty by-the-numbers for the first bit, with the main highlight being Flair taking a clothesline in the corner and then walking three steps to the centre of the ring before falling on his face like he's Buster Keaton. Hogan cups his ear to the fans, and gets recieved with a chorus of boos. If this was to signal a face turn, then it was stupid because all it looked like was Hogan mocking the fans who came to watch Flair- a fact made even worse when he put on the weakest looking Figure Four on Flair (and I am counting the Miz's Figure Four Leglocks in this comparison).
Then things get real screwy.
See Hogan throws Flair into the cage and then begins pounding on his forehead to attempt and open up a cut before (and I am not making this up) biting him. Did Hogan not get the memo about the double turn? Of course gets out of it and then tries to scale the cage, when Hogan tries to grab him, only managing to pull down his trunks, which gets a cheer from the crowd and an awkward pause from the announce desk as they attempt to talk about anything but (no pun intended). By this stage we've realized as well that Flair has been opened up. He is in fact, bleeding, and therefore Hogan should be the winner of the match. But no! As the announce team inform us, this is merely "incidental blood".
I'm guessing that's what you call blood that accidentally bumps into you on the sidewalk or something...
Of course, by not being called the winner, Hogan decides he needs to do more to get that cut messier. So he grabs the barbed wire hanging at the top of the cage and rubs Flair's face in it. Remember, Hogan is supposed to be the face at the end of all this...
So this mangling goes on a little while longer before Hogan hits the legdrop...and covers Flair!!! And hilariously looks to Robinson as a reason why he's not the winner, He didn't do this when Flair began to ooze claret, WHICH WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE GODDAMN MATCH, but now he's got it into his head that it's a normal match.
Of course Hogan begins arguing with the ref, which gives Flair enough time to take out the brass knux and waffle Hogan, opening him up. So we have a First Blood contest where both competitors are bleeding, and then David Flair hits the ring to um...make Ric seem bad as he taunts the son who betrayed him? I'm assuming it's that because he did bugger all else.
It wouldn't be a babyface Hogan match without Hogan hulking up. And soon after Flair Jr turns up, he does, to the...mediocre applause of the crowd. He hits Flair with the legdrop, calls Robinson over and asks for the pin count...and gets one because Robertson was slightly slow, which allows for another arguing session that opens him up to another Flair comeback (you'd think he would have learned from the first time).
Throughout all this, of course, the announcers are trying to decide what sort of match they are watching, as it is obvious that First Blood doesn't seem to be on the table any more. And then Arn Anderson comes out, wipes out David Flair, before smuggling in a tire iron for Flair to waffle Hogan with, which he does.
And then Flair...puts on the Figure Four?!
Why doesn't he just pin him?! What is he trying to prove? If Hogan is out, he's not going to submit. Instead, he locks in the submission, and Robinson hits a fast count on Hogan's prone body to finish the match.
To the cheers of a lot of the crowd.
"We have just watched wrestling history!" the Ring announcer claims after the match. He's right, but for the wrong reasons.
If Flair had done this with an up and coming wrestler like Benoit or Jericho, I have no doubt he would have been booed and his opponent would have had a springboard for bigger and better things. However WCW rarely thought about 6 months down the line and was more worried about the ratings next week. Flair was an expert at putting people over, but Hogan didn't need to be put over. Instead, what it showed was a company that was so stuck in their old ways that one of the best in-ring fosterers of new talent ever was trying to make himself seem hated compared to a guy that for the last 2 years had done nothing in kayfabe (and in reality to a certain extent) but protect his legacy. And so when it came to the crunch, pointing a finger at one of the beloved figures in WCW and hulking up was not going to cut it as a face turn.
Oh and Flair's title run? Lasted a month before he lost it to DDP. Make of that what you will.
And that's article 74. Next time it's our 75th article (they grow up so fast...sniff). Join me as I embark on a multi-parter encompassing the background of one worker's journey from one Main Event at a Wrestlemania...where he lost and was showered with boos, to the next where he Main Evented and won the title...and was showered with boos.
No prizes for guessing. See you then!
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
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?