On March 26, 2001, Sting and Ric Flair contested what many thought at the time was the final match in World Championship Wrestling history. After the final bell sounded, the two embraced in a moment that brought over a decade of wrestling ups and downs crashing back to the forefront of fans’ minds.
As it turned out, a last-minute salvage of Fusient’s purchase of the company meant the Sting-Flair moment served as the catalyst of WCW’s return to their very best. The Nature Boy turned his back on The Magnificent Seven and his villainous ways before rediscovering his passion for the craft against worthy adversaries such as Jeff Jarrett, Booker T and Lance Storm.
With the company moving onwards and upwards, Flair decided to announce after losing his feud with Storm that he would be winding down his in-ring career. This led to the Stinger popping back up to propose one last dance with destiny: a tag team title challenge of another hot current act, Los Guerreros, almost a year on from the brink of WCW’s demise and at a PPV themed the exact same way the final Monday Nitro was.
Meanwhile, Storm attempts to parlay his recent form into a WCW World championship reign but must get past both defending champion Rob Van Dam and 2001 Wrestler of the Year Booker T to do so. Rey Mysterio, back in the mask, seeks revenge against the disrespectful Jeff Jarrett. DDP and Kanyon go to war with Mike Awesome and former ally Bam Bam Bigelow, a duo under the guidance of Father James Mitchell. And rising star Sean O’Haire defends the United States title against a rebooted ‘Franchise’ Shane Douglas.
MARCH 24, 2002: WCW SPRING BREAKOUT – Orlando, Florida
The PPV set was a tribute to Spring Breakout setups from over the years when it was a special Nitro, spliced with many attributes of a regular arena to make things a little easier to manage.
The pre-show’s only match saw Tajiri and the Jung Dragons represent Japan in a World Cup Preview six-man against Mexico’s Super Crazy, Psicosis and… the returning Juventud Guerrera!
A state-of-the-art exhibition of junior-heavy action warmed up the crowd for the PPV to come. They built up to the first exchange between old rivals, former cruiser tag champs and counterpart captains Crazy and Tajiri, and the duo did not disappoint when they did go at it during the closing stretch.
However it was Guerrera who got the win for his team with the Juvi Driver on Yang after 14:26 of action.
Opening match, Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship: Jamie Knoble & David Kash (c) vs Jason Jett & Shannon Moore
A spike brainbuster put away Jett in 12:32 after he hesitated using a chair that the heels brought in. The champs of course intended to use the weapon themselves until Moore put a stop to it, but despite having Shannon taking the ref’s attention and being keen to see some vigilante justice, Jett relented and paid the price.
United States Championship: Sean O’Haire (c) vs Shane Douglas
O’Haire retained the United States title after superkicking the Franchise before a chain-wrapped fist could play a role. The Seanton at 8:56 earned another impressive three-count for the fast-rising star.
Six-man tag team match: Chuck Palumbo, Simon Diamond & Johnny Swinger vs Dustin Rhodes & America’s Most Wanted
The Glenn Gilbertti Enterprises trio beat Rhodes, Chris Harris and James Black when Glenn Gilbertti lured Rhodes into an apparent pre-meditated ambush in the entranceway by… The Mamalukes, leaving Black to take a Problem Solver for the three after 10:05.
Two out of three falls: Billy Kidman vs Shane Helms
After their Best of Seven Series ended inconclusively and cruiserweight champion AJ Styles defeated both in a Triangle match at Superbrawl, Kidman and Helms were put in one final match over three falls by Commissioner Cat to determine which would receive a singles opportunity at AJ.
However, this bout promises to have a different feel to it after the two rivals not only confessed a mutual respect for one another, but Kidman recruited Helms to his Team USA squad for the upcoming World Cup of Wrestling.
Beginning with a tense but respectful handshake, the two men snapped a careful chain-wrestling start into life with a sudden sequence of a dozen pinfall reversals which Helms actually finished with an O’Connor Roll for the first fall after only 3:47.
The high impact moves began to work their way in from there, before Kidman tied things up escaping a Vertebreaker attempt with an O’Connor Roll of his own at 13:36.
Helms took over for a while before Kidman made the comeback, but when Helms shoved him off from his usual powerbomb-facebuster reversal, he sent the ref flying.
As the official recovered, Kidman set up for a Kid Krusher, but Helms hit him hard below the belt before turning it into a Vertebreaker after 22:18 for the win and the title shot, thus proving his ‘sporting’ behaviour of late was all a sham!
Mean Gene tried to confront Helms as he came backstage. ‘Sugar’ Shane admitted that he did it all to take the competitive edge off Kidman a little, and announced he had no intention of being part of the ‘worthless’ World Cup after all. He has his shot at the only thing that matters to him – and he wants it ASAP!
AJ Styles & Low Ki vs Triple X
Speaking of the champion, he next teamed with former XXX member Ki against the remainder of the group, Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels. The commentators speculated on whether AJ was being set up when he took a lengthy heat segment, but Ki showed he wanted to hurt his old friends when he did get the tag in.
The bad guys tried to flee at this stage… only for York and the returning Matthews to block their path to the back! As Y&M chased XXX back to ringside, AJ wiped both out with a stunning Fosbury Flop dive before sending Daniels into the ring for a Ki Krusher and the pin after 14:40.
Grudge match: Rey Mysterio vs Jeff Jarrett
Rey Mysterio was seconded by his Team Mexico captain Super Crazy for his grudge match with Jeff Jarrett, who of course had CW Anderson by his side.
A classic big man vs little man encounter, JJ controlled much of it but Rey fought back and, with Crazy ensuring CW did not get involved, picked up the win with a super huracanrana in 9:28! Psicosis joined Crazy and Rey for a celebration in the ring as Anderson walked a dejected Jarrett to the back.
Anything Goes, Falls Count Anywhere: Diamond Dallas Page & Chris Kanyon vs Mike Awesome & Bam Bam Bigelow
DDP and Kanyon jumped Awesome and Bigelow during their entrance and the four proceeded to fight all around the Spring Breakout themed set. Kanyon at one stage dove off a 15 ft balcony onto the other three!
The Falls Count Anywhere fight eventually made it to ringside and Page picked up the win for his team by giving former ally Bigelow a Diamond Cutter off the apron and through a table at ringside for the pin in 10:34. Father James Mitchell was furious and he and Awesome left without Bam Bam.
WCW World Championship, Triangle Match: Rob Van Dam (c) vs Booker T vs Lance Storm
Despite their issues last night on Nitro, Storm and Booker rekindled their union after a balanced start from all three and began to work over the champ. Of course, that didn’t last when it came to scoring a pin, and Sharmell this time sprayed Storm in the eyes and Booker tried to put Van Dam away while Lance was out of commission.
RVD mounted a comeback but Storm was back to break up the pin after the frog splash. Sharmell distracted the ref as Booker got a chair while Storm had the Maple Leaf on Van Dam, and the former champ waffled the Canadian over the back of the head only for RVD to spring up with a Van Daminator as he taunted the fans. Selling the leg, he draped an arm over Booker for the three count at 16:11! Van Dam remains the champion!
Main event, WCW World Tag Team Championship: Los Guerreros (c) vs Ric Flair and Sting
Finally, Sting made his way out followed by a huge reception for Flair in the final match of his full-time run as a wrestler. Out came Los Guerreros and the tag title bout was on, with a slow building start and plenty of antics/borderline comedy from the four.
Eddie and Chavo beat down Flair until he made the hot tag to Sting, but as he looked to wrap things up on Chavo with the Deathlock, Eddie nailed him with the tag title belt as the ref got Flair out of the ring… for two.
The champs worked over Sting this time as anticipation for a tag to Flair grew. Finally a double clothesline led to Ric running rampage on Los Guerreros.
As things broke down again, Eddie attempted the old ‘fake a chair shot to get them DQd’ which worked on the Jung Dragons last night. Flair caught the chair, then hit it on the floor himself and placed it on the fallen Eddie before dropping to the mat as well. It left a confused referee wondering what had happened.
As Sting and Chavo returned to the ring and left it again, things reset and Eddie looked for a roll-up with his feet on the ropes only for Flair to reverse and grab an almighty handful of trunks for three after 15:21!
We have new tag team champions after perhaps the most emotional main event of the new era so far, and Sting and Flair are on top of the world, a year after that world nearly disappeared for good!