Team WCW looked to be in serious trouble during WarGames as Vince Russo and Stacy Keibler ensured Ric Flair could not fight alongside his team-mates, but a 5-on-4 was levelled up when Jeff Jarrett of all people rushed the cage with a cart of weapons to help Sting, Dustin Rhodes and AMW conquer Sports Entertainment Xtreme.
WCW aren’t out of the woods yet, however. Russo remains 51% owner and the main shot-caller, with all the title belts but Jerry Lynn’s cruiserweight title and now the US title in the SEX camp. The cruiserweight-based Wednesday show, AirTime, has also been abandoned by Vince and Commissioner Keibler.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2002: AIRTIME #37
Taped on September 17, along with the following Nitro, in Atlanta.
We get an answer to the question of AirTime’s future almost immediately as the show begins with the music of one Eric Bischoff.
‘Easy E’ takes the mic inside the ring and welcomes us to the show. He then explains that due to the events of Bash at the Beach, he no longer has final say on WCW affairs. However, since the majority owner wants absolutely nothing to do with AirTime, he strongly doubts his own decisions will be vetoed on a Wednesday. So, from here on out, Bischoff says he’s running this show and he promises the crowd that just like last decade, he’ll open the door for the cruiserweights to shock the world.
He concludes by saying that starts with his announcement of a Round Robin Challenge for the Cruiserweight title. Jerry Lynn, AJ Styles and Low Ki will face each other over three weeks in three singles matches with the title on the line whenever the champion is involved. It begins next week with Lynn giving Styles his one-on-one rematch for the belt.
Paul London and Brian Kendrick faced off in a grudge match next, with Kendrick taking a walk after 9:49, just as it looked like the high-flying sensation was closing in on revenge on Brian.
Jorge Estrada tells Jeremy Borash that he hasn’t heard a word from Sonny Siaki since Siaki decided to join S.E.X. He thought they were tight, but apparently not. He says since Sonny and his new buddies won’t come near AirTime, he’ll just have to get answers on Nitro.
Many of the cruiserweights are shown gathered around Bischoff backstage, who says that not only is the division a must-see product but the heart shown to run off S.E.X and stand up to the New Church at Fall Brawl is inspirational. He says tonight’s main event will feature some of the finest juniors on the roster in an eight-man tag and he implores the up-and-comers to watch the bout to see what they could be for WCW in the next year, five years or even longer.
The Jung Dragons gained a measure of revenge when they defeated Jamie Knoble and David Kash, the two men who inexplicably cost them their PPV bout with The Rejected. Unleash The Dragon finished Kash after 11:42, but it was the rednecks with the last laugh as Knoble used a chair to lay out both Dragons after the bell. Kash recovered and the heels put the boots to Kaz and Yang before finally leaving.
As Knoble and Kash returned backstage, Borash made the mistake of stopping them for an explanation as to why they’re targeting the Dragons. Kash roughs up JB while Knoble explains that he has spent two years dealing with those two “punks”. He has to pretend to be Japanese and pretend that he likes them just to get his break in WCW, then they turf him out, then they “steal” he and Kash’s tag titles and now they’re up on a pedestal as if they’re the company’s best cruiser tag team. Knoble says the so-called best team are laying in a heap right now and it won’t be the last time.
Finally, Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis and Super Crazy defeated Billy Kidman, Tajiri, Christian York and Joey Matthews when Rey snared Kidman at the end of a lengthy sequence of back-and-forth pinning combinations for three slaps of the mat after 18:27. Kidman wasn’t best pleased that he was edged out by his friend, but cooled off and joined the other seven in showing respect to one another. Kidman then took the mic and told the crowd that the cruiserweight division would never die in WCW, no matter what Vince Russo says or does.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #72
Though he has the power, Vince Russo’s hostile takeover of WCW hit a snag at Fall Brawl when S.E.X lost the United States title and were defeated in WarGames. It’s tough to imagine him not finding a way to strike back tonight, however, as this dispute seems far from over.
And while Jeff Jarrett’s falling out with his old friend has swung things back in WCW’s favour for the time being, can Sting and co really trust the devious former key member of the nWo, the Magnificent Seven and the Chosen Few?
Speaking of Sting, the telecast begins with the arrival of the man in paint to the ring. Sting says victory inside the double cage on Sunday has him thinking of little more than rescuing the WCW title from Ken Shamrock and S.E.X. However, as surreal as it will seem and as much as it pains him to do this, he needs to speak to someone man-to-man – and he calls out Jarrett.
Out comes JJ, armed with a guitar and looking extremely suspicious of this summoning. Sting pulls the bat out of his trenchcoat as Jeff enters the ring, but tells his longtime enemy that he’s not here for a fight. The two tentatively but simultaneously disarm.
Sting explains to Jarrett that he feels his captaining of WCW to victory last weekend should lead to him challenging Shamrock, but admits the win was thanks to Jeff stepping in to replace Ric Flair. He says he knows Jarrett wasn’t doing it to be nice. He knows Jeff wanted some of S.E.X. But still, Jarrett was there when the company needed someone and he earned a title shot over the summer when everyone assumed he was in with Russo.
He wanted to tell Jeff, face to face, that it’s Jarrett who deserves to challenge Ken Shamrock. JJ reacts to the unexpected praise but his reply is cut off by the ‘Sex Sells’ theme of S.E.X who populate the stage, with Russo and Shamrock front and centre.
Russo apologies for interrupting the ‘circle jerk’ but in his mind, WarGames was but one battle and before it’s all said and done both Sting and Jarrett, and anyone else who sides with them, will be trampled by S.E.X. Russo says that his “killer” Ken Shamrock may even do it single-handedly, and to be careful what you wish for.
Jarrett finally gets a word in and asks Russo if he just told an international television audience that Shamrock would face both he and Sting? Russo immediately backpedals and says he didn’t say they could have title shots. Jarrett takes a different route and asks Ken if Russo does all his talking for him, because it looks like he’s actually afraid. This works a charm on the short-tempered champ, who has to be held back by his stablemates.
Shamrock screams that he’ll defend against them both, so Sting proposes he face Jarrett in two weeks, with the winner meeting Sting at Havoc. Jarrett cuts him off and says it was Sting who got the job done at WarGames and he earned the next crack. He says he’s just happy to get the shot he earned at some point and since he’s already waited a few months, he can wait another few weeks. Russo yells at them to get a room and says if that’s what they want, that’s what they’ve got.
Los Guerreros teamed with two men they are very familiar with, Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio, to beat Matt Bentley, Sonny Siaki and The Rejected. As he promised on AirTime, Jorge Estrada came out to confront Siaki at ringside and received a smack to the face for his troubles. They brawled, Helms and Moore jumped Estrada and a Chavo brainbuster followed by an Eddie frog splash finished the outnumbered Bentley in 5:56. Rejected and Siaki then retreat before the faces can catch them up after their number on Jorge.
We get an official video package confirming that the Starrcade Series will begin in three weeks’ time. The 12 participants are listed as Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Kanyon, Lance Storm, Dustin Rhodes, Scott Hall, Shane Douglas, Curt Hennig, Sean O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, the returning CW Anderson and whomever comes out of the Ken Shamrock vs Sting bout without the WCW title.
Speaking of Rhodes, he comes out alongside his proteges America’s Most Wanted. All three are visibly banged up from WarGames, but Rhodes says they’re running on adrenaline at the moment – the adrenaline from spanking S.E.X on a weekly basis.
He says the three of them are ready to go tonight and ready to kick more S.E.X backsides, so he challenges any three of them to come out right now. The challenge is in fact met by James Mitchell and the New Church, further reinforcing how Russo and the Father are in league.
Mitchell says Rhodes’ hostile words about the harbinger of change and his loyal soldiers offend himself and his Church, so they’d be happy to teach the three of them that there is a form of suffering worse than war.
It was Tempest, Sinn and Slash taking on Rhodes and AMW, but the bout was soon thrown out when Malice got involved and destroyed all three wounded men. Official ruling: disqualification win for AMW/Rhodes after 8:05.
Backstage, Russo is pacing back and forth while Commissioner Keibler attempts to calm him down. He frets about their plan falling behind schedule when he’s greeted by Shane Douglas and Torrie Wilson. Douglas, hilariously, complains that Kanyon “cheated” to take the US title but Russo shuts him up and tells him his rematch is tonight. He says he needs to hurry up and bring the strap back because it’s bad enough they were missing the cruiserweight title, let alone two belts now.
Shane says consider it done and they exit. Russo then asks Keibler why she hasn’t reversed Bischoff’s rulings over the cruiserweight belt yet. Stacy admits that AirTime has cruiserweight title privileges and Eric successfully tied the title picture up for the next few weeks – but she adds that she made a match that should please him later tonight.
Elsewhere, Lance Storm confronts Booker T and Sharmell backstage, saying they still need to settle their issues. He proposes they fight again tonight. Booker accepts and says he’ll use it to prove why he’ll win the Starrcade Series and regain his belt at the showpiece event.
As Keibler hinted, Jerry Lynn Low Ki and AJ Styles had their work cut out for them as they took on the Full Blooded Italians and Johnny Stamboli in six-man action. Having just gone to war in a triangle ladder match at Fall Brawl, teamwork and freshness were not words you’d associate with the babyface trio. And when miscommunication brought Lynn and AJ together, Styles continued his recent displays of frustration by walking out on the match, and a double team Kiss of Death finished Ki at 7:52.
A short video teaser hinted that Goldberg would be back soon…
Kanyon retained the newly-won US title against former titlist Shane Douglas with a Flatliner counter to the Franchiser in 10:16. It will remain two belts that are out of S.E.X’s reach.
Backstage, Rhodes is with AMW and the three are being treated for the mauling at the hands of Malice and his New Church cohorts. Dustin says tonight is on them for issuing a 3vs3 challenge to a group who don’t play by the rules. So, New Church, how about we throw rules out the window? Rhodes challenges all four of them to show up next week for a Gangfight. He promises they’ll even the numbers and make it “just like WarGames all over again”.
Lance Storm defeated Booker T in 14:34 after dodging an Ax Kick and catching a quick Majistral cradle for the pin. He wasn’t able to celebrate long, however: seconds after his arm was raised, he was turned around into a Diamond Cutter! DDP then ducked a wild Booker swing and landed a Cutter on him, too! Page took the mic and said he proved tonight that neither of these two chumps will go the distance in the Starrcade Series, and that he will headline what could be his final Starrcade and win one final big one.
We’re then joined by Ric Flair, who has a noticeable limp as he makes his way to the squared circle. Flair says he has a number of emotions running through his mind after Fall Brawl.
He says he feels sorrow that he had to watch from the sidelines instead of defend WCW from the frontline. He feels surprise and gratitude that Jeff Jarrett stepped up to the plate, especially after what they’d been through over the last year and a half. Most of all, however, he feels anger for why he missed WarGames: Curt Hennig.
He says he and Hennig have been enemies for years but his attack on Flair’s leg put him right back between the Nature Boy’s crosshairs. He also feels one last thing: pity. He says he pities Hennig that he had to do such a thing just to get a job.
Well, congrats Curt. You have a job. So since he’s set to be cleared by the doctor for next week, how about in seven days they settle their vendetta once and for all, and they do so surrounded by steel just like they should have been at WarGames, and just like they were when Hennig betrayed him at the same event five years beforehand? Flair vs Hennig… in a cage!
Finally, Jarrett went one-on-one with Scott Hall in the main event. The battle between the two former allies ended via DQ in 6:44 when Sean Waltman ran in and attacked Jeff along with Hall. Suddenly, a dimming and raising of the lights brought Sting into the ring, and he took out Hall and Waltman with his bat!
More SEX members ran down but Sting and Jarrett fended them off with the help of a few guys such as Flair, Rhodes, AMW, Rey, Kidman, DDP and Kanyon. When the heels had retreated, Sting extended a hand to Jarrett who tentatively accepted the handshake. Those who had come out to primarily help Sting, however, were still not completely trusting of ‘The Chosen One’.
Next time: An old vendetta is finally settled as Ric Flair and Curt Hennig go one-on-one inside a steel cage!