SEPTEMBER 25, 2002: AIRTIME #38
Thanks to Eric Bischoff, AirTime is hanging in there despite Vince Russo and his Sports Entertainment Xtreme faction leaving the entire cruiserweight show to rot.
As 49% owner, Bischoff is more than capable of running an aspect of WCW that Russo isn’t even bothering to try and have final say upon, and Bischoff’s first act was to book a Round Robin Challenge continuing the blistering feud between the top three cruiser contenders.
It starts tonight with Jerry Lynn defending the cruiserweight title against former champ and embittered challenger AJ Styles.
Taped on September 24, along with the following Nitro, in Atlanta.
Bischoff opens the hour from his office and welcomes us to AirTime. He claims Russo’s decision to attempt to tank the Wednesday show is so that it will be cancelled at the end of 2002 when it is up for renewal.
He tells Russo that there’s a reason he gambled only 1% of the company at Bash at the Beach: it was enough to attempt to gain the controlling stake but meant Bischoff would still have certain tools at his disposal if his side lost, so as to stop Vince from completely undoing the hard work he and the roster had put in for over a year.
Bischoff continues to say AirTime also has contractual rights to have the two cruiser championships featured on the show, so SEX will have to work around him to try and get Lynn’s title inside their camp and the FBI will be forced to report to duty when the time is right. He says we’ll find out who will get an AirTime shot at the Italians in a four-way tag later tonight.
The American Dragon took on The Amazing Red in the first bout of the evening, one that pitted two of 2002’s breakout cruiser prospects against one another. The exhibition was a battle of Red’s dazzling aerials and Dragon’s crisp technical prowess, but the contest was spoiled by Brian Kendrick running down after Dragon took a spill to the outside.
Trying to pry off his mask, Kendrick ended up giving AmDrag the DQ win after 8:30 which earned him a running huricanrana off the apron from a none-too-pleased Red. Kendrick staggered up the walkway while Red and Dragon showed mutual respect, only for Paul London to tackle Brian down and force the two men who actually wrestled to drag him off his enemy.
York and Matthews backstage say it’s criminal that the FBI have been able to avoid being pinned by the Full Effect twice, the latter being in what could be their last title shot and one that leads to Y&M being kicked out of the company. They say they’re in tonight’s four way and they absolutely have to win now that Fall Brawl was their one and only guaranteed title shot.
Joining Y&M in the match were The Maximos, The Jung Dragons and Jamie Knoble and David Kash. It surprised nobody when the Dragons and the rednecks focused almost solely on each other, even to the point that they brawled into the crowd as the multi-man match broke down into a pier six. However, just as Y&M looked to have it wrapped up with Full Effect on Jose, Kash returned to the ring after posting Yang, kicked both York and Matthews out as they recovered from the high-risk finisher and covered the prone Maximo for the win in 11:26.
AJ Styles tells Jeremy Borash that everybody has been giving him flak for his attitude lately, but he says nobody understands where he’s coming from. He says he’s spent 2002 with a world of pressure on his shoulders after breaking out at the end of 2001 but now he finds himself without the title and having “great matches” isn’t enough when he’s losing. He says tonight he has to make things right by taking the belt back from Jerry Lynn, and he doesn’t care who takes issue with how he goes about business.
Before that bout, we received confirmation that Curt Hennig had accepted Ric Flair’s challenge and the two will seemingly settle their years-long issues inside a steel cage on Saturday Nitro.
The cruiserweight championship main event pitted young lion vs old lion, and yet it was the veteran Lynn who had showed up out of the blue and taken over AJ’s mantle as the ‘ace’ of the junior division. This was also match one of Bischoff’s Round Robin Challenge, which will also see both of these men face Low Ki in two upcoming singles bouts.
The two started slowly with technical exchanges until Styles got frustrated and slapped Jerry across the face. Things picked up in intensity from there, but when Lynn attempted a Cradle Piledriver AJ backdropped out of it before rolling through Jerry’s subsequent sunset flip attempt, into the Styles Clash.
Before he could finish the move, however, the champion wriggled his way into flipping it over almost like a huracanrana and into a pinning combination for three in 19:24 to retain the belt. A shocked and frustrated Styles looked at Lynn’s extended hand after the bout and opted to just walk away.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #73
Though WCW has been a different animal since its brush with doom in the spring of 2001, its lineage certainly holds strong. Not just the title histories and the event names, but the animosity and the blood feuds too.
It’s become apparent during the last few months that Ric Flair and Curt Hennig remain bitter enemies since Hennig betrayed Flair five years ago and left him for dead inside the WarGames double cage. The shocking act reignited a vendetta which began in 1992 in another promotion, and recently saw the two once again fighting around the WarGames door at the most recent PPV offering.
Tonight, one ring will be surrounded by the unforgiving steel as the semi-retired icon and the legend so desperate for one last run at the top that he defied his own heritage and joined Vince Russo’s S.E.X will clash, in a cage, one final time.
Opening the show was another grudge match as The New Church came out to answer Dustin Rhodes’ challenge to a Gangfight. Father James Mitchell led all four of his minions to the ring before Rhodes’ music hit and he arrived flanked by both members of America’s Most Wanted, the trio decked in denims and taped wrists. Dustin had hinted that he’d ensure a level playing field this time and that appeared to be the case when the lights went out and the music of the Stinger blasted through the arena!
Sting walked out alongside Rhodes and AMW, exchanged a glance and a nod and then led a four-man stampede for the ring as the Gangfight kicked off fast and furious. All eight men took turns brawling around the arena and fighting inside the ring with trash cans, brooms and other props coming into play.
Malice, who was fazed by strikes from all four opponents but seldom looked in any serious trouble, set up Rhodes for a chokeslam off the walkway and through a table only for Sting to nail him in the kidneys with his trademark bat and send the monster hurtling through the table with Dustin’s help.
The duo then pelted Sinn and Slash with more weapons shots and ran Mitchell away while AMW hit the Death Sentence on Tempest, with a mangled trash can beneath the former Crowbar, for the pin at 12:44.
Vince Russo is in his office, telling somebody that S.E.X are not to show up on AirTime under any circumstances unless contractually forced to, noting that he’ll “figure something out” for the FBI’s upcoming title defence vs Knoble and Kash. He then assures them that he’ll get the cruiserweight title in the camp at Halloween Havoc when he arranges a “suitable opponent” for the champion after “Bischoff has had his little flipflop exhibitions”.
In walks Ron Killings at this stage, who moans to Russo about not being named as one of the Starrcade Series participants. Vince explains that he and Stacy had to jump through a few hoops and name a field that made the most money, but said he hadn’t forgotten about Killings’ “service” to S.E.X and would make sure he was repaid with interest.
Chris Kanyon retained the United States title against Chuck Palumbo in 8:21, catching a Jungle Kick attempt and spinning the sizeable challenger around into a fluid leaping Flatliner for the pinfall. Kanyon takes the mic afterwards and says it looks like Russo is going to have him defending against his goons every week until someone gets the belt off him. He tells Russo to keep them coming because… “NOBODY is better than Kanyon!”
We’re taken quickly to an incident backstage where Jorge Estrada has apparently found Sonny Siaki alone and attacked his one-time tag partner. The two are brawling on the floor when Stacy Keibler has security break them up and drag Estrada – and only Estrada – out of the building.
Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, Christian York and Joey Matthews took on The Rejected and the Full Blooded Italians in eight-man action next. The S.E.X quartet worked over York for some time until the hot tag was made to Mysterio who cleaned house. His attempt at a super rana on Helms was turned into a vicious superbomb, however, to finish the match at 10:08 while the Italians beat down Matthews on the outside. Y
ork hobbled over to help but was blindsided by Glenn Gilbertti. The heels retreated as Kidman grabbed a chair, with the cruiser tag champs taunting “losers” Y&M all the way.
Jerry Lynn is in the changing room, where he reflects on retaining his cruiserweight title against AJ Styles on AirTime. He says his time in the business has given him perspective, and he remembers when he was just as frustrated as Styles is now.
He says the belt tends to bring out the worst in younger wrestlers because it’s like a drug, and that AJ needs to resist going the same way as a Shane Helms or even a Booker T.
Lynn concludes by adding the Round Robin Challenge continues on Wednesday with a title defence against Low Ki and Lynn claims he’ll have the series wrapped up and the title secured two-thirds of the way through because this veteran has forgotten more than Styles and Ki will ever learn.
The Jung Dragons are shown training at a dojo, while a promo from both men plays over the top. They say that 2002 has been the year the dragon reawakened and its wrath will be focused squarely on Jamie Knoble and David Kash before they bring the tag team titles back to the dojo.
Sean O’Haire saw off the challenge of former tag team championship partner Mark Jindrak with an F5 in 6:23, before keeping it short and sweet on the mic afterwards by vowing to win the Starrcade Series.
Vince Russo is with Ken Shamrock, and he yanks the mic from Jeremy Borash while he attempts to ask the WCW champion about his title defense next week against Sting.
Russo says Sting won’t be able to rely on his baseball bat next week whereas Shamrock is a walking, breathing weapon. He says he can’t wait for his prizefighter, his soldier, his trained killer, to rid WCW of both Sting and Jeff Jarrett in the space of the next month. Shamrock says nothing, and stares a hole through the camera throughout.
Jeff Jarrett teamed with fellow shady-individuals-turned-Russo-enemies Los Guerreros to take on Sean Waltman and Triple X. For the second straight week, however, Jarrett’s battles with S.E.X ended inconclusively as Scott Hall smashed JJ’s own guitar over his head while he was pummelling Waltman at ringside, just before Eddie could land a frog splash on Daniels inside the squared circle.
The DQ was called after 7:10, and an S.E.X beatdown on the three men followed until Diamond Dallas Page ran out with a chair to force the retreat. Page remained in the ring and said he’d been asked by tons of people about whether he was serious that this year could be his last year in the business.
He says he isn’t getting any younger and has been considering calling it a day for a little while, but he wants to help WCW escape the clutches of Vince Russo before he even considers hanging them up.
He admits it may be his last Starrcade coming up, but he says he isn’t going anywhere until S.E.X is history and he plans on being WCW champ once again when 2003 hits. He says next week he’ll prove he’s still got one more big run left in him when he beats “those two chumps” Booker T and Lance Storm in a triangle match.
Storm then arrives on the stage and says Page must have been loving the sight of two former friends beating the hell out of each other so that he could pick the scraps. He asks DDP if he thinks that’s how next week’s match is going to go, before saying Page’s actions last week could ensure that not only is 2002 his final year in the ring but next Saturday will be his final night. With that, Booker T has snuck into the ring behind DDP and he brings Page down with a low blow before adding an axe kick.
We get another, slightly longer video teasing the return of Goldberg.
Finally, the cage was set up for the grudge match between two men we never thought we’d see in another cage match as recently as a few months ago. Ric Flair and Curt Hennig went at it like it was the late 1980s inside the 15-foot-high structure, with the door chained shut and pinfall or submission the only way to win.
Both men bled, and Hennig stopped a late Flair rally with a kick to the nuts only for the Hennigplex to get just two and a half. After shaking off the disbelief, Curt put more boots to Flair and dragged him to the locked door. He threatened the officials to open it, presumably so he could wedge Ric’s head in the frame once again. However, the two outside referees refused to comply and during his shouting match with them, Flair landed a nut shot of his own before adding another nine (!), which eventually had the crowd counting along with Hennig’s symphony of unspeakable pain.
Flair gave Curt’s head one more almighty ram into the cage, held him up so he could look the Nature Boy in the eyes and then shoved him down to the mat. Ric styled and profiled before locking on the figure-four, which after a brief additional chapter of agony for Hennig was enough to render his shoulders to the canvas for the three-count at 15:17.
After a pained and poignant celebration, Flair approached his nemesis… and offered him a hand back to his feet. After some hesitation, Hennig accepted the hand and the two embraced, as five years of hatred appears to finally have been blown off the old fashioned way.
Halloween Havoc 2002 card so far:
- WCW World title: Ken Shamrock or Sting (c) vs Jeff Jarrett
Next time: Ken Shamrock defends the WCW World title against Sting!