In an alternate universe, World Championship Wrestling was rescued by Eric Bischoff’s Fusient consortium after all when AOL Time Warner in fact realised it may be rash to completely wipe the likes of pro wrestling and Animaniacs from their screens, instead opting to downscale such content but keep them available for the niche audiences.
Click here for the very first post in this serial, a prologue covering the events from the Spring Breakout season finale to now.
MAY 6, 2001: WCW THE BIG BANG – Atlanta, Georgia
Held at the Centre Stage Theater in front of a capacity crowd of just over 1,000 fans. This marks the beginning of using smaller and more intimate venues while the company can only hope to draw in the 1-2,000 range.
No matches were advertised for the card. Promotion was based mostly on the teaser clip at the end of the season finale, adverts run in the final issue of WCW Magazine and the opportunity to buy two PPVs for the price of one in May.
A pitch-black arena follows the new-look opening clip, featuring a modern version of the more classic WCW letter logo.
After a pause, a spotlight falls on the centre of the ring, illuminating Eric Bischoff and showing off some of the new WCW branding on the ring as well as the entrance, with the two connected by the old walkway of yesteryear.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Big Bang!
“My name is Eric Bischoff, the man who led WCW to the top of the world and the new owner of World Championship Wrestling. My drive, OUR drive, led to a meteoric rise and also a very sad fall… but you cannot kill something with the history, the passion and the fans of WCW.
“The five-year war is over… but WCW will live on.
“We have a lot to get through tonight as it relates to WCW going forward, and I want to start right at the top. Ladies and gentlemen, your new WCW World champion and the US champion, Booker T!“
Booker T makes his way out flanked by his brother Stevie Ray and girlfriend Sharmell, carrying a belt on each shoulder. As he enters the ring, Bischoff explains he and Booker spoke a few days ago and agreed that with the World title, he cannot prioritise the US title and instead reluctantly vacates it.
Bischoff says a 16-man tournament to crown a new champ starts tonight and ends at Slamboree on May 27 as he takes the belt. He is then cut off by the sirens of Scott Steiner’s music, and he comes out not only with Midajah, but the entire Magnificent Seven. They head ringside but just short of the ring itself.
Steiner gets straight to it and demands his rematch for the WCW title tonight. He says if he doesn’t get his rematch, he and the rest of the Seven will destroy Booker, Stevie AND Eric right here, right now.
Bischoff quickly interjects that if they do such a thing, they’ll be gone from WCW for good. With Eric in full control of the company, the Seven no longer have any power and if they want to be a part of the new WCW, they will stay in line.
Eric claims that although most of them were nowhere to be seen at the end of Spring Breakout when it appeared WCW may be over, he knows they care about this industry and this company, at the very least their spots within it.
He then singles out the suit-wearing Flair and asks him what happened to the Flair who wrestled Sting and defended WCW on that final Nitro, when he thought it was all over? Flair shrugs him off but Bischoff tells Flair that the fans love him and want him to love them back, suggesting he is better than running around in yet another gang.
When Flair shrugs off Bischoff’s advice again, Eric informs them all that Steiner will get a rematch… on May 27 at Slamboree. Because tonight, for the first time the Magnificent Seven will all team up in a colossal 14-man tag against a collection of men who wish to end the group’s tyranny once and for all.
Leading that team, Bischoff says, will be the WCW champion himself, Booker T…
Bischoff’s words are then followed by the music of Dusty and Dustin Rhodes… DDP… Kevin Nash… Sting… and GOLDBERG!
The faces storm down from the stage and a quick brawl erupts before the heels retreat, cursing and complaining as they go. Bischoff finishes by saying the first result of the company’s ‘Big Bang’ is that previous sanctions, such as the likes of Goldberg and Nash being gone forever, are no longer in effect.
He also promises more big changes and surprises later tonight, but cannot wait any longer to reveal the next surprise…We then go to a video package based splicing classic clips of the old WCW Saturday Night days with commentary/interview dubs mentioning 6:05pm on a Saturday. The audio remains while the video clips move on chronologically to the Nitro days before the ‘Big Bang’ effect from the end of Spring Breakout segues into a black screen and silence.
Then, in white letters, the screen reads “The Monday Night Wars are over…” followed by “…but the Saturday Night era returns” and then “05.12.01” with the new logo for Saturday Nitro beneath it!
The first match of the new era is, in vintage Bischoff style, a cruiserweight showcase with all three champions Shane Helms, Billy Kidman and Rey Misterio taking on Chavo Guerrero, Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo.
The new WCW commentary team noted during the match that Skipper & Romeo would get their rematch for the cruiser tag titles at Slamboree. The six offered a taste of the great action they provided in early 2001, one of the few glimmers of hope in the previous incarnation’s last six months of existence.
Unfortunately, the wrestling exhibition ends on a sour note when Chavo waffles Helms with the cruiserweight title to prevent a Vertebreaker to Romeo while Skipper lined up a chair shot on Rey to get both Kidman and the ref’s attention. Romeo pinned the singles champ at 14:27.
The first peek at the US title brackets was shown: Lance Storm vs Norman Smiley; ??? v Shawn Stasiak; Shane Douglas v Rick Steiner; Mark Jindrak v ???; Bam Bam Bigelow v Fit Finlay; The Cat v Chris Kanyon; Lash Leroux v Mike Awesome; Dustin Rhodes v Buff Bagwell.
Lance Storm was the first man to emerge for title tournament action. He first cut a promo in his usual style, announcing that Team Canada was no more and effective immediately, Storm’s singles career was resuming. He said he would start by reclaiming the Canadian heavyweight championship and restore the values the title was missing, such as integrity, honour, and… Storm then reacted as only he can to being cut off by the music of Norman Smiley.
Lance was visibly unimpressed with his goofy dancing first-round opponent, but was surprised when the Englishman went hold-for-hold in a technical exhibition. Smiley’s strong showing came to a more familiar end when he attempted to make Storm do a ‘Big Wiggle’ which Lance prevented by hooking a foot from between his own legs and rolling into a Maple Leaf submission to advance after 7:44.
An old rivalry resumed next as the Jung Dragons were accompanied by Leia Meow for their match against the Evan Karagias/Shannon Moore incarnation of Three Count.
Both teams got several big moves in early following a hot start to the match, but the arrival of Jamie Knoble helped bring the action to an abrupt end. With no shortage of enemies on either side, Knoble created suspense over who his target was before slipping into the ring as the referee tried to finally enforce tags and clipped the knee of Karagias, allowing Yang to hit Yang Time for the pin at 4:02.
Mike Awesome came out in his old gear, with no Canadian emblems in sight, and was looking very much his old ‘Career Killer’ self as he destroyed Lash Leroux in 1:16 to advance in the US title tournament with an Awesome Bomb.
We are then ‘treated’ to a pre-taped promo from Shawn Stasiak and Stacy Keibler, who proudly announce that the ‘Shawn and Stacy Show’ has been renewed for a second season. Stasiak advises us to “shut up, listen and learn” from the Mecca of Manhood on his crusade to becoming the next United States champion.
A four-way tag team match was then held to determine tag title challengers for Slamboree, featuring Kronik, the Harris Boys, the Mamalukes and the Boogie Knights. The Mamalukes and Harrises got into a brawl and disappeared from ringside, leaving Kronik to hit High Times on Alex Wright at 8:31 after Disqo got fed up following a mis-communication and abandoned his partner.
Adams took the mic post-match and said he gives O’Haire and Palumbo a lot of credit, because Kronik are usually only motivated by money but the tag champs’ tear through the tag roster so far in 2001 has them looking forward to proving who is the better team.
Adams warns that all their title defences so far won’t stop Kronik from beating the living daylights out of them. This brings out Sean and Chuck, who rush straight to the ring for a pull-apart brawl with their new number one contenders.
Chris Kanyon avenged his Greed loss to The Cat to advance in the US title tournament with a Flatliner in 7:19. A Miss Jones-less Cat didn’t look at the top of his game in the bout and was visibly frustrated after the defeat.
We see a video filmed on a handheld camcorder by Shane Douglas somewhere remote. Holding the cam up to show himself, Douglas says the Magnificent Seven tried to run WCW into the ground and none of them wanted the company to finish more than Rick Steiner, because he knew what Douglas would do to him if it survived.
Shane says the bad news for Rick is that it did, and the good news for Shane is that he’ll finally get full payback on the Dog Faced Gremlin in just six short days on the first Saturday Nitro, and he’ll do it in a tournament for the belt Steiner stole from him. “Isn’t that fitting, Gremlin?” muses Douglas as the shaky feed cuts out.
Mark Jindrak came out for his tournament match against a mystery opponent, who turned out to be the debuting Rob Van Dam! The ECW star got a huge ovation and advanced in an exhibition of his best moves, finishing with the Five Star Frog Splash at 5:57.
Bischoff cut a short promo backstage hyping the return of Nitro. The Cat approaches him and asks for a word in private.
Finally, Booker T, Sting, Dusty and Dustin Rhodes, DDP, Kevin Nash and Goldberg beat the Magnificent Seven.
Unsurprisingly, the huge main event contained plenty of subplots: Goldberg wanted Luger and Bagwell but the duo avoided him at all costs. DDP went after Rick Steiner for costing him the WCW title at the last PPV, and had plenty of furious exchanges with both Steiners.
Sting merely tried to talk sense into a clearly-conflicted Flair when the duo found themselves tagged in. When Flair wasn’t responding, the Stinger tagged in Dusty who surprisingly also tried to reason with his old nemesis. Bagwell tagged himself in and was decked with a Bionic Elbow before low blowing the legend. His son tagged in and Dustin and Bagwell had a decent exchange ahead of their US title tourney match just before Rhodes was beaten down by the six heels in a heat segment.
Rhodes avoided a Jarrett attack and made the hot tag to Nash after Jeff tagged in Scott. Steiner tried to back away from the man he avoided all night but Nash finally got some shots in for some payback for Superbrawl. Steiner was able to tag Animal and flee, leading to Booker and Page brawling with the Steiner Brothers into the crowd.
Nash tagged in Sting who went to work on Animal with Stinger Splashes until Jarrett went low and told Flair to fetch a steel chair. Looking at Sting hurt on the canvas and with Dusty coming over to talk him out of it, Ric hesitated long enough for Goldberg to wipe out Jeff with a Spear, following up with one on Bagwell only for Luger to duck out of there and flee ringside before he could literally be “next”.
Goldberg instead planted Animal with the Jackhammer and Sting locked on the Scorpion Deathlock for the submission at 17:29. The wounded Jarrett was furious with Flair after the loss as they headed backstage.
The Big Bang ended with the faces all celebrating in the ring, with Sting and Page holding a banner featuring the new WCW branding aloft.
Matches set so far for WCW Slamboree 2001:
WCW World title: Booker T (c) vs Scott Steiner
WCW World tag titles: Sean O’Haire & Chuck Palumbo (c) vs Kronik
WCW Cruiserweight tag titles: Rey & Kidman (c) vs Skipper & Romeo
WCW United States title tournament: semi-final one
WCW United States title tournament: semi-final two
WCW United States title tournament final
Kevin Nash will be making a few cameos during the company’s transition but will otherwise continue to collect on his Time Warner deal.
Animal had a short-term deal in place from January, pending the sale of the company, but the two sides could not agree on full-time terms and he will be appearing only to write off his character on a pay-per-appearance basis.
COMING UP NEXT: What will happen on the very first… Saturday Nitro? Who will advance in the US title tournament? And will Ric Flair be able to guide the Magnificent Seven back to power, or did his career really flash before his eyes at the season finale?