On May 6, World Championship Wrestling returned from over a month in the darkness with The Big Bang on PPV.
After narrowly avoiding certain demise in 11th-hour talks with AOL Time Warner suits, the promotion now owns itself and will have the chance to prove themselves a minor asset in a smaller position until at the very least those hefty existing contracts are all finished up.
Many in the Fusient-led WCW expect the TV head honchos to return to their dimmer view once the big-money deals are done, but for the time being they are a proven staple with a niche audience and millions of dollars worth of expenditure is being put to work.
In big news from the return show, Nitro is back – in a different form.
No longer able to compete with the WWF directly, the new WCW have moved timeslot and will air with a more straight sports tone on TBS, the ‘home of sports’.
They haven’t just moved to any timeslot, either – the show begins at 6:05pm like old days. Not much is known about the first Saturday Nitro, other than the US title tournament will likely continue and that Booker T and Scott Steiner will sign the contract for their WCW World title rematch at Slamboree in the ring, in a scene similar to the signing days prior to the near-demise of the company.
Plus, expect The Magnificent Seven to make their presence known in what could be the group’s final opportunity to have a degree of power within the company, following Eric Bischoff’s takeover of the company and a crushing 14-man tag defeat in the Big Bang main event.
To the show!
A remix of the classic Nitro theme ‘Adrenaline’ opens the show, along with a brand new opening montage. The modern take on the old WCW letter logo is prominent. The old walkway to the ring appears to be a permanently-returning feature. We are taped from Orlando, Florida.
Eric Bischoff again opens the show, as he did for The Big Bang, and welcomes us to the return of Nitro. He explains that he does not intend on hanging around the shows as much as he used to and potentially falling into bad habits, but he does want to see WCW return to the things that it got right.
So, he has trusted someone else with the day-to-day matchmaking from here on out. Someone who has previous experience in the role of Commissioner – Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller!
The Cat joins Bischoff in the ring and admits he doesn’t have what he used to for wrestling and probably not even for karate, either, which is why he approached Eric to make the switch into a full-time office position based on the good reviews of his work in the dying days of the old WCW.
He says he has signed a contract that makes him strictly management and unable to physically interact with the roster. Suddenly, the Jung Dragons sneak out via the crowd and go either side of Miller.
Cat reinforces his stance that he can not and will not ‘play’ anymore. He and Bischoff anticipate a hostile response, and Eric even warns the Dragons that there will be harsh consequences if they lay hands on management. After a tense pause, Kaz and Yang actually rush in to hug Miller, bemusing the new Commish.
He awkwardly gets free of the embrace and tells the team they need to keep things professional as Leia Meow arrives on the scene and drags her charges backstage, berating and whipping them all the way.
Jason Jett, a man who debuted so impressively before WCW almost died, made his first appearance since the rebirth and continued his winning ways with a win over Lash Leroux. The Crash Landing did the job at 8:51 and Jett helped up his opponent after the contest, offering a handshake and embrace.
We cut backstage where Goldberg is in his motorcycling gear and being dragged away from a lifeless body on the parking lot floor by security. The Cat arrives and yells at Goldberg to leave the area and cool off, before a better shot of Goldberg’s victim makes it out to be Animal.
Shawn Stasiak is flanked by Stacy Keibler as he emerges for the US title tournament. The duo do some of the same self-indulgent mic work from just before the reboot until cut off by some vaguely familiar theme music, belonging to his mystery opponent Johnny B Badd!
The two eventually get counted out after 4:35, at which point Stasiak uses Stacy as a shield to retreat safely to the back.
Chavo Guerrero comes out and says he wants one more shot at the Cruiserweight title, saying Helms fluked a win twice. Helms comes out and mocks the ‘two flukes’ theory but says he will gladly prove himself a third time, if Chavo agrees that this is his last chance and also… that it will be a ladder match! And it’s on for Slamboree.
In another US title tournament first round match, Bam Bam Bigelow advanced in a very physical encounter with Fit Finlay after 6:11 following Greetings From Asbury Park.
In Cat’s office, Ric Flair is trying to mend fences, saying he and his guys just want to compete and have a fair shake. Cat points out how hard that is to believe, especially as he has reviewed CCTV footage showing that Animal had provoked Goldberg when he arrived on his bike to the arena.
He then changes the topic to Sting and asks why Flair still rolls with ‘those goofs’, telling Ric that he knows he is better than this sort of behaviour. Flair blows him off and leaves.
All the tag champs lined up together as Sean O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, Rey Misterio and Billy Kidman faced Kronik, Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo in an interesting eight-man with telling size contrasts.
The two tag feuds mostly kept to each other though Rey dazzled with a dive onto all four. After that, Skipper reversed an O’Connor roll and held the tights to steal a pin on Kidman at 13:58 ahead of their Slamboree rematch.
In the first of a weekly series, Mike Tenay sat down with a WCW star in a frank interview about themselves and the company. Up first was Kevin Nash, who admitted he considered just taking his Time Warner cheque and going home, but he has a bit of unfinished business to settle with certain people.
He says he doesn’t plan on wrestling much anymore due to age and injuries, but is looking forward to working behind the scenes and, of course, having a little fun in the ring before he rides off into the sunset.
He says he misses having Scott Hall around but understands that Hall needs a break from wrestling to fully recover from his problems, and hopes Hall gets work behind the scenes one day as he has a tremendous mind for the business.
Shane Douglas and Rick Steiner have a score to settle with each other over the US title from the last PPV, and as fate would have it, did so in a title tournament match. Their recent rivalry led to a ringside brawl right from the start.
Natural heels, both men tried to cheat more than once but when the referee found Douglas loading up the chain and confiscated it, it gave DDP a chance to slide in and hit a Diamond Cutter on Rick, gifting Douglas the easy pin at 7:09.
Goldberg arrives at the ring in his motorcycling gear and says it feels good to be back. No more ‘lose and you’re out’, no more Magnificent Seven in control, just Goldberg kicking ass as it should be.
He says Animal tried to take down the big man to save face from last week and paid the price. Bill says Animal is done and if he tries to show his face again, he’ll finish the job. He then says he’s going to take out the rest of them one by one until they disband – actually, he wants to take the next two out at the same time. He wants Totally Buffed and he wants them now!
The duo saunter onto the stage and say if Goldberg wants a piece of them, it’ll have to be on the PPV stage they deserve – and in a tornado handicap match. Goldberg says it’s on… if they make it to Slamboree – and then chases them backstage.
Another debut sees Arn Anderson himself come out to the ring and introduce a ‘nephew’ of his – CW Anderson. Arn leaves his relative to it and heads backstage as CW makes short and effective work of Crowbar, tapping him to an armbar in 2:29.
Out comes Sting next, who says the last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster. All he has known since he made it onto the big stage is WCW, and when it seemed like the end was near he looked across the ring at a man who spent most of his career attacking, betraying and hindering the Stinger in Ric Flair and he saw someone he considers a brother in this tough industry.
He says he knows Flair has a tendency to play on the wrong side of the tracks but knows, deep down, he bleeds wrestling and bleeds WCW and urges him to do the right thing.
He’s cut off by Jeff Jarrett, who tells Sting to shut up and stop causing tension in the group. Flair quietly comes out by Jeff’s side and tries to talk him down but he ignores Ric and marches to the ring, where he proposes that he silences Sting for good at Slamboree.
Sting accepts, and suggests to Flair that he come along to ringside, if that’s what he really wants to be remembered as. The man in paint leaves Ric and Jeff in the ring to stew on his words.
The announcers noted that Cat had banned anyone from being at ringside when Dustin Rhodes and Buff Bagwell completed the first round bracket of the US title tournament, knowing that a war similar to the Big Bang main event was on the cards. Rhodes picked up the win in 10:17 after avoiding a Blockbuster and quickly capitalising with a bulldog.
We are shown the completed quarter-final brackets in the race to become the new United States champion: Dustin Rhodes will face Mike Awesome, Bam Bam Bigelow is up against his former tag team partner Kanyon, Rob Van Dam’s second match in the company will be against fellow former Extremist Shane Douglas and former US champ Lance Storm has received a bye courtesy of Stasiak and Badd.
Extra security is present for the contract signing between Booker T and Scott Steiner, especially as this time the six remaining members of the Magnificent Seven are all out as a unit, with the WCW champion similarly backed up by his allies (barring Dusty Rhodes, who was making a one-off appearance at the Big Bang).
Booker mentions how they signed contracts in the ring for their last match at the season finale, and back then there was an apocalyptic air hanging over the company. Now, there’s a new lease of life and it just so happens that Booker is the champ compared to before.
Steiner says he sick of Booker’s ‘jive talk’ about the company and he’s sick of forever being associated with Booker in his career. He promises that it ends at Slamboree when he proves he always was the better man of the two. Rick Steiner gets in a cheapshot, DDP responds and the two sides brawl barring a conflicted Flair, with security struggling to keep up to close the show.
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 title, ladder match: Shane Helms (c) vs Chavo Guerrero Jr
- 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
- Tornado handicap match: Goldberg vs Totally Buffed
- Sting vs Jeff Jarrett
Next time: Kevin Nash makes his first appearance in a Saturday Nitro ring, while Booker T and DDP team up to face the Steiner Brothers in our main event!