The year 1992 was a tale of two halves for WCW. The first half of the year was excellent, as the Dangerous Alliance storyline dominated the show. SuperBrawl, WrestleWar, and Beach Blast were all excellent shows featuring both interesting stories and good wrestling matches. And then things took a sudden turn for the worst. Clash of the Champions XIX and Great American Bash were both devoted mostly to a tournament for the NWA Tag Team Championship that fans didn't seem to care about. Steve Williams and Terry Gordy were pushed to the moon, defeating the Steiners multiple times and winning both the WCW and NWA titles, also wrestling in back-to-back pay-per-view main events. The Steiners were de-emphasized, although Scott got the Television Title, probably in a last-ditch effort to get him and Rick to re-sign when their contracts expired (didn't work, they jump to the WWF in early 1993). Rather than roll with Sting or Vader on top, Ron Simmons was given the title despite a lack of big-match experience and overness. Jake Roberts was brought in despite being an unreliable drug addict. Unsurprisingly, his run was brief.
This all lays at the feet of Bill Watts, the man in charge of WCW throughout most of 1992. The more he got control, the worse things got. To the relief of many fans, Watts was fired in early 1993 after making some staggeringly racist remarks in an interview. It's definitely ironic that a man who spent his entire career promoting African-American wrestlers would espouse such views, but racism is quite complicated. Anyway, this is the last pay-per-view with Watts in charge. WCW didn't have a ton going for it at this point, so they revived a concept that had debuted at Starrcade 1991: the Battlebowl. The Battlebowl this year would be smaller, featuring only 16 wrestlers and eight teams instead of the 40 wrestlers and 20 teams from last year. This means there's room for several other matches on the show, which is definitely for the best. The show will also feature Sting getting his shot at redemption against Vader in the finals of the King of Cable Tournament, Ron Simmons defending the WCW Championship against Steve Williams, Muta challenging Masahiro Chono for the NWA Championship, and Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas defending the WCW Tag Team Championship against Barry Windham and Brian Pillman. Let's get to the action:
Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura are our hosts.
Here are the teams competing tonight:
Van Hammer and Dan Spivey vs. Johnny B. Badd and Cactus Jack
Keksuke Sasaki and Dustin Rhodes vs. Big Van Vader and The Barbarian
Brian Pillman and 2 Cold Scorpio vs. The Great Muta and Barry Windham
Steve Williams and Sting vs. Jushin Liger and Eric Watts
Battlebowl: Johnny B. Badd and Cactus Jack vs. Van Hammer and Dan Spivey
Total clip-job here. They jump to Cactus and Spivey brawling. Spivey cheat shots Badd, tags in, and hits him with a Boss Man Slam. They then jump to Van Hammer covering Cactus and Badd dropping an elbow to break it up, but Hammer moves and Badd hits Cactus. Jack and Badd get in an argument and Hammer rolls up Cactus for the pin. According to Wikipedia, this went 6:51, of which less than two minutes were shown.
Result: Van Hammer and Dan Spivey by pinfall
Battlebowl: Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes vs. The Barbarian and Kensuke Sasaki
Also clipped. Barbarian runs into Sasaki on the apron and Dustin rolls him up for the pin. Wikipedia says it went 6:56.
Result: Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes by pinfall
Battlebowl: Barry Windham and The Great Muta vs. Brian Pillman and 2 Cold Scorpio
Starting to look like all the tag matches are clipped. Awesome to see Scorpio in WCW. Pillman and Windham are teaming later tonight to face Steamboat and Shame Douglas for the WCW Tag Titles, but they're on opposite sides here. Shame this is cut, because all four of these guys are workers. We see Scorpio hit a Springboard 450 Splash. Windham hits the DDT on Scorpio and Muta hits the Moonsault for the pin. Wikipedia says it ran 6:59. Nice match from the highlights.
Result: Barry Windham and The Great Muta by pinfall
Battlebowl: Sting and Steve Williams vs. Erik Watts and Jushin Liger
Which guy doesn't belong? I'm sure Erik Watts got his job because he deserved it. This match is famous for a horrifically botched Dropkick by Watts. Unfortunately, I can't find a clip of it. Here's a GIF:
Never forget. Doc pins Watts after a Stun Gun. It ran 9:08, which sounds way longer than it needed to be.
Result: Sting and Steve Williams by pinfall
NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Masahiro Chono (c) vs. The Great Muta
Stalemate to start. A lot of feeling out. The crowd likes Muta and seems disinterested in Chono. Five minutes in, they're stilling feeling each other out. Muta escapes an Abdominal Stretch and locks on an Armbar. They fight over the arm for awhile. Muta goes to a Headscissor, which Chono reverses to some kind of leghold I don't have a name for. Chono gets a Hip Toss and goes upstairs. Muta Superplexes him off! Muta grabs a Half Boston Crab. Jesse says that's called the Hiroshima Crab in Japan. As always, JR refuses to sell Ventura's stuff. Muta transitions into the Muta Lock. Chono gets out and Suplexes Muta. Nice Spinning Back Kick from Muta. Muta hits the Springboard Elbow into the corner. Muta hits a Rib Breaker and goes up top. He misses the Moonsault but lands on his feet. He seems to hurt his knee, and Chono goes right after it. Double Dropkick puts both guys down. Chono hits a Back Suplex. Chono counters a Dropkick into the STF and gets the submission victory at 12:49.
Result: Masahiro Chono by submission
Analysis: *1/2. Really slow. The last few minutes were pretty good, but the lead-up was painfully dull.
Rick Rude comes out to complain about being too injured to compete tonight. He had a legitimate back injury, and unfortunate forerunner to the injury that forced him into retirement in 1994. He was supposed to face Simmons here and internet legend holds he was going to win the title. He rightfully complains that Sting was injured and failed to defend the WCW Title for over 30 days earlier this year but was not stripped. However, he has been threatened with being stripped of the United States Championship if he fails to defend it within the next few weeks. He was, in fact, eventually stripped of it after a 378 day reign, the longest in the history of the title.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Ron Simmons (c) vs. Steve Williams
Simmons theme music is awesome. He gets a nice pop, too. Long feeling out process to kick things off featuring lots of headlocks and Armbars. Then things get real and they slug it out. Simmons drives Williams face-first into the mat. Unfortunately, Simmons goes back to the arm. I don't mind body part work, but I have a strong feeling that it's not going to factor into the outcome of this match. In that case, it's just filler. Simmons comes off the top rope and misses a Body Press. He sells a knee injury and Williams goes after it. Half Crab by Williams. Williams breaks and continues the knee work. Williams shuts down a Simmons comeback with a Backbreaker. Williams grabs a Bow and Arrow. He releases and starts going through Football Tackles. Simmons reverses a whip and hits a Spinebuster. Simmons does his Football Tackles. Doc knocks Simmons to the floor, where they brawl until both are counted out at 15:12.
Result: Double Count Out
Analysis: *3/4. Long and not terribly interesting. I wanted to see those guys throw each other around, not work body parts for 15 minutes.
They brawl after the bell. Williams ultimately gets the better of it. They end up announcing it as Williams being disqualified for his actions after the match. Seems designed to set up a rematch, but Williams left WCW shortly after this.
WCW World Tag Team Championship: Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas (c) vs. Barry Windham and Brian Pillman
Windham turned heel by attacking Steamboat and Douglas with a chair after they beat him and Dustin Rhodes for the titles at the last Clash of the Champions. Windham and Pillman are the original Hollywood Blondes, but Austin soon replaced Windham for the better known incarnation of the team. Neither Pillman nor Douglas can gain the advantage in the early portion of the match. Douglas gets a series of Dropkicks on Pillman and Windham and ends up clearing the ring. Steamboat and Pillman tag in and out working on Windham. Steamboat Body Slams Windham on the floor. Then he slams him on the ramp. This is a pretty entertaining heat segment from the faces, at least when Steamboat is in the ring. Windham counters a Chinlock with a Jawbreaker and tags Pillman, who goes to work on Douglas.
Douglas gets Pillman on the apron and Dropkicks him into the guardrail. Douglas goes up top, but gets Dropkicked off the top rope and falls to the floor. Windham then Clotheslines him behind the referee's back. Ouch. Windham tags in and beats Douglas' ass. Windham throws Douglas to the floor with so much force he hits the guardrail. Steamboat grabs a chair and blasts Windham! Referee didn't see it. Man, Steamboat has been a real dick the last few shows. Pillman and Windham keep working over Douglas. Douglas eventually blocks a punch and manages to tag in Steamboat. Steamboat goes nuts on both Windham and Pillman with Dropkicks, Chops, and Slams. But Windham shuts it down with a Powerslam. Pillman throws Steamboat over the top behind the referee's back. Fair game after that chair shot. Then Windham puts him into the ring post. Steamboat comes back into the ring with a Springboard Chop to the head. Pillman quickly takes over and tags in Windham. Windham misses a chop from the top and gets hit with a Facebuster. Douglas and Pillman both tag in. Douglas hits a Powerslam and pins Pillman at 20:02.
Result: Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas by pinfall
Analysis: ***3/4. Really, really good tag match. It was pretty basic in style, but there was a lot of added viciousness that I really liked. They did a good job of making it seem like they were really trying to hurt each other rather than just going through the motions.
King of Cable Tournament Final: Sting vs. Big Van Vader
Sting's chance at redemption after losing the WCW Title to Vader in the summer. Sting defeated Brian Pillman and Rick Rude to reach the finals. Vader defeated Tony Atlas and Dustin Rhodes. Sting gets some punches, but Vader doesn't sell. Vader quickly takes over with power moves. Vader really had great ring presence. It reminds me a lot of Brock Lesnar today: he works methodically and toys with his opponent. It's unnerving to watch a guy just throw his opponent all around the ring so easily. Sting takes Vader down with a rolling kick to the face. Sting German Suplexes Vader! Holy shit. He Clotheslines Vader over the top and goes over with him. Sting hits a Plancha to the floor. Vader rips his mask off. Alright, now we're getting serious.
Vader takes over and stiffs the crap out of Sting. Sting goes for a Stinger Splash but eats Vader's boot. Sting gets a DDT. Holy shit, he just Superplexed him. That was jaw dropping. Sting locks on the Scorpion Deathlock, but it's right by the ropes. Vader bails and Sting stalks him for the Stinger Splash, but he misses and goes right into the guardrail. Vader's firmly in control now. He's talking trash, too. This reminds me a lot of the Triple H/Lesnar matches, which I loved. Vader hits a Splash and goes for a Chinlock. Sting manages a Backslide but can't get the pin. Vader goes back to pummeling Sting. JR says the referee should think about stopping the match. Sting reverses a Headlock into a Back Suplex, but Vader recovers first. Vader goes back to the Chinlock, but he seems to be running out of gas now. He hits more punches and forearms, then sets Sting up on the top rope. Sting fights back and knocks Vader from the top rope. Again, Vader makes it up first.
Sting starts to Hulk Up. He challenges Vader. It starts to become apparent he's doing a rope-a-dope and trying to get Vader to punch himself out. And, in turn, Vader is weakening. Sting takes Vader down with a series of right hands. Samoan Drop by Sting. Sting hits a Superfly Splash from the top rope, but Vader kicks out. Race distracts Sting, allowing Vader to take over. Chokeslam by Vader. Vader hits the Splash from the second rope. Wow. But he didn't get all of it. Vader goes up top again. He dives at a standing Sting, who catches him for a Powerslam! Oh man, that was awesome. That's enough for Sting to get the pin at 16:50.
Result: Sting by pinfall
Analysis: ****3/4. Holy hell, I loved that match. Both guys played their roles perfectly: Vader as the overconfident and dominant monster, Sting as the plucky babyface who wouldn't quite. That match made perfect sense psychologically, as Sting allowed Vader to punch himself out like Ali did with Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. Awesome match, very reminiscent of the Cena/Lesnar match from Extreme Rules 2012.
Battlebowl Battle Royal
The competitors: Dan Spivey, Dustin Rhodes, Great Muta, Barry Windham, Steve Williams, Van Hammer, Sting, and Vader. All but Spivey and Hammer are competing in their third match of the night. I definitely think the eight man battle royal will be an improvement on the 20 man version they did last year. Much more space to work and easier to keep track of what's going on. Sting and Vader rumble on the floor while the other six fight in the ring. Sting and Vader make it back into the room and everyone fights. Five minutes in, almost everyone has collapsed from exhaustion. Van Hammer is the first man eliminated, Clotheslined out by Williams. Meanwhile, Rhodes Bulldogs Windham on the ramp. Sting Backdrops Spivey over the top. Sting gets a Stinger Splash on Vader to save Muta from elimination. Vader Clotheslines Sting over the top and tumbles over himself. Down to four: Williams, Rhodes, Muta, and Windham. After a long stretch where nothing really happens, Doc tries to throw Rhodes out and they both go over the top rope. Down to Muta and Windham. Crowd is wild for Muta. Windham works on Muta for awhile, then throws him over the top. Muta skins the cat back in Dropkicks Windham over the top. Muta wins the Battlebowl at 14:01.
Winner: The Great Muta
Analysis: **. Okay battle royal. Could have used a little more creativity. However, I'm sure everyone was gassed after working two previous matches.
Overall: A decent show. Again, the Battle Bowl definitely hampered it. Luckily, this would be the last time they did the Battlebowl at Starrcade. Instead, they would give it is own pay-per-view next year. Definitely not looking forward to that. Sting/Vader was amazing, the second best match (behind WarGames) of the year in WCW in 1992. The tag team title match was really good, but nothing else was of much note. Really just an okay show to finish an uneven year. But big, big changes were on the horizon for 1993, as a legend was about to return home.