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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

Merry week after Easter, cretins! The long, grueling, face-breaking spring semester is ALMOST over, which means I get to focus all of my notions towards the ensuing, grueling, face-breaking summer semester that begins in May. CYCLICAL LIVING FTW.

So anyway, I was celebrating Good Friday as I often do (by driving drunk through a public park), when I started thinking about 1996. Simply put, was there EVER a bigger year for wrestling than that epoch? Granted, 98 and 2000 were bigger money years, but in sheer terms of industrial transition, '96 was positively unparalleled as far as paradigms can be considered. ECW came to prominence, lucha libre invaded the American conscience, the American antihero phased out the Canadian superhero in Titan land, and perhaps most significant of all, Super Shredder, a guy from Minnesota pretending to be Tony Montana and a balding nuclear surfer B-movie star held hands and damn near put Vince and company out of business.

It's kind of hard to describe the Monday Night Wars to you young-ones that grew up in the era of The Sims and Game Boy Advance. Believe it or not, the WWE actually had competition at one point, and if you can wrap your feeble mind around it, was indeed getting its ass kicked by something called Double You, See, Double You. So, what was this fantastical embodiment like, you may ponder? Well, let's open the Rocktagon vaults and take a gander at. . . WCW World War 3 1996! (*)

(*) This is actually the SECOND annual World War 3 PPV, so yeah, it should've been called World War 4, but in keeping with WCW ethos at the time, "fuck it man, just fuck it".

We are coming to you LIVE from Norfolk, Virginia, proud home of. . . stuff. Our commentary triad consists of Tony S., Bobby H. and Dusty Rhodes, who apparently has Eddie Murphy's gaudy, flaming red jacket from "Delirious" on loan for the evening.

Tony S. flaps his gums about the evening's dual points of contention amidst a deafening "Weasel" chant (boy, is it aural bliss to hear such an arena-sized cacophony or what?) To fill you in on the dossier, here's the prime exposition for tonight's soiree:

1) We have the main event, which is a three-ring, SIXTY man battle royale, in which the winner gets a guaranteed title shot at the WCW title. . . at some point. And. . .

2) The notion that Roddy Piper will be here, TONIGHT, to officially sign the paperwork necessary to litigate a match against Hogan at Starrcade. But why is Hogan dodging the paperwork, and how come Eric B. has been so lackadaisical in bringing the bout to fruition? Boy, it's a good thing 99 percent of all wrestling fans are retards, because anyone with the capacity for logistical cognition would see the SWERE truck coming head-on at 80 mph (or for you folks on the Metric system, 170 hogsheads).

So, beyond a main event that is NO, NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THE ROYAL RUMBLE, NO RESEMBLANCE WHATSOEVER, what else is on the card? Well, we begin with the dulcimer tones of Rey Mysterio Jr.'s positively kickass theme echoing throughout the Scope. Holy hell, Rey Rey was being billed as about 140 at the time, and by gum if he doesn't look it. Seriously, Mysterio looked more swollen in ECW then he does at this juncture. Well, thanks to shady medicinal resources and Vince McMahon's fascination with the exaggerated male form, we won't have to worry about THIS problem EVER AGAIN. (Steroids joke quota met)

Rey's opponent is Ultimo Dragon, being accompanied to the ring by Sonny Ono. Wow, for a guy that married Cher, starred in "Troll" and got killed by a pine tree, he doesn't look all that bad. Oh, wait "Ono". Never mind. Ultimo is sporting pink and carrying about fifty championship belts. All of them, from what I can confirm, are on the line in this one.

Time for the official World War 3 '96 Drinking Game rules: Every time Tony refers to the green and pink bedecked competitor as "The Ultimate Dragon", take a sip. By the time this contest is settled, you'll be legally barred from operating heavy machinery.

Dusty Rhodes fumbles through his take on Eric B's latest heel turn, whilst I'm digging Mysterio's snazzy Spider-Man get-up. Yeah, I know, big surprise that I mark for that. Lots of ground work early in this one, with a multitude of wristlocks and arm drags once the stand-up gets going. Fluid as hell lucha-feigns have the crowd eating this stuff all up. Dragon unleashes some NASTY kicks in the corner. Springboard drop kick, and Rey goes sailing to the outside. A solid German followed up by a pancake from Ultimo. No, that doesn't mean that Dragon bestowed upon Mysterio a Nena album and a Belgian comestible. Spinning backbreaker, and I have to give it to this Norfolk crowd: they are appreciative as all fuck. Most audiences would just sit on their hands and chant for the big name stars, but these guys are going spot for spot with the performers. Assured, am I. Single leg crab as Dragon shows off his green teeth to the audience. Psh, Shane Helms can do that without the special effects. BADASS powerbomb/ stun gun combo by Ultimo, and Rey absolutely WILL NOT STAY DOWN. Big swing, and Rey takes a breather. Once he rolls back in, he's greeted by a spinning fisherman's bomb. AND REY KICKS OUT. Dragon positively FUCKING KILLS Rey with a nearly 180 DOWN brain buster that he sticks WITH AUTHORITY. . . AND REY KICKS OUT, AGAIN! Roll-up for just a two, and Ultimo continues to dominate with kicks and other leg-weakening submission holds. Rey, somehow, kicks out of a dastardly looking leaping tombstone. Sheesh, that guy's harder to kill than. . . the myth that the Taker/HBK match from WM25 was an all-time classic? Yeah, that's a good enough analogy for the time being. We get some outside skirmishing, and Rey gets dropped by yet ANOTHER tombstone as Ultimo crawls back to the relative safety of ring #1. Dragon splats Rey while Ono, for some reason, decides to fan them both. Yay, Stereotypes! Maybe he'll prepare a rice casserole and drive haphazardly next! Dragon stuffs Rey with a VICIOUS running power bomb. . . and some kind of a bitch, Rey kicks out of it. Rey finally goes on the offense, peppering Dragon until landing a PERFECT top rope cannonball to the outside. That was some Prince of Persia shit right there. We get some beautiful near fall exchanges before Rey kicks out of a stiff looking Dragon supplex. WHAT WILL IT TAKE? (? sarcastic 1996 fan boy voice). Rey goes for another hurrancanranna, only to have Ultimo counter into a rope assisted powerbomb to FINALLY put away Mysterio for good.

Winner: Ultimo Dragon, Utilizing Nyquil as a cost-cutting special effects aide

Some good, good stuff. Granted, the promotion has put on better, and Rey Rey's ECW bouts smoke this one like a fat one (is that what you kids of the drug culture call them these days?) Do yourself a favor and check out the AUTHENTIC Lucha Libre of the timeframe from AAA, CMLL and EMLL for stuff that's just mind-blowing in all aspects (if you're WWE 24/7 weaned, I can assure you that Psicosis circa 95 in Tijuana will make your scrotum explode). Regardless, a damned enjoyable [Predator] level bout.

Up next, Mean Gene puts over that newfangled "Internet" contraption and plugs the WCW website, featuring some of the most hilariously poor design decisions in the history of the web. Nothing says "technological advancement" like white font and a winking Jim Duggan, right? DDP then cuts a promo that receives absolutely zero fanfare from the audience (God, Norfolk crowds rule!) on "rumors" of him joining the N.W.O.

So, faithful reader, how about a match between Nick Patrick and Chris Jericho with one arm tied behind his back with Teddy Long as his corner man? Well, too bad.

Nick "Not the N.W.O. ref, wink nudge" Patrick comes out in a neck brace and outdated boxing attire while Jericho comes out to some Stryper sounding shit. Man, Nick sounds JUST like G.G. Allin. The resemblance, it is uncanny, sort of.

Well, this sucked. To be fair, Jericho did the best he could, and for a guy that was limited to punches and dropkicks, his showing wasn't that horrendous. Nick, on the other hand. . .

Winner: Chris Jericho, fans of 1986 arena rock ten years after the genre's heyday

Bad, but we've routinely seen worse here at The Rocktagon. [End Of Days] for a modicum of entertainment, and we venture forth.

Rhodes rambles about the potential Piper / Hogan bout, and Tony S. drops the bullish line of the century when he says that Piper is the only man Hogan has not beat. So, Hogan was born, when, mid 1950s? In that time frame, there's been approximately 28.3 billion men on planet Earth. You mean to tell me that Hulk has pinned every last one of them, the sole exclusion being some dude in a kilt?

Mark Madden is in the back, probably looking at dial up PRON or something.

Time for a Ric Flair promo. Surprise, it's good.

We've got The Giant taking on Jeff Jarrett next. Sorry. Jarrett is still sporting his tacky as all hell white sequin showgirl ensemble, and is courted to the ring to the most generic country tune in music history. For it's brevity, it's not that bad of a match-up. The Giant takes some nice bumps, and Jeff plays the little man role pretty well. Shenanigans ensue when STING decides to rappel down the catwalk, where he welcomes Jeff with an inverted DDT. OH GOD NO, STING IS N.W.O! The Giant rolls back in, choke slam, and the ace.

Winner: The Giant, rafter spotlights

Tough call, but it was passable enough. [The 6th Day] in caliber.

The sounds of bagpipes pour forth from the arena PA system, so either a cop's funeral is in procession or Roddy Piper is making his way ringside. Heenan says that Piper is "probably" a bigger movie star than Hogan. Do you really mean to tell me that "Immortal Combat" is a better cinematic work than "Three Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain"? Bullshit, Heenan, pure and utter bullshit.

Piper says "let's get her done" and calls out Hogan. This brings forth Eric B., Ted Dibiase and Virgil \ Vincent \ That Guy With The Giant Dong. Eric spews some nonsense about having power of attorney, blah, so on and so forth and Roddy gives him the verbal berating of a lifetime. It is splendid. Well, here comes Hogan and the rest of the N.W.O. As far as "sports entertainment" pieces go, this is pretty effective, with Piper doing his damndest to play the lone, lion heart figure while Hogan does a commendable job of playing backstage, corporate power asshole, or as it is sometimes known, himself. Hogan lifts up Piper's skirt to reveal a gimpy leg. Well, better a gimpy than a limpy, is that not the truth? Hogan signs the contract, and we have the requisite beat down afterward. Chair shots and spray paint for all! Piper gets the ass whipping, the N.W.O. leaves, and the segment only take half an hour. Awesome?

The Amazing French Canadians are making their way ringside, as opposed to the far less popular Mediocre English Canucks brigade that haunted Smokey Mountain back in the day. They'll be taking on the tandem of Harlem Heat, managed this evening by the late (in regards to her period) and great (in the sack) Sensational Sherri. The gimmick here is that the opposing managers are involved in a lover's spat, and if I have to indulge you to the Sherri / Col. Tom Parker back story, I'd prefer to rip out my own ass hairs one by one. So basically, if Harlem Heat wins, Sherri gets to beat the shit out of Tom Parker for five uninterrupted minutes. In a way it's like the inverse of most of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston's dates. The AFC sing O, Canada and it is ON! (Unfortunately)

Well, through the aid of what is no doubt voodoo magic, this actually turned out to be a halfway decent bout. The highlight comes when the French Canadians construct an elaborate tower made out of tables and metal ring steps (Which is the impetus for the Heenan line of the night: "They're building a clubhouse!"). Of course, this culminates with the Froths missing, which in turn leads to the Harlem Hangover for a H-H victory. Sure enough, Sherri beats the crap out of Tom Parker post-bout. You've got to chalk it up to all parties involved; that totally teetered on being a legitimately respectable showing.

Winners: Harlem Heat, Sherri, English Speaking Canadians

That was shockingly adequate. [The 6th Day] and we advance.

Time for a bumper for Starrcade 96, featuring elves and other facets of Yuletide merriment. Afterward, Mean Gene shills the WCW Hotline, with RUMORS that ANOTHER Superstar could be headed to WCW very shortly. My money is on Salvatore Sincere.

Lex Luger promo. Since he's not wrestling a tee shirt that's several sizes too small, I do not care for his selected verbiage.

Hmm. . . Psychosis is taking on Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight title. This could prove. . . interesting.

Ground work to begin. Malenko is adamantly adhering to his "keep the high flyers on the mat" stratagem. It's wonderful psychology, to be sure, but man, does it make for some boring stretches. Highly comedic botch off the top rope from Psychosis, whom Heenan observes has a coif similar to Peg Bundy's. Whether or not he once scored four touchdowns in a single game has yet to be verified. Extended scissor lock sequence from Malenko. Alternate title: Smell my balls, Psychosis. Dean applies a half crab. So should I call it a "Cr" or an "ab"? Neat powerbomb sequence, Texas Cloverleaf, Psych gets to the ropes. Dean works the leg, and we get some outside scuffling. Suicide plancha off the top to the outside by Psych. Nice. Slingshot leg drop, top rope Frankensteiner, and Dean-o kicks out. Killer tombstone reversal sequence. That's how you do that spot, kids. Since this is WCW land, Tombstones are only mild hindrances and not OMG INSTANT DEATH like in a certain other promotion. Malenko seals it with a neat looking roll-up (no, not the strawberry flavored variety).

Winner: Dean Malenko, Terra Firma Aficionados

Kind of a hard one to rate. The guys are capable of better, to be sure, but what was there was pretty good. I wouldn't feel comfortable calling it a "great" match by any token, but it was at least enjoyable to sit through. About as lofty as [The 6th Day] bouts can get.

Hey, a triangle bout for the WCW tag team titles! It's The Outsiders taking on The Nasty Boys taking on The Faces Of Fear. . . uh-oh.

Peculiarly, Jimmy Hart is sporting a Misfits jacket for the affair. Weird. Anyhoo, the rules are, anybody can pin anybody and you can tag in guys even if they aren't on your specified team. Considering the roster we have for this one, we are to assume two things:

a.) The Nasty Boys and The Faces Of Fear will brawl like motherfuckers. And. . .
b.) The Outsiders will find someway to skirt the rules to allot them the victory.

What do you know, I was right. Mega Brawl 96 breaks out towards the finale, and The Outsiders retain by the sweetest word in the English language, "default".

Winner: The Outsiders, loophole wrangling

Another [The 6th Day] type bout. Next!

Almost main event time. Announce table 1 is being commandeered by Mike TeNAy and Lord Polk-a-dot. Table two is being helmed by Tony S. and The Brain. Table Three is at the behest of Larry Z and LEE FUCKING MARSHALL.

OK, here are the participants (from the best that I can recollect): Lex Luger, Chris Benoit, Johnny Grunge (Rocco Rock is conspicuous by his absence), Diamond Dallas Page, uh, the two guys in High Voltage (can't remember their names for fuck), VK Wallstreet, Marcus Bagwell, a guy that looks like The British Bulldog (that can't possibly be him, can it?), the guy that trained Goldberg, Harlem Heat, Hugh Morris, Konnan, a fat guy that I think may be The Big Boss Man, a really tall bald guy, Lord Steven Regal, LA PARKA~!, a fat black guy, Steve Mongo McMicheal, Disco Inferno, The Renegade, generic long haired dude, Meng, The Barbarian, a guy in red suspenders, Arn, THERE'S Rocco Rock, two luchadors that stroll by so fast that I can't make out who they are, Syxx, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, The Giant, Ultimo, another big guy I can't distinguish from the other 32 tall dudes with ponytails in the bout, a guy that looks a LOT like Mikey Whipwreck, a bald guy wiping his nose, Rey, Tugbot, a really fat black guy, a guy in camo, Hacksaw, Dean, Juventud, The Amazing French Canadians, Prince Iakeau, Jarrett, and you know what? Fuck it. Let's just say there's a lot of people in this match and be done with it. The Dungeon and The Horsemen begin brawling at ringside, and it dawns on me that recapping this bout will be about as difficult as finger banging a girl while wearing oven mitts. Sigh, here goes.

Boy, this is a cluster fuck of the highest order. I think I'll type up the rest of this article while under the influence of cough syrup to make things mildly more agreeable. Tony S describes the scenario perfectly: "This is not a good place to be". The first casualty of battle? Lee Marshall. Comedy. Out goes Ciclope and Mike Enos. Well, that busts my bracket. NO, LA PARKA HAS BEEN ELIMINATED! Pez Whatley and Scott Norwood get dumped, and right before Prom, too. How awful. Who the fuck is Jimmy Graffiti? (I guess he's the Mikey Whipwreck looking mother fucker I was referencing earlier). Va a Renegade. Bueno. Goodbye, Galaxy. . .whoever the fuck you were. Chaos gets tossed by Luger. Huh. Joe Gomez? More like Joe GONEz, am I right? Roadblock gets the most dramatic elimination of the night from The Giant. I think I'm on the verge of having a seizure at this point. We've got to be down to the final twenty by now. Um, consolidation time? Yeah, it is. Malenko's out. Craig Pittman is out. Booker T gets tossed. Disco, Bunkhouse Buck and Stevie Ray all get eliminated. Ron Studd and Rick Steiner are next out of contention. No more Dragon. Farewell, Alex Wright. Jericho and Ice Train are out. Now it's the N.W.O. versus the remaining WCW combatants. Eddie's out, and Rey gets tossed from the battle by a one armed Giant (and no, that isn't the nickname for my genitalia). Regal, Jarrett and DDP are out. So, the finale of the bout is Lex Luger versus the entire N.W.O. Didn't see that coming. Scott Hall and Syxx get eliminated as the final three are Luger, Giant, and Nash. Just as the crowd gets molten, an errant bump sends Luger and Nash packing.

Winner: The Giant, fans of shilling out forty bucks to stare at picture in picture during a PPV broadcast

I feel like a recovering methadone addict on a tilt-a-whirl after that one. Let's call it a fair [End of Days] main event and hit the heave bucket.

Yeah, World War III was one of those ideas that sounded really great. . . in theory. Hey, who wouldn't want to see the entire locker room brawl on paid cable? The problem is, to focus on sixty people, one has to, I don't know, FOCUS ON SIXTY PEOPLE. The Rumble works because one's perception is still narrowed to a singular object. Three rings, fifty five people, nineteen different cameras. . . and that's BEFORE we get into the whole Lee Marshall getting murdered, Horsemen / Dungeon outside brawling, six-man commentary bullshit. It's just too much for one person to take in, and thusly, there were only three or four of the bouts in WCW history. THANK THE GOD OF YOUR CHOOSING OR NONE AT ALL IF THAT'S YOUR INCLINATION. The rest of the show was pretty good, though, with only the Jericho / Patrick joke bout outright sucking. This is one of those PPVS I'd recommend popping into your VCR on a sweltering summer evening when you're in a nostalgic manner, pining for the long last days of cruiserweights while sipping on store-brand Pepsi. Yep, that's the life right there.

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).