Retro Recap – SuperBrawl II

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SuperBrawl 2 took place in 1992, at a very tough time for WCW.  Just eight months earlier the company fired Ric Flair, it’s longtime standard bearer and World Champion, and was struggling along with Lex Luger as champion.    They had one gimmick that was working well for them in the form of manager Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman to all you now) and his stable the Dangerous Alliance – Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Larry Zbysko, Bobby Eaton, and Arn Anderson with assistant Madusa.  There’d been a steady exodus of guys to the WWE or just away from the company and now Luger was going to be leaving as well.  The decision was made to put the belt on old reliable – Sting – in the main event of the show here.  This was also the debut on commentary in WCW of Jesse Ventura, who blended in perfectly with longtime announcer Jim Ross.  It’s also noteworthy that the hosts for the event were longtime WCW announcer Tony Schiavone and, then just an announcer, Eric Bischoff.  WCW could always scrape together a good show when the need arose; would that be the case here?

Light Heavyweight Title Match: Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger (champion) vs Brian Pillman

Pillman Liger

Now this is how you open a show.  Liger was the defending champ, having beaten Pillman a few months earlier to win the title.  Things started out on the mat then worked their way up to the highspots they were both known for.  The match was an important step in the evolution of American aerial wrestling work.  What was once limited to dropkicks and standard flying bodypresses was augmented with more flying dropkicks and more innovative moves off the top rope.  Using the ropes as a springboard had started but wasn’t the normal everyday thing it is now.  There was a great sequence where Pillman misses a running knee into the corner and Liger immediately goes to work on it starting with a kick to the leg and leading up to a figure four leglock.  These guys got 17 minutes to work and while it may look a little dated by today’s high flying standards for 1992 it was like something you rarely saw in the US.  Match still holds up pretty well overall even today.  Pillman wins to regain the title and both guys shake hands afterwards after one of the great openers you’ll ever see.

Terry Taylor vs Marcus Bagwell

Taylor was working heel as the Taylor Made Man, a very weak imitation of Ted DiBiase minus the handing out money gimmick; he even wore a knock off black and gold tear away suit to the ring similar to DiBiase’s, which you can see here:

ttaylor

Bagwell would go on to become NWO member Buff Bagwell a few years later.  OK back and forth match for the time it went, but in what looked like a botched finish Bagwell gets a rollup for a three count after seven and half minutes.  It really looked like Taylor was supposed to kick out and missed his cue.  To his credit, he recovered from it to feign outrage at the ref and beat Bagwell down after the match.

Ron Simmons vs Cactus Jack

Decent brawl here.  Jack hadn’t struck gold yet with falls count anywhere, weapons laden brawls and but was still fond of taking things outside the ring.  Simmons was kind of spinning his wheels before this match.  Good back an forth inside and outside the ring.  Simmons wins clean with a powerslam then get jumped afterward by Abdullah the Butcher.  He gets rescued by the Junkyard Dog, who just so happened to be sitting in the crowd that night.

Z-Man and Van Hammer vs Vinnie Vegas and Richard Morton

This match was a time filler.  Vegas you know now by his real name Kevin Nash; this was another bad gimmick WCW came up for him before he would bolt to the WWE.  Vegas was a ex-bouncer from Las Vegas (of course) who did a dice roll in between moves when he was in control of the match.  Ross puts over Nash’s real life college basketball career as being ‘before he met his friends in Nevada’.  Morton was working as a heel because…who knows.  Z-Man was Tom Zenk who’d been around for a few years and used to team with Pillman.  Hammer was a guy.  Pretty standard tag team match fare here; Vegas was more mobile here than we’d see later on his career.  Hammer and Zenk win when Z gets a sunset flip on Morton.

Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes vs Larry Zbysko and Stunning Steve Austin

This was a grudge match between the two teams; Zbysko and Austin injured Windham’s hand, preventing he and Rhodes from winning the Tag Team Titles a few months earlier.  Great old school NWA style tag team match here with lots of back and forth, cheating tactics by the heel team (with help from Madusa) and some intense brawling.  It’s always interesting to see Austin in his previous blonde haired incarnation before he became Stone Cold.  Rhodes was a few years away from becoming Goldust in the WWE.  Ross talks up Windham and Austin’s amateur athletic backgrounds throughout the match as well as Windham and Rhodes’ second generation wrestler status.  Good almost 20 minute affair here, won by Windham and Rhodes with a clothesline off the top rope from Windham.

World Tag Team Title Match: Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton (champs) vs Rick and Scott Steiner

The pairing of Eaton and Anderson cemented them both as two of the best tag team wrestlers of the modern era.  Both guys were members of great teams with multiple partners and were finally together here.  Good back and forth here, another classic NWA style tag team match.  This is about the midpoint in the, ahem, growth of Scott Steiner.  He was visibly larger than he had been not even two years prior but hadn’t reached his Big Poppa Pump proportions.  Lots of good double team spots.  The ending came on a Dusty Finish.  Anderson threw powder in Rick’s face and blinded him, which led to him hitting the referee (which is an automatic DQ).  The match kept going, Scott hits their finisher the Frankensteiner (a hurricanrana) gets a three count from a back up referee.  The original ref gets up and signals for the DQ.  Dusty finishes suck, but at least it wasn’t in the main event.

US Title Match: Rick Rude vs Ricky Steamboat

Steamboat was being accompanied to the ring by a guy in a ninja suit (He was called The Ninja, of course; this was 1992).  Rude was accompanied by Madusa because Dangerously was banned from ringside.  Rude, still doing his Ravishing act he’d honed in the WWE, was on top of his game and way over as a heel here. Very good match here, as Steamboat was in a groove where he could have a good match with almost anywhere and Rude was able to keep up his end and then some.   The finish was set up by a backstage vignette where The Ninja had been duped into chasing off after Madusa; during the match when the referee was distracted The Ninja pulls out Dangerously’s cell phone and nails Steamboat with it (cell phones were big enough back then to be plausibly used as foreign object), knocking down long enough for Rude to cover him for the pin.  It sounds really convoluted but it wasn’t that bad when you watched it.  Sure beats a Dusty Finish.

Main Event: Lex Luger (champ) vs Sting

Relatively short main event here, especially after three straight matches that went around 20 minutes and an almost 20 minute opener.  This ran about 13 minutes and they started off with their big stuff off of the break.  Luger no sells a Stinger Splash about 30 seconds in and Sting puts Luger in his own Torture Rack finisher a few minutes later.  They cooled down a bit and Luger went to typical heel tactics.  The final minutes of the match dragged a little.  Luger got blown up, as he was apt to do, and Sting had to do all the work to close things out, which he did.  Luger was barely involved in the last two minutes of the match.  Match was pretty good for the first half of it.

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Overall Verdict

Not a bad show.  Several good matches and one of the best openers ever.  The time waster matches weren’t bad and didn’t last too long.  Given where the company was that past summer they did a remarkable salvage job to get to this point.  It wouldn’t last, however; the Dangerous Alliance would run it’s course by the summer and things would get sloppy again from the fall of 1992 through the next year when Ric Flair came back.  But this was the first of a run of four good shows in 1992 from WCW.  Given the state of their roster at the time vs the competition they definitely did a lot more with a lot less.

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