Part IV: Rating the WCW Champions
by Matt Benaka
World Heavyweight Champion. These are three words that have been used far too liberally in wrestling. Many promotions would make their top star a World Heavyweight Champion just to make him sound more important, and it became more of a gimmick than a reality. However, this series has focused on the World Heavyweight Champions of World Championship Wrestling and The World (Wide) Wrestling Federation. World means that the champion will face competitors anywhere on the planet. Heavyweight means that the champion will face opponents from any weight-class. Champion means that he has beaten the best there is, and carries his title with pride.
This installment will attempt to analyze the former and current World Heavyweight Champions of both promotions based off the meaning of those three words.
Let's start with WCW:
Sting is a two time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He won the title from Lex Luger and Big Van Vader. He also defended the title all over the world. During his first reign, he had a tour of Europe, and during his second reign, he won and lost the title in Europe. He was a Heavyweight wrestler as well. He faced everyone from Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Rick Rude, Steve Austin, and Cactus Jack to the likes of Big Van Vader and Vinnie Vegas--later known as Diesel and currently as Kevin Nash. Lastly, he was one of the greatest champions you could ask for. He faced all comers and never looked for an easy way out. Sting was a true World Heavyweight Champion.
Ric Flair is a five time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He won the title from Sting, Big Van Vader, Ricky Steamboat, and Randy Savage. Flair did indeed defend his title throughout the world. He wrestled a huge title defense in Tokyo, Japan and had a tour through Europe during his four reigns. He was a Heavyweight wrestler as well. He faced everyone from Sting, Hogan, Savage, and Steamboat to Big Van Vader and The Giant. As far as carrying his title with pride, it is a debatable issue. Ric cheated the title from Sting, accidentally headbutted Steamboat in the groin for a title, used Horsemen assistance to dethrone Savage on one occasion, and interference from Elizabeth to dethrone Savage on a second occasion. His one clean title win was over Big Van Vader. While he was quite proud of his championships, he was indeed the dirtiest player in the game and often kept his title by disqualification or count-out. So, Ric Flair hold true to the words World Heavyweight, but struggled with Champion.
Big Van Vader is a three time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He won the title from Sting, Ron Simmons, and Sting on a second occasion. Vader also defended his title on a global scale. He had a tour of Europe, and wrestled in Japan while he was champion as well. He was a Heavyweight wrestler too. Tipping the scales at around 450 pounds, he faced the likes of Sting, Simmons, Davey Boy Smith, Ric Flair, Cactus Jack, Tony Atlas, and anyone else that was thrown his direction. He was also a superb Champion. Having Harley Race as his manager helped to solidify his ties to the roots of the WCW World Heavyweight Title and showed that he respected those that came before him. As far as his matches, he wasn't a scientific wrestler. He defeated Sting in the middle of the ring after a powerbomb, beat Simmons with a shoulderbreaker, and used Harley Race to distract Sting so he could beat him with the powerbomb again. He would pound on his opponent until they were sufficiently weakened for his dreaded powerbomb. He did have some rather unfavorable moments however. He only kept the title from Davey Boy Smith by continuously getting DQed. Before their meeting at Starrcade, he would take an intentional DQ against Flair as well. Even though he established his respect for the title and its roots, he had those moments of weakness that soften his claim to the word Champion. In the end, he has a solid claim to the words World Heavyweight, but falls short of being a true Champion.
Randy Savage is a two time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He won his first title after eliminating The One Man Gang from the World War 3 Battle Royal. His second win came over Ric Flair. He wasn't champion long enough to establish himself as a global competitor. He would face anyone though. During his brief stint as champ, he defended against Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, Mike Rotunda, and faced The Giant in tag matches. He shied away from no one, and established himself as a Heavyweight wrestler. As far as Champion, he was a sound champion. Overlooking the fact that he threw a man over the top rope to win the title, he had two good reigns as champion. He didn't rely on outside help and always gave the fans what they paid for. Savage is a strong Heavyweight Champion, but didn't have time to establish himself as a World champion.
Lex Luger is a two time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. His second reign wasn't long enough to judge, but, during his first reign, he was in fact a World competitor. He defended his title against stiff competition in Japan. He has faced the likes of Hogan, Ron Simmons, Rick Steiner, Sting, Barry Windham, and The Z-Man. He proved that he was just as willing to face a power wrestler as a high flyer or brawler. He lived up to being a Heavyweight. Now comes the shaky part: Champion. He snuck by Barry Windham, Ron Simmons, and Rick Steiner with help from Harley Race and Mr. Hughes. He defended the title infrequently, and then had cheap victories. His win over Hogan is one of the few exceptions. As a champion, Luger left much to be desired. He was strong as a World Heavyweight, but weak as Champion.
The Giant is a two time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair for his two titles. To my knowledge, he hasn't traveled outside of the U.S. as champ. As far as competition, he faced Sting, Luger, Hogan, Flair, Savage, and Benoit as champion thus establishing himself as a Heavyweight champion. Now, the word Champion is shaky with the big man. He defeated Hogan by DQ when Jimmy Hart interfered. The contract had been such that the title could change hands on a DQ, and he was champ. WCW stripped him of the title due to the nature of his win. This was not a good start. However, during his second reign, he cleanly pinned Flair, Luger, and Sting. Only when Hogan got the assistance of The New World Order did he lose the title. He established his claim to the word Champion. So, The Giant was a sound Heavyweight Champion, but probably not a World champion.
Ron Simmons is a one time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Big Van Vader for the title, and lost it back to him in the same arena in which he won it. To my knowledge, Simmons didn't take his title overseas and thus failed to be a World champion. He faced everyone from Vader, Cactus Jack, The Barbarian, and Steve Williams to the likes of Rick Rude. He was a Heavyweight champion. Now we come to the tricky part. Was he a Champion? He fought all his matches cleanly, was proud to be the first African American World Heavyweight Champion, and never backed down. Yes. Ron Simmons was a true Champion. So, he was definitely a Heavyweight Champion, but probably not a World champion.
Hulk Hogan is a two time former WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and the current reigning champion. Hogan's reigns have been plagued by inactivity. He may have had a European tour during his first reign, but I can't confirm so. He has faced competitors such as The Giant, Savage, Flair, The Butcher, Kamala, Big Bubba Rogers, Sting, Luger, Vader, and Piper during his reigns. This makes his claim to being a Heavyweight contender valid. Then, there is the Champion part. Hulk hand picked his opponents during his first reign, but he always won cleanly. His second and third (current) reigns were marred by interference from The New World Order and inactivity. During the second reign, he only defended a handful of times, and used disqualifications to keep his title in many of those matches. His third reign has been very uneventful. He has not defended his title since he recaptured it from Luger in August. Overall, he scores low on World, high on Heavyweight, and barely registers at all as a Champion.
The WWWF/WWF World Heavyweight Title continuation is coming soon!
Matt Benaka's Wrestling Title Histories are a permanent part of the Solie's web site.
by Ervin Griffin Jr.
Part 13: Limbo
After vanquishing Jake "The Snake" Roberts at Halloween Havoc '92, Sting's career just bounced around like a rubber ball. At Starrcade '92 in December, he defeated Vader in the finals of "The King Of Cable" tournament but was eliminated from BattleBowl early on by Vader as they both went over the top rope at the same time (The Great Muta won BattleBowl by the way). In February of 1993, he and Vader engaged in a brutal strap match that saw Vader as the victory at SuperBrawl III. Later that month, as WCW toured Germany, Sting defeated Vader for the WCW World Title but lost it back to Vader three days later.
In May of 1993, Davey Boy Smith had a brutal match against Vader at Slamboree '93: A Legends' Reunion for the WCW World belt. Smith won by DQ and was assaulted after the match by Vader. Sting came down to prevent any further damage. Smith, grateful for Sting's help, formed a tag team called "The Allied Powers." Vader, meanwhile, enlisted the help of "Sycho" Sid Vicious and called themselves "The Masters Of The Power Bomb" (a corny, but fitting name). The two teams met at WCW Beach Blast '93 in July. I must say that Sting and Davey Boy got a "six pack of whup a**" opened up on them because they got killed!!! In this match, it was the first time (to my knowledge) that Vader used his version of the moonsault (it should be called the "macsault" because that move would be the equivalent of a 18-wheeler coming down on you). Even so, Sting and Davey Boy would hold on to win the match.
Vicious, however, would continue to cause problems for Sting all summer and into the fall. The two met at Halloween Havoc '93 in New Orleans, LA (three years after their NWA World Title match in Chicago at this same event). Sting, after absorbing a pretty good beating, came back and won with some accidental help of Col. Rob Parker (Sid's manager).
From there, Sting would not be in a serious feud again until February of 1994 when he, Dustin (Goldust) Rhodes, and Brian Pillman (ironic here isn't it?) took on Paul "Mr. Wonderful" Orndorff, "Stunning" (Stone Cold) Steve Austin, and "Ravishing" Rick Rude in a six man cage match. After Pillman got the pin on Austin, Sting was trying to leave the cage when Rude slammed the door on his face!!! From there, Rude put his patented "Rude Awakening" neckbreaker on Sting and left him laying. Sting, incensed, requested a WCW International Title match with Rude but Rude refused, saying that he would never give Sting a title shot (Dream on Rude). Then, during WCW Saturday Night, a female fan came out and wanted Rude's autograph. Rude, with ego soaring, signed the piece of paper unaware that it was a contract for WCW Spring Stampede for a title match between himself and Sting!!! When Rude found out later what had happened, he was P*SSED!!! This incident showed some uncharacteristic deviousness on the part of Sting.
So, with the match signed, Rude had no choice but to battle Sting. However, an unexpected visitor showed up right before the match. It was Harley Race!!! On behalf of Vader, he challenged the winner of the match to meet Vader in a title bout. Sting gave his answer in the form of a right hand!!! As for the match itself, it was a pretty good encounter that ended when Vader and Race came back out. They tried to hit Sting with a chair but hit Rude instead!!! Sting quickly covered Rude for the win and the title.
A few weeks after that, Rude regained the title in Japan but injured his neck doing so. This put him out of his Slamboree '94 match up with Vader. WCW Commissiner Nick Bockwinkle wanted to give back the title to Sting opted to have it put up for grabs if he would allow him to take Rude's place against Vader. Bockwinkle agreed and Sting regained the title.
By June of 1994, WCW decided that there should be one world champion. So they sign Sting to face then-WCW World Champion Ric Flair in a unification bout at a Clash Of The Champions event. Showing up unexpectedly was Sherri Martel, who had face paint on similar to Sting's. Everyone thought that she was on Sting's side but it turned out to be a ploy all along as she help Ric Flair win the match and unify both belts. Watching from the back, however, would be a man that would have a profound effect on Sting's career down the road. That man was Hulk Hogan.
Coming Soon: Diary Of A "HitMan"
If you have a question, comments, criticism, or just want to talk pro wrestling, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ervin Griffin Jr. is Solie's resident historian and also contributes to the Ringside Insider on a regular basis.
by Joe Crowe
When we watch wrestling, we all want to see a good finisher. Granted, we're interested in the 99 percent of the match leading up to the finisher. But we keep coming back for that hot move, the one that guarantees that some helpless punk will be laid out on the mat for a three count, or will be placed in pain so intense that he will beg the referee to end the match.
When you think of certain wrestlers, you think of their finishers. It's part of their character. It's their signature, like their autograph in the ring. Jake Roberts with the DDT. Hulk Hogan with the legdrop. Ric Flair with the figure four. It must be hard for a wrestler, as his career progresses, to come up with a finisher that works just fine and fits them just right.
The best finishers are the ones you turn on a match hoping to see. When a match can be built around a finisher, you know it's a great one. When Bret Hart or Ric Flair work on an opponent's legs, you know what they are getting ready to do. Conversely, you know a finisher is good when an opponent can spend the match trying to avoid it.
But what about the bad finishers? I don't mean "bad" as in "good." I mean "bad" as in "I just wasted ten minutes of my life for a match to end with THAT?!"
What about the ones that make you groan when the schmuck who slaps it on lays on top of his opponent for the undeserved victory? What about the move that's just horribly executed, or just plain looks bad? Or the move that you can tell, absolutely could not even injure a referee?
A finisher should be applied suddenly, and it should be devastating. Some setup time for drama is allowed, but not long enough for you to run to the kitchen for a Pepsi refill. It's a bonus when the body hits the mat with a sickening thud, which causes the involuntary reaction of "OOH!"
A series of almosts is good in building up the crowd's desire. A grab of the ropes or a partner assist in escaping the ring from certain doom is good for this. The crowd needs to be into it. That's important for an entire wrestling match, but the finisher is the signature, and the crowd needs to know that. It's hard to get a finisher over with a crowd, but it's nifty when it happens. My favorite recent example is when the fans leave their seats as Dean Malenko slaps on the Texas Cloverleaf.
One must also dress the finisher properly.
1) Name. Tie it in with your name if you can, but moderation is key.
Good: Diesel's Jack-Knife, Razor Ramon's Razor's Edge, Earthquake's Earthquake.
Bad: Doink's Whoopie Cushion, Big Josh's Log Roll, Red Rooster's Cock of the Walk (not making that up), Johnny B. Badd's Badd Day, Badd Mood (okay, we get it!) and his Tutti Frutti.
A name that is easily chantable is good. Japanese finishers are certainly lacking in this department. They either translate badly or try to describe exactly what's happening during the move.
2) Signal. This gets the crowd into it, as noted above. Looking to the crowd and giving the signal sets them off.
Good: Undertaker's slice across the throat, DDP's Diamond sign.
Bad: Hollering the name of your finisher, in most cases. Especially if it's Japanese.
3) Execution. If you have to arrange furniture, it's bad. If your opponent has to help you get into position for it, it's bad. If it takes you longer to do the move than it does to do an interview, it's bad.
The following examples are not condemnations of the wrestlers. Bad wrestlers can salvage a match with a good finisher. I have been in a crowd that popped hard for the Godwinn's Slop Drop! I mean, they begged for it. When Henry finally obliged and the fans lit up the auditorium, you should have seen his face.
Of course, good wrestlers can stink up the ring with a bad finisher, too. Ladies and gentlemen, the worst finishers ever.
7) Breaker 1-9. WCW's, and later AWF's, Blacktop Bully got opponents to submit to this supposedly armbreaking maneuver. He pulled his foe's elbow. That's it. Not even in the wrong direction. He just bent the elbow and pulled. Maybe this would work if you wanted your drunk friend to give you his car keys.
6) Football Ram. Every ex-footballer has used this move in the ring. You know the drill (football reference). From the opposite corner, the footballer sets up in a three point stance and charges...right at his opponent's shin? The foe then does a flip like he's taking tumbling classes at the Y. In football, when you get charged, you don't roll off to the side. You get knocked back, flattened. If that's what happened here, at least sometimes, it would be off this list. But oh no.
5) Hillbilly Jim's Big Boot. Toss Hillbilly Jim into the turnbuckle, and if you weren't paying attention and ran in after him, he would stick his big boot up in your kisser and drill you. But only if you didn't know about charging a seemingly-helpless opponent when he's reclining in the corner! The big boot out of the corner is an often used DEFENSIVE move. Defense. Not offense. So Jim had to hope somebody would be thumping him enough to hurl him into that turnbuckle, so he could take care of some hillbilly business.
Maybe he begged his foes, "Please don't whip me into that turnbuckle! NO! NOT THAT TURNBUCKLE! NOOOOOOOO!"
4) Ultimate Warrior's Press Slam / Drop / Run / Hop / Back Splash. Took a long time to read that, didn't it? It took even long for the Warrior to perform it. It was all one long, sequential finisher. You knew the end was coming five minutes before the three count, because it seemed like it took forever for the Warrior, huffing and puffing all the way, to execute. I would think anybody would have the presence of mind just to roll out of the way three minutes into it.
Finally, here are the THREE WORST FINISHERS EVER. If you would like to take a few minutes to steel yourself, I'll wait.
3) Tommy Rich's Thesz Press. The most pornographic thing I have seen outside actual pornography. This just looks gross. I don't see the sweet science in it. I don't see an effective leg-hook bridge pinning combination. I just see something that little kids who see it will ask hard questions about.
Johnny B. Badd and Steven Regal brought back the porno pin a few years ago. You spray dogs with a hose when they do this.
2) Sgt. Slaughter's Noogie. Just as effective when the tough kids did it to you till you gave them your milk money. During the Gulf War, Sgt. Slaughter not only betrayed our country, he also stole our schoolyard bully moves.
I will never forget former NWA World champion Ronnie Garvin, with Sarge grinding his knuckle into his forehead until "Hands of Stone" gave up. After the cameras went off, I believe Sarge gave him a nipple twister and a pink belly.
1) The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers' Flying Crotch. When future Amazing French Canadian Jacques and future WWF French language announcer Raymond did this, it was bad news. Raymond hoisted his unsuspecting victim onto his shoulders, and Jacques went up to the top rope. Then Jacques leapt off, spread his legs wide, and slammed his area square into the sad foe's face.
Pity the poor victims of Jacques Rougeau's Quebecer.
Ever seen a bad finisher? Tell me about it at mailto:JoeBCrowe@aol.com
That's it for this issue. I will be back on Sunday with the Halloween Havoc edition. Until then...
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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