WCW House Show by E.C. Ostermeyer
Freedom Hall Civic Center
Johnson City, TN
Since I always let my readers in on the fun I'm having, here's my report on the WCW House Show, 4 March 2001 from Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City, Tennessee.
The weather was really rainy, raw, and blustery, with a hint of snow in the air. That still didn't keep a boisterous crowd from showing up for two hours plus of Professional wrestling, courtesy of World Championship Wrestling. Seating capacity of the Civic Center for wrestling events is 6430 seats, with 400 at ringside.
My party of seven consisted of my bud, Terry Bailey, his wife, and 2-year old daughter, Wayne Gambill and his three-year old son, my brother John, and myself. Programs were five bucks, with drinks and popcorn a cool two bucks apiece. (WCW's money problems notwithstanding, SOMEbody's makin' money at these things.)
Doors opened at 6:30 PM with a bell time of 7:30PM, though WCW ring announcer David Penzer got things underway at 7:25PM.
Some fans behind me were overheard talking about ECW's viability, and what's next for Jerry Lawler and the Kat.
Across the arena was a lovely young lady fan wearing a Trish Stratus leopardskin hat, and a top that can best be described as an in-progress spandex stress test experiment. "Daddy's second wife," said my brother John.
Some hulking jokester at ringside was wearing a red and white mask, and carrying a big neon yellow sign that read "PLAY ME!"
"Not a chance, buster," said David Penzer.
Penzer ran the card, then introduced Nitro Girls Star, Naughty-A and Syren to kick things off with a well-received dance routine.
Match #1 Billy Kidman & Rey Mysterio, Jr. d. Three Count, d the Jung Dragons, d. Mike Sanders & Kwee-Wee, (Rey w/ flying headbutt to groin on Shannon Moore/Kidman makes the pin, 12:15) WCW Four Corners Tag-team Match.
Kwee-Wee received the biggest pop during the entrance. Some kid at ringside held up a sign that says "Kwee-Wee is my Dad!" Rey was wearing his new half-mask thingie, while Kidman looked to be in the best shape I've ever seen him. The match was a wild one, with each wrestler hitting their signature move at least once. Highlights included Kidman hitting an over-the-top-rope hurancanrana on Shannon Moore, then running the ring circuit clobbering all the opponents with a Big Right Hand. As Kaz Hayashi and Kwee-Wee square off, Johnny Swinger was seen near the wrestler's entrance watching the action in the ring. At one point, Kwee-Wee was hollering "You SUCK!" at fans at ringside, and getting the abuse back volt for volt from the crowd. Yang and Kaz did a tandem "YangTime" springboard corkscrew moonsaults off the top rope to the floor, wiping out Three Count, Mike Sanders, and Kidman. Kwee-Wee stayed out of it, until Rey walloped him and tossed him onto the "mosh pit" at ringside. Rey put his new half-mask back on just before the end of the match, and got a huge pop from the fans. Mike Sanders did an impressive "cross-the-back" neckbreaker, which is a new move for him. Rey and Kidman double-teamed a flying headbutt to the groin by Rey on Shannon Moore, and Billy Kidman got the pinfall.
Post-match, the majority of the cruiserweights stayed almost 10 minutes at ringside, working the crowd, signing autographs, and doing photo ops with the fans. Kidman got a hug from Miss "Spandex Stress Test," which got a big pop from the crowd.
Match #2: "Prime Time" Elix Skipper d. The Demon, ("OverDrive" finisher/pin 7:15).
Skipper did an impressive vertical leap to the top-turnbuckle, then moonsaulted into the ring. He then spent some time trash-talking the crowd, who gave the trash right back to him, with more besides. The Demon came out, spitting a cloud of "blood" all over the place, and distributing guitar picks to the fans. A fan behind me asked if this was the guy who did the "Fake Sting" and was married to Asya. Yes to both, I said. (The Demon's obviously been hitting the gym, because he's lost the love handles. Asya's probably got him on a work-out routine.)
As Skipper and Demon got going, my friend Terry Bailey's two-year-old daughter started hollering "NO! NO!" at the top of her lungs. Terry related that his daughter's been watching wrestling as soon as she could open her eyes. Not THAT'S a stone fanatic fan! The crowd was pretty active and raucous throughout the match. The Demon's got a set of silver studs positioned at "ground zero" on the seat of his pants that looks like he's ripped the seam out of 'em. A leisurely-paced match, with Skipper dominating most of the way, finally hitting his "OverDrive" finisher to win the match.
David Penzer then came out and did a promo for WCW magazine, and wcwdotcom. He also promo-ed for WCW Live, and introduced Jeremy Borash at ringside.
Match #3: Chavo Guerrero, Jr. d. Shane Helms, (slingshot powerbomb, 13:28) WCW Cruiserweight Title defense.
Chavo came out first to drum up some cheap heel heat by trash-talking the fans. Some fan hollered, "Hey Chavo! Heard from Eddie?" which got a real dirty look and more verbal abuse from the champ. After making his entrance and playing up for the fans, Shane Helms got going like a house afire on Chavo. Dynamite match between these two, with Chavo showing just why he's got the Cruiserweight Title, as he and Helms did a great chain-wrestling sequence. At one point, Chavo bailed out, and began heading for the back, dragging his Title belt along. Some fan along the rail held up a sign right in front of him that read "MOMMA'S BOY", which REALLY set him off, and also allowed Shane Helms to launch a springboard plancha off the top rope, then toss Chavo back into the ring. Helms then attempted a Vertebreaker, but Chavo escaped. Chavo regained momentum, and nailed Helms with a slingshot powerbomb for the win. Good workrate, with Chavo and Shane Helms keeping the crowd stirred up throughout.
Penzer pointed out that the WCW souvenir stand was just chock full of neat-o souvenir stuff that no REAL WCW fan would be without! Then, he announced
Match #4 The Cat d. Kanyon, ("Feliner" finisher/pin, 9:42) Grudge Match.
Kanyon came to the ring with that hokey organ music of his, then proceeded to take a serious run at the Big Poppa Pump Memorial 'Most Words Mangled in an In-Ring Promo" Award. Obviously, they gave the stick to the wrong guy, because the Cat charged the ring and got right to work on Kanyon. Back by the wrestler's entrance, I spotted Jason Lee, and what appeared to be local hero, former member of ECW, and reputed WCW signee, Kid Kash. Also watching was WCW booker, Johnny Ace, who was paying close attention to the action in the ring. About midway through the match, Kanyon tumbled from the ring apron, and fetched up against the steel guardrail. He then got into a fracas with some over-excited fans, which WCW Security was quick to respond to. Kanyon shoved the referee (Billy Silverman?) who shoved him right back and shot him the double bird. This was a workmanlike match that was won by the Cat with his "Feliner" finisher.
Intermission was at 8:40 PM, after David Penzer shilled for the souvenir stand stuff again. There was a lot of Big Poppa Pump merchandise (surprised?), nothing for Ric Flair (shame, WCW!) and a whole lot of Bill Goldberg stuff. During intermission, Kid Kash was at the railing talking with a bunch of kids, who were hanging on his every word. Kash then had a seat in the balcony seats with a lovely young lady. Not wishing to interrupt, I turned and just missed getting an interview with referee Charles Robinson, though he was very busy. Oh, well, maybe next time.
As the crowd returned, you could sense they were having a good time. There was a big move by fans in the balconies to seats nearer the action, which made things really cozy for the rest of the evening.
David Penzer introduced the Nitro Girls again, and Naughty-A, Syren and Star put on a great dance routine.
Match #5: Rick Steiner d. Lance Storm and Hugh Morrus, (Title belt to Morrus' head/pin, 5:52) Three-Way Dance, WCW US Heavyweight Title defense.
This match was originally scheduled to be a singles match between Steiner and Morrus, but they added Lance Storm into the mix, probably to help the pacing. Storm came out first, and was serious for a moment. Storm stated that, though this wasn't the first time he'd wrestled in this building, God, he hoped it was his last, because he's from Calgary, Alberta Canada, born to wrestle, bred to win, etc. etc. and all rise for the playing of the Canadian National Anthem. Well, we get through about three bars of "O Canada" (hoots and catcalls, with NOBODY standing) before Hugh Morrus hits the ring and starts walloping on Storm. Rick Steiner was the last to arrive, ambling his way to the ring. Steiner clouts Morrus off Storm with a mighty blow to the back of the neck. Storm and Steiner then go partners, teaming up to clobber Morrus. This works all right, until Steiner goes for a pin attempt on Morrus, and Storm pulls him off. Steiner, enraged, rounds on Storm, who does some fast 'splainin' to the Dog-Faced Gremlin. Mollified, Steiner returns his attention to Morrus, who promptly wallops him with a Big Right Hand hard enough to tumble him out of the ring. Before Morrus can capitalize, he's sucker-punched by Lance Storm, who almost gets a pinfall, but for Rick Steiner dragging him off Morrus, and breaking the pinfall. Storm's hot about this, and he and Steiner argue for a bit. Steiner's back in against Morrus, and spends the next two minutes doing three holds, one of them being a reverse chinlock (aka a resting hold.) Steiner appears to be out of breath, and we're only midway through the match. Morrus hits a power surge, and clobbers Steiner with a "No Laughing Matter" moonsault finisher off the top turnbuckle that is REALLY spectacular. Even more so when you consider the man doing the move tops the scales at 325 lbs. Storm tries to take advantage and pin Steiner, but Morrus pulls him off, then repeats the "No Laughing Matter", this time with Lance Storm at Ground Zero. Whoops, Steiner recovers and wallops Morrus AND Lance Storm from behind with the Title belt, getting the pin on Morrus and the win. Good match, with Storm and Morrus virtually carrying Steiner all the way. Post-match, as Steiner was heading to the back, he detoured to have a shouted one-sided conversation with WCW Live's Jeremy Borash. Hugh Morrus apparently hurt his ribs doing the last "No Laughing Matter," and took his time getting to the back, but got plenty of cheers from the fans.
Match #6: Sean O'Haire & Chuck Palumbo d. Totally Buff, (Sean-ton Bomb on Luger, pin, 7:43)
Lex Luger takes a l-o-o-o-ng time coming to the ring, then takes a l-o-o-o-ng time with his pose-down routine. The crowd's loving it, though, and they love it even more when Buff Bagwell makes his entrance. Buff's a real fan favorite here, God knows why. O'Haire & palumbo come out, and the crowd's reaction is a little more reserved for the WCW World Tag Champs. Bagwell's been doing much better playing off the crowd, and it shows in the cheers his pose-down gets when he squares off against Sean O'Haire. Buff, showboating for his new-found fans, calls O'Haire a rookie and shoves him. O'Haire shoves him REAL hard, then flashes the double bird right in Buff's face. Buff backs off, then tags his partner. Luger promptly trips, climbing through the ring-ropes, but recovers nicely, much to the delight of the fans. Big sign in the crowd: "Luger = Horse Faced Gremlin." O'Haire tags in Palumbo, and he and Luger go at it. O'Haire deserves special notice for his improved ability both in working the whole ring, and also playing to the fans at ringside. At well over 6'6" and 275, he's an imposing sight on the ring apron. The Luger and Palumbo bout gets progressively slower and slower, and a couple of the fans start up a "Bo-ring!" chant. Luger turned around and gave them "The Look." O'Haire, meantime, was pacing back and forth on the ring apron, like a big cat in a cage.
Later in the match, Luger mis-timed a Sean O'Haire superkick, but nevertheless sold the move. Only problem was, he was a half-beat behind on the impact, and the sell. The fans who were hollering "Bo-ring" earlier now started a "You F*cked Up" chant which REALLY got them noticed by both Luger and WCW Security. O'haire and Palumbo finally prevail, with O'haire hitting a towering Sean-ton Bomb off the near-side top turnbuckle onto Lex Luger, and holy cats, that's an impressive move! Even more so for a wrestler as big as Sean O'Haire.
Post-match, Luger's still feeling the after-effects of the Sean-ton Bomb, as he's over sitting on the steps holding his left elbow and grimacing in pain.
(Hey, looks like the Freedom Hall curse is alive and well. Last time WCW was in town, it was Kevin Nash's ankle that got injured.)
Luger finally gets up and staggers to the back, assisted by Buff Bagwell.
Also post-match, Sean O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo lingered at ringside, schmoozing with the fans, signing autographs, shaking hands, photo ops, etc. A good move on their parts, one that will help to build their push.
Referee Charles Robinson comes back out, getting a chorus of "Whooo's!" from the fans, (remember "Lil' Naitch"?) and we get set for tonight's Main Event:
Match #7: Diamond Dallas Page & Dustin Rhodes d. Scott Steiner & Jeff Jarrett, (DDP w/ Diamond Cutter on Steiner/pin, 10:51) Tag team Grudge Match
Jarrett gets a big pop as he makes his entrance, way more than Steiner does, and Steiner's the Champ!
Steiner makes his entrance, jawing with the fans along the railing, and then touring ringside, mouthing threats to all and sundry. A BIG, two-person sign in the crowd reading "Big Poopie Dump" gets Steiner crazy, so he grabs the microphone, and talks instead of Jarrett. Sigh. Lots of references to "white trash" and "rednecks," surprise, surprise. This brings out Dustin Rhodes and ol' "Self...High...Five" himself, DDP. Jarrett and DDP start off, but DDP wants Steiner instead. Wish granted, as Steiner and DDP square off. DDP is almost a head taller than Scott Steiner, but Steiner's almost twice as wide, and built like a fireplug. (Note: as DDP and Steiner battle into the far corner, Jeff Jarrett moved to the opposite neutral corner, allowing the crowd to get a good view of the in-ring action between the two. Now THAT'S ring-savvy!)
The match itself was characterized by good back-and-forth action, with all four wrestlers putting on a great show. Highlights were Jeff Jarrett tumbling outside the ring, settng up for a (and I'm not kidding) springboard plancha over the top rope by DDP! Jarrett sold the move as if he were hit by a train. Action continued outside the ring, with Steiner hammering DDP in the gut with a chair as Jarrett held DDP from behind. Back in the ring, DDP hits a power surge, and nails Jarrett with a top-turnbuckle missile dropkick, another high-risk move that you don't normally see from DDP. Hangman's neckbreaker by DDP on Jarrett, but Steiner clouts DDP with the WCW World Heavyweight Title belt, and down he goes. Jarrett goes for the guitar as Steiner stands DDP up, pinioning his arms for the "El-Kabong" from Jarrett. Oops, DDP ducks at the last second, and Steiner gets clobbered by the guitar. DDP signaled for the "Diamond Cutter", (and got a forest of "Cutter" signs from the fans, including Terry Bailey's two-year-old-daughter!) DDP then hit a Diamond Cutter on Jarrett, and then a Diamond Cutter on Scott Steiner to win the match.
Post-match, Steiner's real hot at Jarrett for whacking him with the guitar. Jarrett does some fast-talking about how DDP and Rhodes may have won the battle, but Scott Steiner won the war, "...and STILL! WCW World Heavyweight Champion! Big Poppa Pump!" (Jarrett raises Steiner's hand in "victory.")
Rhodes, although he was a part of the show, seemed to be upstaged by the other three, and never seemed to catch or hold the crowd's interest. This is troubling.
As we were gathering hats and coats, David Penzer reminded us about WCW Nitro & Thunder being in Greenville, SC on Monday, March 5th, Then, WCW would be in McMinnville, TN for a house show on the 11th. WCW Spring Breakout 2001 would be at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, March 9th thru 11th, with Nitro & Thunder at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum on the 12th.
Penzer thanked us for coming, and we finished at 9:49PM.
After the show, as we all headed for the parking lot, my friend Wayne Gambill stayed behind with his 3-year-old son. They were able to get backstage, to meet some of the wrestlers as they were leaving. Wayne said that Sean O'Haire & Chuck Palumbo signed every autograph, shook every hand, did every photo-op, and "were really cool and friendly with the fans." DDP and Jeff Jarrett left without shaking hands or signing autographs, which disappointed some fans, but didn't surprise Wayne. What did surprise him was that "...the highlight of this was that (we) got to shake hands and talk with Buff (Bagwell). I've always liked him, and he was really cool, too. It shocked me because, I guess, I expected him to be 'in-character', but (here he was) being so cool and all."
High praise indeed from a grateful fan, and his even more impressed as all get-out three-year-old son. Folks, I know I've been getting on his case here lately, but here's a big kudos to you, Mr. Bagwell, for being a true "Old School" wrestler for the kindness you showed to Wayne and his son. You really DO have "The Stuff," sir.
We saw 65 minutes and 40 seconds of actual bell-to bell in-ring action, not counting the wrestler's intro's, David Penzer's promos, or the Nitro Girl segments. Tonight's show was a HUGE improvement over the last house show here, with better-paced, faster action, and a greater than normal number of top-carders wrestling. "Match of the Night" honors goes to the curtain-jerker, the "Four Corners" cruiserweight tag match that really showcased the talents of all concerned, followed closely by the Chavo/Helms Cruiserweight Title bout, and the tag match between O'Haire & Palumbo and Totally Buff. Slowest match was the Skipper/Demon match, though only in comparison to the others.
I should be at the WCW Nitro and Thunder tapings on the 12th in Knoxville, and will do the Thunder spoilers for good ol' Rick Scaia if he's amenable.
See you in Knoxville.
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