Vince Russo’s successful quest to quietly head up the consortium that bought half of World Championship Wrestling from Fusient in their bid to continue their recovery and growth was followed by a fast one at Bash at the Beach to gain an additional 1% and the right to overrule Eric Bischoff as the majority owner.
However Russo hasn’t had the freedom to turn WCW into a Sports Entertainment Xtreme haven for himself and whoever kisses his ring. With his 49% and years of expertise, Bischoff has done whatever he can to obstruct, undermine and impede Russo’s attempts to create a depraved wasteland where there was once a proud wrestling promotion.
Russo had created the pro wrestling equivalent of Scar’s reign over the Pridelands in The Lion King once before, in 2000. Bischoff and a host of proud traditionalist wrestlers -—including former Russo friends such as Jeff Jarrett and Los Guerrero — were not going to let him do it again without a fight. However, the man who nearly killed WCW was not afraid of doing exactly that if he didn’t get his way.
Last time out, Russo remarked that not only did he want to get cruiserweight show AirTime booted off the air, but he’d self-sabotage as much as possible to make AOL Time Warner reconsider their decision to give WCW a second chance on a different timeslot. Would he really blow up his own investment just because people told him he was wrong? Probably.
It remains to be seen whether Russo does indeed get the full unbridled power he craves, or if he’ll try to destroy WCW again if he doesn’t. But his handpicked World champion Ken Shamrock has already annoyed him further by accepting the challenge of Bill Goldberg, and the two will do battle at the next PPV Victory Road, where we’ll also get the next challenger with the conclusion of the Starrcade Series.
NOVEMBER 13, 2002: AIRTIME #45
After surviving a war they are not entirely accustomed to for months, the WCW’s finest junior heavyweight athletes will finally take on SEX on their own battleground at Victory Road: a 16-man Torneo Cibernetico.
An elimination tag with a batting order-style entry, the match will determine not only a true dominant force between the traditional cruisers and the SEX rebels, but with cruiserweight champion AJ Styles involved there’s probably a large chance we’ll find out who is most deserving of challenging for the belt at Starrcade.
Speaking of title belts, the FBI’s evasion of challengers for their cruiserweight tag titles may be catching up to them, with Eric Bischoff going to the rulebooks to get Rey and Kidman a fair crack. Could a career-saving rematch be in the pipeline for York and Matthews as well?
Taped on November 12, along with the following Nitro, in Orlando.
Knoble and Kash, despite encountering some internal issues when they faced the Jung Dragons recently, had a chance for revenge against SEX members when they took on The Rejected who were accompanied by a Shane Douglas still favouring his ribs as well as Torrie Wilson.
Unfortunately for K and K, things were evidently still not well in ‘camp redneck’ as Knoble gave Kash the old ‘short-arm’ on a tag attempt and left Kash to take Bottom’s Up from Moore for the pin at 10:36. Douglas demanded the duo attempt their vicious spike Vertebreaker on Kash after the bell, but Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera rushed down to scare the SEX members off.
Paul London tells Jeremy Borash that he’ll do whatever it takes to get Brian Kendrick back in the ring, one-on-one, and says he’s certain he can get American Dragon’s approval to put his mask on the line. Just then, a hand is seen grabbing London’s arm and the camera pans to show AmDrag himself, who looks at Paul, shakes his head and walks off.
Jerry Lynn tells us in a pre-tape that he is ready to teach Sean Waltman the latest of many lessons he has taught him over their respective careers at Victory Road – and he has his squad to help him do so, bringing Tajiri and the Jung Dragons into the frame as his final three team members! Lynn promises to teach Waltman a little something about integrity at the PPV.
Eric Bischoff brings us an announcement that next week, AJ Styles will defend the cruiserweight title since he will be in non-title action at Victory Road as part of the Torneo Cibernetico. He also confirms the last man standing at the PPV will pretty much position themselves as the next #1 contender.
Stacy Keibler enters the shot and tells Bischoff she has already booked next week’s match: it’s Styles defending against Jerry Lynn, two out of three falls, in Lynn’s last chance to reclaim the belt.
Bischoff agrees with the match and admits he promised Jerry one more 1vs1 shot at the title, but says he finds it obnoxious that Keibler suddenly wants to show up on Wednesdays and do her job. Stacy says she’s just looking forward to seeing AJ and Jerry try to team up days after their exhausting title match, smirks and walks off.
Finally, Triple X defeated the Jung Dragons with an assist from Shane Douglas, leading to the Powerplex in 18:21. Tajiri came out and sprayed the green mist in the Franchise’s face after the result, which brought out Sean Waltman, The Rejected, Sonny Siaki and Matt Bentley.
The rest of WCW’s cruiserweights soon forced an SEX retreat, but Lynn’s stare of Styles’ title belt was noticeable and the two ended up sharing a few tense words while the other babyfaces tried to calm them down as the hour drew to a close.
NOVEMBER 16, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #80
After tonight’s episode, every Starrcade Series participant will have one match remaining. Dustin Rhodes and CW Anderson are already out of the running, leaving 10 men vying for the main event of Starrcade. Tonight will almost certainly whittle it down further and a huge main event of DDP vs Sting is the cherry on the cake.
Before Starrcade comes Victory Road and several battles between SEX and WCW. Goldberg and Ken Shamrock in particular have clashed twice already ahead of their highly-anticipated title bout at the PPV. The most explosive confrontation so far, however, is between Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo, as their clashes over the future of the company are reaching boiling point.
Speaking of heated grudges in the midst of WCW vs SEX, CW Anderson comes out to the ring at the top of this week’s show. He says if Jeff Jarrett has a problem with him, they can settle this right here, right now. It doesn’t take long for Jarrett’s music to play but as Jeff approaches the ring he is blinded by the WCW champion, Ken Shamrock.
The two men put the boots to Jarrett between the ropes as Commissioner Keibler goes as far as to send a referee to the ring. Jarrett’s two-on-one beating appears to be spared by none other than BG James, who runs out and takes the neutral corner, seemingly giving this bout even odds. The referee recognises this and allows it, leading into…
Our opening tag match. Or at least that’s what we thought. When Jarrett was able to enziguri Shamrock and crawl over for a tag, James revealed the ruse and decked his old friend with a right hand.
James and Shamrock continued the beating before the champ tagged in CW for a shambolic three count over Jarrett at 4:26. Los Guerreros ran out before any more damage could be done.
We cut to the back where James, CW and Shamrock are all greeted and congratulated by Keibler and, of course, Vince Russo. Russo tells his star recruits that if WCW want a fight to the death, that’s what this will be. He then yells “SWERVE!” at the cameraman picking all this up and walks off with his team.
We then see Glenn Gilbertti leading a bit of a pep talk with the rest of SEX in their private changing area. He tells them that reactions such as last week’s from the WCW traditionalists are par for the course because they believe in their way of wrestling just as much as they believe in cutting edge, R-rated entertainment. He says what matters is that they are winning more matches, more titles and are dragging WCW into their wheelhouse and that they have to keep their heads and keep to the battleplan.
He’s cut off by the arrival of Russo, who tells everyone in the room that WCW has held back Vince Russo for the last time. He says taking control isn’t enough. He wants “every last stench of pro rasslin’” wiped out of here. He says he’s gonna prove tonight why WCW is the cancer, not Vince Russo before storming off leaving an unimpressed and undermined Gilbertti behind – and Glenn’s expression is shared by a few of the troops. Gilbertti looks at Palumbo and tells him they have work to do.
Indeed, that assignment was Starrcade Series action against Chris Kanyon, with both men propping up Block B with two points apiece. Victory was a must for both if they wanted a chance of forcing a tie-breaker, though it could be argued that earning points for himself wasn’t Palumbo’s primary mission after he laid down for SEX stablemate Shane Douglas.
Kanyon was one step ahead of his larger foe for much of their scuffle, which led to a frustrated Palumbo grabbing a chair while the two battled outside the ring. A wild swing missed which spared him a point deduction but led to a painful Flatliner on the floor! Kanyon pulled himself up and went to break the ref’s count, only for Gilbertti to sneakily grab Chris’s foot down where he couldn’t be seen to lead to a double countout at 6:50.
One point apiece leaves both on three, and requiring some sort of freak scenario where they win their final bout and Curt Hennig loses his mind and gets himself disqualified.
Kanyon is interviewed by Jeremy Borash when he returns through the curtain, and says crap like that is why they took the fight to SEX last week. He says winning backstage brawls isn’t enough to put the Glenn Gilberttis in their place, in his book, and that people like Killings and Douglas are a “disgrace” to the US title while Simon and Swinger, he claims, aren’t even in the top three best teams let alone the very best. He says whether it’s he and Page, Los Guerreros or AMW, someone’s going to make them pay for their sins and bring them down to earth.
Lance Storm (5pts) vs Scott Hall (4pts) in Block A had a similar feel to Storm’s win over CW Anderson last week, with Team Canada in Lance’s corner while the FBI and Johnny Stamboli backed up their SEX comrade, seemingly looking to get the last laugh on the rookies.
It backfired, however, as Storm’s underlings showed remarkable ringside presence and cunning to outfox their fellow rulebreakers and help Storm use a turnbuckle Hall himself had exposed to set up a crisp German suplex for two more points in 8:12.
Goldberg’s monster truck arrives at the arena. It’s not known whether he’s aware of Ken Shamrock and SEX’s antics already in the show.
We see Sean Waltman and Shane Douglas with Stacy Keibler in her office, before Waltman hands over a piece of paper to the Commissioner. He says Shane and himself have decided on which SEX members are ready for the Cibernetico at Victory Road, and here’s the batting order.
Keibler tells them the deadline for the batting order isn’t until next Saturday. Waltman swears blind he saw something about it being today. Stacy says “oh no, that’s just for Jerry Lynn’s team”. The three laugh as we head back to the ring.
The FBI were in their ring gear earlier thanks to having a match up shortly after – and it pitted them with fellow tag champions Simon Diamond and Swinger against Chris Harris, James Black, Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio.
The eight-man war went back-and-forth but it was the cruiser tag challengers and co-founding fathers of the titles that got another decision over the team they face at the PPV when a double-team Rubik’s Cube effort was thwarted by a Black superkick and Mysterio rolled into a Victory Roll on Maritato for the pin in 13:33.
Dustin Rhodes and Ron Killings were due to face off in non-title action stemming from their altercation backstage last week, but as Killings made his way to the ring slowly, insulting fans over the mic all the way, Rhodes launched out and put the US champ down with a clothesline, triggering a wild brawl that the officials and security struggled to contain. No match.
Booker T (2pts) and Shane Douglas (4pts) were up next in the Starrcade Series, and with Douglas getting an easy couple of points from Palumbo last week he was feeling confident about his chances of catching up Curt Hennig in the Block B ascendency.
His second, Palumbo himself, was a far more intimidating presence outside the ring than Booker’s admittedly-devious girlfriend Sharmell, but the arrival of Scott Hall, BG James, Mark Jindrak and CW Anderson as Booker started to get the better of the Franchise really gave the crowd a sense that a pro-Douglas fix was in.
However, a horde of WCW babyfaces – many of whom have not been fans of Book’s own behaviour over the last year – rushed out and triggered another brawl, which led to Booker reversing a Franchiser attempt into the Book End for the pin in 8:52 that brings him up level with Shane on four points.
Again, the fight between WCW and SEX is hard for arena staff to control. Booker himself looks to just get Sharmell and get out of there with his two points until Palumbo almost takes Sharmell’s head off with a wild lunge at Dustin Rhodes. This causes Booker to see red and pummel Chuck down.
As CW and BG come over and pull Book off, ready to attack, Jeff Jarrett sprints out and attacks both of his recent tormentors. As individual brawls are broken up and things finally begin to settle down, there is one man alone in the ring…
…Russo stands, mic in hand, and starts yelling “I’m sick of it!” over and over. He then moves onto specifying what he is sick of. He says he’s sick of being compromised, and handcuffed, and denied, and having his ability questioned.
He says he should have complete, unquestioned control over WCW just like he was promised three years ago. He begins to reel off a bunch of claims about his accomplishments, which provokes none other than Mike Tenay to leave the commentary table and join him in the ring.
Tenay mercilessly factchecks every one of his claims and brings them all down, before stating the real reason nobody wants Russo in control: he’s no good at it.
He says Russo has proven one positive thing in his career and that’s a genuine desire to help young wrestlers get more spotlight. He says he honestly believes that’s why SEX has so many members. They believe Russo wants to help them. And yet, at the top of it are “company destroyers” like Hall and Waltman and self-serving snakes like Shane Douglas and BG James.
Tenay says if Russo’s desire to help others was stronger than his desire to destroy anything that doesn’t go precisely his own way, he’d be a positive figure in WCW. Instead of loving wrestling, however, he has an irrational loathing for the very thing that made him a millionaire.
‘Iron’ Mike finishes by saying he felt so much anger towards Russo for months and honestly thought it would all manifest when he stepped into this ring tonight, but he finds himself asking, begging, pleading Russo to do the right thing: accept Bischoff’s offer of a buy-out and enjoy the profit. If he really cares about young wrestlers getting a chance, he’ll let them wrestle in a company that nearly died because of Russo’s wrath and greedy ‘names’ before.
Vince fakes being moved by Tenay’s speech before shockingly kicking ‘The Professor’ between the legs, bringing him down in a heap. He walks off and backstage while the other commentators jettison their headsets to check on their friend.
Backstage, Russo walks right past members of SEX still surprised and some even not happy with what just happened. As Russo nears the arena exit, Keibler catches up to him and asks where he’s going with the show still ongoing. Vince tells her to handle things, and that he doesn’t care, before leaving.
Sean Waltman and The Rejected defeated AJ Styles, Juventud Guerrera and Psicosis when Waltman landed a low blow on Juvi behind the ref’s back before following with the X-Factor at 10:49.
The announcers, sans Tenay, confirmed during the match that Keibler had released the names of Waltman’s Cibernetico team as being himself, Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels, Sonny Siaki, Matt Bentley and Tempest of the New Church — though they appear to be genuinely forcing their opponents to submit a batting order before announcing their later, with the benefit of seeing how Team WCW will operate.
Eric Bischoff walks straight into Stacy Keibler’s office and informs her that Russo’s actions as of late, especially tonight, have alarmed Turner execs to the point that they’ve summoned him to meetings next Saturday and Sunday, leaving him in charge of Victory Road weekend because they want the Starrcade Series and a major PPV to avoid descending into sheer chaos.
He then tells her Jerry Lynn has an extra week to submit his batting order for Torneo Cibernetico, the same timeframe as his opponents. Bischoff adds that he’ll also make sure CW Anderson has to settle things with Jeff Jarrett, one on one, at the PPV and that titles will be defended on the show whether SEX like it or not.
And one last thing, he adds, Keibler can take the entire weekend off. He’s got this. Stacy doesn’t like it, but without Russo backing her up she has no choice but to storm off.
Finally, it was time for one of the biggest bouts the Starrcade Series blocks had to offer this year. Diamond Dallas Page (6pts) looked to continue his perfect run Block A with victory over Sting (3pts), while the Stinger needed the win to stay alive. We were also informed via commentary that the New Church were banned from the ringside area, per Bischoff, following their recent plaguing of The Icon’s Series campaign.
This compelling collision between two of WCW’s most enduring heroes went back-and-forth until Page had a Diamond Cutter blocked and expertly turned into a Scorpion Deathdrop for three in 14:16. We cut to a clip of Lance Storm and Team Canada watching intently from their changing room as the result went down.
Post-match, Sting helped Page up and the two friends embraced, only for the New Church to attack now the match was over. They beat down both and thwarted a save attempt from Chris Kanyon and AMW, only for Goldberg’s music to hit.
As Goldberg ran out, however, he was blindsided by Shamrock with the title belt. New Church continued to obliterate their victims in the ring, ending with Malice chokeslamming Sting through a table, to close the show.
WCW Victory Road 2002 card so far:
- WCW World title: Ken Shamrock (c) vs Goldberg
- WCW Cruiserweight tag titles: FBI (c) vs Billy Kidman and Rey Misterio
- Starrcade Series finals: Block A winner vs Block B winner
- Jeff Jarrett vs CW Anderson
- Torneo Cibernetico: Jerry Lynn (capt), AJ Styles, Super Crazy, Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Tajiri, Kaz and Yang vs Sean Waltman (capt), Shane Helms, Shannon Moore, Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels, Sonny Siaki, Matt Bentley and Tempest
Starrcade Series standings after week six (all 12 participants have one match remaining):
Block A: Storm 7pts, DDP 6pts, Sting 5pts, Hall 4pts, CW 2pts, Rhodes 0pts – CW Anderson and Dustin Rhodes are eliminated
Block B: Hennig 6pts, Douglas 4pts, O’Haire 4pts, Booker T 4pts, Kanyon 3pts, Palumbo 3pts – Chris Kanyon is eliminated
Starrcade Series Finals permutations:
- In Block A, the final bouts are Dustin Rhodes vs Scott Hall, Sting vs CW Anderson and DDP vs Lance Storm.
- Victory via pinfall or submission for either DDP or Storm will secure a place in the Finals. If Page wins via non-deliberate countout or disqualification, he and Storm would meet in a tiebreaker also on Victory Road night. That tiebreaker could be a triangle match also involving Sting, if he also beats CW by pin or submission.
- Sting needs to beat CW Anderson via pinfall or submission to have a chance of the Finals. Then, if he does, he would need a DDP win via countout or disqualification to force a tiebreaker with Page.
- Scott Hall needs to beat Dustin Rhodes via pinfall or submission while CW Anderson beats Sting and Storm and Page ends in an unsporting double disqualification or count-out to force a tiebreaker with Storm.
- Dustin Rhodes and CW Anderson cannot qualify for the Finals.
- In Block B, the final bouts are Booker T vs Chuck Palumbo, Sean O’Haire vs Shane Douglas and Chris Kanyon vs Curt Hennig.
- Victory of any nature over Kanyon will send Hennig to the Finals.
- Both O’Haire and Douglas need a win via pinfall or submission over the other and for Kanyon to beat Hennig to force a tiebreaker, which could also be a triangle match if Booker T also wins by pinfall or submission. If Hennig gets himself deliberately disqualified or counted out, a CO/DQ win could also suffice and it would make a win by pinfall or submission enough to reach the Finals directly.
- Booker T must beat Palumbo by pinfall or submission and hope Kanyon defeats Hennig to force a tiebreaker. This could also be a triangle match if there is a pinfall/submission winner in the O’Haire/Douglas match and like that match, a Hennig -1pt score could allow for direct qualification to the Finals.
- Palumbo needs to beat Booker T by pin or submission, have Hennig get himself deliberately counted out or disqualified and a non-pinfall or submission result in O’Haire vs Douglas to force a tiebreaker with Hennig and either one or both of Sean and Shane.
- Chris Kanyon has no mathematical way of forcing a tiebreaker for the Finals.
Next time: Bischoff is back running the show the week before Victory Road while Russo is forced to explain his recent actions, and the Starrcade Series finalists are decided!