If Fusient Bought WCW #103: A Flair For Mediation

With stakeholder executives growing tired of the Eric Bischoff/Vince Russo war, a company legend is drafted in to ensure things come to a head…

If Fusient Bought WCW: Ric Flair

NOVEMBER 27, 2002: AIRTIME #47

Last time WCW was broadcast, their PPV main event was ruined by the appearance of a disheveled Vince Russo, despite the 51% owner apparently spending the weekend speaking to Turner executives about his recent decision-making.

Victory Road’s three-hour window closed on chaos and brawling throughout the building in Philadelphia. We can only hope to return to normal order (and perhaps find out what happened in the boardroom over the weekend) with this week’s shows.

Taped on November 26, along with the following Nitro, in Atlanta.

Nobody in Centre Stage, from the announcers to the crowd, quite expected the show to begin with Ric Flair’s music and the arrival of a suit-clad Nature Boy, sporting a sizeable bandage near the top of his head from Vince Russo and the ring bell on Sunday. Flair takes the mic and apologises for only just making his first appearance on AirTime, but he’s stoked to finally be here.

He says he owes us all an explanation for what’s going on and he’ll try not to take up too much time. On Sunday afternoon, following over a day’s worth of meetings with Turner higher-ups, Vince Russo was told that he was to step away from WCW decision making for 30 days. Eric Bischoff was then contacted by telephone and told the same. Turner told them they had 30 days to find a resolution for their conflict or else WCW would find themselves in the same position they almost did over 18 months ago: without a TV network and without any support.

Flair adds that it turns out Russo does value the importance of remaining on TV after all, as he complied. Turner themselves wanted to handpick the man to steer the ship from now until Starrcade and they went with a man who knows Starrcade better than any other: the Nature Boy! He says there is no Bischoff, no Russo and no Commissioner Keibler on his watch. Ric vows to spend the next 30 days delivering the best Starrcade we’ve ever seen and says he wants to begin by clearing up the cruiserweight championship pictures.

At Victory Road, AJ Styles won the first Cibernetico. It left a bit of a problem as the match was set to determine the next challenger. Tonight, Styles will defend against a man Flair says got a big win on the VR pre-show: Brian Kendrick. He says he also has some business to discuss with the Full Blooded Italians when they get here.

Then, on Saturday, he’s going to oversee Bischoff and Russo fixing this problem once and for all. And as much as he’d like to punch Russo square in the jaw for everything he’s done to Flair over the last few years, let alone on Sunday, he’s going to stick to his job assignment and do what’s best for the “greatest fans in the world” here at WCW. He does offer advance warning, however, that since Russo’s immediate reaction to the news was to ruin the ending of Victory Road, he won’t hesitate to take suitable action if either owner does anything “stupid”. Flair then apologises for taking up our time and says he’s looking forward to checking out AirTime.

The first match of the evening was a rematch from a few weeks ago when Lance Storm’s new Team Canada underlings debuted with a win over Red and the Maximos. This time, Young, Devine and Hart fell to defeat when Hart ate a Spanish Fly in 10:19. Coach Storm chewed out the trio for suffering their first loss, no doubt still seething himself after being beaten in the Starrcade Series finals.

We see Paul London catch up to American Dragon backstage. He apologises for how things have been between them and says Kendrick has been at the root of all of this. Now he’s apparently talked Jamie Knoble into backing him up. He proposes that he and AmDrag tackle this threat with a united front. Dragon nods his head and leaves.

Jerry Lynn was out to teach Tempest a lesson in respect in our next contest, having been attacked by an out-of-control Tempest during Torneo Cibernetico. He was on top of most of their bout, until Father James Mitchell slipped his man a crowbar for the DQ in 6:04 following a couple of shots to Lynn’s ribs. Extra officials had to get a crazed Tempest out of there.

Glenn Gilbertti is with the FBI, Johnny Stamboli and Ric Flair in Flair’s office. Ric tells them that Eric Bischoff used his power last Saturday to set up a cruiser tag title bout between York and Matthews and whoever came out of Victory Road with the belts for Starrcade. The SEX members react angrily, with Glenn claiming Y&M “blew their chance”.

No, says Flair, FBI ran out on the match. So, Bischoff has set this up where it will truly be Y&M’s last chance of 2002 and thus their last chance to stay in WCW. In the match, if FBI get disqualified or counted out, the titles will change hands.

The heels react even more to that news, with Gilbertti cursing Bischoff for doing such a thing. Flair points out that actually, the last part was something he added himself, since the FBI got themselves counted out once against York and Matthews, and got themselves DQd another time.

At Starrcade, Flair says, one team will prove they are better once and for all, just the way it should be. He finishes by telling the group to get the hell out of his office.

AJ Styles retained the cruiserweight title against Brian Kendrick in a competitive 12:35 battle with the Styles Clash. Jamie Knoble was at ringside with Kendrick, continuing their baffling association with one another, but moments after his one and only physical intervention in the match he was attacked out of nowhere by former partner David Kash. The two brawled out of sight and Styles wrapped up another title defence.

As AJ celebrated the win, Flair came onto the stage and congratulated him on the match and a great 12 months. He says he was going to spend the hour trying to figure out who should challenge for the title at Starrcade but then about 30mins ago he received the following video that he’s going to play shortly, which actually makes his life a lot easier.

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The video then plays on the big screen above Flair – and it’s a highlight reel of Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, played to his entrance theme. It finishes with a close-up recording of Liger saying: “AJ Styles… title match… Starrcade.” AJ cannot hide his surprise as the announcers mention that Liger still has a World Cup title shot to cash in, and another episode of AirTime comes to an end.

NOVEMBER 30, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #82

A shocking week of developments in WCW have led to the television higher-ups who gave the company a second chance and can just as easily take it away move to have co-owners Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo removed from day-to-day operations for a month in order to save Starrcade – and the entire promotion – from completely imploding in the midst of its civil war.

They have turned to the face AOL Time Warner likely recognise the most – and the name Turner have relied upon for decades – to keep things grounded and deliver a great annual showpiece: the Nature Boy, Ric Flair.

One of Flair’s biggest early tasks as acting Commissioner will be to oversee summit talks between the two warring bosses, in the ring tonight, in hopes of ending the conflict once and for all.

We also have a Starrcade main event as Sean O’Haire overcame a nightmare start to win the second annual Starrcade Series. The homegrown star will challenge WCW champion Ken Shamrock – though Goldberg will no doubt have something to say after being robbed at Victory Road.

And it’s Flair himself who opens the show, entering the ring and offering a brisker version of the events that led to his appointment, explained in full on AirTime. He says he’ll be fixing this between Bischoff and Russo once and for all later tonight – impartially and decisively – but first he wants to continue to get Starrcade 2002 cooking on all cylinders.

Flair congratulates Sean O’Haire but says he lost along the way to Chuck Palumbo and Booker T, who will attempt to ‘dispute’ his contendership in return matches between now and Starrcade. It’ll be the two former tag partners in action tonight.

He then says he’s seen the WCW tag champs, Simon and Swinger, beat all the top teams in front of them, including the best three challengers all in one night on Sunday. He says he also knows they’ve used plenty of shortcuts along the way. Flair says he can partly feel their style as the ‘dirtiest player in the game’ but also feels the challengers deserve a fair crack.

The Commish says he won’t be doing any ‘WCW or SEX’ tug of wars with the belts as long as all his champions are fighting champions and the company operates properly. Tonight, AMW, Los Guerreros and DDP & Kanyon face off in a one-fall triangle match. Two teams will be frozen out of the title picture as long as Simon and Swinger remain champs. The winners will get one more shot at Starrcade.

He also says he has a huge first-time main event as Goldberg will team up with AJ Styles to face Hall & Waltman. He’s then cut off by the music of one Jeff Jarrett…

Jarrett heads straight to the ring, appearing to have taped ribs underneath his shirt going by brief glimpses of the waist area, and says he wants to tell Flair, face-to-face, that while he doesn’t have any beef with him these days he doesn’t need his help either, referring to Ric rushing down to the ring when Jeff was put through a flipped-over table by CW Anderson.

Flair says he came down to stop Anderson and BG James doing any more damage because he knows exactly where Jarrett is right now – he was there himself only last summer, remember? He says he knows how Jeff feels, with the urge to do the right thing in a crucial moment for WCW. Jarrett says Flair knows jack.

Ric continues and notes that neither he nor Jeff are saints but that’s why they gravitate towards each other. They’ll do what it takes to get ahead but they have principles and a love for the sport second to none. So, while he has Jarrett out here, here’s what he’s doing to do. He’s going to give him the match he wanted with Anderson that CW slipped out of with a fake injury, – IF Jarrett can first beat both Mark Jindrak and Shane Douglas. Flair says Jarrett needs to stare his past completely in the face if he is to put it right and kick CW’s ass once and for all. JJ doesn’t respond per se, just walking off.

The first bout of the night was the rematch between O’Haire and Palumbo. Starrcade Series winner O’Haire needed to avenge his Block B loss to his former partner to prevent his main event spot being disputed, but he did just that with an F5 followed by the Seanton in 7:00.

As soon as the bell rang, it was not Sean’s music but that of Booker T that hit the arena as he and Sharmell came to the ring. He stared down O’Haire… then dropped Palumbo with a Harlem Sidekick, clearly still seething at Chuck for putting Sharmell in harm’s way a few weeks back.

He grabs a mic and tells O’Haire that now he has “this piece of garbage” out of the way, he should focus on dealing with Booker T next week, because the five-time champ has every intention on muscling his way into the WCW title picture at Starrcade yet. The heels leave as quickly as they came.

Backstage, a cameraman has picked up on Glenn Gilbertti and Shane Douglas arguing inside the SEX locker room. We see only the closed door but can hear them through it, and it sounds as though they are disagreeing on which of them is Russo’s ‘sergeant’ in SEX.

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Shane says Glenn screwed up Cibernetico by getting ejected. Gilbertti points out three assists he made in that match, plus the two tag title matches. He accuses Douglas of being nowhere near a team player, to which the Franchise says the young boys of SEX look up to him. Glenn scoffs, and the bickering continues.

America’s Most Wanted emerged victorious from the triangle tag with Los Guerreros and DDP/Kanyon. One of their best performances yet in a year of continual growth, AMW looked every bit the veterans their opponents actually were and impressively pinned Page to secure the title shot at Starrcade, hitting DDP with the Death Sentence in 16:29.

We are then treated to a sight we had been robbed of for several months: Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller dancing inside a Nitro ring!

Miller says he’s back, baby, and it’s all thanks to Eric Bischoff. He says he suspected that Russo was going to pull a fast one on him for some time while still Commish, but though he was able to put a few contingency plans in place with the power he had, he wasn’t able to keep himself on the roster. That’s changed, with Bischoff pulling a few fast ones on his own.

He tells Russo that what goes around, comes around – and he can’t wait to go around and plant a kick between his old friend’s eyes. Speaking of old friends, he says even he didn’t see Ron Killings’ betrayal coming, calling him a scumbag for begging him for a job so he could provoke him into getting fired from the start.

He says he sees Ron has a little ‘reward’ for being Russo’s “bitch” in the form of the US title on his shoulder, and he’s going to take it away from him. Killings comes out and says, pretty directly: “you want a piece of me? You want a shot at this belt? Here’s my answer: no.” He then leaves to a chorus of boos.

Lucha tradition met disrespectful rebellion in eight-man tag action next as Triple X and The Rejected teamed up to represent SEX against Rey Mysterio, Super Crazy, Psicosis and Juventud Guerrera. Crazy and Psicosis in particular were fired up for this one after the way they were eliminated from Torneo Cibernetico by their opponents, but the questionable tactics of the heels once again paid dividends as Shannon Moore turned Rey’s mask around, blinding him before he could finish off Daniels. Helms then added a Sugar Smack and Daniels covered at 8:52. After the match, the SEX members put the boots to their foes and mocked the pride and traditions of the luchadores.

We see DDP backstage getting his neck iced when Kanyon comes over to check in on him. Page says not really, no, then asks his friend to sit down. He says Kanyon has a long and successful career ahead of him but he thinks his own is winding down. He tells Chris that they’ve gotta end the team.

Kanyon is surprised, and asks if he’s sure. Page says he doesn’t know how many matches he has left in him. They shake hands and hug, as Kanyon gets up and leaves.

Kidman teamed with York & Matthews to beat the FBI and Johnny Stamboli. The challengers for the cruiserweight tag titles at Starrcade came off a top turnbuckle near the walkway respectively, onto each member of the champs as they regrouped on the walkway. Kidman then converted a Stamboli powerbomb into a facebuster and finished him off with the SSP in 8:41.

Y&M taunted the FBI as they backtracked up the walkway towards the stage on their backsides after the match. It’s do or die for Christian and Joey come Starrcade.

In a pre-tape, WCW champion Ken Shamrock says things are fine between Vince Russo and himself. He was upset in the heat of the moment that he didn’t get the chance to make Goldberg tap out, but he is the champ and Goldberg failed to beat him, so he’s at the back of the line.

He then says he hasn’t even given O’Haire a moment’s thought as he’s just a “young punk” who’ll be out of his depth, says the champ. He believes O’Haire should just forfeit his title match to Booker T when he loses to him next week, or else he’ll make him want to quit wrestling after Starrcade.

Rob Van Dam makes his way out to the ring and tells the fans it feels good to be back. It’s one thing to miss months and lose the WCW title because of injury but when that injury was caused by an attack outside the ring, it leaves an extra degree of bitterness. He says he’ll cut to the chase: he wants Malice, one-on-one, No Holds Barred at Starrcade.

Out come the New Church, led by Father James Mitchell. Mitchell tells RVD from the walkway to be careful what he wishes for… before sending all four of his henchmen to the ring to attack! RVD catches Sinn coming in with a high kick but soon finds himself outnumbered. The four-on-one doesn’t last long, however, as here comes Jerry Lynn with a chair.

Shots land to Tempest and Slash before Malice grabs him by the throat… and the lights go out. When they come back on, Sting’s here with the bat and that’s enough to send the heels packing. Lynn tosses the chair to Malice for a Van Daminator to send the monster scurrying. Whatever happens at Starrcade, it looks like RVD won’t be outgunned again.

A big tag team main event saw AJ Styles and Goldberg team up for the first time to face SEX’s chief tormentors, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman. Styles endured a beating from both before making the hot tag to Goldberg, and ‘Da Man’ went to work, eventually pinning Waltman with a Spear and Jackhammer in 9:54.

SEX members rushed the ring immediately after the decision but were soon met by WCW’s usual cavalry – this time, however, the mass brawl was only a few moments old when it was brought to a halt by the sound of Ric Flair on the house mic saying “anyone who wants to be fired, keep fighting”.

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Flair ordered every wrestler out of the building. Their night is over, he told them, otherwise their careers are over. By the time we returned from the ad break, Flair had the ring to himself and said it was time to end all of this. He brought out Eric Bischoff and then Vince Russo.

Flair tells them both that financially owning the rights to something means very little if they treat it like crap, and that’s exactly why he’s in charge and the company, the money it makes us all and the fans it entertains week after week needs a resolution to this civil war before Jamie Kellner steps in and pulls the plug for real, this time.

Russo says Bischoff, Flair, Turner and everyone else are all clueless when it comes to drawing a massive audience. Bischoff and Flair pause, and then laugh in his face, pointing out the successes all three men have had.

Bischoff says the difference is that two of these three men have learned from when they made mistakes and drove people away. Just like when they tried to work together in 2000, Bischoff/Russo was doomed to fail says Eric because Russo is only in it to have everyone listening to him.

Russo says look who’s talking, and claims the simple fact is that people want Crash TV, sex and violence and he intends to give it to them his way with zero interference. So, how about this for a resolution, says Russo: he will accept Bischoff’s offer of a buyout from the other week… IF Bischoff’s team wins a match at Starrcade against Russo’s team. If Russo wins, the reverse happens and Bischoff must allow Vince to buy him out completely. Like BATB, but with 100% at stake and not just 2%.

Eric says Russo played his hand on that one at BATB already and he’s not going to risk everything on one match where his little tricks and “swerves” make all the difference. Vince begins to taunt Bischoff for being a “chicken”, but Eric already had a counter-offer in mind.

He suggests not one match at Starrcade, but three. Two out of three for complete control. He wants to see it be less about one Russo ‘fast one’ and more about who wants it the most, from the owners down to every member of each side in this war. Bischoff then suggests making the WCW title match between Shamrock and O’Haire the decider, with a heavyweight tag match and a cruiserweight tag match.

Russo cuts in and mocks Bischoff again for having such a soft spot for cruiserweight wrestling, adding that the first thing he wants to do when he is 100% owner is scrap the cruiser belts, bin the division and even get AirTime taken off the air. As a matter of fact, he says, he could really do without the big fight with those busybodies at Turner when he wants AirTime gone etc, so how about they up the ante?

If Russo’s men wrap this battle up in two straight matches, Vince wants it in writing that the cruisers, their titles and their show are all gone and all wrestlers must make weight at 215lb or over. If Turner wanna force him to find a ‘resolution’ then this is a condition to there being a resolution.

Bischoff clearly doesn’t like this prospect, but then has an idea. He says he’s in, as long as he gets a ‘perk’ if his men win in two straight. Russo says name it. If WCW get the job done before the main event, Eric decides, then Vince Russo must wrestle… Ric Flair! This puts a beam on the interim Commish’s face, but Russo immediately refuses. He says Flair cannot be partial in this.

Ric then cuts in and says actually, he wouldn’t be involved at all unless Russo lost two straight, in which case it’d all be over and all that’d be left is an angry Nature Boy and the man who put a dozen stiches in his head and made his life hell two years ago.

Bischoff then reminds Flair that back then, Russo offered Flair five minutes in the ring with him if he got involved in a match, only to convince his own son to get involved against his father. Russo says fine, we have a deal… but the same time limit applies. Five minutes with Russo if Bischoff wins both the cruiser and the heavyweight tag.

Flair then adds that not a single other soul will interfere with the match unless they like being fired. Russo, not happy about being checkmated, agrees and he and Bischoff shake hands… only for Russo to cheapshot Bischoff right on the jaw before fleeing the scene and hopping the rail, escaping into the night. Flair checks on a rocked Bischoff as the show ends.

Starrcade 2002 card so far:

  • Fight For Control Match #3, WCW World title: Ken Shamrock (c) vs Sean O’Haire
  • Fight For Control Match #2: WCW heavyweights vs SEX heavyweights
  • Fight For Control Match #1: WCW cruiserweights vs SEX cruiserweights

If WCW wins the FFC in two straight, Ric Flair gets 5mins with Vince Russo

If SEX wins the FFC in two straight, the cruiserweight division will be abolished

  • WCW World tag titles: Simon and Swinger (c) vs America’s Most Wanted
  • WCW Cruiserweight title: AJ Styles (c) vs Jushin Liger
  • WCW Cruiserweight tag titles: Full Blooded Italians (c) vs York and Matthews

The titles can change hands on a count-out or DQ. If Y&M lose, they will leave WCW.

Stacy Keibler has decided to leave WCW upon expiry of her contract, and has thus been written out.

Next time: Bischoff and Russo begin their recruitment for the final battle of the war, while Sean O’Haire must defend his right to main event Starrcade against Booker T!

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