DECEMBER 4, 2002: AIRTIME #48
The mayhem of the last six months has finally been controlled and high-stakes matches are set for Starrcade. Either Eric Bischoff or Vince Russo will take full control of WCW after the annual extravaganza.
Not only that, but Russo is aiming to eradicate the entire cruiserweight division by winning the three-match series in two straight, a stipulation which would allow him to sidestep any pushback from AOL Time Warner or anyone else on the matter.
Thankfully, the WCW cruisers are involved in one of the matches, meaning their fate is in their own hands. Who will step up to the challenge? We know AJ Styles won’t be able to, on this occasion – Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger’ is finally calling in his World Cup title opportunity and will challenge the cruiserweight champion at the PPV. But the company has its fair share of tenured junior-heavys who have fought tooth-and-nail against SEX for the last six months.
Taped on December 3, along with the following Nitro, in Nashville.
We do not have to wait long to discover what else is in store, as the hour begins with footage from earlier this afternoon. Interim Commissioner Flair is stood in the ring of a near-empty arena, surrounded by crew workers busy putting something together. He’s looking up at the roof – or, as we soon realise when the camera follows his line of sight, the Ultimate X structure!
Flair says Starrcade just got a lot wilder. The second ever Ultimate X match is coming to DC, and tonight, he says, with the structure looming over them, four men will battle it out for two of the four spots in the match. It’s also worth noting that the AirTime set appears to be getting a facelift from the crew after SEX’s wreckage of it a month ago.
Match number one was indeed our first bout for a slot in Ultimate X, and as the show heads to the arena properly for the first time, we see that Flair has indeed commissioned a brand-new AirTime set, replacing the wreckage from before and looking better than ever. Juventud Guerrera then pinned The Amazing Red with the Juvi Driver in 8:24 to advance to Starrcade.
We see highlights of AJ Styles finding out that Liger is coming for him at Starrcade, before moving onto Jeremy Borash who has Styles with him. AJ says he’s won this belt, he’s lost it and he’s won it back. He’s taken on all comers, sometimes one at a time and even 15 at once. He even won the first Ultimate X. So if Liger wants to try his luck, bring it on, he says, because 2002 is his year and the cruiserweight division is his realm.
Matt Bentley and Sonny Siaki of SEX defeated the Jung Dragons in 11:01 when Shane Douglas ran down and distracted the referee to prevent a count when the faces Unleashed The Dragon on Siaki, allowing Bentley to come off the top with an elbow to the back of Kaz’s head as he covered Sonny. Bentley then flipped Kaz and Siaki over, then sent Yang flying out of the ring after Jimmy had dropkicked Douglas away. All three SEXers left together.
Backstage, Douglas tells both men that he sees great potential in them and some of the other younger members of the group. He tells them not to worry about what Glenn Gilbertti says as he only cares about the champions in the group. Follow the Franchise, Shane says, and they’ll become the next big stars.
In our last match of the evening, Psicosis joined his compatriot Juvi in the Ultimate X, qualifying by beating Brian Kendrick in 10:17 with the Guillotine Legdrop. ***½
The commentators tell us that the other two participants will be decided in seven days’ time, that the winner of Ultimate X will become number one contender to the cruiserweight title, and that they hope to have a title at all by the end of the PPV but with Flair moving forward with cruiserweight plans in such a manner, he seems to have 100% confidence that the cruisers can survive this threat and as a result, so do they.
The show concludes with a video of Rey Mysterio sat in a dressing room, his back to the camera and his mask in his hands. As he stares as his ‘reflection’, he recalls his history with the mask, how it felt to have it stripped from his face and what it means to have it back.
He says SEX has been trying to destroy the culture of junior heavyweight wrestling, of luchadores, but they’ll do so over his dead body. He turns to face the camera, our first full glimpse of his face since he was injured in the summer of 2001, and tells Eric Bischoff that if he truly wants to atone for the sins of his time on top of the world for taking the mask of Rey and others, for everything else, he’ll make Mysterio the captain of Team WCW in the cruiserweight match at Starrcade and allow him to lead the charge to end SEX once and for all.
DECEMBER 7, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #83
We are just over a fortnight away from the end of the WCW vs SEX war, but will it also be the end of WCW as we know it? Vince Russo has made clear his plans to completely revamp what World Championship Wrestling is, and going by his periods of power in 1999 and 2000 a WCW completely owned by Russo would be sheer chaos.
His plans rest in the hands of a select band of his best cruiserweight soldiers, his best heavyweight soldiers and his WCW champion, Ken Shamrock. Eric Bischoff, meanwhile, has been propositioned by Rey Mysterio to let him lead the cruiserweight team “to atone for his prior sins against luchadores”. Will he accept? And if he does, who will Rey recruit, since fellow unmasked-in-WCW luchas Juvi and Psicosis are now set for the second ever Ultimate X match?
And will Sean O’Haire indeed go on to represent WCW in the third and final battle for control against Shamrock, or will Booker T have something to say about that tonight? All of that, plus a monumental WCW main event: Diamond Dallas Page one-on-one with Goldberg!
Opening the show was the ‘Chosen Few Gauntlet’, with Jeff Jarrett needing to beat both Mark Jindrak and Shane Douglas to get his hands on the third former member of his crew, the man who threw their friendship away at Halloween Havoc, CW Anderson.
Jindrak started things off and went back-and-forth with JJ, who still had his ribs taped up, until Jarrett slipped behind a powerbomb attempt and nailed the Stroke. Rather than cover, Jeff instead locked on another old move of his – and the signature move of the man forcing him to face his past, Ric Flair – the figure-four leglock for the tapout at 6:55.
Shane Douglas ran down the walkway immediately, with Torrie Wilson struggling to keep up, such was the eagerness of the Franchise to jump Jarrett as quickly as possible. Douglas was on top of the tired Jarrett for several minutes before Jeff dodged a wild charge and mounted a comeback, only for Jindrak to hop up on the apron and get punched straight back down. This enabled Douglas to hit JJ right between the legs for the DQ after 5:21, in a scene reminiscent of when SEX first laid waste to Jeff Jarrett.
Torrie, at Shane’s behest, then handed her man a steel chair which Douglas brought down on the skull of Jarrett. By virtue of winning the match, commentary believed Jeff nonetheless got his match with CW. However, as he laid unconscious in the middle of the ring, Anderson casually walked out, stepped between the ropes and covered Jarrett for three in 0:05.
The three former allies of Jarrett then embraced in the ring, and CW told the other two to get a table. They set it up in the corner – legs facing out once more, bringing back worrying memories of Victory Road. Before anything could happen, however, Los Guerreros ran out with chairs and scared off the SEX members.
Vince Russo is stood talking to the SEX locker room, with Glenn Gilbertti sat down next to him. He says their moment has finally come and all they need to do is come through at Starrcade, what he claims will be the last ever Starrcade because all of the “stupid old show names” will be straight out the window when he’s in sole control.
He says if Turner and the suits do not like it, they can buzz off too as he’ll take the shows somewhere else, maybe even on the internet. But the final piece is the puzzle is to select the two teams that will wrap this up in two straight, destroy cruiserweight wrestling and give Ken Shamrock a nice easy night with no extra distractions.
He wants to introduce the four men who one week ago proved they are just the men to destroy the labels that have held them down for years, and who have been what real cruiserweight-sized wrestlers should be for ages: Triple X and The Rejected. Just then, the ex-Chosen Few chapter of SEX returns to the room and exchanges hugs with Russo, though Gilbertti only offers high 5’s to Jindrak and CW and nothing at all for Douglas.
Vince says that’s exactly the sort of men he wants on the second team and all three are high on his list, but he challenges the entire remainder of the faction to step up and show why they deserve to be the ones to put the final nail in WCW’s coffin.
Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn were opponents just before RVD’s injury at the hands of the New Church, and have been on-off rivals for many years. However tonight they teamed up to face two of Father James Mitchell’s henchmen, Sinn and Slash. It was confirmed during the bout on commentary that Van Dam will indeed get a shot at revenge on Malice, No Holds Barred, at Starrcade.
After a fast start for the ECW alumni, Lynn was kept in the New Church corner for a while until the hot tag was made and RVD was a house of fire. Lynn came back into things just before Van Dam could find himself outnumbered and a Cradle Piledriver to legal man Sinn left him ripe for the Five Star Frog Splash and the pin at 9:20.
Mitchell immediately waved to the back and out came Tempest and Malice, who laid waste to the tired faces. A Malice chokeslam to RVD and a Tempest Mindbender to Lynn put them both out at the hands of the men who had been particular thorns in their side as of late.
Sting arrives in Eric Bischoff’s office, and asks why Bischoff wanted to see him. Eric tells the Icon that he has been WCW’s guiding light for over a decade, and has saved the company countless times. Because of this, he can think of no better leader of his heavyweight group at Starrcade.
Sting says he better have accepted Rey’s request on AirTime regarding the cruisers, if he wants the Stinger to follow along. Bischoff says he saw it, and will meet Mysterio to discuss it later but admits Rey is right: he has some of his own short-sightedness to make up for and he plans on doing that tonight and at the PPV. Sting says he’s in, under condition that he picks the team his way. Bischoff says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Chris Kanyon beat Lance Storm by disqualification in just 3:46 when Team Canada jumped in and put the boots to Kanyon. Storm called them all off and chastised them for ruining his match so early and at the cost of a loss, then ordered them to hold Kanyon up so he could level him with a superkick.
Glenn Gilbertti brings Simon Diamond and Swinger plus the Full Blooded Italians to the ring. He says these four champions are his legacy as a sports agent, four new recruits to WCW he rescued from “some bingo hall” and took to the top. He says despite this, people treat America’s Most Wanted and York & Matthews like the hottest acts to arrive since the company dodged death in 2001.
Because of this, he continues, the FBI will run Y&M out of here once and for all at Starrcade and Simon and Swinger will beat AMW down so badly they’ll run out of the company of their own free will. He proposes an eight man tag for next week on Nitro as a ‘taster’ of what his clients will do at the PPV.
Ric Flair then makes his way to the stage, and the interim commish tells Gilbertti that he heard a lot of talk about people running, but there’ll be nowhere for his boys to run at Starrcade because he plans on ensuring two fair tag team fights.
He reminds us all that the cruiser tag belts can change hands on a DQ and countout, so the FBI will have no choice but to run Y&M out of here rather than just run away themselves like they usually do. He then notes that Simon and Swinger need similar boundaries to ensure they either beat AMW for the final time or they lose the belts.
Flair then fakes having a ‘Eureka!’ moment right there and then, and says AMW vs Simon and Swinger will be held inside a 15-foot-high steel cage at the PPV! This freaks out the SEXers while Flair whooooos and leaves.
BG James defeated Curt Hennig, turning a Hennigplex attempt into a rolling schoolboy cradle and sticking both feet on the middle rope for the pin in 4:44. While Hennig protested the fall to the official, James blindsided him and left him laying, for good measure.
We go back to Bischoff’s office where, true to Eric’s word, Rey Mysterio is there with his mask back on. Bischoff tells Rey that it took his fall from glory in 1999 and the subsequent business practices of Russo for him to realise the monster he became in the mid-1990s, and he apologises for taking his and so many other lucha masks away.
He says Rey strikes him as a forefather of this very division and the ideal candidate to lead the cruiser team, so he’s in as captain. He did want to go over some team choices with him personally, however, citing that Jerry Lynn has been superb since joining and has proven his loyalty to the division. Rey says it’s a great choice and one that was definitely around the top of his list, as is his longtime partner Kidman.
Bischoff says perfect, but there is a piece of information he wanted to share with Mysterio before he chose a fourth and final team member. He then shows Rey a piece of paper which looks like some sort of medical certificate and which provokes a large smile even through the mask and Mysterio says “Low Ki is back! He’s in!”
US champ Ron Killings teamed with Chuck Palumbo next to face Dustin Rhodes and, in his first match since the Big Bang, The Cat!
Rhodes, understandably, handled most of the match and in fact, Miller wasn’t tagged in at all until a hot tag following a 2-on-1 on Dustin for a little while.
He landed some kicks on Palumbo but Killings dodged one and got the hell out of there. Chuck blindsided Cat and went for a Jungle Kick but Ernest ducked and spun right around into a Feliner at 5:39.
Killings retreated all the way backstage with his US title, but Ric Flair was right there waiting for him. Flair launched a tirade at ‘The Truth’ for thinking he could decide when he would and would not defend the title, referring to his refusal of Cat’s challenge last week.
He says he will face the music against the man he sold down the river, with the title on the line, at Starrcade, and dares Killings to react to the news the way he did when Cat put him in his place as commish, promising it’ll have him stripped and fired before he can say “waaahhh, everyone has it in for me!”. Killings pauses but instead lets out a frustrated yell and storms off.
Seeing the cameraman right there, Flair tells the crew member to follow him as he makes his way to the SEX locker room and marches right in. Russo and co are still hanging out and freeze when they see that Ric, knowing his current position makes him untouchable for once against the ruthless army, yells out for Anderson.
CW emerges from the shower area in a towel and Flair tells him that he gave Jeff a gauntlet match to get through because like himself, he had to pay for his choices in life. But the deal was, if he beat Jindrak and Douglas he got a piece of CW. From what Flair saw, he carried out his end but didn’t get that fight with CW.
Flair says Anderson has slipped out of facing his own music and paying for his own choices twice, but that ends at Starrcade. It’ll be Jarrett vs Anderson in a Bunkhouse Brawl!
CW yells that he cannot do that and Flair says he can – and not even Vince Russo can stop him. But you know what else he’s going to do? The winner of that match is #1 contender to the WCW title.
This surprises but pleases CW, as Ric explains that on his watch bad choices will be punished but good performances will be rewarded so if Anderson can survive what Jarrett is gonna to do him and get a legitimate three count at the dn of it all, he deserves a shot at the title. Flair departs as the SEX faction process all of the news.
Next was the bout between Sean O’Haire and Booker T, based on Book’s win over Sean in the block stage of the Starrcade Series. The commentators note that Booker can dispute O’Haire’s win of the Series and #1 contendership at Starrcade if he wins this match, which could lead to a triangle title match at the PPV or perhaps even a replacement altogether, if Eric Bischoff feels Booker could stand a better chance of potentially saving the company vs Shamrock off the back of beating O’Haire twice.
Commentary also discuss during the match how O’Haire lost to Booker T in a title match after winning Battlebowl, meaning he’s currently 0-2 against the former WCW champ, and also pinned Hennig, not Book at Victory Road to win the tie-breaker.
O’Haire spent much of the match struggling to outwrestle the veteran, and having Booker and Sharmell conspire to cheat whenever Sean did gather momentum. Things finally turned in his favour when he turned a Harlem sidekick attempt into a belly-to-back suplex. Sharmell distracted the ref on the cover and O’Haire got in her face, but when Booker attempted to blindside his opponent he moved and T sent his other half flying down to the floor.
Shocked at what happened, Booker almost fell to an F5 but escaped and looked for an Ax Kick, only for O’Haire to scoop him right back up for the F5 from the doubled-over position, which got him the pin in 11:32 and finally ended his struggles against Booker T. More importantly for O’Haire, his title challenge at Starrcade was 100% locked in. It’s Sean vs Shamrock!
After the match, Booker rolled out and tended to Sharmell while O’Haire celebrated until Shamrock’s music hit. He marched out to the ring and got in his next challenger’s face, holding aloft the belt they’ll fight over in a fortnight.
The announcers run down the Starrcade card so far. The four-hour event is already pretty loaded with more names in some matches to be confirmed and who knows what else. We’re also told that Glenn Gilbertti’s challenge for an eight-man tag next week has been accepted, and it’ll be Paul London vs Super Crazy and Tajiri vs American Dragon to decide the final two spots for Ultimate X on AirTime.
Finally, Halloween Havoc 1998 was revisited as DDP took on Goldberg in a clash of the titans. Their slow-burn match included many callbacks to their epic WCW title match from four years ago but ultimately, the result was the same as Goldberg hit the Spear and Jackhammer to win in 10:38.
Goldberg helped Page up after the win and the two embraced… then Sting’s music hit and the man in paint came down the walkway to join the duo in the ring.
He told them that very few men in WCW’s history stayed the course and remained true to their personal values no matter who invaded and what threatened the promotion.
Sting says if they are to get rid of Russo in power once and for all, the team at Starrcade needs to be an alliance of the company’s biggest cornerstones, men who have weathered the nWo, the Turner twists and turns and not one or two but three attempts by Russo to contaminate their company. That’s why he wants… both of them on Team WCW.
It doesn’t take long for either man to accept. However, as the three pose for the fans, they’re blindsided by Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and BG James carrying a baseball bat, a set of nunchucks and a lead pipe, respectively. The show runs out of time as the SEX heels bring the WCW loyalists down with their weapons.
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: Sting, Goldberg, DDP and ? vs Four SEX heavyweights
- Fight For Control Match #1: Rey Mysterio, Kidman, Jerry Lynn & Low Ki vs Triple X & The Rejected
(Whichever side wins two out of three Fight For Control Matches will win 100% ownership for either Eric Bischoff (WCW) or Vince Russo (SEX). If WCW wins the FFC series in two straight, Ric Flair gets 5mins with Vince Russo. If SEX wins the FFC series in two straight, the cruiserweight division will be abolished)
- WCW World tag titles, steel cage match: Simon & Swinger (c) vs America’s Most Wanted
- WCW United States title: Ron Killings (c) vs Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller
- 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.)
- Ultimate X: Juventud Guerrera vs Psicosis vs ??? vs ???
- Bunkhouse Brawl for a WCW title shot: Jeff Jarrett vs CW Anderson
- No Holds Barred: Rob Van Dam vs Malice
Next time: Who will round out the teams for the crucial heavyweight eight-man tag at Starrcade? And who will earn the final two spots in Ultimate X 2?