An exhausting and historic World Cup is in the books, with a new WCW champion, (sort of) new WCW tag team champs and a dramatic play-off Cup win for Japan. We are set to hear from the victorious nation on AirTime as they celebrate their huge victory, while Nitro will mark one year since the company returned from the brink of doom with their ‘Big Bang’. Not only that, but the promotion begins the road to Slamboree, which has been confirmed this year to be a PPV filled with nostalgic touches and ‘Old School Style’.
MAY 1, 2002: AIRTIME #17
Taped on April 30 in Atlanta, along with the following Nitro.
And indeed, we begin with the official victory celebration for Team Japan. Liger has already returned home to tour with NJPW, but captain Tajiri is joined by the Jung Dragons to accept the trophy and medals from Cat and Keibler. Cat reminds them that part of the prize is a championship match for every member of the winning team – any title, with a minimum of seven days’ notice.
Jimmy Yang says he and Kaz know exactly what they want: they say they know they are better than Jamie Knoble and David Kash and are the original cruiserweight tag team in WCW. They want the belts and they want it to happen at the next PPV, Slamboree. Cat says consider it done. Tajiri says in broken English that AirTime is giving cruiserweight wrestlers a voice. It helped allow the World Cup to happen and everything else that follows and he wants to give back.
He wants the WCW World Championship. And he wants the title match to take place on AirTime for the first time. Cat says he can have it on next week’s show as that’s seven days and Tajiri accepts. Stacy Keibler says that Liger has 12 months to use his opportunity. This appears news to Cat, but he agrees.
The commentary team belatedly welcome us and reveal that Lance Storm will be having his own celebration ceremony on Nitro after winning the WCW World title and becoming the first WCW cruiserweight champ to go on to win the heavyweight strap. He’ll then defend for the first time against DDP in the main event. Saturday’s Nitro will also be a one-year celebration of the return of WCW.
Super Crazy and Psicosis continued their alliance from Team Mexico at the World Cup and defeated Sonny Siaki and Jorge Estrada. The commentators promised us words from all three defeated WC teams tonight. Crazy hit the three moonsaults on Siaki for the three count after 6:40.
We join Crazy and Psicosis in returning to the dressing room, where Juventud Guerrera and Rey Mysterio also find themselves. Crazy debriefs, saying they gave a great effort and should be proud, in Spanish. Juventud replies, in English, that maybe their effort would have been enough if Mysterio had his old passion for cruiserweight competition rather than having one eye on the heavyweights. This leads to a heated argument and Crazy and Psicosis having to stand between the two.
Meanwhile, we see footage from after the PPV where Kidman speaks to his team and apologises for failing them in the sudden death play-off. Jett, Moore and Ki tell him that he has nothing to apologise for, and thank him for one hell of a ride. They encourage him to go and get closure against Helms and tell him if he needs anyone to watch his back, he knows where to find them.
Jason Jett beat Air Paris with the Crash Landing. No Shannon Moore at ringside as Jett rebounded from the World Cup with a decisive singles win in 6:09.
Team Italy gathered for an interview backstage about the World Cup and being the first team out of the running. Kid Romeo immediately blames Red, saying he blew it while he and the FBI were on point. Red takes offense, pointing out that Romeo ran a mile from Liger and the high-pressure finals after freezing Red out early on. Romeo calls Red a “small fry” and Red says he can beat Romeo anytime. Unfortunately this earns him a three-on-one beating from his former partners.
It’s announced that Shane Helms gets his rematch against AJ Styles for the cruiserweight title at Slamboree.
Finally, in a match made after what happened earlier, Rey Misterio defeated Juventud Guerrera with a springboard huricanrana into a pin after 14:54, proving a point about his dedication to cruiserweight action.
Afterwards he took the mic and said that even though he battles the biggest and the baddest, he’ll always remember that junior heavyweight wrestling made him who he is. He then says he wants the cruiserweight title that AJ Styles has made, in his mind, as important as any belt in WCW, and will do whatever it takes to earn a shot.
MAY 4, 2002: SATURDAY NITRO #52
A special video opened, celebrating a year of WCW under Fusient and a year of Saturday Nitro. Tonight will commemorate the ‘re-birthday’ with classic clips between segments and a big celebration in the ring. We also have a huge world title match as Lance Storm will have barely finished his championship celebration when he defends against DDP, who earned a title match an hour or so before Storm captured the title on Sunday.
The first match saw Tajiri and his fellow World Cup winners the Jung Dragons to defeat cruiserweight tag champs Knoble and Kash and their partner, Air Paris. Tajiri picked up the win over Paris with a brainbuster in 8:53 as the Dragons again enjoyed the upper hand over the team they’ll challenge at Slamboree. Tajiri meanwhile made motions that he’ll be the next WCW champion, when he challenges whoever leaves Nitro with the belt this Wednesday on AirTime.
The announcers plugged that Tajiri title challenge and ran down the rest of the show as, in a nice segue, the crew prepped the ring for Lance Storm’s championship celebration.
Storm made his way out to a ring decked with celebratory decor and photos of great Canadian athletes such as Wayne Gretsky and Bret Hart. His longtime friend Elix Skipper walks behind him, carrying the Canadian flag. Storm gives an ‘I told you so promo’ and has the national anthem play once again. Once the celebration is wrapping up, the music of DDP hits and out comes Page to the walkway.
He says he made a point of not cutting into the celebration sooner because, to be honest, he’s proud of Storm. He has been a pain in many people’s asses here in WCW but in Toronto, he went into a title match with high stakes and won the big one, fair and square. His dreams came true, but he’s here to give Lance fair warning that his dreams were “so six days ago”, and that tonight a 46-year-old wrestler “does a George Foreman” and becomes the four-time, four-time, four-time, four-time WCW champion. Shine that belt up nice, finishes Page, because dreams do come true – and tonight, it’s his turn.
The Cat and Stacy Keibler are in their office, planning last-minute details for tonight’s other celebration: one year since WCW was saved. In walks Sean O’Haire, whom Cat congratulates on his fighting reign as US champ so far. O’Haire says he wants to continue that on this, the one-year anniversary. It turns out that Kanyon caught the tail end of that, having come to the office to discuss getting a match tonight himself, and challenges O’Haire as a former US champ. Cat says Kanyon may not be as much of a butthole as he was in the past, but he doesn’t know if he should grant him a title shot. Keibler talks Cat into it, in the end, and both Page and Kanyon will strive for singles gold this evening.
Christian York and Joey Matthews continued their run of momentum post-injury with a victory over Shawn Stasiak and Mark Jindrak. The ‘bros’ are winning over a bit of a following with their metrosexual man-love antics, but Shawn fell to the ‘Full Effect’ double dive off the same turnbuckle after 7:27.
Post-match, the winning duo said they don’t care whether it’s cruiserweight or heavyweight, they feel they can beat any team in WCW, and they resolve to win one of the two sets of tag titles before 2002 ends.
Jeff Jarrett and CW Anderson are interviewed about the PPV. Jarrett says he’s sick of Page and Kanyon sticking their noses in his business and costing him a world title shot was the last straw. He says that should be him fighting Storm tonight, not DDP. CW Anderson adds that he should be US champ right now but O’Haire fluked a win despite being “schooled” most of the match. After the duo swear revenge on all three, they’re asked about Glenn Gilbertti Enterprises seemingly doing everything they could to ensure Jarrett won. JJ shrugs them off and leaves.
Dustin Rhodes and Shane Douglas went one-on-one after a month of simmering hostility which peaked at the PPV when they got each other counted out from title contention. This match went a similar way, unfortunately, as Torrie Wilson slipped a chain to Douglas only for Rhodes to have brought a chain of his own. The duo traded chain-wrapped fists and bloodied one another for the double DQ after 6:28. Rhodes eventually cleared the ring and stood tall.
Shane Helms is interviewed about getting his rematch for the cruiserweight title at Slamboree. Before he can say much, however, he’s tackled into the interview backdrop by Billy Kidman, who gets up, stands over the fallen Helms, and says they have unfinished business.
Los Guerreros, back with the tag titles around their waists, defeated the Briscoe Brothers in a quick exhibition ending after 3:29 courtesy of an Eddie frog splash. The duo gloated all the way to the back about being two-time champs and “having their property back”.
A pre-tape with AMW sees them discussing how close they came to winning their maiden tag championship at the PPV. While they’re proud of fixing their losing ways and going all the way to a title match tournament final, they cannot believe they were so close to gold only for an exposed turnbuckle to cost them.
AJ Styles defeated Shannon Moore in his first match after regaining the cruiserweight title. Moore would have fast-tracked into a title shot with a win here, but AJ slickly countered the Bottom’s Up into a Styles Clash for the three in 10:46.
A peculiar segment from a dimly-lit hall somewhere shows Father James Mitchell running some sort of ritual with Mike Awesome, ‘baptising’ him as the “first disciple of the New Church”.
The announcers tell us that next week, Rob Van Dam returns to Nitro to discuss his title loss to Storm. Plus Sting and Booker T go one-on-one!
Sean O’Haire’s US title defence against Chris Kanyon went to a no-contest when Jeff Jarrett and CW Anderson ran in and attacked both men at 9:25. CW took down O’Haire with a spinebuster while Jarrett laid out Kanyon with the Stroke.
The first anniversary celebration was something else, with much of the roster coming out for fireworks, video packages and appearances from Commissioner Cat, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and more. Cat then introduced WCW owner Eric Bischoff, but his music hit twice and there was no sign of him. Cat kept things moving and thanked the fans and workers for keeping the company alive. He promised that the next 12 months would be even bigger.
Finally, the WCW World title match between Lance Storm and DDP saw Page come close on several occasions to landing the Diamond Cutter, but Storm was able to avoid every instance and get the tap-out at the 16:33 mark with the Maple Leaf after working Page’s back throughout.
After Storm’s celebration, the commentators heard of an incident outside and cut to Eric Bischoff in the parking lot, lying on the floor in pain, with the entire GGE faction stood over him. “Happy re-birthday, dubya-see-dubya!”, says Gilbertti as they walk away and the credits roll.
Slamboree 2002 card so far:
- WCW Cruiserweight title: AJ Styles (c) vs Shane Helms
- WCW Cruiserweight tag titles: Knoble and Kash (c) vs Jung Dragons
Next time: What consequences will Glenn Gilbertti and his goons receive for assaulting the owner of the company? Plus, Lance Storm vs Tajiri for the World title!