Thirty Days Hath September: Earlier this month, in the mighty TORCH Newsletter, we talked about many of the disappointing angles, matches and storylines that have marred the month of September for wrestling fans, especially in the recent history of WWE and World Championship Wrestling.
September has brought us a few great wrestling moments. Not many, but a few. In the interest of fairness, here are some of the best September matches.
Men of Iron: Just last year, Kurt Angle defended his WWE World Heavyweight Title against former champion Brock Lesnar in a televised sixty minute Iron Man match. This was the first time World Wrestling Entertainment put an Iron Man match on live network television. What's more, it featured the two very best that the promotion had to offer at the time, the 2003 TORCH Newsletter Most Valuable Player against the 2002 TORCH Most Valuable Player.
Was it a five-star classic? No. It was overbooked, with too many falls and near falls. Was it the Match of the Year? No. But it was very, very good. Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar were both in top-notch cardiovascular condition, and they put on a brutal-looking and very athletic match. In the end, the heel Lesnar regained the title from the babyface Angle. Less than one month later, WWE went ahead and turned Angle heel, ending the Angle vs. Lesnar feud.
We Love LA: In September 2002, Paul Heyman had some creative influence on Smackdown. When Chris Benoit was brought over from Raw, he began feuding with Kurt Angle, one of the top heels on the program. The dynamic duo started elevating the workrate level of the Smackdown brand. Their feud wnded with a fantastic match at the Unforgiven pay-per-view, with the Canadian Crippler eventually going over the Olympic Hero. As good as the match was, it was overshadowed by the other big events on the show, including the Stephanie McMahon-Eric Bischoff HLA feud, Ric Flair's heel turn, and, of course, the controversial no-contest in the first pay-per-view match between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker.
Beware of the Dogs: In the summer of 1995, Raven and sidekick Stevie Richards captured the ECW Tag Team Titles on a show in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. This absolutely outraged many diehard ECW fans. Raven was a hated heel who has recently arrived from the World Wrestling Federation, and was in still in the process of reinventing. ECW fans respected Raven's ability, but the thought of Richards, who was seen as Raven's comic sidekick, holding ECW gold as well was almost too much to bear.
Meanwhile, Gary Wolfe and Anthony Michaels, the Pitbulls, had recently switched sides from heel to face. They had been flunkies for Jason Knight, but under the management of Francine Fournier, they wre booked into a dog collar match against the champs at ECW's big "Gangstas Paradise" show at the ECW Arena.
The match started with Raven's manager, Beulah McGillicutty (later Mrs. Tommy Dreamer), taking the mic and informing the Pitbulls that Stevie Richards is injured. She requested that, to even the odds, the Pitbulls agree to make the match best two out three falls. The 'Bulls agree, only to get sneak attacked by a healthy Richards so Raven can score the pin and win the first fall. The remaining two falls were a sneak peek of what became the WWF Attitude Era. Not only did everyone bleed and brawl, but there was outside interference from The Dudley Boys, Bill Alfonso, 911, Tod Gordon and Raven's archenemy, Tommy Dreamer.
The match will be on the upcoming "Rise and Fall of ECW" DVD. At the time, it was state of the art hardcore wrestling, pacing and booking. It doesn't hold up nearly as well today.
Honorable Mention: As mentioned in the newsletter column, the main event between Shawn Michaels and Mankind at WWF’s “Mind Games” pay-per-view in 1996 would have been a classic except for the non-finish. At Fall Brawl ’95, WCW brought us the only pay-per-view match between Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. That match was a lot of fun, but it was followed up by the awful War Games between the Millionaire’s Club and the Dungeon of Ding-Dongs. The headline match at the Clash of Champions in Columbia, South Carolina in September 1989 wasn’t a mat classic, but it brought us a legendary postmatch attack when Terry Funk tried to suffocate Ric Flair with a plastic bag. The Ring of Honor enthusiasts on the Torch VIP message boards raved about last year’s “ROH: Unscripted” show. I haven’t watched it, but since ROH doesn’t put on terrible shows, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.
You can find great wrestling in the month of September, but you’re more likely to see something garish, bizarre, or flat-out boring. Don’t worry, though. October is right around the corner.
*** Pat McNeill of Fairfax, Virginia has been a Torch columnist since February 2001. He is off to Kinko’s to fax documents to Dan Rather. His PWTorch.com column appears two times a week. His longer, weekly column appears exclusively in the Torch Newsletter. Pat McNeill’s first book, "The Tables All Were Broken", is available from many fine booksellers.
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