SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Twenty years ago this week in PWTorch Newsletter #412, I filed a detailed report on a WCW house show in Minneapolis, Minn. at Target Center during one of the peak eras in WCW in terms of a diverse, talented mix of big established names and world class workers gaining their first national fame. Check out this detailed report below, and then read the entire 12 page issue packed with fascinating behind-the-scenes details and analysis of the current pro wrestling scene just as the Monday Night War was expanding pro wrestling’s popularity by becoming a VIP member. CLICK HERE FOR VIP INFO. (VIP members can access the entire text of this issue and the PDF of the original newsletter format HERE.)
WCW house show
October 18, 1996
Minneapolis, Minn. at Target Center
Estimated Attendance: 7,500
Before the first match Ric Flair came to the ring in dress pants and shirt. He got a huge pop from the crowd. He talked about Minneapolis being where he grew up and said the AWA shouldn’t have let him go 20 years ago. He then talked in glowing terms about WCW and said later that night the Horsemen would “kick the Nasty Boys’ asses.”
(1) Mr. J.L. beat Chris Jericho via DQ when Six interfered in 8:00. Ring announcer Dave Penzer called J.L. “the mysterious Mr. J.L.” What’s so mysterious? He was listed as Jerry Lynn in the program. Nick Patrik sporting a neck brace walked to the ring and was immediately bombarded with boos. The crowd instantly knew who he was and what his gimmick was. This match was just a set up for the angle to come. As Lynn stood on the apron, Jericho charged him and knocked him to the railing at ringside. Six then made his way to the ring and played to the crowd with a bunch of cocky heel mannerisms. The fans popped as Six aggressively rammed J.L. into the railing. The crowd, which was pretty much split 50-50 between the NWO and WCW, booed and cheered equally Six’s interference. Six followed up with a face-first piledriver. A fan touched him and Six threw his arm off of him and strutted around the ring. The crowd was very into the angle, and they stayed alive through the rest of the night. Penzer announced Jericho was DQ’d for Six’s interference. Jericho sold his anger at the decision by immediately pleading to Patrik for an explanation. A few pieces of garbage were thrown at the ring. (**)
Six grabbed the house mic and gave what might be the best promo of his career in terms of delivery. He said to Jericho, “Hey, listen to me when I’m talking to you. Don’t talk to the ref. You don’t have a party in Minneapolis at the Target Center, my back yard, and don’t invite me. This is an NWO town. (Some fans shouted “No it ain’t!” while other cheered.) As you can see, I’ve got my stuff on pal. We’re scheduled to wrestle next week at Halloween Havoc, but we’re here right now. What do you have to say? Come on, puss.” The crowd popped. Jericho took the house mic. “All right Six. Next week at Halloween Havoc you and I are set to go. We don’t have to wait until next week. You want to go right now?!” The crowd popped huge again. Six charged into the ring and the match began.
(2) Chris Jericho fought Six to a double countout at 11:00. Jericho gave Six a high backdrop and played to the crowd. He then hit a reverse side kick and Six bumped through the ropes to the floor. Jericho hit Six with a tope. Jericho stood on the railing and showed good fire as the crowd mostly cheered the intense exchange. Six stood up and did some of the 1-2-3 Kid act grabbing his mouth as if it were cut. Jericho pulled Six back into the ring and slapped him in the chest. Six sold it as if he were shot. Jericho slapped him again and Six spit. The crowd parted about five rows deep to avoid the flying wad. Six reversed a whip by Jericho, but Jericho leaped onto the top turnbuckle. Six then dropkicked Jericho who crotched himself. Six then strutted in the ring, playing to the crowd with all the confidence of Hall and Nash. Six then set Jericho for a back suplex off the second rope, but Jericho elbowed him and Six flew back-first to the mat. Jericho then hit a cross bodyblock off the top rope. Six rolled over with the momentum for a two count. Six chopped Jericho hard in the corner and the crowd “ooohed.” Six hit Jericho with two roundkicks and a jump reverse side kick knocking Jericho out of the ring. Kid did “air karate” in mid-ring and soaked up the heat. Kid then hit Jericho with a flip splash over the top rope to the floor. Six whipped Jericho hard into the railing. It was pretty scary as the railing blitzed into the knees of the fans in the front row with force. Some fans began an “NWO” chant while others added “sucks.” Back in the ring Six hit a snap legdrop and scored a two count. At 6:00 Six applied a chinlock at which point a few fans finally had a chance to chant “boring.”
Six went for a spin wheelkick, but Jericho caught the leg. In a nice move, Six then lifted his other leg and wheelkicked Jericho in the chest sending both of them to the mat. Six then nipped up and played to the crowd, posing and flexing his muscles. Six charged Jericho in the corner, but Jericho moved. Jericho blocked a Six punch and came back with some punches. Jericho hit a lionsault out of nowhere for a two count. Jericho went to the top rope and looked to the crowd for cheers. Six stood and Jericho nailed him with a hard elbow to the chest. Jericho clotheslined Kid and they both landed on the floor. Jericho whipped Six hard into the railing. Fans at ringside went nuts as they brawled at ringside. Six rammed Jericho into the railing and then fought toward the locker room. Jericho whipped Six into the wall of the arena as the ref called it a double countout. Jericho then nailed Six with a garbage can. Really good match that took advantage of the eager, energetic crowd. (***3/4)
(3) Meng & Barbarian beat High Voltage in 12:00. The crowd continued to react to almost everything in this match, although they didn’t know who they should necessarily cheer for, so they defaulted to the tougher and more well known team. One highlight was a nice overhead suplex off the top rope by Barbarian. Eventually the heel-face lines were clearly drawn as High Voltage struggled for a hot-tag for a few minutes. Meng and Barbarian also distracted the ref and used illegal tactics. Barbarian scored the pin after a boot to the face. A good, standard tag match. (**)
(4) Madusa pinned Lelani Kai in 9:00. Madusa played to the crowd, starting a “USA” chant. Pretty standard women’s action with all the usual spots. In the end it picked up. Madusa missed a second rope dropkick. Kai took over offense. Madusa hung onto the ropes as Kai went for a suplex. Madusa then hit Kai with a hurricanrana which popped the crowd. As the ref counted Madusa pummeled Kai in the head with punches. Madusa then hit a back suplex into a bridge for the pin. (*1/2)
(5) Arn Anderson & Chris Benoit (w/Ric Flair) beat The Nasty Boys in 12:00. Patrik came to the ring again to a round of boos. Flair led Arn and Benoit to the ring which popped the crowd. Flair played to the crowd as a babyface and then made a pass at a woman over the house mic. Nobbs took the mic and told Flair they were going to give him a “good ol’ Minneapolis ass kickin’.” It was several minutes after the bell rang before they actually began wrestling. Benoit and Sags exchanged punches. Benoit got the better of him for a second, but then Sags went berserk on him with a barrage of punches. When Sags took control, Arn ran in but the Nastys quickly cleared the ring of both him and Benoit. The Horsemen regrouped at ringside. Benoit returned to the ring and took some nice bumps before rolling out of the ring for another breather. The Nastys played to the crowd and got a few more boos than cheers. Even though Flair and Arn were the “hometown team,” they played the roles of heels in actual execution of the match. As the ref pushed Nobbs out of the ring, Arn taunted Nobbs back to center ring. Patrik stood between them and sold his neck all along. Arn hid behind Patrik as Benoit continued to work over Sags including ramming him into the railing at ringside. Benoit held Sags as Flair punched him which got the biggest crowd pop of the match. A moment later Sags had Arn rolled up, but Patrik was preoccupied returning Nobbs to the corner to notice the pin attempt. Flair jumped onto the ring apron and low-blowed Sags. Arn then covered Sags for a near fall at 9:00. Arn and Benoit double-teamed Sags. Nobbs ran in for the save. Nobbs splashed Benoit and covered him. Flair ran in and kicked Nobbs. Nobbs grabbed Flair which got a pop from part of the crowd. Arn then surprised Nobbs from behind with a DDT. Sags knocked Arn out of the ring, but Flair put Benoit on top of Nobbs for the pin. Sags and Benoit brawled to the back. Nobbs stuck around long enough to get booed by a good portion of the crowd, so he switched to heel mannerisms and said over the house mic that the Nastys don’t want “Minneapolis NWO followers” on their side. (***1/4)
(6) Eddie Guerrero pinned Diamond Dallas Page in 13:00. Guerrero charged Page at the start of the match. Page bailed out and a super intense Guerrero climbed the ropes and stared him down. They did some mat work in the early minutes with Guerrero locking on headlocks and Page escaping. Page went for a sidebreaker but Guerrero turned it into a headscissors. Guerrero then dropkicked Page. A few minutes later Guerrero dropkicked Page into the ropes, then kicked him again through the ropes. They brawled at ringside with Guerrero whipping Page into the rail. Page took over after dropping Guerrero crotch-first over the top rope. Page choked Guerrero over the second rope, then hit a tilt-a-whirl sidebreaker. He went for a cocky cover and Guerrero kicked out for a small pop. Page applied an abdominal stretch. He grabbed the ropes for leverage. Ref Mark Curtis got the biggest pop to this point in the match for kicking Page’s hand off the top rope. Guerrero went for a sunset flip, Page went to punch him but missed, and then they went into a nice series of four or five pinfall reversals. Page popped up and hit Guerrero with a hard clothesline, then played to the crowd. Guerrero recovered and hit a back suplex. He went for the frog splash but missed when Page moved. In what looked like the finisher, Page gave Guerrero the Diamond Cutter but only scored a two count. Page then powerbombed Guerrero for a very near fall. The kids in the crowd began running toward the railing which means it must have been a convincing near fall. Page shoved Curtis for not counting to three. Curtis shoved him back and Page bumped to the mat as if Tyson just landed a left hook. Page set up another powerbomb, but Guerrero rolled out of it with an armdrag, but didn’t get the crowd pop it should have. Page climbed to the top rope. As Guerrero stood, he staggered backward into the top rope, knocking Page off balance. Page crotched himself. Guerrero showed fire as he pointed at Page. Guerrero then came off the top rope with a frog splash. After the match Page gave Guerrero a DDT and played to the crowd, who booed him. It was good, but the fans for some reason didn’t pop at the times they should have which took away from the match. (***)
(7) Scott Hall & Kevin Nash beat Harlem Heat via DQ when the Nasty Boys interfered at 6:30. Booker T came to the ring first, followed by Stevie Ray. That gave Hall and Nash the chance to attack Ray from behind with a wooden stick. After a long pause to help Ray to the back, ref Patrik ruled Heat would have to come back out and defend the tag titles or they would have to forfeit the tag belts. The fans were thoroughly entertained and sustained their cheering for the next couple of minutes as nothing happened except Hall and Nash walking around the ring, looking at NWO signs in the crowd. Booker T came out and agreed to defend the title alone. Nash laughed at the prospect of fighting one man and practically began celebrating a tag title victory. Hall & Nash got a superstar reaction from the crowd and were clearly the most over act of the night, at least in theory. Once they began wrestling, the fans didn’t care as much mainly because the action was pretty mediocre. The match never really got going as Hall and Nash had a hard time convincingly dragging the match on and Booker didn’t seem comfortable in the underdog babyface role.
Hall and Booker T began and the action was barely okay. When Nash tagged in at 3:00 there was almost no pop. Booker went on brief offense, but Nash caught him in mid-air and dropped him head-first on the top turnbuckle. After a couple more tags in and out by Hall and Nash, Stevie Ray charged the ring at 5:30. Thye popped for Ray who hit Hall and Nash with consecutive clotheslines. When Ray went for a powerbomb on Hall, Nash hit him from behind with a double axe handle. Hall and Nash played to the crowd and also got a good pop. The Nastys then charged the ring. A six way erupted and the fans went absolute bonkers. After a couple of minutes. The Nastys shoulder- blocked Nash over the top rope. Hall and Nash circled the ring and the Nastys and Heat held court in the ring. Booker T was actually still sitting in the corner of the ring selling the five minute beating he took. Nobbs, who had sort of turned on the crowd and gone heel a few matches earlier, returned to a babyface persona by identifying over the house mic with the Minnesota Vikings. Hall and Nash grabbed chairs. Booker T then threw a couple chairs into the ring for Ray and Sags. No one actually swung the chairs. The NWO eventually retreated to the back. Heat and Nastys got a mostly positive, but definitely mixed reaction. There was almost no good action to speak of and the pacing was lethargic during the two-on-one which rendered the storyline framework of the match limp and ineffective. Having everyone play to the crowd was a bit confusing, too. (*1/4)
(8) Randy Savage beat Sting and The Giant in a triangle match in 9:00. Giant got a good NWO pop, but not on the level of Hall and Nash. Sting got a huge pop with Savage a close second. Giant faced off with Savage at the start. He threw Savage to the mat like a rag doll. Savage got up and played to the crowd. They responded. Savage fell backwards when he attempted to slam Giant. Giant shoved Savage into Sting, knocking Sting off the apron. Savage went to check on Sting, but then threw him into the ring. Sting and Savage faced off in mid-ring, feigning a dispute. Just when Giant was convinced Sting and Savage weren’t getting along, Sting and Savage charged him together, but Giant caught them both with his hands on their throats. Sting and Savage though managed to suplex the Giant which got a huge pop. Savage stepped to the ring apron as Sting faced Giant. As Sting charged for the Stinger splash, Giant caught him with a boot to the face. A moment later Sting charged Giant with a bodyblock in mid-ring which barely staggered Giant. Giant then raised his boot to Sting’s throat in the corner. Pretty methodical pace without much in the way of sustained fan heat. Giant bashed his butt into Sting’s gut in the corner. Giant missed a dropkick. Sting bodyslammed Giant for a pop and then applied the scorpion, but Giant immediately powered out. Sting charged him, but Giant caught him and set him up for a chokeslam. Savage then leaped off the top rope with a double axe handle to save Sting. They double-teamed Giant. Sting and Savage went to double clothesline Giant. Giant lifted his boot to stop Savage, but Sting continued and both Sting and Giant bumped to the floor. Savage sold the boot he took in the ring while Sting and Giant brawled outside the ring. Giant leaned on the railing. Sting charged for a splash, but Giant moved and Sting hit the railing hard. In an anti-climactic, lame finish Savage was announced as the winner by countout. The fans who were begging for an excuse to leave happy were grumbling as they headed toward the concourse. A good undercard damaged by weak efforts and execution and lame finishes in the final two matches.