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WCW World War III PPV: Hennig vs. Flair, Hall wins 60 man battle royal, Eddie vs. Rey
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
When: November 23, 1997
What: WCW 3-hour live pay-per-view
Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, and Mike Tenay introduced the program. Tenay declared World War 3’s battle royal perhaps more important than the Hulk Hogan vs. Sting match at Starrcade.
(1) Meng & Barbarian (w/Jimmy Hart) beat Ernest Miller & Glacier when Meng pinned Glacier at 9:08. Glacier seemed a step slower than usual. The bulk of the match saw Meng & Barbarian work over Glacier. Glacier hot-tagged Miller at 8:30. Miller knocked Jimmy Hart off the ring apron, but when he turned around, Meng applied the Tonga Death Grip for the three count. (*1/4)
(2) Saturn beat Disco Inferno at 8:20 to retain the TV Title. Before the match began, Raven said over the house mic, “Let the stretching begin.” The siren that introduces Raven’s crew really works and creates an eerie atmosphere. Disco mocked Raven by sitting in the corner of the ring. Tenay talked about Saturn’s 107 parachute jumps over two years with the Rangers. Tenay said Saturn has an array of high-flying maneuvers that he hasn’t used in WCW yet, but have been seen in other organizations. Saturn is going to get over and be a valuable member of the roster at the rate he’s going now. His persona really works and his in-ring style backs up his look. When Disco got in some offense at 2:30, Saturn bailed out of the ring in frustration and took an orbit around all three rings. When the match spilled to the floor, Disco attacked Kidman and other Raven cronies, but that gave Saturn a chance to go after him. At 7:50 Disco surprised Saturn with a neckbreaker. Disco came off the top rope, but Saturn rolled through and applied Rings of Saturn for the submission win. The match wasn’t always smooth, but mostly solid action. (**)
Gene Okerlund interviewed Giant. Giant said his hand injury will prevent him from doing a solid chokeslam, but he will still be able to eliminate wrestlers in the battle royal. He promised payback on the NWO for what they did to his hand.
(3) Yuji Nagata pinned Ultimo Dragon (w/Sonny Onno) at 12:40. Heenan predicted early in the match that Ultimo’s demise would be his preoccupation with Onno at ringside. Pretty mediocre effort for these two. The opening few minutes were very slow with chinlocks and sleepers without much of any offense to make either susceptible for such moves. The highspots picked up for the first time at 10:00 with some near falls and decent crowd pops. At 11:26 Dragon applied the Dragon Sleeper. As Nagata tapped out, Onno distracted the referee. Dragon released the hold, thinking he won. When the ref ordered the match to continue, Ultimo climbed to the top rope and went for a twisting frankensteiner. He scored a two count, but Onno placed Nagata’s foot over the bottom rope to stop the third count. In the end, Ultimo went for a back suplex, but it didn’t look good as he had to twist it to knock Onno off the ring apron. Nagata rolled onto Ultimo for the three count. Sloppy finish. (**)
(4) Rick & Scott Steiner beat Steven Regal & David Taylor at 9:47 to retain the WCW Tag Team Titles. The Steiners dominated offense entirely until 6:30. After some matwork offense by Regal & Taylor, Scott hot-tagged Rick at 8:50 who beat on both Regal and Taylor. Not much of a pop for the hot-tag. A four-way brawl broke out. The Steiners ended it with the top rope shoulder bulldog.
Okerlund interviewed J.J. Dillon, returning to his on-camera role. Dillon gave Raven 24 hours to sign a contract with WCW or he would lose the privilege of getting television time to express his views.
(5) Raven beat Scotty Riggs via countdown at 8:45. Before the match Kidman again offered Riggs a chance to join them. Riggs responded by attacking all of them. Raven took over offense at 2:10. The chair became the centerpiece of the body of the match. Riggs threw a chair at Raven. Raven caught it and Riggs dropkicked it into his face. Tenay explained the move by saying that it’s a natural reaction to “catch a chair when it’s thrown at you.” Riggs got some near falls on Raven, but Raven took over offense with a DDT. He grabbed the house mic and said, “Why didn’t you listen to me?! I feel your pain. This hurts me more than it hurts you. He gave Riggs a second and third piledriver and then sat back against the ropes as the referee counted Riggs down. Raven’s Nest carried a knocked out Riggs out of the arena through the crowd. The match fit the storyline, but the athleticism was nothing special. The chairspots stand out in WCW. (**1/4)
(6) Steve McMichael beat Alex Wright at 3:33 Before the match Mongo said Bill Goldberg had been attacked in the back and would be unable to wrestle. He challenged anyone else to face him. Debra dragged a reluctant Alex to the ring. Fans booed because they wanted to see Goldberg. They showed Goldberg lying on the locker room floor. Mongo won in a short match with the Mongo Spike (tombstone). (*)
(7) Eddie Guerrero pinned Rey Misterio Jr. at 12:45 after a frog splash to retain the Cruiserweight Title. Good to see a Cruiserweight Title match get its rightful spot this late in the card, rather than relegated to an insulting first, second, or third match slot. At 3:50 Rey Jr. showed signs of being kicked in the head and seemed to lose some timing, although there were a couple mistimed moves earlier in the match, also. At 6:00 Rey Jr. appeared to be really slowed by a head injury, but he pressed on. He twisted out of Guerrero’s attempt to sunset flip him off the ring apron onto the floor. In the end, Rey Jr. hit his springboard huracanrana for a two count, but Guerrero reached the ropes. Rey Jr. thought he won. Guerrero came back to hot-shot Rey Jr. over the top rope and then follow with a frog splash for the clean three count. Good match, no doubt, but well below their Halloween Havoc bout. (***1/2)
(8) Curt Hennig pinned Ric Flair at 18:00 in a no-DQ match to retain the U.S. Title. Tenay said Flair and Hennig may not be able to make it to the battle royal immediately following the match. They started the match with a brawl at ringside a la Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels. At 2:30 Hennig entered the ring and choked Flair with a cable. At 3:50 Flair dove off the top rope and hit Hennig with a forearm on the floor. Flair sold an ankle injury. He chopped away at Hennig, but Hennig took over and threw him back to the ring. Hennig hit ref Randy Anderson during a pinfall attempt so he could continue to beat on Flair. Flair kicked out of his next pinfall attempt. Hennig worked over Flair’s legs. They each got in a lot of their signature spots before brawling at ringside again at 15:00. In the end Flair nailed Hennig’s legs with the belt, then applied the figure-four. Hennig reached for the U.S. Title belt that Flair had set on the ring apron and he used it to K.O. Flair and score the pin. Both Hennig and Flair limped to the back, selling ankle injuries. Both worked hard and are to be commended for holding crowd interest for the longest match on the card, but their age and limited offensive flash showed. (***)
(9) Scott Hall won a 60-man battle royal to earn a title shot at SuperBrawl in February. See Cover Story” for details. (1/2*)
WCW World War III PPV Roundtable Reviews
Bruce Mitchell, PWTorch columnist
Uh, I thought WCW had a monopoly on great workers. You sure wouldn’t know it by the likes of the subpar Nitro matches passed on us as PPV matches here. Steiners vs. Blue Bloods? Disco vs. Saturn? McMichael vs. Wright (again)? Barbarian & Meng vs. Glacier & Miller? Yeesh! Riggs vs. Raven had indy style work, but an innovative storyline to make up for it, at least.
And boy, I didn’t realize what a retirement home for over the hill wrestlers WCW had become until I saw that battle royal. Where’s Bugsy McGraw and Jimmy Valiant? They would have fit right in with the likes of John Nord and Greg Valentine.
Ohh, and another fake Sting. What a shock! The battle royal concept is as outdated as this angle and most of the wrestlers in the thing. And who did the Mexicans piss off, anyway, and why should the rest of us not get to see them work, either?
At least Eddie Guerrero and Rey Jr. had another great match, but 12 minutes out of three hours is not a winning percentage. Nagata and Ultimo kicked the hell out of each other again. It helped that Dusty wasn’t around to babble jealously about the changes in the product.
You almost can’t blame WCW for wanting to get this show out of the way so they could get around to the business of begging Hogan to do the job for Sting at Starrcade. With his new attitude, no doubt he’ll do it after he gets a hefty raise, of course. If Hogan is half the worker with Sting that he is behind the scenes, it should be a great match.
John Williams, PWTorch columnist
A few short months ago we were in a run of decent pay-per-views in the U.S. None of the shows was earth shattering, or threatened to be called the greatest PPV of all-time, but rather the shows were filled with enough action to make it easier to live with those Road Warriors vs. Godwinns style matches that WCW and the WWF think we really want to see. Since last December at Starrcade, it became common to praise the shows for their balance between “money drawing” superstars and the solid workers rounding out the cards. Well, two shows into a murderous row of November PPVs, we clearly spoke too soon.
The WWF has an excuse for poor shows — they have no talent. (No, that’s not to be taken 100 percent literally.) All year the promotion has very little talent that has either (a) the ability to put on good matches, or (b) an ounce of fan interest. When you now take Bret Hart out of that mix and watch Steve Austin lose his ability to work a good match, the talent pool is thinned to the point that it looks like the AWA in 1984. But at least the WWF has the excuse that Vince’s superstars are a mediocre lot when putting on a poor PPV.
WCW does not have that excuse. They have talent coming out of their ears. The one match that could keep fan interest and be excellent turned into a sloppy and spotty match. Dragon vs. Nagata couldn’t engage the Michigan crowd like they did the Vegas crowd last month. It made the match feel exactly like what it really was, an opportunity for the promoter’s best friend to get on camera.
The rest of the card had no shot at being good. Flair and Hennig just don’t have the ability to work a good match unless someone like Benoit beats the hell out of them in the ring. The rest of the bouts are Nitro, if not WCW Saturday Night matches.
I didn’t think it was possible, but this was probably the worst WW3 battle royal clusterf— to date. The last two at least had some drama and storyline. This was just “there.” Nothing happened for 25 minutes until Hogan showed up. It’s long been a cardinal rule of wrestling that if a match gets better when Hogan shows up, it’s a damn bad match.
Finally, is Tony Schiavone an idiot or does he just play one on TV? After a year, one whole friggin’ year of fake Stings, he still falls for it.
Chris Zavisa, PWTorch columnist
Everybody I know with a wrestling IQ in the triple digits hates battle royals. The casual fans seem to love them, laboring under the belief that they are seeing more action than a human being has a legal right to see. It permits me to leave early, beat everyone out of the parking lot, and not risk missing anything good.
The World War 3 format seems to insure a terrible match taking the usual battle royal and multiplying it by three. This one had some of the best talent in the ring, but they were turned into cannon fodder for the heavyweight slugs who dominate Bischoff’s playground. No bumps, no pain, no wrestling.
The real crime wasn’t that the bout was awful. That was a given going in. But the complete suspension of logic and internal common sense that even wrestling must possess to have a semblance of believability. The over-the-top rule became an under-any-rope rule without an attempt at an explanation. Then Hogan came out in the bottom of the ninth to enter a contest where the prize was a title shot at himself. None of the announcers objected to the farce. And how many times have we seen a phony Sting who clearly is eight inches taller than the real Sting, but he “fools” the announcing team?
Everything should make a semblance of sense, at least. Imagine the World Series if, in the 7th and deciding game, the announcers went ballistic as Ken Griffey Jr. climbed out of the stands to play with the Florida Marlins. Imagine the reaction in TV land if we found out in the last show of NYPD Blue that Andy Sipowicz — the most human character on TV — was actually a space alien looking for his pal, ALF. Imagine Clint Eastwood in an 1800s period Western whipping out an Uzi and spraying dozens of bad guys while everyone looks on in surprise. None of it would make any sense, but the wacky world of WCW wrestling gives us the equivalent.
WCW World War III PPV Reader Reax & Poll Results
Dave Rosenberg (2.0): I usually couldn’t care less about WCW. Was this the fourth or fifth or sixth or twentieth pay-per-view that’s ended with a fake Sting? I believe that is the reason they just haven’t totally put the WWF out of business yet. This fake Sting angle is dumb. How many times are we going to watch the announcers be fooled every time? It just makes them look dumb. Dusty Rhodes would have been good for this PPV because it sucked.
Brian Mazza (3.0): Best was Rey Jr. vs. Guerrero, although it wasn’t as good as their last PPV match. The worst was the opening tag match. I thought Hulk Hogan coming down to the battle royal was going to be another nifty way of them keeping the belt on Hogan, but with Hall winning and Nash coming in late, they snagged me like an addict who knows its bad formula, but can’t get enough. I ordered another WCW pay-per-view, but it just wasn’t worth it. I guess Hall winning is a great way to keep the belt on Sting for a longer period of time after Starrcade. Are we supposed to believe Rey Jr. is still hanging from that ring apron?
Michael Andrusis (4.5): The undercard was largely forgettable with matches that I’ve already forgotten about because I was reading the newspaper while it was on. It was that boring, with the exception of Flair vs. Hennig, which was a very good match in the three-star range. The Giant got eliminated by an impostor Sting once again. They hyped a big fight between Nash and Giant, and instead Nash gives Giant one blow with a baseball bat. Once again there was no camera angle that could capture this mish-mash of an event.
Jason Powell (0.0): It’s obvious Alex Wright kicked out against McMichael. It’s bad enough what happened to Bret Hart, but it’s even worse that Bischoff did the same thing two weeks later to a man of Alex Wright’s status.
Chuck Morris (8.5): I really enjoyed World War 3 this year. Best match was Guerrero vs. Rey Jr. Again, they put in an incredible effort. They exemplify what professional wrestling should be. I enjoyed this match as much as Halloween Havoc and their Memphis Nitro match. I was amazed at how Rey Jr., when he fell off of Guerrero’s shoulders, was able to convert that into another move so quickly. Great transition. Honorable mention goes to Saturn vs. Disco Inferno because their performance was fantastic. I like Saturn’s style as a suplex master and a mat technician. I was pleased to see him throw in some of his high-risk moves, also. Riggs vs. Raven was also a good match. I liked the use of the chair and Raven using the mic while he was beating up Riggs. I liked the angle where they carried Riggs off so when he returns, he will have been brainwashed into being a member of the flock. If there was a worst match, it would be Flair vs. Hennig. I don’t know if it’s a good idea to have them in a program against each other. Flair has had good matches the last few weeks against Alex Wright and Lex Luger on Nitro, but he and Hennig didn’t click. These days I look more forward to WCW pay-per-views instead of WWF PPVs, as opposed to my attitude a year ago.
Shawn Finnicum (0.0): Am I the only one out there who thinks WCW sucks. They have no imagination. The undercard you could see on any given Nitro. The World War 3 battle royal was a joke. When will the fake Sting stop. I mean, it’s ludicrous, it’s boring. You couldn’t tell it was Kevin Nash? You couldn’t tell he was taller than Sting? Are the announcers that stupid? Are we supposed to be that stupid? WCW is a joke. They have all that talent and don’t know how to do it. The WWF is depleted, but they have a lot more imagination.
Joe Stuntebeck (8.0): It was better than the usual WCW pay-per-view because the main event did not suck. It was booked in such a way that there was actually intrigue. And best of all there was no sign of that out of date cowpie Dusty Rhodes.
Jim Berlit (8.0): Best was Hennig vs. Flair. Worst was the battle royal. It was more like World Bore 3 with the undercard better than the main event. Sixty men are just too many, especially when they have to show it with the three tiny screens. It was just too much to watch at once. I thought after Age in the Cage that WCW would try to cover with an exciting ending, but what did we get? No Sting once again and Scott Hall winning the battle royal. I don’t want to watch him in a main event in February. The guy’s kind of boring. I had to pull a Sandman and have six Bud Lights to finally enjoy a WCW pay-per-view. This is the type of show that renews my faith in the WWF.
Eric Schwab (7.0): A surprisingly good pay-per-view. Best was Rey Jr. vs. Guerrero with Flair vs. Hennig a close second. Worst was McMichael vs. Wright. What a great finish to the battle royal. First I thought Hogan was going to win, then Nash, and then surprisingly it was Hall. WCW pay-per-views are usually terrible, but this was very good. I still think ECW and the WWF are way ahead overall.
Jeff Cohen (4.5): Best match was Guerrero vs. Rey Jr. Worst was Wright vs. McMichael, but at least they kept it short. What a difference a year makes. Last year, Misterio jobbed for Ultimo Dragon at WW3. This year, he’s moved up — and jobbed for Guerrero. I figured Flair was taking the three count. I see Hennig dropping the U.S. strap to Bret Hart at Starrcade to instantly set up Bret as the number two champion, positioning WCW for Sting vs. Bret for next year’s Starrcade.
Scott Campbell: I thought WW3 was awful. The entire battle royal was very poor. If someone is just going to come in at the end, why doesn’t everyone just do that? Next year everyone should just wait until the end. It doesn’t make sense. This NWO crap is getting really old. The best match was Rey Jr. vs. Guerrero, but it wasn’t up to the level of their match at Halloween Havoc. This Sting angle sucks. He hasn’t appeared on the last two PPVs.
WCW WORLD WAR 3 READER POLL
Average Reader Score: 4.1
Best Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Misterio Jr. (90%), Flair vs. Hennig (10%)
Worst Match: Meng & Barbarian vs. Glacier & Miller (52%), Wright vs. Mongo (41%), Disco vs. Saturn (5%), Steiners vs. Regal & Taylor (2%)
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