AIRDATE: January 2, 1993
COMMENTATORS: Jim Ross & “The Living Legend” Larry Zbyszko
Saturday Night this week focuses on the Quarterfinals of the U.S. Title/U.S. Title #1 Contender’s Tournament, with Ricky Steamboat taking on Dan Spivey in the main event and Johnny B. Badd battling Barry Windham in a match whose closing moments has been burned into my brain since I first watched the show live. Also Brian Pillman & Steve Austin start their tag team journey this week but that probably won’t lead anywhere, definitely not to the best tag team of the year or anything, and we get a rundown of the Clash of the Champions card that is very subject to change.
- WCW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Big Van Vader
- WCW UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: “Ravishing” Rick Rude
- WCW WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPION: Scott Steiner
- WCW/NWA UNIFIED WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat & Shane Douglas
- Z-Man & Tommy Gunn vs. Cactus Jack & The Barbarian (*3/4)
- Erik Watts vs. Mustafa Saied (COMPETITIVE SQUASH)
- U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT – QUARTERFINALS: Dustin Rhodes vs. Vinnie Vegas (**1/4)
- Brian Pillman & Steve Austin vs. Ricky Nelson & Larry Santo (**)
- U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT – QUARTERFINALS: Van Hammer vs. Tony Atlas (*)
- U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT – QUARTERFINALS: Johnny B. Badd vs. Barry Windham (**3/4)
- U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT – QUARTERFINALS: Ricky Steamboat vs. Dan Spivey (**3/4)
-WCW SPECIAL REPORT: Big Van Vader defeated Ron Simmons on December 30th in Baltimore to win the World Championship for a second time.
“The Z-Man” Tom Zenk & Johnny Gunn vs. Cactus Jack & The Barbarian
Gunn is better known as Salvatore Sincere and Tom Brandi from his WWF run later in the decade, but for now his gig in WCW is to be damn-near indistinguishable from The Z-Man as part of a tag team. Not sure if they ever pull any twin magic in their matches but they could’ve. Jack & Barbarian have been joined at the hip since Barbarian came to WCW, with Jack taking him under his wing all the way to a World Title shot at Halloween Havoc ‘92. Barbarian, sadly, did not beat Ron Simmons for the title so we were robbed of what could have been a most random World Title run.
Gunn catches a kick and ducks a clothesline, taking him to the canvas with a fancy-pants armdrag takeover. Jack accidentally hits Barbarian, Z-Man & Gunn connect with double dropkicks and a double backdrop to Jack that sends him flying right into Barbarian. Cool spot. Jack catches Zenk with an elbow, Zenk counters Jack’s clothesline with a Fujiwara Armbar. Barbarian tags in and sends Zenk into the ropes, Jack pulling down the top rope to send Z-Man crashing to the floor behind the ref’s back. Barbarian follows with a leg lariat against the top rope, Jack tags in and trades rights with Z-Man, Z-Man hits the ropes and they knock heads. Barbarian tags in but so does Gunn and it’s the latter on the offensive, driving Barbarian to the canvas with a clothesline. Gunn dodges a corner splash and connects with a flying clothesline from the middle buckle but Jack quickly runs in to stop a pinfall attempt. Gunn has Jack, the illegal man, pinned with a Thesz Press, Barbarian catches Gunn with a big boot and covers for the 1…2…3.
Cactus Jack & The Barbarian defeated Tom Zenk & Johnny Gunn via pinfall (5:48)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Johnny Gunn loses the match for his team via babyface stupidity. Love to see it. Tension seems to be building between Jack & Barbarian but they still managed to keep it together for the win, Barbarian doing the heavy lifting. (*3/4)
-STARRCADE ‘92 HIGHLIGHT: Sting is presented with a ring for winning 1991’s BattleBowl by “Cowboy” Bill Watts and MLB legend (and Home Run king) Hank Aaron.
-STARRCADE ‘92 HIGHLIGHTS: The Great Muta wins the 8-man BattleBowl battle royal, eliminating Barry Windham, the man he teamed with during the Lethal Lottery to advance to this match.
-Ross & Zbyszko hype the beginning of the U.S. Title #1 Contender’s tournament, leading into an interview with Erik Watts’ former college football coach who gushes about how good he was as a football player. Unfortunately this is pro wrestling and not football so who gives a f*cking sh*t.
Erik Watts vs. Mustafa Saied
Pre-Gangstas Saied is never not weird to see. I wonder if he was smoking pencil shavings at this point or if that came after. Saied controls early, catching Watts in a bearhug and stampeding him into the corner. Saied keeps at Watts’ lower back, applying another bearhug and using the buckles to his advantage. Watts counters into a suplex and goes on an offensive tear, going after Saied’s left leg leading into the STF and the win.
Erik Watts defeated Mustafa Saied via submission (2:36)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Watts with an easy win, not much to say here. A competitive squash but forgettable nonetheless. STF is a cool submission though. (COMPETITIVE SQUASH)
–Teddy Long is standing by in the locker room with Cactus Jack & Tony Atlas. Long asks about Jack’s Bounty Match against Watts coming up at January 13th’s Clash of the Champions. Jack says a lot of wrestlers failed at getting the bounty but they failed because they are WRESTLERS and he’s a BOUNTY HUNTER. Atlas says Van Hammer has beaten the rest but now he’ll face the best.
-Ross discusses the upcoming U.S. Title #1 contender’s tournament but mentions that if the current champ Rick Rude can’t defend the title by January 23rd due to his neck injury then he will be stripped of the championship. Sounds like this is an actual title tournament to me hmmmm.
-STARRCADE ‘92 HIGHLIGHT: “Ravishing” Rick Rude accuses WCW of conspiring against him by threatening to strip him of both his U.S. Title and his #1 contendership for the World Championship. Rude says it won’t work and WCW will not take his title.
U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT: QUARTERFINALS
“The Natural” Dustin Rhodes vs. Vinnie Vegas
Vegas is the third gimmick in three years for Kevin Nash, who just couldn’t quite find something that worked for him in this time period. Luckily for him he’s a few months out from leaving for the WWF and turning his fortunes completely around as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, then later returning to WCW under his real name and leading the company to its most financially successful run (and eventually downfall, but shhh). But whatever that doesn’t matter because we’re talking 1993 and right now Vegas is a tall goof ripping off a My Blue Heaven character played by Steve Martin.
Rhodes surprises Vegas with a roll-up, almost winning the match in seconds. Vegas shoves Rhodes, Rhodes dodges and cradles him once again for another near-fall. Vegas counters a backdrop with a sunset flip (?!?) for the 1…2…Rhodes kicks out and they reset. Rhodes takes control with a side headlock takeover, Vegas counters with a snapmare but misses an elbowdrop. Rhodes takes him back down with a double leg into a jackknife for the 1…2…Vegas kicks out and Rhodes goes back to the side headlock. Rhodes misses a clothesline, Vegas connects with a side slam for the 1…2…Rhodes kicks out. Rhodes dodges an axhandle and tries a slam but his back gives out and Vegas lands on top for a two-count. Vegas follows up with a gutwrench powerbomb throw for the 1…2…Rhodes kicks out again, Vegas slows things down with a bearhug in the center of the ring. Rhodes refuses to fade so Vegas throws him to the canvas and covers for the 1…2…Rhodes kicks out, back to the bearhug we go. Rhodes escapes and catches Vegas with a sunset flip for the 1…2…not yet. Rhodes stuns Vegas with a series of rights and connects with a lariat off the Irish whip followed by a dropkick, covering for the 1…2…Vegas kicks out. Rhodes sends Vegas into the corner and comes off the ropes with a Bulldog for the 1…2…3! Rhodes moves onto the next round to meet the winner of Van Hammer vs. Tony Atlas which takes place later in the episode.
Dustin Rhodes defeated Vinnie Vegas via pinfall (6:23)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Bearhug (yes I think it’s one word, sue me) spots are the death of me attention span-wise but besides that I was surprisingly into this one. Having watched so many Diesel/Big Sexy matches growing up I was not prepared for Vinnie Vegas to be doing sunset flips or selling as much as he did for Rhodes. I’ll enjoy what time I have left with the character before he throws all that out the window for fame and fortune. (**1/4)
–Tony Schiavone is standing by in the locker room with Barry Windham & Brian Pillman. Windham says he’s had the wrong priorities, wanting to focus on singles championships, and introduces “Stunning” Steve Austin as Pillman’s new partner. Pillman hypes the potential dominance of he and Austin as a tag team. Austin says he doesn’t need anyone to tell him he’s a great wrestler because he knows, and will be bringing the same ingredient that he brought to his world-record Television Title reign to this new team. He and Pillman don’t wrestle for the sake of it, they do it to win championships, and that need will turn to greed. They’re in action next!
“Flyin” Brian Pillman & “Stunning” Steve Austin vs. Ricky Nelson & Larry Santo
Ross announces that Pillman & Austin already have a World Tag Team Title shot coming up on the 13th at Clash of the Champions. Well dang that was easy. Nelson & Santo surprise Austin and go on the offensive, working over the left arm. Austin backs Santo into the corner and makes the tag to Pillman, who lights him up with chops. Santo responds with a hip toss and armdrag. Pillman fights out of an armbar attempt and tags Austin. Santo fights out of the corner (!!!) and controls Austin with a hammerlock. Nelson tags in and grabs an armbar. Nelson tries a leapfrog, Austin counters with a European uppercut right to the knee. Hot damn. An angry Pillman tags in and rubs Nelson’s face into the canvas. Nelson fights back with chops, Pillman tosses him out by the tights. Austin tags in and drops a knee to the bridge of the nose, Pillman tags back in and trades chops with Nelson. Santo tags in and connects with a dropkick. Austin gets the blind tag and catches a charging Santo with the Stun Gun for the 1…2…3!
Brian Pillman & Steve Austin defeated Ricky Nelson & Larry Santo via pinfall (4:32)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Way more fun than it had any right to be. Nelson & Santo looked like they had Austin & Pillman’s number there for a minute, and I loved how Austin & Pillman’s offense got more aggressive the more embarrassed they were. Not going to say a dominant win in the slightest, but it’s a win. Maybe Nelson & Santo should get the World Tag Team Title shot at the Clash. (**)
-STARRCADE ‘92 HIGHLIGHTS: Sting defeats Big Van Vader to win the King of Cable tournament and trophy. Match looks REALLY good even in highlight form but that’s not surprising because it’s Sting & Vader.
-Ross & Zbyszko segue into the CURRENT lineup for Clash of the Champions on January 13th:
- Sting, Ron Simmons, Van Hammer, & Dustin Rhodes vs. Big Van Vader, The Barbarian, Rick Rude, & Barry Windham in THUNDERCAGE
- Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas defend the Unified Tag Team Championship against Brian Pillman & Steve Austin
- Erik Watts vs. Cactus Jack in a BOUNTY MATCH
U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT: QUARTERFINALS
“Heavy Metal” Van Hammer vs. Tony Atlas [w/ Cactus Jack]
Winner of this match meets Dustin Rhodes on next week’s episode of Saturday Night. Hammer has ditched the guitar he never learned to play during his entrance by this point which is a relief. These two are wrestling tonight, but will also be meeting on January 13th in an ARM WRESTLING CONTEST. The rating for that segment rivaled the M*A*S*H finale no doubt.
Hammer and Atlas lock horns, jockeying for position but they’re just SO STRONG. Atlas clubs Hammer, Hammer reverses a whip but gets dropped with a shoulder tackle. Hammer responds with a pair of slams and a dropkick for a two-count. Atlas counters out of a side headlock with a top wristlock and the two fight to see who can bring the other to the ground. Hammer bridges up, Atlas yanks the hair to send him to the canvas and “win” the power contest. Hammer elevates Atlas with a backdrop, following up with a running elbowdrop for the 1…2…Atlas kicks out, Hammer goes back to the side headlock, but Atlas breaks it with a belly-to-back suplex. Hammer ducks a clothesline and connects with a shoulder tackle for the 1…2…shoulder up. Hammer connects with a corner clothesline followed by a legdrop to the back of the head for the 1…2…Atlas bridges up. Jack climbs the apron, Hammer tries to suplex Atlas back in but Atlas lands on top into a lateral press, Jack holding Hammer’s leg down, for the 1…2…3!
Tony Atlas defeated Van Hammer via pinfall (5:08)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Van Hammer is a sentimental favorite of mine as a kid so I probably had more to like about this match than most people. It wasn’t good by any stretch but I did at least appreciate their little mini-arm wrestling match when they battled over a top wristlock. That was fun. I’M TRYING HERE. (*)
-WCW UP CLOSE: Jesse “The Body” Ventura (subbing for usual host Tony Schiavone) is with “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson. Anderson says he came to WCW as a rookie and learned from the best during the Dusty Rhodes/Magnum T.A. Era. His roots are here and this is his home. Ventura brings up their shared Minnesota lineage and asks about Anderson’s knee. Anderson lists all the injuries he’s suffered over the years and how recovery can plateau. Anderson has competed hurt before but can’t do so on a serious level without his legs. Ventura thinks 1993 will be the biggest year in WCW history and asks Anderson his expectations for the year. Anderson says he hurt his knee last month in a match with Erik Watts and mentions that he has no contract for WCW in 1993, accusing Watts’ father (and head of WCW) Bill Watts of trying to sweep him out from under the rug before he can get revenge. Ventura is aghast at this, Anderson refuses to be shoved aside and has earned his place here.
- JON’S THOUGHTS: I was under the impression Arn Anderson was supposed to be a heel but with the story being Erik Watts injuring him and Watts’ dad not renewing his contract for 1993 seemingly to protect his kid, he’s coming off like the biggest babyface in WCW. I kind of hope he gets it resolved and stomps the sh*t out of Erik Watts now. Not sure they were intending that, ‘93 WCW and Bill Watts don’t seem smart enough for the double turn to be a thing.
U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT: QUARTERFINALS
Johnny B. Badd vs. Barry Windham
Windham has the size advantage but Badd is a former Golden Gloves boxer so he’s got the advantage in the striking department. Badd controls early with a Japanese armdrag followed by a dropkick and regular armdrag into an armbar. Windham tries to escape with a drag but Badd maintains control until Windham gets to the ropes for separation. Windham clubs his way out of a wristlock, Badd responds with punches of his own and a chop that sends Windham crashing to the floor. Windham goes on the offensive, connecting with a belly-to-back suplex and stopping a comeback with a rake to the eyes. Windham connects with an elbowdrop, Badd kicks out at two and Windham makes him pay with a choke. HE HAS TILL FIVE, REF. Madusa, Rick Rude’s valet, appears at ringside to scout as Badd tries to fight back with right hands (some of them even connecting!) but Windham throws him to the canvas and following up with a kneedrop to once again stamp out the comeback. Windham snaps off a vertical suplex, floating over into a lateral press for the 1…2…Badd kicks out. Windham follows up with a gutwrench slam and covers again for the 1…2…Badd kicks out again.
Badd mounts a comeback, countering a suplex with one of his own and putting Windham into the Center Stage lights with a backdrop. Badd catches Windham with a back elbow off the whip for the 1…2…Windham kicks out and begs off in the corner, suckering Badd in and sending him into the buckles. Badd surprises Windham with a Frankensteiner and comes off the top with a Flying Sunset Flip…but WINDHAM ROLLS THROUGH AND FLATTENS BADD WITH A SLIDING LARIAT FOLLOWED BY AN IMPALER DDT FOR THE 1…2…3.
Barry Windham defeated Johnny B. Badd via pinfall (7:32)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: Windham’s sliding lariat counter to the Sunset Flip has been living rent-free in my head since I first saw it back in ‘93. I thought it was the coolest thing ever and recreated it SO MANY TIMES in my figure feds, and I’m happy to report that it popped me just as much as it did when I was a little kid. Such a smooth counter and finish, a thing of goddamn beauty. Windham & Rhodes, former tag team partners, have been at each other’s throats for awhile now and are on opposite sides of the brackets so it looks like that’s being set up for the Finals, which should rule. Good match, great finish, man I love when stuff I watched growing up still rules. (**3/4)
–Tony Schiavone is standing by in the locker room with Unified Tag Team Champs Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas, the former in the final Quarterfinals match of the U.S. Title Tournament coming up next. Douglas tells Steamboat he’s behind him 100% and hopes he gets to pay Barry Windham back in the semi-finals. Steamboat says his top priority is the Tag Team Titles but opportunities like this don’t come along every day.
U.S. TITLE #1 CONTENDER’S TOURNAMENT: QUARTERFINALS
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Dangerous” Dan Spivey
Spivey overpowers Steamboat right from the lockup, shoving the Dragon into the corner with ease. Steamboat brings Spivey to the canvas with a side headlock takeover. Spivey escapes, Steamboat dodges a clothesline by sliding under Spivey and goes back to the side headlock. Spivey almost catches Steamboat sleeping with a pair of pinning attempts, then forces a rope break. Steamboat ducks a clothesline and brings Spivey back to the canvas and back to the side headlock, using his speed and agility to work around Spivey’s strength and height. Spivey sits Steamboat on the top buckle, Steamboat blocks a couple of jabs and comes off the buckle with a flying chop followed by a crossbody for the 1…2…Spivey kicks out, Steamboat connects with a swinging neckbreaker for the 1…2…Spivey kicks out again. Madusa returns to ringside to scout, Ross bringing up the controversy around Rick Rude’s neck injury and insinuating that he will NOT be defending the title against the winner of this tournament. Spivey gets a little offense in, Steamboat tries to hurt him with buckle shots but Spivey is not affected and drills Steamboat with a lariat for a two-count. Steamboat avoids a suplex so Spivey changes gears, trapping the Dragon in an abdominal stretch.
Steamboat escapes with a hip toss and charges, Spivey plants him with a uranage of sorts or a side slam (I looked down for a sec) for the 1…2…Steamboat kicks out. Spivey lays into Steamboat with chops and a scoop slam but the Dragon just won’t stay down so he goes back to the abdominal stretch. Spivey turns it into a slam and drops an elbow for the 1…2…Steamboat kicks out! Steamboat finally stuns Spivey with a series of chops, Spivey fights through the pain and connects with a headbutt leading into a standing bearhug. Steamboat breaks out and charges, Spivey catches him into a backbreaker for the 1…2…Steamboat kicks out. Steamboat dodges a corner splash and follows up with a belly-to-back suplex, both men feeling the effects of the match. Steamboat hops to the apron to avoid a corner splash, Spivey connects with a lariat instead, Steamboat dazes Spivey with a buckle shot (the same thing Spivey no-sold earlier) and comes off the top with a Flying Crossbody for the 1…2…3!
Ricky Steamboat defeated Dan Spivey via pinfall (8:22)
- JON’S THOUGHTS: It’s Steamboat so you know you’re at least getting a watchable match. Spivey’s better match of the weekend, he had some fun counters to Steamboat’s offense. Steamboat outsmarting and outmaneuvering his opponent to victory is always a joy to watch. (**3/4)
-Ross plugs his local Atlanta radio show, then hypes next week’s Saturday Night which will feature Steamboat vs. Windham in the semi-finals of the U.S. Title tournament.
-Cut to Teddy Long in the locker room with Barry Windham. Long mentions Steamboat is in the tournament to get revenge on Windham, Windham isn’t worried because he can fight his way out of any predicament he finds himself in. Windham vows to tear Steamboat up.
-Ross & Zbyszko close the show.
A very focused Saturday Night this week as the U.S. Title tournament kicked off, with three of the four matches delivering in various ways and Badd/Windham having probably my favorite ending sequence as a kid. Still holds up, dammit! The messaging around the tournament is a little weird, feels like WCW knows Rude won’t be cleared but they already shot the footage so they have to be cage-y about what’s actually going to happen at the end of the month. Maybe they’ll give up next week and just lean into the vacancy. Speaking of potential title vacancies, Scott Steiner is supposedly the Television Champion still but from what I remember he and Rick are making their WWF PPV debut in a few weeks at the Royal Rumble. We going to hear anything about that?