This week Throwback Thursday dips in the archives of the WWE Network to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a pivotal event in the history of World Championship Wrestling: Spring Stampede ’98!
By spring of 1998 WCW had dominated the “Monday Night Wars” for some 20 months and had nearly put the World Wrestling Federation out of business, or so the lore goes. But, heads up against the April 13, 1998 Spring Stampede ’98 go-home edition of Monday NITRO, the WWF won their first ratings battle since June 10, 1996. WCW’s dominance was suddenly over, and the game of thrones for control of the wrestling supremacy was heading into its next phase.
But, from Ric Flair being suspended for attending his late son Reid’s wrestling tourney in Detroit (the first step in an ugly, unnecessary feud) to Sting’s long-planned WCW World title reign not quite setting the world on fire to the bungling of Bret Hart’s first months on WCW TV to the never-ending saga of the nWo, WCW, at the worst possible moment, was beginning to look like the same old WCW of yesteryear. More than anything WCW needed a solid Spring Stampede event and needed, above all else, to get back to their winning ways.
How well does Spring Stampede ’98 hold up 20 years later? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Aside from music (Jericho and Hogan) there are few (if any edits) to this event on the Network.
Context (for this event, anyhow) is complete. All previous editions of both Monday NITRO and Thunder, as well as all prior PPVs, are currently available for you to enjoy on the Network right now!
WCW/nWo Spring Stampede’98 (WATCH)
Date: April 19, 1998 – Location: Denver Coliseum, Denver, Colorado
Attendance: 7,428 – PPV Buys: 0.72 (>261,000 buys)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: Lee Marshal & “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Sting
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Diamond Dallas Page
WCW World Tag Team Championship: The Outsiders (Scott Hall & “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash)
WCW World Television Champion: Booker T
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Chris Jericho
The show opens with a short vignette highlighting the “power struggle” within the nWo between Hollywood Hogan and Randy Savage and the growing tension between Hogan and Kevin Nash.
In the arena, as the pyro goes off, Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show before Mike Tenay reports that Randy Savage’s cast, earned from being run down in the parking lot a few weeks back on NITRO, has been removed and that the World title main event is now a “No Disqualification” match while Heenan talks about the big “bat match” to come.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 3:20)
Saturn w/Kidman vs. Goldberg
This was a great way to get the show started. The fans are so in to Goldberg that virtually anything he does gets a pop. The match is carried by Saturn who has to go to extremes to draw heat, making both men look silly at times. After press slamming Saturn from the second rope Goldberg takes out the Flock and spears Kidman when Saturn attacks and puts Goldberg in the Rings of Saturn. Goldberg stands up and turns the Rings of Saturn into a Jackhammer for the pin at 8:11 to improve to 73—0 and a date with the U.S. Champion tomorrow night on NITRO.
WINNER is Goldberg (Pin, 8:11)
— Singles Match (WATCH – 15:05)
Chavo Guerrero, Jr. w/Eddie Guerrero vs. Ultimo Dragon
Should Chavo, Jr. win he’ll be free of Eddie but should Dragon win Eddie will be twice as hard on his young nephew. This is a good, fast-paced match that sees Chavo, against his uncle’s insistence, try to stick to the rules to win the match. Late in the match Ultimo suffers an inadvertent low blow and Chavo refuses to attack him. Eddie freaks out, slapping Chavo for Chavo’s inaction. Chavo eventually does go to work on Dragon only for Dragon to reverse Chavo’s tornado DDT into the Dragon Sleeper for the submission win at 11:50. After the match Eddie again berates Chavo and slaps his nephew, who tells Eddie he refuses to “cheat to win.”
WINNER is Ultimo Dragon (Submission, 11:50)
After replays we go to the WCWWrestling.com internet location where DDP tells Lee Marshal that he’s not worried about Goldberg tomorrow night but focused on Raven and taking back his U.S. title which Raven has stolen.
— WCW World Television Championship – “No Time-Limit Match” (WATCH – 31:26)
Chris Benoit vs. Booker T(c)
After consecutive draws on the March 23rd and 30th editions of NITRO the “no time-limit” stipulation was tacked on to this bout. One would expect this would mean a rather lengthy, intense match but that’s not exactly what we get. This was the very beginnings of an all-time great feud that would come to define both men’s careers. Though the match is decent the thin air of Denver seems to wreak havoc on both men. In the end the referee goes down from an errant Booker T axe kick (thanks to Benoit) which allows Benoit to cinch in the Crippler Crossface. Benoit pulls the referee to his feet when Booker T, sailing over the head of the referee, hits Benoit with Harlem Sidekick for the pin at 14:11 to retain the TV title.
WINNER and STILL WCW World Television Champion, Booker T (Pin, 14:11)
— “WCW vs. nWo Grudge Match” – Rick Rude to be Handcuffed to Jim Neidhart (WATCH – 50:45)
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/Jim Neidhart vs. Curt Hennig w/Rick Rude
This one takes forever to get going with Rick Rude refusing to be handcuffed to Neidhart and when it does get going it’s nothing to write home about. Eventually Neidhart and a “police officer” (Vincent) get into a fight as Rude uncuffs himself and cuffs Neidhart to the turnbuckle. After Rude attacks Neidhart Hennig sends Davey Boy face first into the metal turnbuckle to score the pin at 4:49. After the match Rude and Hennig do a number on Davey Boy in the ring and then take out “Anvil” on the outside.
WINNER is Curt Hennig w/Rick Rude (Pin, 4:49)
As Jericho makes his way out he gets on the mic and dedicates the match to “our fallen comrade, currently residing in the ‘Where Are They Now’ file, Dean Malenko.” Jericho says that Malenko can “live vicariously” through Jericho, “the real ‘man of one thousand and four holds’, daddy-o!”
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 1:02:54)
Prince Iaukea vs. Chris Jericho(c)
Iaukea doesn’t seem too excited to be in the match though Jericho’s doing all he can to make Prince look like a threat. After a series of clever near-falls and false finishes Jericho rolls through a top rope sunset flip and cinches in the Walls of Jericho for the tap out win at 9:56 to retain the Cruiserweight title. After the match Jericho grabs Iaukea’s ‘ie lavalava and tries it on. “I always wanted a mahi-mahi!”
WINNER and STILL WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Chris Jericho (Submission, 9:56)
Next we go back to the internet location where Raven, with DDP’s U.S. title over his shoulder, says that “William Shakespeare once said, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold.'” Though it’s not Shakespeare, more like Mario Puzzo, Raven says there will be no “haven” or “sanctuary” for DDP. “You will feel the Evenflow. Quote the Raven, nevermore.”
Bagwell comes to the ring with “Big Poppa Pump” and a shoddy looking cast around his right forearm. Schiavone says that “if any doctor would put a cast on like that he’d be—he’d lose his license!” To which Heenan responds, “Or work for us!” Bagwell gets on the mic and says that his lawyer told him not wrestle since “Buff” had no doctor’s release. J.J. Dillon comes to the ring with Okerlund, questions Bagwell’s story, and offers for Randy Savage’s surgeon (flown in from Atlanta to remove Savage’s cast) to look at the injury. Conveniently at ringside the doctor looks over Bagwell’s hand. When the doctor touches the hand a “pained” Bagwell grabs Dillon by the tie with his supposedly injured hand, exposing the fraud. Bagwell is cleared to compete on the spot.
— “Tag Team WCW vs. nWo Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:17:46)
New World Order (Buff Bagwell & “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner) vs. “Total Package” Lex Luger & Rick Steiner w/Ted DiBiase
This one is a street fight to start with Bagwell and Rick Steiner brawling in the ring and Scott Steiner and Luger fighting on the floor before slowing to terrible, terrible crawl. Eventually Luger gets the hot tag and cleans house as Rick chases brother Scott to the back. Rick returns to shove Bagwell off the top rope before Luger then lifts “Buff” into the Torture Rack for the submission win at 5:58.
WINNERS are “Total Package” Lex Luger & Rick Steiner (Submission, 5:58)
Next up is an odd WCW Hotline promo from “Mean” Gene who teases that “An individual showed up tonight at Spring Stampede that leads me to believe that another certain individual from the New World Order is about to re-appear on the scene on the very near future.”
— “Unadvertised Singles Match” (WATCH – 1:30:08)
La Parka vs. Psychosis
This one is a helluva lot better than that live crowds response for sure and has all the hallmarks of what made WCW’s Cruiserweight division so great. In the end La Parka’s insistence on pulling Psychosis up at the count of two comes back to bite him as Psychosis is able to land the guillotine leg drop on La Parka for the pin at 7:01.
WINNER is Psychosis (Pin, 7:01)
As the ring crew set up the pole for the forthcoming “bat” match we go to the announce position where Tony, Tenay, and Heenan chat about the World title match to come and strategy for the “bat” match.
— “Tag Team WCW vs. nWo Baseball Bat Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:41:21)
New World Order (WCW World Tag Team Champion “Big Sexy” Kevin Nash & Hollywood Hogan) vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & The Giant
This one, though a slow motion brawl at times, isn’t all that bad. Hogan and Piper do some fun brawling, Giant spanks Hogan, and there’s a double big boot spot between Giant and Kevin Nash that help make the match far more interesting than the live crowd lets on. Though it’s a “bat” match no one goes for the bat until very late in the match when Giant helps Piper get the bat. The match breaks down and The Disciple brings Hogan a second bat which Hogan uses on Giant and tries to hit Piper’s bad hip with when Hogan hits Nash instead. In the end Disciple tosses Hogan the first bat and distracts Piper as Hogan gloms Piper from behind to pick up the pin at 13:24. After the match an irate Nash looks to powerbomb Giant when Hogan attacks Nash instead. Hogan runs for the hills as Giant stands up and breaks a bat like a toothpick over his knee.
WINNERS are New World Order (WCW World Tag Team Champion Kevin Nash & Hollywood Hogan) (Pin, 13:24)
After replays we see a promo for the next month’s Slamboree ’98.
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship – “Raven’s Rules” – Winner Defends U.S. Championship Against Goldberg Tomorrow Night on WCW Monday NITRO (WATCH – 2:05:29)
Raven vs. Diamond Dallas Page(c)
Sick Boy comes out of the stands just prior to the start of the match to assist Raven but DDP makes short work of him. This one starts in the ring before going to the stage where the two fight in bales of hay, through a wooden fence, off a stagecoach, and over and through the internet location before Raven drags DDP to the ring with a bull rope where the kitchen sink becomes the weapon of choice. Near the end, after Reese drops DDP with a two-handed chokeslam for a near-fall, all hell breaks loose with seemingly every member of The Flock running in and being taken out by DDP, including a highlight reel Diamond Cutter on Kidman. Suddenly an unknown man (a debuting Horace Hogan) hits DDP with a stop sign, a la ECW, before Raven lands the Evenflow DDT on the kitchen sink for the 1-2-3 at 11:56 to win the lone WCW U.S. title of his career and ending DDP’s first (of an eventual two) U.S. title reign at 112-days.
WINNER and NEW WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Raven (Pin, 11:56)
— WCW World Heavyweight Championship – “WCW vs. nWo No Disqualification Match” (WATCH – 2:21:33)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
“Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Miss Elizabeth vs. Sting(c)
This match is nothing more than a brawl in and out of the ring. Like the previous bout these two fight through the set and use the fences and bales of hay. But, seeing as the fans just saw all of this just minutes before, the fans begin to fade. Late in the match the referee goes down and Elizabeth is wiped out with a Stinger Splash before Savage cracks Sting with a chair and goes for the flying elbow. Suddenly Hogan appears and shoves Savage off the top rope, injuring Savage’s right knee. Moments later Sting hits the Scorpion Death Drop on Savage when Kevin Nash shows up, powerbombing the Champion and dragging Savage atop Sting to give “Macho Man” the win at 10:37. This marked Randy Savage’s third (of an eventual four) WCW World Heavyweight title reign and marked the end of Sting’s fourth (of an eventual six) WCW World title reign at 56-days.
WINNER and NEW WCW World Heavyweight Champion, “Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Miss Elizabeth (Pin, 10:37)
After the match Kevin Nash hands the World title to the referee to give to Savage as trash litters the ring. Nash stays with Savage as Hogan reappears in the aisle to scream about it being “my belt” and saying that Nash “has hell to pay!”
We see a final promo for Slamboree ’98 before the show goes dark.
Spring Stampede ’98 has its moments but the constant run-ins in the big matches and the wacky structure of the card makes for a sloppy show that is unfortunately far more miss than hit.
Aside from Chavo/Dragon, Benoit/Booker T, and Raven/DDP the show is overbooked gaga-mania. Putting on three “No DQ” matches to close out the show was not a wise decision. That said the event is worth watching at least once, especially for those who’ve never seen it.
Already subscribed to the WWE Network? Then you can relive Spring Stampede ’98 or see it for the every first time right now! Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below.
Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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Each time I look at these stacked cards, I think to myself, “WCW had so much potential.”
So true! And yet match after match ended with an NWO beatdown or the commentators ignoring the great in-ring action to hype the awful upcoming main event… I can understand why Bret Hart got disillusioned so quickly after arriving.
Exactly right about the match endings. Hogan was booked in these great matches as far as the card went: Piper, Warrior, Sting, Paul Wight, Randy Savage, etc., and it just always ended the same way.
Nothing for Bruno Sammartino??
Hello Roland Smitts! As much as I would have liked to have paid tribute to Bruno this week there wasn’t enough time to prepare a proper Tribute article. Instead the article will appear next week in place of the originally slated Unforgiven ’98.
Thanks for reading Roland Smitts and sharing your thoughts! Take care!