For this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday we’ll be revisiting WCW Spring Stampede ’97, which took place 20-years ago today. With the help of the WWE Network we can see just how well this classic WCW PPV event has stood the test of time.
Spring Stampede ’97 came at a time when WCW could do no wrong. Though handily defeating the WWF every Monday night WCW’s creative direction was going in circles at this point in 1997, biding its time as the Hogan/Sting story took shape. Though this event featured a number of solid/great matches it lacked the energy and urgency of March’s Uncensored ’97 (whose TBT article can be read here). The event itself was only the third April PPV for WCW and the first since Spring Stampede ’94. The only other April PPV prior to this event were highlights of the WCW/New Japan Super Show I (currently unavailable on the Network) first broadcast on April 7, 1991.
Context is not an issue with this one as all previous editions of Monday NITRO, as well as PPVs and COTCs, are readily available to watch on the Network.
WCW Spring Stampede ’97 (WATCH)
Date: April 6, 1997 – Location: Tupelo Coliseum, Tupelo, Mississippi
Attendance: 8,356 – PPV Buys: 0.58 (210,000 homes)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Dusty Rhodes, Mike Tenay, & Lee Marshal – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund & Lee Marshal
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME:
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hollywood Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Dean Malenko
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash)
WCW World Television Champion: Prince Iaukea
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Syxx
WCW Women’s Heavyweight Champion: Akira Hokuto
After the opening montage and pyro Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show. Schiavone talks about the three main events (DDP/Savage, the “four corners” match, and World Tag Team title match) Scott Hall being AWOL for three weeks and missing tonight’s show, and that Kevin Nash is being ordered to defend the Tag Team titles against the Steiners in a handicap match. Nash, however, has a few demands that must be met before he’ll work the match and that Lee Marshal has been “dispatched” to find out exactly what those demands are.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 3:26)
Special Guest Commentator: Mike Tenay
Ultimo Dragon vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr.
The third PPV showdown between Dragon and Mysterio is a great opening match, as many of the cruiserweight openers were, that is more methodical than their previous two. Using clean psychology and meaningful offense these two manged to tell a completely different story than their previous two meetings. Halfway through the match, however, they cut to the back where Lee Marshal, over the PA system attempts to interview Kevin Nash and learn his “demands” only to have Syxx slam the door in his face. The closing moments of this match are a defensive battle with both men countering the counters. In the end Mysterio hits a stunning springboard hurricanrana off the second rope for the 1-2-3 at 14:56.
WINNER is Rey Mysterio, Jr. (Pin, 14:56)
In the back Lee Marshal tries again to get a statement from Kevin Nash regarding Nash’s demands. Syxx answers the door but before anything can happen Rick and Scott Steiner show up. Nash enters the scene and says that he’ll face them both so long as Nick Patrick is the referee. Nash then spits on Scott Steiner, setting Scott Steiner off who takes a swing at the police. Doug Dillinger maces Scott Steiner on the spot and helps the police handcuff Scott as they hold Rick Steiner back.
— WCW Women’s Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 22:12)
Special Guest Commentator: Lee Marshall
Madusa vs. Akira Hokuto(c) w/Sonny Oono
WCW’s Women’s division was easily one of the biggest blunders of the Monday Night Wars era, given the talent on hand and audience interest. This match isn’t bad, it’s just more of the same women’s wrestling fans had been seeing for the past decade. Amazingly, Madusa, the former WWF Women’s Champion (who threw the strap in the trash), never held the WCW Women’s title once in its short lifespan on WCW TV. The finish here is a hot mess. Madusa attacks Oono on the apron, distracting the referee. Madusa then goes for a powerbomb when Luna Vachon runs in and kicks Madusa in the knee. Hokuto lands on top of Madusa for the pin at 5:14 to retain the Women’s Heavyweight Championship.
WINNER and STILL WCW Women’s Champion, Akira Hokuto w/Sonny Oono (Pin, 5:14)
— WCW World Television Championship (WATCH – 31:18)
“Lord” Steve Regal vs. Prince Iaukea(c)
WCW was doing its best to make Prince Iaukea a big deal with high profile defenses against Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Randy Savage but, try as they might, Iaukea just couldn’t catch on in a meaningful way. This match isn’t all that bad, with Iaukea holding his own against Steven Regal, it’s just not the most entertaining of matches. Out of nowhere Iaukea reverses a Regal school boy attempt into a roll-up for the pin at 10:01 to retain the WCW World Television title (the same exact finish as Prince’s last PPV defense against Mysterio, Jr.). After the match the two brawl with Regal taking control and cinching in the Regal Stretch twice and smashing Iaukea in the back of the head with the TV title belt!
WINNER and STILL WCW World Television Champion, Prince Iaukea (Pin, 10:01)
“Mean” Gene plugs the WCW Hotline next (something about the rise of a new kliq in WCW) before bringing out “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who says that he’s cleared to return on May 1st and talks about Arn Anderson having neck surgery on Tuesday morning to fix his hand before announcing that Kevin Greene will team with Flair and Piper to battle the New World Order on May 18th at Slamboree ’97, which Flair says will be his first match back. “Nature Boy” then challenges the nWo to pick a team and come fight and says that before he’s done in wrestling he’ll get his hands on Eric Bischoff.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 52:12)
The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. The Four Horsemen (Steve “Mongo” McMichael & Jeff Jarrett) w/Debra
This was supposed to have gone down at Uncensored ’97 before the Horsemen joined “Team Piper” for the big “triangle elimination match”. Rock and Grunge instead lost a “Texas tornado” match to Harlem Heat that night after “Mongo” and Jarrett interfered, setting up this match. No matter how you slice it, this just isn’t a very good match. The match breaks down into a street fight in the end with Johnny Grunge even trying to put Debra through a table. Jeff Jarrett eventually puts Grunge in the figure-four leglock only but, with “Mongo” distracting the referee, Rocco hits Jarrett with “Mongo’s” Halliburton allowing Grunge to score the win at 10:43.
WINNERS are The Public Enemy (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) (Pin, 10:43)
“Mean” Gene sells the WCW Hotline again before interviewing Harlem Heat (1:07:30) and Sister Sherri to discuss the “four corners” match. This is easily one of the most infamous interviews in wrestling history. Sherri says it’s going to be “divide and conquer” while Booker T says the only kliq that matters in WCW is Harlem Heat before yelling, “Hulk Hogan, we’re comin’ for you, n****!” The word would be replaced with “sucka” for the home video release, for those wondering. Stevie Ray, oblivious to the slip, says they’re coming for the gold.
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 1:10:24)
Chris Benoit w/Woman vs. Dean Malenko(c)
Essentially this match was about respect with Malenko giving Benoit a chance to rise up the rankings. The match, however, is a slow, methodical affair built around ‘anything Dean can do Benoit can do better’. Late in the match all hell breaks loose. Jacqueline runs down and attacks Woman; Jimmy Hart steals the U.S. title; Eddie Guerrero runs down to stop Jimmy Hart; Arn Anderson attacks Malenko; Kevin Sullivan cracks Benoit in the back of the head with a wooden pole; and Eddie is dragged to the back by Sullivan, Hart and Jacqueline with the U.S. title belt! The match ends in a DQ for Dean Malenko at 17:55. Afterwards Malenko helps Benoit up and tells Benoit “he wasn’t supposed to be here,” whoever “he” is.
WINNER and STILL WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Dean Malenko (Disqualification, 17:55)
— WCW World Tag Team Championship – “Singles Match” (WATCH – 1:33:40)
Special Guest Referee: Nick Patrick
Rick Steiner vs. Kevin Nash(c) w/Ted DiBiase & WCW Cruiserweight Champion Syxx
This one feels like a drawn out NITRO main event. It’s all Nash until Rick hits a low blow and the top rope bulldog only for Nick Patrick to pull the obligatory slow-count. Syxx and DiBiase expose one of the turnbuckle bolts which Nash uses for a pair of snake eyes on Steiner before DiBiase tells Nash to end the match. After another snake eyes DiBiase walks off. After a fourth snake eyes even Nick Patrick is repulsed. After a Jackknife Powerbomb Nick Patrick reluctantly counts three to give Nash the win at 10:24 to retain the World Tag Team titles. After the match Nash chases off Nick Patrick as Syxx and Nash stand equally disgusted in the ring.
WINNER and STILL WCW World Tag Team Champion, Kevin Nash (Pin, 10:24)
In the back Okerlund interviews The Giant and Lex Luger about the forthcoming “four corners” match. Giant says that if he has to rip Harlem Heat’s heads off to win, he’ll do it, while Luger says WCW is going claim what’s theirs and bring prestige back to the company.
— “Four Corners Number One Contender’s Match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH – 1:47:22)
Booker T w/Sister Sherri vs. Stevie Ray w/Sister Sherri vs.“Total Package” Lex Luger vs. The Giant
Instead of all four men being in the ring at the same time this one operates as a tag team match with each man in their own corner. The real draw to this match was the chance to see Harlem Heat go one-on-one, which we do briefly see but doesn’t amount to much. As the match goes on it becomes more of a traditional tag team match that is average at best. Eventually The Giant takes over and prepares to chokeslam Stevie Ray. Instead, Giant tags in Luger who puts Stevie Ray in the torture rack for the submission win at 18:20 to earn a future title shot against WCW World Champion Hollywood Hogan.
WINNER and NEW Number One Contender to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, “Total Package” Lex Luger (Submission, 18:20)
Up next we get a Slamboree ’97 promo after which we see Randy Savage and Liz making their way to the ring for the main event. In the back “Mean” Gene interviews Diamond Dallas Page who says Savage stepped into DDP’s real world and found out what was important to him. Kimberly talks about how all she’s heard at home is how DDP is going to get Savage for what he did to Kimberly. DDP’s rage, Kimberly says, “will even the odds.”
— “No Disqualification Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:14:38)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
“Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Liz vs. Diamond Dallas Page w/Kimberly
This one is an all-time classic war from the start. It’s not long before these two are fighting through the crowd and around the ring. Savage tries to put DDP away several times but DDP refuses to stay down. Savage is at his “Madness” best as he tries to use the ring bell, attacks and piledrives the referee before whipping the referee with his own belt, and even threatening to beat up Michael Buffer. When Savage hits the big flying elbow on DDP there’s no one to make the count. Nick Patrick finally runs down and hugs Savage as Nash watches from the aisle. Out of nowhere DDP reverses a slam into the Diamond Cutter for the pin (which Patrick happily counts) at 15:39.
WINNER is Diamond Dallas Page w/Kimberly (Pin, 15:39)
After the match Kevin Nash comes to the ring and grabs Nick Patrick. Suddenly the rest of the nWo, led by Eric Bischoff, come to the ring. Nash delivers a huge powerbomb to Patrick. Savage grabs Kimberly by the hair as Eric Bishcoff stops Savage from slapping her. Savage instead shoves Bischoff down and then slaps him twice before the nWo runs in to break it up.
Tony, Dusty and Heenan talk about the disintegration of the New World Order to close the show.
Spring Stampede ’97 is a mixed-bag for sure. Featuring a great opener and a classic main event, the rest of the card is more hit than miss, especially the big “four corners” and Tag Title matches which both fall flat. The event, unlike other WCW PPVs from 1997, has not aged too well. If you haven’t seen it, Spring Stampede’ 97 is at least worth a viewing, to be sure. But be aware the show feels more like a commercial-free edition of NITRO than a PPV.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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