Are you ready for WAR?!
This week Throwback Thursday dips into the archives of the WWE Network to celebrate the 20th anniversary of WCW’s World War 3 ’97, held 20 years ago to this very day!
Though WCW remained the top dog in the wrestling game in November 1997, the World Wrestling Federation, on the heels of the “Montreal Screwjob”, was gaining ground. The go-home edition of NITRO prior to this event garnered a 4.1 rating to RAW‘s 3.1. Combined with the closer rating the week before (NITRO: 4.3; RAW: 3.4) it was clear the tide was turning. But WCW was by no means dead in the water. The biggest match in WCW history, Hollywood Hogan versus Sting, had just been signed 26-days earlier during the commercial breaks of the premier of Hogan’s Assault on Devil’s Island on TNT. The push towards Starrcade ’97 was officially on, and WCW felt untouchable.
Context is nearly complete with this one as all prior PPVs and previous editions of Monday NITRO are available on the Network for you to enjoy right now!
WCW World War 3 ’97 (WATCH)
Date: November 23 , 1997 – Location: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan
Attendance: 17,128 – PPV Buyrate: 0.56 (>204,000 buys)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund & Mark Madden
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hollywood Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Curt Hennig
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)
WCW World Television Champion: Perry Saturn
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Rey Mysterio, Jr.
After post-apocalyptic opening Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show as the pyro goes off. Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan talk about the importance of the battle royal and what it could mean in the nWo/WCW saga.
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:50)
Glacier & Ernest “The Cat” Miller vs. The Faces of Fear (Meng & The Barbarian) w/Jimmy Hart
This starts out fast and stays that way for much of it. Though Glacier takes nearly all the punishment it’s Miller who steals the match with some impressive spots, including using Meng as a springboard to hit a crossbody on Barbarian on the floor. The real story of the match, though, is the growing animosity between Glacier and Miller. After Miller gets the “hot” tag “The Cat” demolishes everyone in his path. When Miller goes after Jimmy Hart Meng goes for the Tongan Death Grip on Glacier, who rolls out of the way at the last moment, and catches Miller instead, pinning “The Cat” at 9:09.
WINNERS are The Faces of Fear (Meng & The Barbarian) w/Jimmy Hart (Pin, 9:09)
Next we head to the WCWWrestling.com location where Mark Madden is interviewing Diamond Dallas Page (who mistakenly calls Madden “Gino”) about the “World War 3” battle royal.
— WCW World Television Championship (WATCH – 16:38)
Disco Inferno vs. Perry Saturn(c) w/Raven
This was the return match from the November 3, 1997 edition of NITRO where Saturn defeated Disco for Saturn’s lone WCW TV title win. Despite the crowd being largely disinterested this is a pretty good fast-paced, back-and-forth match with Disco getting the upper hand for much of it. Things turn around when Disco goes after “The Flock” at ringside, delivering the Chart Buster on Kidman and Lodi (making his WCW TV debut) and goes after Hammer when Saturn waylays Disco, driving Disco face first into guard rail. Back in the ring Disco goes for a diving crossbody from the top when Saturn rolls through and cinches in the Rings of Saturn for the submission win at 8:19 to retain the TV title.
WINNER and STILL WCW World Television Champion, Perry Saturn(c) w/Raven (Submission, 8:19)
Backstage “Mean” Gene Okerlund plugs the WCW Hotline before interviewing The Giant about the big battle royal and the broken bone in his thumb. We see footage from the previous week’s NITRO of Scott Hall attacking Giant’s hand and causing the injury. Giant says the injury, while preventing the chokeslam, won’t prevent him from tossing guys over the top and that nothing and no one will stand in his way of winning “World War 3”.
— “Grudge Match” – If Dragon Wins Dragon Gets Five Minutes With Sonny Oono (WATCH – 30:56)
Yuji Nagata w/Sonny Oono vs. Ultimo Dragon
This was Dragon’s first match in WCW (or anywhere else) since Halloween Havoc ’97. This is a very good wrestling match that at times feels more like a New Japan match rather than a WCW PPV bout. Though Dragon’s arm is taped it plays no role whatsoever in the match. In the end Dragon lifts Yuji for a back suplex when Yuji’s kicks off of Oono, who was on the apron, and falls back on to Dragon for the four-count (yes, a four-count) at 12:45.
WINNER is Yuji Nagata w/Sonny Oono (Pin, 12:45)
— WCW World Tag Team Championship (WATCH – 47:00)
The Blue Bloods (Steven Regal & Dave Taylor) vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)(c) w/Ted DiBiase
There’s some decent wrestling and psychology in this one but that’s about all. Though The Blue Bloods look great it’s a match that looks and feels like a WCW Saturday Night main event, there just isn’t much sizzle to this one. Rick Steiner gets the hot tag and the match breaks down to a brawl. Moments later Taylor goes over the top, Scott picks up Regal on his shoulders, and Rick connects with the Steinerizer bulldog for the 1-2-3 at 9:47 to retain the WCW World Tag Team titles.
WINNERS and STILL WCW World Tag Team Champions, The Steiner Brothers, (Rick & Scott) w/Ted DiBiase (Pin, 9:47)
At the top of the aisle “Mean” Gene stands with J.J. Dillon, the Chairman of the WCW Executive Committee. Dillon says that the following match may be Raven’s final match with WCW since Raven refuses to sign a WCW contract. Dillon says that Raven has 24-hours to sign a contract or Raven will be gone from World Championship Wrestling.
“Raven’s Rules” (WATCH – 1:00:14)
Scotty Riggs vs. Raven w/Perry Saturn, Kidman, Lodi, & Hammer
This was an interesting story with Raven using Rigg’s eye injury, which Raven caused on the October 27, 1997 edition of NITRO, as a recruitment tool for Riggs to join Raven’s “Flock”. Kidman gets on the mic prior to the match and tells Riggs, “No D.Q. or no match!” Riggs responds with a spring board plancha on to Raven, Kidman, & Saturn and the fight is on. There isn’t much action in this one. Riggs looks to have the match in hand after a drop toe hold sends Raven’s face into a steel chair. Raven slips out of a vertical suplex and hits the Evenflow DDT on Riggs. Raven gets on the mic and yells at Riggs for not joining “The Flock” before hitting another Evenflow on Riggs. Raven says, “This is hurting me more than it’s hurting you!” Raven screams about Riggs not listening to him. “I feel your pain,” Raven says again and again before hitting a third Evenflow on Riggs. The referee counts Riggs out at 8:46 to give Raven the win by referee stoppage. After the match “The Flock” rolls Riggs out of the ring and Hammer carries Riggs away through the crowd as we see replays.
WINNER is Raven w/Perry Saturn, Kidman, Lodi, & Hammer (Referee Stoppage, 8:46)
Steve “Mongo” McMichael comes to the ring with a large metal pipe. Bill Goldberg’s music plays but there’s no Goldberg. Instead “Mongo” grabs the mic and says we’re “not going to see the match you thought you were gonna see tonight.” “Mongo” says he’s been learning some “new tricks”, that Goldberg isn’t the only one who can sneak attack someone. “Mongo” tells someone to get a camera to the back where we see Goldberg laid out on the ground. “Mongo”, his Super Bowl XX ring returned, says he’s ready to wrestle and invites anyone to come down and wrestle him. Moments later Queen Debra drags a reluctant Alex Wright (who was only dressed for “World War 3”) to the ring.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:14:17)
Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs. Alex Wright (sub. for Goldberg) w/Queen Debra
Wright hits McMichael from behind as “Mongo” poses on the turnbuckle but the match is almost entirely “Mongo”. In the end “Mongo” hits a couple of football tackles, a clothesline, and a sidewalk slam before ending the squash with the tombstone piledriver at 3:37.
WINNER is Steve “Mongo” McMichael (Pin, 3:37)
We return to the WCWWrestling.com position where Mark Madden is interviewing WCW World Television Champion Perry Saturn about Saturn’s successful title defense. After asking what anyone was going to do to take the title from him Saturn drops the headset and walks off.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:24:01)
Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero(c)
After losing the Crusierweight title to Mysterio, Jr. in an instant classic at Halloween Havoc ’97, Eddie regained the title on the November 10, 1997 edition of NITRO for the second and final time. Though this match isn’t as clean as their Halloween Havoc encounter it features a number of incredible and dramatic spots. Unlike a lot of matches in the division there is a determined focus on psychology, which makes he match that much more satisfying. In the end Rey attempts his springboard hurricanrana and scores what he thinks is a three-count only for Eddie’s hand to get in the ropes. Rey then goes for a tornado DDT from the top when Eddie blocks the move and drops Rey, throat first, on the top rope. With Rey down and out Eddie climbs to the top and lands a devastating frog splash for the 1-2-3 at 12:44 to retain the Cruiserweight Championship.
WINNER and STILL WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Eddie Guerrero (Pin, 12:44)
Next we see a promo for Starrcade ’97 focusing on the epic Sting/Hogan showdown.
— WCW United States Heavyweight Championship – “No Disqualification, Anything Goes, Match” (WATCH – 1:41:24)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. Curt Hennig(c)
Hennig comes to the ring with a steel chair while Flair can’t seem to figure out how to get to the ring in the first place. This one is a war from the start with Flair and Hennig brawling all over the place. The commentators continually pushing the 60-man battle royal like it’s a pre-show is extremely annoying since they’ve largely stuck to the matches most of the night. As for the match, it is physical and stiff but is just too long. On numerous occasions it seems as if they’re calling different spots at the same time which leads to some odd timing issues and some messy moments. Late in the match Flair brings in Hennig’s steel chair and crotches Hennig on the back of it before kicking the seat into Hennig’s knee twice. Flair brings in another chair to smash Hennig’s knee with and then tosses the U.S. title in Hennig’s direction as if he doesn’t care about it. Flair cinches in the figure four and looks to be moments from winning when Hennig grabs the U.S. title belt and smashes Flair’s knees with it, breaking the hold. Second later, as both men sit up, Hennig gloms Flair in the face with the belt and scores the pinfall win at 18:45 to retain the United States title. After the match the referee helps Flair to the back as we see replays.
WINNER and STILL WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Curt Hennig (Pin, 18:45)
Next up Michael Buffer reads us the rules for the “World War 3” battle royal. They’re a bit different this year than the previous two. Wrestler’s can move freely from ring to ring; the over-the-top-rope rule is history, going to floor in any way is an elimination; and the final 15 wrestlers (five from each ring) will meet in the center ring to determine a winner and new number one contender. The winner is supposed to get a title shot at SuperBrawl VIII, but something tells me that’s not going to happen.
— “60-Man, 3-Ring ‘World War 3’ Number One Contender’s Battle Royal for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH – 2:06:19)
Special Guest Referee: Michael Buffer
Featuring (in order of entry):
1) Diamond Dallas Page; 2) Ray Traylor; 3) Alex Wright w/Queen Debra; 4) Disco Inferno; 5) Meng; 6) Villano IV; 7) Villano V; 8) Chris Benoit; 9) Fit Finlay; 10) La Parka; 11) Steven Regal; 12) Rocco Rock; 13) Johnny Grunge; 14) Dave Taylor; 15) Ultimo Dragon; 16) Norman Smiley; 17) Louie Spicolli; 18) Hector Garza; 19) Lizmark, Jr.; 20) The Giant; 21) Chris Adams; 22) Greg Valentine; 23) Yuji Nagata; 24) Chris Jericho; 25) Juventud Guerrera; 26) Wrath w/James Vandenberg; 27) Stevie Ray w/Jacquelyn; 28) Booker T w/Jacquelyn; 29) WCW World Tag Team Champion Scott Steiner w/Ted DiBiase; 30) WCW World Tag Team Champion Rick Steiner w/Ted DiBiase; 31) Jim Duggan; 32) Hugh Morrus; 33) Lex Luger; 34) Ernest Miller; 35) Brad Armstrong; 36) Silver King; 37) Mortis; 38) Barbarian; 39) WCW Cruiserweight Champion Eddie Guerrero; 40) Damien; 41) Prince Iaukea; 42) Barry Darsow; 43) Dean Malenko; 44) John Nord; 45) Kendall Windham; 46) El Dandy; 47) Rey Mysterio, Jr.; 48) Steve McMichael; 49) Ciclope; 50) Renegade; 51) Chavo Guerrero, Jr.; 52) Super Calo; 53) Glacier; 54) Bobby Blaze; 55) Buff Bagwell; 56) Scott Hall; 57) WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Curt Hennig; 58) Randy Savage w/Elizabeth; 59) Vincent; & 60) WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan
The count’s a bit screwy to start with (seeing as Goldberg and Flair are both out) but that’s WCW for ya! The early story is Giant, despite the broken hand, eliminating a ton of guys. This is a fun match but it’s just a mess and nearly impossible to keep up with, especially when they break out the three tiny boxes to follow all three at the same time. One of the highlight spots is when DDP and Benoit brawl over the top rope to the mat and back through the ropes again. Though ring’s three and two stop when they get to five wrestlers it doesn’t last. Eventually Giant “wins” Ring #3, Ring #2 just peters to Rick Steiner, Booker T, DDP, and Luger, and the nWo (Hennig, Hall, Vincent, Savage, & Buff) take Ring #1 to leave the final 10 (not 15) with the nWo demanding the other wrestlers come to them.
After a Diamond Cutter, Vincent is pushed out of the ring at 20:57. Curt Hennig tosses Booker T at 21:28 while Scott Hall and Buff Bagwell eliminate Rick Steiner 7-seconds later at 21:34. As Savage and Hall try and dump Luger and save Hennig, Giant dumps Buff at 22:54. Moments later Hennig and Luger hit the ground simultaneously at 23:01 after Giant attacks Hennig and Savage pushes Luger. The final four, so we think, are The Giant, Randy Savage, DDP, and Scott Hall.
The Giant catches Savage coming off the top but Savage escapes only to walk into a picture-perfect Diamond Cutter from DDP! With DDP’s help The Giant delivers a huge chokeslam to Savage and the two roll Savage out of the ring at 25:06. Scott Hall, the lone nWo member left, walks to Ring #2 and motions to the back where the final entrant, WCW World Champion Hollywood Hogan walks out. Now the true final four, Giant, Luger, Hogan, and Hall, go at it in Ring #1 as the fans chant for Sting. Suddenly “Sting” repels from the ceiling, bat in hand, and steps over the top rope as Hogan tosses DDP at 29:26. Hogan flees and eliminates himself at 29:33 before “Sting” hits Giant with the bat and eliminates Giant 10-seconds later, giving Scott Hall the win at 29:43.
WINNER is Scott Hall (29:43)
After the match “Sting” climbs back in the ring and looks ready to strike Hall with the bat when he stops, lifts his mask, and reveals himself to be Kevin Nash, which gets a decent pop from the hometown crowd. Hogan hits a sloppy Diamond Cutter on DDP as the rest of the nWo, including Bischoff and Rick Rude, come to the ring to celebrate. Hogan says to “keep the cameras rollin'” as they bring DDP back in the ring where Hogan delivers a final Diamond Cutter and celebrates as the commentators sign-off and the credits roll.
This ranks, for me anyways, as the best of the four World War 3 PPV events, and continued WCW’s hot streak of great PPVs in 1997.
Aside from the Raven/Riggs and “Mongo”/Wright matches every match on the card, despite the length of some, delivered. The main event “World War 3”, though a clusterflub to say the least, stands as, in my opinion, the best of the four “World War 3” battle royals the company put on.
So, you’re a subscriber to the award-winning WWE Network? Then relive this classic WCW PPV now or see it for the very first time! And don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments.
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From all of us at WDN, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
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The timing for this one is funny seeing how Bischoff actually got into a Twitter spat with the Conrad who runs Tony Schavonie’s podcast about this same “World War 3” match concept in the last week.
Hello d.p. While I enjoy WHW and STWW I had no idea there was a Twitter spat between the two. It’s been on my schedule for over a month, to be perfectly honest. The show is good though, like a nice glass bottom boat ride…
Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts, d.p.! Happy Thanksgiving!