I’m sure you’ve heard the news.
Or, I guess, if you somehow can only look at the bottom 80% of your screen.
If that’s the case, look up silly.
Or look down, as I’ll make it even larger here.
Yes children, the rumors are true: I am going to be involved in a panel in which we discuss WCW’s demise with Kevin Sullivan, JJ Dillon, David Penzer, and your friend and mine ERIC BISCHOFF. The event will take place Labor Day weekend in Chicago at Starrcast, which is the gigantic fanfest happening during All In weekend. It’s featuring a ton of wrestling’s biggest stars prior to the gigantic show at the Sears Center featuring Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and more.
While I am absolutely thrilled and blessed to be asked to be part of the event, part of me has to wonder if doing this particular panel will be a decision I live to regret; can Eric Bischoff and I have any real discussion about the company he took to its highest heights then saw collapse at his feet?
After all, Mr. Bischoff has had some rather unflattering things to say about yours truly in recent weeks on his shiny new podcast, 83 Weeks. Look at me, giving it a free link. What a nice guy I am. I somehow doubt Eric will give this particular article equal press. I mean, this is a fellow who during episode two of his show referred to your old buddy and old pal as a “clown”, an “idiot”, and goodness gracious me, a “douchebag” as well!! Why? Simply for a little book that I penned with Bryan Alvarez a few years back (one you can pick up by clicking rightchere).
Eh, maybe he just hates me due to the fact I personally picked out this photo for the cover of my book. If that’s the case, I can’t say I really blame him.
What’s ironic is that in that tome, I wrote that he was in fact a genius for his handling of the early days of Nitro, specifically bringing in fresh young talent from all over the world. He would follow this up with his magnum opus: the New World Order. The wrestling world would never be the same again.
Now with all that said, it’s not like everything he touched during WCW’s meteoric rise turned to gold. Today we’ll discuss something that was anything but perfect; in fact, it was mishandled in every conceivable way. And that would be the biggest gift the company could ever be handed: his rival promotion’s hottest star.
You may have heard of him, a guy by the name of Bret Hart. He was the WWF’s champion leading into the infamous Survivor Series 97, the event in which he was ‘screwed’ by Vince McMahon in an historic double cross. Bret came out of that event as a hero to many, a guy who had done everything Vince had ever asked, only to be kicked to the curb in the most dastardly manner possible.
The following night on Nitro, Bischoff and the nWo crew came out to the ring, waving Canadian flags and telling us how The Hitman was on his way to WCW. Bischoff cackled with glee, noting Bret was a “knock out guy” in a wink and nod to the fact that Bret punched Vince McMahon in the face following his bout with Shawn Michaels. The stage was set for WCW to take things to another stratosphere.
So the next week, Bret was nowhere to be found.
The following week, no Bret.
Another week, another no Bret.
When Bret Hart finally showed up on Nitro, we learned that he was going to definitely be involved at WCW’s biggest show of the year, Starrcade. In lieu of wrestling, however, he was going to be a special referee…for the titanic struggle between Larry Zybszko and Eric Bischoff.
If you think that sounds completely idiotic now, trust me, it rang even more foolish 21 years ago.
In the interest of fairness, I listened to Bischoff’s latest yakfest in which he discussed the match. You can do so as well here. Should you not wish to take the time to hear him out, the basic gist of his side of the story is that Bret may have or may not have had a non-compete period in his WWF contract (pretty sure that’s not the case) and also had a broken hand which prevented him from wrestling a match.
Ok, even if we take all that as 100% fact, can anyone explain why they felt the best way to use Bret was in a match that Bischoff himself scoffed at as being a “bonafide mat classic”?
Prior to the match taking place, Bret was introduced first. He looked anything but thrilled, which isn’t shocking as in his book he noted that he felt like “appearing as a referee would be a lackluster debut.”
But dude, it’s Starrcade!
And you’re officiating the co-main event!
So Bret makes his way to the ring, and doesn’t even get fifteen seconds of playing to the fans before we get the real stars of the show…
Scott Hall and Eric Bischoff!
I know I just praised Bischoff above for being the guy who revolutionized the wrestling business, but I am going to do so again here: the man was a great heel performer. Coming out and blowing kisses to the fans, he had absolute heat – you legit wanted to punch him right in the face.
And the man getting the opportunity to do so this evening would be one Larry Zbyszko. Newer fans may have thought he was just some commentator for Nitro, but thankfully our ring announcer chimed in to let us know he had over 5,000 professional matches. Then Dusty Rhodes pipes up and let’s us know Larry is, and I am just quoting here, “the king of the breathalyze!” Wait, what? Don’t ask me, I’m just reporting the facts here.
This wouldn’t just be any old match – it would be a battle with the fate of WCW’s flagship show on the line. Would Nitro remain a WCW entity? Or would it become nWo Nitro? A quick look into the WrestleCrap archives would tell you the latter would be a very bad idea, but WCW sometimes…ok, a lot of times…liked to do stupid things, so there was some intrigue here.
I mean, consider what we are talking about here today: if I told you the first physical contact between Bret Hart and a WCW wrestler would be…
…gently holding Larry Zbyszko’s knee as he checks the pad for any potential foreign objects, would you say, “I’m tuning in to watch this!”?
On a positive note, as would always be the case with Bret, he doesn’t take his role lightly. No no, he spent a good 90 seconds ensuring Larry isn’t up to any potential chicanery!
If that’s not enough, he does the same with Bischoff. If you’re a fan of Bret Hart’s hands and the bottom of Eric Bischoff’s feet, this is the match for you!
Also you are a weirdo and I hope you never come back to WrestleCrap.com.
The bell rings, and Eric goes all Hong Kong Phooey to start, throwing a kick at Larry’s face. Dusty continues his stellar commentary, asking if this blatantly normal kick was a roundhouse kick. Mike Tenay, as you might expect, completely no sells such a suggestion.
While Larry has long been known as the master of stall tactics, Eric seemingly is looking to one up him here, as the first five minutes or so consist of one kick or one punch, then Eric begging off. Eventually, before things get too thrilling, Eric heads outside the ring.
Here he meets his corner man, Scott Hall. The former Bad Guy, no doubt inspired by Bischoff’s martial artistry, suggests using a CRANE KICK.
If he uses that, I will go to Chicago, shake his hand, and tell him everything in my book is a total lie, just like he said.
Larry finally catches Eric with a couple shots to the face, which Bischoff sells by…
…smiling and laughing.
Ok, maybe he really isn’t such a good heel.
Larry finally has enough, and pummels Eric, sending him face first into the mat. Geez, about time.
But then things take a completely bizarre turn…
As Bret jumps in to break up the hold.
Which he does over and over and over again.
You see, the idea was that everyone thought that Bret was perhaps going to join the nWo. That was seemingly the only creative idea this company had at the time, an idea they overused to a mind numbing degree.
That they choose to do so with Bret Hart – who through the Montreal screw job had become the defacto biggest babyface in wrestling in YEARS – tells you everything you could ever possibly imagine about this company.
As for the match, it goes on for what feels an eternity, during which time we see kicks and chops that would get a third grader expelled from the local karate class, as well as action such as this:
I legit have zero idea what that is even supposed to be.
Maybe someone can get this GIF over to Eric and Conrad and they can explain it on their next yak fest.
Back in the ring, Bret stops Larry from throwing a punch by explaining to him, and I quote, “You’ve been wrestling too long to forget the rules!”
No wonder Larry looks so ticked off.
So it continues with Eric throwing punches even Shane McMahon would think suck. He throws about a zillion of these blows and finally wears himself out as the announcers explain that was Larry’s gameplan all along.
Hold on a second.
You are trying to tell me they were attempting to reenact Muhammad Ali and George Foreman?
The famous rope-a-dope?
THAT WAS THEIR PLAN?
This train wreck finally comes to a conclusion as Larry punches Hall, which naturally causes Bret to pull him aside for another warning. In comes Hall to help load up Eric’s boot with a steel plate.
Actually, on second glance, it looked like maybe it was Hall’s flask.
You know what, you can insert your own joke here.
So Eric throws a kick and the plate or flask or whatever literally flies into the crowd before Bischoff’s foot ever even comes close to Larry’s head.
And then…well, then Bret just kinda randomly punches Bischoff in the face.
I guess he saw the foreign object or something. Who knows, who cares.
Hall jumps in the ring, does a pee pee dance, then gets punched out as well, going into Shawn Michaels oversell city.
Well, ok, maybe not quite that bad.
Have I ever inducted that match? If not, I REALLY need to get around to it.
This match finally, FINALLY, comes to an end with Larry choking out Eric.
There’s no pin fall.
There’s no submission.
No, the match just kinda ends.
As Bret holds up Larry’s hand, all the while looking like he’d rather be literally any place else on planet earth.
How much so?
As the folks are cheering in the crowd, Bret celebrates in his own special way.
By TYING HIS SHOES.
So yeah…I’m heading to Chicago to debate a man who thinks that this stuff was somehow good.
Any of you willing to be there to be my back up?