One advantage WCW always had over WWF was its cruiserweight division. Sure, the WWF had a light heavyweight division, but it paled in comparison to WCW’s, in terms of both match quality and roster depth. Just look at the WWF’s Light Heavyweight Title tournament from 1997 – they needed ringers to fill most of the spots in the bracket.
By 1999, WWF was the clear #1 company in the wrestling world, but whenever a fan tired of Vince Russo-style crash TV, he could always turn to Nitro and watch some solid in-ring action with the high-flying luchadors. For instance, on November 15th, the wrestling fan not interested in Survivor Series fallout and the question of who ran over Steve Austin could tune in to TNT and see Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, Silver King, El Dandy, and Villano V, all in a single segment with—
I mean, Vince Russo’s hand!?
Could it have been? Yes, a month earlier, WWF’s old head writer had jumped ship to the competition. They didn’t mention Russo by name on air, but you could tell it was him by his New York accent and edgy use of insider terms.
Russo offered the five wrestlers, all of them Mexican, the chance at $10,000 — all a poor, work-a-day luchador had to do was smash open a piñata and retrieve the check Vinnie would hide in it.
I know the black-on-white-on-Puerto Rican Gang Warz of 1997 didn’t exactly pop the ratings for the WWF, but who was to say transparent racism couldn’t give WCW the edge?
Not that today’s wrestling industry is a bastion of tolerance and sensitivity, but can you imagine such a match, built around an offensive stereotype, taking place in a major promotion nowadays? You’ve never seen WWE put on an all-Jewish “Money in the Bank” match, after all.
Note: Now comes the part where I preemptively defend my argument against potential criticism. Your high school English teacher no doubt taught you to do this when writing a persuasive essay to make it as air-tight as possible, but you also probably went to high school before internet writing flipped this concept on its head. After all, the more glaring errors and idiotic arguments in an online article, the more people will rip it to shreds in the comments section, inadvertently driving up the number of page views and the ad revenue earned by the website. Needless to say, Wrestlecrap doesn’t follow such a business model (or any business model, for that matter), no matter what such boners as accidentally inducting Billy & Chuck’s wedding twice (my bad) or sprinkling cheap shots against Triple H throughout inductions (my bad) might suggest. If we did intentionally try to drive up page views, you could also expect this induction to be titled, “This wrestling promotion put on the most racist match you’ve ever seen. You won’t believe what happened next,” and for the site to be flooded with article after pandering article entitled, “18 Reasons Why [your city] is the Greatest Wrestling City in the World.” Also, I would break my inductions up into slideshow format to get 20 page views per reader instead of one.
Now, you could argue that, sure, the concept of five grown men from Mexico scrambling after a paycheck by whacking a piñata was racist, but Russo and his crew were the bad guys, so it was justified because it gave his character heel heat.
Then again, none of the announcers found anything wrong with the match, either, and we weren’t supposed to buy the idea of an evil Tony Schiavone, were we?
And of course, there was the fact that Russo’s actual booking philosophy called for the burial of the very Mexican wrestlers his heel persona was degrading. Allow me to take a page out RD Reynolds’s book and… well, literally take a page out of RD Reynolds’s book (The Death of WCW, co-written with Bryan Alvarez and available in a new, 40% larger 10th anniversary edition this October):
But hey, this wasn’t about bigotry or racism. This was about national pride. It’s like the philosophy of “Buy American.” Of course, six days after this match, Russo would put the WCW title on the famously Canadian Bret Hart. Jeez, Russo, even the Hitman never doubted El Dandy!
The alzorca on the pastel was that Russo didn’t even provide his own piñata for the match; Juventud just happened to have one with him, as it was his birthday (in eight days).
There were no televised entrances, since, as we had been told, these guys were mid-carders and not worth your attention, so the match segment started out with all five men in the ring holding sticks. These sticks were for whacking the piñata open, but in order to even do that, they first had to climb the ropes to get to the prize. This process got 99% easier, though, precisely twelve seconds into the match, when El Dandy got whipped into the turnbuckles, unceremoniously knocking the piñata to the canvas. Tony Schiavone pointed this fact out at first, but never brought it up again once it became clear that no one was going to fix it.
With the piñata just lying there on the mat, all five wrestlers (and the announcers) did their best to ignore that fact. The fans tried to point out the mishap, but to no avail. And no, unlike a traditional piñata game, nobody was wearing a blindfold.
Everyone in the ring had to play dumb, including El Dandy, who was the one who knocked the piñata over, and Psicosis, who for over half a minute stared at the very piñata he was supposed to retrieve while selling an injury in the corner. And when he finally did recover, he crawled away from the piñata and the ten grand and waited patiently in another corner. And waited. And waited. Why? So he could hit the next big spot — a spot nobody at home would even get to see, thanks to a second, completely unrelated bit of Wrestlecrap.
See, perhaps to minimize the embarrassment, the production truck cut away from the ring, putting the viewers face to face with one of the cavemen from the GEICO ads. Come to think of it, those commercials hadn’t aired yet in 1999, so it may have been “Dr. Death” Steve Williams.
By his side was the debuting Oklahoma, ex-WWF writer Ed Ferrara’s tasteless impersonation of Jim Ross. I’m not saying this mean-spirited jab at the competition’s announcer made WCW look bush league, but you didn’t see WWF trot out a Tony Schiavone parody on Raw in 1999. And they could have easily done that — I’m thinking “Mr. Butts-in-Seats,” and he could have managed Billy Gunn.
In his best JR voice (which still sucked), and with his worst bells palsy impression (Note: there is no such thing as a good bells palsy impression), Ed Ferrara took pot shots at Ross and his announcing. This was particularly rich, considering that all three men at the announcers’ table completely ignored the key detail that the freaking piñata was on the freaking mat.
Oklahoma even disparaged JR’s barbecue sauce (perhaps trying to corner the condiment market for WCW’s line of hot sauces) by implying that it would never hit the market. At 14 years of sales and counting, Ross’s barbecue sauce has lasted longer than WCW ever did.
Even after a lengthy and painful cutaway segment establishing that, yes, this insufferable jerk was supposed to be Jim Ross and you were supposed to find him uproariously funny, not one of the wrestlers seemed remotely interested in winning the match. Instead, they just concentrated on pulling off spots and stunts, half of which weren’t even picked up on camera.
Referee Slick Johnson, who had nothing to do the whole match but to see who broke the piñata first, didn’t bother trying to hang the piñata back up.
No, that bit was left to the wrestlers. Rather than break the piñata open and get the money, the exceedingly honest luchadors tried to hang the damn thing up again so that the integrity of the Piñata on a Pole match wouldn’t be compromised.
Juventud was the first to grab the piñata, which he held up in the air, hoping one of his opponents would quickly knock him off the ropes and try to make the match look like less of a farce. After ten seconds of Psicosis standing on the second rope with piñata in hand, waiting for his opponents to cover for him, the production truck finally gave up and cut back to Oklahoma at the announce table.
And still, the piñata was just lying there in the corner. Even during long cutaway after long cutaway, nobody at ringside got the message to fix the gimmick.
Villano V was the next wrestler to grab the piñata, and rather than run away with it and fish the check out later, he, too, tried to hang the paper-mache sculpture back up so he could smash it open. Instead, Silver King hit him with a stick, prompting some more terribly unfunny commentary from Ferrara and Heenan.
Things started winding down when Juventud hit the Juvi driver (off-camera during another pan to Steve Williams). He then executed the People’s Elbow because this was when he was calling himself, “The Juice” and imitating The Rock. Yes, WCW had two WWF parodies in a single segment.
Fortunately, Buzzkill and Asya had other business on this night. (Contrary to popular belief, referee “Slick” Johnson was never intended as a Val Venis parody)
Finally, Juvi, who, like the other four wrestlers, did not strike the piñata once with his stick, shook it until all its candy fell out.
He couldn’t retrieve the check, though, because Steve Williams blindsided him and beat up everyone in the match, the bell ringing for longer than a typical title reign lasted under Vince Russo. I’d note that there shouldn’t have been any disqualifications in a match where the only way to win was to break open a piñata and where everyone could hit each other with sticks, but really, was anyone upset to see this match lose another quarter star from Wrestling Observer for the wonky finish?
Silver King picked up the check and danced in celebration, but Williams put the boots to him, too (sort of) and pocketed the ten grand. Come on, Dr. Death! Pick on someone your own size —
— or at least Bart Gunn’s.
The only positive to come out of this segment was that the humiliation and destruction of five wrestlers at least helped to get Steve Williams over as a monster heel.
He lasted 34 days in the company and lost his debut match to a member of The Misfits.
No, not the Misfits in Action stable.
The band, The Misfits.
Yikes. If he’d do that for a quick buck, I guess he needed that check more than the luchadors.