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When Tommy "Tiny" Lister passed away last week, I was reminded of his famous appearance in WCW, where he participated in a 8 on 2 Doomsday Cage Match. I had never seen the match before, but I remembered finding out about it as a kid. When I was little, I loved Hell in a Cell matches, and I remember reading about this match on Wikipedia; I thought that this was basically a giant Hell in a Cell match, and it had 10 guys in it. It must have been like, the best match ever!
I would later find out that I was very, very wrong. The Doomsday Cage Match was actually regarded as being one of the worst matches ever. So once I heard that it was actually awful, I never bothered to watch it. However, after being reminded about it following Lister's death, I decided to watch it again and perhaps do a column about the match. However, when looking at the entire card for the PPV that match appeared on, WCW Uncensored 1996, I decided to watch the entire show.
This has to be one of the strangest, most random cards ever assembled for a major PPV when it comes to the talent being featured. An interesting thing about WCW was that they had so many different connections with other promotions, particularly AAA in Mexico and NJPW in Japan, that they were able to bring in anyone from those promotions for major shows. Now most of the time WCW had no idea what to do with these world-class talents, so they often just appeared in random matches that had no build or explanation; making their already unexpected appearances seem even more inexplicable and random.
They also had a lot of older people on the roster, who would encourage management to bring in past opponents that they thought they could draw with. This is how Lister found his way into the main event; reportedly Hogan figured that since he had drawn business with him before (when Lister was "Zeus" in the WWF) he would be a good person to bring in for this show. Of course, Hogan was already wrestling seven other people in the main event, but what the hell, it's WCW so might as well toss in Zeus (known in this match as Ze Gangsta) for good measure. Since WCW had almost limitless funds; almost anybody could come in for a quick payday, as evidenced by this card.
Anyway, for a nice Christmas trip down memory lane for some folks, or for people like me that are watching the show for the first time, I thought it would be interesting to review WCW Uncensored 1996. If this piece is well-received, I'll consider doing other PPV shows in the future.
Doomsday Cage Match
So the rules for the match are that Hogan and Savage will start at the top of the cage in the first and smallest cage, facing Arn Anderson and Ric Flair. Hogan and Savage have to beat Flair and Anderson, and if they do that they can proceed to the second cage, to face Luger, Sullivan, Meng and The Barbarian, and if they beat them, they face Ze Gangsta and The Ultimate Solution in the third and final cage.
Let's take a look at Hogan and Savage's eight opponents for this match:
Ric Flair: WCW icon, Flair gives off the impression that he is simultaneously giving it his all, but also mailing it in. Like the energy is there and he is playing the part of Ric Flair, but you can tell that Flair knows this is s--t and isn't going to kill himself to make it work.
Arn Anderson: Flair's cohort in the Four Horsemen, who wrestles this match in sweatpants and a sweatshirt. Anderson probably put in the best effort out of anybody in this match besides Savage, but it was a real herculean task for The Enforcer.
Kevin Sullivan: Known as The Taskmaster, Sullivan is responsible for creating the Alliance to End Hulkamania, an atrociously named stable that is responsible for this match, as well as many other WCW duds. Sullivan is old, short and doesn't really take any bumps. He is also the booker for the match, although Hogan wields most of the power.
Lex Luger: Along with Flair and maybe Anderson, the only one of Hogan and Savage's opponents who is an actual main event talent. Luger had already gotten involved earlier in the night, beating up Road Warrior Animal after Animal accidentally spilled his baby oil.
Meng: One half of the Faces of the Fear and legendary outside-of-the-ring tough guy, Meng, like almost everyone WCW signed during this time period, was a former opponent of Hogan's in the WWF and therefore it was decided that they would obviously draw money if they worked with Hogan again.
The Barbarian: The other half of the Faces of Fear, his career path is similar to Meng's, and The Barbarian is also regarded as being a crazy tough guy as well. Both the Faces of Fear quickly get locked into another cage in this match and disappear, basically doing nothing in the match.
Ze Gangsta: As referenced above, this is Tiny Lister, brought back from Hogan's past as part of The Alliance to End Hulkamania to beat up Hogan. He has almost no prior wrestling experience beyond a few matches with Hogan, so he isn't exactly a ringer; but what the heck, he drew once with Hogan so maybe he could draw again. Lister at this point was actually coming off of some real fame as an actor, starring as the antagonist in the cult hit Friday just a year earlier, but his acting career is never mentioned.
The Ultimate Solution: Former strongman Jeep Swanson, who was first called The Final Solution, which led to uproar from Jewish fans who couldn't believe they would name a wrestler after a term used during the Holocaust. Swanson is described as having the most powerful arms in the history of wrestling, which is probably true because the guy is gigantic and makes Hogan look like Marko Stunt. The problem is that he is AWFUL in the ring and is somehow worse than Lister.
The problem with the match is clear from the very beginning; the first and second cage is entirely chainlink, so the wrestlers can't get any solid footing so all of their punches and movements look half-hazard, and nobody takes any bumps. Although Tony Schiavone told us earlier that Hogan and Savage would have to eliminate Flair and Anderson before proceeding to the next level of the cage, Hogan and Savage pretty quickly beat up Flair and Anderson by throwing powder in their faces and then go through a trapdoor to get to the second cage, so it seems like Hogan and Savage just need to get to the next level of the cage to "eliminate" their opponents. Also, it was not a wise move to eliminate by far the two best workers in this match within the first five minutes.
Hogan and Savage make it to the second level to face Luger, Meng, The Barbarian and Sullivan. Quickly, Savage and Hogan are able to lock The Faces of Fear into a separate cage, so they only have to wrestle Luger and Sullivan. Somehow, all of the guys get out of the entire Doomsday structure and start brawling inside the ring (the Doomsday cage is located away from the ring near the entrance). Now, under the apparent rules that were established when Hogan and Savage got past Flair and Anderson, Hogan and Savage have escaped the cage and therefore won the match, but of course they haven't, and they continue to brawl around the ring.
It should also be noted that The Ultimate Solution and Ze Gangsta never came out to start the match; they were supposed to be waiting at the lowest level of the cage, but were absent. It's not until Hogan and Savage are fighting Luger and Sullivan in the ring that they come out and start beating up Hogan and Savage, dragging them back to the Doomsday cage and putting them into the lowest level, theoretically starting the end of the match. Why WCW thought it would be a good idea to build the climax of the match around two guys that couldn't work, I have no idea. Thankfully Flair and Anderson come back into the match (despite being eliminated earlier) to give this finale some semblance of structure.
The match ends when Luger also enters the cage and has the loaded glove, which he mistakenly hits Flair with, knocking him out. Hogan then FORGETS THE FINISH OF THE MATCH as he exits the cage with Savage. At the last second Savage remembers that he is supposed to pin Flair, so he dives back into the cage and quickly covers Flair, and the match is mercifully over.
Some people will know that the original plan for this match was for Brian Pillman to be on the heel team as well. Pillman at this time had just begun his "loose cannon" character and was starting to get over. According to reports at the time, Hogan was very eager to get Pillman in this match due to Pillman's rising stardom, wanting to beat Pillman before he got over enough to threaten Hogan's status as the most popular guy in the company. Seeing the writing on the wall, Pillman got an elective surgery to remove polyps from this throat to get out of the match. Even though WCW knew Pillman wasn't going to be in the match, they still hyped him up on television leading up to the PPV and during the match the announcers kept wondering where he was.
So what are my overall thoughts on the match? Obviously it was really bad, but it was bad in a very particular WCW way. The match had a stipulation that was very complicated, but at the same time it was clear that very little thought was put into the execution of the match. The rules that were set up at the start of the match were quickly contradicted by the actions of everyone in the match, which was confusing for the audience (and apparently Hogan) about what the rules of the match actually were, or how anyone was supposed to win. This would become a staple of WCW for the rest of its existence when it came to stipulation matches.
At the center of all of this is Hogan. Hogan is the person who hand-selected his opponents for this match, and essentially booked himself and Savage to beat up eight heels by themselves. While Hogan (and Savage) did help WCW's business when he signed with the company, the red-and-yellow Hogan that was part of his first two years in WCW was always so awkward. That character had already run its course in the WWF, so he was really running on fumes in WCW. Honestly, seeing Hogan cling on to the glory days at this point is sad. In three months he would join the NWO and everything would be different.
Sting and Booker T vs The Road Warriors
This was a Chicago Street Fight, so it was a tornado tag without any count-outs or disqualifications. The problem with this match is that it went 30 minutes, about twice as long as it needed to go. The match had almost no real direction; it was 30 minutes of guys just brawling in the ring and on the outside; never building up to any spots outside of the occasional double-team move. Just a lot of guys kicking and punching each other, which is fine, but not for 30 minutes.
The match ended when Booker T and Animal went backstage, and Animal was beaten up by Stevie Ray and Lex Luger and then tied to a pole. Stevie Ray then ran down to the ring and hit Animal with a chair in one of the only hardcore spots in a 30 minute street fight, leading to Booker T getting the pinfall. At the time this match was pretty well-received, the Observer gave it 3.5 stars; but street fights have gotten a lot better since 1996 and this match hasn't aged very well.
The Giant vs Loch Ness
In a true example of literally anybody having the potential to show up in WCW; many fans were treated to Giant Haystacks (going by the name Loch Ness in WCW) for the first time. Haystacks was a legit huge star in the UK; working a famous program with Big Daddy in the 70s and 80s that was featured on ITV and drew big television ratings and was basically like the UK's version of the Hogan vs Andre feud. Unfortunately, at this point in his career Haystacks is 49, and at over 600lbs, he really just doesn't have any mobility left and the action in this match is really bad, even though it only goes three minutes.
The Giant of course is Big Show, who is very green in this match, although he takes an awesome bump for a guy his size, going for a stinger splash that Haystacks avoids, and The Giant takes a bump over the top turnbuckle and tumbles to the floor outside the ring. The Giant can't get Haystacks up for the chokeslam, so he wins this match with a lame leg drop.
The Booty Man vs Diamond Dallas Page
So this is some classic WCW ineptitude. The match is advertised in advance as an "I Quit" match. We all know how an "I Quit" match works, the match can't end until one wrestler says the words "I Quit." So color me surprised when this match ended when The Booty Man hit a running knee and pinned Page. It turned out the angle was really that if Page lost the match, he would have to quit wrestling forever. So instead of billing this match as "DDP puts his career on the line" it was called an "I Quit" match and promoted as such.
The Booty Man is Brutus Beefcake, in one of his many awful WCW gimmicks. Kimberly is at ringside wearing a ballerina's tu-tu. This match gets 16 minutes, which is really long because these guys really don't do a heck of a lot and while Page has a lot of charisma, he isn't over with the audience the way he would be in a few years. Kimberly has some terrible lines of dialogue that she yells into the camera during the match, talking about how cute The Booty Man and how she wants him to be his boyfriend, that are very cringe-worthy.
The Belfast Bruiser vs Lord Steven Regal
The Belfast Bruiser is Fit Finlay, who comes out wearing an outfit that is half-shoulder pads and half-studded leather jacket, like a cross between The Road Warriors and late-2000s Chris Jericho. He also has a sweet mustache and a mullet that is beginning to gray. During this match Dusty Rhodes claims that there are 33,000 fans at the Tupelo Coliseum. This was a very good match; with both guys working a really physical, violent match that feels like a real fight. The finish wasn't great; as Dave Taylor runs down and beats up Finlay for a DQ. During the finish Regal broke his nose or something because he was bleeding profusely; but because WCW wasn't supposed to show blood, we don't really get to see it, but it would have helped the finish more if they really played that up. Taylor slapped the s--t out of Finlay, and they brawled to the back after the DQ.
Eddie Guerrero vs Konnan
This was a pretty good match, with a bad finish. The announcers sell this match as being a big deal and put over the athleticism of both guys, but it's also clear they really don't know anything about Eddie or Konnan, which is a problem since Konnan is the United States Champion. The crowd doesn't care at all about this match at the start, but they do get into because Eddie is awesome and does a ton of cool stuff. Konnan at this point in time is a GIGANTIC star in Mexico; like as popular in Mexico as The Rock and Steve Austin would be in the US at their peaks; but none of that is ever mentioned. Konnan retains the title when he goes for a powerbomb and Eddie counters, but Konnan somehow manages to headbutt Eddie's groin, causing Eddied to go down and Konnan to get the pinfall. Like a lot of these matches, they got 17 minutes and it was mostly good.
Madusa vs Col. Robert Parker
This match came shortly after Madusa threw the WWF Women's title into the trashcan on Nitro. WCW brought in Madusa and didn't really have plans for her, occasionally bringing in women from Japan for her to work with, but her WCW career is easily forgotten. Parker is really Robert Fuller, who wrestled for a long time in the territories, but for the purpose of his gimmick he is portrayed as a non-wrestler. This match is very short and not very good; but the crowd did react pretty strongly for all of Madusa's offense. The finish is terrible; Madusa hits a bridging German suplex, but Dick Slater pulls out her leg and Parker rolls on top of her for an awkward three count. You'd never see a match like this in a major promotion in 2020.