Following up on last week’s column where we looked at a couple of WWF debuts from the 1990s, it’s time to look at the other side of the fence and see how WCW debuted some familiar (and not so familiar) faces.
Honky Tonk Man vs. Terry Taylor (WCW Worldwide, aired October 1, 1994 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M52u73oA9dk)
Having left the WWF shortly after the 1990 Survivor Series, it’d be almost four years before the Honky Tonk Man resurfaced in a national promotion – by way of WCW. Even in mid-90s WCW, with the Hulk Hogan revival underway, the gimmick looked like an anachronism from the 80s, but with the promise of a push in WCW, here he is. And since this YouTube clip is in German, I won’t be distracted by the commentary either!
Honky starts with an armbar, but when his hammerlock is reversed, he immediately reaches for the ropes. More stalling and rope breaks follow, before Honky rams Taylor’s head into the turnbuckle before dropping a fist. Taylor gets sent into the ropes, and meets a back elbow from the Honky Tonk Man – so far this is all one-way, but far from impressive. Taylor starts to fire back out of the corner with punches, and repeats the earlier spot, this time whipping Honky into the ropes and giving him a back elbow.
Taylor follows up with an atomic drop, but telegraphs a back body drop attempt, with Honky instead elbowing his neck, before connecting with the Shake, Rattle and Roll neckbreaker for the quick win.
Given that this was in WCW’s pre-Nitro days, you can’t read too much into him debuting “only” on their Worldwide show (as opposed to, say, Saturday Night), but short of a failed challenge of Johnny B. Badd’s TV title, nothing became of HTM’s WCW spell, and by the end of 1994, his in-ring career with the company was done. **
El Vampiro vs. Brad Armstrong (WCW Monday Nitro, aired June 29, 1998 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEG3caTXAmU)
This was a weird one – signing with WCW in 1998, Vampiro made just one appearance in the summer of that year before disappearing, and not returning to TV until the following spring, where his stock would rise under the booking of Vince Russo.
A paintless Vampiro emerges first for this nothing match, slap bang in the middle of one of those sometimes-torturous three-hour long Nitros. Mike Tenay at least is on hand to put over Vampiro’s career-to-date in Mexico, and in true WCW mid-card style, Brad Armstrong’s music hit before Vampiro even touched the ring.
After the bell rings, the pair circle each other for a while, and Armstrong gets the first advantage with a headlock takedown from the opening tie-up. Another tie-up sees Armstrong back Vampiro into the corner, where he follows up with shoulder charges instead of backing out. Vampiro lands on his feet following a monkey flip, but gets turned inside out with a clothesline as Armstrong maintains the advantage.
Vampiro mounts a comeback with a back kick after Armstrong had caught Vampiro’s leg, and then follows up with a spinning wheel kick off the ropes after leapfrogging Armstrong. The tide turns again as Armstrong clubs the back of Vampiro, but an attempt at a back body drop is cut-off when Vampiro kicks out at his foe, before a leg kick and a spinning kick to the midsection of Armstrong sends him to the mat.
Vampiro then picks up Armstrong and nails him with a Michinoku driver (branded the Nail in the Coffin), and that’s all folks! A nothing match, with next to no reaction from the Tampa crowd. At least he has better luck next time around in WCW… **1/2
Marcus Alexander Bagwell vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (WCW Saturday Night, aired August 22, 1992 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rQb3HPch5s)
We move onto the brief sojourn in WCW of one of the 80’s biggest stars. Jake Roberts was in WCW for barely three months, debuting on a house show in Chicago in August 1992, before wrapping up at that year’s Halloween Havoc pay-per-view. Financially, it wasn’t a good move for “the Snake”, as his decision to leave WWE after WrestleMania 8 – and the enforced 90-day no compete clause – saw WCW receive a new booker, in the form of Bill Watts. Roberts’ past with Watts saw his supposed $3.5m-per-year deal reduced to $200,000-per-year – which probably explains his short run in the company. At least he was presented as a viable threat to Sting throughout!
Jake’s WCW debut came on their flagship Saturday Night show, against the fresh faced Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack) is on commentary with Jim Ross,
Jake starts with an arm wringer on Bagwell, which the future “Buff Daddy” rolls out of and reverses as Jake makes the ropes to force the break. Roberts goes back to the arm wringer, and Bagwell reverses out again, before Jake scores with a headlock takedown. Bagwell forces his way up and ends up whipping Jake into the ropes, but gets taken down with a shoulder tackle for his troubles.
Roberts blocks a hiptoss and slaps Bagwell down, before using a series of closed fists to put Bagwell down once more. Bagwell slips out of a bodyslam attempt and takes down Jake with a dropkick, but Jake is smart enough to duck out of the corner when his opponent comes charging in. Cactus Jack correctly calls a short-arm clothesline, then giggles for his prognosticating talents. One DDT later, Jake gets the three count and the win on his television debut.
Short and basic, but it did what it needed to to establish Jake as a new face in the company. *
Sabu vs. Mr JL (WCW Monday Nitro, aired October 9, 1995 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-M9S5MaEVE)
Much like last week’s WWF Debuts edition, this is another time where having a varied taping schedule means that someone’s debut… wasn’t their debut. Jerry Lynn – aka Mr JL – beat Barry Houston around a fortnight earlier on WCW Saturday Night, but that didn’t air until the end of October. Thus, this was Mr JL’s WCW debut, and he’s be taking on another relative newcomer in WCW: Sabu.
Sabu came out to the music that would later be recycled for La Parka, and boy, does this song not fit Sabu at all! Meanwhile, Mr JL is dressed like a generic masked luchador, complete with a flowing silver and purple cape. Apparently all that Eric Bischoff on commentary knows about this guy is that he’s called Mr JL… and not that he’s really from Minneapolis, not Mexico.
Sabu attacks JL at the bell, with JL having turned his back so he can hand his cape to a ring attendant. After laying out JL with a bodyslam, Sabu goes to the outside and re-enters with a somersault legdrop from the apron, before sitting up JL and sending him back down courtesy of a springboard dropkick from the middle rope.
After two flips, Sabu reverts to a rear chinlock, but after reversing an Irish whip, JL downs Sabu with a spinning forearm, before following up with another kick that looked like he was booting Sabu in the rear as he took a spill out of the ring. A suicide dive from JL follows, as he takes Sabu to the floor outside the ring, but Sabu flips back into the ring, ducks a clothesline, then sends JL down with a spinning wheel kick.
JL rolls to the ringside area after that, and promptly receives a somersault senton from Sabu, sending the back of JL’s head into the security barrier. Sabu then reverts to type by grabbing a chair, but whips JL into the barrier once more before using the chair as a springboard to launch himself into JL.
JL slips around as Sabu tries to suplex him back into the ring, and gets a near fall from a German suplex, before whipping him into the corner and quickly following up with a dropkick. Sabu responds by whipping JL chest-first into the buckles hard, and lariating him a la JBL, before rolling JL onto his belly and delivering a springboard moonsault, which is transitions into a camel clutch. Steve McMichael astutely states that “this is a submission hold” on commentary (he’s learning, bless him!), but JL grabs the ropes to force a break.
Sabu tries to maintain the assault by climbing to the top for another aerial attack, but JL crotches him, then locks Sabu in a headlock and then DDTs Sabu off the top rope for a near fall. JL goes up top himself, but gets caught… only for Sabu to whiff at a super hurracanrana attempt. JL tries to capitalise with what looked to be a missile dropkick, but Sabu caught him and turned it into a powerbomb on the way down, and then the camel clutch for the victory by submission.
I’ve definitely seen worse debuts, but this was a classic indy style match – all moves, and no time for anything to sink in. **3/4
Diamond Dallas Page vs. The Machine (WCW Thunder, aired February 2, 2000 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRDi2lK6b-s)
Speaking of “worse debuts”, we finish with the one-and-done appearance of a man known only as “The Machine”. Save for a few losing efforts on Nitro, this would be the peak of his WCW career, as he’d later be relegated to the C-shows of Worldwide and Saturday Night before WCW was bought by WWE… Hail would then get something of a spotlight in the short-lived XWF, before passing away in January 2006 at the age of just 36.
Page comes out first to his Nirvana rip-off, whilst the Machine gets an ominous entrance that quickly transfers into generic WCW rock intro music. Once the lights come on, we see the Machine take off his black leather vest and black rip-apart pants, showing his black mask and black trunks. Mmm… generic!
Machine shoves Page into the corner from the opening lock-up, but Page rebounds with an armdrag of sorts. Page then grabs him in a headlock, but Machine reverses and takes down Page with what looked like a release hammerlock takedown, with Page then tripping Machine on his way back up. It’s all so even in the early going, but it gets better…
Another lock-up follows, with Page getting an arm-wringer, but Machine clotheslines his way out of the hold. A couple of shots to the lower back follow by the Machine, but Page responds with some shots of his own and a discus clothesline that floors his opponent. Page then pulls a Cactus Jack, with a clothesline that sends him and the Machine to the floor, but instead of attacking outside the ring, he throws Machine back in.
Page mounts the corner and starts the ten-count punches, but Machine catches him and drops him across the top turnbuckle to get out of the move. Machine gets a near-fall from a side Russian legsweep, followed by a front slam, before he decides to mount the ropes.
In a spot that went some way to epitomising the death of WCW, Machine climbed to the top rope. DDP got up to throw himself into the ropes, but instead threw himself into the ropes far away from the Machine… and time passed. And passed. And passed. And seconds later, the Machine jumps off the top and crotches himself on the top rope. Page then shakes the rope to exacerbate the situation, before following up with a clothesline off the top rope. Machine tries to duck the Diamond Cutter, but Page floats over and hits it anyway for the win… and that was the one and only time the Machine ever appeared in WCW.
Go out of your way to see it – the spot really was as bad as history remembers it! 1/2*
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