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NWO “Souled Out” 1997 Review

By the tail end of 1996, the New World Order faction headed by Hollywood (Hulk) Hogan and WCW’s President Eric Bischoff had practically taken over the world of wrestling with its gang-style attack patterns and “too cool/sweet” attitude. With money just being tossed at the faction through t-shirt sales and proven to be a television ratings success, Eric Bischoff had the bright idea to base an entirely new pay-per-view event around his faction. Featuring wrestlers from the group’s constant expansion, Bischoff hoped to embarrass WCW wrestlers up and down the card for the company’s various championships. But will Bischoff’s intentions make for a must-see event? Lets find out.

 

NWO Souled Out

January 25, 1997

Cedar Rapids, IA

 

NWO Souled Out 1997

 

Right:

 

Un-American Attitude: The first match of the evening to actually have a story coming into it featured former tag team partners colliding. Marcus “Buff” Bagwell turned on his American Males teammate Scotty Riggs to join the NWO. This would be their first official clash since that night and the fans were already into the action as referee Nick Patrick went out of his way to protect Bagwell during his multiple attempts at using the ropes as a barricade to prevent Riggs from getting any early advantage. But the future of Riggs couldn’t be denied as he suplexed Bagwell in position for some highflying offense that really got the crowd on its feet. Just when things were seemingly going well for Scotty, “Buff” muscled his way out of a suplex to drop Riggs abdomen first across the top rope.

For the next several minutes, the crowd watched as Bagwell worked over Riggs’ torso, posed to the jeering audience and listened to the headless voice say via the P.A. system, “Loser!” any time a fighting Riggs’ offense was cut off. But Scotty refused to be stopped on this night as the fans rallied behind him and gave Riggs the energy to explode with an enzuguri kick and the tornado DDT. Things were going in favor of Riggs so much that he put Bagwell on the top rope for a superplex attempt. “Buff” broke his way out of the painful situation, debuting the Blockbuster flipping neck breaker for the pin fall victory.

After three matches and a bunch of nonsense (more on that later), the show finally had a bout that featured some consistent action and gave the fans a reason to care about what happened from bell to bell. Who would’ve guessed an early Match of the Night candidate would’ve involved “Buff” Bagwell?

 

Controversy Abounds: After The Outsiders of Scott Hall & Kevin Nash won the WCW World Tag Team Championship during the summer, they had been on a tear while maintaining a death grip on the gold. The fans rallied behind Rick and Scott Steiner in hopes that the brothers from Michigan State could do the seemingly impossible. And The Steiners were doing a great job in the early going with Steiner suplexes aplenty and simple right fists aimed at heads and faces resulted in the challengers clearing the ring. It seemed for the first time in the evening that a New World Order representative would go down in quick fashion.

Looking to pick up where his brother left off, Rick forgot he was in the ring with a crooked referee. Nick Patrick purposefully held Rick Steiner back as he argued over the fact Scott Hall had blatantly interfered by kneeing the running “Dog Faced Gremlin” in the back. The champions isolated Rick, using a mixture of power maneuvers, right hands and insults to keep him grounded and/or weary. Having to fight fire with fire, Rick decided to go for broke, using a well-aimed shot to the groin to stun Nash and tag out. Scott Steiner was on fire, going suplex crazy until he threw himself into the Razor’s/Outsider’s Edge. During the fray, the referee got dropped, leaving no one to count down a sure pin. The Steiners recovered, executing the Steiner Bulldog double team on a frustrated Scott Hall. The WCW crew finally showed some gumption with WCW referee Randy Anderson running into the ring to make the call and give Scott Steiner a pin fall victory over Scott Hall to crown The Steiner Bros. as the new WCW World Tag Team champions. Of course commentators Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase flipped their lids.

Convoluted, almost unnecessary ending aside, this was a solid match that, on any other card featuring pure quality, wouldn’t even be looked upon fondly. The crowd finally got to experience a match with some importance and loved seeing their guys win.

 

Save Us: Weeks before this show, the former 1-2-3 Kid and future X-Pac, Syxx, stole the United States Championship belt … literally. The dude jacked the title belt and started proclaiming himself the champion because possession is 9/10ths of the law. To crown the undisputed champion, the title belt in question was hung on a hook for the two wrestlers – champion Eddy Guerrero and “champion” Syxx” – to climb a ladder and attain the gold. It was a good old-fashioned Ladder match – or as Bischoff and DiBiase said throughout the bout, “The match Scott Hall invented and made famous.”

It didn’t take long before the two cruiserweights took flight as the bodiless ring announcer-dubbed “Mexican Jumping Bean” utilized a plancha to down Syxx on the floor. The wannabe champion would fire back with a flying spin kick (a kick that impressed Bischoff enough to run down the good names of Steven Segeal, Jean Claude Van Damme and Glacier) and a suplex to the floor, setting the stage for the action to move outside so one man could attain the ladder of glory. With Syxx attaining the ladder first, he went to work with the heavy steel to hopefully bash Guerrero to oblivion as the word, “Loser!” echoed out via the same introducer who also loved racial epitaphs.

The momentum swung back and forth mostly thanks to the ladder itself slammed against prone bodies. Moments like Syxx’s Superfly ladder splash and Eddy dropkicking the ladder into Syxx caused the fans to go wild and support the real champion as he rallied to his feet after taking a spill from the ladder, using the top rope to spring forearm during his fall before pushing the ladder over. Both men ended up on opposite sides of the ladder again, with the belt in reaching distance. Suddenly, both men pulled down the belt; struggling over who was the real winner. Showing shades of his future tactics, Eddy bashed Syxx in the face with the belt, knocking him out before throwing his belt-holding hand into the air for the world to see he had won this barbaric bout.

A pure example of what happens when you give two motivated guys a chance to shine. While not a great or remembered for being a classic when you think of Ladder matches, the semi-main event provided some much-needed steak to a show where even the sizzle was lacking.

 

Wrong:

 

Nightmare Match: After the extensive introduction featuring members of the New World Order entering the arena via garbage trucks, a fireworks display and the Dallas Cowboys, WCW’s Chris Jericho took on an international member of the NWO, Masahiro Chono. What should’ve been a dream match dissolved into a nightmare very quickly as Chono dominated Jericho in the early going before getting in a few shots here and there. WCW’s midcard contingent of Steve McMichael, The Nasty Boys, The Faces of Fear and the nearly-retired Arn Anderson joined the crowd to watch the show and Chris Jericho do his best to make a comeback view some snap suplexes and spin kicks. This was all well and good until Chono clipped one of Chris’ knees from behind; starting a leg-aimed offense that resulted in Jericho failing to take advantage of situations his tenacity created, including the Lionsault before Chono simply kicked him in the head to pin him.

An incredibly dull and unremarkable opening match that seemed poised to steal the show early. One note must be made that even though this was a New World Order-centric event, thanks to the booking of the group since its inception, the fans were pro-WCW throughout the match (a trend that would continue through the night).

 

The Non-Mexican Death Match: What do you call a “Mexican Death Match” featuring no Mexicans? The second match of the evening as Big Bubba (Big Boss Man) took on future “Tough Enough” coach Hugh Morrus, a.k.a. Bill Demott. Though these two men seemingly had tons of hatred, they nicely wrestled each other in a match featuring no disqualifications. Things eventually broke down and the two behemoths would start clubbing each other with lumbering clotheslines, elbow drops and an attempt to bash each other in the head with a steel chain, all the while NWO-appointed referee for the evening Nick Patrick blatantly slow counted every fall against Big Bubba – frustrating the fans who had no idea what rules were in effect (announcers Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase rambled about the same problem).

Just when things seemingly couldn’t get any more tiring, the two wrestlers moved into the absurd. Using the entrance stage as a platform, Morrus missed a hideous moonsault flop that would make Bam Bam Bigelow blush; giving Bubba the chance to hijack a motorcycle placed near the ring. Bubba drove up the ramp, hitting the rising Hugh with the bike! Well, actually Morrus was shoulder blocked by a motorcycle-driving Bubba, but that didn’t matter; Bubba won via attempted vehicular homicide (and Morrus’ inability to get up before the ten count) in a match that had nothing but a creative, yet eye roll-inducing finish.

 

Power of Love: Like Big Bubba, Mr. “I.R.S.” Wallstreet dropped his grudge with the NWO after they assaulted him only a few months earlier, joining the faction in a war against WCW. His opponent for the evening was none other than Four Horseman wannabe Jeff Jarrett. What could’ve been a great match eight years ago turned into a snooze-fest as the two went from lightly grappling to exchanging rear chin locks and sleeper holds. Jeff Jarrett was doing his best to get the crowd into this contest by doing some crazy things like propelling over the guardrail and landing in the front row following an Irish whip, but Wallstreet was having none of that excitement; sticking to what was tried and true: holds! Jarrett would eventually turn the tides, leading to the referee doing his best not to count down a fellow New World Order member. With Debra McMichael upset over her infatuation facing defeat, she convinced her husband Steve “Mongo” McMichael to bash Wallstreet in the back with his steel briefcase. With the referee caught between a rock and a briefcase, he had no choice but to call the match in favor of Jeff Jarrett.

Once again, the crowd enjoyed the ending and how it played into the ongoing love triangle between “Mongo”, Debra and Jarrett, but couldn’t be bothered caring about the uninspired action beforehand.

 

Transparent as Diamonds: Shortly before this event, Diamond Dallas Page turned down an offer to join the New World Order. So what better way to punish DDP than by putting him in the ring with a bruiser of a man in Scott “Flash” Norton? Sadly for the fans, DDP vs. “Flash” didn’t set the world on fire as Page used a hit & run approach before running into the immovable object. DDP, never one to give up easily, fought through the pain of being slammed by using a DDT. Then the match basically ended. Not with a pin fall, but with NWO Sting leading his fellow stable mates down to the ring to convince DDP to join the group. Scumbag Page started growing fond of the idea, putting on a NWO t-shirt to the chorus of boos Eric Bischoff seemingly didn’t want to hear. Then, out of nowhere Page used his Diamond Cutter finisher on Norton before hightailing it out of the building to the joy of everyone in attendance except the stunned members of the NWO. A great angle featuring the red-hot Page gaining more and more love from the pro-WCW fans, but the match was practically nonexistent. Oh, and Norton won by count-out after DDP left; but no one cared.

 

Ms. NWO: The less written about this the better. Around twenty minutes of show time was spent weeding out “beauties” in an effort to discover Ms. NWO. The problem was none of the women would be considered beauty pageant quality. For goodness sakes, some of the candidates were already grandparents and could barely hear as a man with a microphone tried to ask them sexual explicit questions. Oh and spoiler alert for those with any shred of sanity or dignity, here’s the winner and her reward:

 

Ms NWO

 

Ms NWO & Eric Bischoff

 

Is This “Nitro”: After pulling a Big Bubba/Wallstreet, The Giant was kicked out of the NWO and decided he wanted revenge by recapturing the WCW World title from Hollywood Hogan. To make this short and sweet, The Giant was the Hulk Hogan of this match; fighting off the various stooges that tried to stop him, performing a fiery comeback, and even hulking up after taking the famous Hulk Hogan Big Boot-Leg Drop combination. The fans watched in anticipation for The Giant Choke Slam to end this match when – you guessed it – the crooked referee couldn’t finish the count because Hogan’s right shoulder was “off the mat”. The Giant did everything in his power to keep Hogan “down” until Nick Patrick pretended his shoulder dislocated and he couldn’t move his arm to count anyone. The Giant went off, Choke Slamming everyone in sight until Hogan broke a powder-filled guitar and a wooden chair over his head. No pin was made, no bell sounded and the show went off the air with the NWO standing tall after spray-painting their logo on The Giant’s wide back. Yep, just like an edition of WCW “Monday Nitro” featuring no WCW guys coming in to help their fallen comrade and the fans chanting for the real Sting to show up and dispose of the villains that were too cool for school. Of course Sting wasn’t in the building, hanging from the rafters as he had done for months by this point. Just terrible.

 

Results:

 

1. Masahiro Chono defeated Chris Jericho

2. Big Bubba Rogers defeated Hugh Morrus in a Mexican Death Match

3, Jeff Jarrett defeated Mr. Wallstreet

4. Marcus Bagwell defeated Scotty Riggs

5. Scott Norton defeated Diamond Dallas Page

6. The Steiner Brothers defeated The Outsiders to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship

7. Eddie Guerrero defeated Syxx in a Ladder match to retain the United States title

8. WCW World champion Hollywood Hogan fought The Giant to a no-contest

 

Is it a Classic:

 

“Souled Out” is a perfect example that grandiose style can never work without meaningful substance. The show started off with an atmosphere second to none in wrestling, yet when the actual show started inside the ring, it went downhill. There’s a reason why WCW’s first attempt at an NWO-centric pay-per-view was a both a financial and critical failure as the fans were given no real reason to pay for a show featuring a card you’d probably see on “Monday Nitro” for free. And when the show happened, the end result reinforced the fact that the idea of basing a whole PPV around one group was a terrible decision. The incredible aura and atmosphere that comes from the opening minutes and the Ladder match aren’t enough to warrant a viewing.

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