It’s a big deal. This could be the biggest week in wrestling history. You know why? WWE is planning to re-release No Holds Barred. That, and WWE is holding a little show with their top guy facing a Hollywood star. With everything going on this week in wrestling, I needed to take a breath and get away from all the hype for Sunday. I found myself wrapped up in an old VHS tape in my wrestling collection. It was my copy of WCW’s 1994 Slamboree pay per view. I was ten years old when I received the tape as a Christmas gift. I had opened it on Christmas Eve, but stayed up really late Christmas night so I could watch it. I don’t know what it was about the show, but it was a tape that I kept going back to over and over again that year.
The opening felt a little tiring with all the legends walking out to individual introductions. As a kid, it was the first time that I saw a lot of them. When the action finally started, the show got very good. The opening match was Johnny B. Badd challenging Stunning Steve Austin for the United States Championship. Badd doesn’t get a lot of credit, and while he wasn’t a great wrestler, he was entertaining. Austin, as a heel champion, was so good. Watching him at that point, who would have thought that he would become one of the biggest stars in history as a bald baby face? The same can be said for Dustin Rhodes, who competed in WCW, and at Slamboree, as a cowboy, but found stardom in the form of Goldsust.
Being that the show took place in Philadelphia, and Terry Funk was scheduled, things were bound to get crazy. Funk took on Tully Blanchard in a legends match. The bout was pretty entertaining and reminded fans just how captivating Funk was as a TV character. Another legend returning on the card was Larry Zbyszko. After weeks of insults from the Television Champion Lord Steven Regal, Zbyszko got back in the ring to face Regal at Slamboree in a non-title match. Reversing his chicken wing suplex, Zbyszko picked up the win over Regal. Zbyszko would get a title match against Regal a week later, and this time, take the belt home, if only for a short while.
The third to last match on the show was the WCW Championship match where Ric Flair was slated to defend against a mystery opponent handpicked by Col. Parker. The match was a bit of a bait and switch since Parker had promised he was brining a six foot, blonde, former world champion to face Flair. For those of you who were not fans of WCW, or are just too young to remember the crustaceous period of 1994, this was around the time Hulk Hogan joined the company. In the weeks after Slamboree, Hogan debuted and would challenge Flair for the title. However, leading up to Slamboree, Hogan had been mentioned, and it certainly was hinted he might be at the show. The opponent turned out to be Barry Windham. It was nice to see two former Horsemen going up against one another. Flair had a decent title reign in 1994 as far as far as length goes. However, he seemed to be short on opponents. WCW had spent a chunk of 1992 and al of 1993 building up good guys only fall to Vader. When the time came to unseat the big man for the gold, Flair was chosen, and the execution was perfect. The aftermath was a bit different. There can only be so many rematches with the former champion. WCW booked a match between Flair and Ricky Steamboat for the Spring Stampede pay per view, which was good, but seemed like it was trying to resurrect something that was dead. Even after Slamboree, Flair would go on to face Sting yet again. When Hogan showed up, many felt it blew the structure out of the roster, but in 1994, things needed to change.
When people look back on 1994 and talk about that one great match, the Wrestlemania X match between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels is the one people name. If there was one match that came close to competing for the praise that Razor and HBK received, it was the street fight for the WCW Tag Team Championship between the Nasty Boys and Cactus Jack and Max Payne. It took place at Sprig Stampede, and as good as that match was, I personally prefer the tag team title match from Slamboree. Cactus Jack’s partner was on the shelf, as was Kevin Sullivan’s. So at Slamboree, they teamed with each other to finally dethrone the Nasty Boys as champions. It was brutal, yet fun at the same time. The finishing stretch was brutal as Payne interfered and hit one of the Nasty Boys with a wicked guitar shot. Using a hockey stick, Jack and Sullivan got the win. Their reign would be short live, as would their team, as Cactus would soon leave WCW for the indy and international scenes, before he eventually joined the World Wrestling Federation.
The main event of the night was supposed to be Rick Rude vs. Vader for the International Championship. It sounds really strange looking back. The two biggest heels in the company were slated to square off in the main event of a pay per view. Just a matter of weeks prior, Sting had won the title from Rude, but lost it back shortly thereafter. Due to the tainted finish when Rude regained his championship, Rude was stripped and the title was offered back to Sting, but he refused. Instead, the title was put up in the main event between Sting and Vader. Rude was no longer part of the active roster due to a back injury that would end his days as an active wrestler. Sting and Vader was always a great go-to program for WCW. Whenever they needed a big match or a big opponent for either guy, this was where they could go. Their rivalry produced perhaps some of the best WCW matches of the early 1990s. Slamboree was another great outing for both, with Sting getting the win after Harley Race tried to interfere on Vader’s behalf, but headbutted his own man by mistake.
Little strolls down memory lane are amusing, especially when you require a piece of technology such as a VCR to view it. You forget how much something means to you until you go back and meet it face to face. People often use entertainment as a means of escape from normalcy. Professional wrestling is just one of those escapes. With everything going on this week, I needed a bit of an escapee from wrestling. If there is one strange thing I learned this week, it’s that you can use wrestling to escape from wrestling.