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By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Ric Flair © vs Hulk Hogan vs Sting vs Diamond Dallas Page
WCW World Heavyweight Title Match
The worst thing about later day WCW outside of the nonsensical booking was that they often lost momentous and important occasions in the shuffle, making them seem less special in the process. Title changes that should have meant something in the grand scheme of things didn’t matter when they occurred and weren’t helped by the booking of the actual reign itself either.
This inability to make things seem ‘special’ is the main reason why a four way match involving Diamond Dallas Page, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Sting – with Randy Savage making his return after ten months as guest referee – played out in front of an almost silent crowd (one that was 17,690 people deep – numbers that are impressive on paper).
At this time, Ric Flair was the ‘owner’ of WCW, using and abusing his power to his own ends advantages. Why he would end up getting booked in a fatal four way is beyond me, but Sting, Hogan and Page all had their own reasons for wanting to take the belt from Flair. Whilst Sting and Hogan had been world champions numerous times, Page was still yet to beat the man and become the man.
The match was a disjointed mess throughout to be perfectly honest, with the opening moments relying heavily on two men brawling in the ring whilst the other two brawled at ringside before swapping and doing the same with a different partner. Sting would attempt a quick Deathlock on DDP but fail, whilst Hogan would take off his weightlifting belt to whip Flair when it was their ‘turn’. An early Hogan legdrop on Flair after the trademark ‘Hulk-up’ only got a two count as Sting broke his eventual Deathlock on DDP to break the pinfall.
The structure of the match couldn’t have been helped by what appeared to be a legitimate Hogan leg injury. A chop block by Flair seemed to cause him legitimate issues which couldn’t have been helped by a Flair figure four and a DDP figure four around the ringpost. Just over seven minutes in, trainers had to come out and remove Hogan from ringside, turning this into a triple threat. Bischoff would come out into the aisle to help Hogan back, though whether this was a legitimate injury suffered in the match or an angle to cover for a genuine injury pre-match is unclear.
Either way, any momentum the match had built had completely dissipated. DDP would be clever enough to let Sting and Flair fight for a short while before interjecting himself by clotheslining Sting. Flair would then eat a discus lariat. An attempted Diamond cutter on Sting was blocked and Page would instead be hit with a facebuster, only for DDP to instantly wrestle back control with a tombstone piledriver reversal. This would only get a two count as Flair broke the pinfall to save his title.
After a Sting superplex on Flair, a stacked sleeper spot followed shortly afterwards with DDP holding Sting holding Flair; the inevitable double jawbreaker led to a countout tease as Savage continued to call the match straight down the middle. Sting has always been someone who can channel the support of the fans and he no-sells Flair’s chops and Page’s clotheslines to hit a double clothesline and lock a Scorpion Deathlock on Flair. This is broken by Page, only for DDP to get planted with a Scorpion Deathdrop after slipping out of a powerslam. This time, it is Flair who stops Sting getting the win by breaking the pinfall.
After an awkward match, the finish doesn’t help. Flair would lock Sting in the figure four, only for Sting to roll to the ropes. Rather than break the hold conventionally, Savage dragged both men to the middle and hit the top elbowdrop on Flair for no obvious reason. A Diamond Cutter on Flair finished the job and saw Diamond Dallas Page crowned the WCW World Heavyweight Champion for the first time.
Outside of Goldberg, Page was one of the few homegrown stars WCW could claim to have. A world title win should have been a big deal, whether he won it as a face or on the cusp of turning heel (as he would do). Debate has raged as to whether the Page title win was an audible for the Hogan injury, but even then, a fifteen day title reign only to lose and then regain the gold on a single episode of Nitro before a thirteen day long second reign just isn’t the way to make this mean anything. With the next three champions after the second reign being Kevin Nash, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, it just became another case of same shit, different day, ultimately leading to WCW’s demise.
NOTE: I appreciate that AJW Dreamslam II was this night in history also, which included a two out of three falls main event which saw Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki defeat Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada and get awarded a 5* rating from Meltzer. My lack of Joshi knowledge generally meant I didn’t think I could do the match justice, but thought it was definitely worth highlighting as a moment of value in wrestling at this time.