25 Years – WCW Uncensored 1997

WCW Uncensored 1997

WCW Uncensored 1997 took place slap bang in the middle of the Monday Night Wars and with WCW firmly on top in terms of ratings over the WWF. The promotion’s third Uncensored PPV held in front of over 9,000 fans on March 16th 1997 at Charleston South Carolina’s North Charleston Coliseum held a lot of intrigue going in.

This would be a night where the nWo would continue to show their dominance over rival WCW, NBA Legend Dennis Rodman would make his nWo debut at the side of Hollywood Hogan and one of the year’s great rivalries would truly be ignited in Savage vs Page.

It would also turn out to be the night when the dark and mysterious figure of Sting would finally make his choice and his allegiances known. Just whose side was he actually on?

WCW was on fire at the time and the card was filled with the top talents from the era. Their roster was much more diverse and interesting compared to the characters over on the competition’s WWF programming.

WWF was about to rebound, RAW was becoming edgier, debuting the tag RAW is WAR the Monday before this PPV for the second hour of the show. We were just one week away from WrestleMania 13 and the legendary battle between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret the Hitman Hart in their epic submission match.

WCW remained on top though. For hungry UK fans, WCW Uncensored 1997 would become one of the first batch of WCW Video releases available through mail order in the UK some months later. Starved of WCW PPVs for years, this was one of the first PPVs released on these shores since Fall Brawl 1993.

So on the 25th anniversary of the PPV, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back to see just how Uncensored WCW got….

Classic WCW commentary team of Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan and Dusty Rhodes introduced us to the annual March extravaganza, known more for its crazy matches and stipulations, than the quality of the PPVs themselves. It is after all, Uncensored! Even the blue ring canvas is emblazoned with the logo, a nice touch that WCW continued throughout PPV’s at this time.

Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero U.S Title- No DQ:

We start with two of WCW’s finest athletes competing for the U.S. Title as Dean Malenko challenged Eddie Guerrero. Not the first two wrestlers that spring to mind for a no DQ match, the pair of former Cruiserweight champions contested a really good PPV opener, coupling technical grappling with elements of rule breaking to further establish the no DQ stipulation.

The ending saw nWo Syxx enter ringside, trying to steal the title belt as Guerrero did his best to stop him, somehow, Syxx’s camcorder ends up in the hands of Malenko who nails Eddie with it to become the new WCW U.S. Champion. Malenko reaching the zenith of his singles career. Technically Malenko is number one contender to Hogan’s World Title. With the hot crowd eating up the action.

Frustratingly, the match was interrupted twice by split screen pictures of Rick Steiner laid out after an apparent attack with the nWo Wolf Pac standing over him. Poor Rick is taken away in an ambulance moments later. WCW knew what its priorities where.

What would happen to Team WCW in the main event? Where the nWo up to their old tricks already?

Mean Gene plugs the WCW Hotline, before a brilliant Rowdy Roddy Piper promo, “Every day of my life has been Uncensored!” The Horsemen insist that they have Pipers back tonight having adopted him on the previous Nitro and that they will win the main event.

Psychosis vs Ultimate Dragon:

Another pairing who had helped build the fantastic Cruiserweight Division, breaking away from it to form an interesting feud of their own. Whenever the two met, you knew it was going to be a good bout, although this is their first one on one encounter in WCW. Dragon in all red is accompanied by Manager Sonny Onoo. ‘Iron’ Mike Tenay joins the commentary team, legitimatising the match further by displaying more knowledge of the pair and their manoeuvres on his own than the other three announcers combined.

A conservative start, with the crowd noticeably quieter than during the opener, the match eventually reached second gear with Dragon executing a running Liger Bomb, Tornado DDT from the top and a dragon suplex combo to score the pin.

Macho Man humiliates Kimberly and DDP:

Mene Gene is back, plugging the hotline again, before bringing out DDP. Dusty calls him the hottest commodity in WCW and he’s not wrong on that front. Page’s popularity was growing by the week! Gene then mentions that Page may be the substitute for Rick Steiner in the main event, (Page was the obvious choice).

Macho Man eventually interrupts Page, acknowledging him for the first time in weeks, accepting DDP’s challenge and revealing that Kimberly, Head of The Nitro Girls is actually Page’s wife before exposing her (and no doubt increasing sales) in a Playboy’s Nude Celebrities Magazine in which she is featured. Pure Heel!

Kimberly arrives, upset having been spray painted in the back by the busy nWo, before Randy bulldozes Page, knocking him senseless, spray painting him for good measure as well and kicking off one of the feuds of the year. The pair would have a cracker at the following months Spring Stampede PPV, before rematches at The Great American Bash and Halloween Havoc would cement DDP as a top star in the company.

Mortis vs Glacier- Martial Arts Match:

This is the in ring debut of Mortis, (Chris Kanyon). More cartoon character than the other wrestlers in WCW at the time, the pair were based on the characters from the popular Mortal Combat franchise.

A solid encounter, more of a normal match with some kicks thrown in to aid the stipulation, Villainous Manager James Vandenberg interference backfires towards the end as Glacier catches Mortis with his Cryonic Kick to score the pin.

The artist formally known as Adam Bomb in the WWF (soon to be unveiled as Wrath) then arrives to double team Glacier and form a partnership with Mortis and Vandenberg.

Buff Bagwell vs Scotty Riggs- Strap Match:

The American Males explode! Bagwell and Riggs had actually been WCW World Tag Team Champions at one point, but the arrogance of Bagwell and his joining the nWo to further his career had put pay to the team. Riggs would never really recover. The Charleston crowd were into the match as both use the strap to their advantage. Overly long, a theme with Bagwell matches on PPV in 1997, Bagwell eventually tosses Riggs over the top rope, hanging him with the strap before touching all four corners to win. Que Buff’s posing!

Harlem Heat vs Public Enemy- Texas Tornado Match:

On paper, this is the most Uncensored match on the card and the four do not disappoint, battering each other with various “plunder” as Dusty says, including trash cans, frying pans and a toilet seat as the announce team continue to remind us that it’s WCW UNCENSORED!

A good brawl around ringside, which we had come to expect from the ECW alumni, Harlem Heat prove once again that they could hang in the environment as well. All four earn their money in this one, as does Sensuous Sherri, at ringside with the Heat, as she gets involved in the match just as much as the men.

Eventually A huge Harlem Hangover from Booker T onto Rocco Rock gets the win, after Rock had been nailed by Steve McMichael’s devious Halliburton briefcase.

Mean Gene interviews the now weakened Team WCW, down one member after Rick Steiner being taken out at the beginning of the show. The Giant looks so young!

The team say even with three members, they will have enough to win the bout. (Why they wouldn’t recruit a replacement seems strange. The odds are against them!)

Rey Mysterio vs Prince Iaukea- WCW TV Title:

Rey is the challenger, again another Cruiserweight showing his worth going after other titles. Rey is wearing a cool Spiderman inspired outfit, whilst Iaukea is quite new on the scene, recently upending Lord Steven Regal the perennial TV champion to gain the gold.

The two just don’t mesh that well, although they do have a better bout in this rematch than at Superbrawl VII the previous month.

Mike Tenay immediately reminds us that the time limit has been extended for this match, from ten minutes to fifteen, immediately telegraphing the outcome. A slower pace than we are used to from Mysterio, the crowd sit on their hands.

The inevitable time limit expires, meaning a draw, however Prince agrees to Mysterio’s request for more time. The finishing sequence is well done moments later, as the Prince rolls through from a Mysterio springboard hurracanrana, pinning him clean.

Rey would have much better nights on WCW PPV.

Main Event: Three Team Match: Team Piper vs Team now vs Team WCW:

Interestingly Team Piper was originally going to consist of Rowdy Roddy, along with John Tenta (the former Earthquake/Shark in a kilt) along with a boxer and kickboxer, picked after one of the strangest segments in Nitro history.

The strange set up was nullified on the previous Nitro when an Injured Ric Flair and Arn Anderson allowed the remaining Horsemen to team with Piper in his quest to once again fight Hogan.

The stipulations for the match were lopsided. If Team Piper won, he got Hogan one on one in a cage, if Team WCW won, the nWo would need to give up all of their titles and they would be banned from WCW events for 36 months.

If the nWo won, The Order could wrestle for any WCW title at anytime, anywhere! The stage was set.

The match consisted of four rounds, one participant from each team competing in the ring and then another group of three, one from each team coming down to the ring after the allotted time. Not unlike a mini Royal Rumble, it was an interesting concept, although it would have been a good added touch to have had cameras in the back seeing officials keeping the remaining team members apart before they entered.

To be eliminated, wrestlers could be pinned, made to submit or could be tossed out of the ring, over the top to the floor. Although never repeated, the match was different to usual WCW PPV main events and had the crowd molten hot for it.

The WWF had presented a similar main event to their February PPV, In Your House Final Four, with Bret Hart, Stone Cold, Undertaker and Vader all competing in a classic where pins, submissions or over the top eliminations counted, with the last man becoming WWF Champion.

Chris Benoit began the WCW version of the bout for Team Piper, Scott Hall for the nWo and The Giant for Team WCW. Shockingly, Giant was eliminated first, before the first five minute period expired, by being tossed over the top.

Jeff Jarrett, Randy Savage and Lex Luger entered next for their respective teams, making the match a mini battle royal. Luger dominated the exchanges with Hall and Savage before Round three saw Steve McMichael, Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner enter. Steiner dominated the nWo to a loud pop from the crowd with Jarrett eliminated over the top by Nash and McMichael eliminated by Hall.

The final round saw Piper enter to a thunderous ovation. Scott Steiner who had the crowd support was thrown out over the top following a big boot from Nash.

Hollywood Hogan accompanied by new nWo recruit Dennis Rodman, took an age to get to the ring, as the ‘We Want Sting’ chants filled the North Charleston Coliseum.

The dastardly Rodman pulled the top rope down eliminating Piper next whilst Benoit was eventually eliminated by Hall and Nash. This left the nWo consisting of Hogan, Savage, Nash and Hall (with Rodman still ringside) all against Luger. A rush of adrenaline saw Luger explode, making Savage submit in The Torture Rack before throwing Nash over the top and eliminating Hall once again with the Rack. Only Hogan was left!

Lifting Hollywood up into the rack for the certain submission, Randy Savage returned to the ring and sprayed Luger in the face with the infamous nWo spray can aerosol allowing Hogan to land on top of Luger and pin him.

The nWo had won. Hogan the last man standing. They could now via for any WCW title belt at any time! The celebration began, seemingly the end of the PPV.

Then, propelling down from the rafters came Sting. Landing in the ring, he quickly laid out the nWo members with his black bat before pointing it down at Hogan. Naively, Hogan entered the ring but was battered by a Scorpion Death Drop. The message was clear. The Stinger was out to get Hollywood.

The main event was fun, exciting for the time and set the course for the rest of the year and the monumental push towards WCW’s biggest match to that point, Hogan vs Sting at Starrcade 1997.

As mentioned, the event also set up the mammoth Savage vs Page feud that would go on for the majority of the year too.

It showed that Lex Luger was a force to be reckoned with once more and that Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Ultimate Dragon and others were stars just awaiting their next step up the card.

25 years on, the PPV has aged well and is an easy watch. Attracting 325,000 PPV buys the event did well. A good undercard, with less silly stipulations than in previous years, filled with solid matches and with a fun and interesting main event (something that WCW didn’t always deliver), although the Uncensored tag never quite lived up to its premise.

Sadly we have lost a lot of the talent since the event with Guerrero, Mortis, Piper, Savage and now Scott Hall amongst others no longer with us.

25 years on, Uncensored 1997 reminds us of a time when WCW had the most diverse, talented pool of competitors on the planet and when WCW as a company ruled the wrestling world.

Uncensored or not.