A tremendous feature aired on USWA television focused on Billy Joe Travis, one of the most underrated workers of his time. Travis was one of the top heels in the USWA at the time and had an Elvis-influenced gimmick, although it wasn’t quite as explicit as that of the Honky Tonk Man. A music video of highlights aired to the tune of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” while also hyping Travis’ feud with Bill Dundee and spotlighting his awesomely terrible rendition of “Love Me Tender”. Also on the program, King Cobra was so focused on getting his hands on Jerry Lawler that he offered Steve Austin $1000 to replace him in the six-man tag scheduled for Monday night at Mid South Coliseum. Fans erupted at the idea since they cared far more about King Cobra than they did Steve Austin. Ponder that one. The highlight of the show, however, was Jerry Lawler, who pulled double duty and then some, acting as a color commentator for the entire show while also starting a weekly segment where he would walk around the studio and insult people in the audience. On top of all this, he was still cutting promos to hype his own feuds. Lawler trolled the crowd in a major way, talking on a Zach Morris-style cell phone during a scheduled interview while positioning the phone just right in front of the microphone to ensure that feedback from the phone would go to everyone in the studio. He claimed to have friendships and regular conversations with Donald Trump, Christie Brinkley and Art Modell, making the studio audience sit there for several minutes like bumps on a log while he finished his long, fake conversation. His gems included the mention that he found the perfect gift for Dutch Mantell before asking you wrap a bath tub, along with his claim that Steve Austin weighed 47 lbs. until he found steroids.
World Championship Wrestling aired an episode that was taped on January 3 at Atlanta’s Center Stage Theatre. In the storyline highlight, Ric Flair was a guest of Jim Cornette on his weekly Louisville Slugger interview segment. Woman quickly interrupted, using “Great Balls of Fire” as her entrance music, and offered to help Flair prepare for his match against Sting at Wrestle War while implying a more intimate relationship as a bonus. Ric politely turned her down, claiming she would be a distraction to the Horsemen and that he preferred not to mix business with pleasure to close out the segment. Also on the show, jobber extraordinaire Lee Scott had what may have been his only competitive match ever against Cactus Jack after Cactus attacked Scott the week before when they lost a tag match. Scott was the perfect job guy — super skinny and pale-skinned — who took incredible bumps for the top stars at the time, most notably Lex Luger and Sid Vicious. The show did a 2.8 rating, which was lower than their recent upward trend but was still much better than they were doing a few months earlier.
El Hijo del Santo faced Brazo de Oro in a fantastic wager match at El Toreo in Naucalpan where Santo put his mask on the line against Oro’s hair. The match was a bloody ****1/4 brawl with Santo carried to the ring by adoring fans, culminating with a nice head shaving for one Brazo de Oro.
Clash of the Champions XXII aired live on TBS from Milwaukee, WI, in front of 4,000 fans. The main event pitted Sting, Dustin Rhodes and Cactus Jack against Vader, Barry Windham and Paul Orndorff in a come-as-you-are cage match, but the show stealer was the **** WCW World Tag Team Title match where the Hollywood Blonds (Steve Austin & Brian Pillman) challenged Ricky Steamboat & Shane Douglas. The two teams had great matches on television for the next couple of months and around the loop on house shows, but this was the match that set the feud in motion. To show Watts’ focus on detail, the match had a 30-minute time limit instead of the usual 60-minute time limit, which Jim Ross stressed would result in a faster-paced match on commentary. Everyone involved was on the same page, as the match kept a pretty fast pace by the standards of the time. The match ended in a disqualification when Austin pelted Douglas with a belt shot, but the best part of that was that it was treated as something more devastating than a standard wrestling move, as Douglas heavily juiced from the shot. Chris Benoit also had a nice *** match with Brad Armstrong on the undercard. The show unfortunately did a disappointing 2.9 rating, which to that point made it the second lowest rating ever for a Clash special. You can watch this show on the WWE Network.
After Doug Gilbert attacked Jerry Lawler from behind with a chain during a studio match on USWA television, Lawler demanded an explanation. Doug cited his frustration that Lawler would not work a recent Eddie Gilbert memorial show, but Lawler responded that the show was promoted by Dennis Coralluzzo, who in a 1992 USWA angle spread a rumor that he Lawler secretly fathered children out of wedlock, so he had no interest in working for the guy. Tommy Rich came out to defend Doug when Lawler cited a laundry list of dirty deeds the Gilberts committed against him over the years, and the two end up attacking Lawler by giving him a spike piledriver on the studio floor in one of the best non-wrestling segments of 1996.
Shawn Michaels and Sid continued hyping their Royal Rumble match on Monday Night RAW, which was taped on December 30 in Albany, NY, in a very strange segment. Despite the angle the previous week where Sid attacked Jose Lothario’s son Pete, all seemed to be forgotten as Shawn was in a happy-go-lucky mood this week, partying on location at a San Antonio nightclub and seeming a little distracted, to put it politely. The show did a 2.3 rating.
Diamond Dallas Page had a star-making babyface turn on WCW Monday Nitro, which aired live from the Superdome in New Orleans, LA, in front of 10,000 fans, when he refused the offer from Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to join the NWO by giving Hall a Diamond Cutter and pushing Nash through a ringside table before escaping through the crowd. The show was headlined by the infamous “Robin Hood” match, where Hulk Hogan began a match against The Giant just as Nitro was going off the air. The announcers promised to show clips of the Hogan-Giant match during commercial breaks of the new Robin Hood series airing on TNT, which pissed off WCW fans to no end. While the match ended shortly after Nitro went off the air and only last about five minutes before an NWO run-in caused a DQ, it was hilariously presented as if it was a 45-minute classic and they were cutting to it in real time. The in-ring highlight of the show was a ***1/4 match between Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko. The show did a 3.4 rating.
On a Michinoku Pro card at Korakuen Hall, Naohiro Hoshikawa and Masato Yakushiji teamed to face Super Delphin and Gran Naniwa in the best American-style tag match of 1999 at ***1/2. Delphin and Naniwa pulled out every trick in the books – accidentally running into and elbow dropping each other, eye poking, low blowing and even asking for a time out when the match was not going their way. Sadly, the match was less heated than the usual Michinoku Pro fare, which can mostly be attributed to the venue. While Korakuen was a great place for wrestling, Michinoku Pro ran most of its shows in smaller Northeastern towns, so they were away from their usual home base.
In The “To Watch” Queue:
Yuki Ishikawa & Shoichi Funaki vs Daisuke Ikeda & Katsumi Usuda (BattlARTS 01/13/96)