US Title Tournament: FS Reprint
November 28, 2011
I wrote the following for my "Storm Front" article for "Fighting Spirit" Magazine, back in July, and it is being reproduced with permission from Uncooked Media Ltd.
When searching for a topic to write about this month I decided to take a look back in history and see if anything significant happened in my career on or around the release date of this issue. As it turns out something rather big happened to me on July 18th, 11 years ago.
July 18th 2000 was a Tuesday, which you would think would be an odd day for something big to happen in the wrestling business, seeing that the Monday night wars were still going on, but on this particular week Nitro got bumped to Tuesday night and featured an 8 man tournament to crown a new United States Heavyweight Champion.
You should all be able to see where this is going, July 18th 2000 was the night I capture the WCW US Title, which I would later rename the Canadian Heavyweight Title. This was the start of the biggest pushes of my career and the night I made my first big mark on the world wide wrestling scene. The 8-Man Tournament was a single elimination tournament featuring: Kanyon, Mike Awesome, Vampiro, The Great Muta, myself, Buff Bagwell, Shane Douglas, and Billy Kidman. To win the title you would have to wrestle and win three matches in one night.
I first found out I would be winning the tournament when Johnny Ace called me at home the week before the show. Johnny had been my agent for most, if not all, of my WCW matches at that point and he told me I was getting the push and winning the title and we needed to decide what my finishing move was going to be. I told Johnny that I'd been using the Rolling Half Crab thus far in WCW, but Johnny wasn't sure a submission hold would be the easiest sell as a finisher. We debated on possible moves for maybe 20 minutes before Johnny finally said; screw it you're getting the push the other guys are just going to have to tap.
I didn't find out who was in the tournament or who I'd be facing until the day of the show and was relieved that 2 of the 3 guys I'd be working, I'd worked with before. Doing 3 matches in one night is difficult enough but doing it with guys you've never worked with before just makes it harder.
My first match was with Buff Bagwell and this was when I got my first glimpse into WCW politics. Buff occupied a higher rung on the political ladder in WCW than I did and he was not the least bit happy about having to lose to me, and he made little effort to hide this fact. I was shocked when I saw Buff loudly complaining at ringside to agents and who ever else would listen that he was not happy about having to put me over. I recall him saying that he understood guys had to sacrifice in order to get new guys over, but why did he always have to be the one to sacrifice, why was it always him doing the sacrificing? Because of his complaining and reluctance to do the job we had a ridiculous finish to our match.
The finish as it was explained to me was that once I got Buff in the half crab a video would play on the entrance screen of Buff's Mom getting attacked in the back, and Buff would tap out. This would allow Buff to save face somewhat because he was tapping in order to get out of the match quickly to save his mom, as much as he was because I was inflicting pain. I thought this sucked but wasn't about to complain since I was still very new to WCW, and did not want to rock the boat just as I was getting a push. When the match happened Buff didn't really tap at all, he just crawled to the ropes hitting the mat with alternating hands as he crawled, and the ref rang the bell as Buff hurried to the back to save his Mom. It didn't end up looking like he tapped at all, and I thought the finish came off extremely flat. Johnny was my agent for the whole tournament and he was unhappy with the finish too, but understood that there likely wasn't much I could have done about it; Buff just didn't tap like he was supposed to.
After later dealings with Buff, many of which during the WCW/WWE Invasion, I've really come to regret this match and wish I could have it back to do over. I would love to have the opportunity to pull Buff back into the middle of the ring and make him tap, for a clear cut finish.
My second match was with Shane Douglas who beat Billy Kidman in his first outing. Shane and I had worked in ECW and had good chemistry together so I was looking forward to the match. Again the half crab submission was going to be the finish and Shane had no problems what so ever tapping to the move. Before we went out we decided, since I was a heel that we would set up the finish near the ropes allowing me to use the ropes for extra leverage for the tap out. I don't remember whose idea it was but we both agreed to it and out we went for our second match of the night.
We were both quite happy with the match but when we got to the back we were met by an angry Johnny Ace who began chewing me out immediately. He was yelling at me for using the ropes for leverage, screaming how he's trying to get my finisher over and now I'd had a bullshit non-tap win over Bagwell and I had to cheat and use the ropes to get the win over Douglas. Shane immediately stepped up and took the bullet, taking full blame for coming up with the idea for the ropes, while looking at me with an "I'll take the heat on this one" look on his face. Johnny calmed down right away restating the importance of getting my finish over and looking at the bigger picture, that I needed to beat guys clean for now, to get established.
There aren't a lot of guys in this business that will step up and take a bullet for you like Shane did that night, which is one of the many reasons I respect the guy so much.
In the finals I faced Mike Awesome, who had beaten Kanyon and the Great Muta to make it to the final. Mike and I were good friends and Johnny was very clear what he wanted from us for the finish so there was no way I was screwing this one up. Mike and I had our match, which we were both pretty happy with and when I got the half crab on Mike it was in the middle of the ring and he tapped out like a pro and I finally got the strong win Johnny was looking for and I captured the WCW United States Heavyweight Title.
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