We don’t talk much about WCW or the crucial role that WCW played in shaping what has become today’s WWE, but long time wrestling fans are aware that the WWE has grown to be the force that it is on the strength of the innovation and improvements spurred as a result of the Monday Night Wars of the mid-90’s. During the Monday Night Wars, wrestling fans were treated to edgy stories, great matches, and incomparable personalities every Monday night and then Thursday when Thunder and Smackdown debuted. It was a time when PPVs were actually significant events, not just excuses to get $49.99 out of consumers. Of the WCW flagship PPVs, SuperBrawl was one of the best.
SuperBrawl VIII was overall a great PPV, complete with swerves, payoffs, elevation of young stars and the solid wrestling that WCW was known for during the Monday Night Wars. This particular PPV happened in 1998, placing these storylines and matches in the thick of the MNWs and shortly after WCW had acquired former WWF champion Bret Hart. The biggest of these matches was a contest between vitriolic heel Hollywood Hogan and crowd-favorite Sting for a WCW Title that was vacant for a prolonged amount of time, much like the WWE Title has been recently.
The kickoff matches were special. Booker T was starting his singles push and gave one of the defining performances of his early singles career, walking away with the TV Title after two matches. He defeated Rick Martel to win the TV Title in a hard-fought contest, and then was immediately rushed after the Martel match by his next opponent Perry Saturn. The story told in the Saturn-Booker T match was a good one, with Booker being the ambushed face that was trying to hold on to his newly-gained title, and Saturn being a ravenous heel trying to do all he could to take it away. Booker’s victory becomes even more special when you realize that the entire match was scripted on the fly, and that Martel was supposed to beat both Booker and Saturn. Fate intervened and the outcome was rewritten in the ring by both men after Martel was injured in the first match.
Next, Disco Inferno defeated La Parka in a filler match. With the MNWs still raging, it’s interesting to see how the WCW took a shot at Stone Cold by allowing one of their mid-carders, Disco Inferno, to use the same finisher as a top guy in the rival company. Disco won with that finisher, the Chart Buster. WWE would later counter that mockery with Gillberg, a play on the man who would be featured in the next match on the card. After Disco’s victory, the WCW displayed the dominance of a man who would come to be a huge part of their future, having Goldberg go over Brad Armstrong in a complete squash that riveted everyone in the Cow Palace. From his reception, it was clear that Goldberg was quickly becoming one of WCW’s brightest and most over stars.
After the Goldberg match, we saw the WCW Cruiserweight division shine in a match between Champion Chris Jericho and challenger Juventud Guerrera that put Juve’s masks against Jericho’s title. Jericho emerged victorious but not without a good fight, some clever heel antics, a true Lion Tamer (complete with knee on head) and more signs that Jericho was one of the best things WCW had going at that time in the undercard. Ultimately, WCW never saw anything in him and the rest is history. Following the Jericho match and the unmasking of Juventud Guerrera, there was a match between Steve McMichael and newcomer, the British Bulldog. This palate cleanser match was won by Davey Boy Smith, with a starkly confusing ending. But when you learn that Steve McMichael actually broke his arm mid-match, things make sense.
Next, the WCW People’s Champion defended his US Title against Chris Benoit in a great match that pitted popular face against dry face. DDP’s brawling style created a stark contrast to Benoit’s technical approach, which made for an interesting pairing. DDP powered a backslide over his head into the Diamond Cutter, reversing into his finisher in a way that would impact other wrestlers who use cutters for years to come. (Looking at you, Randy Orton) This match was given good time, lasting over 15 minutes, and following the match DDP embraced the roots of his popularity, going deep into the crowd and celebrating with the very people who made him the huge figure that he was in WCW at the time.
The Macho Man (RIP) took on Lex Luger in a No-DQ match, next. This match was key for a number of reasons, it was the first match of the night featuring a member of the notorious, powerful nWo, it was the first match that fulfilled the nWo vs WCW story that announcers had been discussing all night, and it would have a substantial effect on the Main Event. The short bout saw the duo demonstrate why they worked so well together as Macho and Luger brawled around the ring/through the crowd, with Macho dominating that battle. It was no surprise that nWo reinforcements hit the ring once Macho was in trouble, but it was surprising to see Macho Man fight them off. With Macho’s status in the nWo uncertain, Luger and Macho Man fought off nWo reinforcements together, only for Hollywood Hogan himself came out to call off the nWo. This allowed the Macho Man to lose the match after Lex Luger applied the Torture Rack—I can’t even count the amount of times, Macho Man was placed in the rack through the course of his long feud with Luger.
After botching a powerbomb that left the Giant (the Big Show) legitimately injured at Souled Out 1998, Kevin Nash returned to tag team wrestling, partnering with Scott Hall to square off with the Steiner Brothers for the WCW Tag Team Titles in the penultimate match of the night. Here, the swerve of the night played out as Scott Steiner turned on his brother, ambushing Rick Steiner and handing him over to the nWo for Scott Hall to defeat him with an Outsider’s Edge. Scott Steiner jumped ship, bringing the tag titles with him and shocking a captivated crowd that collectively jumped to its feet once Scott turned.
The WCW Heavyweight Title match had an amazing story going into it with the promise of a resolution to the long-term tension between Hogan and Sting. Sting and Hogan had squared off at Starcade 1997 with a controversial ending that mocked the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Following that match, WCW Commissioner JJ Dillion would go on to schedule this rematch to ensure that there would be a winner and a WCW Heavyweight champion. After a long match that saw Hogan mostly dominate, Sting mounted a comeback. Hollywood was reeling before the nWo completed one of their infamous rundowns. Sting fights them all off alone, but while doing so, the Macho Man interferes on Sting’s behalf, blasting Hogan with a spray paint can and allowing Sting to use the Scorpion Death Drop to pick up the win to the chagrin of Hogan and joy of the crowd.
Dynamic personalities, masterful wrestling, strong storylines, and good timing all came together nicely to create a strong PPV in front of a white-hot crowd that came to be one of WCW’s best PPVs in 1998. It wasn’t without fault, as I found myself wondering about some logic gaps even back then–no involvement for Flair, Bret Hart, etc. Nonetheless, SuperBrawl VIII remains as a great memory of WCW’s strength and prominence.