WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MONDAY WITH TONY SCHIAVONE & CONRAD THOMPSON
Episode 17: WCW Mayhem 1999
Release Date: May 29th, 2017
Recap by: Dominic DeAngelo
Top Newsworthy Items:
-The beginning of the end for WCW
-Russo & Ferrara’s (surprisingly) positive influence on the company
-“Nothing Happening” Evan Karagias
-Tony’s untold story
Subjects covered (with timestamps)
(9:10) The Mid-Atlantic Gateway / Tony & Ric Flair
(12:45) WCW & Electronic Arts / Harvey Schiller’s exit
(18:07) Russo entering WCW / Censorship
(21:50) Russo & Ferrara organized / Terry Taylor
(32:00) Nash as a booker / Sid’s “half a brain” interview / Dustin Rhodes
(39:40) Toronto fans
(44:45) Chris Benoit vs. Jeff Jarrett / (Nothing Happening) Evan Karagias vs. Disco Inferno
(52:19) Norman Smiley vs. Brian Knobbs
(59:19) Perry Saturn, Asya & Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero, Torrie Wilson & Billy Kidman
(1:04:30) Buff Bagwell vs. Curt Hennig
(1:08:50) Bret Hart vs. Sting
(1:14:25) Vampiro vs. Berlyn
(1:23:45) Meng vs. Lex Luger
(1:33:05) Scott Hall vs. Booker T
(1:37:00) David Flair vs. Kimberly
(1:41:35) Goldberg vs. Sid Vicious
(1:44:25) Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit
(1:48:20) Tony gets serious with a true story
(9:10) The Mid-Atlantic Gateway were times that got Tony into wrestling and started his relationship with Ric Flair. Last time Tony called Ric Flair he asked “what do you want?” Apparently he called Ric after 6:00 pm (Roll Tide)
(12:45) This is the first time Tony has watched Mayhem since he was at it live. Tony mentions that WCW in 1999 was much different than WCW in 1998. Conrad brings up the video game connection and Tony says he was very involved with Electronic Arts and the Mayhem game. He said the relationship with EA was great and they were way more professional as a company than WCW was at the time. He wishes that WCW would have cultivated a better relationship with them. Mayhem was historically significant because this is the beginning of the Vince Russo era. Did Tony think that Harvey Schiller leaving that WCW was screwed? He did, he thought without anybody like him in the Turner hierarchy that there would be nobody in WCW’s corner. Bill Bush, who brought in Russo and Ferrara, had Tony go to Turner broadcasting to meet with one of the guys who was in charge after Schiller left. The only thing this guy wanted to talk about was to have a match in Times Square. That’s when Tony thought they were screwed. When Harvey left, Tony was concerned. The Turner guys were f**ked up, man. He doesn’t see how they’re still in business.
(18:07) When did Tony first hear about Russo coming in and how did Tony feel about it? Tony was pretty excited considering what they were doing with the WWE. He saw it as taking another big name talent. There was a meeting that restructured the company’s standards and practices: no blood, no swearing, no male hitting a female unless under the context of a match. Bad timing to bring in someone like Russo. No question, Tony says. Russo had to bounce things constantly off of a censor guy. These were already immediate handcuffs on Russo and Ferrara. Tony thinks there were people higher up in Turner Broadcasting that wanted to squeeze out WCW.
(21:50) WCW Mayhem features a 32-man tournament after the huge cluster mess of Hogan laying down for a heel Sting, etc. Tony goes on to say that WCW was at it’s most organized in awhile when Ferrara and Russo came into the fold. Conrad says that’s refreshing to hear because you always hear the negative when it comes to the Russo era in WCW. Tony said their first meeting reminded him of a lot of McMahon’s meetings. They were structured and not confusing. Made you think that the people running the show knew what they were talking about. Always important with the boys and important with the company. Lots of things didn’t work: they had a heel Sting and WCW became a bastardized version of WWE. Conrad mentions the miscues of the “Kid-cam” (Billy Kidman’s hidden camera angle). Tony doesn’t remember too much of that, but does remember the trouble with getting things in on time because things became so heavily reliant on production. Tony tried to remove himself from everything so he could avoid getting involved with that stuff.
How was Brad Siegel received? Tony felt really comfortable with Brad and was confident he knew what was in the best interest of the company. Was Terry Taylor Bischoff’s whipping boy? A lot of people were: Eric was never really one to chastise you behind closed doors, he jumped on people publicly. Dusty Rhodes was no longer with the company after he vied for Russo’s position. They also wanted to run a worked angle with Goldust. Did Tony hear anything about this? Tony knew that everything was a work. He didn’t believe anything was a shoot, even the Vince Russo shoot promo on Hogan.
(32:00) Wrestling writers have increased Nitro’s ratings by 25%. Meltzer believes that’s an elevated stat. He thought the November 8 Nitro was by far the worst Nitro since Nash was booker. How would Tony compare Nash’s booking style to Kevin Sullivan? Nash was much more edgier than Sullivan as Kevin was more old school. Conrad brings up Sid’s “half a brain” interview: The Outsiders burst out laughing and it really dumps on Sid’s monster heel persona. Conrad then brings up the Grand Wizard Nash. What did he think about Meltzer writing that Nash was acting “gay”? Tony throws shade at that. The old school guys kind of got that he was trying to be the Grand Wizard. How about Goldust’s “shoot” on his Goldust gimmick? It was odd to do. Meltzer thought a lot of the signs in the audience were planted. Did Tony hear anything about this? He knew that signs were removed. Does Tony remember WCW Saturday getting set aside for a comedy hour with Nash, Hall & Mark Madden? He never heard that and thinks someone was throwing Meltzer a line of BS. Randy Savage & Road Warrior Hawk got into a physical altercation at a Kid Rock concert. Tony never heard of that. He loved Savage but Hawk was a legit badass.
(39:40) WCW Mayhem got a 21% thumbs up, 66.9% thumbs down, 12.1% thumbs in middle. Meltzer thinks it was a weird show. Tony agrees with that idea. The Vampiro vs. Berlyn match was a clusterf**k and the Tony Marinara bit was pure s**t. Also, the fact that interviewers never looking at the camera was really weird. Would Tony classify the Canadian fans as their own type of fans? No question about it. The show drew 13,800 fans, 2,200 shy of capacity. First time WCW went to Toronto they sold out in 15 minutes, but even with Bret Hart winning the title they didn’t sell out. Tony doesn’t think it was a miss as that was a pretty good gate. Tony brings up a sign that said “Who would pay for this?” which made him laugh. He doesn’t think it was a miss. The tournament has taken place on WCW TV and the semi-finals would take place on Mayhem – the final four being Jeff Jarrett, Chris Benoit, Bret Hart, and Sting.
(44:45) Chris Benoit vs. Jeff Jarrett. Good match. 3 1/2 stars. Great booking to put a Canadian first. The guitar gimmick was overused but it was what it was. Creative Control being in connection with Jeff Jarrett was art imitating life. Conrad compares Tony to George Costanza of Seinfeld. “Tony Costanza.” I smell a t-shirt. Evan Karagias vs. Disco Inferno for the Cruiserweight Title. What was Tony’s two favorite things about Madusa? Wit & charm. Conrad asks if that’s what she calls them? Tony Marinara was announcing here and the fans turned on the match. Meltzer rips on Madusa and Evan and says Disco was carrying the match. Negative star. Tony says negative two stars.What Meltzer said about Meltzer was unkind. Tony never liked Evan Karagias at all. He was mouthy and Tony called him “Nothing Happening” Evan Karagias. You get a guy who doesn’t know much about pro wrestling and if everything was choreographed it’s going to look like s**t.
(52:19) Norman Smiley vs. Brian Knobbs. Smiley beats Knobbs for the Hardcore Title. Smiley wins. Two stars. Very Wrestle Crap but great for what it was. Everybody loved the elevator spot. Finish was very good. Tony says the fight went in the backstage area with all the hamburger buns getting destroyed – stuff like that costed a lot of money that wasn’t budgeted for. How much money did they have to pay the Air Canada Center for the damage that they’ve done? Conrad says big gimmicky stuff with frivolous spending is pointless so many times. It was David Crockett’s responsibility to get all this stuff and WCW was just spending money right out the ass. WCW was losing cash doing this, while WWF was very profitable. How much did Tony love Norman Smiley? Conrad loved the “Screaming” gimmick and thinks Brian Knobbs was underrated. Norman was a pro and Knobbs was one of the funniest guys in the business. Was Jimmy Hart still doing stuff backstage? He was still doing a lot of the music stuff at the time (Buff Bagwell, Nasty Boys, etc.) Tony says Jimmy Hart was an amazing talent – not just a dude with a megaphone.
(59:19) Perry Saturn, Asya & Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero, Torrie Wilson & Billy Kidman in an Elimination match. Saturn, Malenko and Wilson win. Kidman and Guerrero argue after the match. Guerrero pinned Malenko and Asya leaving it down to him, Saturn and Torrie Wilson. Saturn pins Guerrero and then low blows Torrie (?!) for the win. Meltzer for some reason makes mention that Asya won “most masculine” in her high school yearbook and Conrad makes note how that doesn’t age well on Meltzer. Tony surprisingly piles on calling her a “great guy.” He mentions how big of a knock-off the Asya name was. He says that was not nice of Meltzer to say and he had the capability to do that back then because he could hide behind a typewriter and not answer to “the boys.” Jeff Jarrett and Creative Control beat up Bagwell and Curt which doesn’t really make sense.
(1:04:30) Buff Bagwell vs. Curt Hennig. Bagwell pins Hennig in 7:47. Bagwell saves Hennig from getting beat down by Creative Control. “Boring” chants happen. Long sleeper spots. Bagwell won clean with a Blockbuster and got booed like crazy. This was Hennig’s last match of his career (WCW). Canada was applauding Hennig and the fans were giving him his due, not because this was his “last match.” We were very much in WWF territory. Tony thought that Buff shouldn’t mug to the camera after the match because it downplays your opponent and the match itself. That’s almost to Tony almost trying to kick out after the three count. If we’re just comparing WCW careers, both admit that Buff Bagwell had a better one than Hennig.
(1:08:50) Bret Hart vs. Sting. 9.5 minutes. Sting wore a tee to hide his physique. Bret Hart wins by submission. Two stars. Match was okay to Tony. Last time they talked about Sting and Bret Hart it was a different story. Heenan says that this was the greatest match of Hart’s career. It didn’t bother Tony that Sting was wearing a shirt, and the only reason that Meltzer criticizes him is because Sting didn’t call him on a regular basis. How would Tony compare Sting and Bret Hart behind the scenes? Tony was closer to Sting and says he was just a regular guy backstage. Tony didn’t really get to know Bret at all. He’d always smile and say hello, but never had a real conversation. He knew Sting much better.
(1:14:25) Vampiro vs. Berlyn. Vampiro wins in under five minutes. The match was a backdrop for Ferrera’s “Oklahoma” gimmick. March gets negative one star. Tony gives it negative 10 stars. To put Oklahoma over, Tony was just being a good soldier. He’s friends with J.R. and wasn’t sure of how far it was going to go. He believes Russo & Ferrara had legit heat with JR. Both agree that the mocking of JR’s Bell’s Palsy was going too far. Were Berlyn and The Wall Terry Taylor ideas? Most likely. The theme was good but the whole Berlyn thing was B.S. He liked lime tights Alex. Russo tried to have every match have an angle and every wrestler a persona. Tony didn’t like the character Vampiro, but he liked the guy.
(1:23:45) Meng vs. Lex Luger. 5.5 minutes. On the air, Tony claimed that Luger’s neck collar was a work. Match gets negative one star. Seems like Meng was getting a push here. Meng was over with everybody backstage, but this was a match to further an angle with Luger being a chicken s**t heel. David Flair in real life claimed that he did wrestling in reverse – working in the big leagues then working in the independents. Tony thought David Flair played his character very well, it’s just tough to be Ric Flair’s son. He was in a no-win situation. Tony thinks he may have been coerced into doing this. This whole thing had to be an uncomfortable angle. Lots of gimmicky stuff happening determining tonight’s outcomes. It feels like that every match has had some BS. That’s just how Russo booked. Feeding the stories.
(1:33:05) Scott Hall retains both the U.S. & T.V. Title against Booker T in about 6 minutes. Rick Steiner was announced that he was injured so he forfeited the title to Hall. Booker didn’t seem comfortable out there, Creative Control interfered to distract Booker for Hall to give an Outsider’s Edge. Is this one of the badly booked events with all these crazy finishes? Yes. Tony says Scott Hall is over like hell in this match. Scott Hall took a moment to see if the mic was turned on because so many times he got burned by it not being on when he says “Hey yo.” Tony says these problems go back to the director and not to make any excuse but there was a lot of s**t going on. They were trying to be an entertainment company rather than just a wrestling company.
(1:37:00) David Flair in a no contest to Kimberly. Fans hated this match. Nobody bought the ending stretcher job to Arn Anderson and Meltzer gave it two stars. Tony says if you factor domestic violence into play in this match, it’s a real bad look. Tony says what he remembers about this match is how Kimberly looked and the implication of what may happen when she reached into Flair’s pants to get the cup. It was a combination of a crazy kid, domestic violence, oral sex and just a bunch of s**t. Conrad says this whole thing is so bad that it’s actually kind of good. A hilarious turd.
(1:41:35) Goldberg vs. Sid Vicious in an “I Quit Match.” Sid just had one thing – a chokeslam. Sid dominated, fans hated Goldberg. Nobody bought the finish – half a star. The idea of Sid losing to body scissors is not good. Tony doesn’t watch MMA but isn’t that kind of a tap out or pass out move? Conrad says that’s more of a triangle choke – not body scissors.
(1:44:25) Bret Hart vs. Chris Benoit in 17.5 minutes. Bret Hart wins the WCW Title. So many interferences that took away from the match, but the finishing sequence was great. 3.5 stars. Really low-brow Klondike Bill joke here that I’ll shamefully admit, laughed out loud.
(1:48:20) Tony gets serious with a true story: there was a creep online who had a website and someone called Tony’s attention to it. This creep hated him and made a call for people to beat up Tony’s daughter (WTF). So Tony read it and got really pissed off. The creep then called for Tony to get taken out while he was in Toronto for Mayhem. So he called Turner security and expressed his concern since people responded to him on the Internet. Two things happened: Tony got to the building that day super early before everybody else and Doug Dillinger had security there for him. Turner security were unsure exactly what they could do for Tony and they asked him to send them something the creep wrote. He did, and Gary Jester (one of the bookers) said Tony should just drop it. A couple days later, Turner called Tony to say they contacted the FBI and shut down the creep’s website if they gave him the go-ahead. Tony told them to forget it and Turner security was very upset with him about that since they put a lot of effort into this situation. The people who ran the website got in contact with Tony to apologize and said the creep wouldn’t do it again. Tony was pretty f**king irate. That situation combined with everything going on with WCW at the time is what made Tony a miserable person. He can’t remember the website or the guy’s name. He has a feeling that if Tony would go back and see his name on a sign he’d remember his name. Tony doesn’t forgive that S.O.B. at all.
(1:54:40) Next week is WCW 2000: (1) WCW Souled Out 2000, (2) WCW Superbrawl 2000, (3) WCW Uncensored 2000, (4) WCW Slamboree 2000
Score and review (8.5)
Very entertaining episode with Tony revealing some interesting tidbits about the Russo & Ferrara era along with him and Conrad cracking jokes. This was certainly the beginning of the end for WCW and Tony makes these moments hilariously tragic for what could have been with such a star-studded roster back then (along with some of the not-so-studded). This one may give you the beginnings of bad-WCW shell-shock, but it’s totally worth it.
About the Author
Dominic DeAngelo has a weekly column on PWTorch.com, “Rising Star, Fading Star” and runs a sports, entertainment, and lifestyle blog in the Pittsburgh area called The Keystone Statement. In addition, he writes book reviews for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His wrestling top three are Scott Hall, Bret Hart & Bruno Sammartino. Follow him on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and visit his site www.keystonestatement.com for good articles and the two podcasts he hosts, “The Keystone Cast” & “Here Comes Everybody”
For more, check out What Happened When on Fall Brawl ’97.