Welcome to the fifth chapter of our journey back to the days of grappling past, as we take a look at the wrestlers who have held the WCW TV Title during the WCW Era of the belts history. We left things on quite a downer last time out, as we covered the stumbling reign of Richard “Renegade” Wilson. Though he certainly tried hard in the role, Renegade just didn’t have the wrestling ability or popularity with the crowd to justify his push to the Title, and eventually Wilson was booked to lose the belt and was subsequently punted down to the lower reaches of the card in one of the many examples of the wrestling business being a cruel industry.
The wrestler chosen to replace The Renegade atop the TV Title Mountain was one of the business’ most famous “late bloomers” in the form of Diamond Dallas Page. Real name Page Falkenberg, Dallas Page (“DDP” for short) had started out as a fast-talking manager before eventually moving into an in-ring role. DDP was already 35 when he first started to properly train at WCW’s “Power Plant” training facility, which meant he already had a considerable hill to climb, a climb that wasn’t helped by others within the industry trying to deliberately destroy his burgeoning in-ring career. One notable instance was when DDP had to do a humiliating pin-fall loss in his hometown to career journeyman Curtis Hughes, when the match was originally supposed to have ended in a non-finish but it “accidentally” didn’t work out that way.
DDP bounced back from travails like that though and eventually he became a solid in-ring performer, through sheer bloody mindedness if nothing else. By the time he won the TV Title, DDP had a decent mid-card act going of a sleazy creep who mistreated his lovely “Diamond Doll” girlfriend and cheated to victory with help from his big bodyguard Max Muscle. His TV Title reign wasn’t scheduled to go on for very long though, as he won the belt in September of 1995 at the Fall Brawl event and then lost it a month later at the Halloween Havoc event to previous holder of the belt Johnny B. Badd. The match was good though and it had a nice story to set it up, whereby Badd had earned himself a shot at Sting’s United States Title but had ended up missing the bout due to DDP sabotaging his car, hence giving him a reason to go after DDP instead.
Halloween Havoc 1995 – 29th October 1995
WCW Television Title
Champ: Diamond Dallas Page w/ Max Muscle and Diamond Doll Vs Johnny B. Badd
Badd was coming off a great match with Brian Pillman at Fall Brawl 95, and he uses a lookalike to distract DDP so he can come out of the crowd to jumpstart things. Badd gets the big shine to start, with both DDP and Muscle taking bumps, and it has some decent crowd reactions as well. DDP as the goofy stooging heel was a very effective mid-card gimmick for him, but he didn’t start getting over as a higher up the card guy until he turned down the nWo and became a gritty babyface in 1997.
DDP eventually manages to cut Badd off with a Stun Gun and then works him over, doing his main heel spot of demanding that the Doll hold up cards out of 10 to show her appreciation for his skills. It’s quite a basic heat segment, but DDP has a good loud mouthed heel charisma going on, whilst Badd sells the offence well, so it’s entertaining enough to watch. Doll acts like she isn’t happy about DDP’s antics and holds up the cards reluctantly. The fans get behind Badd and pop for his hope spots, but they are pretty quiet when DDP is on offence.
This is been what Scott Keith would call a perfectly cromulent match thus far, but it needs to pick up a little bit if they want it to get to the next tier up. The heat has gone on a bit too long for my liking and it’s bordering on dragging. I think the crowd agrees too, as they spend most of it sitting on their hands and really only seem to care when it looks like Badd will do something. Eventually Badd manages to suplex his way out of a chin lock and then starts making the comeback, with punches and some nice high-flying moves.
Doll decides to give Badd a 10 during his comeback, and that gets a good pop from the crowd. They do some good near falls, with DDP kicking out of a powerbomb whilst Badd kicks out of a swinging DDT. Badd gets the big dive onto DDP and Muscle outside the ring, and the crowd loves that, which leads to a great near fall back inside when Badd gets a springboard splash. Some heel miscommunication leads to Badd getting a roll up for another two, but Muscle eventually ends up clocking DDP by accident and that leads to Badd getting the three count to a great reaction from the crowd.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: JOHNNY B BADD
Good match overall, although it was a bit slow in the middle. The near falls were done well and the crowd loved the result
This victory marked the second time that Badd had held the TV Title, and he would continue to feud with DDP into 1996, with a series of good matches along the way both on television and pay per view. For you see, DDP had won a lot of money thanks to a winning Bingo ticket and he was enjoying the wealth that the victory had provided him. However, in a big twist it turned out that the winning ticket had actually belonged to the Diamond Doll, so really the money was hers by rights. This led to Badd fighting in Doll’s honour in order to not only retain his TV Title but get the money back for Doll.
It was quite a silly storyline in some ways, but it was also an entertaining one for the most part due to the matches being good and DDP being excellent as the slimy villain who would continuously end up more dishevelled every week due to losing his money and his woman. Doll, real name Kimberly, was actually DDP’s real life wife (proof if nothing else that Mr. Falkenberg was a perennial overachiever in his career and life), and that ultimately led to a problem. Marco Mero, the man behind the Badd character, was strongly religious in his regular life and he didn’t like the fact that he was taking part in a storyline where he was essentially stealing another man’s wife.
The feud and storyline caused Mero to become disillusioned with working for WCW and caused some friction between himself and WCW head honcho Eric Bischoff, which meant that when the WWF offered him some guaranteed money to jump ship in the spring of 1996, he took them up on their offer. However, there was still the small fact of Johnny B. Badd being the TV Champion though, so that needed to be changed and Mero did business on the way out, losing the belt on an episode of WCW’s Saturday Night show. The choice to dethrone him was kind of an odd one though, as WCW ended up going with Lex Luger.
WCW Saturday Night – 6th March 1996 (bout aired on 09/03/96)
WCW Television Title
Champ: Johnny B. Badd w/ Kimberly Vs Lex Luger
The two men had actually already traded the belt on some House Show events February, so Badd was a three time Champion by the time this bout took place. That Luger was challenging for the TV Title at all was kind of odd, as it had always been third in the pecking order to the World and United States Titles, both belts that Luger had held in his career. Luger was also one half of the Tag Team Champions with Sting, so the last thing he really needed was another belt cluttering up his suitcase.
In some ways having a genuine top of the card guy like Luger winning the TV Title was a good way to elevate the belt in importance in the mind of the fans, but another way to look at it would be that Luger going after it actually made him look like less of a star in the process. It’s a difficult line to walk but it can be done right if the company and wrestler put the required effort in. For example, I really enjoyed John Cena’s run with the WWE United States Title in 2015 as Cena was clearly jazzed to have good matches with a varied cast of opponents and I personally think it made the belt itself seem more important that a top guy like Cena was going out of his way to fight for it.
Badd questions Kimberly on the way to the match, as she had come down to the ring on an edition of Nitro with a rose for someone, which I think ended up being Brutus Beefcake as he took up fighting for her honour against DDP when Badd decided to skip town. Luger had an interesting character at the time, whereby he was clearly a bad guy but he was tagging with Sting, who was clearly a babyface. It was something you didn’t see a lot at the time and it had really reinvigorated Luger as a character after a dull stint in the WWF prior to returning to WCW in 1995.
Luger really plays up to his villainy, trying to use the ropes illegally for leverage on a pin at one stage, and then raking Badd’s eyes along the top rope. He really seems to be enjoying himself too, which was a big reason as to why this character was so entertaining. Luger controls things for the majority of the match, with Badd selling well, but Badd eventually manages to fight his way out of a chin lock and makes the comeback.
Badd gets a few near falls with a Powerbomb and an Axe Handle Smash from the top rope, but he can’t keep Luger down, which is DDP’s cue to join us as Badd sends Luger to the floor and follows with a dive. Jimmy Hart, Luger’s associate at the time, comes down with DDP and distracts the referee, which allows DDP to plonk poor Badd with a Diamond Cutter on the floor before rolling him back into the ring. Luger gets the pin following that and picks up the Title. I should point out that the version Luger has here is my personal favourite version of the belt, mainly because it reminds me of the inside of a Crunchie Bar.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: LEX LUGER
This was a decent match and a good use of six minutes. They booked Badd relatively strong on the way out in fairness
As previously mentioned, Lex Luger was a big name in the industry and a genuine Main Event level player, certainly in WCW in the late 90’s, so his victory should have elevated the TV Title somewhat, but it didn’t really work out that way. Luger never really treated the Title with much reverence and, despite holding the belt for an impressive 167 days, he defended it a paltry four times in singles matches on WCW’s flagship show Monday Nitro during that time, and in most cases he wasn’t ever defending it against top stars.
The highest profile match Luger defended the TV Title in was actually in a tag team match, as he and Sting teamed up to take on both WCW Champ Ric Flair and The Giant, with the wacky stipulation of the match being that the TV, Tag Team and World belts were all on the line in the same bout. Because this was WCW the match of course ended in an unsatisfying disqualification finish, meaning that none of the Titles actually changed hands. Aside from that, Luger mostly defended the TV Title on the Saturday Night show which, by this point in time, was now clearly secondary in importance when put up against Nitro.
The most high profile bout on Saturday Night for Luger was a DQ loss to The Giant, and aside from that he mostly defended the belt against guys in the middle to lower part of the card such as Hugh Morrus and The Barbarian. Big changes were afoot in WCW in 1996 though, with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan forming the New World Order faction, which pretty much brought Luger’s run as a Heel to an end as he was required to turn back to being a babyface to help WCW stave off the new nWo threat.
It was decided that, seeing as he was needed in Main Events to fight off the new group of villains, and the fact he basically wasn’t doing anything with the belt anyway, that it was time for Luger to drop the TV Title in August of 1996. The man chosen to end his meandering reign with the belt was a former holder who had seen success with the Title before in the form of Lord Steven Regal. Regal’s second reign with the belt had ended in September of 1994 to Johnny B. Badd, and since then he had been mostly a wrestler in the tag team ranks with partners Bobby Eaton and Dave Taylor.
Regal had made a return to singles in early 1996, taking part in a gruelling feud with Fit “Belfast Bruiser” Finlay, which had seen both men inflict outrageous brutality upon one another through the use of stiff punches and kicks. Finlay had clonked Regal in the nose, seemingly as hard as was humanly possible without causing a fatality, at the Uncensored pay per view back in the March of 1996, causing Regal’s nose to gush blood almost instantly. The two had then followed that up with another violent collision as they had clashed in a Parking Lot Brawl. Regal had eventually won that encounter, so it wasn’t out of the realm of believability that he could defeat Luger as well, which he ultimately did on the 20th of August 1996 on WCW’s Saturday Night (the bout would air on 31/08/1996)
With Regal now back in the TV Title division he picked up right where he had left off, having enjoyable matches with a variety of different opponents. Former foe Arn Anderson returned for a 10 minute time limit draw with Regal, as did former challenger Jim Duggan, the latter being a staunchly jingoistic pro-American grappler, thus making him a natural enemy of a stuffy upper class Brit like Regal. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Regal character’s relatives weren’t at the front of the queue when it came to torching the Whitehouse in 1812 to be quite honest.
Regal also took on another noted technical grappler in the form of Dean Malenko, with the two wrestling to a draw at one stage. One regular rival of Regal during this feud though was a surprising one in some ways though, mainly because you wouldn’t think the two’s respective wrestling styles would have gelled that well together. Mexican Luchador Dionicio Castellanos Torres debuted in 1989, and would probably be best known for wrestling under the name of Psicosis (Or “Psychosis” as WCW spelt it during his time there).
Psychosis had been a star name in Mexico, mostly owing to his incredible series of matches with Rey Mysterio Jr., a rivalry that had gone all over the world. The two had wrestled over in Japan in 1995 and would eventually come to wrestle one another in ECW during that same year. What made the matches between the two so entertaining was that, even though both had the high-flying skills you would associate with masked Mexican wrestlers; Psychosis was noticeably lankier than Rey was. This meant that Psychosis could actively wrestle as a bullying bigger heel (or “Rudo” as the Mexican’s would term it) giving the matches an interesting dynamic to them.
Obviously Regal wasn’t going to be trading Hurricanrana’s and flying dives to the floor with someone like Psychosis, but what he was able to do was find a way to make the styles clash between the two work in their favour. It’s an often repeated statement in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, but there’s a lot of truth to the saying “Styles Make Fights”. Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of pro-wrestling is when you get two completely different wrestlers and throw them in there with one another in order to see what happens. This was something WCW regularly did during their big boom period of 96-98, and the result was a number of really fun bouts between clinical British grappler Regal and pacey high-flying Mexican luchador Psychosis.
WCW Monday Nitro – 16th December 1996
WCW Television Title
Champ: Lord Steven Regal Vs Psychosis
Psychosis was usually a heel during his WCW run, but he’s clearly working as a face here whilst in against the devious Regal, and the crowd is behind him too. Psychosis is known for his high-flying of course, but he’s actually a decent technician on the mat, which he shows here by hanging with Regal pretty well. To be honest, I don’t watch a lot of Lucha Libre, but when I do I’m often impressed with the mat wrestling abilities of the wrestlers, as it’s clearly part of the foundation of the sport over there.
Psy does eventually decide he’s had enough for this mat wrestling stuff though and sends Regal outside for a flying dive to the floor, which gets a big reaction from the crowd. The crowd is actually really into Psy here, reacting big for all of his flashy moves, and Regal does a good job selling his offence too. It’s kind of a perfect example of how to make a match like this work, as Regal does his stuff and Psy does his stuff and both men simply have to react to what the other is doing. You can overcomplicate this whole wrestling thing sometimes.
Regal sells a springboard leg drop from Psy especially well, rolling over onto his side and selling it like he’s completely out before only just kicking out at two. He then follows that up by firing off a desperation suplex on Psy, but selling that he’s still hurt from Psy’s previous moves, meaning he can’t immediately follow up on it, which is a lovely bit of storytelling. You can tell that Regal is working really hard here, as he’s absolutely drenched in sweat as the match progresses, his hair positively sodden.
Regal tries to put Psy away with a series of moves, but Psy keeps managing to kick out and then fights off a Regal superplex attempt before following up with a splash off the top rope for a great near fall. The falls are being made all the better thanks to referee Mark Curtis, who is one of my favourite referees of all-time and used to always sell along with the wrestlers during the matches. Psy looks to follow up on his big move, but Regal manages a last gasp counter into his Regal Stretch finishing hold, which Psy has no choice but to uncle to. Eric Bischoff’s terrible British accent on commentary spoils the moment a bit though.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: LORD STEVEN REGAL
This was a very good match, with the styles clash leading to a really interesting battle where the two men pitted their respective techniques against each another
Regal had tried to increase the value of the TV Title by going on a tour of Europe and defending it against local talent in the process, but WCW being WCW they did little more than just casually refer to it on television. Had it been the WWF they probably would have sent a camera crew and taken footage of Regal defending the belt in his home country and coming across as a gigantic star in the process, but c’est la vie. WCW actually had a plan for the TV Title as they entered 1997 though, and it was a bit of perplexing one, but we’ll cover that in more detail next time out…