Sunday, December 8, 2013

Loose Canon Chronicle: Brian Pillman (WCW '95-'96)

In 1995, Brian Pillman was pissed. He was pissed he was not being pushed. He was pissed he was in the same, plucky underdog babyface gimmick. He was pissed he was not making more money. He was pissed at the system being seemingly rigged against him. In short, he was pissed at the world. I could never describe Brian Pillman's state of mind as well as close friend and preeminent wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer did in this article:https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/a...p4/farC1WnTeX0J and you can listen to Meltzer discuss Brian Pillman with Pillman's former tag partner, Steve Austin on the Steve Austin Show here: http://podcastone.com/Steve-Austin-Show-Clean

I will say it showed in his matches as a babyface how disinterested he was in every performances. He was having the same matches in 1991 against Ric Flair and Barry Windham with such panache. However, that was the problem. It was 1995 and he was being asked to work the same matches and the same character. In fact, he was retrogressing and wallowing aimlessly in the WCW mire. In Hogan's WCW, two things mattered: your size and the size of your contract. Pillman had neither going for him. In his standout match of the year, Fall Brawl '95 against Johnny B. Badd, Pillman played the heel and he later turned heel on the card aligning with Arn Anderson against Ric Flair. You could see that a rejuvenated Pillman could still a US MOTYC. He just needed a fresh outlook on wrestling. However, you could see how Pillman could channel his aggression into a heel. How can you be a smiling babyface when there is so much rage inside you?

My favorite look in wrestling
 
After his heel turn at Fall Brawl, Pillman set out to create a character that would revolutionize the wrestling world and to this day has earned him a cult status among smart mark fans. He became the Loose Canon. With kayfabe being shattered by the internet, Pillman strove to continue to keep everyone (including the boys and management) off balance by acting like an absolute lunatic both on and off screen. It totally worked. He physically hassled the very physically fragile Bobby Heenan making him "What The Fuck are you doing" on live, national TV.  He got himself fired as part of an angle with then-booker, Kevin Sullivan where he exclaimed "I Respect You, Bookerman", which was pre-planned, but worked Bischoff into firing him to really get the story over only to sign with the WWF that summer. He trolled the ECW audience with chants of "Smaaaaarrrrttttt Maaaaarrrrrkkksss" and threatened to "Whip out his Johnson and piss in this cesspool." He was not the first to use the worked shoot, but he was the first to make his character completely based on the worked shoot. He ushered in an era where the worked shoot became commonplace. Even to this day, Wrestling saw a fleeting rise in mainstream interest when CM Punk delivered a worked shoot promo to end a RAW in the Summer of 2011 kicking off the Summer of Punk II. Personally, I believe in everything in moderation so eventually CM Punk's pipebombs became obnoxious and overbearing. The difference with Pillman was that he was such a good clown and ass in the ring that you were always excited to see him get his comeuppance.

Even though Pillman proved he could still deliver a classic with Badd, Pillman would never wrestle at that level again. His football injuries, drug use, and bad attitude hurt the quality of matches. To his credit, he was a very effective heel  in all his matches. In a recent interview with Steve Austin, Meltzer says Pillman's goal was to be a main event heel. He was obsessed with the idea. To his credit, Pillman was not shy about heeling up in every match utilizing every trick in the book. He made all his opponents look good while getting his Loose Canon persona over. I loved his use of the slap in all his matches. It is such a prick thing to do. When the babyface got his receipt, it always elicited a big pop. I loved he busted out his trademark railing bump as it always looked good and made babyface look like a badass. Even when Pillman seemed to be at his most selfish, he was so selfless in the ring with all his opponents. (something I wished CM Punk learned in 2011 promos) Pillman never neglected the match he made his character work within the context of the match. In his one classic of this era, he also treated American fans to a very puroresu style of work that would in a lot of ways become the WWE Main event style today. He and Badd traded huge bombs down the stretch of a 30 mins in a crescendo that climaxed with a ferocious finish. In this era of his career, Pillman gets lauded for his character work, but in that match he facilitated a style would eventually become the predominant working style in North America.
 
The Brian Pillman of 1989-1992 is one of the greatest pure babyface workers in history of wrestling. However, that part of his career is often overlooked for the "sexier" Loose Canon era, which is covered in this blog. Even if the matches are not as good, you can see Pillman's wrestling acumen is almost unparalleled in how he successfully works his character into his matches. He delivers great stooging heel performances in the Ric Flair feud and transition himself into a really interesting feud with Kevin Sullivan before its premature end. The Brian Pillman ends in tragedy as you can read in the article above. However, he is one of the most influential workers both in and out of the ring. If you are a fan or a wrestler a lot can be learned from watching him. More importantly to me, you will be entertained when he is on the screen.
 
Choice Cuts of the California Brian/Loose Canon Era:
Brian Pillman vs Johnny B. Badd - Fall Brawl '95

Personal Favorites:
Brian Pillman vs. Ric Flair - Nitro 9/18/95
Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Ric Flair - Halloween Havoc '95
Brian Pillman & Chris Benoit vs Bart Sawyer & Buck Quartermaine - WCW Pro 01/13/96
 
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Fuck the world
 
WCW World TV Champion Arn Anderson w/ Ric Flair vs Brian Pillman - WCW Main Event 4/16/95
 
Flair has been reinstated and he back with his old pal, Arn Anderson. I found it amusing when Dusty speculated that Flair and Anderson may actually be family to explain their closeness. I was expecting Tony to say well they are cousins, duh! Pillman had apparently been out for late '94 and was doing squash matches in early '95. He was being revamped as California Brian with the theme of Blonds Have More Fun. Cowabunga, dude!

In some ways the booking is what I am really finding fault with in this match. He is still playing the plucky upstart against a champion just like in his Luger '89 and Flair matches. However, I think some fault has to be laid at his feet for how lukewarm this match was. In those matches, he was contributing to the match with a unique presence. In this match, he feels like he retrogressed to a vanilla challenger. Before, he was mixing aerial tactics, stiff chops and scrappiness to create a distinctive force in the ring. Now, he is just a hammerlocking, one early nearfall, reverse elbow-eating, Flair whipping boy on the outside, back body dropping, clotheslining, losing to an illegal sunset flip, generic babyface. Wright protests that Anderson had his hand clasped with Flair during the sunset flip. Flair and Wright spill out to the floor. In classic WCW fashion, they restart the match, but tell nobody. Flair intervenes and kicks Pillman during a cover to draw the DQ. I smell a rematch.
Anderson looked fine here. It was just Anderson by the numbers. Anderson always looks like a star and a champion. I liked how he cheated early on and Pillman was still able to negotiate back into hammerlock. It was their best stretch. The best part of the heat segment was Flair's beatdown on Pillman. I can't believe how interchangeable Pillman felt in this. It may have been some rust and disenchantment with the system. Lets see what happens in the rematch.
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WCW World TV Champion Arn Anderson vs Brian Pillman - WCW Worldwide 5/28/95
 
Who the fuck thought those hair extensions were a good idea for Pillman?

Anderson has just helped Flair beat up the elderly Angelo Poffo at Slamboree, which sets up one of my all-time favorite matches, Flair vs Savage at GAB '95. Anderson is booked against Renegade at GAB and Pillman who continues to be totally directionless is booked against Alex Wright.

When I first saw this series on paper, I had high hopes it would be as good as the Pillman/Windham series of '91. I thought this match was much better than the first match, but still didn't get to the place I feel like they could have due to an abrupt finish. The big improvement was in the heat and home stretch. The beginning saw Pillman use the headlock as his base, which was fine. Things picked up once The Enforcer hit a hotshot on Pillman. Both wrestlers worked hard from then on out and Pillman started to look like the Pillman of old. He was peppering in chops forcing AA to do cutoffs like hitting a swinging neckbreaker, which Pillman sold like a million bucks bouncing himself to the outside. They do the Arn-staple of the heads colliding in the corner. Arn attempts to hit a move off the second rope only for the Pillman to hit a dropkick on the button. I like when the babyface transitions by combining 2-3 spots together. Pillman is way more into this match and trying way harder to get the crowd involved. They blow a crossbody roll through, but Pillman makes it up with a sweet second rope bulldog and a great flying headscissors. The finish is lame as Anderson rolls to the apron and just snaps Pillman across the top rope. He at least has the courtesy to put his feet on the rope.

Pillman was on quite a roll before the match ended abruptly. Anderson looked good was playing a great foil for Pillman. He made Pillman look good and when he went on offense he always transitioned in an underhanded way. They definitely put a lot more effort in this match and it shows. It is too bad they never got 20 minutes together. This series was pretty disappointing.
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Brian Pillman vs Jushin "Thunder" Liger - Nitro 9/4/95
 
This is the answer to the trivia question, "What was the first match in the history of Monday Night Nitro".
 
It is a statement match and how WCW was going to distinguish itself from WWF: International talent, smaller talent, lots of action, no selling and botches. smile.gif Pillman seemed awfully sloppy at times and was still a couple weeks away from the heel turn that would take him from missed prospect to cult legend. Liger is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, but he knew his job here: BRING DA MOVEZ~! Kappo Kicks, Mexican Surfboard (take notes, Das Wunderkind), Somersault Senton off the apron, superplex, top rope frankensteiner, powerbomb. They worked a tit for tat symmetry match, but Pillman was having trouble matching each of Liger's loves with his sloppy headscissors. Sometimes, Pillman was be too far pigeon-holed in that aerial light heavyweight role when he excelled at toe-to-toe fights with Flair and Windham. Pillman hits a tornado DDT and then negotiates a cradle to win.
 
I thought Liger came off as the bigger star. Not only did he have the bigger moves, he was more expressive (he is masked!) and vocal with crowd (shouting "One more time!" for a top rope frankensteiner). Pillman looked like a guy who could not give a shit. His best move is his one stiff chop and splash to the floor. Still this match accomplished what it set out to do. It was totally different than the 1995 WWF product and heralded that American fans would have a choice in their wrestling products.
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Brian Pillman vs Alex Wright - Saturday Night 9/10/95
 
This is the rematch from their GAB '95 match. If anyone has that match, please hook a brutha up. I have sent out some feelers and so far have come up dry.
You can see how much experience matters in a match like this. Pillman knows exact
ly what he can and what he wants to do. He is very sure of himself as he goes to the mat or does a dropkick here and there. He lets Wright shine, but Wright just isn't there. Wright has some cool ideas. He does some slick European chain wrestling, but occasionally lets go or misses a connection. I don't if he ever put it together, but I appreciated the attempt even if it was no Pat O'Connor vs Lorenzo Parente. Wright vs. Regal could have be interesting and I will have to check it out. Things eventually heat up as they trade chops and European uppercuts. Wright gets a nice headscissors in and a belly to belly. He definitely had a lot of potential. They do a bridge sequence into a backslide and Pillman gets the win.

It was a nice little face vs face encounter. The next night Pillman was turning heel so I don't think he minded making Wright look like the about to go in a completely different direction. You could really see the difference between a seasoned veteran and a rookie in this match. As Pillman was simple, but very effective in his execution, while Wright's reach sometimes outstretched his grasp.
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Brian Pillman vs Johnny B. Badd - Fall Brawl '95

Pillman's "Blonds Have More Fun" is an excellent slab of pop metal. Nice to see pop metal still had home somewhere in 1995. Before the match, the crowd is already firmly behind Johnny B. Badd. The winner of this match receives a mandatory US Title shot against then holder, Sting.

In this snippet of Pillman's career, he was not often paired with someone he had to carry. unfortunately, I did not have access to his GAB '95 match as a comparison point. Both were ostensibly face vs. face matches against an carryable opponent where Pillman chose to play the heel in that match. You can tell how much Pillman hated being a face at this point in his career. The first 5 or minutes are filled with lackadaisical, slow-motion hold work. They do the obligatory dropkick each other at the same time. One of my pet peeves in wrestling is when a wrestler just drops a hold for no reason and that happens more than once in this portion. Business picks up with a Billy Robinson backbreaker into a Boston Crab by Pillman. He lets go to punch Badd with a closed fist and Pillman starts to jaw with the fans and the camera. I was pretty underwhelmed with the match until that point. Badd hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Shoving exchange is won by Badd, which gets a nice pop. Pillman backs him into a corner and hits a hard reverse elbow. Pillman goes full-on heel at this point taking the walk up the aisleway, the facetious handshake and biting Badd. They have a sick collision on a double Thesz Press attempt, where was this fire earlier. At this point, it just turns into a bombfest, which is so strange for 1995 WCW and I was totally caught off guard. I enjoyed it a lot. Badd had a lot more aerial moves in his arsenal than "Flyin'" Brian. I always felt that was a misnomer that got him pigeon holed in places he did not belong when he should be having violent brawls because watching the footage he was so well-suited for that. Badd hits a powerbomb and Pillman hits a tombstone piledriver. Are we in the Budokan? They trade finishers (Tutti Frutti & Air Pillman) as the time limit expires. Nick Patrick says there must be a winner so we go to sudden death! Heenan wonders when he is going to get a chance to shave, which I thought was hilarious. Pillman chops the fuck outta Badd on the outside. YES! That's the Pillman I want! Badd counters a Pillman missile dropkick with a dropkick a callback to Pillman's counter-dropkick spot. They trade sleepers. Misawa counters Kawada's powerbomb with a headscissors takeover. I am sorry, I meant Pillman counters Badd's powerbomb with a headscissors takeover. I find a out a Badd Day is a Top Rope Frankensteiner and Pillman takes a great bump for it. He follows up that bump with always sick-looking railing bump. I find out a Badd Mood is a crazy somersault plancha. Lets Go Badd! I might have to explore him further. Badd does a reverse slingshot splash and eats knees. Pillman looking to prove why he is "Flyin Brian" and keep up The Badd Man whiffs pretty bad on a suicide dive. In his defense, Badd should have closer and to add to the complexity the stairs where right up against the apron there so he had to clear that too. At 30 minutes into the match, they fuckin sprint against the ropes and collide mid-ring with Badd falling on top for the win.

Pillman-san and Badd-san had quite the match that night that hitherto was rarely seen in America. Unfortunately, this style was copied and stripped down missing the transitions to hold together the big spots. Yes, the beginning of the match was lackluster, but once Pillman effectively turns heel it gets a lot better. I wish Pillman had a better transition to turning heel rather just kind of just snapping his fingers and saying I am going to heel it up. To that point, Pillman bumps like a heel, but does offense like a babyface, which I feel hurts how the middle of the match connects to the amazing finish. It is a very disjointed match, which I hate rating. The beginning was some of the lamest face vs. face wrestling you'll ever see. The middle was an interesting period where Pillman was heeling it up and Badd was playing the hero well in their mini-battles. Then finish they just go balls to the walls and Pillman stops cheating and heeling. There is no glue. Within the finish stretch, the transitions are great and they have plenty of callback psychology. I just can't fit the three portions of the match together. What I have found interesting about this match is a lot people just throw out **** and don't say why it falls shy of *****. The finish stretch, which is incredibly long for an American match, is friggin' good that I will agree with the consensus and give it ****. I am trying to do star ratings to keep everything straight for future lists and projects.
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I'll be naughty, nice or whatever you want me to be.


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Brian Pillman vs. Ric Flair - Nitro 9/18/95

You know whenever these two get together it is going to be a fuckin' barnburner. They did not disappoint. Pillman interfered and helped Anderson beat Flair at Fall Brawl '95. Flair cut a promo early stating that Anderson should not have brought outsiders into the family feud and now he was going to beat Pillman all over Johnson City, Tennessee.

I just love the little bits of babyface Flair you get everyone once and a while. His babyface strut that ends with his fists balled up always makes me mark out. I loved their chopfests throughout this match. The heat was just off the charts and the crowd was all about babyface Flair. He even hit a big double axehandle from the top to the floor on Pillman. Pillman was still honing in his new heel persona, but he feels so much better than the stuff I was watching him earlier in '95. Flair ducks the clothesline while running the apron and hits his own. Babyface Flair rules! Pillman catches him with a dropkick off the top, which is his best '95 spot until he developed his heel spots. Flair hits snake eyes on the railing and Pillman Flair Flops. This is a great TV match. They surprise me as Flair takes a press slam off the top. It looks like Flair is going for the kneecrusher, but hits a back suplex. Pillman submits to the figure-4 and ends this way too early.
O God in Heaven, why could we not get a Pillman heat segment! This is nowhere near their '90 or '91 encounters, but still it is a very energetic and heated affair. Flair looks awesome in this and Pillman looks refreshed and on his way to something big.
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Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs Steve & Scott Armstrong - WCW Worldwide 09/23/95
 
The freshly turned heel Brian Pillman does not have his Loose Canon persona developed nor the bitchin' hair he would later have. This is the first time Anderson & Pillman has teamed since Pillman aided AA against Flair at Fall Brawl '95. This is a competitive match, but the finish was never in doubt. There was some decent spots, but it felt a bit underwhelming and lackluster.

AA is willing to give the Armstongs a lot at the beginning. They outsmart him and then he begs off into the corner saying "Are you insane?". He definitely went over the top in trying to sell the Armstrongs as a threat. Pillman did plenty of heelish things in the match, but he was not vicious as he would become. He worked more in the vein of a AA-style heel with lots of stooging like crawling away on his knees from Scott's chops. He did this leapfrog spot that with better execution could be awesome. He leapfrogged Scott and then expected to leapfrog him again and instead he lands on a well-placed Scott knee. With better execution, they could have really had something. Anderson get a blind tag and plants a knee in Scott's back. Pillman closes the gap with a wicked clothesline. Scott has one of the most jobbererfic looks ever with an awful mullet, plain blue singlet and a lanky, skinny frame. They do abdominal stretch cheating spot. This match feels like the best hits of Arn Anderson, but done at lukewarm. Pillman eats knees on a rocket launcher. Steve comes in and he looks and wrestles way better than Scott. He runs through the usual babyface comeback offense. He climaxes with a clothesline off the top. Pillman makes the save. Pillman hits Steve in the head with a kick while he runs the ropes and AA plants him with a DDT for the win.

It is a perfectly good match and I love the best hits of The Enforcer. It just felt like Pillman was wrestling as an Arn Anderson clone and he could have be so much more. Also, I think the heels could have made the lowly Armstrongs earn more. They underestimated them then Armstrongs gain the upper hand and we get the freak out moment rather just out of the gate "Oh Shit!". I would not go out of my way to watch this match as Pillman would grow more into his own in this role and AA has had way better TV tags than this.
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WCW US Champion Sting vs Brian Pillman - Saturday Night 9/30/95

This should be Johnny B. Badd's title shot, but he mysteriously disappeared and conveniently Brian Pillman received his US title shot (Badd and Pillman fought for a US title shot at Fall Brawl '95).

Pillman is starting to come into his own as the Loose Canon. He knocks down the railing and jaws with the fans. Pillman is always down to clown in his matches, which I appreciate. Modern heels should not be so afraid to look foolish in the ring. Finally one of his heel tricks works as he does the old Hollywood Blonde's trick knee gimmick and he chop blocks Sting's knee. He works on Sting's knee for a bit with a single leg crab. Sting makes his big comeback with a press slam and then catches Pillman with a powerslam to win.

After the match, the hot angle was Flair looking for a partner in his fight against AA & Flyin' Brian and Sting shut his ass down. No way, Jose!

Abbreviated match, but Pillman was pretty enjoyable. Too bad, he was never given the time to have an all-time classic as the Loose Canon in WCW before the accident. He had all the heel tools to really deliver a big time match.
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Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair & Sting - Nitro 10/16/95

Ric Fuckin Flair, BABY! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! The objective was to efface any doubt in Sting's and the fans' minds that Flair is on the up and up and sell the big Havoc '95 tag match. Well everybody still probably figured Flair was turning on Sting, but hey this was a fun, fun match. Flair was just amped throughout this match. I wish they could bottle Flair's energy because I could use some during the week, Pillman and Flair had some great chopfests. I loved that as soon as Pillman got the advantage he whipped Flair over to Anderson and Flair still would not stop fighting. The babyface Flair strut ending with his fists balled up is my favorite thing in the world right now. He kicks ass on the floor and even chucks Pillman from the apron to the railing chin-first. I missed the Pillman bump. Flair slaps on the figure-4 on AA and he moves out of the way of Pillman's splash. Im lovin it. AA gets an eye-rake on Flair while he applies on the figure-4 on Pillman. Pillman with his blind kick to Flair's head and the spinebuster swing the match in the favor of the Horsemen. NOW, Sting makes his entrance and the crowd is pumped. Flair hot tag to Sting and HUGE POP! Stinger splashes for everyone. Sting clothesline The Enforcer over the top rope and Sting chucks Pillman onto the top rope. Sting & Flair stand triumphant winning by countout. They cement their newfound friendship with a high-five. The Brain is gonna puke.

This was 90% babyface offense, but it sure was fun. Pillman was taking huge bumps. AA was awesome making Sting & Flair look great. Flair and Sting were on point. Anderson and Pillman were really banking on Sting not showing up and now they have to replan. While Flair and Sting look like they are going to exact some revenge, but this Ric Flair after all...

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Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs. Sting & Ric Flair - Halloween Havoc '95
 
WE WANT FLAIR! WE WANT FLAIR! WE WANT FLAIR! I liked this crowd's style. Flair was mysteriously "attacked" and Sting is going it alone for the time being mirroring Flair's rolling solo efforts on Nitro.

I really liked the babyface shines in both matches a lot. Anderson and Pillman were really effective in getting Sting over, bumping their asses off for him. I loved how the Horsemen altered their game plan upon each failed attempt to double team. When trying to pin Sting in their corner failed, they moved to being in the ring at the same time, then Pillman slapped Sting to goad him to the floor and still Sting saw it coming. This is new and improved Sting. He will NOT be emotionally compromised. biggrin.gif From the slap, Pillman now offers a handshake. It is best hits of heel tag teaming! Sting press slams Pillman. In a great spot, Sting catapults AA into Pillman's crotch. Subsequently, Sting chucks Pillman onto the railing for his signature bump. Pillman manages to pull himself up to the apron, but only the top rope is holding him up. So Anderson cracks Sting's skull off of Flyin' Brian's and finally the heels gain the upper hand. That is how you work a face shine sequence. The heels went through their arsenal of tricks and each time Sting either outsmarted or outpowered them only to falter to the numbers game. I love how it was just conventionally two guys caught up to Sting it was actually AA using an out of his feet Pillman like a prop. It was a tremendous transition spot.
Here's come The Man! The crowd goes bezerk and I just have a mile wide smile. I am total sucker for babyface Flair. He is just too much fun. The heat segment is effective, but not as fun as the shine. Flair gets involved, but never really grabs a hold of the Horsemen. He lets himself be goaded by Pillman into giving chase, but again does not wrangle him. How convenient? The spinebuster is the one heel highspot, but the entertainment is derived from the Flair as a cheerleader and the constant cutoffs. All the drama is what will happen when Sting gets that damn tag. He gets his knees up on a Pillman splash, but AA cuts off with a back suplex. They keep this up until finally Sting gets a double noggin knocker. TAG TO FLAIR! TAG TO FLAIR! TAG TO FLAIR! NOW WE GO TO SCHOOL! HE CLOCKS STING! That never gets old. Horsemen beatdown and a good chunk of the crowd is still cheering for Flair.

This is a really good match and one of my all-time favorites. I wished they explained some of the timeline better, but hey I enjoyed all of it. At the end of day, it is as simple as blood is thicker than water. I love the insane loyalty and devotion they have to each other. It is Flair & The Enforcer against the world. That's how it always has been and always will be.

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Reunited and it feels so good!


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Brian Pillman vs Eddie Guerrero - Nitro 11/20/95

Ric Flair is originally scheduled to face Guerrero on Nitro, but he tells Pillman to "take care of my light work".

Pillman mocks Guerrero's Mexican heritage by using his jacket like a matador would. They two have some excellent chopfests that are as intense as Pillman/Flair, but don't get quite the same reaction. I love Pillman's use of the slap and Eddie makes sure to get a receipt to punctuate a nice flurry of offense. Pillman uses his midair dropkick to gain control and then it is dirty tactics to maintain. The crowd is not hot for them even though Pillman spits on Eddie, but Eddie's double leg gets a bit of a reaction. Pillman is definitely in Loose Canon mode, but the audience is just not there, but they would get there. Pillman takes his railing bump missing a double axehandle to outside. Eddie follows up with a huge dive from the top turnbuckles and then a brainbuster. Pillman struggles a bit more, but eventually eats the frogsplash to give Eddie a huge win.

Bischoff seemed intent on pushing Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko at this point as important midcard players. Pillman was very entertaining throughout the match. He was such a despicable human in that ring. There were some slow spots and I would put the Malenko match over this, but this was a great Pillman performance. Eddie was also on fire. He is the newcomer and he earned every bit of that crowd reaction by standing toe-to-toe with Pillman in the chop exchanges, big dives and dishing out the punishment. Good TV match.

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Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs Sting & Lex Luger - Nitro 11/27/95

This match was more of a back drop for the Lex Luger angle. Luger is a heel for turning on Hogan & aligning with Jimmy Hart, but he is friends with Sting. Will he turn on Sting? Can he be trusted? Sting has issues with the Horsemen since they duped him at Havoc.

Luger was late to the match, but makes up for it with a blind knee while AA runs the ropes. This is in perfect symmetry with Pillman high kick/AA spinebuster combo. I love Luger, but trying to out-heel AA & Pillman is going to be tough. Sting hits facebusters on everyone. Press slams by both. Anderson gets sent into Pillman on the apron, which causes the Pillman bump to the railing. Luger kicks some ass heel style with moves like rubbing Anderson's face across the ropes. Stinger Splash and Scorpion Deathlock on The Enforcer. Pillman ascends the top turnbuckle to save, but Luger pushes him off right into Sting's knee. Was it intentional? The heels have a decent heat segment. Pillman goads Luger away from his corner so that he misses a tag. Luger finally has enough and comes in to clean house. Sting negotiates an O'Connor roll on Pillman to win. Flair is out to beat down his two opponents for Starrcade, but Hogan makes the save. Hogan goes to clock Luger, but Sting restrains him. Whose side is he on?

Pillman was hardly in this match. He still jawed with the fans or camera when he got a chance. It felt like he was just in the match to eat the pin. Anderson was good to get over the angle and stooge for Sting & Luger. Sting & Luger was just such a great angle and this match really established where they were going forward with this angle. Early Nitro was really good at using 5-10 minute matches that also sufficed as angle development segments. I would like to see that style incorporated better in the modern product.
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Brian Pillman & Chris Benoit vs Bart Sawyer & Buck Quartermaine - WCW Pro 01/13/96

The recently formed Four Horsemen had a healthy heaping of squash in this match, but it was the best type of squash: the type you work for. They actually worked a straight, short tag match that focused on heels dominating, but it still had a shine, heat and comeback. I think Pillman & Benoit looked better for it.

I have been trying to get Brian Pillman's haircut from this era forever. Giving it another whirl on Saturday. This Pillman was so different from the one just 4 years ago. He works smarter and it able to use every heel trick to get his character over as volatile and violent. Ambrose has a lot of Pillman in him and he needs to continue learn from Pillman. Benoit is just a total prick and his offense is crisp as usual. They work Sawyer in a heat segment only for him to crawl through Benoit's legs to get the hot tag. Quartermaine is able to get a dropkick before being planted by a Benoit powerbomb. Benoit's powerbomb may be my favorite powerbomb ever. Pillman then dropkicks Quartermaine into a dragon suplex. This was a very high-end squash.

Pillman and Benoit complemented each other well. They are total pricks, but different kinds. Pillman is off his rocker and focuses on tried and true heel offense like raking the face and cheating. Benoit is a violent prick with badass offense. They could have been a great tag team if Pillman stayed on.
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Brian Pillman vs Dean Malenko - Nitro 01/22/96
 
Pillman is in full loose canon mode. I remember his stuff around this time where he was so focused on getting the gimmick over that the matches would suffer, but damn if this match was not a sweet little sprint. It has been his best TV match of the '95-'96 stretch in WCW. Early on, it is all about getting the Loose Canon over with the idiosyncratic behavior, jawing to the crowd and Malenko and inside comments "Im the real shooter because I got a Full Metal Jacket!" (a play off Malenko's ECW moniker). It does make Malenko out to be a bit of a chump because Pillman is controlling him at will. Pillman is actually pretty good on offense laying in some stiff chops and punches. Then he slaps the taste out of Malenko's mouth and Malenko is fuckin hot. The Iceman kicks some Pillman ass and Pillman sells and stooges for him. Malenko looked awesome in this match. Pillman had a great knocked out sell off a brainbuster. Pillman hits a tornado DDT and a huge chop. Malenko came back with a Tiger Driver for 2. Nitro really ushered in the emphasis on offense and getting in spots due to hyper-compression. Pillman uses the railing and some eyerakes to regain control. Pillman goes to the well once too often for a tornado DDT as Malenko throws him off. The Gutbuster get a big pop so Malenko follows it up with a drop toehold into a leg lace? Malenko sometimes just did not get it. Pillman unloads a massive forearm as Malenko falls his foot gets caught in the ropes and is pinned. The one problem is that Pillman fell off the apron and thus the ref plainly saw Malenko tied up. Ugh.
Botched finish aside this was a fun Nitro sprint that was able to get over Pillman's character and showcase some great action.
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Brian Pillman vs Eddie Guerrero - Clash of the Champions XXXII

Tony: "Given the actions that just transpired, I think it is safe to say you want Eddie to win."
Bobby: "Oh no! I still like Pillman's style. Just keep him away from me."
Classic Heenan.
This match is infamous for adding the cult status of Pillman's Loose Canon gimmick. During one of his strolls around the outside, he decided to try to take off Heenan's jacket. Heenan, with a very fragile neck, was unnerved and explicitly said on air "What the fuck are you doing?" He composed himself and continued to be a proponent of Pillman. What is interesting is that before Pillman did that to Heenan, he kinda shoved Tony in the head. That sort of freaked the Brain out as he stated "Your head whipped back and forth" in a nervous tone. That comment could have been subtle foreshadowing. Was Brain in on the deal?

The match was short and more focused on getting Pillman over as a character. I liked Eddie not backing down from Pillman's four fingers in his face. Pillman was a really effective heel. He cheats, cowers, and is proud of his Four Horsemen status. I don't know if everybody has to go as far as Pillman would with the cheating, but I would like some modern heels to actual be heels in the ring. An eyerake never hurt anyone. Eddie had some cool offense to pop the crowd like a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker or the tornado DDT. Also, he got his receipt for a Pillman slap with a paintbrush of his own. I liked how Guerrero and Malenko did not back down from Pillman and each had their own spots. They did not have feel like generic faces, but wrestlers contributing to a match. After a double leg takedown with the feet on the ropes did not work, Pillman hit a nice cross body and grabbed the tights for the win.

You could only wish that there was no accident and that Pillman could have gotten 20 minutes with these guys because he was such an excellent heel. He was combining the heel tactics from his mentors, Flair & AA, with maniacal tendencies that created a unique blend of heel hitherto unexplored.
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Brian Pillman & Arn Anderson vs Kevin Sullivan & Hugh Morrus - Nitro 2/5/96

The Dungeon of Doom & Four Horsemen had a loose alliance to destroy Hulk Hogan & Macho Man, but due to Pillman's shenanigans and seemingly his lack of respect for the Taskmaster there was a falling out between the two stables. The previous week on Nitro, AA was ready to dispense some tough love onto Pillman using a belt, but Sullivan & Morrus hijacked the segment and beat up the Horsemen. Sullivan whipped Pillman like the dog he is (love that phrase) to set up their infamous SuperBrawl Respect Strap match. The Horsemen ran them off and challenged them so we ended up with this match. I actually really liked WCW's booking at this time. I think this is the good version of shades of grey booking. You have Jimmy Hart managing Flair, Sullivan and Luger. However, Luger and Sting are pals and Flair's best friend Anderson is having issues with Sullivan. It is interesting and complex for wrestling booking.
The Dungeon of Doom are de facto faces because Pillman is working his darndest to get himself over as an ultra-heel and Bischoff is pushing him hard on commentary as absolutely looney tunes. They feed Morrus some basic press slams. Pillman does his blind kick and AA takes over with a spinebuster. Things get really good when Sullivan and Pillman throw hands. They try to get it over as a shoot. The crowd comes alive. Sullivan hits his Tree of Woe. AA/Taskmaster pair off to outside and a mystery man hits AA with a broom. Was that ever revealed? Pillman takes Morrus' moonsault (his only move) and then gets whipped with the belt before escaping.

It was a pretty boring match until the worked shoot between Sullivan and Pillman. It was a good angle to get heat on the "Respect" strap match for SuperBrawl. You really felt like Pillman was becoming a big deal in WCW. However, this would be Pillman's last week in WCW.
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Brian Pillman vs Kevin Sullivan - Superbrawl VI Respect Strap Match 

"I respect you, bookerman" with those words Pillman immortalized the Loose Canon character and forever cemented his cult status in pro wrestling. I love his matches as a plucky babyface in the early 90s, but for better or worse Pillman is famous for the Loose Canon gimmick. Pillman sprinted to the ring and got in some pretty violent shots with the strap. Sullivan hit an absolute wicked right. At this point, Pillman grabbed the mic to utter his iconic words. Fellow Horsemen, Arn Anderson came out to give the fans their money's worth and to uphold Horsemen honor. It was actually a helluva street fight strap match. It could have been one of the all-time best strap matches if they got 10-15 minutes. It was gritty, violent with eye-gouges, low blows and violent strap shots. However, Ric Flair for the first time play Cap'n Buzzkill calling off the match. He unites Horsemen and the Dungeon of Doom in an Unholy Alliance to End Hulkamania. I love how Flair always calls Sullivan "Devil". Anderson always good for a badass line ends the segment with "In order to get Savage and Hogan, I would get into bed with the Devil himself". One of the biggest moments in pro wrestling history as kayfabe continued to be destroyed and Anderson/Sullivan put on helluva fight until it was stopped. 


What could have been

I will be continuing this series including the rest of Pillman's WCW career. I should have one done for Demolition and Steve Austin's late '93-early '94 all for this week. Pillman fell short of his goal of being a main event heel, but it was not due to a lack of trying. Unfortunately, personal demons and external circumstances led to his demise. He is one of the many tragic figures in pro wrestling.


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