In the past, World Championship Wrestling has toyed with the concept of a standalone tournament pitting nations against one another. Lacking consistency or commitment, the idea never blossomed.
However, that could be set to change. In one of a few tweaks to their established PPV calendar pre-Fusient, WCW has revived the World Cup of Wrestling and is going the full nine yards.
Set in designated host city Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the PPV spectacular will pit four registered countries – USA, Japan, Mexico and Italy – against one another in the final matches to determine who will take home the trophy.
Making things even more interesting, Canada’s own Lance Storm lobbied for a challenge of year-long rival and reigning WCW World Champion Rob Van Dam in front of his own, with RVD upping the ante by stipulating that this must be Storm’s final shot at the gold if he fails. In what will surely be a full audience role reversal from their many classic bouts in 2001, can Storm finally win the one singles title that has eluded him so far, or will he never sport the Big Gold Belt around his waist?
Also set for the card, eight of the top heavyweights do battle in an elimination tag that can only be won by one person who will earn the next shot at that very same championship. A reverse of the cruiserweight showcase from November’s PPV, the match comes at a time when many cruiserweights on the roster will get an extra share of the spotlight.
Speaking of the cruiserweights, AJ Styles – who won that Victory Road showcase before cashing in to become cruiser champ for the first time at Starrcade – was dethroned by the ruthless and jaded Shane Helms, who feels Styles was thrust in his place by WCW as the company’s junior heavyweight ‘ace’. AJ gets his rematch tonight. Can he kick off his second reign, or will Helms prove that it was his time all along?
In tag team action, there’s also a cruiserweight grudge match as York and Matthews look to finally settle matters with Triple X after a series of wild brawls on TV. And the heavyweight tag titles will find a home after a month vacated following Ric Flair and Sting’s emotional win at Spring Breakout and The Nature Boy’s subsequent semi-retirement.
APRIL 28, 2002: WCW WORLD CUP OF WRESTLING – Toronto, Ontario
The pre-show match saw David Kash and Jamie Knoble hit the ring for their open challenge for the WCW Cruiserweight tag titles. The two Canadian cruisers answering the challenge were announced as Johnny Devine and Eric Young.
They surprised the champs with some good offense which got the patriotic fans hoping for an upset, but then Knoble & Kash took over and hit stereo tiger drivers for the win at the 4:03 mark.
Main show opening match: York & Matthews vs Triple X
In the main PPV opener, York and Matthews gained a measure of revenge over Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels. Their grudge ensured a brawl right at the start but things eventually settled into a red-hot tag match before breaking down again for the finish, where the duo came off the same turnbuckle with a splash and a legdrop onto Daniels for the win after 14:14.
United States Championship: Sean O’Haire (c) vs CW Anderson
O’Haire retained his United States title against Anderson after weathering some serious work on his arm and avoiding the armbar that earned CW the title match in the first place. The champ was able to get the three in 9:05 after hitting a huge discus lariat with his other arm.
Commentary then ran down the World Cup standings heading into tonight’s deciding bouts. Japan and Mexico led the way with seven points apiece, just one more than the United States on six. Italy, meanwhile, had only four which meant they needed big results in both of the scheduled four-way contests tonight in order to pull off what would be an upset.
World Cup of Wrestling four-way tag team match: Jason Jett & Shannon Moore (USA) vs Psicosis & Juventud Guerrera (Mexico) vs Jung Dragons (Japan) vs Full Blooded Italians (Italy)
The World Cup trophy was at ringside throughout the event, and third on the show was the first of two bouts to determine the first winners. An elimination tag, the first team out would gain no additional points. The second team defeated would pick up one point, the runners-up would earn three points and the winners a huge five points.
The Dragons’ Wrath double-team put away Jason Jett at 8:15 for the first elimination, giving USA no points and continuing their barren run – after winning their first three bouts on television, the Americans haven’t added any further points since.
Marinera immediately snuck in with a cradle on Kaz for the rope- and Guido-assisted pin at 8:23, giving Japan one. And after a good back-and-forth between the remaining two sides, Guido caught Psicosis with a Sicilian Slice moments after he landed a Guillotine Legdrop on illegal man Tony for the pin after 14:30 and all five points for Italy, giving Mexico three.
With one match left, Mexico lead with 10 points, Italy surge up to second with nine points, Japan are on eight and USA, after leading the early stages, are in serious trouble on six.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship: Shane Helms (c) vs AJ Styles
Helms, who faked a serious injury to dupe the champion and steal his title, attempted several dirty tricks, none of which worked this time. When he tried to take a countout loss, Kidman blocked his path and frogmarched him back to the ring where he faked another injury only for Styles to simply land a flurry of strikes and hit the Spiral Tap for a hot near-fall.
AJ flipped out of a Vertebreaker attempt later only for Helms to quickly hit a Shining Wizard to the kneeling challenger for another close call – but when he lined up another, Styles deftly caught his legs and landed a Styles Clash for three in 16:52. Styles had his revenge, and his title belt back!
Tournament final for the vacant WCW Tag Team Championship: Los Guerreros vs America’s Most Wanted
Los Guerreros, who lost the belts last month to Sting and Flair, looked to regain them immediately but standing in their way were a duo who have risen from enhancement talent to a well-respected tandem in Chris Harris and James Black.
AMW proved they could hang at this level but once again, Eddie and Chavo’s tricks proved too much and as AMW prepared a Death Sentence on a turnbuckle Chavo had previously uncovered, Eddie crotched Harris the steel and got rid of Black, leaving Chavo to cover the incapacitated Wildcat for the tainted three after 12:13.
World Cup of Wrestling four-way singles match: Super Crazy (Mexico) vs The Amazing Red (Italy) vs Tajiri (Japan) vs Low Ki (USA)
Despite the win earlier, Italy needed another strong finish to take home the cup and a clip before the match showed Kid Romeo and cohorts making sure Red knew it was all down to him. But even after a great showing and near-falls on all three opponents, Red found himself alone with Low Ki and after an incredible minute or so of the two evading each other’s strikes as if they were in The Matrix, he was overwhelmed by a Tidal Crush, running kick and Firebird Splash for the first elimination after 6:46, meaning Italy could not win the Cup.
Ki then eliminated Crazy with a Ki Krusher at 9:57 and after a martial arts-esque duel with Tajiri, dodged a Buzzsaw Kick and drilled the Japan captain with a vertical kick to the top of his kneeling head for the pin after a total of 13:11 and a stunning showing to beat all three men!
Unfortunately, that exact order of elimination left us with a three-way tie as the eliminated Italy had nine points but USA, Mexico and Japan were all on 11 apiece.
The Cat came onto the stage and said this means we have one more match to decide the World Cup tonight: a three-way sudden-death play-off between reserve team members Kidman, Rey Mysterio and Jushin Liger!
A video package showed classic footage of WCW from the iconic 1991-92 era. Ric Flair then appeared, claiming that as great as the new breed of wrestling stars have been, old school will always be cool. And next month, Slamboree is ‘Old School Style’: classic logos, classic ring and even a face or two from the past. With that, Flair is joined by Gary Michael Cappetta! Cappetta invites us to join them for an evening of ‘Old School Style’ on May 26!
8-man tag team elimination match: Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Kanyon & Dustin Rhodes vs Booker T, Jeff Jarrett, Shane Douglas & Mike Awesome
In this special attraction, the two teams would battle until one side was completely eliminated, and then if multiple members of the winning team remained, they would fight under elimination rules until there was one number one contender to the WCW World title.
The first elimination was Kanyon – and came under curious circumstances as Chuck Palumbo emerged from under the ring and tripped Kanyon’s legs behind the referee’s back, allowing Jarrett to hit the Stroke.
When a furious DDP and Sting went after Chuck, it gave Kanyon time to recover and seek his own retribution. Palumbo and Kanyon brawled to the back – and shortly after, so did Rhodes and Douglas after their hostilities re-ignited and they got themselves counted out.
The heels isolated DDP for a while to further their 3-on-2 advantage but after a hot tag to Sting and plenty of Stinger Splashes for all, he countered a Book End into a Death Drop to eliminate his fellow captain.
When Jarrett re-entered to exchange with Sting, it led to The Mamalukes showing up only for Sting and Page to beat them to the punch. Awesome tagged in, however, and wiped out all four at ringside with a suicide dive before impressively pinning Sting after an Awesome Bomb.
Jarrett and Mike took turns beating on DDP only for Page to hit a Diamond Cutter out of nowhere on Awesome. The ref counted to two until James Mitchell pulled the ref out – earning his client a DQ. A furious Awesome came to and started ripping up stuff at ringside and then set up a table, only to be stopped by a horde of security before he could get his hands on Page.
The tired DDP remained on the back foot against a fresher Jarrett, but mounted a comeback… at which point Simon Diamond and Swinger made their way out. Simon distracted the ref as Swinger entered with a chair… only to miss a wild swing at DDP and end up thrown clean over the top rope, through the table at ringside. Kanyon rushed back out and got him some of Diamond, while Jarrett and Page exchanged finisher attempts until the Cutter earned DDP a title shot after 17:38!
2002 World Cup of Wrestling final: Billy Kidman (USA) vs Rey Mysterio (Mexico) vs Jushin Liger (Japan)
A stunning display of wrestling between three of WCW’s most famous cruisers would be the one-fall, sudden death solution to who would take home the first annual World Cup of Wrestling after its revival.
After blistering action from all three, the end came when Kidman had old friend Mysterio in place for a Shooting Star only to be cut off by Liger and brought down by a stunning Avalanche Brainbuster. One Liger Bomb to Mysterio later, Japan were champions of the world after 15:21!
Tajiri and the Dragons rushed out to celebrate with their man. Team USA and Team Mexico soon followed and were very gracious in defeat. There was no sign of Team Italy.
WCW World Championship: Rob Van Dam (c) vs Lance Storm
Finally, Lance Storm made his way out to a hero’s reception in Toronto. Of course, the role reversal was complete when champion RVD came out to boos. The two competed at a methodical pace in the early going within an electric atmosphere, which came unglued when Storm began to get the upper hand. But of all the talk of RVD’s bad leg, it was Storm who hurt his knee on a whiffed superkick and Van Dam drew heat working on the wheel, in an ironic twist.
Storm eventually rallied and went to work on Rob’s leg to a better reception, and the two wounded soldiers hobbled bravely through an exciting closing sequence which saw RVD steal the Maple Leaf to huge heat only for Storm to grab the ropes. A ref bump led to the champ grabbing a chair only for Storm to land his own Van Daminator… and hurt his leg again in the process. The delay led to a long two count.
RVD hit a tornado DDT and the five-star frog splash… and Storm kicked out at two to a huge cheer! A frustrated RVD set up Storm in the corner and mounted the opposite turnbuckle with the chair in hand. The ref warned him against the Van Terminator but Van Dam went for the apparent DQ anyway. Storm moved, however, and RVD further damaged his leg… and was then rolled into the Maple Leaf!
The ropes were nearby… but Lance pulled RVD away just before he could reach and into the middle. The champion tapped after 26:12 and the crowd blew the roof off the arena! Lance Storm won the title in his native Canada! Storm celebrated before taking the mic and having the national anthem play, title belt around his waist.
Next time: WCW heads towards Slamboree and going ‘Old School Style’, but not before celebrating the one-year anniversary of Saturday Nitro!