Thunder – April 1, 1999: Hogan vs. Leslie

Thunder
Date: April 1, 1999
Location: Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, Virginia
Commentators: Bobby Heenan, Mike Tenay, Tony Schiavone

We’re closing in on Spring Stampede and the card is starting to come into focus. It’s pretty clear that Hogan will be involved in the title match but nothing has been made official yet. This is a live episode of Thunder, meaning the levels of suck shouldn’t be as high. Granted they’ve surprised me before. Let’s get to it.

Opening video.

The annoucers do their welcome and tell us that Sting has a message for us this coming Monday.

Gene brings out Raven and Saturn who will face Benoit/Malenko at the PPV. Raven questions Gene for saying he and Saturn broke up. Apparently they fought with each other for years, even back at summer camp over a girl named Beaulah. Saturn: “THAT WAS TOMMY!” Saturn thinks they deserve a title shot for helping Mysterio/Kidman win the titles. Nothing was said here.

We recap Disco vs. Konnan’s battle of the music videos.

Erik Watts vs. Norman Smiley

Norman is a good guy now. The announcers talk about how controversial the Big Wiggle has been and go into their usual pronunciation argument in a Smiley match. Watts does a dance of his own and gets nailed by a clothesline. They trade headlocks until Erik drop toeholds Norman into the ropes. Back up and Norman hits the swinging slam but gets shoved out of the corner for two. A nice belly to belly plants Norman and a buckle bomb has him in big trouble. Erik doesn’t cover though and gets pulled into the Norman’s Conquest for the submission.

Rating: D. I’ve always felt sorry for Watts. He was laughed at back in 1992 for being in a position he didn’t ask for and only held because of his dad. He was ok here but nothing more than a generic tall villain. At the end of the day, the guy just wasn’t very good and shouldn’t have been on national TV. Bad match but not laughably bad.

Chris Jericho cites the Silent Brian McNee (a deaf mute Canadian wrestler from the early 80s) clause, which states that he should be able to replace an injured Curt Hennig in the US Title tournament. JJ Dillon wants to see the rule book.

Mike Enos/Bobby Duncum Jr. vs. Raven/Perry Saturn

Saturn quickly takes Bobby down to start so it’s off to Enos. Mike takes a beating as well and the bizarre combo starts some fast tagging. Raven kicks Enos into a superkick from Saturn but Enos pops back up and nails Raven again. Duncum comes back in but Saturn punches him into a sunset flip for two. A big boot knocks Raven down and Enos chokes him with a bullrope.

Saturn has to break up a superplex attempt, allowing Raven to make the hot tag. Belly to belly suplexes abound and everything breaks down. Saturn uses a very nice takedown to hook the Rings of Saturn on Bobby but Enos makes a save. Mike nails Saturn with a chair on the floor but it doesn’t have much of an effect. Back in and the hot tag brings in Raven to clean house as everything breaks down again. Duncum accidentally knocks Enos into the Evenflow for the pin out of nowhere.

Rating: C+. This was shockingly good for a six minute match on Thunder. They barely stopped moving the entire time with everyone getting to show off a bit. Raven and Saturn work well together and this was the best Duncum has looked since he debuted. This was a very nice surprise.

Benoit and Malenko come in to destroy Raven and Saturn post match. The bell keeps ringing even after they’ve left the ring.

JJ and Flair are in the back when Jericho comes in and asks about the tournament again. Jericho gets his request after a lot of sucking up. He leaves and Flair thinks Jericho wanted to be like him.

Chris Adams vs. Chris Jericho

Tony: “Still to come, Bobby Heenan will read the movie copy. That’ll be in segment 10 and then, later on, Mike Tenay will plug the Hotline again.” Feeling out process to start with Jericho running him over off a shoulder block. The Canadian wins a top wristlock and stuns Adams with a hot shot.

We hit the chinlock for a bit before Adams comes back with a swinging neckbreaker. The announcers argue over a point system as Adams spins out of a Liontamer and enziguris Jericho to the floor. There’s the superkick on the floor and Adams gets two off a high cross body. A catapult sends Jericho into the corner and a belly to back gives Adams another near fall. Jericho quickly takes him down into the Liontamer for the submission.

Rating: C-. This took awhile to get going but Adams’ comeback had some energy to it and the match wasn’t bad after it started rolling. Jericho wasn’t long for WCW but it was nice to see him having some effort here. Adams continues to have a nice role as a jobber making people look good.

Ed Leslie comes in to talk to Flair about a new contract. He doesn’t have much of a plan after wrestling is over. Flair brings up his friendship with Hogan and Ed says they’re very close. The boss makes a match tonight between Hogan and Leslie and if Ed wins, he gets a three more extension for double the pay. If he loses, he’s gone.

Meng/Jerry Flynn vs. Barbarian/Hugh Morrus

Flynn gets double teamed in the back and laid out with a piledriver on the concrete. Meng goes back to help his partner before coming to the ring to start a handicap match. Barbarian and Morrus are easily knocked to the floor but they get their act together and pound Meng down. The announcers get a note about the Hogan vs. Leslie match tonight. Again, would letting them see the videos in the back be such a problem? I never got Bischoff’s fascination with keeping them in the dark.

Anyway, Meng fights both of them off again until we get down to Morrus starting the regular tagging portion. Meng kicks his head off with ease and it’s off to Barbarian for the big showdown. We take a break and come back with Meng being sent into the barricade. They head back inside with the team in control and Morrus dropping an elbow for two.

A side slam gets the same for Barbarian and it’s back to Morrus as this slows WAY down. Meng finally nails a cross body for two on Barbarian but Morrus makes a save. Morrus backdrops Meng into a nice powerbomb from Barbarian as Flynn makes his big heroic return. He breaks up No Laughing Matter and Meng’s Tongan Deathgrip gets the pin on Barbarian.

Rating: D. I for one feel much better about the health and safety of our lord and master Jerry Flynn. Thankfully they keep this stuff on Thunder instead of PPV or Nitro but it doesn’t make Thunder any easier to sit through. The match wasn’t terrible, but it was a very long thirteen minutes to sit through.

Post match Morrus gets the Deathgrip as well.

Now we get a video on Meng. That’s some interesting timing.

Gene brings out Hollywood Hogan for a chat. Hogan is fine with jumping through every hoop Flair sets up for him because Flair is the prize at the end of the tunnel. Gene thinks Flair is scared of Hogan but the title match is official. Cue Ric to tell a fat boy to shut up. Flair calls himself the leader, the boss, and the World Champion. Tonight it’s going to be Hogan vs. Ed Leslie. This would be the third time this match has been announced and the fans are SILENT for Leslie coming out and promising to take Hogan down. Flair yells at some more fans and Hogan says tonight is strictly business.

Chavo Guerrero Jr./Kaz Hayashi vs. Dean Malenko/Chris Benoit

Dean cranks on Kaz’s arm to start but gets caught in a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Tony goes into a bizarre heel style speech, threatening to throw Tenay off Nitro if he keeps disagreeing with Flair’s decisions. Off to Benoit vs. Chavo as Tenay threatens to get friends of his own to save his job. Chavo spins out of a powerbomb from Benoit and takes him down with a headscissors. Back to Malenko who gets suplexed as Tony makes fun of Zbyszko. Kaz comes back in and gets caught in a tiger bomb, setting up the Cloverleaf for the submission.

Rating: C-. The match wasn’t terrible but what in the world was with the commentary? Tony just started going insane and then they spent the second half of the match ripping on Larry Zbyszko for whatever reason. The wrestling wasn’t terrible but it was little more than a squash, albeit a short one.

Raven and Saturn come out and destroy the Horsemen post match, including putting Benoit through a table.

Hogan talks to the NWO and tells Steiner to take care of Booker T. Stevie says his brother is off limits and the audio is pretty bad here. The Black and White gets in an argument over who is the leader so Hogan makes a battle royal for Monday for the leadership spot. Again. This takes way longer than it should have.

Horace vs. Diamond Dallas Page

Page quickly sends him into the corner and scores with a belly to back suplex. We hit the wristlock on Horace but he nails Page with a right hand to take over. He misses the splash and walks into a clothesline to send him outside. Page nails a plancha and they fight by the barricade as we take a break. Back with them slugging it out in the aisle. Horace sends him into the barricade to take over and chokes on the ropes back inside. A backbreaker gets two on Page but he sends Horace face first into the buckle. Page crotches him against the post and floats around Horace’s shoulders into the Diamond Cutter for the pin.

Rating: D+. Pretty dull match here as Page seems to have forgotten his heel turn. Horace was fine for a punching bag to put Page over and the Diamond Cutter looked fine, but Page wrestling like he always has was strange after what happened on Monday. Not much to see here but that’s to be expected in a glorified squash.

Ed Leslie vs. Hollywood Hogan

Leslie takes him into the corner to start but gets clotheslined for his efforts. Hogan hammers away and loads up the weightlifting belt but gets poked in the eyes. Now it’s Leslie whipping him until they head to the floor where Hogan takes over with right hands. They slug it out on the floor followed by a slugout in the ring with Leslie choking away. A clothesline gets two for Hogan but Leslie suplexes him down for the same. Hogan comes back with the big boot but Flair comes out and trips him up. The Apocalypse doesn’t even put Hogan on the mat so Flair comes in for the DQ.

Rating: D-. As dull as this was, it was still light years better than their messes in 1994. Granted it could be because that match was the main event of the biggest show of the year and this was a six minute Thunder main event. That being said, six minutes of punching and really basic wrestling isn’t enough to get me interested.

Post match Hogan beats up Flair and drops the leg before counting three. The Horsemen run in but Hogan beats up all four of them with ease. There wasn’t even miscommunication or anything where one Horsemen accidentally hit another. Hogan just punched them all down.

The announcers talk about Sting’s announcement to end the show.

Overall Rating: D+. This was one of the easier episodes to sit through but it follows the PPV formula of falling apart near the end of the show. The Sting announcement is somewhat intriguing, even though WCW has a pretty horrible track record on stuff like that. The wrestling wasn’t too bad and it made the show much easier to sit through, though almost nothing here meant anything.

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