Wrestler of the Day – September 6: Van Hammer

Today is a guy that I always liked as a kid: Van Hammer.

Hammer would debut in the summer of 1991 and be wrestling for WCW less than two months later. Here he is at Clash of the Champions XVI in his debut.

Van Hammer vs. Terrance Taylor

Van Hammer is a big muscular guy with a heavy metal guitarist gimmick in his debut match here. Taylor attacks Hammer before the match with York’s computer but there’s no effect at all. He slams Taylor down and hits a few clotheslines followed by a gordbuster (front suplex) and a top rope knee drop gets the pin in just over a minute.

Another match, same idea. From Halloween Havoc 1991.

Van Hammer vs. Doug Somers

Van Hammer has only been here about a month and we’re still in the squash period for him. Somers is yet another replacement, in this case taking the place of the injured Michael Hayes. The match barely breaks a minute and Hammer wins with a slingshot suplex.

Time for Hammer’s first and only good feud, starting at Clash XVII.

Cactus Jack vs. Van Hammer

Hammer makes the mistake of turning his back on Cactus and getting knocked into the corner. Cactus screams a lot but gets caught in a belly to back suplex and knocked through the ropes to the floor. Hammer rams him into the barricade and takes him back inside for a slam and a two count. Jack comes back with a faceplant and the Cactus Clothesline (named for him as he hits a running clothesline to knock both he and his opponent over the top and out to the floor) to put Hammer on the floor.

An elbow off the middle rope to the floor has Hammer in even more trouble but he wins a brief slugout back inside. Hammer clotheslines him in the back of the head and there’s the top rope knee drop for a very close two. They ram heads and Jack falls outside where he grabs Hammer’s guitar and drives it into Hammer’s throat for the pin.

Rating: C+. It was short but the fans were into this. Hammer didn’t have a ton of skill in the ring but he was big, strong and charismatic, which was the perfect opposite for the deranged and bizarre Cactus Jack. These two would have a rematch next time to continue showing their strange chemistry.

Quick break from that for Starrcade 1991 and the Lethal Lottery.

Steve Austin/Rick Rude vs. Big Josh/Van Hammer

Austin and Rude are part of the top heel stable, the Dangerous Alliance, managed by Paul E. Dangerously. So yeah, in a competition designed to be “random”, we’ve had regular partners fighting in one match and teaming together in the second. Rude is US Champion and Austin is TV Champion here. Josh is a woodsman who used to have dancing bears with him. He’s another Jim Herd creation in case you were wondering. Van Hammer is a big power guy with a heavy metal (his nickname actually) musician gimmick.

Austin and Van Hammer get things going with Van Hammer slamming him down with ease. It’s so strange seeing the famously bald Austin with long blonde hair here. They trade kicks to the ribs before Van Hammer suplexes him down for two. Now we head to the mat and Hammer works on the arm after some surprisingly good amateur wrestling. Austin takes him into the corner for some forearms and it’s off to Rude for a hard clothesline.

They slug it out before Rude takes over with a knee to the ribs and tags off to Austin. Actually make that Rude again as Austin hits Hammer once before tagging back out. Off to a front facelock by Rude but Hammer charges forward and makes the tag off to Josh. He immediately stomps on Rude’s ribs but it has no effect because Rude’s abdomen is so heavily muscled. Instead Josh rams the Alliance’s heads together to send them to the floor. The crowd is much more excited for this one than the previous match.

Back in and Josh puts Rude in an armbar before putting Austin in one as well. Josh drops Austin throat first on the top rope and clotheslines him down for two before it’s back to Hammer for a hammerlock. Well that’s appropriate if nothing else. Back to Josh to crank on the arm a bit more, only to have Austin duck his head and send Josh into a clothesline from Rude. Rick comes back in with a chop to Josh’s head for two. The Alliance takes over on Josh with both guys making quick tags to keep the fresh man in.

Rude hooks a chinlock as Dangerously adds a distraction to let Austin cheat a bit. Off to a chinlock by Austin but Josh powers out and fires off some elbows. A slam puts Austin down but Josh tries an elbow drop instead of tagging, allowing the Alliance to maintain control. Austin misses a charge at Josh though and there’s the hot tag to Van Hammer. House is cleaned by Hammer but Rude makes the save. Everything breaks down and Rude gets a blind tag, allowing him to sneak up on Hammer and hit the Rude Awakening (neckbreaker) for the pin.

Rating: C+. Much better match here as they worked a basic tag team formula quite well. At the end of the day, it helps to have pure talent like Austin and Rude in there and the match was much better as a result. Hammer was VERY popular for awhile and this was right around the apex of his career so the crowd was into it as well. This could have easily been the main event of one of WCW’s weekend TV shows.

Back to Cactus at Clash XVIII.

Cactus Jack vs. Van Hammer

Falls count anywhere which also means no disqualification. Hammer dives over the top rope to start and hits Jack with a running clothesline in the corner. He jumps off the middle rope but lands on a right hand for two. The Cactus Clothesline puts both guys outside and Jack immediately covers for two. Cactus peels back the mats and tries the middle rope elbow but Hammer gets up so it’s a sunset flip for two instead.

Hammer is quickly back up and powerslams Jack down onto the ramp for a close two of his own. They fight up the ramp and Jack tries to hiptoss him out to the floor, only to have Hammer reverse into one of his own for a big crash. Hammer dives off the ramp with a clothesline for two and they go backstage as we take a break.

Back with the guys outside (and on tape instead of live) and Jack dropping a wooden barricade on Hammer for two. The fight goes over to a stable with Abdullah the Butcher appearing to help Cactus. Hammer tries to fight them off but Butcher hits him in the head with a shovel meant for Jack, giving Cactus the pin.

Rating: B-. This was a wild fight with some absolutely insane spots from both guys. The ending looked great too with the shovel shot sounding even more brutal its visual. Cactus was getting a great reputation as the wild brawler and would rise up the card for the next several years.

Another Lethal Lottery match at Starrcade 1992.

Van Hammer/Dan Spivey vs. Johnny B. Badd/Cactus Jack

Spivey is a tall blonde haired guy who isn’t great in the ring. Cactus and Van Hammer had feuded a bit back in 1991 so they get things going. As to be expected with a nutjob like Jack, he pounds away while screaming a lot. Van Hammer comes back with a clothesline and takes over using a variety of forearms and right hands. A legdrop connects but it’s quickly off to Badd. Johnny makes up for the purple trunks with a SWEET hurricanrana to slam Van Hammer’s head down into the mat. Back to Cactus for a hiptoss for no cover.

Off to Spivey who uses his powers of lumbering around the ring to take over. After some right hands and a clothesline to Jack it’s back to Van Hammer again. He gets to fight Badd, and of course by that I mean chase him around while Spivey cheats from the apron. Dan tags himself in and throws on a bearhug before it’s back to Van Hammer for a slam.

A belly to back suples gets two and it’s back to the cheater. Badd staggers Spivey with a dropkick and tags Jack in again as things pick up. Cactus screams a lot and pounds away, only to be caught by a flying shoulder for two. Badd misses an elbow drop as he tries to save, triggering a brawl with Cactus. Since Badd is a Golden Gloves champion, he knocks Badd into a rollup from Hammer for the win.

Rating: D+. This was pretty lame stuff as Spivey and Van Hammer are both big guys who aren’t all that great in the ring. Cactus was clearly something special and why he was put down in exchange for Van Hammer and Spivey is beyond me. Jack would have his day soon though as he would feud with Vader for most of 1993.

Hammer would leave soon after this and not appear for about five years. He would return in late 1997, with one of his first matches back being on December 22, 1997’s Nitro.

Chris Benoit vs. Hammer

Benoit’s run through the Flock continues but there’s no Raven again. Chris asks the rest of the Flock to get in the ring because Hammer is going to need all the help he can get. A quick dropkick to Hammer’s knee takes him down and Benoit chops away in the corner. Hammer is kicked to the floor and Benoit takes him down with a dive through the ropes. Benoit goes over and smacks Saturn in the head, allowing Hammer to take over with some sledges to the back. Hammer knocks him back to the floor but gets whipped into the apron. Benoit gets a chair and here comes the Flock for the DQ.

Rating: D+. This didn’t have time to go anywhere but again this was about storytelling rather than the match. They’ve done a great job at setting up Benoit vs. Raven when it finally would happen, which for some reason wasn’t at Starrcade. Either way, this feud is making Benoit look like a star.

Hammer got the usual treatment of the times on Nitro, April 6, 1998.

Hammer vs. Goldberg

Nothing out of the ordinary here other than Goldberg hitting an Attitude Adjustment on Hammer. The spear and Jackhammer end this in about a minute and fifteen seconds.

Here’s something a bit better on May 18, 1998’s Nitro. Hammer was in the Flock at this point but had to defend his uh…..Flockdom I guess you would say against Saturn.

Saturn vs. Hammer

Kidman says this is a loser leaves the Flock match. Hammer sends Saturn into the steps to take over and gets two off something like an airplane spin. Saturn comes back with a superkick and some chops in the corner followed by a Cactus Clothesline to take both guys to the outside. We look at Raven’s dressing room to see the Flock watching the match. Saturn dives into a powerslam for no cover and a delayed superplex gets the same lack of cover.

Hammer goes for the legs but gets kicked into the ropes, setting up a top rope legdrop from Saturn. Saturn brings in a chair which is legal here it seems. A springboard dropkick using the chair knocks Hammer into the corner but a second attempt hits the referee. Saturn hits something like a Van Daminator and loads up the Death Valley Driver, only to have Kanyon come in dressed as a beer vendor. One beer case to the head is enough to knock Saturn out of the Flock.

Rating: D+. This was better than I expected and it’s nice to see the Flock have a story outside of whatever Raven is doing at the moment. Saturn leaving the Flock is interesting, but he’s always been the rebel of the group. Nice match here though and it should set the stage for more interesting stuff in the future.

Hammer would have some more luck on Nitro on September 14, 1998.

Alex Wright vs. Van Hammer

Van Hammer is now a hippie. He shoves Wright into the corner to start as Tony runs down tonight’s card. Alex grabs a headlock and stomps away in the corner before sending Hammer to the floor. Ernest Miller comes out and kicks Hammer in the head, drawing the DQ in a quick ending.

Hammer would return as a hippie in 1999 on March 8’s Nitro.

Van Hammer vs. Bret Hart

Hammer takes him down to the mat with a headlock before we hit a test of strength. Bret grabs a wristlock but Hammer comes back with some very uninspired brawling. Hart of course comes back with a low blow because that’s as common as a headlock in this company anymore.

We hit the Figure Four on Van before Bret wraps the leg around the ropes. A backslide gets two for Hammer but Bret goes right back to the leg. He bends the leg around the post but Hammer counters the Figure Four around the steel. Back in and Bret gets suplexed followed by a cobra clutch slam for two. Hammer misses an enziguri and the Sharpshooter ends it.

Rating: D. WAY too long here for a Bret squash. Hammer was just a guy for him to beat up and the leg work got a bit boring after awhile. By the way, this match is pretty much meaningless at the moment as Bret isn’t even on the card Sunday. Why we’re spending ten minutes on a match that doesn’t build up Sunday is an interesting question, but it’s really low on the totem of things this show has done wrong.

Somehow he would get a TV Title shot out of all this at Bash at the Beach 1999.

TV Title: Van Hammer vs. Rick Steiner

Rick takes him into the corner and hammers away but gets taken down by a clothesline. Out to the floor and never mind as theyre back in a second later. Steiner hammers him down while selling nothing for the most part. Crowd is DEAD. Outside again and Van Hammer is sent into the railing. Theres a DDT on the concrete which should kill Van Hammer but since Steiner tries to pin him on the floor, this keeps going.

Back in now and Van Hammer gets some offense in but Steiners ego is threatened so he takes over again. He chokes away and now lets go back outside again. Van Hammer gets a chair which Steiner FINALLY goes down from. Top rope clothesline gets two and I mean barely gets two. Steiner low blows him and bites Van Hammer in the balls. The bulldog ends this squash.

Rating: F. Rick Steiner in the late 90s was awful as he just refused to sell for ANYONE and was pushed with titles anyway. Having the video on Van Hammer made this look like it should have been a title change or at least a competitive match but since Steiner wouldn’t sell at all, this went nowhere.

Hammer would join the Misfits in Action as Major Stash. He wouldn’t last long in the group but here’s an eight man elimination match from Thunder on May 24, 2000.

Misfits in Action vs. Filthy Animals

That would be Captain Rection (Hugh Morrus), Corporal Cajun (Lash Leroux), Lieutenant Loco (Chavo Guerrero Jr.) and Major Stash (Van Hammer) vs. Konnan/Juventud Guerrera/Disco Inferno/Rey Mysterio Jr. These teams hate each other so the brawl is on in a hurry. The Misfits clean house and all four nail splashes in the corner. Major Gunns, a pair of implants and blonde hair, loads up a splash of his own but kicks him low instead.

We settle down to Chavo clotheslining Guerrera down and making the tag off to Cajun. Juvy flips out of the Whiplash (fireman’s carry into a Michinoku Driver) and moonwalks over to tag in Mysterio. A clothesline gets two for Cajun but Rey slides through the ropes and tags off to Guerrera for a sunset flip and two. Cajun loads up a top rope hurricanrana but Disco shoves him off to give Juvy a powerbomb and the pin.

Stash slams Disco down and gets two off a big boot. Guerrera comes in with a quick dropkick but gets caught in a bad looking cobra clutch slam for….one? Disco brings in a kendo stick for no apparent reason and hammers on everyone. Rey hits a top rope legdrop with a chair (the referee is fine with this) for the pin on Stash to make it 3-2. Wait what? Konnan is nowhere in sight and I don’t remember seeing him since the beginning of the match. Tony said it’s just Juvy/Rey/Disco for the Animals now so I guess Konnan is out.

Disco comes in and dances into a swinging neckbreaker to Guerrero. Chavo pops back up and nails a tornado DDT to pin Disco, getting us down to Morrus/Chavo vs. Mysterio/Guerrera. An inverted reverse DDT plants Guerrera and Morrus adds a moonsault to make it 2-1. This brings in Shawn Stasiak for no apparent reason to beat on Morrus, presumably DQ’ing Rey.

Rating: D-. This was a disaster and a great example of the problems WCW was having around this time. Konnan just left with no apparent reason and the rest of the mess had no structure or flow to it. There was no reason for this to be an elimination match and the stable wars didn’t work.

Van Hammer was never going to win Wrestler of the Year or anything like that, but he was big and fun to watch. Back in the early 90s he had a short run where he became the hottest star in the company. Unfortunately he was never given anything to work with (save for the Strongest Arm tournament win. It was arm wrestling people.) and the push completely died. His later stuff never worked though I was glad to see his returns.

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