Thunder – March 21, 2001 (Final Episode): How Many Times???

Thunder
Date: March 21, 2001
Location: O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Florida
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay

We’ve arrived at the final shows. We’ll start off the final episode of the corporate mandate that was Thunder, which has somehow gotten even less important over the years. The big story coming out of Monday is Ric Flair’s face being pressed onto the back of a donkey and the upcoming Night of Champions on Monday. Let’s get to it.

We open with a recap of Monday and most of the major stories. I’m still curious about who was attacking the Magnificent Seven. For some reason this recap starts with Dusty vs. Flair, goes to Booker vs. Steiner being announced and goes back to Dusty vs. Flair.

Air Raid vs. Jung Dragons

That would be Air Paris/AJ (now Air) Styles, now in matching G-Suits on the way to the ring. Yang and Styles get things going and hit the mat almost immediately with Yang getting two off a rollup. A headscissors gets Styles out of what looked like a Tombstone and it’s Paris sneaking in for a superkick. Everything breaks down for a few seconds before Styles hits the yet to be named Styles Clash (very little reaction from the announcers) for two on Kaz.

Yang comes back in and knocks AJ out to the floor but Raid double teams Yang down to take over for the first time. It’s off to Paris for a double faceplant, only to have Yang hit a running Liger Bomb out of the corner for two. The tag brings in Kaz to clean house with some martial arts but he walks into a Burning Hammer of all things from Paris. Styles dives into a dropkick but he gets up to counter Yang Time.

Air Raid loads up what looked like a superbomb/neckbreaker combo. Well for all I know they might have broken down into a Charleston dance off as the camera cut to the crowd so I’m assuming a botch. Something like an H Bomb gets two on Kaz with Yang making the save. Kaz gets back up and loads up something like Sister Abigail but jumps forward for something like a reverse bulldog for the pin on Styles.

Rating: C+. This was fun while it lasted and a good way for these four to go out. The Dragons went from a pretty generic high flying Japanese team to a downright above average high flying Japanese team. Styles is another name on the list of stars that WCW had though a few matches in a low level tag team aren’t really enough to blame WCW for screwing up again.

We recap the Rhodes Family beating Jeff Jarrett/Ric Flair on Sunday.

Here’s Dustin Rhodes with a bag of goodies and something to say. We see the clip of Flair and the donkey again so Dustin pulls out a game of Pin the Flair on the Jackass. To go with it: mouthwash, chapstick, and a hotel key for Flair and the donkey in case the idea wasn’t clear enough yet. Cue Flair to the screen to make Dustin vs. Jarrett/Scott Steiner for later tonight. Flair rants a lot so Dustin holds up the Horsemen sign but says it means to kiss the donkey again (Four words: Kiss My Daddy’s….)

Jason Jett vs. Cash

That would be Kid Kash. They trade arm holds to start and then flip each other around a bit with Jett being set out to the floor. A good looking slingshot hurricanrana has Jason in trouble but he dropkicks Cash out of the air to take over. Thankfully the announcers stop previewing Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Shawn Stasiak to talk about this match.

Kash sends him outside for a big flip dive off the top and an ECW chant. Back in and a double clothesline (with Kash coming off the middle rope and Jeff flipping into his) puts both of them down. Jett grabs a reverse kneeling piledriver but Kash runs the corner for a bad looking hurricanrana. The Crash Landing is broken up and the Moneymaker (double underhook lifting piledriver) gets two. Jett pops right back up and hits the Crash Landing for the pin.

Rating: C-. And so ends the Jason Jett story. There was potential but he was a far cry from what people like Guerrero and Helms were doing at the time. It could have gone somewhere with more time but alas Jett was another victim of the curse that was WCW going out of business for not knowing how to push people like Jason Jett. Among many other reasons of course.

Flair tries to calm Rick Steiner down after the team accused him of being the attacker.

Cat gives M.I. Smooth a pep talk.

The Cat/M.I. Smooth vs. Animal/Kanyon

Cat kicks Kanyon to start and drives some right hands into his head for good measure. It’s off to Smooth vs. Animal for the power brawl with Animal no selling a clothesline. Smooth no sells a clothesline though and it’s off to Cat, who walks right into a powerslam. A powerbomb out of the corner allows the tag off to Kanyon for some elbows, followed by a swinging neckbreaker.

Animal grabs a neck crank before handing it off to Kanyon for a chinlock. Kanyon’s middle rope Fameasser is countered with a powerbomb out of the corner but Animal breaks up the dancing elbow. Smooth comes in and cleans house on Kanyon as Cat kicks Animal on the floor. A trip puts Kanyon down and a splash gives Smooth the pin.

Rating: D+. Well at least Animal didn’t get the pin. Of all the things WCW did in its final months, hiring Animal is one of the most annoying. It’s such a WCW standard: bring in some name from the past that people don’t care about without his partner when you have people on the roster who could fill the role just as well. I’m sure Animal’s brother booking the show has nothing to do with it.

Rick Steiner vs. Hugh Morrus

Morrus has Konnan with him. As is so often the case in Rick matches, they’re on the floor in about thirty seconds with Steiner no selling Morrus’ offense. Hugh clotheslines the post by mistake so Rick throws him inside for an Angle Slam of all things. The cover only gets two as Rick has to yell at some fans. Well at least he’s doing something right. Rick’s bulldog gets two with Morrus getting his foot on the ropes.

That earns him a Steiner Line but Morrus comes back with a spinwheel kick. Steiner kicks him low (referee is fine with it) and gets in a chair shot (no complaints from the referee). He loads up some Pillmanizing (this referee is incompetent) but calls out Shane Douglas. Shane comes out for the brawl (HOW IS NONE OF THIS A DQ???) and hits Rick in the head with his cast, knocking him into a German suplex to give Morrus the pin.

Rating: D. Even on the final show Rick Steiner can’t pick things up a little bit? I’m assuming this was designed to set up Rick vs. Shane on Nitro (How appropriate: a Walking Dead match on the final Nitro.) or at some point in the future so I’ll actually give them some credit for trying to have some more angles for beyond Monday in case they were around.

Post match Douglas hands Dave Penzer a video. Shouldn’t he hand that to the production truck?

After a break, the tape shows Douglas challenging Steiner to a fight on Nitro. Was there a reason he just didn’t do this live on the mic?

Kid Romeo/Elix Skipper/Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Rey Mysterio/Kidman/Shane Helms

Kidman and Chavo start things off but Guerrero goes after Shane on the apron, allowing Kidman to grab a neckbreaker. Shane comes in for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker but a Skipper distraction lets Chavo take over. It’s off to Romeo for some dancing until Shane kicks him in the face. A Samoan drop into a springboard legdrop keeps Romeo in trouble until Skipper gets in a cheap shot from the apron and comes in to take over.

Everyone heads outside for the series of dives in a nice sequence. Back in and Skipper plants Rey with a dragon suplex before handing it off to Chavo without bothering to cover. A Gory Bomb gets two for Chavo but Rey gets in a running DDT to drop Romeo. Kidman’s top rope elbow gets another two as everything breaks down. Chavo saves Romeo from the Vertebreaker so it’s the Kid Crusher to put Romeo away.

Rating: C+. One more good cruiserweight six man to go out on. I’m always a fan of combining two feuds into one match and they did fine here, especially with a challenger pinning a champion (fine as it was a six man and not a regular tag) to wrap it up. There isn’t much to say here but it was exactly what you would expect from these six.

Rick still isn’t happy. Was he ever?

Chuck Palumbo tells Lance Storm to stay out of this match.

Mike Awesome vs. Chuck Palumbo

They’re all alone here as Chuck starts off with that good right hand of his. Mike sends him outside and hits a great looking springboard clothesline, followed by a slingshot splash for two back inside. A camel clutch doesn’t go anywhere so Mike sends him outside again with Chuck’s knees going into the steps. Chuck takes a chair away and blasts Awesome in the back but can’t manage to jump over him in the corner. Not that it matters as Mike drops him anyway, making the whole thing look bad.

With the wrestling not working they head outside for the third time with Mike being whipped into the barricade. Awesome comes back in with a top rope shoulder but takes WAY too long setting up the Awesome Splash, allowing Palumbo to roll away just in time. Cue Storm and O’Haire to fight at ringside, leaving Palumbo to hit the Jungle Kick for the pin.

Rating: C. I like these guys and it’s nice to see them getting a push near the end. O’Haire was the star of the team but Palumbo was good enough to keep a job in WWE for years and have a nice little career of his own. It was certainly bigger than any other Thrillers after leaving WCW, which was probably quite the surprise.

Dustin Rhodes vs. Scott Steiner/Jeff Jarrett

Before the match, Jeff says Booker will be dead after this match, just like his daddy’s career. We go to a break before Dustin’s entrance and come back with Animal finding Flair laid out in the back. Dustin hammers on Jeff in the corner to start but Scott’s distraction lets Jeff escape the Dust Buster. So why didn’t he just climb out on his own earlier? Scott ties Dustin in the Tree of Woe for a bit before Jeff crotches himself on the ropes. The bulldog gets two on Jeff but a pipe shot to the back sets up the Recliner for the quick submission.

Rating: D. What a perfect way for Thunder to go out: heels winning a fairly short, meaningless handicap match with an old face that doesn’t get much of a response from the crowd. Dustin didn’t do anything wrong in this run but time has shown that people don’t really care about Dustin Rhodes on his own. He’s just a guy in trunks who has done an above average job of separating himself from his famous father. That’s commendable, but it’s not that interesting. Goldust is someone people care about while Rhodes is just there and that’s a common problem in wrestling.

Booker comes out for the save and says he’s taking the title.

A group shot of the Thunder production crew ends the show.

Overall Rating: C. This felt more like any given episode of Thunder, which really isn’t surprising given how little Thunder meant. The cruiserweights were good (shocking) and the main event didn’t mean anything so it was all business as usual. Most of this stuff doesn’t matter anyway as Monday is a special show but it was nice to see at least some effort as they close it out.

So that’s Thunder. It’s no secret that the show wasn’t WCW’s idea and only existed because Turner Sports told them to put on a second show. For once you actually can’t pin this one on WCW but it’s not like they did much to help themselves. Looking back at Thunder, in all 147 episodes, I didn’t rate anything, be it match or show overall, higher than a B. In three years and three months, you would think they would somehow have something that high but nothing ever broke that barrier.

Over 147 episodes, a grand total of five received an overall rating higher than a C+. Five. As in less than twice a year this show delivered what I would consider to be a strong episode. In those same 147 episodes, I rated a total of thirty three matches above a C+. Of those thirty three, nine didn’t involve the cruiserweights. Think about that for a minute.

In almost three and a half years, a weekly wrestling show produced nine heavyweight matches that were better than slightly above average. Shockingly enough, every single one of those nine matches involved Chris Benoit, Booker T., Raven or Diamond Dallas Page. So in reality, those four and the cruiserweights were the only people delivering good matches on this show and even they weren’t doing it on a regular basis.

If you want to know why Thunder was such a nothing show, that’s where you start: on a show that had let’s say 900 matches (147 shows at six matches a show would be 882 so we’ll round up a bit), about three percent of the matches were even a little bit above average and nothing would be considered great. At some point, you need to offer something that makes people stick around. Wrestling that is just ok with a bunch of older names having horrible matches to close the shows aren’t going to do it.

Thunder just wasn’t a very good show and much like Smackdown in recent years, you almost never needed to watch it because almost nothing ever happened there. Let’s do a quick comparison with Monday Nitro regarding title changes and look at how many times each title changed hands from the time Thunder debuted until the end of the promotion (not counting the title being vacated):

World Title:

Nitro – 15, Thunder – 4 (Two of which were Kevin Nash awarding himself the title and losing it in the same night, a third being David Arquette and the final one being Nash winning the title, only to give it to Flair the following week on Nitro.). Now to be fair, maybe the bigger problem is that there are nineteen World Title changes on TV alone in just over less than three and a half years.

TV Title:

Nitro – 5, Thunder – 1

United States Title:

Nitro – 15, Thunder – 1

Tag Team Titles:

Nitro – 14, Thunder – 5 (Two of which were on a single show)

Cruiserweight Title:

Nitro – 11, Thunder – 5

Hardcore Title:

Nitro – 9, Thunder – 4

In total, that’s 69 for Nitro and 21 for Thunder. (Again, part of the problem is having ninety title changes on TV in twenty one months. By comparison, in the history of Monday Night Raw, there have been 259 title changes in the history of Monday Night Raw. WCW had more than one third the number of title changes on two TV shows in less than three and a half years than the biggest wrestling show of all time has had in over twenty three years spread over thirteen championships).

That’s the grand summary of why Thunder didn’t work: average at best wrestling most of the time, few major events and a bunch of horrible main events featuring either old wrestlers far past their primes or low level stars in matches people didn’t want to see. Thunder was a horrible idea from the beginning and never got any better. Monday Nitro going away was a major story. Thunder going away was a reminder that Thunder was a show that existed.

Oh and there’s this still active website:

http://cgi.superstation.com/sports/thunder/index.htm

I know TBS saw WCW as a long term investment but this is a bit much.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up my new book, KB’s WWE Grab Bag at Amazon for just $3.99 at:

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1 comment

  1. Kaips says:

    I believe you mean 2001, KB…

    [Reply]

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