Photos courtesy of WWE.com
Kai En Tai (Taka Michinoku/Funaki/Dick Togo/Men’s Teioh) vs. Rey Mysterio/Juventud Guerrera/Psicosis/Chris Jericho
Analysis: WCW was great at getting their cards started right, featuring high flying action from a collection of great Mexican luchadors who ultimately reinvented what wrestling looks like in America.
WWE attempted something similar with imported Japanese talent but never fully invested in their light heavyweight division. Kai En Tai, however, could really go when given the opportunity, winning over crowds with the power of their work. Look no further than ECW’s Barely Legal pay-per-view in 1997 for an example of them managing to convert a skeptical crowd into believers.
Result: Because this was company versus company, WCW decided to mix babyfaces and heels, attempting to put their best possible team forward. This nearly backfired when Chris Jericho spent most of the match feuding with his own teammates—but eventually, the future “Y2J” made Funaki tap out to his Lion Tamer submission.
Score: WCW 1, WWE 0
Team NWO (Syxx/Konnan/Giant/Buff Bagwell) vs. Team WWE (Rikishi/Too Cool/Godfather)
Analysis: In some ways, this looks like the “WrestleMania special,” a match designed simply to get people on to the card and reward their hard work. And, in some ways, that’s kind of true.
That said, every one of these acts was over like rover in those days, and the crowd would have gone crazy for the WWE babyface team’s intro.
Result: I don’t think it really matters who goes over. But, at this point, I think you go ahead and allow the crowd to smile.
Score: WCW 1, WWE 1
The Steiners v APA
Analysis: Before Scott Steiner turned to the dark side, the Steiner brothers were two of WCW’s most stalwart heroes, among the only competitors capable of standing up to the dreaded NWO. Real-life amateur standouts, the two brothers were widely considered to be the biggest badasses in a sport filled to bursting with rough customers.
Up in New York with WWE, Bradshaw and Ron Simmons had cultivated similar tough-guy reputations. When Vince McMahon needed to send a message or the boys needed to police themselves, these were two of the guys the promotion could count on to keep the locker room in line.
Result: After a hard-hitting match that included some wild backstage brawling, Rick Steiner hit his always dangerous top rope bulldog to give WCW an early lead.
Score: WCW 2, WWE 1
Goldust vs. Eddie Guerrero
Analysis: Eddie Guerrero, one of the most gifted wrestlers of the era, spent much of the Monday Night Wars trying in vain to fight both his demons and his way out of the middle of the pack in WCW. It was only years later, once WWE had conquered all opposition, that he truly found his way as the iconic “Latino Heat” character and earned a spot as the world champion.
Dustin Rhodes, son of the immortal “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, faced his own internal struggles attempting to fill shoes so large no one could hope to fit in them. As the deeply weird Goldust, he was able to break free from his father’s shadow and become his own man—albeit one in a gold onesie who liked to touch his own nipples a lot.
Result: These were two of the most talented wrestlers in the world who never worked a singles match in their long careers. This is truly a match we can only see in our dreams. But, this being the Attitude Era, Guerrero was most definitely doing the honors here after 10 minutes of the smoothest wrestling you could possibly imagine.
Score: WCW 2, WWE 2
Harlem Heat vs. New Age Outlaws
Analysis: Booker T and his brother Stevie Ray won the WCW tag team titles 10 times, in the process becoming one of the most successful duos in wrestling history. Because Booker T was a solo act during his long WWE run after the war was over, Harlem Heat hasn’t gotten the attention they probably deserve for their historic excellence. But, in the heat of the battle, they were one of the top teams in the sport.
The New Age Outlaws created such a stir on the WWE undercard that the promotion elevated them into Degeneration X and gave them six runs with their own tag straps. Big personalities, the two could also go in the ring under the right circumstances, making this a very interesting match.
Result: Oh, you didn’t know? Well, how could you? This card exists only in my mind. Anyway, the Outlaws go over after Chyna wallops poor Booker T in the nethers. What, you were expecting clean finishes in the 1990s?
Score: WWE 3, WCW 2
Mankind vs. DDP (Hardcore Match)
Analysis: Mick Foley and Diamond Dallas Page, in their own ways, are two of the most underappreciated talents of the time period; wrestlers who carved out Hall of Fame careers despite institutional forces that seemed to make failure a certainty.
DDP was too old from the first day he stepped into a wrestling ring. Foley, despite a series of classic beatings in WCW as Cactus Jack, didn’t have the aesthetics to make it big in a hyper-competitive business. Somehow they both left enduring legacies anyway—almost entirely through the power of will.
Result: Page and Foley lay out a carefully crafted match that grabs the crowd and never let us go. Tables are shattered, chairs are bent and bodies are broken—and, in the end, only DDP is left standing. Bang!
Score: WCW 3, WWE 3