365 Wrestling, Day 37: Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03)

365 Wrestling, Day 37: Los Guerreros vs. Team Angle (WWE SmackDown, 2/6/03)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Underrated and unappreciated.

These are just a few of the words I would choose to describe how Shelton Benjamin has been used — or not used — in WWE.

This project has allowed me the chance to reflect and pontificate on my various favorites in the realm of costumed murder gymnastics: Jushin Liger, William Regal, and Stan Hansen, just to name a few.

Shelton caught my eye in a dark match before watching RAW in Knoxville in the spring of 2001. His legitimate wrestling background combined with some freakish feats of athleticism always made him stand out to me. We all have our personal favorites, and he’s one of mine.

He’s also in action in this, the 37th installment of 365 Wrestling, pairing with Charlie Haas in the still-new-to-WWE Team Angle gimmick against Los Guerreros with the WWE Tag Titles on the line.

Now that the WWE Network has migrated to Peacock, where, at the time of this writing, only the last three years of SmackDown are available, fret not. You still can find this match on Dailymotion, or embedded below:

The Context

Benjamin and Haas spent the bulk of their time in WWE’s developmental system working in tag teams, but not with each other. They started teaming together in the fall of 2002 in dark matches, then made their televised debut on the 12/27/02 episode of SmackDown as backup for Kurt Angle, playing off their legitimate athletic credentials. Both wrestled in college–Haas at Seton Hall and Benjamin at Minnesota, where he was a two-time All-American. New to the main roster, Haas and Benjamin made a quick rise in the tag division, getting this title shot after defeating Edge and Chris Benoit the preceding week thanks to some help from Angle himself.

Eddy Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero, Jr., are the reigning champs, winning the titles in an excellent three-way match at Survivor Series the prior November. They’ve made four televised defenses heading into this match.

The Match

This match serves as a classic example of how to establish a new act as an immediate, credible presence in a promotion. Haas and Benjamin are the rookies (or, presented that way, even though Haas started wrestling professionally back in 1996) but they have instant credibility due to their amateur backgrounds, which Michael Cole and Tazz take great pains to tout on commentary. Cole goes the standard route with resume-reading, while Tazz points out specific things the challengers are doing and techniques they are displaying that make them a threat to the Guerreros.

In a traditional match layout in American wrestling, the fan favorites outwrestle the heels, who have to take shortcuts to seize the advantage. This match flips the script. Despite their experience edge, the champs are unable to outwrestle their pesky young challengers. Instead, it’s Eddy and Chavo using the dirty tricks and pulling out all the stops to take control — after all, “lie, cheat, and steal” was the Guerrero credo at this point.

We watched another tag title match on SmackDown in the January portion of the project, and this match exceeds that one in almost every aspect. The work is superior: with more athleticism and more intensity. The early mat wrestling occurs with a purpose, unlike many instances in the last 20 years where such exchanges come off like a feeling-out process or — my pet peeve — a cooperative affair where one wrestler has a hold but is then waiting, or even assisting, in what becomes a showcase of reversals.

The titles seem like more of a prize here, as well. Both sides go for pin attempts early and often with frequent tags by each team. Overall, a greater sense of urgency is created that adds significantly to the overall presentation.

These four wrestlers aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. The true heat segment begins after a collision between Shelton and the referee knocks the official into Chavo, launching him into the commentary table at ringside. When Eddy makes the inevitable hot tag, he never leaves his feet during the initial comeback, still cleaning house on the challengers, flinging Shelton out of the ring and even taking a kick at Paul Heyman, who is in Team Angle’s corner.

The match builds to its biggest moves at the end. Superplexes from the top rope. Frog splashes. Dives, or falls, from the top rope to the floor. The drama heightens, with a couple of very credible false finishes along the way, but after all the big moves, some confusion by the champions about who the legal man is leaves Eddy prey to a rolling cradle by Haas that ends the match and Los Guerreros’ title reign.

Random Thoughts

–Team Angle spent most of their time in WWE developmental in tag divisions, but not with one another. In Ohio Valley Wrestling, Benjamin paired with Brock Lesnar, followed by a team with Redd Dogg (better known as Rodney Mack, after Lesnar got called up to the main roster. Meanwhile, in WWE’s other developmental territory, Heartland Wrestling Alliance, Haas was teaming with his brother, Russ Haas, until Russ’ untimely death in 2001.

–Is that a Burberry scarf that Heyman is rocking at ringside? Perhaps this gave early inspiration to MJF, who was 6 years old at the time of this match, by the way.

–Speaking of Heyman, at one point he starts screaming bloody murder as Shelton gets choked with the tag rope in the corner by the Guerreros. It adds to the moment.

Final Rating: 6.7

This is an all-action tag match with real stakes, a creative finish, and it’s historically significant as it marks the start of the first title reign for Benjamin and Haas. Any booker could take a lesson from the way Team Angle gets presented, and built up quickly as contenders, then champions, but without having them shoved down the throats of the audience.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

An exciting take on a longstanding narrative trope: the young up-and-comer looking to make a name against an established veteran.

Send feedback or recommend a match for one of the upcoming dates in 365 Wrestling! Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 21: Ricky Steamboat & Sting vs. Rick Rude & Steve Austin (WCW Clash of the Champions XVIII, 1/21/92)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Let’s presume that, if you’re reading this, you join me in being a fan of the professional wrestling.

Now, if you’ve been a fan for a while, imagine going back and telling 10-years-ago you “one day, there will be SO MUCH wrestling available to watch that you’ll never be able to see it all. Much less just keep up with all of the current stuff that’s accessible online.”

“No way,” 10-years-ago you would say in response.

“Way,” current-times you would reply.

Anyhoo, one of the biggest benefits for me in doing this project is going back and watching some of the good stuff. The Four Pillars. Joshi. Old-school Portland wrestling. Et cetera, et cetera…

The Dangerous Alliance’s run occurred during one of those times when I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to wrestling. And so, I’m hitting some of the high points of their heyday — nearly 30 years later (!), no less. case in point: our match selection for January 21, with Ricky Steamboat and Sting joining forces against the Alliance pair of Rick Rude and Stunning Steve Austin from Clash of the Champions XVIII.

UPDATE: Now that Peacock has rights to the WWE Network, and migration of the archive remains inconsistent, none of the WCW Clash events have been uploaded as of April 27. Luckily, you can find this match on Dailymotion, or embedded below:

The Context

Since our last visit to WCW in 1992, the Dangerous Alliance have been busy little bees. Five days before this Clash, Arn Anderson and Bobby Eaton just won the tag titles from Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes at a house show in Jacksonville. Rude remains the U.S. Champion. Austin still holds the TV Title. Yep, it seems as if everything’s coming up Milhouse for Paul E. and his crew of ne’er-do-wells.

Earlier on this show, Paul E. cuts a tremendous promo promising to cripple one of the fan favorites before the end of the night. Right before this match, Barry Windham, Ron Simmons, and Rhodes get the best of Arn, Eaton, and Larry Zbysko in a really fun six-man tag sprint you should check out after watching this match (or before… do what you want… I’m not your supervisor). Adding to the mix for this match is that Sting, while battling the Alliance, is also set to challenge Lex Luger for WCW’s World Title at Superbrawl the following month. Luger attacked Sting at the last Clash back in November, wrecking his knee and leaving him easy prey to drop the U.S. Title to Rude.

Also, in case you didn’t know, WCW ran these Clash of the Champions events as special supercards on free TV. In these days, marquee matches between stars on free TV were few and far between. Times definitely have changed now, on that end …

The Match

Adding Sting to the mix for this match definitely brings the crowd interest and enthusiasm to a different level. We have to wait to see Sting in action, though, as Steamboat and Austin start out. I always felt these two had outstanding chemistry with one another in the ring and I saw nothing different in this match to alter that opinion.

Rude goads Sting into the ring with a slap to the face that we miss because the camera cuts to a random crowd shot (oh, those WCW production values…) I always liked Rude because he has this pretty-boy gimmick but he wrestles like a longshoreman in the middle of a bar bawl, which, if you believe some of the stories about Rude, is pretty in line with his real-life attitude and persona.

What’s interesting about this match is that the traditional face-heel dynamic shifts. Sting and Steamboat, in an effort to get the better of the Alliance, stoop to the level of their opponents — whether that be with illegal switches of the legal man while referee Nick Patrick is distracted or Sting unleashing some back rakes on Rude. The match maintains a brisk pace throughout with control ebbing back and forth between both teams. Ultimately, the fan favorites prevail by bending the rules once more; Austin has Steamboat up for a slam when Sting leaps off with a flying cross body — Steamboat’s own signature move — and Sting and Steamboat stack up on Austin for the pin.

The Alliance get the upper hand, though. Rude delivers a pair of Rude Awakenings to Steamboat, then uses Dangerously’s own belt to start whipping “The Dragon.” Sting covers Steamboat with his own body (I’m always a sucker for that spot) while Paul E. and Austin lay waste to a bunch of local and enhancement wrestlers decked out in Security shirts. This battle is over, but the war is sure to continue …

Random Thoughts

-Watching Rick Rude sell atomic drops (be they regular or inverted) always is a delight. I’m not alone on this; there’s even a Twitter account dedicated to chronicling Rude’s sells of this variety.

Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura pair on commentary for this match in what marked Jesse’s debut with WCW. They’ve got good chemistry and work well together. Ventura was so good in the antagonist color commentary role.

-Unfortumately Superbrawl in 1992 happened on February 29, a Leap Day, and thus, absent from the 2021 calendar. Oh, the cruelty of it all …

Final Rating: 6.0

There’s lots to like about this match. It showcases four of the top talents in WCW at the time, in the midst of a heated feud centering on the Dangerous Alliance faction. It’s also a tantalizing glimpse at Steamboat and Sting as a team, something that WCW didn’t really explore during any period where both were on the roster. This is a good match that is definitely worth watching, but I honestly preferred the six-man involving other members of the Alliance on this same cCash card.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

An All Japan mainstay and a master of the mist welcome a pair of visitors from Badstreet.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 Wrestling, Day 11: Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes & Ron Simmons vs. Dangerous Alliance (WCW WorldWide, 1/11/92)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Another Reader Recommendation today, as independent wrestler and Zubaz enthusiast Jeff Connelly pitched me on this six-man tag from WCW in 1992, smackdab in the heart of the Dangerous Alliance storyline. Specifically, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and “Stunning” Steve Austin rep the Alliance against the babyface trio of Ricky Steamboat, Dustin Rhodes, and Ron Simmons.

You can find this match online with some strategic searching.

The Context

Paul E. Dangerously (who you might know better as Paul Heyman) formed the Dangerous Alliance over the span of several weeks in late 1991. Dangerously, who had been fired in storyline from his commentary position, was out for revenge. By late November, he had assembled his squad: Anderson, Eaton, Austin, Rick Rude, Larry Zbysko, and Madusa. At this point, in early 1992, the Alliance controls two titles in WCW, with Austin the TV Champ and Rude holding the U.S. Title. Anderson and Eaton are chasing the tag titles, currently held by Steamboat and Rhodes. They won the titles at Clash of the Champions XVII in November (the last major event before Dangerously “officially” forms his stable), beating Arn and Zbysko when Steamboat showed up as a surprise partner for Rhodes after the champs broke the hand of Rhodes’ original partner, Barry Windham, earlier in the night. As for Simmons, he was firmly ensconced in the upper midcard at the time. The week before, on the prior episode of WorldWide, the Alliance jumped Simmons at the end of a TV Title match against Austin when he had the champion apparently beat. Steamboat and Rhodes made the save, setting the stage for this match.

The Match

The Dangerous Alliance is such an impressive and underrated stable. They never reached the heights of success of other major heel groups in WCW like the Four Horsemen and the nWo, but stand out in two ways: one, by having good matches almost every week across WCW’s various programming; and two, with the synergy and teamwork they show. Even when they weren’t wracked by dissension, neither the Horsemen nor the nWo display the type of team-first mentality you witness from the Alliance. It shines through in sacrifice, such as when Arn smashes Dustin Rhodes’ head into Eaton’s noggin on the apron to help the Alliance finally take over the match after several minutes where each of the babyfaces fights off the entire trio and clears the ring, single-handed, in three separate segments. Eaton tumbles to the floor off the impact, and Paul E. is quick to check on him. Overall, Paul and Eaton show a chemistry that hearkens back to Beautiful Bobby and Jim Cornette in the Midnight Express.

The little touches really elevate this six man, such as:

–When Dustin kicks out after eating a huge clothesline from Austin, Steamboat (who was already headed in to try and break up the pin) starts cheering on his partner
–As the beatdown on Rhodes continues, Arn backs into the ropes to deliver a stalling kneedrop to Dustin, only for Steamboat to slide into the ring and take the knee across his own back
–A unique turnabout spot, where Arn goes to ram Dustin’s head into the outstretched knee of Austin in a tag-match spot we’ve all seen a million times, only for Dustin to send Arn’s cranium into the knee instead. Arn and Dustin smash skulls after the impact while Austin, doing the Wrestling Gods’ work, stumbles to the floor, selling his knee after the impact

The finish reiterates the theme of sacrifice and teamwork. After laying waste to the Alliance trio following a long-awaited tag from Rhodes, Simmons is the apparent victim of a double team by Arn and Eaton, with Arn restraining Simmons as Beautiful Bobby ascends to the top rope. Steamboat comes flying in to stop Arn, and Simmons catches Eaton in midair and delivers a spinebuster to give the good guys a rare victory over the Dangerous Alliance.

No time to celebrate. as Zbysko comes hustling to the ring for a 4-on-3 beatdown, which sees Steamboat eat both a spike piledriver and a flying Eaton legdrop before Windham sends the heels scattering.

Random Thoughts

–WorldWide was one of the B-shows for WCW at the time (this was pre-Nitro, remember, so WCW Saturday night is the flagship), but as I said the Dangerous Alliance had matches across every WCW program during this era, which makes for one of the most consistently entertaining, watchable runs of wrestling TV that ever has been produced.

–Ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta clarifies this match isn’t the main event but the “featured confrontation.” Alright then.

–Paul E. jumping on his handheld phone trying to figure out what’s happening early when the babyfaces are in control made me legitimately chuckle.

Final Rating: 6.1

The action here is hard-hitting and the story is fairly simple. With a less talented group of wrestlers, this match easily would be skippable. Instead, the little touches and the overarcing storyline help make this a compelling watch.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

We head to SmackDown in 2007 for a match involving yet another of my personal favorites.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.