February of 1996 was almost like the calm before the storm for pro wrestling. WCW was a couple of months away from kickstarting a storyline that would push the entire industry into one of the biggest booms that it ever had. The NWO storyline had a lot of elements that were inspired by ECW. One of those aspects that gave the storyline its appeal was the shooty nature of it. The worked shoot was something that WCW started doing more and more once ECW made it work in their storylines in 1995. They first dabbled in worked shoots with Brian Pillman in early 1996.
Pillman had become a Four Horseman, but his character started displaying
increasingly erratic and unpredictable behavior. He started wearing
edgier clothing and doing things that even his Horseman stable mates had
a hard time controlling. During this time Brian Pillman's WCW contract
was coming to an end. One of Eric Bischoff's trademark management moves
during this era was to book a wrestler off of television or job him out
to decrease his value and keep the price down come resign time. This was
what Eric Bischoff was doing to Brian Pillman during this time. Pillman
desperately thought of a way to gain some leverage to get a high paying
new deal. One of his ideas was to crash Superbowl XXX in Arizona by
streaking across the field and handcuffing himself to the goal post. His
friend and former trainer in the Cincinnati Bengals gained wind of his
idea and refused to get him tickets to the game. Pillman came up with
his next idea and put it into motion when he decided to make an
appearance at a special television convention where the WWF was set up
at a booth selling their programming. Vince Mcmahon was personally at
the event, and Brian Pillman was able to snap a picture of himself with
his arm draped over him shaking his hand.
The photo leaked and all of a sudden the rumors began to swirl. Pillman
used this as leverage and went to Eric Bischoff with an idea that
Bischoff couldn't resist. Bischoff cooked up a storyline that was
designed to work the same types of wrestling fans that watched ECW. The
smart marks. The types of fans that already knew Konnan was going to
wind up as US Champion(or US Chump as they chanted at him during his
last ECW match). The kind of fans who knew what a "Booker" was, and knew
that Kevin Sullivan was WCW's booker at the time.
Pillman would get into a shoot style scuffle with Kevin Sullivan on WCW
TV leading up to the Superbrawl VI show in February. The two men brawled
with each other and tried to make it look like it was a real fight by
going for each other's eyes. Both Wade Keller and Dave Meltzer reported
it as a work right from the get go(because Kevin Sullivan cut a
wrestling promo about it soon after), but the wrestlers and staff of WCW
all were convinced by Bischoff that it was all indeed shoot. The
storyline progressed at the Superbrawl VI PPV where Pillman was
scheduled to face Kevin Sullivan in an "I Respect You" Strap Match.
Pillman came out and brawled with Sullivan again in a realistic looking
scuffle. Brian stopped fighting with Sullivan soon after the match
started and told him "I respect you booker man!" before storming out of
the ring. This was all worked as part of the storyline, but nobody in
the WCW locker room knew this. Arn Anderson came out immediately after
Pillman stormed off and wrestled a legit impromptu match against
Sullivan to fill in.
The worked shoot continued when Pillman convinced Bischoff to push it to
the next level and make it look as if he had been fired, and to make
arrangements for him to appear in ECW to make it look legit. Bischoff
informed everyone at WCW that Pillman had been released, and sent a
check to Paul Heyman for Brian Pillman to make an appearance at the next
show we will be taking a look at, ECW Cyberslam 96, which took place
about 6 days after Superbrawl VI.
The thing about it all was that when WCW executives seen Pillman in ECW,
they went ahead and really released Pillman from his WCW contract. His
"Booker Man" line was censored out of the home video release of
Superbrawl, and he was now a hot commodity free agent.
Also at Superbrawl 96 was the WCW PPV debut's of Public Enemy and
Konnan(who was indeed US Champ). Public Enemy were defeated in a street
fight by the Nasty Boyz. Konnan defended his US title against One Man
Gang. Superbrawl VI was main evented by two cage matches, the first
being a pretty good title match with Flair and Savage, and a downright
stinker in Hogan vs The Giant.
Over in the WWF Steve Austin was just a couple of months away from his
career making "Austin 3:16" promo, and was still in the heyday of his
"Ringmaster" gimmick with Ted Dibiase. Bret and Shawn were on a
collision course for WrestleMania, and Taker was feuding with Diesel.
WWF had gotten much better through the later parts of 1995 and this
continued in the early parts of 1996 as the promotion was gradually
changing before everyone's eyes. This next ECW show we take a look at,
Cyberslam, took place a week after WCW Superbrawl VI and a day prior to
WWF In Your House: Rage in a Cage.