Pro Wrestling In Early 1996

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.


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