I watched WCW until its bittersweet goodbye in Panama City. Every week until the end I would tune in – Monday Nitro except on Friday nights on TNT, yeah – and rubberneck the fizzing terminal decline of the USA’s former #1 wrestling promotion.
Whether it was the trying times of the Russo & Bischoff-led ‘reboot’ that cast the Millionaire’s Club of Hogan, Nash and DDP against the vibrant, fresh New Blood containing…erm…Billy Kidman and…ahh…Vampiro…or the simple, fearful confusion of a company that lost its way to easily, WCW from 1998 to its demise was a colourful experience.
There were none more colourful than Scott Steiner. The once clean-cut All-American workhorse with incredible pedigree stared into the abyss and the abyss produced Big Poppa Pump; the sex-crazed, peroxide, inflated genetic freak.
Big Poppa Pump is very much Scott Steiner’s id. Loose in the lips and hips (and in the ring too, unfortunately), Steiner skirted the line many times even by the standards of 1998 and his tendency to shoot – or indeed just ramble loudly until a threat was delivered – made him WCW’s wildcard. You’ll note that his listed controversies outside of the ring all occurred after his transformation on an episode of Nitro in Feb 1998. Whataguy!
His hugely increased muscle mass severely limited his in-ring ability and his high-flying days courtesy of the Steiner Brothers made way pretty fast. Out went the innovated Frankensteiner and other classics like the Steiner Screwdriver, and in its place were lazy clotheslines and the Steiner Recliner; the submission hold that can test a man’s suspension of disbelief more than his opponent’s neck.
But what Steiner passed up on in wrestling chops, he made up for with mic work bordering on insanity. If he wasn’t shooting on Ric Flair live on Nitro one minute (then doing it again the next week even after copping a warning from management), ranting about astronomy to a perplexed Mean Gene or just making with impressions of sheep, Steiner remained one of the legitimate reasons to tune in to a show that had long drifted from its moorings. Steiner as the apocalyptic leader – WCW’s Randall Flagg – signifying the worst excesses of a dying company. It’s almost wild enough to work.
Steiner’s rise to WCW World Champion came at the very end for the company, dropping the title to Booker T on the final Nitro. The arid, juddering, poison heart of World Championship Wrestling staked by a conquering hero. Maybe that was the plan all along; we’ve been swerved!