October 24, 2005
Booking on the fly
By NICK TYLWALK -- SLAM! Wrestling Columnist
As regular SLAM! Wrestling readers and loyal TNA fans know, Kevin Nash was hospitalized on Saturday, thus putting him out of action for last night's Bound for Glory pay-per-view. That might not seem like too big a deal except for one small detail: Nash was supposed to be wrestling for the NWA Title in the main event.
Naturally, TNA rolled with the punches, and while I don't want to spoil the outcome in case you haven't seen or read about it yet, they came up with something that almost certainly turned out better than what was originally scheduled.
That got me thinking. Bound for Glory sure wasn't the first pay-per-view to experience a last second change of plans, and it absolutely won't be the last. I decided to take a virtual stroll through the SLAM! archives to jog my memory of when it had happened before. What I discovered was that the period between 1998 and 2000 -- perhaps not coincidentally, the same period of time that saw wrestling start the period of decline it still inhabits today -- was the Golden Age of last minute booking. Usually surprising and sometimes unintentionally humorous, fans got treated to more bait-and-switch jobs in those three years than I remembered. And lo and behold, a column idea was born.
Take a walk with me and relive the "Best and Worst of Booking on the Fly."
When Shawn Michaels couldn't go, it seemed like a pretty good chance to add someone interesting to the DX team of Triple H and the New Age Outlaws as they got set to take on Stone Cold Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Terry Funk and Cactus Jack. Who did we get? Savio Vega. Enough said.
It could have been the greatest main event of all time. Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon, the creative mind behind WCW and the owner of the WWF (before the panda set made them change the initials) were set to go head to head in a bout that would rock the very core of the professional wrestling world. One problem: Vinnie Mac didn't show. And without a suitable replacement, nWo chief Bischoff was left alone in the ring as the ref counted McMahon out. What's that? The match was a joke? Never mind.
Bam Bam Bigelow was supposed to take on Scott Hall, I guess in a "I Hate Goldberg More" Match. The bout never took place, though both men were on hand to interfere in the night's main event, which featured the end of Goldberg's infamous winning streak at the hands of Kevin Nash. Hall's stun gun had something to do with that, if I recall.
Not everything on this list is a happy memory. One of the most tragic moments in the history of wrestling, and certainly the most tragic broadcast I ever witnessed, occurred when Owen Hart plunged to his death before the third match of the night. Of course, there was no replacement, but the rest of the card did go on in a move that still gets debated to this day.
I didn't watch this one, which by all accounts was a complete train wreck. The main event was supposed to be King King Bundy battling Yokozuna, but Yoko apparently was in no shape to hold down a singles match. Circumstances turned the final bout into a tag match pitting Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart and Bundy against Yokozuna and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Viewers' memories were the big losers, I'm sure.
Just a week after the Heroes debacle, we had bizarre happening in WCW. Hulk Hogan was set to challenge Sting for the WCW Title, but the Hulkster was feuding with the new writing team of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera, who had recently defected from the WWE. Or was it still WWF back then? In any case, Hogan came out in street clothes and laid down for the Stinger, who made an open challenge to anyone in the back for later in the show. It was accepted by Goldberg, who beat Sting to win the belt.
The advertised main event was a three-way dance between Triple H, The Rock and Stone Cold, but Austin was a late scratch. The Big Show took his place, and in typical wrestling storyline fashion, the Rattlesnake's absence was attributed to a hit-and-run incident early in the show. In reality, Austin needed neck surgery that would keep him out of action for almost a year. At least the WWE remembered why they said Steve was out, as they showed unusual continuity by having Stone Cold hunt for the driver when he returned. The fun part of that storyline was seeing Rikishi get what was probably his biggest push, short-lived as it was.
Scott Hall (there's that guy again), no stranger to ladder matches, was scheduled for another one against Chris Benoit. A knee injury put the kibosh on that plan, and Jeff Jarrett stepped up to the plate to fill in. Benoit and Jarrett put on a heck of a show in a match that stands out in my mind as my last pleasant memory of Starrcade.
A bunch of guys who were already mentioned on this list were at it again, and it played out in dramatic fashion. Hogan and Jarrett were supposed to clash for the WCW Title, but what we saw was JJ laying down for Hollywood. Hogan blasted WCW verbally and walked off with the belt. Then Russo came out and unleashed some scathing blasts at Hogan while declaring the belt that he left with null and void. Russo gave the shot to someone who had worked hard for it for years, Booker T, and he responded with his first world championship. As you may have heard, he racked up four more after that.
Next time injury or illness throws a monkey wrench in a big pay-per-view, just remember that its happened plenty of times before. And all you future bookers out there, remember: not everything that's unplanned is bad.
Nick Tylwalk has been a SLAM! Wrestling contributor since 1998, and his column, Walkin' That Aisle with Nick Tylwalk, will appear every Monday. Comments, compliments and complaints will be fielded at firstname.lastname@example.org.