In Gimmick Some Lovin', we take a look at one iteration of a gimmick match each week. Some are iconic for their success, others for the extent to which they flopped, and some just...happened.
We defined a "gimmick match" as, in any way, adding a rule/stipulation to or removing a rule from a match, changing the physical environment of a match, changing the conditions which define a "win", or in any way moving past the simple requirement of two men/women/teams whose contest must end via a single pinfall, submission, count out, or disqualification.
This week, in honour of the announced "Guitar on a Pole" Match between Elias and Jason Jordan on this Monday's RAW, and in honour of the fact that I've enjoyed both matches we've seen in this feature so far, it's time that we had a stinker. Today, we'll be looking at the Pole Match between Shane Douglas and Billy Kidman with a prescription prize at stake on the July 31, 2000, WCW Monday Nitro.
DISCLAIMER: Any and all puns in this article will be avoided at all costs, as the commentary in this match kills any ability to find humour in its existence.
Ask your doctor if this particular Pole is right for you
The origins of the match come from Billy Kidman's onscreen relationship with his future wife Torrie Wilson, who managed Kidman and his Filthy Animals stable, and subsequent heel turn with the New Blood. Wilson went on to turn heel on Kidman during his feud with Hulk Hogan.
Wilson then devoted her onscreen affections to "The Franchise" Shane Douglas, spurning Buff Bagwell in a move which probably made sense to both people who were avidly following World Championship Wrestling at the time. Following a bout in the United States Championship Tournament, Douglas and Kidman would start a program which included Kidman and Douglas each presenting intimate footage of themselves with Torrie Wilson.
Douglas's retaliatory tape detailing his romantic success with Wilson aired on WCW Thunder and saw the camera stay on long enough to reveal that Douglas
had a legitimate medical issue deserved to be mocked for being unable to perform. This being 2000, and just mentioning the name of a treatment for such an issue being enough for a punchline in many comedy circles. The July 31, 2000, installment of Nitro saw WCW Commissioner Ernest "The Cat" Miller order the company to affix a steel rod to the ring post from which they would hang the most cartoonish bottle of medication known to man (before Obamacare, this was how obtaining doctor-prescribed treatment worked).
Don't worry, Shane; it happens to lots of wrestlers
Whenever the name Vince Russo gets mentioned, two things always come to mind.
The first is his Attitude Era reputation for ensuring that every performer on the show had a storyline; if someone were employed by the company, he or she would always be involved in some type of program which would get some form of focus on weekly television, albeit very intermittently at times.
The other thing that comes to mind is poles from which Russo, throughout his tenure as the head writer in two different wrestling companies, would hang any number of objects — the retrieval of which would either result in victory for one competitor, a strategic advantage in the match, or, in one notorious instance, a grab bag of possibilities ranging from memorabilia to weapons to, yes, what was formerly the most prestigious championship in all of wrestling.
This Pole contest represents the worst intersection of these two aspects of Russo's writing. The fact that Russo is also famously less concerned with in-ring action than he is with writing shocking television is fully on display here, as a meeting between the first ECW Champion and a former WCW Cruiserweight and Tag Team Champion had the potential to let the match tell the story.
In 2000, of course, WCW was so far behind in the Monday Night Wars that the World Wrestling Federation assuredly considered them as much a threat as they do Impact Wrestling today.
Interestingly, what swung those cable battles in WCW's favor early on was their ability to deliver a fresh, varied, realistic, and creative in-ring product that clashed sharply with the WWF's stock of cartoon characters in broad and silly matches, but by 2000, the WWF was producing some of the best bell-to-bell action in its history while WCW had reduced itself to a cartoon (or, at least, a pale and tone-deaf imitation of cartoons like Family Guy which were gaining popularity then).
As Tony Schiavone explains while his broadcast colleagues make the worst attempts at puns known to mankind, "the first man to climb the pole and retrieve the bottle of pills will be able to use it on his opponent." In the immortal words of comedian Lewis Black, "Don't think too hard about that sentence or blood will shoot out your nose."
What in the name of everything good does it mean to "use" the bottle of pills on your opponent?!? Later commentary adds the fact that the bottle is apparently a glass bottle because those were definitely still in use by American pharmacists in the summer of 2000.
The bottle itself is the biggest indicator that nobody in Atlanta is taking this match seriously. WCW couldn't possibly make any less effort to make this bottle look even remotely legitimate (from the shape of the bottle to the label, to the fact that the candies inside don't even have the same shape as the tablets they allegedly were).
Every match has its virtues, its own unique strengths that no other match can offer. The greatest virtue this match holds is that it's short. Blessedly short. Mercifully short. The finish comes out of nowhere, and we are better for it because it puts this ill-conceived concept to rest.
Those "rules" Schiavone explained during the entrances? They were inconsistent at best, and nobody in the match (including the "default Create-A-Wrestler" referee and his quintessentially-2000 soul patch) seems to know how they actually affect the finish. At multiple points, the two men go for pinfall attempts oblivious to the prescription medication hanging above the ring, while the announcers spout an endless fountain of juvenile humour.
The only time the gimmick of the match even remotely comes into play is the finish; part of the joy of matches wherein an object (be it a briefcase, title belt, kendo stick, or Judy Bagwell) is suspended above the ring is the art of the climb. The battle for verticality, and the array of counters used to keep one's opponent from reaching the pinnacle of success makes or breaks a climbing-centric match.
This match has one climb for the pills. One. Billy Kidman hits his
Unprettier totally original finisher that he didn't steal from Christian, then goes straight up the turnbuckles in the corner where the bottle hangs, then retrieves it. The referee, however, is halfheartedly distracted by Torrie Wilson, so he doesn't see Kidman commit prescription drug fraud, and Douglas is able to grab the bottle and use it to assist his "Franchiser" finisher, smashing the "glass" bottle and sending SweeTarts medicine all over the ring (some of which, somehow, gets into Kidman's mouth).
Then the bell rings. Seriously. That's the finish. Just hitting Kidman with the bottle gives Shane Douglas the win. It's both satisfying (because it gets us out of this garbage contest) and frustrating (because, seriously, how does that make any sense?) at the same time.
If you have a particularly short commute on public transportation, or if you lost your fantasy football league and have to provide your own punishment, this entire match is available in the link above. All eight minutes feature some of the most halfhearted wrestling, sub-Tommy Wiseau acting, and juvenile commentary by paid broadcasters you'll find anywhere. It's dreadful.
The match itself wouldn't be awful on its own; it's a standard Russo match where the story is king, and all that matters is getting to the finisher and getting there fast. What sends this match on the fast-track to the garbage dump is the commentary.
Did you know that this match stipulation is unusual? And that the medication named in its title is prescribed for matters concerning very intimate difficulties? The commentators do, and it's all anyone not named Schiavone can talk about. The biting comments about the "prolific history" of this match stipulation might have garnered a chuckle at first, but by the sixth time a Hall of Famer is purported to have competed in such a contest it's the worst kind of ear poison.
What's worse is that the broadcast team can't decide if it's taking its own product seriously. The constant ham-fisted innuendo and snarky insults are almost daring the audience to find any enjoyment in this multimillion-dollar production.
Because of this commentary, I feel like any integer amount given to this match is too high, so thanks to the shortness of the match and abruptness of the finish bringing that commentary to its blessed end, I'll go 0.5/10.
I can't, for the life of me, find a Meltzer rating for this hot pile of awful. He's too important to have to watch this one more than once. Excuse me while I look in the mirror and weep.