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XWF In Your Face: The Lost Episodes Part 1

by Scrooge McSuck


With my recent deep-dives into 2002 WWE, I've looked to expand my viewing into some of the upstart promotions that grew from the ashes of World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, both closing their doors early in 2001. Most recently, we looked at World Wrestling All-Stars and their inaugural Pay-Per-View, The Inception. I wasn't impressed, with poor booking, lackluster production values, and a lack of star power to sell me on a $25 show (it's been 20+ years, but I'll assume 20-25 is the price range it fell in). Now we're looking at the XWF (what it stood for is a mystery (at times it wasn't abbreviated from anything, others it was the X Wrestling Federation, as well as the Xcitement Wrestling Federation).

Jimmy Hart, Brian Knobbs, and Greg Valentine appear to be the faces behind the product, funded by Kevin Harington. The group booked two days worth of taping at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL, filming 9 or 10 hour-long episodes worth of content to pitch to television executives. Unfortunately (maybe), wrestling wasn't the cool thing to have on your network at the time, unless you were willing to buy a terrible time slot on regional sports networks. It didn't help that the XWF had the same problem as the WWA: a lack of star power. Arguably the biggest get the group had going for them is having Hulk Hogan's name attached to the product. Over a year removed from his final appearance for WCW and looking at a possible return to the WWF, Hogan only appeared once for the taping audience, a dark match against Curt Hennig that some would argue was Hogan's way of showing Vince McMahon he still had something left in the tank. Sure enough, Hogan would sign with the WWF about a month later, leaving the XWF in production limbo.

If the XWF never made it to TV, then what are we looking at across three separate columns? Sometime in the Fall of 2005 (again, almost 20-years, I might be off a little bit), commercials started appearing, promoting a 3-disc DVD set of the XWF's "Lost Episodes." At the time, the home video market was showing a sign of oversaturation, with low-level production companies pushing out wrestling content, regardless of quality, including a DVD set dedicated to my favorite 90's failure, the American Wrestling Federation, the god awful budget titles "Grand Masters of Wrestling", and countless 60-minute releases repurposing footage from World Class, ICW and Memphis that were no one could stake a claim to true ownership (for a while, there was a weekly program on my local sports network that would air shows built around this content, and yes, I enjoyed it, even if it was all so random).

Jimmy Hart and Brian Knobbs are our hosts, filmed in front of a terrible green screen. Brian Knobbs briefly tells us the fate of pro wrestling in 2001, leaving the WWF as the only game in town (at least as far as nationally recognized US promotion, of course). The XWF was born, not to compete with the WWF, but to be an alternative for the fans. Wow, that might be the most honest thing a pro wrestler has ever said. Hart chimes in that their motto was "No More Primadonnas", just a bunch of people who loved RASSLIN. People laughed at them when telling them they were running a wrestling organization. Woah, another truth?! Knobbs runs down some names they got to come along for the ride, and it's a very 80's list of talent.

Our first bit of footage is a quick promo from Hulk Hogan, shilling the XWF and flexing while "American Made" blares in the background. The logo on the t-shirt he's wearing changed mid-video. I only noticed because the first had the generic XWF logo, and the other had this awful logo that looked like a face obscured by straps forming an X. We're 30-seconds into the lost content and we've got one production blunder. What happened, did the t-shirt tear not go well on the first attempt?

Taped on November 13th and 14th, 2001, from Universal Studios in Orlando, FL. "Mean" Gene Okerlund welcomes us to the XWF. We have another production cut, throwing it to Tony Schiavone, our lead announcer sitting at ringside. This is Schiavone's first appearance for any wrestling organization since the final Nitro. He introduces us to his partner, Jerry "The King" Lawler. He's escorted to ringside by a woman in a leopard print bodysuit. Lawler says her name is "Kitten", and calls her a gift for himself and Tony. Wow, awkward. Were they attempting to fool the audience into thinking that this woman was Stacy Carter, a.k.a. The Kat/Miss Kitty in the WWF?

Gene Okerlund is in the ring to introduce the Chief Executive Officer of the XWF... Rena, formerly known as Sable in the WWF. Outside of appearing in the crowd for an episode of Nitro, this is the first appearance of Rena Mero in a wrestling organization as a known performer, and is quite an impressive get all things considered (her fallout from the WWF and no doubt a hefty price tag unless she's doing this as a favor for someone). Rena says everyone is here to witness the birth of a dream. "For many years, the wrestling industry has been run by sleazy, low-down egomaniacs, and their policies dictated by has-beens and never-weres desperately trying to cling on past their best days." I don't have to write a joke, that quote is dunking on the company enough. "No more primadonnas and no more politics. Everyone has an opportunity to make it to the top." To keep order, they needed to enlist the services of someone to maintain the integrity of the company, introducing us to the XWF commissioner, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Piper says he's been to the mountaintop and seen promoters take the money while his friends give their lives in the ring. Success comes from talent, not living next door to the promoter. He's back in black and back here to put wrestling on track. I don't think naming Jimmy Snuka and Greg Valentine are the best names to mention in 2001 when hyping your roster. Piper takes a shot at Buff Bagwell without saying his name (mentioning someone's mom calling him out of work at the Federation). Piper tells Rena to deal with the money while he deals with the slime and declares today independence day for professional wrestling.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanely of Kiss fame are here to hype the XWF and the Demon.

Buff Bagwell vs. Big Vito:

Of course, the first star featured that we expect to see with a reasonable push is the guy the commissioner buried in the promo that opened the show. Big Vito had a decent run in the mid-card of latter days WCW, but I'll always remember him working in the WWF under the name Skull Von Krus as your typical enhancement talent. We cut to a pretape of the Nasty Boys, who say "They're back" and that's all. Vito opens the action, laying into Buff with right hands. Whip is reversed and Vito with a shoulder block. Bagwell catches Vito off the ropes with a hip toss and follows with a pair of clotheslines. Buff with a dropkick, knocking Vito into the corner. Whip across the ring, Vito brings up the elbow and levels Buff with the Mafia Kick. Whip and Vito with a side slam for a two-count. Whip and Bagwell surprises Vito with a sunset flip for two. Buff with the comeback, unloading with right hands. He takes Vito over with a back body-drop and comes off the ropes with a swinging neck breaker. The crowd doesn't seem to approve of Buff even though he's playing the babyface role. Buff is too slow climbing the ropes and gets straddled on the turnbuckle. Vito with a super-plex for a near-fall. Bagwell gets the boot up in the corner and hits the Block Buster for three at 4:12. Perfectly fine action. Bagwell was moving a little stiff, but he looked much worse on WWA: The Inception.

Roddy Piper is approached backstage by a group of wrestlers that includes a fresh-faced A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Juventud Guerrera, and Psicosis, among others. They want to see if he meant it about giving everyone an opportunity. Piper says he'll throw them all in a match to determine the Cruiserweight Champion. Pin-falls, submissions, and being thrown over the top rope will count towards eliminations.

We get an awkward clip showing that Carlos Colon was in attendance. I say awkward because it's a clip of him coming down the ramp for what looks like an interview with Gene Okerlund, but they cut away after approximately 2-seconds. IN YOUR FACE...and a lot of fire in that youngster. Sorry, I had to go back to that one. Best Gorilla Monsoon rib of all time.

Marty Jannetty vs. Hail (w/ Jimmy Hart):

Hail is our first of several "big bad heels" that I'm sure the XWF were grooming as foils for Hulk Hogan, assuming Hogan was on board with the company and they were able to secure a television deal. Hail was only a few years into his pro wrestling career, debuting with Music City Wrestling in 1998 and signing with WCW the following year, doing the occasional enhancement work early on and getting a few wins here and there on Saturday Night. Unfortunately, Hail (real name Emory Hale) passed away in 2006 at the age of 36 due to kidney failure brought on by pneumonia. Jannety's last significant wrestling appearance was opening the show at the infamous "Heroes of Wrestling". Lockup and Hail shoves Jannetty into the corner. Hail no-sells a top wrist-lock and plays to the crowd. Boot to the midsection and Hail with a back breaker and shoulder breaker combo. Hail comes off the ropes with a leg drop and we're done at 1:27. That was quick and unimpressive. Jannetty can offer much more than being Barry Horowitz.

Maximum Force (Simon Diamond and Johnny Swinger) and Dawn Marie are going to be IN YOUR FACE.

"British Storm" Ian Harrison vs. Horace Hogan:

You know The Hulkster is attached to a project when Horace is getting work. Harrison is a former bodybuilder from Leeds, England. Not much to say about his wrestling credentials, but he did work briefly in Memphis in a tag team where he was humorously known as "Awe", teaming with "Shock" (Harry Del Rios, better known for his one-and-done in the WWF as Phantasio). Horace jumps Harrison from behind for the early advantage. Harrison reverses a whip to the corner and takes Hogan over with a powerslam. Horace gets dumped over the top rope, and thankfully this company doesn't call DQ's for over the top rope throws. Harrison flexes and makes scary faces. He brings Horace in from the apron with a snap suplex. Horace fights back briefly but is thrown with an overhead slam. Harrison with a Michinoku Driver of all things and finishes with a head-scissors at 1:44. All match long, Lawler crapped on Harrison for being ugly, and the crowd boos the result. So… is he a babyface or a heel? Short and Harrison didn't do anything too poorly.

Johnny B. Badd is in the XWF and going to be IN YOUR FACE. Ditto Norman Smiley. I get trying to showcase all the talent you have for potential buyers, but I don't think the world cared if Norman Smiley was getting his 15-seconds to say he's going to be anywhere near someone's face.

Cruiserweight Championship Battle Royal:

All participants are already in the ring, so we've got some research to do. We've got Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki (Called Quick Kick), Kid Kash, Prince Iaukea (called the Tongan Prince), and Billy Fives vying for the Championship. It's bedlam from the bell. Psicosis and Quick Kick have a brief sequence of counters until Juventud interrupts. Daniels wanders in and gets hit with a spinning heel kick from the Juice. Kid Kash with a fisherman stunner on Quick Kick. Styles and Fives trade chops until Styles dumps Fives at 1:35. Meanwhile, Josh Mathews, "the runner up from MTV's Tough Enough", is in the crowd. Psicosis and Juventud take each other out at 2:07. Styles is launched at 2:16. Quick Kick lays into Kid Kash with his signature strikes. Quick Kick survives an elimination attempt from Iaukea. Kash and Kick nail each other in mid-air from opposite corners and the crowd pops. Daniels and Iaukea with a clothesline double-down to nearly zero reaction. Kash tosses Quick Kick at 4:21. Tongan Prince out at 4:40. Daniels hits Kash with a dropkick and plants him with a slam. Kash avoids the double-jump moonsault and comes off the ropes with a tornado DDT. Daniels with another questionable trip to the top and Kash sends him to the floor with a heel kick at 5:21 to become the 1st Champion crowned in the XWF. Some decent action, but it was a rush-job Battle Royal. After the match, Kash has words for Mr. Mathews.

Alice Cooper is another celebrity endorsement for the XWF.

The X-Girls Inc. are also here and In Your Face. I think one is Leia Meow, a.k.a. Kimona Wanalaya (and no, that isn't a Russo joke, it's an ECW joke). I'm guessing the others are left-overs from the Nitro Girls? I don't know, but I'm tired of all these promotions trying to keep the dance troupe gimmick in existence. (Update: The blonde is Gorgeous George, the ex-girlfriend of Randy Savage that worked as one of his valets during his final run in WCW. Chiquita Anderson is the third woman and is the only one of the three with a Nitro Girls connection).

The Nasty Boys vs. The Shane Twins:

Interesting to see Knobbs and Sags together again. Sags hasn't wrestled in over four years, suffering from injuries that were (allegedly) aggravated by a Scott Hall chairshot. Knobbs remained in WCW working mostly as a singles wrestler and would see a revived push in 1999 when the company introduced a Hardcore Championship. The Shane Twins haven't done much of note at this point, but would go on to infamy as the flesh-colored spandex wearing "Johnsons" in NWA-TNA, and later as The Gymini in WWE. Sags starts with Shane #1. It could be Mike or Todd, you make the call. Lockup and Sags with a knee to the midsection, followed by a series of awful elbow strikes. They bust out a Pit Stop for old time's sake. Whip is reversed and Shane Uno with a shoulder block, followed by an overhead takedown. Tony is identifying him as Todd. OK. Mike Shane in, planting Sags with a slam. Knobbs rushes in and is thrown to the canvas. Todd tags back in for a double-team flapjack but Sags saves. Sags and Todd brawl at ringside, using the steps to their advantage. Meanwhile, Mike surprises Knobbs with a clothesline and scores the upset at 2:16. Knobbs immediately attacks both of the Shane's after the bell, but here's THE ROAD WARRIORS to chase them out of the ring and announce their presence.

"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan is hanging out with Willie Nelson, the man best known for performing America the Beautiful at WrestleMania VII while wearing as much WWF merchandise as humanly possible. Oh, and I think he did some singing in his spare time.

Vampiro vs. Curt Hennig (w/ Bobby Heenan):

Nice to see Heenan getting involved, working as Hennig's "Agent." Vampiro received a decent push in 2000 WCW, but the company was in a freefall and he probably fell under the radar of a lot of fans. Hennig isn't what he used to be, spending 3-years in WCW and rarely showing flashes of how great he was in the ring, though he did get himself over one last time with "Rap is Crap." Hennig catches the boot but Vampiro surprises him with a spinning back kick. Whip across the ring and Vampiro charges in with a clothesline. He repeats the process and Hennig takes a big bump over the top rope, looking to Heenan for a powder. Vampiro tries pulling Hennig to the apron and gets hung up on the top rope. Back inside, Hennig with a blow to the body, followed by a running knee lift. Snap mare out of the corner and Hennig with the rolling snap mare. Vampiro counters a side headlock with a back suplex for two. Flying heel kick connects for another two-count. Heenan loads up a gimmick, but Roddy Piper runs to ringside to snatch it from him. Piper blasts Hennig with the gimmick instead, and Vampiro finishes with a Michinoku Driver at 2:23. Rena and Piper both enter the ring and raise the arm of Vampiro to close out the show. Solid action, though incredibly rushed. I can't say I'm a fan of doing gaga for your first featured match, but at least it didn't end in a DQ.

Final Thoughts: I don't know if I've softened in my advancing years, but maybe I was too harsh on the XWF when I first started covering this DVD set. The wrestling is still mostly forgettable, but nothing is "oh my God" awful. Guys who you expected to be terrible were kept in short matches and weren't pushed to do more than a handful of spots. There's too much effort in identifying as much talent as possible, but I understand the decision in trying to sell everything you've got for investors.

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