Our latest Throwback Thursday video features Arn Anderson vs Tom Zenk for the TV title.
Looking back at 1990, as a diehard WCW fan, it was a real mixed bag when came to product quality. Many focus on the horrible “Black Scorpion” angle by booker Ole Anderson that started in the summer of 1990. It went from one of wrestling great mysteries of “Who is the Black Scorpion,” to “this is one of the worst booked storylines of all time.” It was an embarrassment to pro wrestling. I was a young kid at the time and my dad was laughing, seeing this giant sphere on the ramp way of the Starrcade 1990 PPV and revealing the “real” Black Scorpion. Within in seconds my dad says “That is Ric Flair, this is stupid.” I wanted to crawl into a hole.
The year 1990 did have some good-to-great wrestling, and a lot of things happened that would shape the way I booked in the future. No matter what anyone says, even in a predetermined sport like professional wrestling, wins and losses mean something; case-in-point, the booking of Tom “Z-Man” Zenk in the fall of 1990.
Zenk came to WCW in the fall of 1989 and after success on the undercard, they put him and Brian Pillman together as a babyface tag team. They had a fun feud with The Midnight Express over the WCW United States Tag Team Championship from February to May of 1990. After that, it seemed Zenk was the go-to upper mid-card babyface that monster heels would kill on their way up the pecking order, like when Big Van Vader made his debut at The Great American Bash in July and crushed Zenk or Stan Hansen steam rolling over him at the Clash Of Champion 12 in September of 1990.
Around late October, Tom Zenk started to get back on the winning side of the matches. He added a new finisher, the flying dropkick off the top rope. Week after week, he beat a jobber with that finisher. It was just that simple, and I was on board, following Zenk’s rise through the ranks. Funny how booking someone to win on a consistent basis can make you believe in them.
Tom Zenk beat Brian Lee at the Clash Of Champions 13 in November of 1990. That match has probably one of my favorite miscommunication botch spots of all time. Zenk and Lee gathered themselves and “Z-Man” won with his flying dropkick off the top rope. Zenk’s rise up the ranks hit a speed bump at Starrcade 1990. In a very solid opening contest, “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton pinned Zenk clean in the middle of the ring after he missed his flying dropkick.
Though the Arn Anderson vs Tom Zenk match for the TV Title aired on December 29th, the actual match took place on December 4th. When it was announced this match would be taking place, I felt a title change was coming. The beauty of Zenk losing to Eaton at Starrcade also put a bit of doubt in my mind. Arn Anderson had been World TV Champion since January 2nd when he defeated The Great Muta in another great match.
Arn Anderson vs Tom Zenk
NWA World Championship Wrestling
December 29, 1990
The match is as simple as the booking of Z-Man’s chase for the gold. Babyface shine, cut off and then great comeback by the babyface for the win. This aired after Starrcade 1990, so Anderson’s attention to detail was great as his left wrist was taped up, and his forehead all bandaged up from the Horsemen and Doom wars over the World Tag Team Titles. Arn Anderson “faked” a knee injury. Both Anderson and Zenk played this perfectly. Anderson was selling his knee injury so well, that those who weren’t smart would have bought it.
Zenk was frustrated and wanted to continue the match. The referee did a perfect job of checking on Anderson and backing Zenk off. Of course, it was all a trick and Anderson knocked Zenk to the floor. He rammed Zenk’s back into the steel barricade and the injured back became the focus of the heat. The crowd at Center Stage where they taped these shows, had previously watched Zenk amass a big winning streak and they were ready for him to pull off the biggest victory of his career.
Again, it’s the power of making wins and loses mean something. The crowd started off quiet, but when Zenk made that comeback, they were ready. You can credit the timing of both men listening to the crowd. Anderson jumps off the second rope to deliver a double axe handle, but Zenk punches him in the gut. Arn takes the perfect forward roll bump and Zenk goes to the top. The crowd at Center Stage were on their feet because they can feel victory is near. Zenk hits a perfect dropkick off the top; 1-2-3 and Zenk is the new World Television Champion
After Tom Zenk won his first singles title in WCW, and with Bobby Eaton defeating Zenk at Starrcade 90, Eaton was set up as the first challenger for the gold. That match took place at the Clash Of Champions 14 on January 30th, 1991.
In weird and confusing way of taped pro wrestling matches, the title change of Arn Anderson regaining the title took place on January 14th, 1991. The title change didn’t air until February 2nd on WCW World Wide. New booker Dusty Rhodes wanted to tell a new story as Bobby Eaton, the long time tag team wrestler, was going for his “first” singles gold. That story was also very good and Eaton defeated Anderson for the gold at SuperBrawl 1 on May 19th. Bobby Eaton’s reign as champion would be shorter than Zenk’s as he would drop the title two weeks later to “Stunning” Steve Austin.