Chris Jericho vs Nick Patrick – WCW World War 3 1996

Chris Jericho vs Nick Patrick

Jericho has one arm tied behind his back

11/24/1996

Nortfolk Scope, Norfolk, Virginia, United States

(reviewed 05/26/2019) This came to my attention with Eric Ritz’s glowing review over at Segunda Caida and even if I’m not quite so over the moon about it I agree that this match is a delight. Moreover I think it’s a great example of the place spectacle has in our understanding of pro wrestling.

To put it simply, everything about this match is extra. It takes place on a show named after an apocalyptic inevitability, featuring a match contested between sixty men across three rings.

It comes to us from the largest monolithic concrete dome in the world, a structure of such kaleidoscopic beauty that it draws the eye toward heaven.

It is a battle between a non-wrestler affiliated with a group named after the Illuminati and a loudmouth Canadian with one arm tied behind his back.

From 40 minute marathons of athletic superiority in Tokyo’s most famous arenas to grimy deathmatches on the streets of Juarez to intimate student shows in Pennsylvania rec centers, wrestling encompasses a vast multitude of tones and techniques, all of it united by an appeal to spectacle. Fundamentally wrestling bases itself around the exceptional and the larger-than-life. Even the most normal-looking individuals are portrayed as if these have some inhuman toughness or stunning intellect, some quality that the average viewer does not and probably cannot have. Wrestling is all about grounding the unbelievable in the tangible and this match understands that better than most.

Nick Patrick has, to my surprise, actual wrestling experience. Being the son of Jody Hamilton (did you know that, I sure didn’t), he grew up in the business and worked for a few years in the mid 80s all across the south before an injury ended his wrestling career. He continued on as a referee after that, obviously, but that experience brings an interesting wrinkle to this match. Patrick, whether he meant to or not, brings a great deal of nuance to this stooging coward character. He’s not meant to be some capable former wrestler so he’s anything but that, a guy lacking in the grace and power with which most wrestlers move around the ring. He’s bumping around well enough that he doesn’t get hurt (or hurt Jericho) but not so well that the illusion of his ineptitude is shattered. His offense reflects this too, as aside from a Mr. Perfect neck snap he’s really only doing the most rudimentary of kicks and punches.

Jericho’s likewise great in how he approaches this thing. You’d be shocked how hard it is for an inexperienced person to move around the ring and shocked further at how much the simple arrangement of one’s limbs can throw off even the most seasoned grappler. Everything he does here shows that he’s keeping that in mind, between his shockingly good kick combos to the way he avoids bumping on his back and dislocating his shoulder. What’s more he’s doing a good job of remaining an effective babyface in spite of this physical limitation. He makes sure to play to the crowd, leaning on his popularity and Patrick’s widespread derision to give what at first glance looks like an embarrassing time-filler some real emotional investment, at least for these people in attendance.

That’s what’s really impressive about this match, I think. Jericho’s poise and Patrick’s silliness are great, sure, but I appreciate the way this ludicrousness grounds itself in a real feeling somewhere. This show takes place a few months after the formation of the nWo, a group that has run roughshod over WCW and everything it stands for. Folks are rightly pissed at them and at the guys like Nick Patrick who help facilitate their lawlessness. In supplying something as outlandish and goofy as a match where one man has his arm tied behind his back and the other’s not even really a wrestler, these guys hit on the spectacle that brings people to wrestling. But it’s only in one of those men being Nick Patrick that the match is given any life, any verve, any meaning beyond a series of pretty flashing lights. The situation itself is spectacular but the figures within it are very, very down to earth, or at least their relationship with the audience is.

This is what I disliked about the somewhat similar Darby Allin/Ethan Page match from a while back, a match that focuses so heavily on wild spectacle that it forgets to supply anything along the lines of stakes or context. Its characters are so unbelievable, so detached from reality in their attitudes and actions that the mindblowing sight of watching a man hit a hurricanrana while in a pair of handcuffs fails to land with any real weight. It’s not a story the viewer can be invested in but rather a series of Vines you flip through while waiting for a coffee. In a decade or two no one’s going to remember that match fondly for how it made them feel. They’re just gonna go “shit, yeah, that was cool” because yes, it was cool, but that’s all it was. Even a sentiment as simple as “ugh, this guy’s a real shithead and thinks he can stand up to a professional fighter, I want to see him get his ass kicked” can forge a lasting connection to a match.

HOW DOES THIS MATCH COMPARE TO SHAWN VS TAKER FROM WM25: You’ll be shocked to learn that I think Shawn/Taker fails to forge a lasting connection.

VERDICT: Slightly better than Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 25

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