10 Worst WCW ‘On A Pole’ Matches

Reach out and touch fail.

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It's a fitting metaphor for the dying days of WCW, the ubiquitous 'On A Pole' match, which creative head Vince Russo re-popularised in late 1999. Swerve! It was never popular.

Judge it against the competition, with which WCW was locked in a battle for supremacy and, eventually, survival. The WWF implemented Hell In A Cell as its trademark unique battleground; with the odd RAW exception, the steel structure throughout the Attitude Era was only lowered to settle the fiercest of rivalries, and on the most special of occasions. The match invariably delivered because it was bloody, epic and spectacularly brutal. The mere association of a wrestler with the stipulation raised their stock: only the biggest of stars entered the battleground.

In contrast, WCW's branded 'On A Pole' match, in which an object of some (typically baffling) description was erected above the apparatus, became a rite of passage en route to failure. The pole appeared on virtually a fortnightly basis at one point, contriving to normalise possibly the most mundane stipulation match imaginable. The Pole match was a ladder match sans the brutality, tension and high spots. It was a climbing contest, an elevator to nowhere.

The 'On A Pole' matches weren't just searingly idiotic, in and of themselves; Russo didn't know, nor care about, the rules...

10. Big Vito Vs Reno - Nitro (Sept 11, 2000)

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Object atop: a stickball bat.

Wrestling was always an inconvenience on Vince Russo's wrestling shows - something to get out of the way, ideally as quickly as possible, before the next swerve turn, beatdown or inane backstage segment.

This match was as typical as a Vince Russo creation gets. Fought between the manifestation of New York City at its most clichéd, Big Vito, and a hypersonic muscle-head in Reno, there was no feeling out process, stare-down, nor lock-up; Reno simply rushed the ring and unloaded rapid-fire right hands, as if stuck on fast-forward. The directive was plain to see: fight, don't wrestle as such (that's boring). The audience wasn't given time to respond to the moves because they did not matter. A microsecond after Vito nailed a fairly impressive top-rope elbow, Sean O'Haire distracted the referee. No time to soak up any cheers, no point in teasing any tension or drawing heat: there was a swerve turn to sprint towards.

The swerve soon followed; Vito's buddy Johnny The Bull turned on him after feigning to even the odds.

Then, the Natural Born Thrillers completed the beatdown.

And then, completing the unholy Russo trinity, the camera cut backstage for a segment in which Ernest Miller, Sting and Booker T conspired about something guaranteed to be retconned a month later.

The stipulation was superfluous, as it often was. This was a throwaway TV match fought between two guys who were barely over.

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Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champion Kenny Omega, present AEW World Champion MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!