The Lo-Down is a continuing series from Fill The Steins in which we explore the WWF/E career of the University of Maine’s greatest professional wrestler, D’Lo Brown. Thanks to the awesome new WWE Network, we’re reliving D’Lo’s biggest and best matches, most of which coincided with the height of pro wrestling’s last great boom period. To catch up on what you’ve missed so far, just type “D’Lo Brown” in the search box located in the far right column of the page. Now, it’s match time!
When we last left our hero, UMaine alum and then-WWF European Champion D’Lo Brown was coming off a victory (albeit non-title) over X-Pac in his first ever singles pay-per-view match-up at July 1998’s Fully Loaded. As D’Lo’s singles career moved forward and his mid-summer push continued, the next logical progression was for him to finally have his first title defense on PPV.
As luck and timing would have it, D’Lo would get that opportunity at one of the WWF/E’s “Big Three” PPV events, SummerSlam. To heighten the importance of and focus on D’Lo’s match, SummerSlam ’98 originated from Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan, arguably the world’s most famous arena and unquestionably the showplace of pro wrestling dating back to the days of Bruno Sammartino and beyond.
D’Lo’s opponent for SummerSlam was none other than Val Venis, whose gimmick was that of a wrestling porn star and who was considered to be a real up-and-comer (sorry…there’ll be more) in the WWF. Unlike D’Lo’s previous encounters, this match would truly be a singles affair. Whereas X-Pac had a beef with the Nation of Domination (of which D’Lo remained a part) through his own association with Degeneration X, Venis was a true singles wrestler, with no stable or faction to back him up. This match would simply be one-on-one for D’Lo’s European Championship. Let’s get to the ring!
The Match: D’Lo Brown (champion) vs. Val Venis for the WWF European Championship
The Event: WWF Summerslam 1998: Highway to Hell
The Place: Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
The Date: August 30, 1998
As the challenger traditionally does, Val Venis entered first, and immediately grabbed the house mic from the ring announcer. What did the “wrestling porn star” have to say about his “first” trip to NYC? To quote: “I came, I saw…and I came again.” The “Attitude Era” in full effect, ladies and gentlemen.
In another nice, if more subtle touch, D’Lo, as the European Champion, was introduced as residing in Helsinki, Finland. This was after the prior Monday’s edition of RAW, at which he was announced as being from Lisbon, Portugal. Good, clever stuff to help put a little extra heel heat on D’Lo.
It should be noted in this match that D’Lo was continuing his gimmick of wearing a chest protector for his allegedly injured pectoral muscles. The idea here was, of course, that D’Lo wasn’t really hurt and he’d use the chest protector as a weapon on moves like his Lo-Down frogsplash to further injure his opponents.
As for the match itself, after an extended period (probably too long, in fairness) of back-and-forth advantages, D’Lo, as the heel normally does, gained control, executed a lot of his offense, and got several two-counts on pinfall attempts. During his heel heat segment, though, D’Lo blew a spot where he had Venis in a Texas Cloverleaf submission leg lock. Ideally, D’Lo would hold on to the move until Venis could drag himself to the ropes to break the hold, thereby earning the sympathy and support of the fans. However, D’Lo appeared to legitimately lose his grip on Venis’s legs and had to break the hold mid-ring. This didn’t seem to be in the plan, as evidenced by D’Lo apparently very-real frustration after losing his grip on the hold.
D’Lo regained his composure and got back on track just in time for Venis to make his comeback after a missed splash off the top rope by D’Lo. Venis’s comeback spot definitely re-engaged the crowd, highlighted by a two-and-seven-eighths count off a powerslam of D’Lo. Venis followed up by going for his patented finishing move, a top rope splash known as, what else, the Money Shot. D’Lo got his knees up to block the move, which led to a mild, yet audible, “D’Lo! D’Lo!” chant from the MSG faithful. This was quickly drowned out, however, by a LOUD “D’Lo sucks! D’Lo sucks!” chant.
Just as D’Lo appeared to have the crowd in the palm of his hands, he blew his second spot of the match. This time, he dropped Venis on the back of his neck while attempting a running powerbomb. This looked sloppy and could have been very dangerous. Fortunately for everyone, Venis appeared to be no worse for the wear and was able to continue.
The finish came, somewhat oddly, when Venis stripped D’Lo of the aforementioned chest protector and put it on himself. This led to Venis getting into an argument with the referee. Venis, frustrated, shoved the ref down, who then called for the rather lame disqualification at 15:23.
The Result: D’Lo Brown d. Val Venis (DQ, Venis shoved ref); D’Lo retains the title
Match Rating: **1/2 (out of *****)
D’Lo Brown Rating: *1/2 (out of *****)
The Lo-Down: For the first time in our Lo-Down series, our beloved Black Bear earned a lower rating than the overall rating of the match. This is due primarily to his two blown spots and, also, due to his inability to fully engage the crowd during his heat segment. The former is understandable…nerves and a new opponent with whom he’d never really worked before are both reasons why wrestlers blow spots. The latter, however, is much more surprising. One of D’Lo’s great strengths in the build-up to and throughout his singles push was his ability to effectively interact with the crowd in a way to get them to hate him. Yes, the MSG audience ultimately found a “D’Lo sucks!” chant, but that only seemed to come as a response to the earlier, more favorable chants from a smaller segment of the crowd. The match itself is also hurt by the poor booking and lame DQ finish. This isn’t so much D’Lo’s or Venis’s fault…it’s just surprising the WWF would end a show-opening title match in a way that doesn’t give the crowd any sort of resolution. Overall, chalk this one up as a mild disappointment.
How would D’Lo’s blown spots impact his push as the WWF continued to steamroll through 1998? Come back next time to find out! In the meantime, share your memories of D’Lo Brown’s WWF/E career in the comments section below or on Twitter using #FillTheSteins!
Photo Courtesy: Online World of Wrestling