Back in the early 90’s, WCW was gaining steam nationally – but still maintained some of its regional roots. In an effort to ensure fresh faces coming in and out of the company, they formed a partnership with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. This partnership would see the exchange of talents; most notably regular North American circuit tours for Jushin Liger, but it was also a fertile breeding ground for some of the North American guys to grow and come back as more complete athletes. Of course, being WCW, all that did was earn them a ton of TV time with absolutely no marketable push, but at least they killed time until Hulk Hogan was ready to reap the ratings glory in the main event slot.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because this is still 1993, and Hulk Hogan is thankfully elsewhere. Every year, WCW would travel to Japan to put on a supercard with New Japan’s elite, which would air on pay-per-view. This is the third and final installment of the Supershow series, and I’m working off the Turner release. I’d love to see the complete show – but the WWE Network lies when it says it has every pay-per-view of all time, cuz this ain’t there. Of course, there are bigger fish to fry – like the complete library of WCW Prime, so I’ll pick my battles wisely.
ERIC BISCHOFF welcomes us to the gigantic Tokyo Dome, with over 63000 people in attendance. He hands things over to the dream team of TONY SCHIAVONE and JIM ROSS. JR in the role of Tony’s lapdog has me downright giddy; and it’s incredible the mean-spirited Vince McMahon never thought to bring this concept back at some point in the last 15 years.
JUSHIN LIGER vs. ULTIMO DRAGON (for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title)
Dragon has stolen Ricky Steamboat’s neglected WWF head-dress, and parades around like a jackass to … well, the Japanese don’t really boo, so much as cheer with less enthusiasm. Liger, on the other hand, is somehow channelling the future by slapping WCW’s late 90’s logo on his chest.
Or possibly Japanese Batman
Both guys trade throws and dropkicks before stopping mid strike like a Zack Morris time-out to soak in the adulation of the appreciative crowd. Dragon tries to take out Liger’s leg with a grapevine, so Liger uses his free leg to start kicking Dragon in the face. Liger’s able to reverse into a deathlock, and he applies a front facelock to really add to the pull. I’d be tapping harder than a male pornstar, but Dragon’s not human, getting out of that somehow. Liger tries the Lasso from El Paso, but Dragon sweeps out the legs and snaps some hard spinning toe holds that make Terry Funk look like Annie Funk. A drop toe hold sees Dragon hold the base, and he works a reverse grapevine chinlock before rolling through with a bow and arrow. Liger won’t uncle, and he takes advantage of a Dragon letting up for just a second, applying the Gory Guerrero special in the centre of the ring. It’s enough to wear him down a little, and Liger releases, hitting a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for 2. Dragon gets whipped into the corner, and takes a spinning heel kick to the side of the head. They criss-cross, and Liger dodges a rana, but he takes the edge of Dragon’s boot on his way down, knocking him a bit silly. Dragon kicks the shit out of him while he’s down, and hits a front suplex to really scramble his circuits. And, as a reminder that anything you can do, Dragon can do better, he alters the Gory special to include a Dragon sleeper. Liger’s about to tap, but Dragon senses they’re too close to the ropes, so he drags Liger to the middle of the ring and locks on the camel clutch. Liger still won’t tap, so Dragon heads up, but he slips and is only able to hit a boot to the side of the head instead of the full impact dropkick he was planning. Liger’s slow to his feet, and he has no chance to defend himself from a handspring back elbow. Liger hits the floor – and Dragon’s not gonna let him get a second of rest, flying with a super plancha that drives them over the guardrail and into the front row!! Dragon gets back in and waits for the count, but Liger makes it back to the apron. No worries, because Dragon brings him back to action with a brainbuster, and goes to finish with a tombstone. Liger reverses, but Dragon’s able to release that, and plants him with the move! Dragon goes up instead of going for the pin, but he slips a second time, changing on his way down with a sad looking headbutt, and he only gets 2. Liger’s able to shake it off, and he runs into Dragon … who’s waiting for him with the Capture Suplex, for a super close pinfall. Dragon rushes the corner, but Liger’s hot on his heels with a monkey flip into a pinfall for 2. Dragon uses the elementary but effective package to get 2, and more importantly, re-assert his control. And, he follows with the rarely seen Straight Jacket Suplex, but Liger’s able to make the ropes and Dragon looks like a man who has no idea what to do anymore. Giving Liger even a second is never wise, and the hesitation lets Liger hit a spinning heel kick that sends Dragon to the floor. Before he even knows what happened, Liger’s picked up him, and powerbombs him on the outside!!! Dragon’s dead, and he just lies there as Liger hits a super senton to the floor. Liger stands mid-ring, waiting for the count, but Dragon scrapes himself off the concrete and heads back in. A vicious Liger immediately suplexes him, and arrogantly covers with one hand for 2. Dragon’s pulled to his feet, simply to eat a palm thrust to the jaw that you can hear all the way in the cheap seats. A half crab is applied in the middle, but Dragon claws to the ropes, still seemingly completely out of it from that nasty powerbomb. Liger realizes this, and powerbombs the man again. While Dragon tries to get to his feet, Liger perches himself waiting to strike … but it’s a ploy, and as Liger comes off the top, Dragon blasts him with a clothesline just as Liger’s trying the same. Liger rolls to the safety of the floor, but Dragon’s still got life, hitting a springboard senton splash that drives them both into the guardrail. Both guys slowly roll their way back into before the count, and it’s Dragon who leaps to attempt a victory roll. Liger ain’t having that, and just faceplants the bugger as hard as he can. Liger goes for a third powerbomb now, because he’s had enough of this, but Dragon rolls through the move (nearly breaking his neck in the process), and he hooks the legs for 2. A lionsault sets up a powerbomb from Dragon, but Liger kicks out to the shock of Dragon. La Majistral gets 2, and the fans are absolutely electric watching this display. Dragon goes up, but Liger cuts him off, and hits a DDT off the top rope!!! The referee takes forever to make the count, and Dragon kicks out at 2. Back to the powerbomb, and it connects for a third time today. Liger puts Dragon’s corpse on the top rope, hits a super Frankensteiner, and that’s enough for the pin and the title at 20:10! Through the masks, you could feel the intensity and absolute necessity to win here. Great storytelling from both, and it never felt like it was a bunch of moves slapped together for the hell of it. The modern flyers should take note of what made this work; with each move setting up the next, and the guys changing the pace based on the mistakes of the other guy, giving them each ample time to work their spots. ****
RON SIMMONS vs. TONY HALME
This is Simmons’ first match after losing the strap to Vader last week, and the future Ludwig Borga is an excellent place to start the climb back up. Apparently this was initially scheduled to be a match for the belt, so Halme might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder just missing out on his big shot. Simmons tries shoulderblocks, but Halme doesn’t even budge. He’s not so tough he can avoid a drop toe hold though, and Simmons follows with a clothesline. A faceplant sets up a spike piledriver, and Simmons gets 2. Simmons tries a hiptoss, but Halme won’t move, and now angry Tony starts with his kidney punches. Simmons is reeling as Halme hits a jumping elbow, but he kicks out at 2. A hard sidewalk slam gets 2. Halme steals the spinebuster from Simmons, but can’t score the pin. Simmons staggers to his feet, and one punch from Halme sends big Ron to the floor. Halme brings Simmons back in with a suplex, and he starts beating on the kidneys again. Simmons manages a desperation powerslam, which Tony notes was the move that won him the world title last year, but Halme doesn’t fall as hard as Vader, and kicks out. Simmons hits a pretty bad spinebuster, and it’s enough to pick up the win at 6:02. Simmons looked awful here, sloppy and just off his game. *
DUSTIN RHODES and SCOTT NORTON vs. MASA SAITO and SHINYA HASHIMOTO
Norton’s a New Japan mainstay; and even after he’d sign with WCW years later, he’d keep travelling Japan as a bonefide draw – a deal he likely worked out to supplement his income. In fact, he’d win the IWGP heavyweight belt a couple of times years later, making you wonder just what the hell goes on overseas where Scott Norton and Albert are a big deal. Saito’s roughly 185 years old here, so I’m actually a little surprised he wasn’t picked up by the WWF in early 1997 to give them some Japanese credibility. Norton pounds his chest and grunts like a gorilla, so Hashimoto kicks him in the throat. Norton laughs at him and hits a clothesline. Norton starts using the vaunted move, Run Hard Into Your Opponent, and Hashimoto bounces around like the world’s fattest pinball. Norton covers with one hand, and when that doesn’t work, he looks to Rhodes. Hashimoto thrusts Dustin in the throat, and turns things over to Saito, who takes 8 minutes to get off his walker and drag his IV into the ring. Rhodes suplexes Saito, but he manages to miss a charge when Saito simply never stands up because he’s calling for the sweet taste of death to take him now. Rhodes charges back in and chops Saito, who immediately dissipates into a pile of dust. Norton takes over against the ghost of Saito, clotheslining the corpse and chopping away at whatever the hell is left. Norton trips over the dead body which Ross calls the “Saito Suplex!”, and then Dustin stumbles into the same thing. Hashimoto tags himself back in, bringing a little excitement back, since both wrestlers are now protein based lifeforms. Norton comes in and superplexes Hashimoto somehow, before deciding to stand on Shinya’s throat. A Rude Awakening sees Hashimoto fall backwards and show off his gaping plumber’s ass. Dude, no, lift them pants. Rhodes tags in and hits a big boot for 2. Hashimoto is tossed to the floor, where both Americans work him over, while Saito rocks back and forth like a later-in-life Freddie Blassie. Back in, a powerslam from Norton gets 2. A powerbomb looks to finish, but Saito spiritually runs in to make the save. Hashimoto hits a desperation DDT and makes the hot tag. Norton walks into the light, and is immediately greeted with the Saito Suplex. Norton calls for the Grim Reaper to end this charade, while Dustin eats a Saito Suplex. He’s like that guy online who keeps using the same move against new players who have no idea how to defend it, and honestly, I’m surprised I’m not seeing all kinds of slurs being printed on the screen every time Saito hits that thing. Hashimoto hits a spinning heel kick on Rhodes. A DDT looks to finish, but Norton makes the desperation save. He takes his eyes off the ball on his way back out, missing that Dustin’s taken an enzuigiri and Team Divine Intervention win this round at 13:57. This had no business being anywhere near this long. 1/2*
Ric Flair was stripped of the NWA strap when he bolted to the WWF in the spring of 1991, and Chono won the subsequent tournament to crown a new champion, defeating Rick Rude in the finals of the G1-Climax (which sounds less like a tournament, and more like a high powered vibrator). Muta had actually wrestled in that same tournament, losing a semi-finals match to Chono by submission. Chono’s got a fantastic Evil Sensei mustache on the go here. The collective gasp from the audience when Muta sprays the green mist during the intros really adds a big match feel here. The guys go through a feeling out process, before Muta hits the outside and openly grabs a hammer from underneath the ring. The referee is fairly appalled at his brazen attitude, and takes it away immediately – though that was seemingly Muta’s plan. Back in, Muta works an armbar, but Chono methodically works his way loose and pulls at Muta’s knee joint. Muta gets loose, but Chono takes him back down and works a seated Sharpshooter. Muta gets to the ropes before it’s converted into an STF. Chono keeps on him, but Muta dumps his opponent on the floor, sending him into the guardrail. The referee gives Muta a stern warning, but Muta isn’t even listening, as he slams Chono back into the ring and delivers a karate chop off the top rope. Muta tosses Chono again, this time on to the staging area, where he is right behind with a running bulldog face first on the ramp! Chono heads up the ramp about a half football field, before spinning and hitting a sprinting clothesline on the champ! The fans groan in agony as Chono sells. Back in, Muta takes Chono to the top rope and connects with a superplex. A hard side suplex gets 2, but Muta expected that, immediately hitting a German suplex for 2. A handspring back elbow connects square in the face, but the moonsault misses and Chono’s ALL over him with the STF, dead centre! Muta somehow crawls to the safety of the ropes, but he lets out a primal scream to let us know his knee was shredded there. Or – so he’d have us believe, because as Chono stalks his prey, he’s greeted with a dropkick to the chops. Atta boy Muta! Chono angrily applies a crucifix for 2, and heads up. A top rope shoulderblock connects, but Muta kicks out. A powerbomb folds the challenger in half, but Muta kicks out at 2. Chono holds his head, frustrated, and he misses Muta coming at him with a kick to the face, but the rapid moonsault misses a second time – and this time it’s costly, with Muta taking a knee to the face. Chono comes off the top … but Muta was waiting for it, dodging the shoulderblock with a faceplant on the way by, and Chono’s hurt. A backbreaker gives Muta time to hit the moonsault on his third try, but Chono somehow kicks out. Muta’s livid, since NOBODY kicks out of his moonsault, and he scampers up to the top to hit a second one for the pin and the NWA title at 13:12! This was great – both guys fought a hard, smart match, and Muta simply wanted it more tonight. ****
TAKAYUKI IIZUKA, AKIRA NOGAMI, and EL SAMURAI vs. NOBUKAZU HIRAI, MASO ORIHARA, and KOKI KITAHARA
Ross and Schiavone abort mission at this point, leaving their post to go to a sushi bar together. And no, I’m not kidding, that’s the story they’re running with. Given that the 6-men here aren’t given name graphics, and everyone enters to the instrumental version of “A Man Called Sting”, I’m left asking that if nobody in production gives a crap about this match, why can’t I just watch Tony and Jim having dinner? This is potentially untapped five star entertainment. I like to think that Tony misidentifies everything on the menu while calling it the greatest sushi in the history of this great country, while Ross tries to explain to the waiter what a Route 44 diet peach tea is – pointing to his miniature cup of steeped green tea and giving an exasperated “this ain’t it!” The referee pats down the competitors, looking for, to quote Eric Bischoff, “foreign objects, either in the tights or in the boots, no Vaseline or other chemicals.” Other chemicals? What the hell does he think these guys are packing? Mustard gas? Sarin? Any number of nerve agents? To be fair – one of the guys is wearing a hood, I guess it’s plausible he’s managed to MacGyver a gas mask under there. I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about New Japan harbouring terrorists, and I hope the Pentagon had this pay-per-view tapped for reasons of intelligence. And yes, I’m totally stalling because I have absolutely no idea who the hell is who – and Bischoff does a piss poor job of segregating them; likely because he’s as aware as I am. He does not, however, miss a single Back Leg Round Kick. As fate would have it, that in the grand tradition of many pro wrestling matches that came before it, one guy pinned another at 15:12. This is probably a completely unfair review to all 6 guys, who put forth an effort, but you can put that squarely on the head of Bischoff. **1/2
STING vs. HIROSHI HASE
Ross and Schiavone have already been kicked out of the sushi bar, because they’re back and calling this one. Ross calls Hase his favorite athlete in Japan, and while he lists the various reasons, let’s face it, it’s because he’s wearing a varsity jacket. Ross grumbles about sushi, while Sting benches Hase over his head repeatedly to a crowd of “ooooooh”s. A dropkick sends Hase to the floor, and Sting screams to the heavens. Hase re-enters with some chops, and a headlock takes Sting to his knees. Hase releases, and they collide mid-ring like bulls, with neither guy moving an inch. Hase hits a waistlock takedown, and applies a half crab with his knee on the back of Sting’s neck. Hase stands with Sting’s legs tied up, and starts swivelling his hips ala Rick Rude with Sting in the hold. A reverse STF is applied, but Sting won’t tap. So, Hase tries to embarrass Sting with his own hold, going for the Deathlock, but Sting chops Hase in the face until he releases. Hase, pissed off, kicks Sting in the hamstring repeatedly, with loud blows that echo throughout the arena. Back to a half crab, Hase sits down on Sting’s back this time while he tears at the joint, but Sting’s a giant pain who won’t give up. Hase releases and decides to attack toe to toe, which is a mistake because of the size difference, and Sting delivers a quick suplex for 2. Hase comes back with a Russian legsweep, and Sting clutches his leg. Hase takes Sting up in a fireman’s suplex, and he turns it into a Stun Gun. Sting clutches his throat, so Hase, not missing a beat, punches Sting in the throat. Sting ducks to hold his throat, giving Hase a chance to pick him up, holding him upside down for an extended period before hitting a spike piledriver! A knee to the throat off the top gets 2, but Hase doesn’t even seem phased. Hase goes right into a sleeper, and as Sting gets woozy, Hase drops back in a rear naked choke. The referee asks for a break, presumably because he’s working a choke now, and Hase releases at 4 and a half. He drags Sting to the outside, and drops Sting’s neck across the safety rail. Back in, Hase nails a pair of Rock Bottoms, but Sting kicks out at 2. Hase gives a sly smile, and goes straight to a German suplex with a bridge, getting 2. Next up, Hase works a full nelson, and appears to be going for the Dragon suplex, but Sting reaches forward and drags them both to the floor. Sting slams Hase on the concrete, and elbows his opponent’s face directly into the guardrail. Back in, Sting goes for a top rope clothesline, but Hase kicks him in the stomach and he folds like a house of cards. Hase chops at Sting in the corner, but Sting refuses to sell anymore, screaming in Hase’s face, and the hulking up routine is on. Stinger splash sets up a pair of faceplants, and Sting gets 2. Sting uses a modified backbreaker submission, but Hase rolls off the back and bridges back. Sting bridges forward at 2, then uses the corner to flip himself over and get Hase off. He leaps to the second rope, and throws a back elbow blindly, getting 2. Sting nearly scores a pinfall off a German suplex, but Hase quickly manages to roll Sting up with a handful of tights for 2 of his own. Sting explodes forward with a nasty clothesline, and he goes for a second one but Hase sidesteps and attempts the Rock Bottom. Sting elbows his way loose, and nails a jumping a DDT! With Hase seeing stars, Sting heads up and nails the top rope splash for the pin at 14:42! Hase put on an absolute clinic here, wrestling circles around Sting – but that really should come as no surprise since Hase was likely one of the 5 best wrestlers on the planet at this point. Sting didn’t quite seem to know how to properly sell for all the offense, sometimes recovering far too quickly from some of the attacks (I wish he’d sold the leg after Hase spent 5 minutes ripping his hammys apart), but it was an overall enjoyable display and a fine main event. ***
If you’re not really a Puro kinda person, but wouldn’t mind seeing a little of what Japan has to offer – this is probably a pretty strong compromise. Seeing familiar American faces, with English announcing, against some legendary Japanese names makes for a fun break from the norm. I wish WCW had continued this tradition to the end, but if I always got what I wanted, WCW would have never gone out of business either.
We’ll head back to the grind with the Power Hour this weekend; another mysteriously absent entry from the WWE network library. Will Chris Sullivan appear again? Will his studliness overcome adversity? The answer to both is hopefully yes, but you’ll have to read to find out. (Spoiler: No.)