The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems 01.09.19–Turning Japanese!

The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Hidden Gems – 01.09.19

OK, let’s get caught up with the Japanese-themed content dump from last week. Someday I’ll finish up the AWA Christmas shows, I promise.

An International Showdown

World Martial Arts Championship: Antonio Inoki v. Pretty Boy Larry Sharpe

From Showdown at Shea in 1980, another show that would do well to be added to the Network in full. No commentary for this one. Inoki goes after the arm to start and Sharpe reverses him into a toehold and it’s a stalemate. Inoki takes him down with a chinlock and Sharpe reverses to a hammerlock and works that on the mat for a couple of near-falls and then stomps him down on the mat and sends him to the apron. Inoki comes back with leg kicks, thus living up to his World Martial Arts Champion pedigree, and goes to a toehold on the mat until Sharpe makes the ropes. Larry puts him down with a cheapshot and goes up, but misses a flying splash and Inoki finishes with the enzuigiri at 8:51. Oddly, Larry took the bump on his back, which kind of spits in the face of physics. He’s such a heel he’s breaking the laws of thermodynamics! 0 for 1.

Flying High With the King

Greg Gagne & Jerry Lawler v. Riki Choshu & Mr. Saito (05.14.88)

Time for hot and sexy AWA action, and in fact this is from the very famous AWA TV Taping From Hell chronicled by Dave in the Observer, as he decided to attend in order to finally see Choshu live and ended up being nearly suicidal by the end of the taping. Gagne quickly gets double-teamed by the Japanese heels and they hit him with a Demolition elbow in the corner, but Greg fights back with chops and brings in Lawler, who in fact had just won the World title from Curt Hennig. He throws punches in the corner, but Saito comes in and cuts him off, before missing a blind charge. Lawler goes to work on the arm and Greg comes in with a flying knee on it. Gagne and Lawler control Choshu with armbars, but Riki catches the King with a kick to the gut and wraps him up with the Scorpion Deathlock. But then he just immediately lets it go and Saito comes in for his own version. And then Choshu comes in again and they double on Lawler with some dull double-teams as this match is so not what you’d expect from prime Riki Choshu and Saito in there with prime Jerry Lawler. Choshu continues stomping Lawler down and Saito comes in with a facelock to cut off the ring. Gagne finally gets the hot tag and Saito grabs a chair from ringside and it’s a DQ at 13:40. Well what choice did they have? You’d have to be a fool to mess with Greg Gagne when he’s running wild after a hot tag! Match was a good, normal, AWA tag match, but absolutely nothing special given they had goddamn RIKI CHOSHU in for a taping and did nothing with him. 1 for 2.

Muta in the Mist

Sting v. The Great Muta (09.01.89)

From the POWER HOUR in the wake of the Great American Bash, which left the TV title held up until they could reach a decisive finish. They trade headlocks to start and Muta takes him to the corner for a beating, but Sting rolls him up for two and gets a sunset flip for two. Small package gets two. Sting goes up with a flying bodypress for two. Muta freaks out and bails, which allows Terry Funk to come out and yell at Sting like a madman. The ref finally convinces him to leave, but Muta attacks in the corner and Gary Hart does some choking behind the ref’s back. Jim Cornette on commentary waxes nostalgic about choking guys out, back when he was the sort of person who did that sort of thing. Muta slams him on the floor and Hart chokes him out with his towel, and this is too much even for Cornette! “Have some class about it, Gary!” Back in, Muta chokes him out on the ropes and pounds him down, but Sting comes back with a bulldog and tosses him. He drops Muta on the railing multiple times and this match just has crazy heat. Back in, Sting with a suplex for two and they fight to the apron, but Sting charges and runs into the post elbow-first. OUCH. Back in, Muta with the handspring elbow and JR is pulling out the football metaphors, but the ref is bumped on a stungun from Sting. Patrick takes a manly bump to the floor for good measure, and Sting gets the Stinger splash and Scorpion Deathlock. Gary Hart whacks him from behind with a blackjack of some sort, and the ref revives in time for Muta to get two. Muta with a suplex for two to set up the moonsault, but Sting pulls up the knees and makes the SUPERMAN COMEBACK as the crowd goes batshit. He pounds away in the corner, but Gary Hart pulls him over the top rope to draw a DQ at 13:57, and we still have no TV champion. Hell of a match, though! 2 for 3.

The Iceman Cometh

WCW Cruiserweight title: Shinjiro Ohtani v. Dean Malenko (05.18.96)

More crazy rare stuff, from WCW Worldwide, as Ohtani won a “tournament” in “Japan” for the “title” and this is his first “defense”. Sorry, my daughter is really into air quotes right now so I might be overusing them. Malenko picks the ankle and works it on the mat, and they do a quick reversal sequence before Ohtani spins out of a backbreaker with an armdrag and they kind of botch it, so Malenko takes a breather outside. Back in, Dean catches him right in the belly-welly if you will and goes to a chinlock, but Ohtani necks him on the ropes. Malenko keeps coming with a springboard dropkick and a northern lights suplex gets two. Ohtani heads to the apron and springboards in with a leg lariat for two, and a dragon suplex gets two. Another leg lariat misses, but he recovers with a sunset flip for two and goes up with a missile dropkick, but he lands in the Texas Cloverleaf and Malenko wins the title at 4:50 to end Ohtani’s epic reign. Another crazy good match, although criminally short. 3 for 4.

The Fight for Glory

Bobby Roode v. Kota Ibushi (10.30.16)

Off to an NXT house show from LA in 2016, and I guess they decided to squeeze another couple of matches out of Ibushi since he was in for the Cruiserweight Classic anyway. It’s astonishing how big of a star that Roode was here and how not big of a star he is now. Funny to see the crowd giving Roode the star treatment and then just losing their minds with delight at seeing Ibushi, with grown men jumping up and down with excitement. Roode works the arm to start and pauses for a pose, so Ibushi kicks him in the face and he bails. Ibushi gives his own “Glorious” pose and Roode freaks out over the gimmick infringement, so Ibushi kicks him again and Roode hits him with a knee to the gut. Ibushi puts him on the floor with a rana and teases the dive, but Roode heads back in to evade it and manages to neck him on the top rope. They fight on the floor and Roode drops him on the railing and chokes him out with the ring apron, which results in Ibushi’s beautiful, beautiful face being COVERED UP! What a dick move. Back in, that gets two. Roode with a corner clothesline and he goes up and drops an elbow for two. For some reason we get keep getting a crawl notifying us that “THIS MATCH WAS RECORDED WITHOUT TELEVISION COMMENTARY”. Well, duh.

Roode works a chinlock and they slug it out for the “Boo/Yay” spot, and Ibushi dropkicks him for the double down. This was during the period when the crowds were doing the obnoxious “10” gimmick, which was funny for about 10 seconds. See what I did there? Ibushi makes the comeback with high kicks and a standing moonsault for two. To the top for a missile dropkick that sends Roode flying to the floor, and Ibushi follows with the springboard moonsault, which gets two in the ring. Kota to the top but Roode cuts him off, and then is unable to suplex him. Ibushi dives at him, but walks into a spinebuster and that gets two. Roode argues with the ref and Ibushi rolls him up for two, and a high kick sets up the Last Ride for two. Crowd bought into that one! Ibushi goes for another one, but Roode goes dead weight on him and then suckers him into the corner for a catapult. Ibushi lands on the top rope, however, and boots Roode down for the Phoenix Splash, which tragically misses. Glorious DDT finishes at 16:12. That one kind of deflated the crowd, but there was literally no reason for Ibushi to win here so I can understand it. Not like a Takeover-quality match or anything, but a really good, long house show match. 4 for 5.

Three’s a Crowd

NXT Title: Shinsuke Nakamura v. Eric Young v. Samoa Joe (10.30.16)

Well this is quite the combination. This is the main event of the same show, as I guess they had been taping NXT shows for the Network as an experiment. I believe the idea was (and still is) to do weekly house shows live on the Network as a modern Saturday Night’s Main Event concept. Young mouths off to both Joe and Nak to start and locks up with Nakamura while Joe stands there impatiently. Then he goes after Joe and talks some trash, which results in him getting punched out of the ring so the real main guys can do their thing. Joe works a wristlock and Nakamura flips out of it, but EY yanks him out of the ring to annoy the crowd. Joe hits the elbow and head kick in the corner and adds some boot rakes, but charges and gets cut off by a Nakamura dropkick. Joe bails, so Nakamura beats on Young with a kneedrop and Good Vibrations until Joe breaks it up. Joe elbows Shin down and drops an elbow for two, then clips the knee for two. Young tosses Joe and works on Nakamura’s neck, then hangs him in the corner with a dragon sleeper and drops an elbow for two. Neck vice follows, but Joe casually boots him in the face and hits a senton to break that up. Nakamura slugs him down and hits an enzuigiri, then puts him in the corner a running knee strike. He sets up for the Kinshasa, but Young cuts it off with a lariat for two. Young pounds on Joe next, but walks into a powerslam and that gets two. Powerbomb gets two, into the STF, but Nakamura saves. Everyone suplexes each other and Young goes up with a flying elbow on Nakamura for two off that. They head up and Young tries a superplex, but Joe breaks it up and tries the Muscle Buster on Nakamura, which is countered to a rollup for two. Joe comes back with the uranage for two and goes for the choke, but Nakamura runs him into the corner to break and rolls over on him for two. Young then flies out of nowhere with a neckbreaker on Joe and goes for his finish on Nakamura, but Nakamura escapes with a knee strike that sends EY hurtling into the corner like a cartoon character, and the Kinshasa finishes at 15:07 to retain. Never really got into high gear, but solidly entertaining throughout. 5 for 6. And Nakamura gives a victory promo, thanks the audience, and gives us one last YEAOH to end the show.

What a great set of uploads this past week! And tomorrow we get MORE, with a bunch of UK-themed rare drops in time for Takeover UK. Now that’s what I’m talking about!