Bret vs. Misawa, Savage vs. Tenryu & Hogan vs. Hansen (and other Dream Matches!)

 

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Hogan & Hansen: Main Event in the making!

WWF/AJPW/NJPW WRESTLING SUMMIT:
(Tokyo Dome, April 13th, 1990)

* This is a pretty wild and wacky card, full of the kind of “Dream Matches” you’ll never see again- I’m really shocked it’s not more famous. I mean, it’s a triple-show with All Japan, New Japan, AND the WWF all at once! In the Tokyo Dome! Apparently highlights were aired on Japanese TV, but complexities with the rights led to the full event never being shown in its entirety (which might be why it’s so obscure). The biggest matches are Hulk Hogan vs. Stan Hansen, Macho Man vs. Genichiro Tenryu, and the Ultimate Warrior vs. Ted DiBiase. The WON awards declared this the “Best Major Wrestling Show” of 1990!

“TL;DR” Version: So come see Bret Hart vs. Mitsuharu Misawa in the most disappointing Dream Match of all time! Hogan with his “Japan working boots” (where he’s more “Unstoppable Monster” than the Technically-Gifted Powerhouse I was led to believe he was) on against Stan Hansen in one of his greatest matches ever! Macho King & Queen Sherri doing their schtick against a stoic top-tier Japanese legend in a befuddled Tenryu! Grumpy ol’ Jumbo Tsuruta dealing with hard-working heels in Martel & Perfect!

The show had two dark matches- Dan Kroffat, Doug Furnas & Joe Malenko beat Samson Fuyuki, Tatsumi Kitahara & Toshiaki Kawada in (11:56), and Jushin Liger beat Akira Nogami in (8:37). An extremely shaky fancam of the latter exists- it’s mostly hold-trading. They trade corner moves and Liger hits a surfboard and a rock-the-cradle. They trade flash-pins and Nogami hits a very good plancha and German Suplex for two, but Liger dropkicks him coming off the top and hits a Tope Con Hilo to the floor! He misses a roundhouse kick but gets a powerslam and finishes with a Moonsault Press. Looks **1/2-ish but holy god am I not gonna go move-for-move with such a shaky vid.

Later there’s another dark match where Masa Saito & Shinya Hashimoto beat Masahiro Chono & Riki Choshu in a IWGP Tag Team Championship defense in (13:00). Most of these bouts are available more easily on DailyMotion.

KENTA KOBASHI & MASANOBU FUCHI vs. TITO SANTANA & “SUPERFLY” JIMMY SNUKA:
* Kobashi & Fuchi come down to “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, which is great. Kenta is much more slim at this point than he’d get later, clearly not having gained “Main Eventer Bulk” yet. I’m mostly unfamiliar with Fuchi, but he was a stalwart Junior Heavyweight in his day, and is a 16-year vet here, with the dad bod to prove it. Tito’s on the downswing of his career by this point, never mind Snuka, who’s more cocaine than man. Kobashi’s in red, Fuchi in blue, Snuka in his tiger-print undies, and Tito in the white Strike Force trunks.

Tito & Snuka get a big reaction to start, but quickly begin drawing heel reactions and working heel. TITO SANTANA. Working HEEL. They keep it simple with headlocks and lockups and making the ropes, but Tito eventually wins an exchange with a clothesline for one. Tito tosses Kobashi and snapmares him back in, then tosses him AGAIN and keeps talking shit to Fuchi, who wants in. Tito gets cocky and Kenta comes back in with a Slingshot Cross-Body (!!) and Fuchi’s in with some straight right hands. He throws a ton of them, ending with an enzuigiri, and Kenta’s in with an assisted missile dropkick- Snuka runs in to break up the pin, but Kenta moves and Snuka elbowdrops Tito!

Now Fuchi missile kicks a held Snuka, but Tito reverses Kobashi’s vertical suplex and tags in Snuka for his Karate Chop! And the crowd loves it! Kobashi gets a cross-body out of the corner for two, and hits a flying body press for the same. Fuchi comes in and tries some stuff, but they either miscommunicate legit or Snuka outsmarts him and trips him up on a criss-cross, and Fuchi sells the knee. Snuka chops him but misses a headbutt, and Fuchi backdrop suplexes him for two. Awful back body drop has both guys selling (Snuka went up like a sack of potatoes), and Tito barrels in with a ton of dropkicks, backdrops Fuchi and hits the Flying Forearm… which is sold like a nothing strike here, because Fuchi’s up right away. But they put him away with a slam into the Superfly Splash at (8:28).

Rating: ** (Not great, but not nearly as bad as it could be with Snuka in there. They kept it simple and did some decent basics. Tito’s good as always, and Speedy Kobashi is something to see)

Mitsuharu Misawa - The Story of a Puroresu Legend Taken Too Soon

Misawa- the only non-Junior Tiger Mask. Also he apparently fought Steamboat and I should check THAT out.

BRET “HIT MAN” HART vs. TIGER MASK II:
* This is a somewhat infamous one, as Bret takes on MITSUHARU MISAWA, pitting two of the greatest workers of the 1990s together… but it’s 1990 and so Misawa is the second Tiger Mask and Bret is a tag guy, and both are like “Hm, so who’s this guy?” and have never heard of each other. Bret says he wanted to have the best match he could ever have, but was like “This Mizzawa guy couldn’t fill the shoes of the original, because nobody could”. Bret’s in the usual pink & black, and Tiger Mask is in green tights.

They do simple headlock/whip stuff to start, well-wrestled like you’d expect, TM staying on Bret’s arm, then dropkicking him over the top and doing a “Tiger Tease” (the one he’d keep doing even as the Ace). TM keeps to the arm, hitting a crucifix for two, then goes back to it as the pace is slow. After two minutes of that, Bret reverses to a whip, TM comes off the top, but Bret rolls through for two. Chinlock into a headlock (really havin’ “the best match possible” here, Bret), and Bret counters the next crucifix with a Samoan drop. He drops those good elbows of his, but TM hits a spinkick and dropkicks him on the mat, sliding him out of the ring. Running Pescado! But then he follows up with a cross-armbreaker to slow the pace again, and Bret hurts the knee on a criss-cro– PSYCHE! He just barrels Misawa over with a clothesline and lips off to the crowd for buying it. Excellent! The crowd fucking hated that, too, which is wonderful.

Gorgeous backbreaker gets two for Bret, and he throws European uppercuts until Misawa catches one with a backslide for two. Bret uses a headbutt, back elbow and tosses TM, then hits a Russian leg sweep for two. Chinlock, but TM reverses another backbreaker by flipping out of it, but Bret hits an inverted atomic drop that Misawa sells like a trip, resulting in a knee to the tailbone (which looked like it HURT). Suplex leads to ANOTHER chinlock, this one milked for a KO for like two minutes, and they reverse Monsoon-approved abdominal stretches- Bret hiptosses out of one and misses his elbow off the second rope, and Misawa’s flying bodypress gets two. Bret wows the crowd with his turnbuckle bump for two (I love how even in Japan they’re like “Jesus, OUCH”). They do another criss-cross and then time expires without either showing any kind of urgency to get a pin (20:00). Crowd is clearly disappointed there.

The first 11 minutes were a pretty big wash- you could see how good both guys were, but it was like they either weren’t on the same page or the cardio was an issue (Bret was open-mouth breathing the whole time, possibly wiped out)- Misawa lays around in an armhold, and Bret went to a chinlock after almost every flurry, like he needed a break to think of what to do next. His execution was as excellent as you’d imagine (I literally rewound that backbreaker five times- just perfection), but holy hell this was dragged out. Like the first five minutes of a 25-minute classic, but they just drew those five minutes out to fifteen instead, pulled out a series of great moves (mostly from Bret- Misawa wasn’t MISAWA yet), and then it’s ANOTHER big chinlock to suck the life out of things.

Rating: **1/4 (some very good offense interspersed among a billion chinlocks)

One Hit Wonders: The 'Rhythm & Blues' Tag Team | Ring the Damn Bell

Poor Greg hated this sooooooooo much.

THE GREAT KABUKI vs. GREG “THE HAMMER” VALENTINE:
* Greg (coming down to “She’s Got the Look” by Roxette despite a) is way on the downswing of his career at this point, dressed like “Fat Elvis” and sporting jet-black hair for his tag team with Honky Tonk Man, meaning he’s a likely sacrifice, even though Kabuki’s aged at this point (… okay he’s 42 and thus younger than most WrestleMania main eventers these days, whatever). Kabuki adopted the gimmick in World Class in 1981, but I’ve literally never seen his work. He invented the Asian mist, though! He looks short, doughy and unimpressive, but has red & yellow Ultimate Warrior-style facepaint.

Valentine controls to start with his hard-hitting stuff, but Kabuki soon comes back with soft-looking uppercuts, which Greg faceplants off of. He comes back with a butterfly suplex, chops and a vertical suplex for two, then Kabuki gets hung up in the corner trying his own comeback. Greg throws boots and keeps taunting the crowd. Kabuki kicks him from a figure-four attempt and hits a crab, but Greg suckers him and starts plastering the guy with strikes. Kneecrusher, but he keeps trying to build his SmackDown! meter with taunts, and when he finally goes for the Figure-Four again, Kabuki gets an awful small package to pin him (7:18). Poor Greg looks absolutely heartbroken at the loss, a full thirteen minutes before he could warm up.

Wow, Kabuki looked AWFUL here- like some dying old man throwing loose shit while Greg was as snug as ever. It was almost entirely Kabuki getting his ass kicked and Valentine stalling for time, until a terrible rollup win.

Rating: *1/2 (poor Greg- Kabuki is terrible)

JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS vs. THE BIG BOSS MAN:
* An all-WWF match, with babyface Jake vs. heel Boss Man (he was a babyface in the WWF by this point, though). Boss Man’s looking very slim here, while Jake’s a vision in some dark pink tights.

They do a simple exchange to start, Jake teasing the DDT, which of course means nothing to this crowd. Jake does an armsnap but runs into a spinebuster, selling the back while Boss Man hits his running garrote and slowly pounds away- MUCH too slowly, as the crowd is just sitting on their hands. Jake’s agonized selling and rubber-legged stuff is just NOT drawing them in, either. Wrong kind of crowd. Jawing with ref Earl Hebner gets nothing, too, until some Americans in the crowd start a “Boss Man Sucks!” chant amongst themselves. Boss Man hits a backbreaker and avalanche miles apart as this is mostly milking each move. Lariat and sleeper wear Jake down, but a flying thing misses and Jake gets the jabs and short-arm clothesline, but is put into the corner. He hits a knee, but his running kneelift is reversed and he’s in trouble again- but then he slides out of a bodyslam and hits the DDT for three (10:25), Jake eking out a victory. And of course DDTs mean nothing in puro so the fans are actually shocked, haha. EVERYONE stands up, however, when he brings out the snake. An exceptionally tiny python is all we get, and Jake swiftly wraps it around his arm and leaves, but it’s something.

Well this was not what a Tokyo Dome audience wants to see- just a complete slog- two dudes standing around milking basic offense. I’ve heard WWF guys talk about how tough working Japan was- their expectations for hard work were higher, so guys had to bust their asses to get over. This… wasn’t that.

Rating: 1/2* (extremely lazy match- just Boss Man slowly wearing down Jake until a couple moves are reversed and he’s done)

JUMBO TSURUTA & KING HAKU vs. MR. PERFECT & RICK “THE MODEL” MARTEL:
* A completely random tag team match. Yoshiaku Yatsu was supposed to team with All Japan’s Ace, Jumbo, but he got injured and Haku (oddly named “King” again) was swapped in instead. Perfect & Martel were both getting big pushes at the time, in slightly different tiers (Martel never got out of the midcard). Seeing Martel’s powder-blue, Perfect’s neon yellow and Haku’s purple next to Mr. Stoic and his generic black trunks is funny.

We’re JIP to Perfect taking offense from Jumbo, but the heels soon cheat to take the lead, working him over. Jumbo takes the necksnap, but reverses a punch and Haku adds a reverse crescent kick and chop. He keeps coming, but misses a somersault senton and Martel lays into him with a TON of speed, working his ass off. He hits a Hurricanrana (… the fuck?) for two, and Perfect slingshots him in with a splash for two. Haku actually sells a turnbuckle shot (someone warn Kidman not to let Martel try to powerbomb him), but a second Rana is reversed by just dumping Martel into the turnbuckles. Perfect still gets tagged in, though, and they keep on the attack, Martel finally coming in with the Boston Crab- that’s his finisher, but it’s a total bullshit move in Japan so it’s a long, drawn-out thing until Jumbo just gets sick of it and clobbers him. Suplex, kneedrop, etc., all work over Haku as the heels keep switching off. FINALLY Haku gets the knees up on a Martel 2nd-rope splash, and Jumbo’s in with chest-slaps and more beatings. The heels get run into each other and Haku crescent-kicks Perfect out so Jumbo can hit a jumping knee and finish Martel with his big Backdrop Suplex at (9:17 of 10:53 shown)- Jumbo pins Martel!

See, now THIS was some effort! Perfect & Martel knew the audience but still worked American-style, shifting gears and tossing a lot of different stuff out there. Not just chinlocks or choking, but they’d tag out and hit a knee to the gut, suplex, abdominal stretch or kneedrop, switching moves repeatedly so they weren’t just repeating themselves. No milking things for the crowd, excess taunting or wasting time, either- they kept up a strong pace and it turned into a fun match even if it was 90% heel beatdowns and a short comeback win for the good guys.

Rating: **3/4 (perfectly-good American-style heel-dominated tag match)

The Fishbulb Suplex : Photo | Wrestling, Photo, Wrestler

“MACHO KING” RANDY SAVAGE (w/ Queen Sherri) vs. GENICHIRO TENRYU:
* Now THIS is a true gem- WWF & Japanese main eventers in opposition to each other. Savage was a year removed from the WWF Title and was kind of an upper-midcarder, so expect a sacrifice here. Tenryu is a major Japanese legend, and is shortly about to form SWS with All & New Japan talent, and becomes the WWF’s main partner in Japan. A year after this, he & Fred Kitao would work WrestleMania VII, for example. While insane Chaotic Evil women in facepaint is nothing new to puro (look up Dump Matsumoto or Aja Kong), Sherri is definitely a rarity in MEN’S puro- how will the Japanese audience take her relentless cheating and assaulting the male talent?

Crowd is way into Tenryu here, but Savage pounces and strikes away, then bails against a comeback to great heat. I mean, in a totally different country his schtick still works perfectly, as his taunts draw reactions and the crowd goes NUTS for Tenryu machine-gun-chopping him to death when he finally loses his patience. But then Sherri’s on the apron and Savage wipes Tenryu out the second his back is turned and chokes him. Tenryu comes back with a lariat for two, then backdrops Savage out and follows with a jump off the apron. Both guys sell that, but Sherri attacks from behind, Tenryu turns around, and BAM! Savage knees him and takes over. Savage smashes him into a table and Sherri talks all kinds of shit to the promoters, setting off a frenzy in the floor seats, and Savage keeps on the assault. Tenryu hits a quick enzuigiri and Savage cartoonishly flops around, but he suckers Tenryu with a quick lariat and keeps choking.

Savage shoves the ref around, Sherri adds a punch, and the axehandle to the floor puts Tenryu down… and Sherri just WAFFLES him with her shoe, sending him backwards over the barricade! And when he tries to get back in the ring, she enzuigiris him! Holy shit she is tremendous- innocently smiling at the referee while putting her high heels back on is a great visual. Flying Axehandle gets two! Kneedrop does as well, and Savage goes up- Big Elbow! That gets two, as the commentator mistakes it for an Atomic Kneedrop thanks to odd positioning. Savage tries to finish, but the axehandle meets a punch- he backdrops out of the Powerbomb and hits a flying bodypress, but sells a knee injury to give him an “out” for the match. Tenryu recovers with the Enzuigiri & Folding Powerbomb for the three (10:49) and the fans go nuts!

This was a fascinating match- not that long and kept simple, but they had the crowd in the palm of their hands and never let them go- Tenryu was incredibly over as a top guy and Savage played the heel role perfectly, never mind SHERRI, who got great heat. Their act was just so perfect and crosses national boundaries. Tenryu largely just sold, arguably doing the “Randy Savage Template” ironically enough, before hitting the two-move comeback for the win. But for a quick match like this, that’s a fine enough story, and both were SO good at what they did.

Rating: ***1/2 (an idealized form of the “Savage Template” match- Sherri’s cheating added a whole other element to it as well)

WWF WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE:
THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR vs. “THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN” TED DIBIASE:
* An odd prelude to the Double Main Event, as the World Title is defended. This ended up on a “World Tour” VHS, but is somewhat infamous for the Japanese fans not getting Warrior’s schtick. Ted’s in the usual black, and Warrior’s in orange.

Ted attacks before the bell and uses the belt as a weapon, but Warrior backdrops him, slams him, and launches him over the top with a clothesline. Ted keeps losing lockups, so hits chops- he’s knocked down after a criss-cross, but dodges a flying shoulderblock and crams Warrior into the mat. He stomps away as Vince & Ventura talk shit on his strategy (“Would have been a great place for the Million Dollar Dream!”), and keeps up various strikes, dropping the fist as what is clearly canned heat pipes up for every shot. Suplex gets two, as does a piledriver, but Warrior hulks up and hits a trio of clotheslines, a jumping one, then finishes with the Big Splash at (6:12).

Yes, they literally just had Warrior take a beating for six minutes then fly out with a bunch of clotheslines and net an easy win. Lazy match for him, with poor Ted having to do everything then get his stuff no-sold and be squashed.

Rating: ** (Ted throws great-looking offense, but the match constructions is too poor for even regular TV at that point)

I reviewed the Andre the Giant & Giant Baba vs. Demolition match last week: It… wasn’t very good. But Ax was super-impressive in running the match, and everyone sold pretty well. Demolition, the WWF Tag Team Champions, lost in only (6:39).

SPECIAL DREAM MATCH:
HULK HOGAN vs. STAN “THE LARIAT” HANSEN:
* Apparently this was supposed to be Hogan vs. Terry Gordy, but Gordy bailed shortly before the event (feeling it’d hurt his “Super Gaijin” status) and Stan Hansen was called in. Scott Keith brought up a WON recap where the Japanese were SUPER respectful towards Hansen stepping in, because it was clear that he was going to job and it was such short notice. Like, the whole “company man” thing and the humility really impressed them. Hansen is god-tier over here, whipping his lariat around and even bowling over the poor American announcer, but Hogan actually matches him on that front- the fans remember him well.

Hogan immediately shows his “Japan Effort” here, using counterholds and even drop toeholds on the clumsy Texan, holding him at bay. The two big ‘uns try shooting the half and other stuff until they just get frustrated and BRAWL, which is awesome, as they can both fight heel and go to the eyes. Stan dumps Hogan, but ends up going into the post, selling that as devastating by flopping around outside. Hogan mercilessly pounds away, chucking him into a table and hitting a backdrop suplex in the ring for two. A bloody Hansen can’t even get anything going as Hogan is RELENTLESS- Stan hits the floor and Hogan even puts the boots to him while standing on the apron. Stan’s selling is fantastic, as he’s just DYING out there like Ric Flair vs. Sid or Luger. Hogan kicks his ass outside again, then bodyslams him through a frickin’ table! When even JAPANESE tables are jobbing to you, you’re a top-tier power guy.

Stan gets posted again, and that gets two in the ring. Hogan lariats him in the corner and brutalizes the dead body with stomps, getting the crowd into the comeback, and sure ’nuff- Hansen gets the foot up in the other corner and bowls Hogan over with a shoulder tackle. And now STAN pounces like a wildman, tossing Hulk all over ringside and bludgeoning him with a chair before tossing it at Earl Hebner. Hogan’s a bloody mess as Stan pounds away for two-counts, then finally bails and grabs the lariat (the actual lariat, not his finisher)- but Stan takes it from him and just whips Hogan like a dog. He drops knees (smearing Hogan’s blood all over his legs), and drives the crowd nuts signaling for the Lariat… but runs straight into a running elbow smash!! Hogan countered him! Legdrop misses and Stan gets two! Hogan cross-bodies him off a whip for two. Stan tries to rush him, but Hogan gets his foot up from the ropes and fires back with the AXE BOMBER LARIAT- getting three (12:30)! Hogan beats Stan with his own move! Stan kicks out at 3.2 to save a bit of face, but wow- he gave up a ton. Hogan’s victory routine has a whole different effect when he’s covered in his own blood, too. The fans eat that shit up.

Haha holy shit, what a brawl! Man, “Japan Hogan” is such a different animal. Just this merciless, vicious power wrestler- he can do half-nelsons and toeholds sure, but he’ll just get sick of it and start murdering you. This is one of the most one-sided beatings I’ve ever seen, with Stan flat-out dying on his feet and Hogan coming after him everywhere he goes with shocking brutality. Like he’d gobble you up if you let him… but then Stan got his momentum going with equal nastiness and it turned into this violent brawl with double-juice and an “either guy could win” effect. Tremendous bout.

Rating: ***3/4 (actually a seriously awesome match with a fantastic Monster Babyface in Hogan- he was relentless and awesome and I can see how he was such a big star in Japan, too. Dude was smart as hell in the ring and modified his work for the audience)

Man, this was an interesting show. A bizarre mix of guys dogging it (holy shit, Boss Man/Jake), some guys lighting up the effort (Martel & Perfect were great), and ultra-bizarre dream matches left and right. Savage/Tenryu was epic and this was absolutely one of Hogan’s best-ever matches- twelve minutes of carnage.