Written by: Arnold Furious
June 1st 1996. We’re in LA at the Sports Arena. At ringside are representatives from EMLL, AAA (Antonio Pena), WCW (Eric Bischoff – soundly booed) and New Japan.
Bobby Bradley v Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Bradley is a journeyman. Anvil was in the WWF at the time quite possibly still under a mask as Who. Yeah, that gimmick went over well. Here he’s in the familiar pink and black. If it was a year later he’d even be over thanks to the anti-American Hart Foundation angle. As it stands he’s a guy who used to be famous. These guys know they’re just out there as the opener and shouldn’t really do anything too fancy although Bradley takes a big backdrop to the floor. From there on Anvil controls with power. “This is easy” he claims as the straps come down. Powerbomb should finish but Anvil sportingly pulls Bradley back up for more punishment. He just about counters another powerbomb into a rana for 2. That was horrible. Crowd were quite impressed though because it didn’t happen too often back then. Especially not with guys the size of Anvil. Bradley’s comeback is a dropkick before he runs into Anvil’s boots and gets powerslammed for the loss at 5.00 even. ½*. Well that wasn’t much to write home about. A squash really.
Bull Nakano/Neftali v Akira Hokuto/Lady Apache
Nakano is HUGE over here showing the fans are somewhat cultured. Hokuto and Nakano had been wrestling in WCW. Both as heels opposing Madusa Micelli. This starts in energetic fashion in an attempt to win the crowd over. Remember women’s wrestling in North America in the mid-90’s wasn’t doing well with the WWF abandoning their title after Madusa threw it in the trash on Nitro. Nakano totally owns the opening minutes cutting down both of her opponents with a clothesline and removing part of Apache’s head dress. Neftali in with a hard dropkick. A lousy clothesline follows. There’s a disparity between the skill of the Japanese women and the Mexican performers. Nakano just tears up Apache with a leglock then hooks the arms too into a suspended surfboard. Nakano picks off the leg and it’s interesting to note that because Apache is a Mexican wrestler Nakano works the right leg instead of the left one. There’s a fair sized section of this crowd that doesn’t seem thrilled to be watching women’s wrestling, which shows you what a dire condition it was in at the time. They won’t even give this a chance. Apache gets thrown outside and lands in Antonio Pena’s lap. Nakano breaks out nunchaka and whoomps Apache with them while Neftali distracts the ref. BRUCE LEE THAT SHIT DOWN~! Leg jam misses though and Apache comes back with a victory roll for 2. She tags out to Hokuto but even with both of them they can’t suplex Nakano and she suplexes them both over. Neftali in with a lame spinning heel kick. Hokuto decides to show her how to wrestle but Nakano cuts her off in the middle of the lesson. Apache dives in with a missile dropkick and this has broken down. Hokuto with a TOPE SUICIDA and Apache goes up for a somersault senton to the floor. Crowd loves that and chants “Oh my God”. Apache takes Neftali back inside and kills her with a Northern lights bomb for the pin at 8.24. **. It was sloppy as hell but the pacing was decent so the crowd reaction is pretty strong. I think they’d have enjoyed it better with more Hokuto.
He Who Must Not Be Named v Alex Wright
How am I supposed to call this one? According to the WWE one of these guys doesn’t even exist. And apparently someone took that decision away as it’s edited off the tape. WWE’s power is great indeed.
Psicosis/Heavy Metal v Ultimo Dragon/Rey Mysterio Jr
The large Hispanic population gets excited as this kicks off. Rey is seriously over. He and Psicosis had a feud going at the time that went from Mexico to ECW to WCW. Naturally they start against each other. Rey flies around like crazy and starts armdragging before kicking Psicosis so hard he flies up to the top rope where Rey hits a super rana. Coolness. Psicosis’ retort is simply to kick Rey in the head. He sets him upon the ropes with a spot that needs a lot of cooperation and leg drops him as Rey holds himself up. Ultimo breaks it up so in comes Heavy Metal to stop him and Ultimo just smacks him about too. Rey flips around some more into a ridiculous rana then springboard dropkicks Psicosis off the apron and then hits a diving rana off the apron. I’d complain about the spotty nature of it if everything he was doing wasn’t so freakin’ awesome. It’s all smooth and clean. Speaking of which in comes Ultimo to throw his kick combo on Metal. Nip up armdrag from Ultimo and he flips onto his feet off a snapmare attempt. I can see these guys are aiming to steal the show. Ultimo hits a REVERSE Enzuigiri where the other foot is caught and he kicks Heavy Metal right in the face. That was awesome. You rarely ever see that. Ultimo-Psicosis and they flip around each other and rock the ring with some nifty counters. Especially when Ultimo keeps dodging Psicosis in the corner so Psicosis gets a huge run up and flies over the top rope. Psicosis is, obviously, insane so jumps into the crowd to chase a fan in a Rey mask because he mistook him for the original. HAHAHA. Heavy Metal gets the real Rey and hits a rope spring back elbow Tajiri style. More armdragging follows then a headscissors. Thank fuck I’m not playing the lucha drinking game to this match I would be hammered ladies and gents. Ultimo gets frisky and tries a moonsault but Metal moves. Everyone attempts moves off the top with the respective target rolling out of the way. Metal’s misses by about 3 feet without Rey moving to be fair. He gets thrown over the top and Rey nails him with a dive. Psicosis follows and this is all so quick the camera misses most of it. Ultimo goes up to senton everyone and finally we a breather. Crowd is heard talking about what’s happening. Murmuring of potential future awesomeness. Ultimo nearly rolls up Psicosis for 2. La Mahistral doesn’t quite get it done. Psicosis rana’s him off the top but Ultimo rolls through it and pops back up. Ultimo with a super rana of his own but Heavy Metal saves. Ultimo grabs both guys legs and Psicosis tries to kick him off but Ultimo ducks and Metal takes the kick in the face. Then Rey biels Psicosis out of the ring and hits an insane ASAI MOONSAULT possibly as a tribute to his partner. Back inside Ultimo hits the quebrada on Metal and the Tiger Suplex for the pin. 1-0 to the technico’s but Psicosis gets counted out because he’s still lying around on the floor and its 2-0 for the win at 11.40. ****1/4. Just an insane match full of slick high speed wrestling. Sometimes it looked a bit fake and suffered from the usual ‘cooperation required’ lucha flaws but most of the time it just rocked. Rey, Ultimo and Psicosis were all ON tonight.
How do you follow that up? I dunno, how about with EL HIJO DEL SANTO fuckers!
Negro Casas v El Hijo del Santo
Roof comes off the building for Santo; one of the great wrestlers in the history of Mexican wrestling and of course son of the most famous Mexican wrestler ever – El Santo. Casas, despite his charisma, is soundly booed just for daring to be in the ring with the son of the saint. Casas makes the mistake of jumping ahead of the bell and gets schooled on the mat. He hides in the ropes and already Santo has a psychological advantage. Casas tries to clip the knee but gets rode around the ring amateur style. Santo’s chaining is some of the smoothest ever seen south of the border. I guess having a legend for a father helps. Although surely David Flair would have been better using that logic? Santo controls with a headscissors to the point where Casas feels the need to take it into the ropes. Monkey flips and armdrags. INDY STAND OFF! Armdrags, headscissors and a whirl armdrag from Santo. It’s a DAMN good job I’m not doing the lucha drinking game. Mexican Surfboard from Santo and the crowd is suitably impressed. Legends that can actually wrestle at a fantastic level is so refreshing. Casas goes suspiciously low but denies it so Santo dropkicks him out of the ring and wipes him out, and a table, with a TOPE SUICIDA. Eric Bischoff scuttles to safety in the background. Yeah, your main event guys don’t even leave their feet let alone hit dives. Casas takes advantage of Santo’s insanity though with La Casita (or La Mahistral/Magistral/Majistral) if you prefer for the pin at 5.54. ***. Obviously if it was Mexico that would just be the first fall and Santo would have time to come back into it. Hey, Bischoff, he did the job too and he’s still really over. Eh? Can you think of any wrestlers that might apply to? I could have easily lived with another 10 minutes or longer. Santo’s chaining and lucha was beautiful.
Silver King/Dr Wagner/Gran Markus v Hector Garza/Dos Caras/Atlantis
Gran Markus is like a really, really fat version of Dr Wagner. Garza and Silver King are the only unmasked wrestlers in this one. King gets the better of an opening exchange with Atlantis. Dr Wagner’s attempt at getting crowd support by shouting “Rudo” doesn’t work out. Dos Caras shows some great power in bridging out into backslides. They keep countering back and forth and it’s pretty good action. I’ve never been fond of lucha libre but this is working for me. All three matches. Gran Markus comes in. Imagine a fat version of Jack Black in Nacho Libre. Garza wrestles him for a while and that’s about even. Atlantis comes back in and hits a whirl backbreaker on Silver King. Then MARKUS takes one too. Caras-Wagner and the feeling out process is over. The speed is noticeably upped and Wagner gets catapulted out of the ring. Garza wrestles Silver King at speed. Markus in and Garza dropkicks him outside. This is insane action because of the lucha rules where one guy can get thrown out another can come right on in. Lots of headscissors and armdrags follow. Markus finally uses his power to barge Casa out of the ring. Garza takes him back over with a flying forearm. Silver King makes a bit of a mess of a dive nearly falling off the ropes. Markus in again but he accidentally slaps Wagner and Casas hives him a backbreaker. Surely that’d just hurt your own leg. Garza goes for the forearm again but Wagner has scouted it and ducks. He went to the well one time too many! Garza up top and Wagner on the floor. CORKSCREW MOONSAULT. Hey, he fucking hit it! That’s ONE TIME so far! Casas gets a high crossbody on Markus for the win at 10.35. **3/4. Well that was fun albeit impossible to keep up with and spotty as sin.
Three enjoyable lucha matches in a row, what’s happening to me?
Black Cat v Tatsumi Fujinami
Black Cat is billed as being from Japan and it looks like Victor Mar who had the gimmick in New Japan and AAA. Fujinami is a legend in Japan. He was IWGP champion six times and an outstanding light heavyweight prior to that. This is nothing more than Fujinami turning up to put on a little show. Much like El Hijo del Santo earlier only with considerably less effort. He straps Cat in the Sharpshooter and only the ropes save him. Cat’s only real offence comes when Fujinami can’t match him at striking, which is Cat’s forte. Fujinami goes for taking his arm instead and beats him with a cross armbreaker at 5.15. *1/2. Meh. Nice to see Fujinami but unlike El Hijo del Santo he didn’t get much competition.
Cibernetico/Pierroth Jr v Perro Aguayo/La Parka
La Parka, for some bizarre reason, is dressed as Batman. Not a campy Batman either but the full on Tim Burton dark Batman. Perro is looking pretty old but then I don’t think I’ve seen him in a match where he looked young. Something I’ve always meant to ask a lucha fan but is Cibernetico supposed to be a cyborg? He’s certainly got a more bodybuilding style physique than the average Mexican competitor. Parka has his usual skeleton gear on under his Batman gear, which makes me wonder again why he was wearing it. This is pretty sloppy with La Parka looking a bit messy but that doesn’t stop him being entertaining as he dances a bit and hits meaningless dives. Pierroth helpfully plays along. Perro attempts a few moves that are beyond him. Dropkicks are generally supposed to be above the waist. Credit to the old geezer for trying but it looks like crap. His sequence with Cibernetico is hampered by how slow he is to get up or counter or anything. La Parka comes in and dances again but Pierroth has learned and just clotheslines him. Pierroth kicks him in the nuts but he’s a skeleton, he has none! Perro has the Ric Flair thing going on here where you feel sorry for him because he’s a legend but he’s an old man and you just don’t want him to get hurt. Parka meanwhile has little to contribute beyond dancing and strutting. Of course the strutting IS awesome. The rudos look like idiots for not being able to put them away in short order. La Parka still has entertaining things lined up though and breaks out the chair dropkicking it into Cibernetico’s face. Crowd chants “ECW” loudly and this isn’t even ECW territory. He then lifts Sabu’s triple jump plancha as a tribute. Perro has trouble hitting some of his trademark stuff like the double stomp and a butt ugly diving shoulderblock. A running senton puts Pierroth away at 9.38. *. Criminally bad but at least it was entertaining.
POST MATCH La Parka hits a tope on the seated Cibernetico for no reason other than his own madness. Somehow everyone still hugs and shakes hands after that. Pierroth is blatantly just setting up Perro and chops him during the celebrating. Perro takes it personally and we would get a bonus fight if Pierroth didn’t chicken out having proved his point; Technico’s are dumb.
Chris Jericho v Bam Bam Bigelow v Konnan
Oddly enough Jericho, currently with ECW, soon debuted in WCW. Bigelow was also in ECW at the time. Konnan was in WCW and is the reigning US champion. He has weird (and gay) ring gear where he’s dressed up like a superhero. He has large fake yellow muscles and a pink cape. Yes folks, it’s QUEERMAN! As per usual with three ways it’s a mess. It doesn’t help that Konnan is in there. Bigelow gets an early advantage because he’s the strongest. Konnan is also stupid enough to break up pins in this elimination match. Jericho catches Bigelow with a great spinning back kick. If Bischoff hadn’t signed him Vince would have done. In fact he was originally considered for dumb mid 90’s hockey gimmick The Goon. Jericho dropkicks Bigelow out of the ring leaving us with some lucha action, which is fine because Jericho can work that style. It actually makes Konnan looks capable. No wonder Bischoff signed him. He probably saw the dollar signs of Jericho v an assortment of cruiserweights they had at the time. Not only that he clearly has personality to boot. Konnan powerbombs him for 2 and hits a terrible dropkick. Why does Konnan have to suck so bad? Jericho tries a pescado on Bigelow who just moves out of the way. Bigelow with an Everest suplex on Jericho but he gets a shoulder up and Bigelow pins himself to be eliminated at 4.51.
Interesting. Konnan sportingly blindsides Jericho while he celebrates. Without Bigelow to keep Konnan out of the action this goes south in a hurry. Jericho tries his best and nails the Lionsault for 2. Jericho with a German suplex for 2. He’s been the star in this one. No doubt about it. Konnan with another powerbomb for 2. Splash Mountain finishes and Jericho got dumped right on his neck there. Konnan wins it at 7.41. *1/4. Jericho looked superb. No wonder he was in WCW just 2 months later. It helps to have all those promoters watching you. It also helps when you get saddled with a terrible wrestler and you make him look competent. Not good or even safe but at least competent.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger v Great Sasuke
Liger even comes out to his BADASS New Japan music. HUGE ovation for him. They start here with counters standing and Liger looks exceptional as per usual. They work a great sequence where Sasuke can’t get out of a headscissors because Liger is just too good and keeps blocking it. Sasuke has to headstand out of it and goes to a camel clutch in an attempt to wear Liger down. Sasuke tries to counter that into a cross armbreaker but Liger is again too good and blocks it before attacking Sasuke’s knee. He works a half surfboard out of that and Sasuke is just getting torn up here. Whirl backbreaker from Liger at speed and he hooks up his own camel clutch as a receipt and like Sasuke he goes into the cross armbreaker. Sasuke blocks it but not very well and has to use the ropes. I like repetition. Sasuke bails because his arm is a bit messed up from that armbreaker. Liger sets him up in the corner and hits a running dropkick. KOPPOU KIIIIIICK. RELEASE GERMAN SUPLEX. Sasuke lands right on his neck but somehow kicks out. BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! Sasuke is dead. Liger goes up top but Sasuke somehow has enough left to move out the way of the headbutt. Sasuke with a moonsault but Liger is too smart and gets knees up to block it. Sasuke breaks out a handspring crossbody for 2. Liger is thrown to the floor and Sasuke hits an ENORMOUS suicide dive over the top. That was scary. The speed and height on that thing were amazing. Sick high spots are Sasuke’s only advantage and Liger shows this with a speedy Koppou Kick. Sasuke falls outside and Liger goes up top for a plancha. It’s almost as if Liger wanted to show he could still fly. They tease a suplex to the floor until Sasuke kicks Liger in the head and goes up top. Liger is having NONE of that. He cuts Sasuke off with a superplex with them both standing on the top rope. Liger up top but Sasuke is up and he dropkicks Liger to the floor. Sasuke up now with a DANGEROUS MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR~~! And Sid broke his leg coming off the middle rope. Holy shit. There is no safe way to land that. Sasuke looks hurt but Liger beats the count out so it’s all for naught. Sasuke wants the Tiger Suplex but Liger gets into the ropes to break it. SHOTEEEIIIII. BRAINBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! LIGERBOMB and you know Sasuke is done after that triple impact at 12.47. I could have easily lived with 10 more minutes. ***1/2. It was a little one sided but both guys put on a great show.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara/Oleg Taktarov v Antonio Inoki/Dan Severn
Fujiwara was the first to use the armbar of the same name. Inoki is over huge here. The other guys were mostly known as shoot fighters at the time. Taktarov was known as a submissions specialist who tended to avoid submitting himself. This is after Severn v Taktarov at UFC #5. Taktarov lost on referee stoppage in controversial fashion as he felt he could carry on. Severn made sure to beat him at the Ultimate Ultimate six months before this on decision. There’s a definite history. They start out as the crowd chants for Inoki. Severn-Taktarov is mostly MMA style without it being legit, which is really boring to watch when it’s a work. Fujiwara comes in and it’s clear this is going to be “shoot-style” throughout. Severn struggles a bit and in comes Inoki. Fujiwara picks Inoki’s leg off and they roll into the ropes. This is REALLY boring. Inoki tries to up the ante with some leg kicks. Severn comes back in and throws some knees. Taktarov doesn’t seem to know what to make of a tag match and doesn’t take advantage of Fujiwara leaving Severn open for him. Severn breaks out a hardway German suplex. It’s more impressive when he did it in an actual shoot. Inoki in and Taktarov is drawn into something resembling an actual shoot, which he promptly wins easily. Inoki takes offence and starts slapping at him. Oh it’s on! Taktarov is just clueless out there. He’s not even wearing boots. Severn comes in to drop Fujiwara on his head and pin him for the win at 9.15. ¼*. That was a terrible idea that was badly executed.
I mentioned at the top about how the show was padded out using WCW wrestlers. It seems that all those matches are clipped (Sting-Giant, Benoit-Wright, Luger-Saito and Pittman-KGB). Ah, well. Thems the breaks.
POST MATCH Bill Apter is out here to represent PWI. He gives Inoki the lifetime achievement award. Weird seeing El Hijo del Santo just standing around just behind him. You know Apter wants that photo framed.