Round two of my New Japan World Gems series takes us back to another Tokyo Dome Show, this time in 1993. In a series that is intended to get you more out of your New Japan World subscription than just the monthly shows of today, this singles match between NJPW’s Hiroshi Hase and WCW’s Sting jumped out to me!
During the days of co-promoted events between two large companies, World Championship Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling worked together quite a bit in the nineties. They always seemed to deliver something special, despite the huge clash in styles and cultures. WCW/NJPW Supershow III, or NJPW Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome, was no different and we got several interesting match-ups that January fourth. This singles match rested right in the middle of the card, at a very transitional time for both wrestlers.
Hase was typically a tag team specialist, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championship twice in the years prior to this match. Just a short time following 1993, Hase would “retire” from New Japan and jump to All Japan Pro Wrestling. Sting, on the other hand, was just over the peak of one of the hottest singles runs in wrestling. In the middle of a bitter stateside feud with former WCW Heavyweight Champion, Vader, Sting was scheduled to take on one of New Japan’s then-franchise players in Hase.
For me, the reason I picked to watch this match, as Sting is a pretty reputable name at this time in the business, and I know loosely that Hase was putting on some solid bouts as a tag team competitor. I was interested to see how he’d fair against a guy like Sting in a singles match, as Sting was never credited with being the best technical worker. To see it rather low down the card interested me as well. You’d think with Sting alone it may have been a little later in the night, according to Japanese booking. This one has to be a hidden gem, right?
The first thing I noticed was the mutual respect both men had for the event, crowd, and one another. Even though they are out to represent their respective companies and hopefully come out victorious for their ‘side’, the match starts with a handshake. Yeah sportsmanship!I also found it interesting that both men received a pretty equal reaction from the crowd during the preliminary announcements. Once the bell rang, Sting began to put on his show of power over Hase, to which Hase was forced to bail out of the ring following a dropkick allowing Sting to get his calling taunt in. I think the Whole Tokyo Dome called back, too…
More shows of power saw the two become matched, even concluding in a double dropkick. Both men stick to the basics here, with Hase slowing the match down with some solid offensive submission work. Hase even applies a nice Muta Lock in ode to his famous tag team partner… I was waiting for it!
Hase continued working Sting’s legs and lower back for a solid few minutes. Then, he switched to the head and neck. I thought it was weird that he switched his target area and began telling a different story, but he his a sick looking sitdown piledriver followed by a big knee drop off the top and I didn’t question those ones! Working over the whole body, I guess? Regardless, Hase would get a little frustrated after a sleeper hold failed to put Sting away, so he’d take him to the outside and slam him on the guardrail.
After putting in some work on the outside, Hase brought Sting back in and hit some much needed grapple offense which made the crowd react. Seeing Sting sell so much for Hase is cool, because most Sting matches during this time that I’ve seen are a lot of Sting flying around and other guys selling for him. There was a sloppy jump from the top and I think Hase was too far away, so I wasn’t sure who got the worst of that!
Chops lit Sting up and Hase awoke the struggling hero. Mounting a comeback and getting a near fall again made the crowd react with applause. I love that puroresu crowds appreciate a good contest, on top of the regular entertainment that comes with professional wrestling.
Anyway, Hase tried to catch Sting with a roll-up, but Sting exploded out of it with a big clothesline. Sting hit a big jumping DDT, and then a body splash off the top for the three count. I was disappointed the match didn’t go a little longer, as the final five minutes were the best.
To wrap this one up, the match was pretty middle of the road. However, Sting’s selling and comeback tied with Hiroshi Hase’s technical skill and crisp work made this match worth watching! It was quick, and told a good story.
So, why should you watch? Sting’s in his prime, for one. Not only that, it was a match that Sting was forced to work (I’d compare it to his work with Flair), not rely on his popularity. Also, it was a good showing for Hiroshi Hase if you have never seen him before. My limited exposure to him before helped draw me to the match, and I’m glad I threw it on for a quick watch. Again, was it substantial? No. Was it a solid watch? Absolutely!
After viewing the match, I understood why it was placed in the middle of the card, as both men we only programed together because somebody figured it would be good. That’s it. They made a story with what they had, and I can appreciate that. All things considered, this one made me watch more Hiroshi Hase matches and more Sting in Japan matches. Win-win in my book!