“If you could go back to any year, what year would it be and why?”
This was a recent discussion point at my workplace and whilst my colleagues tended towards an age that was young enough to shirk responsibility but old enough to do something with it, I very clearly plumped for 1992. I would have only been six at the time, yet for me the year just seemed to last forever. Everything that was anything happened in 1992, including my first real awareness of this thing called wrestling. Sure, I might have seen some matches in 1991, and I’m pretty sure I had action figures by then, but 1992 is cemented in my mind as the year my love for the sport began. The destruction through rewatching of my “WWF 1992 Year in Review” VHS is a testament to that.
Luckily, access to historical wrestling couldn’t be better these days. From streaming sites to homemade compilations, the chance to ‘go back’ to 1992 in the world of wrestling is easy. In doing so, I hope to relive some moments that I remember from my youth, whilst also discovering some of the best wrestling from around the world, incorporating Puro, Lucha, wrestling from North America and Europe.
An action-packed January 4 begins this odyssey, as well as it being the start of a tradition of New Japan Pro Wrestling running a card in the Tokyo Dome. Initially called ‘Super Warriors in Tokyo Dome’, the promotion used its working arrangement with WCW to help build an interesting card on paper. Any show that has Tony Halme vs Scott Norton and Shinya Hashimoto vs Bill Kazmaier is somewhat fascinating even if the quality of each match left a little to be desired.
The WCW connection did offer up something of more quality in the tenth bout on the card as The Steiner Brothers took on the team of Sting and The Great Muta. Whilst the international reach and general over the top nature of Wrestling Kingdom would make these shows look a little pedestrian, the live band helped to build a sense of this being a big show. Muta even got a gymnastic troupe for his entrance as things felt important and the four men delivered in spades. When Rick Steiner’s third move on offense is a top rope bulldog on Sting, the tone has been set – bombs will be thrown from bell to bell.
The middle portion of the contest saw Muta as crash test dummy: a second rope Samoan drop by Scott, a Canadian backbreaker/elbowdrop combination, a belly to belly at ringside by Rick. However, the most impressive more was probably Rick catching the handspring back elbow and turning it into a German suplex. Sting and Muta were given their chance to shine, each man launching themselves out of the ring with dives to the floor, before a double top rope shoulderblock saw both Steiners come crashing down on their opponents. The finish itself felt a little anticlimactic, neither team really slowing down before a Tilt-A-Whirl attempt by Scott was turned into a pin by Sting. Rick also had Muta covered on a belly to belly to add an element of doubt, but the timing was off enough that there wasn’t much in the way of tension.
The main event of the show saw Riki Choshu and Tatsumi Fujinami compete in a match for both the Greatest 18 Title (held by Choshu) and the IWGP Heavyweight Title (held by Fujinami). A match between two legends that I feel probably required a better knowledge of their previous feuding to really benefit a watch of this contest, Fujinami made it clear early on he wasn’t messing around with a slap on the break. Choshu teased the sharpshooter early, though the match felt slow going until Fujinami hit a rope kneedrop and piledriver in quick succession. It was this risk-taking that cost him later on as he was caught on the top and sent to the canvas with a superplex. Two big backdrop drivers allowed Choshu to hit three consecutive Riki Lariats in a match that felt a little underwhelming in all honesty.
Over on WWF Superstars, the New Year saw part of the focus on the animosity between Randy Savage and Jake Roberts. Having slapped Elizabeth in the face at ‘This Tuesday in Texas’, Roberts had done what no-one had done before in putting his hands on Savage’s valet. In a promo designed to sell both the Royal Rumble and their ongoing feud, Savage makes it clear that it is every man for himself, but that he wants Roberts more than the vacant WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Though Elizabeth’s involvement perhaps necessitated giving her some mic time, her suggestion that she almost feels sorry for Roberts isn’t delivered with the most conviction.
In Memphis, it is The Moondogs that are running wild as we get to see footage of the USWA Tag Team Champions in action against the duo of Jeff Jarrett and Robert Fuller. Clipped action from the Mid-South Coliseum only tells part of the story, but it is easy to see that it is a wild brawl from the get go. Spot and Jarrett’s attempts to utilise a table at ringside threaten to take out a whole section of guard rail in the process, whilst a big chairshot to one of the Moondogs allows Jarrett a chance to hang Richard Lee (the Moondogs’ manager) over the top rope with a belt. This is apparently an act of revenge for the same thing happening to Jarrett in recent weeks. However, it is Lee and the Moondogs who have the last laugh as a bone shot to the head of Jarrett gives the savages a victory.
The reign of the Dangerous Alliance was in full swing in WCW as Paul E Dangerously compiled one of the greatest heel stables of all time. Rick Rude remained the jewel of the collective, targeting Sting as the so-called ‘franchise’ of WCW, a promotion that Dangerously had promised to destroy. A promo with the two dwelt upon Magnum TA’s injury that forced him into retirement; a link between what happened to TA and what might happen to Sting at Rude’s hands was edgy, but sold the anti-WCW nature of Dangerously’s crew. According to Rude, Sting has one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, though he saved his closing words for Steamboat as he called him out for threatening a woman (Madusa).
Arn Anderson was another vital cog in the machinery of the Dangerous Alliance and met Dustin Rhodes in the first main event of 1992 on Saturday Night. Coming into the contest with an injured leg, Anderson fared poorly especially as Rhodes wrapped the limb around the ringpost for additional damage. As always, it is the little things that Anderson does that made him special: a missed charge in the corner saw Anderson halt himself, regroup quickly, before turning into a punch to the face.
A spinebuster turned the tide in Anderson’s favour, helped somewhat by a Dangerously phone shot to the head. On commentary, Ross hypothesised that Anderson might be trying to injure Rhodes to force the WCW World Tag Team Titles to be vacated, a suggestion given credence by an attempted piledriver on the floor. It failed though, yet just as Rhodes looked like he was firing back, a beautifully framed shot saw Bobby Eaton come out of nowhere with a top rope legdrop as Dangerously had the ref tied up. Steamboat, Steve Austin, Barry Windham and Ron Simmons all ended up hitting the ring as the match was waved off as a no-contest. In terms of establishing the bulk of the key players in the promotions and their allegiances, you couldn’t ask for much more.
The first trip into Mexico of the year is one that is unfortunately hampered by the poor quality of the video. A lack of audio and dodgy picture aside, it isn’t hard to enjoy a match between El Hijo Del Santo and Negro Casas, but it does mean some of the subtleties of what is going on might have been missed by me. Santo is brought down to ringside on the shoulders of his cornerman before the two men launch into a primera caida that sees mat work in which no hold is just given; everything involves struggle. Little things like Casas elbowing Santo in the back of the head when the masked man applied a leg grapevine were neat, though Santo ended up taking first fall following a teardrop-style back suplex and a surfboard.
Realising he could finish Casas in two falls, Santo started the segunda caida with a dropkick and cross armbreaker, before Casas ended up getting admonished for something that was unclear. A handshake is offered by Santos, turned down by Casas and Santos eventually clattered him with two successive slaps to send his opponent to the mat! Casas got his revenge with a slap of his own, leading to a tiltawhirl slam and la majistral cradle to even things up.
A sequence of nearfalls in the tercera caida up the tension as each man tried to lock the other one up in a hold to keep the shoulders grounded for three seconds, but ultimately failing. Suddenly, a Santo dropkick had Casas at ringside and vulnerable to a Santo suicide dive that took both men over the guardrail and into the crowd! Having searched around about this to little success, I can’t quite work out why this ends the match as a draw, so can only assume a rule against ending up the other side of the guard rail might have been in place. Either way, a great match that wasn’t impeded too much by the audio/video quality.
All that, and only the first week is done? 1992 is going to be a banger of a year – I can feel it in the air.