To give some greater context to this project, the collection of matches and segments I am watching come from a 1992 Yearbook created by Goodhelmet, a longtime poster at the Death Valley Driver Forum and other wrestling places. A cross-section of the best (and worst of wrestling within a certain year), it is a great snapshot of everything of importance.
The joy of a project like this is that it forces me into watching promotions and wrestlers that I rarely or have never seen before at all. With this in mind, I get my first ever taste of PWFG (Pro Wrestling Fujinami Gumi) as Naoki Sano took on Jerry Flynn. Sano is a wrestler I have only ever seen opposite Jushin Liger; Flynn is a guy I only ever believed to be a loser in WCW, so this is definitely an interesting pairing. PWFG is a shoot-style promotion so the two men use kicks, strikes and submissions to wear each other down, whilst the opening handshake implies that this is all contested under the guise of sportsmanship. Flynn is the more physically imposing combatant and uses his size to his advantage with his kicks, as well as stretching out a leg towards the ropes in order to break a hold. Where Sano has success is with his slaps, dropping Flynn early on after the gaijin rushed in having scored a knockdown of his own. The match ending neatly played into an earlier spot, as a second attempt at an enziguri by Flynn missed and allowed Sano to apply a half Boston crab. Some fighting styles are not for all and this is one I don’t care much for. However, this was a decent enough contest if this is your bag.
A staple of Memphis wrestling is the Concession Stand Brawl and we get a fine example of that next, though not with the initial competitors in the match. Robert Fuller, teaming with Jeff Jarrett, is knocked out at ringside as we join the contest, but Jerry Lawler stops The Moondogs from double-teaming Jarrett with trash can with his own weapons – some sticks and a broom. The wild brawl found its way over to the stand as any attempt by the referee to get involved sees him knocked out. Spike was lucky Lawler’s aim was off as he chucked the broomstick like a spear, whilst the fans were also fortunate that a trashcan that hit Lawler didn’t bounce further and take them out too! The brawl at the stand goes on for seven minutes and a lot of blood was spilled, including some nasty looking cuts on Jarrett’s back. Just crazy action.
The WWF is in full-on Royal Rumble mode with the PPV only a week away. This leads to two interesting promos on Superstars. Firstly, Mean Gene Okerlund gave us the Update, a segment more currently designed to promote a key wrestler or feud. This is one of the more notable ones though as Okerlund announced that Bret Hart lost the Intercontinental Title to The Mountie. Having attacked Roddy Piper, who had come down to check on an ill Hart (a 104-degree temperature cited), Jack Tunney decided that the Mountie would defend the gold against Piper at the Rumble. Faintly generic heel and face promos follow – Mountie takes a crack at Piper’s skirt, Piper tells the champion the belt will hold up his kilt on Monday morning.
What is interesting about this all is that the booking was due to fears about Hart jumping to WCW, with the Clash of the Champions on January 21. Naturally, this didn’t occur, leaving Hart to instead chase the title heading into WrestleMania. Piper’s promo also made a big deal about him becoming the first man to challenge for two titles on one night, a thing I thought was amazing as a child.
The other notable interview also involved Mean Gene Okerlund, though this time on the podium with Hulk Hogan. This is definitely not peak Hogan, but he still gets a good reaction for what becomes a neat retrospective of Hogan’s time on top. Clips are shown of several notable moments, from Hogan winning the title, to feuds that include Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Earthquake, Sergeant Slaughter and the Undertaker. His biggest complaint was aimed at Jack Tunney, but Hogan promised that he was going to make the world see things the way the Hulkamaniacs do when he wins the Royal Rumble.
In terms of timing, the next match between the Moondogs and the team of Jeff Jarrett and Robert Fuller is actually from before the Concession Stand Brawl, but was aired after it. This was the match that Jarrett and Fuller had made special chairs for and they are put to good use before the bell even rang. This match is a no-disqualification match and is primarily all about the faces gaining some measure of revenge. Tables, a construction helmet, a guardrail all get put to good use, whilst the cameraman is so overwhelmed that he lost track of the action two separate occasions. The focus tells us a lot about who books the show as it is often Jarrett’s brawls at ringside that are shown on camera whilst Fuller plugged away inside the ring. A top rope chairshot by Jarrett felt like it should have been enough, but Richard Lee helped the Moondogs retain the USWA Tag Team Titles when he tripped Fuller up and held his foot down to stop the kickout. More loot and plunder brawling, but the Moondogs are really good at taking a pasting.
Having aired the aforementioned match, USWA gave some time to Jerry Lawler and Jeff Jarrett in order to promote an upcoming tag match against the Moondogs. Any doubts about the violence of the Concession Stand Brawl are put to bed as Jarrett has several big bandages on his back and shoulder. Lawler actually brought out a jobber with cuts and scrapes across his back to further highlight the brutal nature of the Moondogs, whilst also likening them to the Terminator as they just keep coming. Lawler stated that kings have ruled the country and dogs have laid at their feet, though is then required to finish the promo after Jarrett stumbled over his words in trying to suggest Robert Fuller would deal with Lee if needed. The difference between the two on the mic is very notable – Lawler finished things off by claiming that he only stuck his nose in when Lee got involved, each beat hit with his usual intensity.
When Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, and Rick Rude take on a team of Sting, Ricky Steamboat, and Marcus Bagwell, it is hard not to assume that Bagwell is there just to lose. However, the previous couple of years had seen the company get behind him as a future prospect so you never know. It is often the little things that make a television match worth watching and this is really good for those small moments. Whether it is Steamboat mocking Rude’s sell on an atomic drop, Paul E. Dangerously going wild on the outside as Sting is almost tagged in, or Bagwell’s face fire to fight his way out of corner, this is real fun from bell to bell. The best moment is probably when Sting deal with Eaton and Austin, leading to all four other Alliance members (including Medusa) holding Rude back from getting into an altercation.
When the heels are given their chance to shine, Steamboat bumps like a champion for some vicious backbreakers by Eaton before popping up for the offense of all of the other heels to make them look all the more effective. The match even includes a blind tag to Sting and the ref being out of position for a schoolboy on Rude which are both heeling 101, but all the better for it. The hot tag goes in Bagwell’s direction and my hunch is proved correct as the ref ends up out of position once more and Eaton hit the Alabama Jam on Bagwell as he pinned Austin to give the Dangerous Alliance the victory.
Since he killed his wife and son before killing himself, I’ve not watched a Chris Benoit match. Feeling far enough removed from the tragic event, I decided I was ready to watch as Pegasus Kid and Negro Casas took on El Hijo Del Santo and Villlano III. The primera caida is joined in progress, whilst a cut after a Kid top rope splash on Villano III into a half crab by Casas on El Hijo Del Santo implied that Kid put Villano away with that move and we are quickly into the segunda. With all four men more than capable, the action is thick and fast, though this time the tecnicos take control with swinging armdrag by Santo on Casas as well as two dropkicks to Kid. The Santo rolling senton from the top does for Kid, whilst a surfboard on Casas meant Santo eliminated both opponents.
Just like the segunda caida, the tercera begun with Casas attacking Villano from behind, with a more conventional western tag setup as the ring is cut in half by the rudos. Miscommunications eventually cost Kid and Casas as Kid hits his partner with a second turnbuckle axehandle. This all built up to the big spot of the match that saw Santo dive from the top to the outside to wipe out Casas, whilst it is a missed top rope move by Kid that allowed him to get pinned to give the victory to El Hijo Del Santo and Villano III. A fun contest as was to be expected from these four competitors.
The week is not quite finished, but with a Royal Rumble, Clash of the Champions and Jumbo Tsuruta versus Toshiaki Kawada match covering January 19-21, the next few days will be loaded!