The collection of matches and segments I am watching for this series 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.
This covers footage from February 29.
This week brings with it a lot of action from WCW Superbrawl, but there is also a smattering of WWF, Memphis and Smokey Mountain as well, including a famous angle involving the first face turn for an enduring legend.
Considering the end of the Jake Roberts versus Randy Savage match at Saturday Night’s Main Event ended on a cliffhanger as Roberts waited backstage for Savage with a chair, it is this episode of the Funeral Parlor a few weeks later that ends up touching upon what actually happened. Jake Roberts is Paul Bearer’s guest and the opening moments are given over to replaying the various ways in which Roberts had tormented Savage over the course of the previous year, including punching Elizabeth in the face. We are then shown the Undertaker halting Roberts’ attempts to swing the chair. Roberts wants to know whose side the Undertaker is on, and after appearing out of a coffin behind Roberts to give him a scare, Taker made it clear – ‘Not yours’.
Using the urn to distract Undertaker and eventually lock the casket shut on the Deadman’s left hand, Roberts went on to DDT Bearer and attack Taker with several chairshots to the back. This is a great segment as it worked two-fold: it showed what Roberts was willing to do to those who he perceived as crossing him, whilst Taker’s attempts to get up really sold how much of a bad ass he was, really getting over the face turn. The end of the segment saw the Undertaker dragging along the casket as he no-sold a significant amount of punishment by Roberts, all to a raucous reception from the fans.
Our weekly visit to Memphis begins with a match between Eric Embry and Pat Tanaka, a handpicked replacement for an injured Dirty White Boy. The clips of the match really only show Tanaka fighting back to prompt a Tony Faulk interference and a disqualification, but the post-match was more fun as Tanaka legitimately connected on a superkick to Embry, who ended up needing to punch Dirty White Girl to escape a chair-wielding Tanaka. Embry’s eye was swollen shut and the kick proved ample ammunition as Corey Maclin interviewed him ahead of the rematch booked for the Coliseum. Embry played a good, angry heel as he debated whether he took Tanaka too lightly, before promising that someone is getting carried out next time they wrestler, and it won’t be him.
The match that saw Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarrett and the Junkyard Dog against the Moondogs and Big Black Dog was always going to be a brawl and plunder match, confirmed by the immediate use of wooden boards as soon as the bell rang. This is my first proper opportunity to see Big Black Dog and he spent most of the fight barely selling protected and unprotected weapon shots. One thing he didn’t no-sell was getting crotched around the ringpost by JYD and Jarrett. The face trio do spend a prolonged period of time working Dog’s leg to effectively eliminate him from the contest, ending up with Jarrett submitting Dog with a figure four leglock with some assistance by Lawler with numerous weapon shots.
Dog ended up getting carried away via a stretcher and is the visual focal point of Richard Lee’s post-match words. To a chorus of whimpering from all three of his men, Lee promised to give back the pain to Jarrett and Lawler five times as bad. The match is fine for what it is, though it was clipped at around seven minutes of a contest that went over fifteen minutes. I do know that I wouldn’t have wanted to see things in their entirety.
The focus for this collection when it comes to Smoky Mountain Wrestling appears to be promos above and beyond matches, but at least that means I get some more Ron Wright and his ailments. This week, he read out a letter from a ‘fan’ that included $5 to go towards his surgical requirements. All the talk is about Wright being a good Christian and a technical wrestler, all things that are patently lies for anyone who knew what a cheat he could be. Really simple, but very effective.
Now, to Superbrawl. Alongside matches against members of the Dangerous Alliance, Brian Pillman’s feud with Jushin Liger has helped to escalate his stock even further as the promotion, at this time, clearly had big plans for him. It is the speed of the early exchanges which are notable, with Liger getting the crowd on their feet with a moonsault press and a dive feint when Pillman spilled to the outside. The knee of Pillman became Liger’s target, allowing the two men to move between more aerial and strike-based offense to submissions, whilst ostensibly positioning Liger as the heel-ier of the likeable pairing. A senton to the outside and a springboard clothesline saw Liger and Pillman take to the air respectively, before Pillman launched himself with a crossbody to the floor!
Dropkicking each other out of mid-air attacks continued to establish parity, as did a collision with spinning wheel kicks. The booking of the finish stretch also helped Pillman as he not only kicked out of a powerbomb and a superplex moments later, but he avoided Liger’s top rope splash and rolled Liger up, finding a new way to win after Liger had originally kicked out of Air Pillman. This match rightly gets plaudits and it is easy to see why. It felt starmaking for Pillman, especially getting the victory over Liger in front of a PPV audience.
Next up is the first Dangerous Alliance involvement of my night as Larry Zbyszko and Steve Austin up against Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes. A high-powered start highlighted the hatred between the four, whilst Windham’s decision to throw Austin into the corner emphasised his desire for retribution against Zbyszko for breaking his arm. The aggressions with which the heels took over, including Windham getting dumped crotch first across the guard rail spoke to the need for the duo to hit hard and fast to contain their opponents. A wild spot put Windham in more danger as a lariat missed Austin and sent him careering over the top rope.
Both Windham and Rhodes can play face in peril, so it isn’t surprising to see a hot tag to Rhodes end up with Austin turning him inside out with a clothesline. Madusa’s involvement at ringside is minimal, but effective, slapping Rhodes to halt any potential momentum that was threatening to build following a knee to Austin’s face. Ironically, it is Austin’s own stun gun move that Rhodes used on the Stunning one to unleash Windham and spark a four man brawl. Throughout the match, Jesse Ventura on commentary had complained about Windham’s cast being illegal and it played into the finish as a top rope clothesline dropped Zbyszko for the three. Good double heat and a well-booked storyline finish as Windham got a measure of revenge.
The United States Title Match had Rick Rude, sans Paul E. Dangerously, defending against Ricky Steamboat, who is accompanied to the ring by ‘The Ninja’, his bodyguard against potential Alliance interference. The opening is more methodical than might be expected as Steamboat worked the arm, though it appeared to be working towards going long in terms of in-ring time. Unfortunately, the first big spot to spark the match into action didn’t quite come off as a Rude crossbody that should have taken Steamboat over the top ended up with both men collapsing to the mat.
What it did do was give Rude the control, which he took with his usual array of weardown holds, though throwing in attacks to the neck to soften Steamboat for the Rude Awakening. A belly to back suplex in particular was wonderfully vicious with the impact crisp and clean. There was something refreshingly rugged about elements of Rude’s offense, such as a clothesline that followed a top rope punch to the neck, yet it was a little too ponderous at times. To be fair, the crowd are behind Steamboat’s attempts to fight from underneath, something which only built as Steamboat took over. However, it was a case of Pavlov’s Ninja as the masked man attacked Steamboat with an oversized mobile phone to cost him the match. It built well enough and had a good finish, but there was some slow action dotted throughout the contest.
The way the collection worked means that often matches that are important but not worth watching in full (not my choice, naturally) is shown in terms of the finish only. The last match of the week therefore is Sting challenging Lex Luger for the WCW World Title and it joined in progress as Sting was putting the boots to the champion. Lord love him, Harley Race took a back bump at ringside on an attempted piledriver, a move that led to the finish as Sting pinned Luger with a top rope crossbody, the champion not expecting to be caught with the move. In reality, Luger’s WCW contract was up and he was heading out the door following this loss and straight to WWF…well, WBF to be exact.
What was shown of Superbrawl made it appear to be a strong WCW PPV offering, whilst stuff such as the Ron Wright promo and the Funeral Parlor all made for good television. As February is almost out, 1992 is continuing to deliver some really good wrestling alongside some more than intriguing angles. Check back next week as I continue my trip through That Was The Year That Was as a jam packed 29th February still offers us some lucha and shootstyle, before March heralds more action from both New and All Japan.