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. The footage is taken from May 17.
Sometimes there are days in wrestling that just so happen to see a couple of promotions sync up in some fashion and offer a big match or show at the same time. May 17, 1992 was just one of those days as a New Japan show saw an IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match, whilst WCW presented Wrestle War, a PPV with the effective end of the long term storyline between the promotion and the Dangerous Alliance.
First, to Japan. Riki Choshu was still the champion after his recent victory over Scott Norton, yet Keiji Muto was always liable to offer him a different challenge. As if to show the range in his playbook, Choshu busted out a flying headscissors takedown which was the highlight of a prolonged period of mat work. Whilst it was all completed earnestly enough, it all lacked heat, especially considering it was a title match. A brief battle over a Muto figure four was followed by Choshu applying his scorpion deathlock, though with little visible impact on Muto. Three big elbow drops in a row and a Gotch-style piledriver had Muto firmly in control, but not even enough to get a nearfall on Choshu.
A moonsault that had Muto land on his feet as Choshu moved before segueing into a plancha by the challenger was a nifty sequence, but the match threatened to fall apart near the end. Muto’s second moonsault attempt saw him overshoot Choshu, whilst Choshu hit a lariat and a DDT that it appeared Muto bumped too early for on both moves. At least the last three lariats that Choshu landed looked decent and the crowd did pop big for him retaining his title. Solid and unspectacular with a poor finish stretch, unfortunately.
A brief interlude followed as Randy Savage joined Mean Gene Okerlund on WWF Challenge. This was one of the segments where Okerlund interviewed a wrestler in front of the fans and they are excited to see the world champion. This was all about how Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair were going to reveal more about the relationship with Elizabeth, which feels weird considering how it seemed like this element of the feud was over with by this point. Savage believed Flair to be degrading his wife and the title, with Elizabeth meaning more to him than the belt itself. Bobby Heenan’s the star here on commentary as he spends a good amount of time mocking Savage for Liz not being alongside him, though quickly shuts up when Gorilla Monsoon mentions a lawsuit.
The WCW Light Heavyweight Title was up for grabs in the first match from WrestleWar, with Brian Pillman defending against Tom Zenk. With the duo a tag team in recent memory, the two obvious tropes play out: they know each other so well that reversals, counters and simultaneous moves follow; the commentary (well, Jesse Ventura) wonders which one will cheat first. An open handed slap came from Pillman that had Ventura excited, though Jim Ross was quick to remind him that it was a legal strike.
Following the parity between both men, Pillman’s target became Zenk’s knee, whilst Zenk worked over Pillman’s apparently injured back. All this played out to a mild response at best, which was a shame for competent work from both men. The crowd did fire up as the two men traded slaps in a Pillman figure four, whilst they also bit on a couple of close falls for Zenk as things built effectively to the finish. It is Zenk’s arrogance that costs him in the end: he faked a knee injury to catch Pillman coming off of the top with a kick, but a top rope dropkick attempt of his own missed and Pillman cradled Zenk for the win. A really good match that heated up nicely.
The New Japan/WCW relationship occasionally offered up some weird matches on US soil and WrestleWar was no exception as The Steiners met Takayuki Iizuka and Tatsumi Fujinami. I’ve seen this contest before and remember that The Steiners don’t mess around when it comes to working stiff with Iizuka in particular. This was utilised as a chance to show off some moves and the tone was set early on when Scott hit two backflip slams, though the first one on Fujinami saw Scott pretty much land on his own head. The physicality was clear as Iizuka was soon busted open from the nose. This could quite easily turn into a list of spots as they continued to throw in ridiculous moves, a prime example being Rick turning an attempted Doomsday-style crossbody by Iizuka into some sort of belly to belly which was lucky it didn’t kill somebody.
Your mileage on this match will vary with regards to the extent at which stiff work becomes too stiff or dangerous. The Steiners seemed to be pissed off with something and take out those frustrations on Iizuka. Rick in particular tags both of his opponents with stiff strikes, whilst a double leg takedown on Iizuka saw him pretty much dumped on his head. There was basically very little selling by the Steiners whatsoever, with Rick the biggest culprit. At least Scott sold a spike piledriver near the end. Rick ended up putting Iizuka out of his misery with an avalanche belly to belly. Definitely a spectacle.
In recent memory, I was tasked with writing an article for a since defunct wrestling magazine about the Dangerous Alliance, rounding off with War Games at WrestleWar 1992. From the storyline itself to the execution of the match, it isn’t hard to see why some people consider it one of the best feuds in wrestling history.
In a role that was often perceived as made famous by Arn Anderson, it was a great vote of confidence by the booking team to begin the contest with Steve Austin and Barry Windham. Windham was an older head than Austin, but it spoke volumes that they were considered valuable enough pieces of the puzzle to be in the match from start to finish. Windham had previous experience in the War Games match; Austin had none. This seemed most apparent when Austin moved into Windham’s ring and allow a few easy shots from the face. Windham controlled, as is usual for the face team in this gimmick, the first five minutes, though Ventura was quick to complain about the taped right hand that Windham blasted into Austin’s face multiple times.
As the time of the first period ran down, Paul E. Dangerously was brandishing a piece of paper, forever communicating with both the men at ringside and Austin inside the steel. All along, it felt like he was moving his men in this human game of chess, and was deciding upon the best course of action at each turn. This was more than necessary. Austin was a bloodied mess at the end of the first five minutes, Windham having ground his face across the cage with little compassion for the men he recently defeated for the TV title and even biting the wound in front of the camera.
There is a level of formula within the War Games match, and the best often end with the heel team taking advantage after the first five minute period. What better way to develop a sense of tension and struggle than for the odds to be almost constantly stacked against the team the fans wanted to win? Unsurprisingly, the coin toss went the way of Dangerously’s men. In a more surprising turn of events, it was Rick Rude who turned the next two minutes into a two on one assault. As Ross stated, it was Dangerously using his ‘heavy hitter’ early on, almost in an attempt to take Windham out of the match for good. Both members of the Dangerous Alliance attempted to gain retribution for Austin’s laceration by driving Windham into the cage several times.
Fighting fire for fire, Ricky Steamboat was the man who entered next for Sting’s Squadron, and the pop from the crowd was deafening. Steamboat’s fury took out both Austin and Rude, with a cage-assisted dropkick on the former TV champion followed by a headscissors takedown on the US champion. By this time, Windham had also been cut open, but things were about to get a hell of a lot more difficult for Sting’s assembly of talent; Arn Anderson was about to enter the match.
The most experienced wrestler in terms of the gimmick, Anderson announced his arrival with a DDT that planted Windham’s head into the mat. This was followed by a spinebuster that tried to drive Steamboat right through the canvas. Rude and Anderson also tried their best to break Steamboat in half with a double boston crab, before Steamboat got dumped on top of his head with a vicious Rude piledriver.
Dustin Rhodes entered to put the match back on an even keel, using his high impact strike offense to drop Anderson. Worse followed for Anderson in this period, as Windham stomped his head in between the two rings in a move that left Anderson’s body quivering in pain. Austin had arguably an even worse time at this point, with him being the target of much of Rhodes’ initial offense. An atomic drop off of an Irish whip saw Austin’s head hit the top of the cage, whilst an electric chair drop followed shortly afterward.
Larry Zybysko was the penultimate member of the Dangerous Alliance to enter the contest, fighting for his own membership to the stable it seemed. His cause wasn’t helped by Rhodes cutting him off almost at the door, a move that prompted Madusa scaling the cage. Sting eventually chased her off of the top, but not before Dangerously’s phone was dropped in the ring. Anderson grabbed the weapon and use it to further compound the misery of the Squadron.
With the choice of the team captain or the Russian to equalize an increasingly perilous situation, Sting finally made his entrance into the match. With each Alliance member that engaged with him, he found a way to send them into the cage; Austin and Anderson were chucked into the steel, whilst Rude was pressed multiple times into the cage roof in a show of amazing strength by the WCW Champion. To add to the list of wrestlers who were bleeding, Anderson appeared to lose part of his face behind a mask of crimson.
In terms of the final offerings into the match, Nikita Koloff probably outmatched Bobby Eaton, but it was Eaton who would get two more minutes to take advantage of the face’s handicap. With one man spare almost at all times, the Alliance began to work to unscrew the turnbuckle from its corner. Zybysko and Rude primarily went to work on dismantling the ropes, though they hadn’t finished by the time we entered ‘The Match Beyond’.
The debate in the lead up was as to whether Koloff would do right by Sting and fight under his former nemesis. Koloff crossed the ring as soon as he entered to pull Anderson off of Sting, but there was a prolonged staredown between the two. As words were being exchanged, Austin and Anderson tried to attack Sting from behind, only for Koloff to push Sting out of the way and take the hit himself. Two clotheslines later, Sting and Koloff had enough time to hit a double high five and a hug to further cement their current friendship. With one of the last ambiguities of the angle settled, ‘The Match Beyond’ came down to which team wanted it more and could work cohesively enough to take the win.
Unfortunately for Dangerously and the Alliance, cohesion was not something they had shown in the previous weeks, and this issue reared its ugly head at the worst possible time. With the metal pole that attached the turnbuckle to the ring finally separated, Zybysko attempted to blast Sting in the arm, setting him up for the submission they needed for victory. Instead, Sting moved and Eaton took the full force of the metal implement to the side of the arm. Zybysko was dropped, a mounted armlock followed and Eaton was left with little choice but to surrender. Sting’s Squadron had finally defeated the Dangerous Alliance once and for all.
For a feud that simmered and boiled for almost a full year in total, it got the match that it deserved to crown it off. Whether the focus shifted nearer the end and the momentum didn’t quite keep up until the War Games, you can’t argue when the match designed to end the angle is the best of the whole bunch. It is epic in every possible way.
Following what had otherwise looked like a fairly humdrum opening to the PPV, these final three matches finished WrestleWar off with some exciting competition, incredible spots, some arguably unprofessional actions and buckets of blood. All three are well worth the time to watch, for different reasons. Come back next week for the rest of the May 1992 actions as That Was The Year That Was continues. Thanks for reading.