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 the July 5-12.
We begin another week of That Was The Year That Was in the snappily titled Japanese Women Pro-Wrestling Project as Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki faced each other in this fledgeling promotion. This match was only a few months after the promotion first ran a show so join AAA as another promotion looking to compete against their established rivals.
Unlike the wrestlers from All Japan Women, I am less knowledgeable of Kansai and Ozaki, though they were in the main event tag match on JWP’s first show, so I can safely assume they are notable additions to the roster. Though this was likely due to the showcased wrestlers themselves, the match felt a tad slower than the offerings I had seen from other Joshi promotions. What was notable was Kansai’s stiff strikes as she looked to bully her opponent in the early going, as well as a well-executed crescent kick that halted an Ozaki comeback.
After what felt like the obligatory (as it seems to happen in every Joshi match I watch) fighting at ringside, the two returned to the ring to trade submissions for extended periods (Kansai, a sharpshooter; Ozaki, a Fujiwara armbar). Though they went on for a while, the wrenching and selling made them feel like a real struggle. It also made Kansai’s powerbomb to stop Ozaki’s constant assault on her even more exceptional. One step better than that was Kansai catching an Ozaki senton at ringside to turn it into a piledriver.
An even contest for the most part, Kansai came close to finishing Ozaki a couple of times. This flurry of nearfalls all built up nicely to the finish as Ozaki slipped out the back of what looked like another powerbomb, rolling up Kansai for the victory. A strong contest that started hard, before slowing down to build the foundations for an exciting final five minutes.
Another WWF Superstars, another Razor Ramon vignette! This time, he was in a restaurant, talking about how the wrestlers in the promotion were scared of him. Things picked up when the waiter gave him the bill, leading to an epic meltdown and Ramon sweeping his plates on the floor in anger. Probably my favorite of the vignettes thus far, but no more!
Heading over to Memphis, we first get clips of the match between Eddie Gilbert and Ricky Morton for Gilbert’s USWA Unified World Title. With Lauren Davenport in Gilbert’s corner, she saved him multiple times as she placed his foot on the bottom ropes to break up three pins at least. What we see looked like a good match, with Gilbert coming through after a great nearfall on a roll-up by Morton and a chain-assisted punch for the victory.
What this led to was a rematch on the studio show that weekend. In a reasonably throwaway line, Dave Brown mentioned that there was an agreed-on time limit for the match, though it is never made clear as to what it is. What followed was a fun Southern-style singles match with Morton injecting the pace amongst some good grappling on the canvas, before Gilbert cheated to turn the tide. With the ‘specially-agreed’ time limit suddenly upon us, Gilbert ended the match with Morton trapped in a figure four leglock. Sensing victory, Gilbert exited the ring to request an overtime period; his hubris almost immediately cost him as a suplex was reversed into a small package for Morton to take the victory.
I went back and forth on what happened next. Having loved Morton’s victory, Gilbert was quick to point out to Brown and Eddie Marlin that the contract for the match stipulated that the match was only going for the specified time limit. While I’d have preferred a short Morton reign and a rematch at the Coliseum, where things went next was satisfying. Not only did Marlin offer Morton a rematch, but he also gave him a choice of any stipulation he wanted. Gilbert seemed happy when Morton only wanted a standard referee, yet was soon irate as the challenger revealed Paul Morton, his referee father, as the man in the middle for the rematch. Though I’d rather the title change stood, I enjoyed the reveal of the stipulation.
Things were not going so well for the USWA Tag Team Champions as Jeff Jarrett and Jerry Lawler lost the belts straight back to the Moondogs. Clips showed Lee consistently interrupting and distracting the referee, before a handful of powder to Jarrett’s eyes were enough for a weak schoolboy roll-up to keep him down for the three count. The finish looked weak and was seeking to prolong a feud that was past its sell-by date. The resulting promos had Lawler and Jackie Fargo voice their frustrations as a six-man tag with Lee involved was the next step at the Coliseum. I know Fargo was a legend in the area, but he was very much past it by now and looked it for the most part.
A brief promo ended the footage from Memphis for this week as Tom Prichard talked about Brian Christopher earning a shot at the Southern Heavyweight Title. I don’t know why this was here outside of giving me a sense of Prichard and Christopher’s feud.
Heading over to Smoky Mountain Wrestling and a Down and Dirty With Dutch Mantell. Joined by Ron Wright, Dirty White Boy and Paul Orndorff, the Summer Blast show was the focus of promotion for this week. While we did get a promo by Ronnie Garvin, which you know I don’t like, they then show a music video which does a great job of selling what Garvin brought to the ring. Matches against Andre the Giant, Bob Orton Jr. and others make up the montage and make Garvin look like a monster. Even better is how Ron Wright sells the video by suggesting that he was about to have a heart attack. Enjoyable and worth watching for the montage alone.
The aired date of the All Japan offering for this week was the 12th of July (taped on the 5th of July I believe) and saw Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi defending their newly won All Asia Tag Team Championship against Yoshinari Ogawa and Masa Fuchi. The match was joined in progress as the challengers took over on Kikuchi. Ogawa is an excellent, arrogant young heel, alongside Fuchi, who is one of the best surly old veterans I’ve seen. What this means is that first Kikuchi, then Kobashi, take a fun beating. In particular, two basement dropkicks by Fuchi targeted Kobashi’s injured knee, giving the challengers a point of focus as the match slowed down. Both Kikuchi and Kobashi were excellent at high paced blasts of offence, providing flurries that effectively shift the dynamics of the contest.
An interesting narrative point saw Kobashi land the moonsault on Ogawa, yet the legwork from earlier halt his ability to pin his opponent. It left things on tenterhooks as Kobashi was vulnerable, but also capable of turning the tide of the match on a dime. A missile dropkick by Kikuchi that hit his partner didn’t help things much, though the finish served to highlight how crafty Kikuchi could be. Rolling through a Fuchi pin attempt and adding a further bridge was enough to snatch the win when it looked like it was slipping away. A strong title defence with a finish I liked as the relative youngster put one over on the wily veteran.
The final match this week heads to the UWFi promotion as a tag team contest pitted gaijins versus natives as Gary Albright and Mark Silver joined forces against Kiyoshi Tamura and Kazuo Yamazaki. As followers of this series know, I’m not always a fan of the grappling elements of shoot-style wrestling, but I am a fan of people hitting each other hard and throwing each other across the ring, which I hope these teams could bring to the table.
Though a lot of the opening exchanges are ground-based, I did enjoy Albright getting Tamura in full mount and slapping him around the face to show him who was boss. I appreciated the struggle as Yamazaki fought to avoid an Albright slam just under midway through the contest but always felt myself waiting and hoping for more as the teams continued to trade holds on the mat. In a surprise for me, it was Yamazaki who landed the first throw, planting Silver with a German suplex, which did finally spark things more into life.
I still don’t quite grasp the point scoring system used, but I did know that the duo from the United States was getting beaten fairly handily as several rope breaks by Silver cost them points. He then crumpled after the first sustained striking offense from Yamazaki, giving the natives a 14 point lead, 20-6.
My Dad used to watch UWFi under the name ‘Bushido’ here in the UK, and he spoke about Albright coming into the ring and destroying people. I got a hint of that as he entered (to a huge pop), absolutely destroyed Tamura with three throws and won the match single-handedly for his team in a matter of minutes. The build-up might have been a little slow for me, but that was an excellent finish.
(alternative version from Russian television – the DVD version had no commentary)
From the angle to the matches, one of the better runs from this year I would argue. The Joshi was good, the Memphis was fun, the tag title defense showcased all four men at their best, and the Albright match had Albright doing Albright-y things. Join me next week as we continue to explore 1992 as That Was The Year That Was.