SuperBrawl I: Return from the Rising Sun
Welcome to SuperBrawl I. This would become one of WCW's flagship events and continue until the company's demise. The main event tonight will feature Ric Flair facing Tatsumi Fujinami, the reigning IWGP Champion (the primary title of New Japan Pro Wrestling) AND current NWA Champion. How did he win the NWA Title? Well, there was some screwiness involved. WCW and New Japan worked together closely throughout their history and held a series of pay-per-views together. The first WCW/New Japan Supershow took place in March, although it did not air in the United States until April. In the main event, Flair faced Fujinami. Depending on who you believe, either both the NWA and WCW titles were on the line, or only the NWA Title was. It seems like it was announced that only the NWA Title was on the line in the arena, but the later broadcast billed it as both titles on the line. Anyway, Fujinami pinned Flair to win one or both of the titles. However, earlier in the match he had thrown Flair over the top rope. In WCW, that's a disqualification. For this reason, it was stated that he had only won the NWA Championship. Tonight, he faces Flair in a rematch with both titles on the line. Let's get to the action:
WCW United States Tag Team Championship: The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Young Pistols (Tracy Smothers and Steve Armstrong)
The titles are vacant because the Steiners forfeited them after winning the World Tag Team Championship from the Freebirds in February. DDP and "Big Daddy Dink" (Oliver Humperdink) are still managing the Freebirds. The Southern Boys were renamed the Young Pistols for reasons unknown to me. Armstrong rolls Hayes up while he's doing his moonwalk routine and gets a quick two count. The Pistols control early with fast-paced offense. The Freebirds take control when Garvin pulls down the top rope on Smothers and he crashes to the floor. The Freebirds proceed to work their typical heat segment. Garvin tags in and gets hit with a Superkick, at which point Smothers manages to tag in Armstrong. Armstrong hits a series of slams, followed by the Pistols both missing Dropkicks at the same time. The Freebirds throw the Pistols to the floor and pose a little bit. Meanwhile, Armstrong hits a Flying Clothesline followed by a Crossbody Block from Smothers. The Pistols hit a variation of the Doomsday Device that involves a Missile Dropkick instead of a Flying Clothesline. Unfortunately, the referee gets bumped in the process. Brad Armstrong in a bird suit (later known as Bradstreet) comes down and DDTs both men, followed by Hayes getting the pin at 10:19.
Result: Freebirds by pinfall (New WCW United States Tag Team Champions)
Analysis: **1/4. Pretty standard Freebirds tag match, albeit with better opponents than usual.
My tape clips the next five matches. Dan Spivey defeated Ricky Morton in 3:11, Nikita Koloff defeated Tommy Rich in 4:27, Dustin Rhodes defeated Terrance Taylor in 8:05, Big Josh defeated Black Bart in 3:46, and Oz (Kevin Nash) defeated Tim Parker in 26 seconds. Can't say I feel like I missed a ton there.
Missy Hyatt tries to get into the locker room for an interview but ends up being thrown out by Stan Hansen. Again.
Taped Fist Match: Barry Windham vs. Brian Pillman
Both men have their fists taped so they can punch harder without breaking their hands. Windham has been putting beatdowns on Pillman for the last few months, starting shortly before WrestleWar. Pillman start out hot, but Pillman gets a shot to the ribs to take over. He goes up top, but Pillman knocks him to the floor with a Dropkick. Pillman gets a Fistdrop and Windham blades. Windham gets Pillman up and drops him throat-first on the guardrail. They go back in and Pillman connects with a Spin Kick. Windham responds with an eye rake and drops Pillman on the top rope. They trade chops until Windham hits a Back Suplex. They do a double KO spot. Windham tries a Suplex, but Pillman blocks it and hits a Suplex of his own. Pillman goes to the top rope, but Windham follows him up and hits the Superplex for the pin at 6:08.
Result: Barry Windham by pinfall
Analysis: ***. Good match that needed more time.
Stretcher Match: Sid Vicious vs. El Gigante
Oh, bother. This match is a result of Sid injuring Pillman with a Powerbomb at WrestleWar and Gigante wanting to get revenge on him. And presumably the bookers of this match wanting to get revenge on us for being wrestling fans. Also, this is Sid's last match in WCW before he left for the WWF. He'd be back, but not for a few years. This might be the only match Sid has ever wrestled where he was the better worker. Gigante comes out with the stretcher. Apparently, this is just a normal match other than the fact that the loser has to be carried out on a stretcher afterward. They do the generic big man spots (lock up and go nowhere, run into each other with shoulderblocks) to start. Gigante knocks Sid down with a Clothesline and Sid rolls out of the ring. Sid kicks at Gigante's legs and gets booted after a charge into the corner. Gigante applies the Iron Claw (head grab) for the submission victory at 2:13.
Result: El Gigante by submission
Analysis: Dud. But that was probably the best possible outcome.
After the match Kevin Sullivan and Black Bart attack Gigante. He dominates them until Sullivan throws powder in his eyes and they hit him with the stretcher.
Thunder-Doom Cage Match: Ron Simmons vs. Butch Reed
Doom explodes! This is the blow-off to Doom breaking up after losing the tag titles at WrestleWar. Teddy Long is in a cage hanging above the ring to prevent him from interfering. Also, there are no special rules here. It's just a standard cage match. Simmons hits a Clothesline and then misses a dive and hits the cage. Simmons reverses an Irish Whip and then hits a Back Suplex. Simmons charges, but Reed gets his boots up. Reed hits an Elbow Drop from the second rope. He puts Simmons into the cage. He grinds Simmons' face into the cage. Reed hits an Ax Handle from the second rope. Simmons reverses a throw into the cage and then hits a series of jabs. Reed manages to slam Simmons into the cage. Reed drops Simmons across the top rope. Reed applies a Chinlock. Simmons elbows out, but telegraphs a Backdrop and gets hit with a Swinging Neckbreaker. Reed goes up top and hits a Flying Shoulderblock. Reed tries a Splash, but Simmons gets his knees up. Simmons connects with a Backdrop. Reed stops the comeback with a knee to the face. A double Clothesline puts both guys down. Teddy Long drops a chain into the ring. Reed gets it, misses a punch, and gets hit with a Spinebuster. Simmons gets the pin at 9:39.
Result: Ron Simmons by pinfall
Analysis: *1/2. Yawn.
WCW World Tag Team Championship: The Steiner Brothers (c) vs. Sting and Lex Luger
This is happening because Luger and Sting needed a break from feuding with the Horsemen. They start with a video package highlighting the contestants. That was a novelty at the time. Luger and Rick start things off. Rick out-wrestles Luger with several takedowns. Luger simplifies things and drops Steiner with a Shoulderblock. He follows that with a Powerslam. Luger misses a corner charge and Rick gets a Release German Suplex. He follows that with a Steinerline. Rick Backdrops Luger. Luger explodes out of the corner with a Clothesline, then picks Rick up for a Military Press. Sting tags in and Clotheslines Sting over the top rope. He follows that with a Plancha to the floor! Back in the ring Sting hits a one-handed Bulldog. Sting picks Rick up into an Argentine Backbreaker position and drops him stomach-first into the corner. Sting misses the Stinger Splash and Scott tags in. Scott hits a huge Double Underhook Powerbomb. He follows it with a Tilt-a-Whirl Slam. Sting drops Scott across the top rope and tags in Luger. Vertical Suplex by Luger. Sting tags back in and Scott gets an Inverted Atomic Drop. He sends Sting off the top rope with a Super Belly to Belly Suplex! Scott goes for a Steinerline, but misses and tumbles over the top rope. Luger Suplexes Scott back into the ring. Scott counters a Backdrop attempt with a throw of some kind. Lex hits a Powerslam and tries the Torture Rack, but Scott counters with a Russian Legsweep. Rick tags in and hits a Bulldog from the top rope! He covers for 1........2.......... kick out! Sting hits Rick with a Missile Dropkick. Lex and Rick slug it out in the center of the ring and then they do a double knockout.
Both guys make tags. Sting gets a Back Suplex. Scott goes for a Tombstone, but Sting counters with a Tombstone of his own. Sting covers and Rick breaks it up. Luger knocks Rick out of the ring, taking out the referee in the process. Sting hits the Stinger Splash. At this point Nikita Koloff, who was feuding with Luger, makes his way down and decks Sting. Scott crawls on top for the pin at 11:09.
Result: Steiner Brothers by pinfall
Analysis: ****1/2. Fantastic tag match. Non-stop back and forth action. The Steiners were at their peak here and were absolutely the best tag team in the world. Sting and Luger were also in their prime and always made a pretty good tag team in their own right. I wish we had gotten a series of matches between these teams, but fate had other plans.
Schiavone interviews Nikita Koloff backstage. He gets jumped by Sting and they brawl out of the building.
WCW World Television Championship: Arn Anderson (c) vs. Bobby Eaton
So Anderson has held the TV Title for the past 17 months and this is the first time he's defended it on a pay-per-view. Really not the way to give credibility to a title. Eaton keeps countering Anderon's headlock takdowns, and then Eaton decks Anderson with a right hand. Anderson tries a couple charges, but keeps getting booted by Eaton. Eaton hits a big Clothesline for a two count. Armbar by Eaton. Eaton goes up top, but gets thrown off to the outside onto the ramp. Ouch. Arn tries a Piledriver on the ramp, but Eaton counters with a Backdrop. Eaton Backdrops Anderson over the top rope into the ring. He comes off the top with a Double Ax Handle. Eaton goes back to the arm. Arn breaks the hold, knocks Eaton down with a punch, and then wraps his leg around the ring post. Arn goes to work on Eaton's leg. Arn tries the Figure Four but gets booted into the corner. Eaton rams Anderson's head into the turnbuckle about fifteen times.
Arn goes back to the leg. Eaton blocks a Suplex and hits his own Suplex. His knee gives out so he doesn't get all of it. Arn works the leg. Arn tries a Vader Bomb, but Eaton gets his knees up. Eaton hits the ropes, but Anderson gets him with a Spinebuster. Eaton kicks out at two. Arn goes for an Ax Handle but Eaton catches him with a shot to the gut. Eaton hits a Swinging Neckbreaker. He goes up top. Barry Windham hit the ring, but he's cut off by Brian Pillman. Pillman and Windham fight to the back as Eaton comes off the top rope with the Alabama Jam and gets the pin at 11:50.
Result: Bobby Eaton by pinfall (New WCW World Television Champion)
Analysis: ***1/2. Solid match. Slow, but smart. Anderson worked Eaton's leg ruthlessly and he sold it well. After years of being a tag wrestler Eaton adapted well to singles competition.
WCW World Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Heavyweight Championship: Ric Flair (c) vs. Tatsumi Fujinami
I'm not familiar with Fujinami beyond him being a legend in Japan. That's probably more than most of WCW's fans knew at this point, making this match a curious choice to main event a pay-per-view. This match has two referees: a Japanese referee inside the ring and a WCW referee outside the ring. We'll see if that comes into play. Nice mat wrestling sequence to start. They trade chops. Fujinami gets a Backdrop. Fujinami locks in a Bow and Arrow. They trade chops until Fujinami puts on a Boston Crab. He transitions into an Indian Deathlock. Flair gets out and hits a Suplex. Fujinami Suplexes Flair from the apron to the ring. Fujinami Clotheslines Flair over the top rope. For some reason that's not a disqualification. Flair drops Fujinami on the guardrail. He throws Fujinami into the ring. Chop block by Flair. Kneebreaker. Flair hooks the Figure Four. Eventually, Fujinami turns it over.
Fujinami gets Flair down and applies a Sharpshooter. Flair gets to the ropes. Fujinami hits a Back Suplex. Fujinami grabs a Headlock, but Flair reverses with a Suplex. That leads to a mat wrestling sequence. Flair throws Fujinami to the floor. Flair gets slammed into the guardrail and the ring post. He blades. They go back to the ring where Fujinami focuses on the punch. Flair stops a Fujinami charge with a boot. He tries an Oklahoma Roll, but Fujinami doesn't go with it. Flair rolls to the floor, where he flops. Flair gets up and goes to the top rope. Unsurprisingly he gets thrown off. Fujinami applies an Octopus Stretch. "USA" chant from the crowd. Flair gets out and they do a double KO spot. Flair tries to slam Fujinami, but he falls on top for a two count. Fujinami gets a Small Package for a two count. Fujinami gets knocked into the referee, taking him out. Flair takes the opportunity to roll Fujinami up and grab his trunks for a three count (by the American referee) at 18:39.
Result: Ric Flair by pinfall (New NWA World Heavyweight Champion, retains WCW World Heavyweight Championship)
Analysis: ***. Good match. The crowd was mostly dead because they didn't really know who Fujinami was or care about him. He also worked a style that wasn't very familiar to American audiences, slow-paced and heavy on submissions. They popped for Flair's antics and not much else. Still, an solid and entertaining match between two great workers.
JR and Dusty put over how great a match that was as we play out.
Overall: Pretty good show. The clipped version cut out the boring matches and left us with some pretty good stuff. The tag match was phenomenal, and everything else was watchable other that Sid/Gigante, which lasted three minutes. WCW was still chugging along here on the back of a talented roster. They were doing just fine when they didn't try to outsmart themselves. Unfortunately, storm clouds were on the horizon. By the time the next pay-per-view rolled around, WCW would be a very different place.