This Week In WWE Vintage Collection History: Turning Japanese
By Aaron Wood Aug 6, 2012 - 7:54 AM
TweetVINTAGE COLLECTION #218
Mean Gene was on hand to pick up where we left off on the "Best In The World" series, as we were heading to the Far East, and we'd be getting into it right away with 2 of the most innovative stars in history. The Asai Moonsault. The Shooting Star Press. The Drago Sleeper. The Liger Bomb. Heard of them? Well, you have Jushin "Thunder" Liger and Ultimo Dragon to thank, and here they were facing off on WCW Nitro on December 30th 1996.
After the break, we turned to the 2011 WWE Hall Of Fame inductee, Antonio Inoki. While he spent time in the WWE and held the short-lived Martial Arts Title, he made his name wrestling and promoting events in Japan, so it was something special when he wrestled in the States. And in this bout, at a WCW Clash Of The Champions on August 24th 1994, Inoki faced Lord Steven Regal.
Back from the break, we right right to the Philadelphia Spectrum on February 18th 1984, as Mean Gene effused about Mr. Fuji, as he teamed with Tiger Chung Lee against Tony Garea and Eddie Gilbert. The announcers for this were Gorilla Monsoon and Dick Graham. We picked things up mid-match as Fuji cut off Garea with a kick to the back of the head while on the apron, allowing the heels to take control. Fuji hit a falling headbutt, which Garea sold like he was a dying fish.
Fuji & Lee swapped illegally while the ref's back was turned. Fuji put on a nerve hold, which Garea managed to fight his way out of, only to end up taking a knee to the bread basket. Despite Tiger Chung Lee, when he tagged in, continuously hitting shots on Garea, Garea managed to make his way over Gilbert, making the tag. Gilbert worked over both men, but missed a charge, and went through the corner to the ringpost. Fuji slammed Gilbert, but missed a turning senton when Gilbert rolled out of the ring to avoid. Tiger Chung Lee came in illegally, but the ref couldn't be bothered to get him out of the ring while Fuji sold death upon missing a move.
Garea tagged back in again, hitting a hiptoss, dropkick and crossbody for a 2 count. A small package picked up a 2 count as did a Sunset Flip for Garea. Garea slammed Chung Lee before tagging Gilbert, who gave Lee a backdrop. He put on an Abdominal Stretch, but suddenly Fuji was showing signs of life. Garea came in with a stomp to him, but as the ref was dealing with Garea, Fuji reached into his tights and threw salt in Eddie Gilbert's face, allowing Tiger Chung Lee to pin him for the win. Not a good match at all really.
It was main event time next, and Gene said no Japanese name was more recognisable in the 1990s than The Great Muta, who spent time in WCW, displaying various colours of mists. His compatriot, Mahahiro Chono also spent time in WCW in the early-90's and even managed to win the NWA World Title, setting up a title vs. title match at the third WCW/MJPW Supershow on January 4th 1993, as Chono defend his NWA Title against The Great Muta, who had put his IWGP Title on the line. Vintage Collection had the English commentary with Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone, but this video is with the Japanese commentary.
Okerlund said that after a gruelling bout, Muta was finally able to keep Chono down for to win both titles. But regardless of the result, the Land Of The Rising Sun could be proud of both men, who continue to wow crowds to this day. Gene signed off, leaving us to wonder where we'd visit next week. With three episodes left, it's hard to pick. Canada and Mexico are locks. But really, where after that? Can't see them doing Russia as they featured in the European episode. Can't think of too many great guys coming out of South America, Africa or Oceania. It'll be interesting anyway.
Ultimo Dragon's match, as noted, took place the night after Ultimo Dragon has won the Cruiserweight Title at Starrcade 1996 from Dean Malenko. He would lose the title back to Malenko a month later. He moved onto feuding with Steven Regal over the TV Title after Dragon won the title from Prince Iaukea in April 1997, trading the belt back and forth with Regal before ultimately losing it to Alex Wright in August.
As oddly enough seems to be the case all too often with this series, Mr. Fuji wasn't all that far away from retiring by the occurring of the match in question on this show as he would retire from active competition in 1985 to take up managing, continuing to use the salt tactic to get his man wins. He started managing George "The Animal" Steele, but that didn't last long before hooking up with Don Muraco to form their famous partnership.
In winning the NWA from Chono, Muta became one of only 2 men to hold both NWA & IWGP Titles at the same time (the other being Tatsumi Fujinami). However, this reign, as most double-title reigns are, proved to be short-lived as the following month, at SuperBrawl 3, Barry Windham defeated Muta for the NWA Title. As for the IWGP Title, Muta would hold that until September of 93, losing it to Shinya Hashimoto.