This week: Another FAT MAN STAND-OFF, as it’s Cousin vs. Cousin! At least I think that’s how they’re related.
Welcome to another set of Dream Matches! Last week’s Wrestling Summit review was kind of a big show, so I needed a few smaller matches and easier-to-find ones to do this week, but I think I found some neat stuff- mostly revolving around Yokozuna’s WWF career, plus some other random guys. So this week, you will see an early Yokozuna squash against Koko B. Ware, then a scrap against his cousin Fatu in his role as The Sultan! And ending with one of his last WWF singles matches, as he takes on God-Tier Main Eventer Shawn Michaels!
Hoo boy, and if you’re a mark for Alex “The Pug” Porteau, are YOU gonna be happy- watch as the Pug takes on Salvatore Sincere and Fit Finlay on separate occasions! Can you believe
YOKOZUNA (w/ Mr. Fuji) vs. KOKO B. WARE:
(WWF RAW, Jan. 11th 1993)
* The dreaded “Rob Bartlett” era continues, as he declares “that is one big-butted Oriental, Vince!” then quips “He’s got an ass like an amphitheater!” How did THAT one make it to air? Koko’s in the AMAZING High Energy parachute pants (neon yellow, baby!), while Yoko’s in the cool old gear- the white with red. No Frankie- Vince suggests “Maybe Yokozuna had a little SNACK before he came out here”.
A full minute before the first lockup as they pose off, and Koko goes across the ring twice. He goes for running body tackles like a moron, going about as well as you’d expect. Dropkicks stagger Yokozuna a bit, but Koko just SAILS into the ropes on a follow-up charge (a routine spot for him), allowing Yoko to murder him with the legdrop. Koko’s finished, so Yokozuna just slams him into the corner, hits the Ass Avalanche, and finishes with the Banzai Drop at (3:46). Just a complete demolition, Koko getting a tiny bit more offense than a jobber would. He did his job like a maniac, though, just pinballing off of the giant to emphasize the size and weight difference. The JTTS guys of the era really did an all-out job putting Yokozuna over, even if I had trouble believing kids at school a few weeks later who told me that “the sumo” had won the Royal Rumble.
Rating: * (just a fun little squash)
SHAWN MICHAELS (w/ Jose Lothario) vs. YOKOZUNA:
(WWF RAW, Aug. 19th 1996)
* This is one of Yokozuna’s last TV matches with the WWF, as he’d grown just too obese to be in the ring anymore- he makes it to Survivor Series and is gone after that, I believe. Yoko, with a grumpy look, big beard, and LONG hair, looks absolutely massive as they recap his embarrassing loss the night before at SummerSlam‘s Free-For-All, where he lost an infamous match against Steve Austin (post-3:16, flying in the face of “he rocketed up the card from there” declarations made since) where he tried for the Banzai Drop and banana-peeled it, tearing off the top rope by accident and getting pinned. This is non-Title- Shawn, wearing zebra-print tights, is the WWF Champ at this point (having JUST beaten Vader at SummerSlam), but this is non-title.
Shawn loses a lockup, but uses speed to put Yokozuna on his ass with punches, but he loses a headbutt war (I mean, duh- he’s non-canonically Samoan, but c’mon) and is put down- we’re back from break with Jim Cornette (now re-allied with Yoko) beating up Lucha Grandpa to Jerry Lawler’s glee on commentary. The distraction allows Yoko to drag Shawn back in for the Flair Flip bump and a HUGE belly-to-belly, looking to kill him. He misses a big splash and Shawn comes roaring back with his flying forearm (hitting the ropes thrice for momentum- SCIENCE!) and kip-up. Flying splash, but Yoko kicks out at two- Shawn readies Sweet Chin Music, but it’s caught- Samoan Drop! Shawn looks finished, but dodges ANOTHER move (the Hulkbuster Legdrop in this case) and hits Sweet Chin Music for the finish (4:15 of 6:05 shown).
Hey, actually a good Big/Little match right here! Yokozuna was heaving and sweating within seconds (shockingly, he lived another three years), so they couldn’t go long, but they made what they did count- every Yoko move looked like absolute murder and that Shawn was dead at any moment, but he kept coming back and using speed to put Yoko down, and most of his offense worked no matter how big you were, so he eventually chopped him down for the pin. Now, Shawn sold neither Vader’s beating from last night, nor any of Yoko’s stuff for any length of time, just doing Superman comebacks, so you can’t get everything, but their time was limited.
Rating: **1/2 (surprisingly fun given the match length and how limited Yoko was)
YOKOZUNA vs. THE SULTAN:
(WWF, South Africa, late 1996)
* Cousin vs. Cousin as babyface Yoko takes on Solafa Fatu in his third WWF gimmick, as the masked Sultan. In retrospect his identity was obvious, but I had no clue at the time- he was much fatter here than as even Makin’ a Difference Fatu. The Sultan was set up as a Monster Heel, and even made WrestleMania as an opponent for Rocky Maivia, but it ultimately went nowhere and being a thong-wearing fattie ironically saved his career. His mask was kinda badass (looking like a movie villain’s top henchman), but the golden top and red parachute pants kind of weren’t the best. On commentary are Jim Ross, Owen Hart & some South African guy, and Yoko’s a babyface here.
Yokozuna kicks Sultan’s ass to start, causing him to bail as the fans actually give a good reaction- foreign crowds are always good for that. Owen, on commentary, trashes Yoko’s weight, pointing out the losses he’s had because of slipping off the ropes (like the Austin one). Sultan takes another minute getting back in, and goes down to a reverse elbow. He dodges an elbowdrop and pounds away, then avoids a back bodydrop, slamming Yoko’s head to the mat. Owen shits on Sultan “wasting time” while Ross brings up “the methodical pace” as Sultan takes 20-30 seconds between each move, hitting a superkick for two. Oh goodie, a nervehold- the universal sign of Samoan half-assing it. Oh wait, it’s only 20 seconds and Yoko starts hulking up- that’s not so bad. Sultan tries a headbutt, but Yoko no-sells and hits his own! Oh yeah, neither is canonically Samoan here! Big splash misses and Sultan takes off the turnbuckle pad. Yoko blocks the shot, though, and lariats Sultan down- Hulkbuster Legdrop! Yoko pins the Sultan (6:13)- pretty early to job that guy out, but it is a national tour.
Quick match that never QUITE got going, but was a pretty simple affair that didn’t really get to suck, either. Most of Yokozuna’s stuff still looks good, but the man himself just didn’t have the cardio for fast-paced matches anymore.
Rating: ** (fine enough TV bout)
The legend finally makes his “Dream Matches” debut.
SALVATORE SINCERE vs. ALEX “THE PUG” PORTEAU:
(WWF Superstars, March 9th 1997)
* OH MY GOD WHY WAS I NOT INFORMED THIS MATCH HAD HAPPENED?!?! Talk about a symbolic match for WWF at this point in time: two “Named Jobbers” fighting each other in a throwaway match. This was the era in which the WWF was hiring a lot of young indie guys, pretending they were stars by giving them a few squash matches, and then threading them into the list of jobbers after a couple of months to trick fans into thinking they were getting those “Star vs. Star” matches. While kind of a brilliant outside-the-box idea, the dying product at the time and the INCREDIBLY lame gimmicks these guys got pretty much doomed the concept. Sal Sincere is indie darling Tom Brandi getting one of his only looks at stardom (his personality doomed him as much as his generic promo skills did), and the Pug is actually a ten-year veteran getting an “amateur wrestler” gimmick, complete with the Steiner Brothers’ old theme song. I was actually a bit of a Pug supporter as a kid, kind of liking how he was a total jobber but had a “name” and might theoretically get a push (Ron Howard Voice: “He did not”). Sal’s in white trunks with pink (always a unique look) and Porteau’s in a blue amateur-style singlet.
There are two clips on YouTube- the German commentary version (this is filmed in Berlin) is longer, with two separate chinlocks being clipped into one.
They do simple stuff to begin, actually getting a reaction since foreign fans will pop for EVERYTHING- Pug gets a cross-body and controls the arm. Sincere slaps him as a reversal, getting Pug all heated up, but he ignores an eyepoke and slaps him back. Belly-to-belly gets two, but Sincere reverses a corner whip and hits a powerslam & Vader Bomb-style elbowdrop for two with an arrogant cover. Clothesline gets two and he hits a chinlock as the crowd cheers… FOR A PORTEAU COMEBACK. Sal keeps on him with assorted basics (jawjackers, etc.), and hits a sleeper but Pug hits a Japanese-style backdrop suplex as Jim Cornette really sings his accolades on commentary re: technique and strength. That’s interesting. Porteau avoids a comeback with an inside cradle and hits a dropkick, but goes for a clothesline and Sincere catches him with Sincerely Yours (full-nelson slam) for the pin at (7:49, other version clipped to 4:54). Ooh, rough luck, kid.
Rating: *3/4 (decent little mini-match, kept very basic- both guys looked fine, if a bit bland, and the finish was good. Original version is actually a little worse since the clipped out stuff was meandering and had an extra-long chinlock)
FIT FINLEY vs. ALEX PORTEAU:
(WCW Worldwide, Nov. 18th 1998)
* Oh man, I didn’t realize THE PUG went to WCW for a spell as a jobber. Finlay (here as “Finley”) has dropped his brown mullet for bleached-blond, while Alex has dropped his singlet for red undies, now looking like the jobberiest jobber who ever jobbed. But he’s got Chris Jericho’s earliest WCW theme!
Finlay immediately does his great basic stuff, hitting a clubbing forearm, headlock and elbow to the mouth with gusto as Scott Hudson elaborates upon weight distribution and the way Finlay lays in everything. He stuffs a comeback and drops a brutal knee, but Porteau just hops right up and throws a boot- however, he earns an eyepoke and is MURDERED with a short clothesline that even pops the fans. Porteau keeps trying comebacks but gets killed every time, but eventually manages a clothesline for two. He charges right into the rolling fireman’s carry slam (hitting with a TON of impact), and the Tombstone finishes at (6:05)- Fit wins handily.
Rating: *1/2 (fun squash, as Finlay gives Porteau almost nothing and just massacres him with brutal, stiff shots the entire way. Excellent stuff)