This episode is titled “Collision in Korea”
“In 1995 a group of professional wrestlers were deployed to communist rule North Korea to partake in one of the most bizarre diplomatic missions even conceived.”
Eric Bischoff starts this off and talks about his increasing role at World Championship Wrestling. He saw a lot of financial abuse while he was working as an announcer. When he took over as the Executive Vice President he made changes. One of the first things he wanted to do was re-establish a relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling after people in his position previously had ruined it. His efforts were rewarded and talent started going back and forth in both directions.
Antonio Inoki reached out to Bischoff to ask if he would be interested in bringing the WCW roster to North Korea to participate in a big show. Bischoff and Scott Norton put over Inoki and his legend in Japan. Norton got a start in pro wrestling while he was in Japan as an arm wrestler. Too Cold Scorpio, self described as “one of the most famous high flyers in the world”, talks about Inoki’s hard slaps and says that he was on Hulk Hogan’s level in Japan, but twice as big.
Inoki was doing wrestling and politics at this point. He has always been a bit of a carny with wrestling and doing things to grab global headlines, including his match with Muhammad Ali in the 70s. Inoki says he always took on challenges the Government wasn’t necessarily in favor of. This including trips to North Korea and meeting with the officials there. He brought up the idea of bringing pro wrestling to the country. They wanted big name guests and mentioned Michael Jackson first. Inoki smartly suggested Ali and asked Bischoff for help with that.
Bischoff said getting talent to go to North Korea was a “comedy”. They wanted Hogan and Hogan answered with one of the n-words he also used frequently…”no”…Second up was Ric Flair and Bischoff concedes that Flair wasn’t “as popular as Hogan” but he was a great wrestler and showman. Bischoff says later Flair probably wasn’t thrilled to know he was the Plan B. Norton gets word he’s on this card and Masa Chono was NOT feeling this. Scorpio said he was excited because he loved traveling to new places and owed it all to wrestling.
Norton talks about the wrestlers meeting Ali and how he had a swarm of reporters around him. Ali did magic tricks for the wrestlers and they all marked out. Norton said just having Inoki and Ali with them put people at ease…initially. They board this uncomfortable, old, military plane. Norton describes it was a “piece of garbage” and said Flair was freaking out for most of the flight. Scorpio talks about looking out the window and seeing all the tanks and cannons pointing at each direction outside of the DMZ.
Norton says as they were walking to the airport they got in a dusty room and take the wrestler’s passports and other contraband. He said he felt the hate right away.
Mike Chinoy, former CNN Senior Asia Correspondent, is introduced. He was assigned to cover this event. He said that the event has to rank as one of the strangest events he witnessed as a journalist, with the combination of an isolated remote nation like North Korea and this collection of wrestling characters along with Ali. The wrestlers were treated with hostility. They were paired into twos and assigned an attache. Bischoff said his attache mentioned that he was the seventh American she’s seen in the country that wasn’t shot down or captured.
Sonny Onoo shows the pass he had to keep and what they used to monitor the guys. He said the Japanese government told him that he shouldn’t go and that they couldn’t guarantee his safety. Chinoy goes into the bad blood between the Japanese and North Koreans. Bischoff said on the way to the hotel they had to show honor to the deceased former leader Kim Il-sung. They were forced to walk up the steps and put bouquets of flowers at the foot of the statue and of course this presented to the people as these Westerns held the Kim dynasty in such high regard that they wanted to present his statue with these flowers.
Norton and Scorpio talk about being under constant survelliance. They had nothing to do and no way to kill time. Norton tries to go to Road Warrior Hawk’s room and he is followed all the way. A few of the wrestlers go to the lobby and find a pool table, Norton claims it took two hours for them to get cleared to play pool. He took a shot and the ball went off the table and that pissed off the survelliance team and the pool playing privileges were removed. Norton said he almost lost control a few times, but the guys kept him from doing anything that would get him killed.
Bischoff wakes up one morning to take a run and doesn’t tell his attache. He said went he started his run it was dark and deserted. As the sun rose and people came on the streets they looked at him terrified because he was an American face runner. His attached was pissed and he said he was afraid they would kill her for not monitoring him.
So we get into the story between Scorpio and Hawk. Scorpio says the story started with his heat with Flair over believing Flair got him fired from WCW. On this day Hawk, who usually rode in the car with Flair, decided to ride the bus. Flair comes out and is upset at riding in the car alone so Hawk wonders if he should ride with him. Scorpio is like “fuck Ric Flair” and Hawk said “what” and Scorpio is like “you deaf…dude” and Hawk calls him the n-word and Scorpio beats him up. Scorpio tells the story with such joy. Norton says had Hawk been himself he would’ve beaten up Scorpio, I disagree. Hawk was more of a bully than a tough guy and Scorpio is apparently at least a willing fighter.
Norton wants to call his wife when they get back to the hotel. She thinks he’s been partying and he’s like “this place is a shithole” and the call disconnects because you can’t be calling North Korea a shithole. Norton gets detained and has to explain himself and his phone call privileges are taken away. He apologized profusely and he said the people in that room would have just as soon killed him. Onoo says he thinks Inoki’s people were contacted and helped Norton get out of that. Norton jokingly suggests MAYBE the wrestlers should’ve been giving a briefing of what they were going to face ahead of time.
Next day they tell the story of being forced to go to some tomb and Ali runs up the stairs and does like a Rocky shadowing boxing thing. Scorpio said that moment made the whole trip. Scorpio tries to keep the peace with Hawk and Hawk punches him so they brawl again. Scorpio talks about using the chopsticks from dinner and started to make a shank to deal with Hawk. Chris Benoit is like “what the fuck man”…that’s rich coming from him considering later events. Benoit reminds Scorpio that if he kills Hawk the North Koreans will kill him. Scorpio is hilarious. I want this guy to tell me stories all the time.
Norton talks about seeing people walk to the event as they ride by. Bischoff brags about the attendance, which was allegedly 150K for one show and 165K for the second. The pagentry was incredibly exciting, Scorpio suggested he didn’t even need to get high to trip out on it. Of course this big crowd is forced to be here and had no clue what they were watching or how to react. So we get crickets. Norton said he fought Shinya Hashimoto and no one responded. Hawk tried to get heat by cursing out the crowd. Chinoy talked about how the women on the card (Akira Hokuto, Manami Toyota, Mariko Yoshida and Bull Nakano) had it even rougher because women did not act like that or show any sort of aggression in North Korean culture.
So it’s on Inoki to pop these people. Inoki had a training connection to Rikidozan, who was a Korean wrestler living in Japan and hiding his Japanese culture. Bischoff embellishes Rikidozan’s death by saying he was killed by the Yakuza for being Korean. I think he got killed in a brawl at a discotheque, but whatever. Anyway of course North Korea painted his death as him fighting the Yakuza to defend North Korea until the numbers overwhelmed him and he died pledging his forever love to North Korea…I mean it gets so ridiculous you would think Rikidozan got beat up by nine Marines.
Anyway that was Inoki’s connection to North Korea and the fans looked at him as a little more of their hometown guy. Bischoff said the crowd had NO idea what to think of Ric Flair and his gimmick. But they worked a match and Inoki figured out how to pop the crowd. Bischoff said that Flair deserves the credit for helping Inoki get over. Norton said it was the greatest match that has ever happened in the business. I don’t totally disagree considering the circumstances. Despite the success of the event, Inoki’s political aspirations took a hit.
But to hell with that, back to Scorpio, the true MVP of this show. He’s ready to get to Hawk and Hawk explains that he’s got no drugs or steroids and he just wants to go home. The fact that there were probably six North Korean militants surrounding them is something Scorpio fails to mention. They squashed it that day and Scorpio was ready to get it started again when they got to Japan, but that didn’t happen. I’m convinced Scorpio is still holding a grudge against Hawk despite him being dead for almost 20 years.
Time to go home. Bischoff says the trip was four days and seemed like four years. They got their passports back and went to Japan. Norton and Bischoff said when Flair got off the plane he literally kissed the ground in Japan because he was out of North Korea. Norton said the show itself was cool and meeting Ali was the honor of a lifetime. Scorpio said two nights in a row in front of that many people and said he can brag about that to Hogan…”and that’s all I got on him”. Bischoff said every big event pales in comparison to Collison in Korea. He said Vince was probably mad that there was a bigger house than Wrestlemania, but he adds that most of them didn’t pay and were forced to be there.
Bottom Line: Easy quick watch with guys offering their first-hand experiences. It’s hard to confirm so much of this because information is hard to get from North Korea. But it’s fun to hear the wrestlers tell these stories and Scorpio’s ability to hold a grudge is impressive. Not a must see or anything, but enjoyable for the time spent.