An Englishman in New Japan – HELLRAISERS!
By Dave Newman on 26th September 2021
My look last week at Hulk Hogan teaming up with the Great Muta against the Hellraisers prompted me to look this week at the team of Hawk and Power Warrior, better known as Kensuke Sasaki, who had always impressed me with his look and ferocity when he ventured over to the US to wrestle for WCW in 1992/93 and I wished he’d come across more. Obviously he had a short run in 1995 as the US champion, but that was so low on the scale that it hardly merits mentioning.
The Hellraisers were born of Hawk leaving the WWF after Summerslam 1992 and leaving Animal effectively high and dry, potentially giving us Animal and Crush as the Legion of Doom, before a back injury and insurance policy put him on the disabled list for three years. Hawk worked for ECW, SMW and New Japan in that time, as a singles wrestler but also with his new partner Sasaki donning the spiky shoulder pads and green and black warpaint, leading to hear between the former Road Warriors for a time. The Hellraisers didn’t last long but they stayed around long enough to raise a little hell while they were there.
The Hellraisers vs. The Steiner Brothers (Tokyo, Japan, January 4th, 1993)
A bit of a mismatched look to begin with, as I believe Hawk was asked to bring over Road Warrior gear for his new partner to wear and it looks like he went for the first or worst stuff he could, with Power Warrior looking like he’s wearing big brother’s hand-me-downs and nothing looking unified about their look beyond both having paint. Sasaki hasn’t really shaved much out of his hair at this point, but looks fucking jacked. The Steiners were with the WWF at this point, which I’m sure Vince just loved for his newly signed main team to be straight off on a New Japan tour. The guys shake hands to begin, then Hawk and Scott begin, with Scott outwrestling Hawk and Hawk overpowering Scott. Sounds like Masa Saito on commentary, with him clearing his throat loudly. Both guys no-sell a double clothesline, then both go down for another. Once back on their feet, Hawk casually gorilla presses Scott to the floor, but back in Scott hits the butterfly powerbomb, but a sloppy piledriver just pisses Hawk off and he clotheslines Steiner out to the floor. I also wonder whether the Steiners did go to their tailor and ask for singlets covered in numbers for any particular reason.
Rick and Power Warrior tag in, with Rick immediately kneeing him in the gut and belly-to-bellying him. He goes up for the bulldog but meets a dropkick and clothesline on the way down. German suplex flips him over too. Sasaki’s own aerial attempt goes awry when he’s caught in an overhead belly-to-belly. Hawk tags back in, with Scott soon returning as well and taking him down for a Boston crab. Hawk has an unusual way of countering it by going into press-ups once turned over, which wobbles Scott, so Rick comes in and drops the elbow. STF instead, but Hawk makes the ropes. Scott keeps hold off the foot, but eats enzigiuri. Hawk goes to the old rear chinlock with the knee behind the neck, then a stiff shoulderbreaker for two. Rick tags in and indulges him in a test of strength. Hawk wins that one, and his gurning after that reminds me that I always thought the double Mohawk made him look like a guy with male pattern baldness. Sasaki comes in with a powerslam, but Rick throws him overhead. Scott comes back in with the pumphandle slam, mullet all over the place. That guy definitely saw the benefit of a shorter hairstyle. He lifts Power up into the body vice so that Rick can drop the elbow off the top rope for two. Rick and Hawk get into a funny heel off, with Rick telling him to shut up, emptying his mouth of spit, then smirking at him and offering him in, with Hawk giving him a quick “Kiss my ass!” gesture in return.
Sasaki tries to make an escape with a back suplex, but Rick just holds onto him from the grounded position and goes amateur on the mat. Scott comes in to try and hit the tilt-a-whirl, but can’t get him over and settles for a side suplex instead. Belly-to-belly from the second rope, with the ref looking like he’s interfering but probably helping out for support. Rick calls for the elevated bulldog and just about gets across, with it looking more like a reversed Doomsday Device than the normal bulldog you’d expect. Hawk makes the save and gets into a slap fight with both brothers. Scott starts setting up for the Doomsday Device but only goes to the second rope to launch, making it not as effective. Sasaki gets a chance powerslam to start making his way back to Hawk, with Hawk screaming at him to get in. He gets an initial flurry but the Steiners cut him off before he double clotheslines them. He goes for the usual offense, but Scott is able to powerslam him. All four guys come back in, with Scott seemingly hitting the Frankensteiner on Power for the win, but he starts getting up when he spies Hawk coming back, with the flying clothesline hitting his dick stiff. Rick pummels Hawk out and goes back to Sasake. Overhead German suplex flips him over, but Sasaki manages to get his judo throw to put him down. He then heads to the outside to join with Hawk in hitting a nasty Doomsday Device, with Scott hitting the railing on the flip and Hawk landing in the front row. Power comes back into the ring with a powerful dropkick to Rick before clotheslining him out as the bell rings. Looks like it’s a case of the match being thrown out due to the severity of the action rather than either team having to lose. Can’t say I’m too surprised. You always would prefer a finish, but it didn’t affect the match quality too badly. Handshakes and hugs after, with all being right in the world again. The Steiners deferred to being heels well for a little while and Sasaki didn’t look out of place at all. ICHIBAN!
The Hellraisers vs. The Jurassic Powers (Tokyo, Japan, January 4th, 1994)
A year later, the Hellraisers take on another pair of hosses, with Hercules Hernandez having a last hurrah as a legitimate player alongside the comparably up-and-coming Scott Norton. Jurassic Park had come out in the previous year two, hence the name they took. They had also taken the belts too and Herc, one of my low key favourites of all time, had adopted Norton’s singlet look too, although eschewing Just for Men. The Hellraisers have synced up the look now, with matching shoulder pads and tights, except for Hawk in red and Power in green. Herc’s yelling from the start with that loud, lovable drunk manner that he had. Hawk and Scott kick the match off with some charging bull stuff before Hawk switches to a dropkick and shoulder block. He goes up and gets the flying clothesline early for two, which pisses Norton off more than hurting him. Power comes in, so Herc enters as well, doing some goofy American stuff to amuse himself. Test of strength, which Herc seems to have a chance of winning due to height, but Power uses his… power to gain it back before Herc shoulders him in the gut and does the WCW/nWo World Tour reversal. Sasaki gets a bulldog and lariat to take him down. Hawk tags back in for more fun. Neither will go down for a hip toss. Herc hits the piledriver for Hawk to no-sell, but won’t go down for the following clothesline either. It’s a powerslam that has to be used to get the two.
Norton returns, showing far more energy than Herc, but charges into a boot. Power comes back in but gets clotheslined three times, popping back up every time and hitting his own. Norton gets his powerslam, his finisher at the time, for two. Herc back in, but he can’t hold the advantage. He pulls Hawk’s tights to dispose of him to the outside for Norton to wear down. Norton comes back in and gets a WEAK backbreaker that just offends Hawk. Rude Awakening is better than it should be. Herc comes in to hit a weak version of his normally stellar clothesline as I notice that he at 37 looks fifteen years older than I do at 39. Don’t do drugs, kids. Bearhug that Hawk tries to clobber his way out of, but a double football charge takes him down. Norton gets a bearhug too that Hawk makes some fantastic faces while in. Herc then misses a bad splash off the ropes and Hawk makes his own comeback, walking out of the match and up the aisle before running back in with a flying shoulder block. Double flying clothesline to the JP to allow Sasaki to tag back in and quickly hit the judo throw on Hercules for the win and to regain the titles. The heels do actually shake hands and acknowledge the better men at the end of the match. Not as good a match as the previous one, with Herc, as much as I love him, being pretty washed up and not willing to do much, but the others making up for it. ICHIBAN!
The Road Warriors/Hellraisers trio vs. Scott Norton and the Steiner Brothers (Tokyo, Japan, April 29th, 1996)
Animal is now back in action and all is well in the world again. All of the Americans were in WCW at this point. Weird to see the Steiners in their early nineties neon gear at this point, especially with how big and scary Scott was getting. Sasaki, never a slouch, has lost his puppy fat at this point and grown a beard too. Hawk and Scott start, pretty evenly, before getting into a slugfest. Belly-to-belly and pumphandle slam set up an attempt at a belly-to-belly off the top, but Hawk punches him down and follows with the flying clothesline. Neckbreaker and flying fist for two. Butterfly powerbomb in response, so Hawk brings in Animal as Scott Norton comes in too. Couple of dropkicks to Norton and an impressive powerslam. Norton’s hair was never more obviously red than at the short length it was here. Scott Steiner returns to execute a release dragon suplex on Animal, followed by an STF and Boston crab, with Animal here doing the press-up break. Scott drops his head an Animal, with his paint almost all entirely sweated off, gets a powerbomb. Hawk tags in and gets his run-up-the-ramp shoulderblock. Sasaki and Rick enter the match for the first time, with the former the clear crowd favourite. Power catches Rick in a leapfrog with a powerslam, an old Rick favourite, but takes such a charge with a clothesline that he’s hotshot onto the top rope. Just about flip out of a back suplex, but Rick trips him and brings in Norton.
Norton gets an avalanche in the corner and finally gets a back suplex on Power after a quick powerslam rebuttal. Scott Steiner comes back in with his not a belly-to-belly but not a Samoan drop off the second rope. Rick returns to maul Sasaki on the ground. Steinerline for two. Norton dumps Sasaki for Scott to slam on the floor. Hawk attempts a save, but BPP ducks him and he goes flying over him. He looked legitimately pissed off and embarrassed about that one. Back in, Norton gets a Samoan drop for two, followed by a powerbomb. Animal breaks up a pinfall attempt after a powerslam. Rick gets a release German that Sasaki just sells beautifully, bouncing up and then faceplanting. Scott Steiner gets the Frankensteiner, while he could still do it and with someone who could take it, which Animal breaks up. Power gets a chance judo throw and his strangle hold, but Norton breaks it up. Lukewarm tag to Hawk, with Animal coming in too. Doomsday Device on Rick, but no dice. Elevated bulldog on Hawk, with some in and out stuff, leaving Rick and Animal while the rest battle outside. The Roadies trap Rick and hit the Gravedigger powerslam on him for the win. Wasn’t really feeling this one as much, but it wasn’t bad by any means, just a little lacking. Probably would’ve been more of a slog if you removed two or even four of the guys from the match. ICHIBAN!
Melting it down: You get a certain kind of match with wrestlers like these, where it might be perfectly fine or just a pounding slog. Luckily it was more of the first, even if these weren’t MOTY candidates.
Back next week with a DANGEROUS review!