Nothing says “Dream Matches” like the Ugandan Giant!
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This time, we take a look at Jake Roberts vs. Kamala on Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1987! Then it’s a double-whammy of a generic TV match that would be a big Dream Match only three years later- Bland babyface Chris Jericho vs. Bland excursion-era Yuji Nagata on WCW TV in two separate meaningless matches! Scott Norton, brand new to WCW, takes on Tom “Z-Man” Zenk! The Smoking Gunns make their debut on WWF television, taking on the horrifyingly-bad duo of Damian Demento & The Brooklyn Brawler (poor Damian!)! Then it’s the Headshrinkers taking on another makeshift team- Bob Backlund and “El Matador” Tito Santana! And finally “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan vs. The Repo Man in a throwaway “Wait, these guys were still around in early 1993?” match!
JAKE “THE SNAKE” ROBERTS vs. KAMALA (w/ Mr. Fuji & Kim Chee):
(WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event, 1987)
* A YouTube video less than 10 minutes and it’s Jake/Kamala- I can see the screwjob coming a mile away, but still. They’re doing a “black guy is terrified of snakes” bit with Kamala, about which Gene scolds Fuji for signing the match, but Fuji (Kamala’s new manager here) says it won’t be an issue. Gene noticeably shaking the microphone while looking at Damien is a great bit of business- what a pro. This is shortly after the Honky Tonk Man blasted Jake with a real guitar on the Snake Pit, absolutely DESTROYING him legit (and holy god does that look bad). Jake’s got black tights with a blue snake graphic around them.
Jake tosses Damien outta the bag immediately, sending Kamala flying out of the ring (“Look at Carl Lewis over there!”- Vince). Even Jesse Ventura notes that Kamala is terrified, but when Jake puts Damien back in the bag, Kamala sneaks up from behind with a chop. He scores a back leg front kick, but Jake comes back with the jabs until Kamala levels him with the throat thrust. Jake’s caught in the bearhug, but stamps Kamala’s feet to get out. Kamala sells that pretty well, but catches Jake with an overhead chop and chokes away for a minute or so until Jake uses more punches, then Kamala uses headbutts. Jake wisely bails and lures Kamala back in for a kneelift, then hits a knee smash off the second rope of all things (Ventura marks out for it), and signals the DDT, but shockingly Fuji takes the ref and Kim Chee blasts Jake with a clothesline that he oversells like nuts, falling back for a huge Kamala splash for the win (4:17). Absolutely wild- Kamala pins Jake in 4 minutes! Jesse congratulates the heels for being smart enough to take advantage of the poor refereeing of Joey Marella (“Not the greatest referee- very easy to distract that man!”), and then Kim Chee unmasks… to reveal the HONKY TONK MAN! No wonder Jake sold the clothesline so hard! ‘Twasn’t just a handler at all! Honky drops elbows while smirking like a complete prick, then hits Shake Rattle & Roll while Jake twitches on the mat.
A typically rapid-fire SNME match, with no resting save for Kamala’s stretch of choking him out (and even then they changed position twice), and just guys blitzing each other. I’m shocked to see Jake do a 1-2-3 finish like that (even on PPV he rarely did falls outside of count-outs or DQs), but SNME was a tad bigger on pinfalls in the early days, and it had extra chicanery via Honky Tonk coming in. Great bit of business, though- between this and the guitar shot, I want to pay to see Honky DIE.
Rating: ** (short match; nowhere near as bad as it would have been if it were longer)
WCW CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE:
CHRIS JERICHO vs. YUJI NAGATA:
(WCW Nitro, Aug. 25th 1997)
* A future Dream Match between World Champions is here just a mid-Nitro Cruiserweight Title match with Spunky Babyface Jericho up against “on an excursion” Nagata. Both guys are in black, Jericho in the long tights.
They do a pretty good “missing moves” sequence to start, then go face to face and brawl as Eric Bischoff (on commentary) mostly ignores the match to talk sh*t about Sting. Nagata scores a “back leg round kick” (ugh), but Jericho reverses a snapmare to a delayed suplex for two. Elbow & slingshot splash two two and they hit a chinlock while the crowd chants something that’s probably a dumb sports chant. Jericho scores a baseball slide, and we’re back from break with him hitting his slingshot dropkick and a pescado as this crowd could NOT care less. Nagata blocks a flying axehandle and hits an overhead belly-to-belly and spinkick to the back. Jericho returns fire with some weird “follow them into the corner” clotheslines and hits the Lionsault, Double Powerbomb & Liontamer in succession, just COMPLETELY wrecking this kid at (4:47).
Weird random Nitro match, as I was expecting a Screwjob Finish with that match-time, but it’s instead the usual “meh, who cares?” clean Nitro finish as their cavernous midcard traded wins like that often. But it has an issue with both guys utterly lacking personality at this point- Jericho hadn’t turned yet, nor was he doing babyface mannerisms, and Nagata NEVER had a personality in WCW, so it was just two blank-faced guys going through the motions in a decently-wrestled, but mostly one-sided, match. Jericho would pretty quickly drop the Double Powerbomb, using it as a temporary finisher in the WWF a bit later.
Rating: ** (basic Nitro nothing bout- okay moves, but heatless and has none of the “little things”)
CHRIS JERICHO vs. YUJI NAGATA (Sonny Onoo):
(WCW Nitro, Oct. 13th 1997)
* Because WCW, they wrestle another meaningless Nitro bout a couple months later! Nagata now has Onoo as his manager, and Jericho’s no longer champion, having lost to Alex Wright at this point, I think. Yeah, really- some of the best workers in the world competing for that gold and ALEX WRIGHT was champ for a bit.
Jericho lands a spinkick & clothesline for two, but Nagata hits a Japanese-style backdrop suplex and kick to the back. Jericho gets his boot up in the corner and hits a missile kick from the second rope, but Nagata scores a kick to the face- Jericho comes back with a swinging sleeperhold, but Nagata T-Bone suplexes him! Jericho’s on the apron, but shoulder-rams a charging Nagata, only to get blasted with a forearm and sent into the railing. Jericho immediately scores a comeback out there, and even counters Onoo’s kick by catching it & piefacing him. But Onoo gets his revenge, tripping up Jericho off the top, leading to the Nagata Lock I (inverted figure-four) for the win (3:47).
Interesting little “you do a spot, then I’ll do a spot” match, as Jericho uses the opportunity to hit and take a New Japan-style bunch of stuff. Neither guy was on offense for more than two moves in a row, which made it a quick-moving affair, but very short.
Rating: **1/4 (another quick affair, though with a lot of action shoved into four minutes)
Much has been made of Tom Zenk bailing on WWF money to languish in obscurity as a terrible WCW midcarder for the rest of his mainstream career. One of those big “What If?” stories.
SCOTT “FLASH” NORTON vs. THE Z MAN:
(WCW Saturday Night, May 1st 1993)
* Okay, THIS is interesting- I had no idea Norton was around WCW so early. Here, he looks WAY younger, practically having baby-fat, but is still a monster. He’s in a blue singlet, while the Z Man (Tom Zenk) literally gets the “already in the ring” jobber entrance and is in yellow with almost no muscle tone anymore, four years into his WCW run. Uh oh.
Norton effortlessly pushes Z Man into the corner and one-handed tosses him all the way across the ring, Zenk crumpling on impact like his entire body’s been broken. Norton completely no-sells (no, really!) a dropkick & superkick like they weren’t even there (to be fair, the superkick is caught whiffing on-camera), then hits a clothesline that has Zenk face-down on the mat, dead, and whips him off the ropes for a Powerslam to finish already at (1:21)- Jesse Ventura marvels at how “We’ve never seen the Z Man handled like THIS!”. Well that’s one way to put a dude over. Despite this jobber treatment, Zenk was around WCW another year, being released in 1994. Looking at his Cagematch record, he actually wins a fair bit against your Buddy Lee Parkers, young Scotty Flamingos & the Freebirds (teaming with Marcus Bagwell), but loses to bigger stars like the Super Invader & Dan Spivey on TV.
Rating: DUD (total squash with nothing sold by Norton at all)
The Smoking Gunns- a mid-90s “filler” tag team that got elevated during the darkest days of the tag division. When things are so bad that THESE GUYS are the undisputed Aces of the division, you know things are bad.
THE SMOKING GUNNS (Billy & Bart Gunn) vs. DAMIAN DEMENTO & THE BROOKLYN BRAWLER:
(WWF Mania, May 15th, 1993)
* Poor schmuck Damian Demento now has to do the dreaded “Teaming with a Jobber” death march on his way to jobberdom, set up against the debut of the Smoking Gunns. Reviews by others like Sisco & Bayless have made it pretty clear that the Gunns were just kind of “around” for ages before they really got a proper push. Though I’m mostly weirded out to see the grungy New Yawker gimmick teaming up with the crazy “hearing voices” guy on the jobber side. You can really see the difference in wrestler size back in the day- Billy, who looks like a giant in AEW now, is the smaller man on his team and barely bigger than Demento, and not all that much bigger than the Brawler. On commentary are Gorilla Monsoon and someone who is obviously Bruce Prichard as “The Wizard” or something.
Billy takes some shots from the Brawler, but easily comes back, but Brawler elbows Bart and tags out as the Wizard calls the Gunns “cousins” (was that their early backstory?). Bart catches Demento’s boot and backslides him for two. A double Russian legsweep brings Damian down for a one-count (ref Bill Alfonso is out of position), then he reverses a whip and Brawler pulls down the ropes, sending Bart to the floor. The Brawler puts him into the steel steps and hits a swinging neckbreaker in the ring as I fear the Gunns aren’t getting proper shine considering this is their debut. Brawler pounds and bites away, then Damian comes in for the same two restholds as the Crush match I reviewed earlier (face-claw and standing chinlock), and they keep up the double-teams for ages. Damian gets a few two-counts off of basic stuff as the fans start yelling “BORRRRRING!” and a collision sets up the hot tag- Billy slams both guys and DDTs the Brawler, setting up Bart’s flying sunset flip (lol, what?) for the pin at (6:46). Man what an awful finish- they’d take ages to make up the Sidewinder. What the hell is a 6’5″ guy doing using a flying sunset flip as a finisher?
This was the worst debut EVER- I mean, Bart Gunn taking like 5 minutes of plodding offense from Damian Demento and the BROOKLYN BRAWLER? What was THAT? And after all that, the hot tag to the pinfall was all of 35 seconds long!
Rating: 1/4* (absolutely awful, plodding match- just a weak come from behind win)
THE HEADSHRINKERS (Samu & Fatu, w/ Afa) vs. “EL MATADOR” TITO SANTANA & BOB BACKLUND:
(WWF Mania, June 19th 1993)
* Another completely bizarre one, as two of the lowest-ranked babyfaces on the roster (Backlund took a WHILE to regain cred) team up against the Headshrinkers. Monsoon & Jim Ross put over the experience of the babyface team, but question if they have the “hunger” of the young heels, which is a good way to tell the story.
First move of the match is Fatu nailing Tito from the apron, but he swiftly comes back with a cross-body and it’s over to Backlund, who stymies Samu with evasive tactics and ’80s stuff that Monsoon is all about (“you see the EXTENSION of the legs on that dropkick?”). Back from break with the faces working Fatu’s arm with a tag every five seconds, but Bob puts his head down and gets smashed. Backbreaker sets up a double-clothesline, and they scratch & tear at him, using the tag rope to choke away. This goes on for a bit, but Bob finally dodges to send Samu flying into the corner and Tito comes in for some shots. Flying Forearm! But Fatu breaks up the pin, switches places with Samu while Bob’s involved, and then hits the Reverse Crescent Kick on an unsuspecting Tito for the pin at (6:05).
Haha, man- Tito took only one move the whole match and lost! What a jobber! But then the Steiner Brothers come out with another ref to protest, the ‘Shrinkers start pounding on the losers again, and the main ref reverses the decision to be a Disqualification! But nailing a guy with a superkick isn’t a DQ-worthy offense! This just furthers a Steiners/Shrinkers issue, which is odd because they just ran the “double-switch” Tag Title changes with Money Inc. on house shows a bit before.
Rating: ** (The match was fine. Not really exciting, as it was mostly the Headshrinkers slowly pounding away on Bob, but inoffensive. Poor Tito was barely in it at all and jobbed to a single move)
“HACKSAW” JIM DUGGAN vs. THE REPO MAN:
(WWF Mania, Jan. 9th 1993)
* Whacky 1993 antics, as Duggan is still around for half the year at least, and Repo Man’s still kicking around.
Repo Man gets a cheap shot after a break, but quickly gets hammered down and bails- he tries a sunset flip but gets clobbered again, and takes an atomic drop and heads to the apron, where he necks Duggan on the top rope to FINALLY get some offense going. Duggan fights out of a chinlock with a “U.S.A.!” chant and meets a charge with an elbow, then kicks Repo’s ass, slams him, and it’s the Three-Point Stance clothesline for the easy pin at (3:50), Duggan demolishing him like a jobber. Poor Repo- he was gone in a couple months anyhow, but geez.
Rating: *3/4 (Fine enough TV match- little resting aside from Duggan egging on the fans in the first minute, and they kept it pretty mobile and Irish-whip-based, which is kinda how you have to handle a slug like Duggan at this point. Very one-sided, though)