Inspired by Scott’s recent review of the awful Best of the WWF: Around the World tape, I thought I’d review some more terrible matches of an international flavour, featuring the likes of Raja Lion, the Great Antonio, the aging Sheik, Big Daddy and more!
The Great Antonio vs. Antonio Inoki
From New Japan, the Great Antonio was a Croatian-Canadian eccentric strongman who was brought over as a bit of a novelty opponent. It’s not as obvious here, but he’d have thick, matted hair and a long beard, but seemingly Inoki must’ve insisted on him having his one shower and haircut of the decade before the match. Dirty yellow trousers, workman’s boots with the laces tied around the top, massive belly… he looks like a grotesque cartoon character, like Captain Caveman on smack. I don’t envy the ref having to put his hands on him for the pre-match checks, he looks like he’d have dog crap on the bottom of his shoes.
Inoki rolls out with energy to start as the Great staggers around drunkenly and looks like he’s trying to grope him while doing a clownish laugh. Inoki is obviously leery of him and annoyed. Total no-sell of a standing dropkick, which in honesty Inoki was stupid to try, which leads to phase two of the Great’s annoyance tactics: challenging him to hit him the gut, which on the inside must look even worse than it does on the outside. More working attempted by Inoki by going for a slam, which goes nowhere. Neither does a criss-cross, which the Great just slows down and walks out of, throwing up his hands in a way that suggests he’s done it as a babyface comedy spot before. Shame he’s a heel here, then.
The Great goes for a light blow, so Inoki slaps him, which the Great seemingly takes as a challenge. He walks him over to the ropes and starts throwing some stiff shots on the back of the neck, so Inoki goes into pissed off shoot mode with slaps and kicks, then takes his legs out from under him and kicks him in the face and head so hard that he’s a bloody mess within seconds and the heel manager runs in which is taken as a forfeiture of the match and Inoki’s hand is raised in victory. As if you could do anything else.
How bad was it? Really bad, and it makes you feel really bad, because the Great Antonio was way out of his depth and shouldn’t have been in there, but was foolish enough to try his shit and even though this guy looked like an elephant or hippo or bear, it was him that was poking the bear, hence Inoki destroying him. Inoki looked like one mean guy, in all the senses of the word.
Raja Lion vs. Giant Baba
From New Japan to All Japan, as Baba faces a similarly tall guy who’s a karate fighter from Pakistan. Weird pre-match bit, as he’s got a towel around his neck like it’s broken, his eyes are glazed as hell, and he’s wearing mint green trousers and a weird not-leather jacket that’s more like he should be at disco. His entrance music sounds like it’s by either Go West or Alexander O’Neal, someone of that ilk. Baba out second, looking ancient and dilapidated twelves years before his death. It’s rude of him, but I like the story of him kayfabing how much English he could speak depending on how happy he was with the gaijin. If he wanted to do the business, he’s a chatty Cathy, if he didn’t, “no English”!
Raja comes out with three lame kicks and slips on the third one, showing within seconds how it’s going to be. Fourth one, with a run up, and he crumples like he’s broken his legs. Chop worse than Baba’s. Baba could probably win this without throwing a single shot. Director goes to a far shot, probably hoping it won’t show the distance between his blows. Baba finally grabs an arm on the rope and acknowledges a break. He takes another kick in the opposite corner and sells it a little, bless him. Kick to the head goes a literal foot over the head. Baba grabs a foot and puts Raja down in one of the lightest falls you’ll ever see. I’ve collapsed onto my bed with more force. Another “takedown” after a chop, with Raja retreating like a girl going “No! Don’t hit me!”. Baba mounts him near the ropes as the first round of three minutes, which felt like ten, ends.
Round two, with not much of a rest between rounds in a seeming attempt to just get it done. Raja kicks and chops as Baba at least facially sells them. He catches a rear waistlock, ground him with a body scissors, then gets what could generously be called a cross armbreaker for the win by submission. It must’ve hurt more than it looked like it did, because it just looked like a tall guy with your arm between his legs. Tiger Jeet Singh, who Raja Lion makes him look like Ric Flair by comparison, attacks briefly after the match with a masked guy who looks like he has a bra tied to his face.
How bad was it? Terrible, not even entertainingly bad, and as weak as week-old pop with the bottle top left off.
The Sheik vs. Damian
Skip the first four minutes to avoid the uploader’s obnoxious high school level graphics. This is the Sheik’s last match, from FMW at Kawasaki Stadium and he’s brandishing a torch. Damian attack energetically, but even a pensioner Sheik, who’s made the poor decision of growing his hair out to ponytail length, won’t sell after heart attacks and other poor health issues. His bodyguard looks like Ron Reis. Sheik puts his hand in the fire and then puts it in Damian’s face, which he bounces around selling. The bodyguard hits Damian with a chair and the Sheik pins him with one knee on his throat, one hand on the rope to get back up with, and the torch in his hand. Damian gets his “heat” back by going out and spitting water at the crowd after.
How bad was it? Sad. It was obviously unsettling to watch Mae Young taking bumps from the Dudleys as an old lady, but she could take it. Then she had her last match where someone got knocked down and two divas walked her out by the arm, she put a foot on her and pinned her. This was worse than that.
Big Daddy, Kashmir Singh and Tom Thumb vs. Task Force 3
Daddy’s last match on Professional Wrestling/World of Sport. Somebody has been watching a WWF tape because the heels are just standard British heels dressed up in army gear someone found in a cupboard and manager Tony Francis is pretending to be a sheik. Daddy was in the Coldstream Guards, so brings his old hat out for a bit of jingoistic bulldog spirit. His sidekicks looks so uncomfortable having to join in with the “Easy!” stuff. Ring announcer is Gordon Pryor, who looks like Postman Pat but nine times out of ten was the ring announcer when I went to watch wrestling at my local theatre and was always an incredibly friendly guy.
To introductions, Tony Francis is Tony “The Brain” Francis (how imaginative!), Bulldog Brown, John Wilkie is “German” John Wilkie, and “Cyanide” Sid Cooper is, as always, “Rotten to the Core!”. Tom Thumb isn’t a midget, but he’s a really short guy in a Peter Pan outfit. Still more imposing than Marko Stunt. Daddy starts it off by belly butting all the heels in one go, manager included, then one at a time, multiple times. They bump like pinballs, including one where Wilkie charges into the corner so quickly that he hurts his balls. Thumb comes in with Cooper, who’s got great facial expressions selling how quick and capable he is. Cooper is one of William Regal’s heroes and you can see how much he took from him. Daddy comes back in arse-first and the heels run off. Singh in, who is from Wolverhampton, which is near to me, against Wilkie, from Stoke, which is the other direction but still close. Good evasion of an armdrag before getting one. Singh has for some reason gone for Hulk Hogan’s colours. There’s a joke I want to make, but I won’t. Dropkick, and Sid and Brown come in to get caught in the corner for a Daddy avalanche.
The heels bail and Cooper grabs a kid’s poster or programme and rips it up, prompting a real granny to run at him to smack him, so he brushes her off! Back in, the heels trap Thumb for Cooper to get a tombstone on him for a knockout victory, sold well with quivering body language. Daddy, sportsman that he is, comes in and hits the heels with the plastic water bucket, which the heels sell like brass knuckles. He at least gets a public warning and gripes about it.
Next fall, Cooper slams Singh around. Brown comes in with forearms and gets his own tombstone for another near knockout, although he doesn’t deliver it half as well, so Singh crawls over and gets a tag from Daddy. Daddy comes in with running shoves, then knocks him down for the equalising fall with a splash that he doesn’t leave his feet for. Strangely, Pryor calls Kashmir “Jason Singh”, which was probably his “real” name.
Final fall, the heels run at and bounce off Daddy as Kent Walton gets into eulogising him. The heels decide to scarper and lose by count out. A bit of booing before the cheers. In an edit, Daddy seems to disappear from the ring as the partners hold their hands up in victory while holding their tombstoned heads. Kent promises a new American star when we return in two weeks. Nothing to get excited about, it’s only Steve Adonis.
How bad was it? Daddy was especially awful, but if he wasn’t in it and someone more skillful and capable at this time was then it would’ve been a pretty decent match given the quality of the other workers.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart vs. Marty Garner
And just because the WWF could never do an “international” video without filling it out with matches completely missing the theme, here’s a match from Shotgun Saturday Night in 1997. The Hart Foundation are the top heels in the WWF and I’ve never been as big a fan, until it started falling apart. Davey Boy and Owen come out with all their belts and awards and Brian Pillman jumps off commentary to make good with his buddies. Jim attacks early and Irish whips Garner into the corner, which he does a bad turn off. A minute in, Neidhart is rolling down his straps and dumping Garner for the former tag champs to stomp while he catches a breather. JR says he’s bulked up, which is code for him never having a bigger gut than he has right now. Garner back in and then back out for Pillman to chop and abuse. Garner looks like his tights were made by Matt Hardy and they probably were. Back in with Garner just doing his best to bump for the mostly immobile Neidhart. Davey is excellent as cheerleader (“Beat him up, Jim! He looks like Shawn Michaels!”). Three slams in a row by Jim, who’s huffing and puffing, and he gets the win with that all of things. Sweating like a pig in the victory pose. Owen’s kind enough to let him pose with a belt afterwards.
How bad was it? You have to give a little more leeway with it being a squash match, but the Anvil should not have been wrestling matches, he should’ve been a corner man at this point getting his shots in or doing tag matches. He looked close to having a heart attack.
Melting it down: Whether it’s home or abroad, wrestling can be terrible anywhere.
Back next week with whatever themed nightmare matches I can think of!