Thanks for the requests last week, keep them coming. Vaguely animal-themed review this week.
In all seriousness, though, read to the end, because there will be a full episode review of an infamous moment in Detroit Big Time Wrestling.
Enter the Dragon Master!
Scary music video that’s cut so often that Kevin Dunn must be directing, not Jerry Jarrett. The fire effect superimposed over it is probably paper streams with a fan underneath it. After that, Christopher Love and his Assassins knockoffs the Scorpions bring a big box out. Love/Bert Prentice was actually a pretty good talker and natural heat magnet given his glib talking and effeminate “Honey!” mannerisms, although he looks like he’s wearing Vinnie Vegas’ suit. Love says he can and will fire Jerry Lawler for being a flop at the box office. To the box in front of him, he opens it up and the Dragon Master stands up incredibly gingerly because he obviously can’t see out of the mask. Love holds his hand and brings him over and rants about how this guy is legitimately 7’3″, which is possible, although he’s about as unassuming a giant as Giant Gonzales. The dragon mask comes off and he’s like a giant druid with a skull mask underneath his hood. Love claims he was an international star, although I’ve no idea who that’s an allusion too, before finishing up, with Dragon Master showing all the presence of an overgrown teenager.
How bad was it? Prentice/Love was fine, but the guy looked like a goof and the crowd had zero reaction to him, showing that he was just a tall guy and not a wrestler that was going to take off.
Mitsuhiro Matsunaga vs. Shoji Nakamaki
From Big Japan, the ring has boxes in with scorpions inside and cactus trees in two corners. Didn’t I review a piranha match a while ago when I was on the death match kick? Highlights reel, with Matsunaga no-selling a chair shot from Shoji, then same from Shoji before a jab with it almost knocks him into the cactus. Matsunaga ends up in the opposing cactus, but Shoji misses a charge and hits it too. Shoji tries to force Matsunaga in the tank, then it reverses, with really both being too far above them. Cut to Shoji DDTing Matsunaga on the outside after a tour of ringside. Suplex back inside onto the cactus, then Matsunaga powerbombs onto them across a chair. One more try, reversed into the box, and Shoji pushes him down into them for the win. The attendants hustle Matsunaga out quickly to probably get him medical attention as if he was going to swell up like a balloon.
How bad was it? It’s clips, so hard to rate, but it’s always going to be a disappointment because it’s a work, just like Leatherface using a chainsaw with no chain on it, negating any potential decapitations or Tiger Jeet Singh using the butt of his sword instead of the blade. Probably more problematic today with any potential harm to the scorpions (and the cactus!).
The Worm Turns!
A few things to unpack with this, as Randy Savage in his pimp look is wrestling Kidman on Nitro, dropping the big elbow on him. Robert Wuhl is on commentary as his character Arliss from the eponymous show and really doesn’t know anything but is trying way too hard to sound like he is. Savage decks the ref and drops another elbow. This prompts Dennis Rodman, looking like a more feminine pimp, comes out and knocks out Savage with a loaded purse. “Arliss” tries to appeal to him but gets brushed off. Rodman’s not really cheered or booed, it’s just confusing, and even Mean Gene can’t make any sense out of it, as Rodman wouldn’t make sense if you asked him his name. Arliss suggests a match between Rodman and Savage on PPV and celebrates as the only one who wants to see it. Madusa totters in too and gets into it with Mona Madness (Molly Holly) to make this even more nonsensical.
How bad was it? It looked like a good match topped off with a bad angle to set up a terrible match. I’ll review it next week as I’ve never seen it and understand the high point of it is a trip to the toilet. Also, as a Brit who never saw the Arliss show as it wasn’t broadcast over here, I’m surprised to read it lasted from 1996 to 2002 given Robert Wuhl’s performance here, although his comments on reading The Art of the Deal and what he thought of it are amusing.
Don Red Cloud vs. The Sheik
When Red Cloud takes off the war bonnet he looks not a jot Native American. The announcers talk about Chief Jay Strongbow being at ringside to support Red Cloud, but it’s actually Mark Lewin. Sheik goes through all the histrionics of working up to kneeling on the prayer mat, which eats up two minutes. Sheik looks like he’s got a plaster where a colostomy bag has been removed. Out of nowhere, he attacks and quickly puts the camel clutch on (badly) and wins in less than a minute. Crap match, but Sheik looks as fearsome as any wrestler has. Lewin gets him to break it with the threat of a hit with the bell. Strangely, it goes to different commentary after the match where it is Lewin that’s referenced and they tease a tussle, with Sheik going over to the commentator to mutter at him and throwing a chair in before retreating.
Mark Lewin vs. Malcolm Monroe
Lewin is introduced from Israel, and he is Jewish, but he’s actually from Buffalo, New York. Monroe takes a headlock and tweaks Lewin’s nose, then trues some rougher tactics before Lewin hooks in the sleeper and puts him out. Referring back to a recent Scott review, there’s no three lifts of the arm for consciousness, the ref just sees him drift out and calls it. Lewin gets an interview afterwards, but he’s more fun as a heel, be it the Maniac or the Purple Haze.
Bobby Blaine vs. The Sheik
OK, so this is a compilation show given the second Sheik appearance and the different announcer. Blaine kicks the prayer rug as he seemingly doesn’t value his health that highly. He’s lucky Sheik doesn’t chew up his Christmas sweater. Instead, he bites the face instead and then submits Blaine to the camel clutch. I much prefer his way of applying it with the arm over one knee to, say, Scott Steiner’s version.
Mike Thomas vs. Bulldog Don Kent
I feel like I recognise Mike Thomas from somewhere else. Kent is easily in his fifties at this point, with grey hair and flab. Turns out, after quick research, he wasn’t far past forty. I guess everyone just looked old back then. The Sheik is about fifty in these matches and looks far older too. Thomas controls with some smooth side headlock work. Kent throws him off and leapfrogs over him on the rebound, to get caught in it again. Research reveals that the reason why Thomas looks familiar is that his real name was Mike… Farhat, a nephew of the Sheik. He died in 1978 at the age of 27. The commentator humorously turns all the fans against Kent by not-so-subtly recommending they bring flags and banners and chants of Bulldog to the matches. Kent breaks out and gets some punches and stomps in. Legitimate chinlock and trapezius muscle pinch until Thomas fights out. A slugfest as this match is going nowhere, returning to the Thomas side headlock. Kent gets a knee to the gut, slam and lousy elbowdrop for the win. The ring announcers mic cuts out in a fashion that makes it sound like the match only lasted 23 seconds, when it was far longer (and more boring) than that. Kent, with his shoulder hair sticking up, gets an interview after the match. He’s doing what a heel needs to do with the smug look, insults and false claims, but he’s really no more intimidating than your average bus driver.
Tom Reeseman vs. The Sheik
Return of the Sheik after The Sheik Strikes Back, I guess. Reeseman is a chubby older guy who looks like Memphis promoter Buddy Wayne. Big stall as Reeseman is more energetic in wanting to get the match started than anyone so far on this programme. Once it starts, Sheik goes straight to the pencil, in the mouth and up the nose. I guess better way than the opposite unless Reeseman was hungry. The commentator is great at building a bullshit story about the Sheik putting himself in a trance to feel no pain, which allows him to brush off Reeseman’s punches and apply the camel clutch for the submission. The ring announcer tries to interview Sheik after, leading to his normal nonsense phrase (“Kalamazoo!”, which was the town he lived in) and eating his pocket square and tie. Sheik leaves him be, then does the Sabu point to the sky bit to trick him into taking his mind off the tie in a funny bit.
Kurt Von Hess vs. Mark Lewin
Von Hess, like many the foreign menace, was from Canada. Quite interesting how in a precursor to the branding of fans as the WWE Universe, the commentators talk about the Peoples’ Army. Lewin, after a brief sneak attack, posts Hess with his legs split and kicks him in the balls, but an Irish whip sends Lewin over the top in a Sgt. Slaughter-like bump. Hess stomps away. Even though the practicality of not having a world title is because of being an NWA affiliate, it does make sense for the top title to be the United States title as it could be traded back and forth between Americans babyfaces and foreign heels. Hess gets the claw and the crowd is going really mad, with Lewin selling it like a maniac, even to the point of frothing a bit. He of course reverses it and kicks out. Hess takes it again on the outside, so Mark headbutts his own head with the hand over it into the post to break it, which is a stunningly brilliant bit of psychology, then slams it into the table and smashes it with a chair. Back in, he stomps away and the referee awards him the match seemingly on a decision. I’ve not been giving match-by-match reviews, but this was shockingly good for how simple it was. Don Kent attacks Lewin after the match with a chair to set up their programme. Lewin starts to Hulk up out of it, but the Islanders (Afa and Sika) run Kent off to save him.
Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Don Kent
Here’s the point of reviewing the episode – the shark cage match! Instead of having a cage around the match, they just put an actual shark cage in the ring, with both men having to go inside it, with less space than you’d need to put a jacket on, and the first one out is the winner. It’s a case of getting inside first, as Kent hides one side and Strongbow tries to squash him against the ropes with it. In they go, and it’s close combat with short punches and rubbing the head against the bars. Strongbow mounts the cage and tries to choke Kent with his boot on his throat. Luckily, we cut to the back, with a bleeding Mark Lewin wanting to go back out, with a literal X on the screen to cover him.
Back to the ring, Strongbow gets the sleeper, but Kent goes in the tights for a foreign object to break. He tries to escape, but Jay pulls him back in, exposing his pasty ass at the same time. Strongbow lifts him up to hit his head on the top. The ref tries to wedge the door with a screwdriver, which is immediately taken as another foreign object. Another cut to the locker room, with medical specialist Afa stating the bleeding obvious – “He’s got a really deep cut and he needs a doctor”. Now you know why Lou Albano spoke for him in the WWF.
And they’re still in there, with Kent choking Strongbow in the corner… of the cage. Jay starts to go into his trance to no-sell some shots, then we go to a break. Back from that, with nobody getting anywhere. More choking. There’s basically nothing they can do with the limited space they have, so it looks like two guys getting a sweat on while standing in place. The commentator can do nothing with this, so we go back to Mark Lewin still trying to fight his way out of the dressing room and making his way out. He garrotes Kent from outside and Strongbow gets out to end this, to much more excitement from the crowd than it deserves.
How bad was it? Awful, undoubtedly, unequivocally awful. There was nothing that either guy, both of fair ability at least, could do. Here’s the shame – it probably would’ve been a hundred times better if it was an actual cage match, with the storyline leading Lewin back out to cost Kent the match as he looked over the top of the cage. But then we probably wouldn’t be talking about this match now, would we?
Melting it down: Keep the appreciated requests coming. Next week will have at least one Nightmare-themed match in it… Do the Freddy!