Mr. Perfect vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (and other Dream Matches!)
By Jabroniville on 28th September 2022
Misawa back when he was the second Tiger Mask.
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This week, I have an old All Japan match featuring young AWA World Champion Curt Hennig up against Mitsuharu Misawa, back when he was the the second Tiger Mask! Both these guys were ****-***** workers in their primes, so let’s see what they had in 1988!
Then after that, it’s a bizarre pair of matches from the WWF, as the Headbangers (then a midcard heel duo) face off against Jerry Lawler and “Mr. Monday Night” Rob Van Dam, his ally from ECW in their invasion against “Extremely Crappy Wrestling” during the weird time when ECW was frequently invading RAW! And then it’s over to WCW, as Harlem Heat face The Amazing French Canadians (Jacques Rougeau & PCO) on a D-show and actually have a pretty decent match out of it!
AWA WORLD TITLE:
TIGER MASK II (Mitsuharu Misawa) vs. CURT HENNIG:
(All Japan Pro Wrestling, Jan. 8th 1988)
* Oh man! MR. PERFECT vs. MISAWA! From 1988 before Misawa’s prime, but still. Hennig was still in the AWA at this point. His red & blue robe with stars on it is… a choice. He’s babyfaced and in black & white trunks, which always looks weird because the singlet is so iconic now. Misawa in the TM garb always looks kind of odd, too. All the other dudes were small, lithe juniors and Misawa is pretty hefty. Like, he’s clearly bigger than Curt here.
They do the simple mat exchanges that US/Japanese guys always do (this must be their version of “The International” from back then), even pausing for applause at one point, then Curt controls with a hammerlock for a while (not really moving around in it), then trade wristlocks until Hennig goes for the hammerlock again and gets snapmared out. Tiger Mask throws a few kicks and rolls onto Curt’s back to hit a camel clutch until Curt slips out. TM throws an elbow & kick, but Curt uses American striking and kneelifts him down, only to get dropkicked for two.
Curt escapes a crab, but takes some shots to the back and a vertical suplex, Misawa now stretching out the back to work it over, but Hennig elbows free, whips him to the other corner, and hits a Perfect Plex for two! He milks another count and scores his great dropkick for two, and a weak elbow off the second rope gets the same. But he tries another and Tiger Mask dropkicks him to the floor! But Curt immediately reverses a whip out there and that’s not milked- Hennig brings him back in with a suplex but TM lands on his feet and dropkicks him over and to the floor, then follows with a baseball slide and a plancha! He goes to follow up, but Hennig kicks off the post and lands on him, only for Misawa to be the first one up… and he slides into the ring at the count of ten for the Count-Out win at (11:22). Hennig merely looks kinda annoyed and everyone stands around- Misawa scores a moral victory, but the Title stays with Hennig.
Very solid, classical-style match, though nothing spectacular. They practically just sat in that hammerlock, and tended to just slap on any hold they wanted rather than fight for them catch-style, and they were probably keeping it simple due to differences in style & language. So it never quite started gearing up the way NWA Title matches did, nor did they show much character at all- none of Curt being this angry grump or frustrated champ dealing with this fight-y kid- they just kind of had this character-free exhibition. Hell, Curt takes a bump off the top to the floor in a 1988 match and he’s the next guy to score an offensive move. Though Misawa gets a good run of moves at the end that makes it look like he might have this in the bag, and technically he does- I’ve heard AJPW always ran count-out wins back in the ’80s, and this is no exception, giving their guy a win but ensuring the AWA belt stays with Hennig.
Rating: **3/4 (pretty good, if fairly bland, technical exhibition without a lot of character)
Lawler, who knows how to make money, invades ECW using his anti-ECW rhetoric to make himself a top heel in the company.
“MR. MONDAY NIGHT” ROB VAN DAM & JERRY “THE KING” LAWLER vs. THE HEADBANGERS (Mosh & Thrasher):
(WWF Shotgun, June 14h 1997)
* Haha, that weird run where RVD was temporarily on WWF RAW was so weird for “WTF?” matches, and it’s kind of glossed over because he was just “that guy who did flashy stuff in midcard bouts and then disappeared” by that point. But here he is teaming with Jerry Lawler (who brought him into the fold for his “Anti-ECW” tirades, which naturally made him a perfect heel in ECW cuz Lawler knows how to make money), and now they’re fighting the midcard “excite the fans” tag team of the moment, The Headbangers. They’re in White Zombie & Misfits (Jerry Only, not Phyllis Gabor) t-shirts. RVD has a “Jaws” singlet while Lawler’s in a one-strap singlet made out of my grandmother’s cushions.
The Headbangers cheat to start while Brian Pillman on commentary completely sh*ts all over ECW as some podunk garbage company, and Mosh hits RVD with a clothesline off the second rope during a criss-cross with Thrasher. Mosh works RVD over a bit but takes some kicks and they scrap a bit before Mosh starts getting double-teamed. Lawler brawls while JR & Pillman diss the USWA as a “rinky-dink” and “Mickey Mouse” organization as they’re COMPLETELY burying these companies they’re actively advertising on their own TV shows (“Oh my god- they SUCK!” cries Pillman about ECW- THEN WHY SHOULD WE WATCH THIS?).
RVD hits Rolling Thunder and we’re back from break with RVD getting dropped on the rope and then Thrasher gutwrench bombs him. Double-axehandle hits as this starts getting really plodding and dull- thankfully Mosh soon hits a slingshot clothesline to the apron (Pillman calls it the Stage Dive). RVD tries to come back but they just gobble him up again (as JR points out the Bangers are preventing him from flying around), then Pillman confuses JR by saying RVD’s “been hanging out with CLAUDE too much?” (“WHO?” “JEAN-Claude. Vahn-dahm.” “Isn’t he about 5’4″?… Not Rob Van Dam- the OTHER guy. The Frenchman or Belgian or whatever he is…”). RVD finally makes a comeback with a spinkick (a “glancing blow” generously described by JR) and hits a flying splash, but does the Split-Legged Moonsault onto Mosh’s knees… and then Tommy Dreamer just hits the ring to create a DQ at (6:41), ending this plodding nightmare of a match.
Oh man, this was so bad, haha. The Headbangers were just gobbling up RVD left and right and halting his offense or momentum, almost like they didn’t want him to get over at all, and it turned into a heat segment (on the HEEL) while Pillman on commentary wanted us to be sure to think that both ECW and the USWA were garbage and not worth watching. JR repeatedly gets stymied by how weird Brian was talking, and then just as RVD gets going it’s a DQ. Lawler was barely in it at all and the pace was ridiculously slow.
Rating: * (just for a couple of decent moves from RVD & Mosh)
WWF TAG TEAM TITLE TOURNAMENT:
“MR. MONDAY NIGHT” ROB VAN DAM & JERRY “THE KING” LAWLER vs. THE HEADBANGERS (Mosh & Thrasher):
(WWF RAW, June 16th 1997)
* A rematch, but in a WWF Tag Title Tournament (the winners face Austin and a mystery partner who’d end up being Dude Love). The Headbangers are in White Zombie & Misfits (Jerry Only, not Phyllis Gabor) t-shirts. RVD has a white singlet with black stripes airbrushed on while Lawler’s in the same gear as last match.
Vince namedrops “EC-Dubya” (wait, does he really talk like a hillbilly like that?) as Tommy Dreamer & Paul E. are seen in the crowd, which is VERY quiet for this. RVD does the splits but gets dropkicked by Mosh, who follows with an avalanche & a double-team splat. Thrasher gets a crappy gutwrench powerbomb & Lawler saves, so RVD does a moonsault dodge into a monkey flip and his 2nd-rope side kick- state of the art stuff in WWF (*puts on snob monocle* old hat in joshi, of course). They work Thrasher over with shots and RVD hits the Five-Star Frog Splash, but it’s treated like nothing because he just tags out even though Vince & JR put it over on commentary (“That is a HALL OF FAME maneuver!”: JR), Lawler getting two off a slack cover. Lawler misses a fistdrop and Mosh gets the coldest tag ever, throwing generic stuff- it’s a donnybrook with Thrasher hitting the same slingshot clothesline that puts RVD on the floor while Lawler hits the Piledriver on Mosh… but the ref is distracted, allowing The Sandman to hit the ring, Singapore cane Lawler in the balls, and the Headbangers finish with the Stage Dive (front superplexing Mosh onto Lawler) for the pin at (3:58).
A very “1997 RAW” kind of match, where it’s a plodding, heatless brawl- despite the presence of ECW and their rep with hardcores, they were still largely nobodies on the national stage and this feud did NOT impress anyone. RVD hit some great moves for the time but really only did the basics and then got out, too. Otherwise it’s the generic brawling of the Headbangers and a RAW Distraction Finish.
Rating: *1/4 (every boring RAW match you’ve ever seen, carried largely by some cool RVD moves that were still new and exciting)
The weird time the Quebecers were a midcard WCW tag team during the company’s hottest period.
HARLEM HEAT (Booker T & Stevie Ray, w/ Sister Sherri) vs. THE AMAZING FRENCH CANADIANS (Jacques Rougeau & Carl Oulette, w/ Col. Rob Parker):
(WCW Pro, May 4th 1997)
* Yup- back to the time when the QUEBECERS of all people kept bouncing around in wrestling, as they’re now a midcard team in WCW, which quickly hired so many other guys they got buried in the shuffle. I mean, with a name like that they were doomed anyways, but still. They’ve got black singlets and are up against the main event-tier Heat, in black.
Oulette goes to the eyes and works over Stevie Ray, but runs into a powerslam and Booker hits the Harlem Side Kick for two. Double suplex for two, then an ax kick, but Rougeau runs in and fakes a tag. Rougeau & Parker both put the boots to Booker T, and a clothesline/legsweep gets two. Jacques slams Carl on T and they hit a double-hot shot as the Heat are in big trouble. Larry Z tries to suggest ARN ANDERSON had issues as a tag wrestler for standing still too much (yeah, LARRY Z thinks he can throw stones at Arn’s tag acumen) as Booker desperately gets a sunset flip, but does a 360 on a clothesline from Oulette. Stevie Ray keeps getting provoked into distracting the ref, but Booker finally dodges a double-team and makes the tag- Stevie beats some ass and takes out both guys. Parker gives his boys the Quebec flag pole, but Carl nails Jacques with it and Stevie scores the pin at (4:51)- Harlem Heat steals one.
Very “WWF-Style” tag match, almost, with the faces doing extended selling but reversing cheating for the win in a 5-minute bout. The Canadians still had their double-teams and that keeps the heat segments MUCH more interesting than the usual “kick & punch” nonsense, as Booker looked to be in serious trouble in there. Only issue is Stevie’s so loose and sloppy that even his hot tag runs aren’t great, despite being a 6’6″ monster.
Rating: **1/4 (good old-fashioned tag stuff and good double-teams in a short match)