The Great Muta in his legendary North American run.
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! As I realize I’ve not done a lot of extra reviews since I got back from vacation, so this is even more of a smattering of weird small matches than usual! But I found some weird oddities here, headed off by a No-DQ match between The Great Muta & “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert! Gilbert’s one of my big black holes of fandom, as I didn’t watch other companies in the 1980s and he died before I paid attention to any of them.
Next up, we have a pair of “Established Stars vs. Weirdo 1997 Gimmicks”, as the prior era of the WWF dies down and we still have some lame gimmicks kicking about until the Attitude Era truly begins. Come see Ken Shamrock vs. Salvatore Sincere, and Mankind vs. The Sultan! Poor Sultan had even lost his MANAGERS by this point!
Then I get into more Silver King, as I see what happens when he takes on an American jobber in Rocky King (translation: it’s ugly! There’s a reason most lucha-trained guys fought only each other!)! And finally, it’s WCW tag mayhem, as The Steiner Brothers fight The Blue Bloods (Steven Regal & Dave Taylor), and the Road Warriors fight job squad Pat Tanaka and The Gambler! Yes, WCW was so into hiring WWF cast-offs they had PAT TANAKA!
NO DISQUALIFICATION MATCH:
THE GREAT MUTA (w/ Gary Hart) vs. “HOT STUFF” EDDIE GILBERT (w/ Missy Hyatt):
(NWA Power Hour, Aug. 12th 1989)
* From Muta’s legendary US run comes a match against Eddie Gilbert, whom I know almost literally nothing about. He’s some short southern guy (the same height as his high-heeled valet), but was considered a great mind of the business, but died young at only 33 of a heart attack. Muta silently grabs Missy and spews the green mist DIRECTLY in her face in a great bit, just looking like a total demon. Eddie, in baby blue tights, attacks immediately.
Gilbert throws punches and tries to choke Muta with the ring apron, then throws some light chairshots and peppers Muta with corner punches. Muta catches him with a spinkick and Gary Hart tosses Eddie into the post, then chokes him with some wrist-tape and bites away while Tommy Rich comes to ringside to even the score. Eddie runs Muta into the corner to break the choke, but Muta kicks him square in the balls. Hey, it’s no DQ- why not!? Eddie finally brawls to come back and chokes away with the tape himself while Rich puts Gary Hart in the sleeperhold when he runs in, but Muta dumps Eddie and uses RED mist to spray Tommy! But while Muta’s beating on him, Gilbert comes off the top and pins GARY at (7:06). What is this, ECW? I guess that’s how “Anything Goes” works, but the fans sure seemed to like it (back in the day when “the face has his hand raised” is more important than a clean finish). Muta uses green mist on Gilbert to continue the feud as Jim Ross is astonished at all these mist colors, almost like it’s a supernatural, inexplicable foe opposing the babyfaces.
Rating: **1/4 (More or less an extended beatdown and chokefest from Muta, a quick comeback, and they a bunch of scrapping until the weirdo finish)
KEN SHAMROCK vs. SALVATORE SINCERE:
(WWF New York, July 12th 1997)
* Oh yes, it’s time for more Sal Sincere as a JTTS about to be demolished by the World’s Most Dangerous Man. I honestly don’t remember “WWF New York” being a show- was this a Shotgun Saturday Night deal? *checks* ahhhhh- it was a localized rebranding. Sal promises the fans that “I-ah love-ah you all! Sincerely!”, as is his wont. He’s a good-sized dude in white & pink, but was just in the wrong era.
Sal stalls and they take a while to do basic lockups while Jim Cornette on commentary dismisses the “human cockfighting” comments of the freedom-haters like John McCain (not mentioned by name) who want to take away your freedom of choice, which targeted the Ultimate Fighting Championship, then brings up a guy whose cocks were recently taken away for suspected cockfighting while he was charged with “illegal possession of poultry” and warns fans to “watch what you do with your cocks when you don’t have a license!”. Shamrock goes to a cross-armbreaker and keylock, Sal escaping each time- Sal bites him but gets rolled up, but decks him when the ref tries a corner-break and hits a Northern Lights suplex for two. Shamrock bolts up in a flash and throws kicks, his belly-to-belly, and the Anklelock for the submission win at (6:11).
Easy win for Shamrock, though Sal managed to stall a bit, avoided getting caught in arm stuff, and tried to use some sneakiness. Ken wasn’t much in a selling mood, though, and just popped up to go right back on offense after each Sal move, eventually just gobbling him up like nothing.
Rating: *1/2 (basic TV squash, albeit extended out a ways)
The Sultan never got a major push, which made it weird that he was a WrestleMania challenger for the IC Title… but those days are long gone now.
MANKIND vs. THE SULTAN:
(WWF New York, Nov. 8th 1997)
* The Sultan is now manager-less on Survivor Series-eve- Mankind is set to face Kane. The Sultan was about finished, but was still a big dude, but these D-shows tended to have short runs.
Mankind wins a slugfest, but can’t get the Mandible Claw on his masked opponent- not only PSYCHOLOG, but builds the match with Kane! The Sultan superkicks him down and throws some plodding shots, but ends up eating a facecrusher, and Mankind throws some forearms, then actually goes up and UNDER the mask, hitting the Mandible Claw for the win (2:33)! Well that sets up him up to face the masked Kane tomorrow, for sure. That was super-quick, though- just some punching & pounding back and forth and then Mankind uses psychology of all things to prove he can overcome a mask. That’s actually pretty clever given how that could have been used against him at the PPV.
Rating: * (too short to really rate well)
SUPER CALO vs. ROCKY KING:
(WCW Pro, Aug 17th, 1997)
* This is another one on the “Monsoon Classic” channel, and I was hoping it’d be some storied guy I just missed out on hearing of in the jobber role, but apparently not. He was mostly a jobber and a side guy working with the Freebirds & stuff, but was one of the “well-liked so he got more offense than usual” jobbers. He passed away earlier in 2022. He’s a black dude in red tights going up against the black-clad Super Calo, whose silver sunglasses are of course part of his mask.
This ends up being way more competitive than I expected, with King easily averting a bow & arrow by just flipping over onto Calo for two, then he hits a backdrop suplex & sleeper. Calo stunners out but King hits the world’s strongest slam and openly talks with Calo on-camera, and they do a weird bit where Calo reverses a whip to an elbow but then just grabs King coming at him and drops him. He backflips off King in the corner but gets pounded on for two, then manages his own backdrop suplex as this is very disjointed and they obviously don’t know what each other wants to do. Calo gets an ugly sunset flip & tilt-a-whirl slam, then headscissors him off the top and hits a lucha-style submission (a butterfly lock while tying up the legs like a figure-four) for the submission at (3:22).
Very weak match, as King was given more than half the offense and they were very awkward, bumping into each other and not sure what the next move should be. Pitfalls like this are why the lucha guys were usually paired off with each other (Calo, Lizark & Villanos being jobbers in many cases) rather than America-trained job guys.
Rating: 1/2* (ugly, messy sorta-competitive non-squash)
Steven Regal, back when he was a reliable midcard act instead of a beloved legend.
THE STEINER BROTHERS (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. THE BLUE BLOODS (Lord Steven Regal & Squire Dave Taylor, w/ Geaves):
(WCW Pro, Aug 3rd 1996)
* The Blue Bloods are still around at this point, but diminished on the card- “Earl” Robert Eaton has had issues with them lately. They’re in matching blue trunks (and their butler’s name is written as “Geaves”) while the Steiners oddly mostly match, too, wearing purple singlets.
Regal sells the arm against Scott and takes cartoon bumps off him- the Blue Bloods cheat to take over with European uppercuts, but Scottie hits the Butterfly Bomb and Rick comes in with a Steinerline on Taylor- the heels bail and we get the “Steiner Pose”. Rick takes Taylor down nose-first and then slugs him, but Taylor hits an interesting hiplock takeover for two- Scott comes in but gets dragged out and posted by Taylor behind the ref’s back. He eats forearms but a double-clothesline puts both of them down and Rick comes in to beat on both heels. He works over Taylor and hits his cool mid-air snatch reversal for two- Regal comes in and this covers Eaton doing a run-in, but he nails Taylor off the top and Rick picks up the easy win at (6:43).
A very stall-happy match to start, with guys milking stuff like crazy and not working too hard- standard WCW Pro stuff. The screwjob finish builds up the Blue Bloods rift, as much as it paints those guys as losers to job out in this way on such a small-tier show. But with the nWo invading, WCW had more important things to worry about than a C-tier stable- much as Regal is a beloved star now, back then he was seen as a disposable midcard act to bookers.
Rating: *3/4 (it’s fine, but mostly stalling and basic shots before the quick finish- all that time and they didn’t even really have any heat sequences!)
THE ROAD WARRIORS (Hawk & Animal) vs. PAT TANAKA & THE GAMBLER:
(WCW Pro, March 9th, 1996)
* The Road Warriors are still in WCW at this point, and they’re taking on one of the most tenured “jobbers with a gimmick” in The Gambler, plus Pat Tanaka of all people. Tanaka was jobbing in the WWF for a while in the early ’90s once the Orient Express was done, but I don’t recall him being around in ’96. He’s still short and squat, with a weird goatee and kung fu uniform, while the Gambler’s in black trunks. The Warriors’ chyron literally lists them as “Legion of Doom- ROADWARRIORS” which is strange. They’re in much tighter-fitting blue pads at this point, making them look more like gimmicked football players.
Animal/Tanaka start, Tanaka’s shots quickly getting ignored while he bounces around in a martial arts stance and Animal just clobbers him. Tanaka really just looks like someone’s dad out there as Hawk hits a powerslam & fistdrop. Gambler’s in the wrong corner after trying to interfere, but gets to the right one and eats a powerbomb, Hawk just beating on him from there instead of going for the pin. A shoulderblock sets up Animal’s big boot, and they just throw a ton of clotheslines until the Doomsday Device finishes him at (3:03)- Tanaka doesn’t even bother trying to get in. Just a complete squash, with the Roadies using their typical contempt for jobbers, not selling a thing.
Rating: 1/4* (ya gotta love a good Road Warriors squash, though, especially against such dweeby-looking opponents)