Mr. Hughes was a guy who showed up in WCW and the WWF yet never got above “midcarder” despite his size. He’s become a more respected trainer, with trainees include AEW’s A.R. Fox & Kiera Hogan, plus Heath Slater, Dexter Lumis, Jonathan Gresham & Apollo Crews.
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This week I have a pretty crazy assortment of stuff, leading off WCW as Sting & The Steiner Brothers face Big Van Vader, Cactus Jack & Mr. Hughes! Then it’s the British Bulldogs in 1989 All Japan, as they take on the Malenko Brothers- Joe and future star Dean! Then the insanity of WWF Shotgun Saturday Night‘s debut, as they wrestle in a tiny ring in a dark New York nightclub… it’s The Godwinns vs. The Flying Nuns! Yeah, the Headbangers in a one-off weirdo gimmick that I still don’t understand the point of. Then finally, it’s more of “The Best of Well Dunn” as they take on Virgil & Steve Fox. Yes, poor Virgil gets stuck with the “teaming with jobber” duties.
STING & THE STEINER BROTHERS (Rick & Scott Steiner) vs. BIG VAN VADER, CACTUS JACK & MR. HUGHES (w/ Harley Race):
(WCW The Main Event, Feb 9th 1992)
* Oh hell yes!! What a bizarre mish-mash of guys! The top babyfaces of WCW against the top heel, the wild brawler Cactus, and the weird flash in the pan Mr. Hughes, who bounced around various companies, never mattering in any of them. Vader’s in the usual red & Black, Cactus is in mostly black, Hughes has his trademark white dress shirt, black slacks and sunglasses, while Sting’s in white, Rick’s in a multicolored paint-splatter singlet & Scott’s in a black/green one.
Scotty starts taking down Cactus, who uses the hair & brawling to control, but runs into a boot and eats a bad belly-to-belly (Scott almost had to shoot-lift Cactus there) and bails. Rick/Vader are next, Rick completely no-selling the intimidation factor but getting backdrop suplexed out of a headlock, short-arm clotheslined and splashed for two with a weak cover. Vader hits a vertical suplex, but Rick goes behind on another and hits a fucking OVERHEAD BELLY-TO-BELLY, Vader sailing over him on the bump! Steinerline! Steinerline! Vader hits the floor and Rick immediately crashes onto him & Cactus for a fight! This actually doesn’t backfire, and it’s over to Sting, who gets brought to the corner and held for Mr. Hughes, who beats him up. Hughes hits a clothesline and powerslam, both pretty weak (just the wrist connects with Sting, making it look more like a takedown than a strike), then gets hiptossed out of an International and takes a bad bump to the floor (getting caught up on the ropes).
Hughes grapples Sting over to Vader, who hits a leaping clothesline & gorilla press powerslam- Sting gets a bodyslam, then gets caught on a cross-body, only to roll through the slam for two. Rick gets nailed from the apron and clotheslined by Vader- he won’t sell for Cactus, but the heels double-team him again and Hughes drops a running elbow for two. Vader sits on him from a sunset flip (drops RIGHT on his chest, too- possibly annoyed by the no-selling). The heels bite and scrap, but Rick Steinerlines Cactus and Sting hits Hughes with a back body drop & Stinger Splash, but Vader tosses him, he & Scott toss each other, and Rick belly-to-bellies Hughes for two (Rick isn’t legal! WTF?), then Sting flies in with a clothesline off the top for three (10:29), Hughes kicking out at 3.1 and the brawl continuing.
The match was just fine, but disappointing (they had a PPV coming up, possibly explaining it), as they were going half-effort and just doing short bits with each other (Scottie wasn’t in for more than 40 seconds total). Rick’s terrible selling started becoming noticeable (he was barely selling VADER and fought him & Cactus at once and came out on top), though they were able to just stay on him and cheat to make him react. Hughes is also a weird combination of a flying bumper (going WAY up for Sting twice), showing off, practically… yet also clumsy enough to get caught up doing basic things. He wasn’t that green, either- a 4-year veteran. Like most 6-mans of the time, it was just “guys doing stuff”, but most of them were talented enough to make it work, and it was fast-paced.
Rating: **1/2 (perfectly acceptable TV bout that got good & fun in parts)
THE BRITISH BULLDOGS (Dynamite Kid & Davey-Boy Smith) vs. DEAN & JOE MALENKO:
(All Japan, Jan. 29th 1989)
* A particularly rare sort of match, as the fading Bulldogs are in AJPW to occupy themselves with a variety of unexpected matches, and one of the teams they fight is the MALENKOS- the sons of Boris Malenko, who wrestled in Japan in the ’70s and was apparently a high-profile opponent of Antonio Inoki’s. Dean obviously became a huge part of WCW’s Cruiserweight division in the 1990s and was the least successful Radicalz member, but is still talked about to this day- Joe essentially fell off the face of the Earth. He’s four years older than Dean, and only has brief appearances in the ’90s for WCW & ECW. He’s differentiated here by having a normal-sized head for his frame. Both are in black & red trunks, though Dean’s are red on the ass; Joe’s the front.
Dean/Smith and Joe/Dyno work simple sequences- all quite snug, and the crowd loves the acrobatics thrown in, like kip-ups and backrolls. Smith stuns Dean by landing on his feet from a monkey-flip. Dynamite hits the snap suplex, but Dean manages a proto-poison rana on Smith, putting him on his back with it. Joe impresses with a backflip out of an armlock and constantly reversing Dynamite’s full nelsons to his own- I dig how they can get good reactions just from chain-wrestling. Joe ties up Dyno’s legs to escape a cross-armbreaker but his tombstone is reversed to Dyno’s for two. Davey stretches Joe but gets armlocked, doing an impressive lift onto his shoulder to break it. Joe finally escapes after some generic Kid stretching and Dean hits a great Northern Lights suplex on Smith for two.
Dean’s missile kick gets caught into a surfboard and Dyno beats him up a bit, but Dean catches Smith with a leglock, Joe bridging in his own to tweak it even more. Dean makes a big deal out of trying to hit a German Suplex, getting it for two. Dynamite comes in and the Malenkos trade off with light submissions work, and Davey comes in with a lariat on Joe to counter a double-team! Running Powerslam on Joe, but when he picks up Dyno for the press-slam, Dean dropkicks them both over the top! Joe gets a HUGE pop just for rolling Kid back into the ring (flashbacks of count-outs past?) and the fans explode when Dynamite kicks out after another Northern Lights! Dyno headbutts free but his snap suplex is reversed to a perfect plex for two, and Joe tries a victory roll on a dazed, bloody-nosed Kid… and Dynamite sits down on him for three (23:53)! Clever Stampede finish!
A very interesting, well-wrestled match that nonetheless has very few “this could end it” spots, as it’s mostly “the first ten minutes of a classic” drawn out over 20. So it’s fascinating limbwork and a lot of chain-wrestling sequences, but mostly it just never hits the second gear. Dean’s Nothern Lights & Dragon suplexes were repeatedly mentioned on commentary and the first was used with perfect technique that had the crowd marking out, at least. He never managed the other, but a magnificent German got a close call, and the crowd was way into the last handful of moves, sensing an end to it. Mostly it was a good counter-fest without a major ending surge, lacking the proper intensity or urgency.
Rating: ***3/4 (a really good technical counter-fest)
THE GODWINNS (Henry & Phineas Godwinn, w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. THE FLYING NUNS (Sister Angelica & Mother Smucker):
(WWF Shotgun Saturday Night, Jan. 4th 1997)
* One I always remember hearing about but never saw! It’s the Headbangers in a short-lived early identity on a brand-new show- Shotgun, which was a more “adult”, rebellious show (translation: an ECW knock-off) before they gave up on it and made it a Superstars-esque squash program and just made RAW the “adult” show. This honestly feels like an uglier, grittier “dry run” to test out this kind of content (Terri flashing a guy to give her client the win, for instance) before it actually got used on the main program. They’re in the darkened Mirage Nightclub with a very tiny ring, looking like a gritty indie mudshow… save for Vince McMahon on commentary doing his standard growling pitch-man act and Sunny as an “early ’90s VJ”. The Nuns are said to be ladies “from a Tibetan order” and that this is “men against women”- they’re in white shawls with black aprons, which dramatically alter their ability to take moves.
The Nuns attack before the bell, but get rammed into each other- they do open-handed crosses to the Godwinns, earning a “holy shit!” chant that Vince laughs off (“Holy cow– or something like it- haw haw!”). Angelica takes a shoulderblock as their facial hair becomes noticeable- Vince suggests there’s a “chromosome problem” as the Nuns keep begging off with crosses and stalling. Smucker trades armbars with Phineas and Angelica chops him, but then oh god BROTHER LOVE comes out and they stall for like 2-3 minutes bowing to him. Smucker takes a back body drop but manages a headbutt off a distraction, and the Nuns double-team HOG with various stuff (like the Beverly Bros. “neck-drape/leapfrog” move) as the crowd decides to chant “ECW! ECW!” at this 1980s offense. The Nuns have to spam their dumb taunt after EVERY MOVE, which gets old fast (how full is their SmackDown! meter now?). Smucker misses a Guillotine Legdrop to set up the hot tag, but sells it weird (more like it’s stunned him) and Phineas runs wild, but hesitates to grab the crotch for a bodyslam, so HOG has to come back in. Phineas gets kicked off the ropes and Love smashes him with a book for the heel pin at (9:28). Yes, they ran this for almost TEN MINUTES. Brother Love cuts a promo declaring them the “Sisters of Love”.
A spectacularly awful match, wrestled by two guys probably unfamiliar with wrestling in these giant outfits so they had to be super-careful, and then they had to do their dumb crossing after every move. Plus do about 5 minutes of stalling into a long heat sequence. At least the crowd was entertained by how stupid it was- imagine how hostile a full arena would be to this? Only a week later, the Nuns would be repackaged as the Headbangers (which was their indie gimmick) and Brother Love would be forgotten. This makes the bout one of the weirder one-offs in WWF history. What was even the point of this? Just to amuse Vince, or throw out some sacrilege for the purpose of controversy? Actually I’d bet money Vince Russo booked this entire show himself, given how the next match involves Victory Via Bare Breasts.
Rating: DUD (way, WAY too long- maybe one decent wrestling move all match)
WELL DUNN (Timothy Well & Steven Dunn, w/ Harvey Wippleman) vs. VIRGIL & JERRY FOX:
(WWF TV, Oct. 9th 1993)
* Oh god- poor Virgil with the dread “Teaming With Jobber” role! Well Dunn by this point were established on TV doing regular squashes, but had already lost their debut and were actually JOBBING TO THE BUSHWHACKERS on the house show circuit, so it was clear to the fans that they were the bottom-tier team on the pecking order already. Wippleman is only now their manager, shocking Vince. Fox is a pasty, skinny white guy with long “nerd hair” and 1950s table designs on his tights, while Virgil’s in the black & white stripes. Virgil actually gets a shockingly good reaction here.
Virgil dominates Dunn to start, tossing him over the top and slingshotting him back in, then getting a headlock takeover (almost taking a bump off it)- Dunn gets a cheapshot to take over while Savage suggests it’s good that Fox hasn’t gotten in yet. Dunn gets backdropped & headlocked again, going very “short” and making it look impactful and a bit non-choreographed at the same time, then Fox comes in and gets the same headlock takeover. But then in a neat bit, he tries it again but Rookie Inexperience ™ has him try it in the WELL DUNN corner, and Well just shoves him backwards into a backdrop suplex. Big clothesline & snap suplex from Dunn, who knocks Virgil off the apron and gets whipped into Fox by Well. This is enough to kill him, as Well & Dunn have a pleasant debate over who gets to pin him (“YOU!” “No, YOU!”) until Well finally does for the fall at (3:34). LOL, an assisted whip into a forearm is their finisher?
A weird one, as Virgil is utterly dominant and doesn’t sell a move until he’s on the apron- Fox gets one thing and then he’s crushed with a succession of stuff and singled out. The “star gets taken out and the jobber is beaten” was common in these kinds of matches, but it’s always funny to see the credibility given to Virgil-types in these. And once again Dunn controls the entire match!
Rating: *1/2 (inoffensive but like the first couple minutes of a match that then suddenly ends than a complete bout)