You know it’s 1997 WWF when THESE two show up!
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This week, we have a wild assortment, as I found another Bowl Match from the WWF! A sequel to the “RAW Bowl” where everyone was in football gear, this one is classic 1997, as it’s Owen Hart & British Bulldog vs. The Godwinns vs. Doug Furnas & Phil LaFon vs. Faarooq & Crush in a 4-way elimination tag match!
A weird mish-mash bout from 1993 WCW sees a young BABYFACE Steve Regal take on The Barbarian! More of Devon Storm and Ace Darling as they form “The Extremists” and hit WCW as a pair of jobbers against The Public Enemy! A palette cleanser from that as babyface Kona Crush takes on “Dream Matches” MVP, Blake Beverly! And we end things with a great example of the Dragon Gate style as CIMA, Dragon Kid & Susumu Yokosuka invade Pro Wrestling NOAH to face Naomichi Marufuji, Ricky Marvin & Ippei Ota!
BOWL MATCH (4 corners elimination tag, anyone can tag and must accept tags):
OWEN HART & “THE BRITISH BULLDOG” DAVEY-BOY SMITH vs. THE GODWINNS (Henry O. & Phineas I. Godwinn, w/ Hillbilly Jim) vs. DOUG FURNAS & PHILIP LAFON vs. THE NATION OF DOMINATION (Faarooq & Crush, w/ Clarence Mason, PG-13 & Flunkies):
(WWF Superstars, Jan. 26th 1997)
* Wait, they ran ANOTHER Bowl? All I remember was the RAW Bowl! Where they all wore football uniforms and it was actually pretty dumb! This is another from the next year, with a smattering of oddball tag teams from the era- Owen & Bulldog are the tag champs, with Furnas & LaFon (in matching blue trunks) brought in from Japan as charisma-free challengers in an attempt to combat WCW’s perception as the “workrate promotion”, probably. The Godwinns are a fading act at this point (and oddly both in matching red shirts), while the Nation are rising stars, without Savio yet, I think.
LaFon/Bulldog start, LaFon getting caught out of a corner cross-body, but the two slickly reversing on each other for two-counts. Owen catches him with a dragon screw (nice sucker-job by putting his head down early on purpose) and they work LaFon over- Owen tags Henry but tries a cheapshot and Henry just slams him ON LaFon for two. Phineas gets a suplex for two and goes for the Slop Drop (inverted ddt) but Crush runs in and clotheslines him, setting off a donnybrook- the ref is distracted so Furnas just comes in and dropkicks Phineas so LaFon can roll him up for the first elimination at (3:54)- Godwinns out!
Phineas beats the hell out of Crush outside as we take a break, and we’re back with Furnas/Bulldog, but Bulldog tags Faarooq and immediately clotheslines him, haha. Okay I’m digging the “tag out and then hit the legal guy” strategy, just raising hell. Furnas gets two off that, but Crush takes over on him with basics. Furnas eats a lot of offense while Hunter Hearst-Helmsley gets an inset promo with his butler Curtis Hughes just to make this match the most “precise moment in time” thing possible, but Furnas counters the Sharpshooter and hits a Frankensteiner on Owen! Owen manages his enzuigiri for two- Furnas tries to come back on the Nation as I realize a huge issue in him as a power guy, as he’s DWARFED by both men, but they stuff him. Crush nails LaFon and hits a backbreaker for two, and the Delayed Suplex from Davey hits… but Faarooq chopblocks Smith when he has Furnas up for the Powerslam and Furnas pins him at (8:53)! Owen & Bulldog are gone! And apparently this is non-title!
We’re back from break with a chinlock on Furnas as this just keeps going and we’re distracted by other goings-on (Rocky Maivia talking to Honky Tonk Man)- lol, Ahmed Johnson with an inset promo and Cornette thanks him “for taking time out of your day job as a United Nations interpreter to come and talk to us today!”. Furnas stunners out of that then catches Faarooq off Bret’s rope with a punch, then hits an overhead belly-to-belly! LaFon in with spinning heel kicks to both guys! LaFon climbs the ropes but Crush brings him down with a backdrop suplex, and he & Furnas tumble to the floor so Faarooq can set up the Dominator (gutwrench front slam) at (12:03 shown) for the win. The Nation of all teams wins it!
Some interesting psychology and fun bits to this one, though it goes on a bit long with a heat sequence (like, there’s SIX GUYS LEFT and they gotta do chinlock spots and aimless pounding on the back?) instead of trading off and quick-tags. It also makes Furnas & LaFon look… well I mean they DID score the other two falls, but both were via shenanigans, but here they ate the heat sequence then quickly jobbed anyways. And Faarooq & Crush winning is a bit odd- they announce Savio Vega as their third man shortly, so I guess they wanted to keep them a bit strong.
Rating: **1/2 (interesting match and fun psychology with guys interfering and then bailing, but the action slows way down at points)
Steve Regal as a kind-hearted babyface wrestler. Yes, really.
STEVE REGAL vs. THE BARBARIAN:
(WCW Main Event, March 7th 1993)
* A crazy mish-mash of styles, with two guys who go back quite a ways in WCW but rarely met. Barbarian has his “Powers of Pain” facepaint on again, while Regal is a BABYFACE. Barbarian’s in black tights & Regal’s in red trunks.
Barbarian wins some lockups with power, but Regal crucifixes him for two. He keeps using his speed and tries wristlocks, then dodges an elbow off Bret’s rope. Another wristlock is reversed, but he does the deft roll-out he was still using into the late ’90s, only to be clotheslined. Backdrop suplex gets two, and Barbarian nearly hits a brainbuster on a suplex for the same. Barbarian’s getting winded so he dumps Regal and hits a resthold. He clobbers Regal off a sunset flip attempt but Regal dodges the Big Boot and rolls him up for the pin at (5:13) in a shocker! I guess the “Barbarian Experiment” had ended by this point. A technically fine match, but very slow as Barbarian didn’t have the cardio to really pick up the pace. So it largely finished just as it looked like they were getting out of the “early match stuff”.
Rating: ** (perfectly fine uneventful bout- seemed much shorter than it was owing to the sparse offense)
Few things are greater than seeing 1989-era outfits in late ’90s wrestling. The gear in this tag match is equally dated.
THE PUBLIC ENEMY (Rocco Rock & Johnny Grunge) vs. THE EXTREMISTS (Ace Darling & “Dangerous” Devon Storm)
(WCW Saturday Night, March 22nd 1997)
* OH HELL YES Devon Storm & ACE DARLING on late ’90s WCW TV! Storm later became “Crowbar”, but at this point he & Ace Darling were the indiest dinks to ever endie, so it’s glorious to see them as a random tag team on the D-shows. They’re wearing ridiculous matching black outfits with neon writing & kickpads (blue for the blond Storm, pink for the dark-haired Darling), both looking like generic mulletted indie dorks- EVERY indie wrestler from the 1990s seemingly had to sport this “Dollar Storm Shawn Michaels” look with the feathered mullet and Shawn’s size, but none had the body nor charisma.
The Extremists attack to start, but get whipped into each other and Storm is clotheslined over by a table with “WCW” written on it. Funny bit as Rocco ignores Darling reversing a whip cuz it’s on the wrong side, and they correct to the other one- Rocco stalls to avoid running into Storm but gets superkicked by Darling instead. Darling does a goofy dance and they hit a double DDT- Grunge legdrops Storm to save. Storm hits a side slam, but Darling misses a flying move, landing on his ass- Grunge runs wild but the ref is distracted and the Extremists double-team him, Darling hitting a pescado, but Grunge moves and Storm cannonballs his own partner. And the fans go home happy as TPE hit the Superbomb through the table on Storm for the win (3:36)- Tony is a bit bewildered that this is legal but whatever.
Ultra-basic TV match, but actually pretty even and made the Extremists look decent- like TPE were generous in letting them fly around and show off on them so long as they got their Superbomb finish on TV. Remember, that was a crazy damn move for 1997- the Dudley Boyz got crazy over using that 3-4 years later in the WWF.
Rating: *3/4 (the mandatory short TV match, but the Extremists got to fly around a lot and TPE gave the fans the ending they wanted)
I feel I have been grievously negligent in posting Crush matches in this column lately.
CRUSH vs. BLAKE BEVERLY:
(WWF All American, May 16th 1993)
* Blake’s singles run starts a bit earlier than I expected, as he’s being fed to the much larger Crush, who is still a happy Hawaiian babyface with a purple singlet and a God-tier mullet. The heel commentator has a really fake blustering voice and totally sucks, so I can only assume it’s Bruce Prichard (*checks* yup- I don’t remember The Wizard, but here he is). Monsoon writes off Blake immediately, suggesting that the Wizard’s hype for him as a tag wrestler means “that he’s a tag team specialist who obviously won’t fare very well in singles competition?”.
Crush easily resists Blake’s hiptoss and hits a pretty bad belly-to-belly suplex- he does a leapfrog, dropkick and armdrag as his offense is pretty weird for a giant powerhouse. Blake pulls hair and slaps him, but runs away and gets hairpulled back, then slugged down taking a lot of big whirling bumps, clearly trying to keep his job for a while. He manages to dump Crush and clothesline him into the stairs (Crush takes a wimpy slow-walk backwards into it), then works the back to crickets, adding his falling headbutt and other basic stuff. Crush flings him out of the ring off of a Boston crab and catches him sneaking back in- back kick, big boot and backbreaker set up the press slam (impressive given Blake’s size), and Blake begs off in the corner. He heads to the top when the ref keeps Crush away, but leaps into nothing and gets caught in wrestling’s greatest finisher, the Head Vice, passing out at (5:50).
A somewhat long “Featured Match”, one in which Blake was earning his keep by doing multiple spin-sells off of every Crush move, then takes over doing a sneaky reversal using the tights. He’s just not very charismatic or hated, though, so the fans don’t react to his own stuff. Crush isn’t helping with his poor move application- stuff like the belly-to-belly and big boot were clumsy at best, making Blake have to do a Cruiserweight-style act to fly around off them. Alas, the Head Vice was never used by another name, and even Crush dropped it once he turned heel.
Rating: ** (pretty basic match that was long and had a decent flow, but struggled due to the respective weaknesses of both guys)
Marufuji, the sometime Ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH, between them giving up on him.
CIMA, DRAGON KID & SUSUMU YOKOSUKA (Dragon Gate) vs. NAOMICHI MARUFUJI, RICKY MARVIN & IPPEI OTA (NOAH):
(Pro Wrestling NOAH, 2007.4.28)
* I found more Dragon Gate! Except it’s an Interpromotional Match against NOAH, with Marufuji (their god-tier Junior-style worker and attempted Ace). And… oh god who are these other people? CIMA & Dragon Kid I know the most from Dragon Gate. Susumu debuted in 1998 and still wrestles but I’ve never heard of him. Ricky Marvin is one of those guys whose name I’ve seen nine billion times but never actually SEEN- I thought he was a myth, like Sasquatch or Reckless Youth! Ota is a “Young Lion” (or whatever NOAH calls them). Ota only lasted four years in the biz. CIMA’s in black & red and looks like a huge star, Susumu looks like a Generic Wrestler in purple & black “Bret Hart” gear, and Dragon Kid is a mini-Ultimo in green. Marufuji’s in gold Sabu pants and has superstar hair, Marvin’s in blue tights & Ota’s a Generic Wrestler in yellow trunks.
Susumu/Ota start with some painfully generic chain-wrestling- oh don’t Pause for Applause; Jim Powers could do that shit! Dragon Kid immediately impresses by flipping onto his feet from a snapmare and doing Déjà Vu (double-revolution tilt-a-whirl headscissors) & a tiger feint on Marvin, who’s a good base for him here. CIMA/Marufuji is what the fans REALLY want to see, and they do a good sequence (CIMA wins a criss-cross, but they both miss dropkicks). Ota tries but CIMA just rakes his eyes and Dragon Gate slowly works him over, and Susumu sets up the draping diving footstomp from CIMA, then it’s a drop-toehold into sandwich sliding dropkicks, and flipping Dragon Kid so his momentum spins the others into dropkicks (SCIENCE!). DK reverses a suplex to a stunner but gets clotheslined, bringing in Marvin for a springboard dropkick & deflection off the ropes into a double elbow on DK & Susumu. He tornado DDTs Susumu while kicking DK for two, then slide-dodges and hits a Lionsault for two! He counters a German to a superkick and Matrix dodges a clothesline into an enzuigiri, but gets caught up top- CIMA & Susumu splatter Marufuji and hit a flying stomp-assisted powerbomb on him and CIMA rolls through into a back-cracker on Marvin! Ooh these guys are slick.
Marvin escapes and Marufuji comes in with strikes and dekes CIMA out with a clothesline. Folding powerbomb gets two, but CIMA back-crackers him, hits Ota to lure him in, then deathlocks Marfuji’s leg so he can catch Ota and suplex him at the same time as dropping back on the hold. Marufuji’s look of pain is great, and he’s caught with the Iconoclasm (sit-out double-arm toss off the top), but a frog splash hits his knees. He keeps escaping double-teams and Dragon Kid hits the spinning octopus stretch on Ota- it’s broken up, and the kid hits the Buff Blockbuster (somersault flying neckbreaker) and the single greatest airplane spin ever, revving it up, slowing down… then revving it up AGAIN, finishing with a Samoan drop for two. Dragon Kid’s alone against all three, but evades them into nailing each other and 619s Marvin & springboard dropkicks Marufuji- Susumu’s in, but nearly gets caught in ANOTHER airplane spin, but escapes only to eat a tornado bulldog- CIMA saves, and they set up a classic Dragon Gate spot- Susumu puts Ota on his shoulders on the top rope and DK Super Ranas him off. CIMA superkicks him into Susumu’s monster lariat- Marufuji slide-kicks to save. Dragon Kid hits a huge springboard rana to deal with Marvin on the ramp while Ota nearly catches Susumu with a rollup, but the Gate guys catch him- sandwich missile dropkicks from a mile off crush him and Susumu finishes with a double-arm dominator (Ricky Starks’s Rochambeau) at (15:34). Mutual respect abounds as everyone shakes hands, but CIMA & Marufuji flex their tits at each other to the amusement of the crowd.
Really good little match that feels like it could have run an amazing 20 minutes or so, especially as some guys only got a few minutes out there. Marvin impressed me a lot- he’s short and squat so he can do explosive power, and he has great speed and precision- him chasing after Susumu just to slide under the ropes and trip him to set up a Lionsault by leaping back in was SLICK. CIMA is also crazy-agile and hits everything with some great movements- most flippy guys today are much more herky-jerky than this (compare the Bucks to CIMA; though Fenix is up there). Ota was a pretty generic rookie but had a great highlight with that airplane spin.
Rating: ***1/2 (very good MOVEZ match in parts, though it doesn’t REALLY get going and Marufuji is barely in it)