Welcome back to more Dream Matches! This time I have a mish-mash of stuff, as I hit a bizarre contest from Germany, as Fit Finlay takes on DOINK THE CLOWN, Matt BorneI mean Steve Keirn, probably! Using the weird “4-minute rounds” CWA style! It’s super-weird.
Then it’s over to the WWF for a standard-issue “Dream Match” that is just Razor Ramon being super-generous in a bout against Virgil! Then over to WCW as the Steiner Brothers face Big Van Vader and Mr. Hughes in a big “Steiners Tossing Around Monsters” match that ends a lot differently than I expected! And it’s a WrestleMania rematch, as Owen Hart takes on Skinner in the latter’s final TV appearance in 1993!
Then I pack the back end of this one with the WWF Light Heavyweight Title Tournament. Most of it’s not on the free video-sharing sites in full, so I didn’t want to do a whole review just on those- WWE put up the final 2 minutes of most matches on their own YouTube channel and that’s it. But I did manage a complete review of Aguila (Essa Rios) vs. Super Loco (Super Crazy)! Also, come see indie dorks like Flash Flanagan, Devon Storm & Eric Shelley on WWF TV in 1997!
CWA INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
4 MINUTE ROUNDS:
FIT FINLAY vs. DOINK THE CLOWN:
* Oh yes, DOINK vs. FIT FINLAY in GERMANY. This was requested ages ago by Manjiimmortal but I forgot to put it on my To-Do List for some reason- checking an old column reminded me of it. Doink gets roundly booed, while “Mr. Fit Finlay” is wildly popular. He’s a bit skinnier than he was in WCW, with a horrible moustache and mullet. Doink I thought was Matt Borne here, given the era- his droopy clown hair gives him a creepy vibe, and the sarcastic “not gonna cheer me? SHUCKS!” reaction is what made me sure it was him, but apparently it’s Steve Keirn. The ring announcements are in German, which I mistook for Welsh as I knew Fit Finlay was a big star there, which is totally funny because I often forget that there’s people all “wwyllechw2fflewunfummuwfurwurrr” and shit over in England despite it being all English and stuff.
The first round is basic chain-wrestling, often doing a hammerlock to a rope break or Doink hitting a chinlock out of Fit’s deathlock. Doink’s wristlock is countered to another Fit deathlock and time’s over. Finlay clobbers Doink from behind while Whigfield’s Saturday Night plays over the intercom, but Doink uses the attendant’s water or powder or something to blind Finlay and bump him around a bit- Fit actually lands on his feet from being slingshotted to the floor. He begs off a bit and fights heel as they trade slow-moving Flair/Steamboat reversals and Finlay starts to club at him, then drops a knee to the nose as time’s over. Round 3 is all Doink, as he hits armdrags and Finlay bails- it’s weird how the announcer starts counting the second someone hits the mat for KOs- even off of armdrags, so it’s just “EINCE!!!…. EINCE!!!… EINCE!!!”. Fit crosses his heart, but suckers Doink in with a handshake and hits his elbow-smash on an apron-draping, smashes him into a table, stalls in the ring, but goes out again and clotheslines the post. Doink smashes the injured arm into the table as time expires. They keep fighting during the intermission, Doink using a big placard on the shoulder- Round 4 starts with more armwork, Fit going to the eyes, and Doink biting him in return.
Finlay flips over a table in a rage after Doink smashes him into a post again, but goes into two turnbuckle-holders only to make a comeback with a basic right hand. Doink treats every turnbuckle shot like a knockdown blow, but there’s no count for these. Fit gets flipped over the top, but smashes Doink’s leg with a solid plastic chair as time expires. Round 5 sees Doink just dying from that injury, Finlay working it over with shots and tight stretching. Finlay wins a brawl on the floor. Round 6 leads to Finlay using a grounded stump-puller and other stuff- Doink actually gets a good reaction for lifting himself to his feet. He hits a kick then wins a slugfest, but yells at the ref for admonishing a choke and his knee’s taken out again. Round 7 sees Doink rake Finlay along the ropes and a legdrop gets two- the first two-count in 20 minutes! Fit is slammed into an upright table twice, slumps down, and a Baba chop in the ring gets two and Doink keeps milking the count with different holds- nice touch. Hey, this round was only 3 minutes! Round 8 sees Finlay run into a boot and eat clotheslines into a sleeper- Fit runs him into the corner but Doink gets it again. Finlay struggles and struggles, and appears to be fading, but his attempts to grab the wig finally pay off as he hits a jawjacker from the grab and BAM- Tombstone finishes at (2:08 of Round 8). Well that seems outta nowhere given this fall was all Doink, haha.
This wrestling style is very peculiar- it’s very similar to the older American-style catch-wrestling, and there’s stuff obviously from 1980s/90s WWF-style feds with the hammerlock ram into the post and stuff, but the “rounds” set-up keeps stopping the flow. But this seems to work in the psychology here, as a guy’s momentum gets stopped and you’re saved by the bell, like in real-life MMA. Except you can just jump the guy between rounds and the ref can’t do much. The sheer length of the match meant they did a lot of “hit a move to drop the guy, then stand there”, or killing time gesturing in the ring. Finlay oddly started off as the cheered-for hero (he wrestles there a lot), but his cowardly tactics turned the crowd towards Doink for the rest of the match. Solid catch-wrestling as they work stuff, but still have a bit of a modern “edge” with table shots and even being thrown into an upright one. Good selling by Fit as he repeatedly slumps down from things, and both obviously have great cardio to go 30-ish minutes even with those 1-minute intermissions. The stationary cam makes it harder to see the greater aspects of selling but Doink seems to have done okay. The ending is iffy- there wasn’t a lot of real weardown done, especially to Doink, so the jawjacker-to-Tombstone almost feels like the Randy Savage Template at work in the last fall. Sure, Fit had beaten on him prior, but the last 6 minutes was all Doink!
Rating: **1/2 (a tricky style to get in to- the rounds change the dynamics a LOT, and there’s strong chain-wrestling and selling, but it’s obviously drawn out, and the finish is quite sudden for what’s 40 minutes of stuff)
The phenomenal run of Virgil continued into 1993, with the WWF really just using his Million Dollar Champion run as a way to build a new “Koko B. Ware” and job him to absolutely every new heel coming in.
RAZOR RAMON vs. VIRGIL:
(WWF RAW, April 19th 1993)
* Virgil continues his jobbing ways, this time set up against the heel Razor, who looks absolutely ENORMOUS next to him. Bad-ass purple gear for Razor, while Virgil’s in the red & white pinstripes.
Razor actually has trouble with Virgil’s counters and arm stuff to start, repeatedly taking the “easy way out” by making the ropes, done in a “aw, fuck it- too much effort” enough way that it actually draws heat, plus admonishment from Vince on commentary. He keeps getting taken down while trying things, only able to get a cheapshot on a break. Virgil even armdrags him and somehow tries to roll him up into the ropes (dude has no ring-sense), then slugs him in the ropes to pay back the cheap-shot, but Razor finally grabs the ropes to avoid a dropkick, and is AT LAST on offense. He throws kicks and his abdominal stretch- Virgil hiptosses out but misses an elbow, allowing Razor to nail one of his own. Razor finally starts cutting off comebacks via pounding, choking, etc., and Virgil teases passing out in a deathlock/camel clutch resthold, barely able to make the ropes despite being pretty damn close. The crowd VERY noticeably chants “Razor! Razor!”, which Vince passes off as pro-Virgil, and Razor gets whipped back for putting his head down early. Virgil gets his boot up in the corner and a clothesline off Bret’s Rope, but misses a dive out of the corner off a whip reversal and that’s that- Razor immediately throws him into the Razor’s Edge (falling crucifix powerbomb) for the win (6:57).
Fascinatingly long match by the increasingly-over Razor here, as he gives the low-tier Virgil a TON to start. Wily move, though- just demolishing a guy means nothing- by selling and selling for him, even eating a bunch of reversals late in the game, he makes it seem like Virgil is a “name” guy and is actually pretty good, so when Razor finally outsmarts him, dodges a cross-body, and then hits his finisher, he’s BEATEN someone, at his own game no less. Still a ways too long considering they had to stick two long restholds in it and Virgil doesn’t have much offense to go on, but still.
Rating: *3/4 (half-decent TV match, albeit too long and drawn out- and actually pretty even- to be a squash)
THE STEINER BROTHERS (Rick & Scott Steiner, w/ Arnold the Bulldog) vs. BIG VAN VADER & MR. HUGHES (w/ Harley Race):
(WCW Pro, Jan. 25th 1992)
* This match made Clash of the Champions, but I can only find the Pro version on YouTube. On paper, this sounds like one of the most MANLY MEN SLAPPING MEAT matches ever, but in practice I think WCW Pro wasn’t a big deal even back then so we’re probably looking at basic stuff and a screwjob finish. The Steiners come down with what looks like a pitbull, which sees off the heels- Vader is my hero for flexing threateningly at the dog while he’s on the floor. Rick’s in pink & Scott’s in black/yellow, while the heels are in the usual.
Scott gets Hughes with a leg-pick (wrecking those suspenders!), but Hughes uses Greco-Roman punches to the forehead to stall him. He shoulderblocks Scottie down and ducks under him on a leapfrog, but celebrates and eats the OVERHEAD BELLY-TO-BELLY, which always looks crazy on a dude his size. He tags out, and Vader just bulls Scottie into the corner and bearpaws him while growling like a literal gorilla (okay that’s three animal analogies in one sentence- maybe overdoing it), then hits an avalanche into the short-arm clothesline, only to charge right into a release powerslam! Vader recovers quick and sits on him from a sunset flip- over to Hughes, but he crotches himself in the corner and Rick immediately back body drops him and the Steinerline FINISHES at (3:45)!! Wow, I was NOT expecting a quick clean finish here! Especially on a team with Vader on it! The monsters see off the Steiners, but Rick comes back with a chair and they run off as Jim Ross promises this feud will continue. I mean… they earned that loss! It was totally clean and Hughes couldn’t kick out!
Rating: ** (not bad as short matches go- it was all action and guys hammering and throwing each other around- just ends very suddenly- Rick only hit two moves!)
“THE ROCKET” OWEN HART vs. SKINNER:
(WWF All American, March 21st 1993)
* It’s a rematch from WrestleMania VIII!! And… holy shit, Skinner lasted into early 1993? I barely remember him at all after Owen embarrassed him in that quickie WM match. This is apparently one of his last appearances, at least- he’s actually taking care of his hair and beard, which runs contrary to his gimmick. Owen’s in that weird zone where he’s wearing the Blue Blazer baby-blue singlet.
They chain-wrestle arm stuff into an Owen hiptoss and stalls, then sets up two comebacks out of wristlocks, including the rollup that finished at WMVIII (psychology!). More stalling and Owen bridges out of a test of strength and leaps to the top to flip down and hiptoss Skinner again. Skinner finally clobbers him and does a dance, as his act is now almost entirely “1980s arrogant southern heel”. Shoulderbreaker & neckbreaker keep it up with some slack covers, and he hits his Inverted DDT finisher… but gets off at “1”! He smiles and goes like “not yet”… but Owen just rolls him up at (4:48). Well he earned that one.
Skinner gave pretty good, here, setting up numerous Owen flips, entirely concerned with putting him over. His stalling and basic wristlocks seemed designed only to set these moves up. He controlled a bit, and the finish was a bit odd, seeing him hit his finisher but get cocky and then caught- not exactly the strongest victory for Owen, but he was kind of an afterthought all year. Skinner would be repackaged as one of the Doinks shortly.
Rating: *1/2 (short and full of stalling, but adequate chain-wrestling and move application)
WWF LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE TOURNAMENT:
* So in 1997, the WWF was getting its ass kicked by WCW, and one of the things everyone online seemed to love about WCW was its Cruiserweight Division. As the WWF was the land of the giants, it seemed like Vince would never get behind this kind of thing, but the hype grew so strong eventually even HE had to respond, and so we got the first of about five or six failed attempts at starting a division for tiny guys. And immediately they fucked it all to hell by putting complete garbage act like Brian Christopher into it as the top heel, and that’s after their obvious top star Great Sasuke got turfed for boasting about how he was gonna win the belt and then bring it to Japan (or so I’ve heard).
So they do assorted matches between small guys from the spring to the fall to build momentum (you can tell Jim Cornette is booking because the FANTASTICS are in it), then run a Light Heavyweight Title Tournament on a few weeks of TV, obviously making Taka Michinoku (of Michinoku Pro) the top guy, giving him Brian Christopher as a heel challenger, and then fill the rest of the tournament with Indie Dweebs and whatever luchadores WCW never hired. But this gives us the glory of never-was acts like FLASH FLANAGAN making WWF RAW, so it was all worthwhile.
Alas, many of these matches have Christopher doing commentary to build himself up, so his “Dok Hendrix on helium” voice is all over these.
Come see Super Crazy before he was fat!
AGUILA vs. SUPER LOCO:
(WWF RAW, Nov. 3rd 1997)
* Yes, this is Essa Rios vs. SUPER CRAZY, and in late 1997. “Super Loco” is just a temporary name while he acts like a job guy. Loco’s in a black bodysuit with a ton of purple & yellow fringe on it, while Aguila’s in his “Juventud Guerrera” gear in white & black. It always weirded me out how similar their gear was.
They show off immediately with Aguila hitting a spinning headscissors off Loco’s shoulders, then leaps to the top rope without using his hands and flies off with an armdrag- he runs into a roundhouse kick and Loco puts him up top, but he backflips off into ANOTHER armdrag, then does the “hold the hands & bounce off the ropes repeatedly” variant. Loco just nails him with a kick to the floor, but buggers whatever he was trying (the “Misawa feint”?) and just leaps off into the railing. Huge spinning Tope Con Hilo from Aguila has them both selling, but Loco hits a clumsy springboard roundhouse kick, then crotches him on the top rope and… oh god he misses COMPLETELY on another one, then just swats him. At least Cornette explains it in a way that puts over Aguila, saying that Loco is “tryin’ to keep up with Aguila’s game, and that means he’ll make some MISTAKES- as no one is as agile and as complex as Aguila!”. Loco with a locomotion surfboard, backdrop to the floor and an impressive cartwheel backflip over the top rope to the floor- he tries to finish with Chaparrita ASARI’s Sky Twister Press, but misses and Aguila hits a missile dropkick, then the Orihara Moonsault to the floor! Loco tries a thing, but Aguila armdrags him off the top and hits a Turning Splash for the pin at (5:15).
This was a funny match for both guys, as Aguila shows his age by filling the match with nothing but super-elaborate flips and dives that are all shoved close together and mean almost nothing because armdrags aren’t real offense, and Loco’s just kinda klutzing around. They get it together a little bit but it’s still a wildly immature match-up, as they’re just doing flips and nothing between them, but it’s a pretty remarkable showcase for 1997 WWF, though the boys in the back were probably livid that they all sell missing top-rope moves like match-enders and these guys are treating it like shrugged-off nothing. Loco botching so bad was embarrassing, too- only Aguila got a job out of it, and only barely- he’s a non-speaking filler act for ages before being repackaged into a role that ends up more famous for introducing Lita than his own merits.
Rating: **1/4 (absolute non-match that’s nothing but KOOL FLIPZ, but hey- Aguila was remarkably agile)
TAKA MICHINOKU vs. DEVON STORM:
(WWF RAW, Nov. 10th 1997)
* Devon’s now in black & yellow tights. Sadly, we’re Joined in Progress on the YouTube clip from WWF’s home channel.
We see Devon missing a Moonsault immediately- he recovers quickly, but takes a superplex and Taka… does a goofy-ass flying roundhouse kick, but Storm’s so far away only his ankle gets taken out. Brian Christopher gets up from commentary, but Taka missile kicks him on the apron and counters Devon’s move to the Michinoku Driver at (1:16 shown of 5:00).
SCOTT TAYLOR vs. ERIC SHELLEY:
(WWF RAW, Nov. 10th 1997)
* A classic “filler match” in the tourney, as Taylor (active as a jobber around this time) is getting fed to Christopher and he takes on a literal nobody- Shelley has like ten matches up on Cagematch so you know he wasn’t in important feds. He’s a generic bald Quebecois guy in a dark blue singlet while Taylor’s a generic small guy with blond curly hair and white tights.
Taylor hits a dropkick and does a Fujiwara armbar as we’re JIP- Shelley gets an awful powerbomb off a whip for two, then tries for another pin, but Taylor whips him into the corner and hits a somersault double-kick to the back, then climbs to the top… and flies off with a DDT! That gets the easy pin at (1:26 of 5:27). Yikes- he’d soon drop THAT. Outstanding move for the time.
“TOO SEXY” BRIAN CHRISTOPHER (w/ Jerry Lawler) vs. FLASH FLANAGAN:
(WWF RAW, Nov. 24th 1997)
* Given how all the hype was given to Brian & Taka, bouts like this weren’t exactly in question. Flash Flanagan is one of those generic dinks that never got out of the indies, but won the OVW Title of all things no less than four times! He must have been beloved by Jim Cornette because he was a standby guy there, trading the belt with Nick Dinsmore and others who were actually gonna get called up. He’s in silver shorts while Christopher’s in neon green tights and damn- Flash is noticeably a LOT taller than Brian- he’s billed at 6’2″.
We’re JIP with Jerry Lawler grabbing Flanagan’s foot so Christopher can hit a Sunset Flip Powerbomb to the floor (!!), then ruins that amazing spot (for 1997) by doing his goofy hyena laugh repeatedly while holding his arms out at the sides. Then he second-rope dropkicks Flash in the back and struts, hits a Rocker Dropper and shouts “Look at that punk! That’s what I’m gonna do to all the punks around here- AHEEHEEHHEEYAH!” into the camera. Flash lands on his feet from a back body drop and hits a Russian legsweep and some clotheslines, but Christopher catches him with a front full nelson slam and hits an inverted DDT out of the corner and the Tennessee Jam (flying legdrop) finishes at (2:53 of 3:30).
Flash was mostly a jobber here despite his height, but at least they had Lawler interfere. Much as I rip on Christopher (who is channel-changingly annoying here) he had some good moves and his technique has never been in question.
Rating: * (perfectly fine for what we saw)
TAKA MICHINOKU vs. AGUILA:
(WWF RAW, Dec. 1st 1997)
* Taka is obviously hitting the finals, but in a good booking move, they put him against the most impressive flier the division has. Sadly also JIP on YouTube.
Aguila backdrops Taka to the floor, but misses a baseball slide only to catch himself being leapfrogged into the post and flies off with a corkscrew moonsault. He scores two elbows in the ring, but Taka busts him one and goes for the Sky Twister Press of all things (about 1/3 the speed of Chaparrita ASARI but still) and misses- Aguila scores La Majistral for two, but Taka catches his rana with a folding powerbomb as they’re just going all out. Missile dropkick & Michinoku Driver (sit-out bodyslam) finish at (2:22 of 6:16). Wild little match- just two dudes throwing out the flashiest offense they knew with no transitions or feeling out period in a quickie RAW match. As Scott Keith said, though, this is nothing you couldn’t see on Nitro by more well-rounded guys than Aguila.
Rating: ** (flashy stuff but we only got the tail end on YouTube)
Brian Christopher vs. Scott Taylor is set to be next, but Taylor is immediately confronted by Kane, who wants the Undertaker to accept his challenge. Taylor is totally stunned, throwing dropkicks that don’t even budge him, and his missile dropkicks gets nothing- Chokeslam & Tombstone destroy him completely. This ends up giving Christopher a “bye” to the next round.
BRIAN CHRISTOPHER vs. TAKA MICHINOKU:
* Christopher’s in orange tights this time, while Taka’s in the usual.
Brian drops a leg for two as we’re JIP on YouTube, then hits a powerslam and goes up, but the Tennessee Jam misses and Taka finishes with the Michinoku Driver at (0:51 of 12:02 shown). Taka’s the champion and the crowd actually reacts! They sit on their hands for all Brian’s stuff but Taka’s a bit of a crowd-pleaser.
And that’s the extent of the tourney on free internet, haha. I don’t use the WWE Network or whatever and I’d prefer if everyone could watch along, so that’s that.