Mike Awesome vs. Kenta Kobashi (and other Dream Matches!)
By Jabroniville on 11th October 2023
(about 25 minutes in)
Welcome back to more Dream Matches! The wild assortment continues, as we start off with Mike Awesome in his All Japan run, where he wrestles KENTA KOBASHI on a big show! This match ends up becoming a perfect example of the “All Japan Template” match, where you can thread in just about anybody and get great results, with Awesome’s great offense being used perfectly.
Then it’s time for a FAT MAN STAND-OFF!! King Kong Bundy vs. Mabel in a podunk indie gymnasium for an all-time Indie Dream Match! Come see both guys give their best “pretend effort to give the fans their 10 bucks worth”, and then an appearance by Big SLAM Vader, a shitty Vader knockoff! And then I have a match from HIM, too, as he takes on Chris Wylde in another indie! Then, my tribute to Terry Funk via his weirdo “WTF?” matches continues, as it’s Terry & Dustin Runnels (in his “He is Coming” Christian phase) take on the New Age Outlaws on WWF Shotgun, with some classic comedy bumping by Terry to take the stink off a low-effort, overlong TV match! And finally, someone found me a bizarre one-off- Steve Blackman vs. PRINCE NANA from WWF Metal in 2001! I didn’t realize Nana started out as a dumpy comedy wrestler!
KENTA KOBASHI vs. THE GLADIATOR:
(All Japan, 09/04/1999)
* Yes, it’s Mike Awesome vs. Kenta Kobashi! Shortly before Awesome joins ECW, too- he’s working for FMW here but is doing some All Japan stuff, and his huge size means he’s a good match for one of the Four Pillars. Four Pillars vs. Other Guys matches are always interesting to me- we’re so used to the fantastic chemistry the big stars have with each other, but their “downgraded” stuff can be just as fascinating for how their movesets and selling is modified against lesser opponents. They command more offense and don’t swing for the fences as often, just having “a solid match” and that’s kind of important to watch, along with guys’ best stuff. It gives you a fuller picture of the workers, you know? If you ONLY watch the Pillar vs. Pillar stuff, you come away thinking their baseline was **** but they were like anyone else- putting in as much effort as was needed. Like, what IS Kobashi’s “House Show Mode”, right? The Gladiator’s in black trunks, and Kobashi in the big orange one (man that is a weird cut- like a giant diaper). This is “Goatee Kenta” era, and Gladiator’s just a notch taller than him.
They start simply with a begrudgingly clean break (I love Koashi’s raised fist and then slight nod over Gladiator not slugging him), then an international into FAT GUY NO-SOLD SHOULDERBLOCKS (though neither is obese, I appreciate it), Gladiator catching him with a big boot but Kobashi shrugging it off and demanding he go off the ropes, where he chops him only to get football tackled down and a splash follows- Kenta shoves him off before the ref can count but gets clobbered by a clothesline, then manages to toss him into the guardrail a few times. He tries to suplex Gladiator back in, but instead charges him forgetting one of his big moves is the slingshot shouldertackle and a legdrop gets two. Kenta reverses a suplex to a long delayed one for two, then fires off the machine-gun chops (“You motherfuckerrrrrr!”- Gladiator), and a jumping knee & shoulder-charge while Mike’s down gets two. Kobashi slows it down with long holds (exactly one-minute each) but Gladiator hits a powerslam off the ropes for two. Then the crowd starts buzzing as soon as Kenta hits the floor, as they know what’s coming- the signature “this 6’5″ monster is doing a TOPE SUICIDA?!” spot! They milk that big-time, and then Gladiator hits a friggin’ Awesome Bomb on the floor!
Kobashi is DEAD, selling that a solid minute and a half, the ref always checking on him until Gladiator brings him in for a slingshot splash & restholds/floor beatings when Kenta resists a powerbomb. Flying clothesline gets two and Gladiator repeatedly works the lower back, but a backdrop earns Kenta a respite. He gets the neck-chops but gets German’d and a BIG flying splash gets two, and Gladiator ducks the spinning chop for the Awesome Bomb for two in our first big kickout! The crowd gets behind Kobashi, and he gets another break via a German, then a Dragon Suplex gets two. Moonsault- two! Kobashi preps the Burning Lariat, but Gladiator counters his charge twice and stops his comeback, and that leads to an avalanche & Razor’s Edge, getting two. Gladiator has only one thing left and he knows it- he preps his SUPERBOMB, but Kobashi fights him all the way, finally leaving Gladiator somersaulting off, but he quickly gets up and goes for a running Awesome Bomb- but Kobashi hurricanranas him out of it, then BAM! Burning Lariat! And that’s the three at (19:09), Kobashi scoring a sudden comeback to finish off the big guy.
Okay, seeing the King’s Road style “dumbed down” like this with a random dude slotted in is so fascinating. It’s the same general pace and ebb & blow of the Four Pillars stuff, but obviously altered a bit for a random big guy. They feel each other out, then jack up the pace, then it’s restholds (each fought over for exactly one minute), then they wake up the fans with some big stuff, then those are sold for a LONG time (only in AJPW do I see floor moves sold for more than a minute) to emphasize how big they are. The “you get a 30-second respite with a quick comeback suplex” thing is pure All Japan, too. Like it’s obviously not Kobashi/Misawa and doesn’t have the “they know each other” spots, and has WAY more restholds, but you can see the bones of the style just as well. Kobashi generously sold to the point where we were getting into “Savage Template” territory for a while, then he gets one of his trademark big comebacks, only for Gladiator to stop him in his tracks and put one last beatdown on before the end. At no point did I think Gladiator was gonna win, but he gave a good accounting of himself and Kobashi put over all his moves as a big deal while still being able to do his signature comebacks, albeit without the FIGHTING SPIRIT and more using cleverness. Great finish, too- Gladiator shoots everything but the MDK, but it’s too complicated a set-up and so Kenta can reverse it constantly, and he’s got enough for a counter, which sets up his big finisher.
Rating: ***1/2 (A very good “AJPW Template” match, with Gladiator’s wicked-looking offense put over really well and the timing being well done on everything)
KING MABEL vs. KING KONG BUNDY (w/ Lonnie Poffit):
(National Wrestling League, xxxxxxx)
* oh yes, it’s true excellence today, as these two ex-WWF stars have a FAT MAN STAND-OFF in some podunk indie gym! Bundy is using Earthquake’s WWF theme I believe, and made quite the career out of showing up on every indie that would have him in the 1990s- I remember reading PWI and always seeing indie after indie feature Bundy in the main event. I guess he was a former WrestleMania Main Eventer but still it was always funny because he was beyond done as a star by that point. The NWL appears to be centered around West Virginia or so. Mabel is announced as the “WWF King of the Ring” and is in his heelish look, but Bundy cuts a heel promo alongside his whistle-blowing manager (just guessing on the name- the sound transfer isn’t good) and Mabel just responds “I am ready to kick YO’ ASS!” to a crowd pop.
Shockingly, they stall to start, doing only a single lockup that sees Bundy shoved into the corner. He comes back with a headlock and actually knocks Mabel down with a shoulderblock (!!?! Don’t these guys know how to work!? Everyone knows fat guys start off NO-SELLING those!), but Mabel does the same thing to him, then drops two elbows & a clothesline as they only get like 1.5 steps across the ring due to how small it is. Bundy responds with the Indie MDK- bailing out of the ring to stall for 60 seconds into a long test of strength. But Bundy gets tossed into the corner and Mabel misses an avalanche and HOLY SHIT did they not reinforce this ring because it bounces an entire foot on impact! That looks dangerous, actually. Mabel flat-backs off a clothesline and a kneedrop gets two, and Bundy chinlocks him then chokes him in the ropes and sets up his manager to do the same. Bundy with a chinlock & a clothesline, but misses a running elbow and that sets up the finish- Mabel clotheslines him down (Bundy does the wimpy “spin around and roll backwards” bump) and hits the “Running” Legdrop, but BIG SLAM VADER (oh my god that is so podunk I fuckin love it) runs in to break it up and Bundy grabs the ropes anyways cuz he misses his cue and it’s a DOUBLE FAT MAN STAND-OFF!! And a Disqualification at (7:13). Big Slam & Bundy try a double-clothesline but Mabel breaks through it and clotheslines them both down, then slugs Poffitt to send the fans home happy, brandishing the man’s golf club.
Actually not as bad as you might think- it was an easy night’s work for both guys, but way better than say, that Bastian Booger/Typhoon match I showed you weeks ago- both guys actually did BUMPS here and even threw in some classic indie spots like cheating and such. Actually MABEL was bumping- Bundy was doing that super-safe one where you turn to the side and sorta roll down. Mabel was hitting the full flat-back, which had to hurt at his size. Granted it was only 2-3 of them but still. I also loved Mabel carefully holding the ropes to guide his legdrop, haha. But props for only using 20-30 second chinlocks! I was fully expecting them to go 60!
Rating: *1/2 (merely “pretty boring and not very good” instead of a completely abysmal stallfest! Granted Bundy was at this long enough to have these simple nothings down to an art)
BIG SLAM VADER (w/ Big Country, Apostle Steel & Shannon) vs. “THE BLOCKBUSTER” CHRIS WYLDE:
(Dynamite Championship Wrestling Toys For Tots, Dec. 12th 2009)
* Oh yeah, you know I had to research “Big Slam Vader” as soon as I saw him. He’s a big fat indie guy doing a Vader knockoff gimmick. He wrestled from 1989-2009, making this one of his last matches I guess- he’s wearing the ECW T-Shirt of Shame and a Vader mask in a promotion based in Delaware. Past names include “Big Slam” and “Crybaby Waldo”- aw I guess he died in 2020. Wylde looks like a normal-sized indie wrestler in long white shorts and black trunks- he’s a DCW lifer who rarely wrestled elsewhere. Some large guy in a cowboy outfit is Slam’s backup.
They start off playing to the fans, Slam eventually able to tag the faster Wylde with a clothesline after some ineffective shots from the smaller guy. Slam tosses him around and throws punches, then Big Country slugs the guy and throws him back in. Wylde avoids a powerbomb but charges into a Vader Attack. Slam keeps jawing with the ref and finally misses the avalanche (the camera even captures the “backslap” indicator to reverse him off the whip), but Wylde only decks Big Country before trying a sunset flip and getting fought into a chokeslam. Slam keeps doing slack covers and choking, but Wylde fights up from a chinlock and dodges an elbowdrop. Wylde gets fired up and throws dropkicks & punches, then a “302” (aka a 619, lol)- Slam is stumbling, but the heels try to cheat and take FOREVER to telegraph Steel smashing Slam with a book, setting him up for a Missile Dropkick- Chris Wylde wins (9:01)! The heels attacks Wylde and rip on Big Slam for his failure, but Steel makes the mistake of slapping him, giving us the “Andre Finish”- he attacks both guys and knocks them around, then assists Wylde with a Rocket Launcher to send the fans home happy.
Okay not as bad as it COULD have been- as podunk as “Big Slam Vader” is, he’s a 20 year vet and actually uses his size, bullies, and plays a character, then falls down and stumbles for the smaller guy’s offense just fine. Wylde is a Generic McIndie Wrestler personified- just undersized and hitting basic stuff, a clumsy & slow 619 and a missile kick that looks like anyone else’s mid-match move, but the 30 people watching this were fine with it.
Rating: * (weaksauce but not offensive)
THE NEW AGE OUTLAWS (“Road Dogg” Jesse James & “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, w/ Chyna) vs. TERRY FUNK & DUSTIN RUNNELS:
(WWF Shotgun, July 4th 1998)
* Yes, it’s Peak Attitude Era, with the WWF still using this as their C-Show. The New Age Outlaws are the Tag Team Champions and somewhat freshly in D-Generation X as heels, but Road Dogg still has his babyface-esque announcing gimmick. He announces Chyna as “Chizz-rizz” to act more ethnic. Funk is kind of floundering without Cactus Jack as his partner at this point, teaming up with Dustin Runnels- between gimmicks as Vince Russo books all sorts of “real life person” gimmicks and has him dump Goldust but doesn’t quite know how to get to “compelling storyline” or “wrestler who is over” at this point, and Dustin looking especially disinterested and uncharismatic, to the point where people were like “I guess he really needs the gimmick to work as a wrestler”. He’s in a white t-shirt & blue jeans at this point, while Terry’s in the black & white striped tights. Road Dogg’s in black street clothes and Billy’s in blue shorts. Funk has had an issue with the Outlaws for a long time, as they injured him & Cactus ages ago.
Dustin offers up a prayer in the ring, as he’s leaning towards a “Revivalist Preacher”-type character, but gets slugged down, only to catch Dogg with a punch (nice touch as Dogg gets so flustered he goes to the wrong corner to tag) and clothesline him while Jim Cornette on commentary struggles with the cheating heel Outlaws being so popular with the fans. Dogg rakes Funk’s eyes but Billy just gets thrown around into the guardrails and the Outlaws have to double-team him on the floor. Funk gets hung up on the railing and is dizzied so he takes a while to get out of the ring after tagging, and Road Dogg “Bret Harts” Dustin from the apron so the Outlaws go to work on him, too. Road Dogg with weak offense and the shimmying legdrop as I marvel at how someone can be so good at the character stuff and so bad at the actual wrestling. Gunn with the chinlock, but Dogg gets hit with the Flatliner adn Terry gets the hot tag, limping around as he throws punches on the heels. DDT to Road Dogg! He stops to do crotch-chops over Road Dogg’s beaten body but that draws in Chyna, who simply puts her hands on her hips and then wallops Terry between the uprights, leading to a classic Funk collapsing sell. And that’s the DQ at (5:58). Dustin attempts to get Chyna to repent, and she agrees… before delivering the Chyna Uppercut to Dustin’s nuts as well. Man, this was a great character for her, lol.
Man these Attitude Era Shotgun matches are so bad, lol. Like the standard RAW match was then about 3 minutes long, but they have to double that on the lesser shows because no angles are going on, and so everyone just kinda stands around punching each other, because that was the style at the time. Terry was good for some character stuff, but was washed physically, and it’s not like the Outlaws had great offense either.
Rating: *1/2 (drawn out and pretty lame in terms of offense, and most of them weren’t trying- Terry is a hoot as always)
STEVE BLACKMAN vs. PRINCE NANA:
(WWF Metal, 05/12/2001)
* Yes, PRINCE NANA was a wrestler once! And he made WWF Metal! Hooray for D-show appearances of Ring of Honor legends! Nana’s in a bizarre red & black striped singlet here, and has a single tuft of bleach-blonde hair sticking out at the front corner. Nana’s pretty close to Blackman’s size, with some thick-ass legs, but a pretty dumpy physique compared to Blackman’s- a good jobber look.
Blackman beats on the jobber to start, but charges into the corner and takes some shots. Blackman catches him running in with a release spinebuster and eggs on some shots, countered to kicks right to the buttock region and a sweep kick to show off on Nana. Blackman methodically beats on him and does one-armed & clapping push-ups in between, but Vader bombs right into Nana’s feet and eats a clothesline, and now NANA tries some push-ups… but does a cartoon pratfall trying the one-armed one. Blackman dumps him and does a weird face-slam off the apron into the stairs and throws him back in- Nana takes the Eddie Bump (but only goes maybe 4 feet off the mat) and Blackman does some theatrics and finishes him off with the Pump Kick into the Dragon Sleeper w/ Bodyscissors at (3:01).
A pretty pedestrian jobber squash, Blackman really taking his time and trying some theatrics as his reputation at the time was “looked great; had no personality”. It never quite took with him for a variety of reasons (chief being he was consistently on the bottom third of the card and never won major titles). Nana did okay as a jobber, but was kind of dumpy and unathletic so he couldn’t really take the sort of bumps that look good. He came off as a cartoonish goober just fine.
Rating: 1/2* (acceptable nothing jobber squash)