Date: April 13, 1990
Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo Japan
So two weeks after Mania, this happened. It’s a massive show where AJPW and the WWF co promoted for all of one day to make the super match of Hogan vs. Terry Gordy. Two problems happened in the champion vs. champion match happening though. First, Gordy didn’t want to job to Hogan so he backed out. In steps Stan Hansen, who has no problem at all with jobbing to the biggest star in the world.
Second, Hogan lost the title to the Warrior at Mania so he has no title. Other than that, this is more or less a dream card with the actual good wrestlers from the WWF fighting the really good wrestlers from AJPW. Oh and Hogan and Warrior are there too. The commentary is in Japanese, so don’t expect as long of a review here. This won Meltzer’s best show of the year for 1990 so it has to be at least good right? Let’s get to it.
Kenta Kobashi/Masa Fuchi vs. Tito Santana/Jimmy Snuka
As an eternal mark for Tito, this should be fun. The Japanese guys come out to Highway to the Danger Zone from Top Gun so points for that already. Kobashi is a total legend in case you haven’t heard about him. As you know I’m hardly a puro enthusiast and even I know who he is. I’d guess that both teams are faces here as both got great pops. Tito and Kobashi start as this is a weird WWF pairing.
To the best of my knowledge there’s no connection between them other than being faces at this time but that’s good enough I suppose. Given the people in here, it’s no surprise that this is a technically sound match indeed. The referee is American if that helps at all. I’m slowly getting used to the commentary here and how over the top they sound at times. It’s what JR does so that’s fine I guess.
I’m not entirely sure but I think the WWF guys are the default heels here, although it’s not very clear. It’s so odd watching Santana, who is right up there with Steamboat for all time best faces, acting heelish. Kobashi goes airborne for a bit with a springboard cross body. I know it sounds weak now, but back then in America, that would have blown away a lot of people. It never ceases to amaze me how much wrestling has changed over the years in things like that. Ok, four minutes into the match, Fuchi comes in and just beats the tar out of Tito with punches.
A missile dropkick leads to miscommunication from the Americans. Wait, isn’t one Samoan and one Mexican? This could get complicated very fast. Ok, after nearly SIX FREAKING MINUTES, we get Snuka. Jimmy seems WAY more popular than Tito which is saying a lot. Yeah the WWF guys are definitely heels. That’s the amazing thing about wrestling. I have no idea what’s being said here but by basic actions like I’m seeing from Jimmy and Tito, it’s clear they’re the heels here.
That is a great example of psychology, as even though they’re faces most of the time, through basic changes to their style, they’re convincing me they’re bad here. The problem there is that they’re still popular. In a very abrupt ending, Tito hits the forearm and Snuka adds a splash for the pin on Fuchi.
Rating: B. This was a very good choice for an opener. Compare this to Martel vs. Koko at Mania. See what workrate can do for you? These guys had a well paced and interesting match but it was really little more than a squash which is very odd. Now to be fair, Kenta had only been around a little over two years at this point, so while he’s a future legend, he’s a barely past a rookie here which explains a lot. Still, this was very fun and it worked well.
Bret Hart vs. Tiger Mask II
Tiger Mask is Mitsuhara Misawa, which is how I’ll be referring to him. As soon as they said this was a 20 minute time limit, you could see the draw coming. Bret isn’t anything as far as a singles guy goes yet as he had been given about a dozen starts to a push only to have it taken away later on for no reason at all. That being said, he gets more or less no pop. He’s still got the squared off sunglasses here and looks like a guy with nothing special about him at all.
We’re alternating announcers here so this time it’s in English. Misawa’s (remember he’s Tiger Mask II and in a mask here) gets a HUGE pop so it’s not a Japanese thing to be quiet. Now for those of you that don’t know, Misawa might be the best Japanese wrestler of all time and had about a half dozen classics with Dynamite Kid. Sadly enough he passed away in a match earlier this year off a botched brainbuster.
He and Owen Hart had some of the most unique offenses that were as well rounded as anything in the world for a long time, so to say this should be a classic might be an understatement. Bret does his sunglasses thing and gets booed for it. Well that’s odd indeed. Making a kid happy is evil apparently. We get a clean break to open things which sets a bit of the pace I suppose. Make that two so we definitely have face vs. face even though the fans aren’t wild on Bret.
Misawa works the arm to start and we go to a very nice technical sequence. You can just sense that this is going to be good already. It’s so weird to see Bret getting out wrestled. Misawa puts him on the floor and runs at him but flips over the top rope and then back in. He must have been playing No Mercy recently. He works on the arm. A lot. Now for the interesting part: can Bret remember to sell it? Very little annoys me more than a guy that has a body part worked on and then does nothing about it later on.
A legit thing I’ve never gotten in matches like this: spot calling. Unless one speaks enough of the other’s language, how do they keep the spots in order? Surprisingly, there’s some sloppiness here. For one thing, Bret messes up a slingshot, which is saying something I think. And now back to the arm. However Bret makes up for it as Misawa goes for his second crucifix of the match, but this time Bret reverses it. Again, that’s a great example of psychology. It shows that Bret is learning on the fly out there, which is a sign of thinking during the match. If more guys did that today, it would be a completely different product and I mean that in a good way.
Tiger is beating the living tar out of him here and it’s just beyond a squash. Ah there’s some selling from Bret. That helps things a lot. After going for a leapfrog his knee is hurt though which may be legit actually, although knowing Bret it’s fake. And I mean fake in the sense of using it as a strategy and not in the Shawn since of “being hurt.” Yep, Bret was faking. Again, that’s brilliant psychology.
It’s so weird to see someone booed so loudly for just throwing a guy to the floor. That’s the extent of the heel stuff but Bret is getting booed very loudly. We get either a botch or a very innovative move as Bret sets for an atomic drop but it’s taken like a spinebuster, making it appear to hurt horribly. Bret looks ripped here. He misses the elbow from the second rope though, which might have something to do with the fact that he altered it so it was more like a Macho Man elbow.
They crank the pace up and start going much harder and faster which works fine for me. And all of a sudden on an Irish whip from Bret the bell rings for the draw. Really? There wasn’t a rush towards the end or anything like that, which means the ending just came from out of absolutely nowhere. That’s just odd indeed.
Rating: A-. For fans of modern wrestling, this was a C+ or worse. For fans of the old school style and psychology, this was awesome. It’s a total clinic on psychology which is very rare anymore. It’s two awesome workers going out there and thinking their way through a match rather than just using a formula, which never gets old. This was great stuff and just below perfect due to a few dull spots and a bit of sloppiness, but that’s like saying a new BMW isn’t the right color.
Jake Roberts vs. Big Boss Man
Jake comes in over the top here for no apparent reason. Boss Man is also a heel here despite being a face for several months prior to this. Was Japan behind in storylines or something? Both were feuding with DiBiase around this time but that’s all I’ve got for a connection. I get that the matches and teams are more or less just thrown together, but this is odd indeed. I guess it fit best since Boss Man had been heel so recently. The announcers talk about the DDT and how awesome it is. Even in Japan it was considered cool as nothing else was that fast.
Boss Man is completely dominant, despite the American fans telling him he’s fat. The announcers don’t appreciate it either. I don’t think Jake has had any offense 5 minutes into the match. You can see so much of Jake in Orton today that it’s insane. At least he has a good influence. So after about eight minutes, Jake makes a quick comeback and he hits the DDT to a big pop and the win. That was about as from out of nowhere as you could imagine. The snake thing after the match gets a huge pop.
Rating: C. This was about as basic of a match from this era as you could ask for. It certainly isn’t bad as it’s perfectly watchable, but the only reason I can think of for this match taking place was the DDT and the snake after it, which is perfectly fine. Something tells me that’s the weakest match on the card though, which is saying a lot.
Jumbo Tsuruta/Haku vs. Mr. Perfect/Rick Martel
For those of you that have never heard of Jumbo, I feel sorry for you. This guy is freaking AWESOME. Haku…not so much. Martel and Perfect are great of course, but Haku just doesn’t fit at all here. Haku is called King here even though he lost that at least 8 months prior to this. I don’t get that one at all. Anyway, Haku was trained by Giant Baba so that likely has something to do with this.
Jumbo was kind of the Shawn Michaels of Japan, or at least the modern Shawn. He kept getting better with age and never really went downhill. Granted he never became a comedy character that had great matches while doing all kinds of stupid jokes and comedy skits. It’s so odd that Martel went from AWA Champion for a year, when it still meant something, to a silly character like the Model. I’ll go with this: Jumbo is better than Perfect and there’s a decent distance between them.
Jumbo is MAD over. Haku got his start in AJPW so he fits in very well here and he’s well known. Again, these are just weird tag teams as Haku had just split from Andre and Perfect was feuding with Beefcake around this time. Oh I see why Gorilla isn’t here. He would criticize Jumbo’s abdominal stretch. I love that Hennig neck snap. It just looks freaking painful. It’s so weird seeing WWF heel vs. heel stuff. You never saw that in this era at all.
Haku misses a front flip splash which looked cool. He and Perfect are the heels in there in case you were wondering. Scratch that as it’s Martel and the announcers talk about both of them being former AWA Champions, which is very odd. Martel puts on the Boston Crab on Haku, giving us a Canadian putting an American hold on a Tongan wrestler in Japan.
The WWF guys beat the heck out of Haku, leading for the hot tag, and when I say hot tag, I mean white hot tag. Jumbo gets an EPIC pop and after a melee, a high knee and a good looking belly to back suplex at a high angle ends this to another huge pop with the pin on Martel.
Rating: B-. Again there’s not a thing wrong with formula based matches and this is no exception. It’s about ten minutes long and this match just worked. It’s not a masterpiece or anything like that, but it certainly held my attention and it came off as solid. Jumbo was a freaking star that could wrestle on top of that so there you are.
Randy Savage vs. Genichiro Tenryu
This is another one of those dream matches like Hart vs. Misawa as both guys are legends of the sport that could easily go and work a 30-45 minute match and far longer if they wanted to. Savage is the king here and he gets a big intro so that always helps. Sherri is the queen here as well to set the time period a bit. It’s weird to think that Sherri would probably be average in Japan.
Tenryu is one of the guys from the tag match at Mania 7 where Demolition got squashed in case you’ve never heard of him. He’s a star here though and gets a great pop. His tights always seemed abnormally large to me though but whatever. Savage is of course incredibly energetic and bouncing all over the place before the other guy even gets in the ring.
Savage, being the only guy that can get away with green and pink tights, rips the shirt off to let us know it’s on. Tenryu goes Kobashi on him in the corner with chops and it looks awesome. I love that head over heels bump over the top that Savage would do. It’s so weird to see Savage, a guy whose work was just annihilating all of the other heels at the time, being matched step for step and even passed on some things.
Sherri gets into it with the ring announcer and screams a lot. Tenryu hits an enziguri which is FAR bigger in Japan than it is here. Even the referee is gone after a bit which is odd here for some reason. It’s all Savage at this point. I think they half botched something there as Tenryu was against the ropes and Savage hit a clothesline and he just fell to the mat instead of going up and over.
Sherri keeps cheating. After even more of a beating, Savage hits the big elbow for two. A powerbomb from Tenryu is countered to kill the quick heat they got out of the crowd for it, which worked though so it’s fine. In the blink of an eye, an enziguri leads to the powerbomb and the pin for Tenryu. That came from absolutely nowhere.
Rating: C+. Savage was a midcard guy in the company at this time so it’s not a huge deal really. The match was good but the ending came from absolutely nowhere and it kind of sucked the life out of it for me just a bit. It’s certainly a good match, but the lack of a build to the pin hurts it a lot.
In the back, a Japanese interviewer is with Warrior and hides from him a bit, making him the smartest interviewer of all time. Warrior has been champion for two weeks at this point so this is hardly an old sight. He just walks in circles in his dressing room while the interviewer babbles.
WWF Title: Ted DiBiase vs. Ultimate Warrior
Now here’s an interesting match. It’s about as predictable as possible, but it should be pretty decent if DiBiase can save it, which he’s capable of. Warrior is WAY over here, which stuns me. The guy with real talent jumps the champion early and gets beaten up for it. You know how Hogan used a completely different move set and wrestled a different style when he was in Japan?
This is nothing like that for Warrior. He’s the same wreckloose he is in America and it’s just as bad. DiBiase avoids the shoulder block to take control though. This is a really short match as after a few shots and a piledriver which feels just right and feels so real that it feels just like a piledriver, Warrior does his Hulking Up which we don’t call Hulking Up because we don’t want our fans to realize we have two characters that are more or less exactly the same but this one is far worse at it. A bunch of clotheslines and a splash ends this.
Rating: C+. Well I guess keeping it short was the best idea in the end. There was no way this was going to go long or anything as even DiBiase’s greatness wasn’t getting two great or even good matches out of Warrior in two weeks. It was a house show main event llevel match and that’s all it needed to be I suppose. Still, too short to be anything worth watching.
Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Demolition
So if nothing else, this makes sense to some American fans as Demolition won the tag belts from Andre and Haku at Mania. Baba was more or less the Japanese Andre so the teaming works out fine. Andre’s body is more or less gone at this point and this was his final series of matches as he and Baba formed a team for awhile and came in second in the World’s Strongest Tag League, which is a huge tag tournament in Japan.
Baba is 6’10 and also the owner/promoter of AJPW, so he’s a god more or less. Andre is so messed up that he’s the same size as Baba, who is about 6 inches shorter than Andre. That’s just sad, yet Vince put a title on him and put him on Mania. I really hope Andre wanted that and it wasn’t just Vince trying to make one last buck off of him, because it really was humiliating for him, at least from what I saw. He was just so messed up that he couldn’t move much at all and it was very sad to see.
Baba is a three time NWA Champion so he’s very legit in the world levels. He starts with Smash to an INSANE chant. He’s 51 here so hardly a young man, but to be fair, he made himself a midcard guy almost 10 years prior, knowing that he wasn’t able to carry the company anymore. That’s quite impressive. He throws Smash around, and when you can throw Hole in One Barry Darsow around, you know you’re awesome. Andre comes in to a huge pop of his own.
Andre pretty much is doing the same thing he did for the majority of his career at this point: move very little but use his size to make moves look far more devastating than they really are. He’s moving ok in there, all things considered. Axe is in trouble but beats the tar out of Baba anyway. In something you won’t see that often, Baba busts out a swinging neckbreaker. Not bad at all.
Axe punches Andre and Andre just glares at him. He then uncorks a MASSIVE right hand that sends Axe flying. That looked AWESOME. We get a mini brawl but nothing comes of it. Baba keeps running in for the save which is cool if nothing else. Demolition look freaking tiny in there.
Now how often will you hear me say that? Baba hits a big boot to the chest (his finisher) and Andre drops an elbow (like he needed a finisher) on Smash for the two which is called three as Andre mistimed it I guess as he stood up with his arms in the air at two. Smash was out cold anyway so it didn’t really matter.
Rating: D+. This was a spectacle match and there’s nothing wrong with that. The wrestling sucked, but it was to let the two legends get together and since no one in America saw this for the better part of ever, it’s not like Demolition lost much because of it. This wasn’t great, but it’s not supposed to be. As a match it sucked, but as what it was supposed to be, it was fine.
Hogan is in the back and he doesn’t say anything, likely because he isn’t asked anything. Granted that never stopped him before though.
Stan Hansen vs. Hulk Hogan
Like I said this was supposed to be Gordy, but that didn’t happen. HOLY CRAP Hansen is freaking nuts! He runs the announcer over, literally. It’s saying a lot when a guy is named after his finishing move. Hogan gets an epic pop for the song called Real American from a Tokyo audience. That’s impressive in its own right.
Anyone that says he’s not the biggest international star ever is freaking NUTS. Austin had a hotter period, but no one has Hogan’s longevity at that spot. Granted his refusal to leave said spot killed WCW, but whatever. Crowd is NUTS for this. This is easily the most into a match they’ve been all night. It’s very rare when Hogan might be the more technically sound of the two.
This is where the Cena knows five moves argument falls apart as Hogan is wrestling a very technical style, hitting his second drop toehold in two minutes, adding in a three quarter nelson. This turns into a brawl, which makes sense as it’s what both men do best. Hogan is dominating, which is very odd indeed. He throws in what would today be called an Angle Slam for good measure. Hansen has done almost nothing at all here.
They hit the crowd for a bit and Hansen is slammed onto a table. Note that it was onto a table and not through it. We’ve been going about 6 minutes here and it has been ALL Hogan. Hansen is busted. He gets a boot in the corner to a MASSIVE pop. Out in the crowd again he gets a chair to Hogan’s head and the big bald man is bleeding. The announcers are having another orgasm as their balls must be aching from having so many here.
Hansen is dominating now and he gets a few shots with the bull rope to Hogan. He calls for the Lariat to a huge pop but Hogan hits a forearm to block. Leg drop misses and Hansen gets two off of that. HOGAN THROWS A FREAKING CROSS BODY! AND IT WAS DECENT!!! After a big boot for a block, Hogan hits a big clothesline for the pin. That came from out of nowhere.
Rating: B-. It was shorter than I would have liked, but to have Hogan dominate the majority of the match and then hit something other than the leg drop for the pin. It was a very nice change of pace. Hogan’s offense wasn’t nearly as great as it’s made out to be, but it’s certainly different and a nice break from what we’re used to. For a main event it was fine, but a few more minutes would have helped it a lot.
Overall Rating: B+. I liked it. The thing that made this work was that you got all of the best wrestlers in the company plus the two biggest stars out there and they got a chance to work. Santana for example was a jobber in America but he could wrestle with anyone and that’s what you got to see here. There isn’t a bad match on the card, but other than Bret and Misawa, there isn’t a great match either.
It’s certainly a good show but it’s not great. I don’t think I’d put Mania 6 above it. Actually I know I wouldn’t. The WWF more or less sucked this year other than Summerslam, so this was nice to see. Good show and definitely recommended, just to see the uniqueness of it.