Wrestler of the Day – May 24: Meng

Today is one of the toughest men in wrestling history: Meng.

Meng was sent to Japan by the King of Tonga to study sumo wrestling. When that dried up, Meng entered professional wrestling. After a few years in Montreal, he made his way to the WWF as King Tonga. We’ll start on June 14, 1986.

Big John Studd vs. King Tonga

Studd immediately slams him during the opening bell to take over. Tonga goes for a slam but it gets countered. That’s the whole point of the match: Tonga wants to slam Studd. Off to a chinlock but Tonga comes back with some martial arts. Another slam attempt sends them tumbling to the floor and it’s a double countout. No rating again but this was a one move match.

They brawl on the floor post match with Tonga getting the better of it. The brawl and teasing going back in goes on longer than the match. Now they get back in and brawl as there’s a referee in there for some reason. Tonga headbutts him to the floor and that’s enough for John so he takes a countout.

Tonga would soon change his name to Haku and join forces with Tama to form the Islanders. They received a Tag Team Title shot on Superstars, February 21, 1987.

WWF Tag Titles: Hart Foundation vs. The Islanders

The Islanders are faces here with Tama being awesome and Haku being newly named that. Danny Davis is introduced as the newest member of the Foundation. Egads what shorts. That’s very disturbing. He would switch to regular tights soon enough. Bret and Tama start so that’s the best combination to go with. That reverse leap frog is just awesome. It always has been and it always will be.

Hillbilly Jim pops in to say nothing of note. The heels shockingly cheat. Yeah I didn’t see that coming either. It’s weird to think that Tama and Haku would be heels so quickly. Haku got a hot tag. That’s just weird to type. He managed to botch throwing a guy to the floor. That’s hard to do. He hits a solid superkick if nothing else. Crowd is losing it over this. And then Bret cheats so Anvil gets the pin. Oh ok Davis shoved Haku off the top. That makes things better.

Rating: B-. Far too short to be anything great but at the same time, this was a quick formula match with the crowd eating it up. For a match this short to have that much heat, that’s very impressive. Not great of anything but it’s ok, especially for a match that didn’t get a ton of time.

Next up we’ve got a singles match from October 6, 1987.

Tito Santana vs. Haku

That…..doesn’t sound half bad actually. This would be right before Strike Force won the titles. Martel and Tama are with their respective partners and we’re in Milwaukee. Tito starts fast, probably fueled on a few burritos. An elbow to the top of Haku’s head and the future Meng hides on the floor for a bit. Back in and Tito rams Haku’s head into the mat which shouldn’t hurt but you get the idea.

The fans are WAY behind Tito. Off to the armbar now as Luscious Johnny runs down Martel’s face for some reason. They seem to botch a hip toss but Tito IMMEDIATELY shifts into a backslide attempt. That was so fast of a transition it was unreal. It gets two and Haku charges right back into the arm drag and armbar. Haku rakes the eyes and STILL can’t get anything going.

Tito goes for the knee and Haku gets to the ropes. Tama offers some advice and apparently he would be a better manager than Heenan, as the advice pays off in the form of a shot to the throat of Tito. Haku finally takes over and gets a shoulderbreaker for two. A charge into the corner eats shoes though and here comes Tito. I’d rather eat some Taco Bell but you can’t get everything. Big backdrop (where’s Vince to say HIGH elevation) sets up the forearm but Tama goes up top for the DQ as Martel makes the save. Double DQ apparently.

Rating: C-. Not bad here and I’d love to see these guys have some more time and an actual story to work with. It’s power vs. speed with one of the best speed guys you’ll ever seen. Not too shabby here as Tito and Martel were on their way to the titles, apparently three weeks after this. Or one match, whichever you prefer.

From Philadelphia on December 5, 1987. Most of these don’t have any real story to them so enjoy the random matches.

Tag Titles: Strike Force vs. Islanders

No word on if this is for the titles or not but I don’t know why it wouldn’t be. The Islanders jump the champions to start us off and Strike Force gets slammed. Martel vs. Haku starts us off officially here. Head Knocker by Tito is blocked but he speeds things up and sends Tama to the floor. Back off to Martel who hammers away.

Haku uses power to take over as we’re straight into power vs. speed here which is always awesome. Diving kneedrop misses Martel and it’s off to Santana. Strike Force tags in and out very fast. The heels resort to EVIL cheating to take over and beat on Santana for awhile. Tama was a guy I always liked that just kind of disappeared after the Islanders split. Shame too.

A couple of backbreakers by Haku as he shows off a bit. The guy was certainly strong. Ah yes this is a title match. I thought it was. Back off to Tama and Tito still can’t make the tag. Martel snaps and comes in for a bit but it causes Tito to get caught in a neck crank. Tito tries to fight back but a knee to the ribs stops that pretty quickly.

After some more offense from the savage that is savage enough to tape his wrists and get tights that fit, a leg drop misses and here comes Martel. Everything breaks down and Tama gets caught in a figure four. Haku breaks that up, only for Martel to get a sunset flip on Tama seconds later to end this and keep the titles on Strike Force, who are surprisingly not murdered in Philly.

Rating: C+. Basic power vs. speed match here with the eternally underrated Strike Force doing their basic stuff out there but having the energy that made them awesome. This was perfectly fine and they did exactly what they were supposed to do. The titles were never in jeopardy, but this is a house show after all.

Here’s an opponent you may have heard of. From August 2, 1988.

Hulk Hogan vs. Haku

This is from a Wrestling Challenge taping, which is similar to what Superstars is today. Haku takes him down quickly and the fans are WAY behind Hogan. Hogan fires back and gets a slam followed by the right hands. Heenan takes a shot also (which he would do literally in WCW on a regular basis) which makes me smile.

Haku works on the arm and pulls on the hair. That’s rather impressive considering there isn’t much to pull. This is another of those matches that the commentators say is a title match but Hogan wasn’t champion at the time. Hogan fights up and sets for the big right but Haku hits the floor. He’s a Samoan/Tongan. A shot to the head shouldn’t scare him at all.

Atomic drop sends Haku right back to the floor. And never mind as he’s right back in. Slam puts Haku down as other than the opening seconds this has been all Hogan. Of course as I say that Hogan misses an elbow and it’s off to the King. Yeah it’s King Haku here. Off to the nerve hold now which doesn’t last long. Slam gets two. Back to the nerve hold which never works for the most part.

Haku gets his crescent kick (more or less a superkick) to send Hogan down for two and it’s Hulk Up time. Why in the world would you hammer away on Hogan when he starts doing this? Just run to the floor and stop trying at this point. It’s not going to work. Big boot and the leg ends this.

Rating: C. Standard Hogan vs. monster match that he had roughly 10,000 of in the 80s. These are rather repetitive but at the same time the fans never stopped reacting to them, which is a good sign for Hogan as he was the constant yet the people cared about him enough to keep cheering. That’s hard to do.

Haku would eventually become the King of the WWF and defend the crown on Saturday Night’s Main Event XVII.

King Haku vs. Hulk Hogan

Remember, this is FOR THE CROWN as they mentioned earlier. Bets on Hogan winning and not being king? Haku jumps him and you can smell the comeback from here. Yep there it is. I’d also bet on a shot from Haku taking him down to set up the inevitable. Hey what do you know I’m right. Heenan gets taken out and not a lot of people care. Haku hits a suplex for two, and now Hogan can’t get hurt. I’m not wasting my finger energy on filling in the ending here.

Rating: D+. Standard Hogan match but just lackluster. To be fair though, no one believed Haku would win here and it was just to get him on the TV show. Why mess with what works I suppose. Nothing great at all, but certainly watchable and bearable, albeit not quite as good as the previous match.

Haku would defend the crown against former King Harley Race at the 1989 Royal Rumble.

King Haku vs. Harley Race

Race was King but got hurt and the crown went to Haku. This is his chance to get it back in a one time only return to the ring. Harley shoves over Haku’s throne to start and the brawl is on. You know Race is going to be the brawler in this. Back in and Race pounds away before suplexing Haku down for two. Heenan manages both guys here but Race is kind of the face by default.

They head to the floor again with Race being sent into the post and chopped a few times. Haku sends him back to the floor after a few seconds in the ring as we stall for a few moments. More chops have Race in trouble as Jesse talks about Hogan injuring Race, which is only kind of true. Race no sells a headbutt and gets two off a piledriver. They collide again and Race falls to the floor as Heenan plays both sides, saying he’s for both guys when the other is out of earshot.

Back in and Race punches some more before getting two off a suplex. Haku gets sent to the floor again as it’s pretty clear there’s not much to this match. Race tries to piledrive Haku on the floor but gets backdropped as is the usual. A second attempt at a piledriver works but not incredibly well. Back in and a clothesline puts Haku down for two but Haku comes back and misses a top rope headbutt. Race misses a headbutt of his own and charges into the superkick from Haku (looked GREAT) for the pin to keep the crown in Tonga or wherever he’s from.

Rating: D+. This wasn’t terrible and the ending kick looked awesome, but other than that there wasn’t much to see here. Race was clearly old and banged up and he didn’t have a lot to work with in the form of Haku. The crown was mostly a minor title that was only somewhat official. Nothing to see here, but no one cares about anything but the Rumble tonight anyway.

Roddy Piper would retire from wrestling at Wrestlemania III, only to return two and a half years later. Haku would be his first opponent, at Saturday Night’s Main Event XXIII.

And now, a title win. From December 13, 1989 on Superstars.

Tag Titles: Colossal Connection vs. Demolition

This is during Demolition’s second reign and they’re over huge with the crowd. The fight is on quickly with Andre dropping Ax (who was actually Super Machine) with a headbutt. Haku chops away at Ax to start before it’s off to Andre for some heavy choking in the corner. Smash makes the mistake of going after Heenan, leaving Ax to be double teamed. Andre comes in for a standing choke as this is total dominance by the challengers.

Some shoulders in the corner have Ax in even more trouble but Haku misses a charge to breathe life into the crowd. A second charge hits Ax’s elbow but Haku blocks another tag attempt. Andre comes back in with some headbutts and another choke, drawing Smash in for the save. The referee gets him out, allowing Haku to hit a quick superkick followed by an Andre elbow drop for the pin. Smash tried to make the save but there’s no way to pull Andre around on the mat.

Rating: D. The match sucked, but the fact that Demolition got squashed like this blows my mind. Smash was never even in the match and the pinfall was practically clean in about six minute. That NEVER happens to Demolition at anyone’s hands, making the Connection look all the more awesome.

Haku would get a World Title shot at Saturday Night’s Main Event XXVI as the first challenger to new WWF Champion Ultimate Warrior.

WWF Title: Haku vs. Ultimate Warrior

The pop for Warrior is there as the challenger has no entrance and is just shown warming up in the ring. Yeah this is going to be an even match if there ever was one. Vince had Perfect and DiBiase and Rude and Savage and even Rhodes on the roster and he picked this guy to replace Hogan. Unbelievable. Surprisingly, we start fast.

Who would have guessed that in a Warrior match? Continuing the surprises, Warrior is odd, sloppy and a bit dangerous. They keep referencing the Mania 5 match where Rude managed to beat Warrior, which was apparently his only loss to date. That’s surprising indeed, which isn’t a joke this time.

We hit the slowdown mode as Haku goes through his incredibly generic power midcard guy offense. Jesse claims a slow count to get some very cheap yet basic heel heat going for him. That’s something he and Lawler were great at.

They could say something so simple like that and go off about it for a few minutes and it worked like a charm every single time. Using the exact same formula in the Hogan match, Warrior makes his comeback and takes over on Haku to hit his signature set of moves to end this. For some reason this isn’t the main event but whatever.

Rating: C. This was the epitome of average, but it did the job it was supposed to, which was getting Warrior a little credibility as champion. There’s nothing wrong with having him beat a midcard guy in an otherwise worthless title match and that’s exactly what he did here. This went fine and Warrior looked good, despite it being about five minutes long. That was his status quo and it worked out for him here so that balances out the boring match.

We’ll head to Japan for a bit for the AJPW/WWF Wrestling Summit on August 13, 1990.

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.

Haku was part of the Heenan Family and would team up with Barbarian in the opening match of Wrestlemania VII.

Haku/Barbarian vs. Rockers

Shawn and Haku get us going with Michaels trying to speed things up, only to be slammed into the corner. The second attempt at flying around works a bit better as a dropkick puts Haku down. The Rockers do some of their double teaming stuff but Barbie takes them down with a big double clothesline. Shawn and Marty double superkick him down though and the Heenan Family has to regroup a bit.

We get down to Marty vs. Barbarian again and speed takes over one more time. A sunset flip doesn’t work for Jannetty but Barbarian punches the mat. A rana takes Barbarian down and Marty pounds away for two. Off to Haku and a double headbutt puts Marty down again. Jannetty loads up another rana but the foreigners hit a double hot shot onto the top rope to really take over this time.

A gorilla press plants Jannetty and it’s time for more heel double teaming. Marty comes back with something like a cross body for two but the speed continues to get beaten down. By speed I mean the drug of the day for Jannetty of course. Back to Barbarian for a bearhug followed by a powerslam so wicked that the fans pop for it. The falling headbutt misses though and it’s hot tag time to Shawn. Things really do speed up now but Shawn gets kicked in the face to slow him down. That goes nowhere for the villains though and it’s a Michaels cross body off the top for the pin on Haku.

Rating: B. Just a fast paced tag team match here with power vs. speed. This is one of those formulas that works no matter how many times you do it as long as you have talented guys in there. The future Faces of Fear were fine as monsters for the Rockers to conquer and it set a good pace for the show here. Solid opening match.

Haku would head to WAR in Japan as King Haku, where he would take part in a WWF/WAR show on September 15, 1992.

King Haku vs. Undertaker

Undertaker hammers away to start and chokes in the corner but gets punched across the ring. The King’s neck is snapped across the top rope to put him down again before Old School sets up a slam. They head outside with Undertaker being sent into the post and slammed down before Haku stomps away in the ring.

Undertaker comes back with a chokeslam out of nowhere for two but gets suplexed down with ease. A top rope splash gets two for the King but Undertaker sits up after a legdrop. Undertaker comes back with a jumping shoulder (looked to be some misdirection on the clothesline) and the Tombstone gets the pin.

Rating: D+. This was just a quick match to give the fans a thrill with a big name from the States out there. Haku seemed to be more entertaining here than he usually was in America but it would be awhile before he would be seen over there again. Undertaker hadn’t found his way in the character yet either.

Meng would head to WCW as a monster bodyguard, but he would soon go out on his own and enter a US Title tournament. Here are the finals at Great American Bash 1995.

US Title: Sting vs. Meng

Around this time, Sting was the most over wrestler in the world and was wrestling solid matches so of course they stuck him in the midcard and had him in random angles in the main event without ever wrestling in it. My guess: to prevent Hogan from looking weak by comparison. You can see the fans wake up for him. The guy is just universally loved…so Russo has been obsessed with turning him heel over the years.

It hasn’t worked yet but this one is too early to say so I’ll let it slide. Again, notice that guys that play directly to the crowd, in this case yelling at them, get bigger reactions that anyone on the roster. See, the key difference between Sting and Hogan: both could get EPIC responses, but Sting could work very solid matches and in more than one style. Hogan was as formula based as Flair and that’s saying a lot.

Sting could work a lot of styles and could work for LONG periods of time. Meng is supposed to be a martial arts master here so his offense is considered great. It’s really weak but it goes to show you what the simple act of talking about how awesome someone is can do for you. It also shows the power the announcers have. They’re talking like they’re scared of Meng so his incredibly weak offense seems more impressive than it actually is. That’s what commentators can do.

Yeah Meng isn’t that good. The hand gyrations from Meng are funny for some reason. Sting gets in some weird offense including a flying hip smash to the face of Meng from the second rope. Yeah it’s weirder than it sounds but it looked ok I guess. It’s impressive to see and hear the crowd change so much depending on how Sting is doing. That says a lot about him. Yes I’m a big Sting fan.

We’re on the floor now and Meng is in trouble. Parker gets beaten up too so this isn’t a total loss. Meng headbutts the post. The Scorpion is put on and Meng doesn’t tap. The hold is broken and the fans go quiet. Sting goes to some of his high risk stuff…and then wins with a jumping DDT? What the HECK? I’ve never seen him win with that before and I haven’t since. It came out of freaking nowhere.

Something makes me think they had to switch something up in there, maybe due to a missed spot or an injury. Sting was always supposed to win, don’t get me wrong, but the ending was too weird to be what was planned. Actually maybe it was. This is WCW in 1995 after all.

Rating: D+. Pretty weak and formula based stuff here. Sting was over as all goodness and had to win it though. I guess they figured going with Sting was the best bet and it clearly was. This wasn’t much but it did its job fine I suppose. If nothing else we have a champion again and he’s over.

We’ll jump ahead to Meng being part of the Dungeon of Doom and facing Arn Anderson on Nitro, July 15, 1996.

Arn Anderson vs. Meng

Dungeon vs. Horsemen here. Heenan talks about how Hogan probably planned this since before he came to WCW. I never got why that was supposed to be this big elaborate plan that they had worked on for years. Why couldn’t it have happened in like a month or so? Who says Hall and Nash didn’t come to WCW and Hogan said “Hmm….this is interesting” and sent them a singing telegram? Eric rants about how the NWO banner is a slap in the face of WCW. The pops for the NWO would seem to disagree.

As for the actual match, this sounds kind of intriguing on paper. The fireworks keep going off and get really annoying really quickly. Anderson dodges some kicks and throws on a headlock. Meng fires off a leapfrog and takes over. Eric talks about Hog Wild and you can almost hear the drool coming out of his mouth. Arn takes him to the mat and wraps Meng’s leg around the post. Barbarian comes out as Meng has a nerve hold on.

Meng kicks Anderson and gets two as we take a break. Back with Anderson hammering away a bit as the fans chant for Hogan. Eric wants the NWO in prison. The announcers going off on the NWO with these ridiculous proclamations of how evil they were were such an added bonus. Bischoff plugs Mr. Nanny again as the guys head to the floor. Meng rams Anderson’s back into the apron a few times but Arn takes over back inside. Scratch that as Meng gets a suplex (exposing the freaky looking untanned upper thigh of Arn) but gets elbowed in the head. DDT is reversed and Barbarian pops up for some double teaming, allowing Meng to get the upset pin.

Rating: B-. Surprisingly good match here as they slugged it out and went back and forth, getting a good match as a result. Meng continues to be a steady hand and Arn does what he does best: stay tough and put people over. Solid TV match and I had fun with it which is the whole idea. Meng of course wouldn’t go anywhere but he wasn’t really the kind of character that was ever going to.

Meng would team up with his old partner the Barbarian as the Faces of Fear. The team would earn a Tag Team Title shot against the Outsiders at Starrcade 1996.

Tag Titles: Outsiders vs. Faces of Fear

The Outsiders, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, are defending here. The Faces of Fear are the Barbarian (I told you he stuck around for a long time) and Meng, Robert Parker’s old bodyguard, managed by Jimmy Hart. Hall and Meng start things off with the Tongan monster putting on a wristlock. Hall cranks on the arm but gets caught with a stiff clothesline. Meng charges into a boot in the corner, followed by a bulldog by Hall. The bulldog merely seems to tick Meng off though so he pounds Hall down and brings in Barbarian.

Off to Nash who pounds Barbarian into the corner and fires off some big slow knees to the ribs. An elbow to the face staggers Barbarian but he shoves the 7’0 Nash into the corner and pounds away with chops. Meng comes in and the challengers pound Nash down to a big reaction from the crowd. Nash tries to ram their heads together, but Wrestling Law #3 says anyone described as a savage has a VERY hard head, meaning it has no effect.

Nash is kicked down again for a two count for Barbarian but he misses a middle rope elbow. Barbarian is dropped face first on the top turnbuckle in a move called Snake Eyes (a move named by Nash when he portrayed Vinnie Vegas) and it’s back to Hall to pound on Barbarian a bit more. Meng comes down the apron and pulls Hall to the challengers’ corner for a double team with Barbarian. A BIG boot to the face puts Hall down but referee Nick Patrick, who may or may not be in the NWO’s pocket, takes his sweet time in counting two.

Back to Meng for a very delayed piledriver for another near fall. Barbarian tries his luck again with a bunch of chops and a good looking powerbomb. Patrick again takes forever to count, allowing Nash to come in for a save. Barbarian stays on Hall as Tony says he’s confused by who is legal. To be fair though, tying his shoes confuses Tony. NWO member Syxx goes after Jimmy Hart and the pair head to the back.

Barbarian puts on a nerve hold as Hall gets to lay on the mat. Maybe he needs a nap after all the hard work he’s done in this match so far. After not moving for a good 20 seconds and not being checked by Patrick, Hall fights up and suplexes Barbarian down to escape. Tag off to Nash who gets two off a big boot of his own. Everything breaks down and Nash powerbombs Barbarian down to retain.

Rating: C-. This one went longer than it needed to and even when I was eight years old I knew the Faces of Fear had no chance here. The Outsiders held those belts for the better part of a year and a half with no one being able to take them from them (and keep them that is). The match was a watchable power match but the belts never felt like they were in

The feud with the Horsemen just wouldn’t die and would still be going at Slamboree 1997.

Meng vs. Chris Benoit

This is a death match which means last man standing. Speaking of feuds that WOULD NOT END, this is more Benoit/Horsemen vs. Dungeon. At least Woman looks pretty good here. Benoit is tentative to start but grabs a dragon screw leg whip to put Meng down for about a second. Meng comes right back so Benoit heads to the floor where he gets counted for no apparent reason.

Back in the ring Meng hits a belly to belly suplex. Meng tries to throw a punch but Benoit slips behind him and hits a German. Benoit keeps going for the legs which is smart strategy but he gets kicked off. Out to the floor and Meng is sent into the steps in a scary looking bump as the corner almost hit his eye. Meng comes back in and pounds him down in the corner but Benoit comes back with chops.

Meng goes all psycho Samoan…..and for the love of all things good and holy freaking Jacqueline is here. NO ONE LIKES YOU AND NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU NOW GO AWAY!!! Woman chases her away for some reason that I don’t care about at all. Meng hooks a half crab and I think you can win by submission as well. Benoit makes the ropes which is a break in a match that has no DQ.

Benoit tries a comeback but gets headbutted right back down. A good piledriver puts Benoit down for eight. Out of nowhere Benoit grabs the Crossface (not named yet. Ok apparently it is but Tony calls it an armbar submission at first) but Meng slides to the floor to break it. Now Dusty says you have to break in the ropes. What happens if you don’t? Benoit keeps getting up and screams for more so Meng keeps kicking him in the face.

A running kick in the corner misses and Benoit fires away at him. Here are the rolling Germans which that idiot Tony calls dragon suplexes. This show is ticking me off already and now we have to listen to Tony screw up move names. Here’s the Crossface again but Meng rolls outside again. Wicked suicide dive takes Meng down but Benoit can’t follow up. Back in a suplex puts Meng down but he catches Benoit in the Tongan Death Grip while Benoit tries the swan dive. Benoit passes out for the loss.

Rating: D+. Another match that more or less was a singles match but more hard hitting. It wasn’t terrible but with Tony and Jackie out there messing up everything, it was hard to care. On top of that, why have Benoit lose here? That would apparently be so that they could do THE EXACT SAME MATCH the next month.

Meng wouldn’t see a ton of action for the rest of the year and then would get injured in February 1998. He would return in the fall of that same year and feud with Barbarian, including this match at Road Wild 1998.

Meng vs. Barbarian

This is going to be a long show. The fight starts at the bell with both guys pounding on each other and screaming a lot. They fight over a sumo lockup before trading some chops in the corner. Meng takes over with a hard clothesline even though it didn’t knock Barbarian down. Barbarian comes right back with a belly to belly superplex but Meng pops up and piledrives him.

Meng misses a middle rope splash, no sells it, and goes up top again. Barbarian catches him in a belly to belly superplex as Tenay talks about 350,000 people being at the biker rally this week. A powerslam puts Barbarian down but he gets right back up for some chopping. Meng staggers him with some headbutts but gets pulled to the floor. Barbarian sends him into the steps and heads back inside, only to have Meng put on the Tongan Death Grip for the pin.

Rating: D. It sucked as a match but this wasn’t the worst idea for an opening match. A crowd of bikers is going to respond to two monsters beating each other up for five minutes and they seemed interested here. It doesn’t do much for the wrestling fans, but this show was never for them in the first place.

Meng was hot enough at this point that he would get a World Title shot on the August 10, 1998 episode of Nitro.

WCW World Title: Goldberg vs. Meng

Meng pounds away to start but Goldberg hits a kind of flying tackle. A superkick puts Meng on the floor but the Black and White leave Meng alone. Back in and Goldberg puts on a quickly broken leg bar before getting kicked to the floor on the Black and White side. The Wolfpack makes the save but Meng puts him in the Tongan Death Grip, only to let go early. Spear, Jackhammer, we’re done. Too short to rate but they actually did a good job of making Goldberg seem vulnerable. Given the opponent, that’s very impressive.

Then he would have this awesome match on September 14, 1998’s Nitro.

Giant vs. Meng

Meng slaps Giant back into the corner and kicks at the legs before they get into a brawl with neither guy going anywhere. Meng staggers Giant with a kick right to the face so the strap comes down. Giant hits him again and Meng is all FOREIGN SHOUTING. A headbutt has no effect on Meng and neither does a right hand to the head. Another kick to the face staggers Giant and Meng loads up the Death Grip, but Giant uses his reach advantage to grab the chokeslam as Meng can’t get to his throat. REALLY fun match for two minutes.

We’ll skip ahead again as Meng would go to Japan for awhile before coming back in 1999. Here’s one of his first big matches back, from Mayhem 1999.

Meng vs. Total Package

Luger is the Package for those of you uninitiated. He’s in the neck collar and hasn’t been wanting to wrestle at all lately so this is a continuation of that story. Luger gets his shirt ripped off quickly and there go the pants too. Again, WHAT IS WITH THE RIPPING OFF OF MEN’S CLOTHING??? Luger goes to the eyes and manages to suplex Meng despite having a bad neck. The suplex isn’t sold either so we’ll call it even.

They go outside for a bit and Luger hammers away as they come back in. Meng tries the Tongan Death Grip but he can’t get past the neck brace. Instead he steps on the throat while we talk about the main event. Powerslam gets two for Lex. He rams Meng’s head into the buckle. I guess when they say Total Package that doesn’t include intelligence as YOU DON’T HIT A SAMOAN IN THE HEAD. Meng starts his comeback as this is going in slow motion. Liz has some spray or something but it hits Luger instead. Meng takes the brace off and the Death Grip ends it.

Rating: D. In other words, Liz was Jimmy Hart, Luger was Brian Knobs and Meng was Norman Smiley. I’ll give Russo this: I’ve seen him go shorter than this between using the same style of an ending. This was another match where I have no idea what the point of this being on the PPV was but I’m sure it made sense at the time. I’m not being serious with that last line but I thought I’d try being nice for a change.

Next up was the pursuit of the Hardcore Title, including this match at Souled Out 2000.

Brian Knobbs vs. Meng vs. Norman Smiley vs. Fit Finlay

This is called Four the Hard Way but it’s really just a fatal fourway. This is during the Smiley is scared of hardcore matches period. Knobbs and Finlay are dressed alike as the idea here is that Finlay trained him to be a hardcore guy. Yes, Brian Knobbs is a champion in the year 2000. Smiley tries a trashcan shot to Meng’s head which fails miserably.

It’s one of those hardcore matches that you’ve seen a few million times in WCW as it’s not incredibly interesting but they’re kind of entertaining for the sake of being what they are. Everyone beats up Norman and nothing hurts Meng, namely due to that big thing of hair. Here’s a table and some bad chair shots. Finlay and Smiley go into the crowd which lasts about four seconds. This is one of those matches that needs to end. Knobbs is out mostly so Smiley goes near him. Smiley gets hit with his own riot shield and this is finally over.

Rating: D-. I mean dude, what do you want me to say here? It’s a hardcore match. Like I said, if you’ve seen one of these you’ve seen a million of them since there isn’t anything different about any of them for the most part. The title never died of course as WCW kept this joke up for another YEAR. They never learned at all.

Meng would be out for most of 2000 before returning in early 2001 to keep up his pursuit. He got another shot at the Hardcore Title at Sin.

Hardcore Title: Crowbar vs. Terry Funk vs. Meng

Meng has the title itself but Funk is champion. Daffney tries to jump Funk which of course fails. Crowbar, no longer a seventies guy (that would be Funk) jumps Funk and the brawl starts sans Meng. They head to the back into the ladies room. Standard bathroom fight as Crowbar is slammed into every stall. Meng is nowhere to be seen here. Ah there he is.

He throws a plastic trashcan over Funk and hammers on it a bit. They head back into the arena and Funk pelts a trashcan at Meng’s head. They double team him for a bit before Funk realizes that makes too much sense so he beats up Crowbar. Luckily there happens to be about six tables stacked up against a wall. WE FOUND THE SOURCE!!!!! Crowbar hits Funk with a laptop as Hudson says Crowbar wants the Cruiserweight Title back.

Crowbar climbs into the crowd and dives on Funk on a table which the camera completely misses. Why do they miss it? Because they accidently cut to the ring crew fixing the ring ropes. And people wonder why this company went out of business. This is what replay is for I guess as we get to see the Boom Drop for lack of a better term.

Meng pops up to him Crowbar with a trashcan again and take over one more time. They head to the stage with Crowbar hammering away to no effect. Side kick sends Crowbar sprawling down the ramp. Funk gets a snow shovel from somewhere and pops Meng with it to send him down. That’s a rarity. Funk slams Crowbar through the railing which literally almost snaps in half. Good thing WCW upgraded to the barriers made of cotton candy.

Funk and Crowbar go to the ring where Funk takes some chair shots to the knees and gets Pillmanized. Well kind of at least. Funk of course is on his feet seconds later and hammers away. Meng is back now and Crowbar puts a figure four on despite Meng hammering on him. Meng goes up top and crushes Crowbar with a splash. That looked awesome. Piledriver gets two as Funk saves.

Meng hammers away and slams Funk before a middle rope splash gets two. Funk and Crowbar hit Meng literally about 18 times with chairs to take him down. The head shots don’t work as well due to the afro but they’re trying at least. Funk gets Meng in position for a DDT but Crowbar blasts him with a chair. Kick takes Crowbar down and the Tongan Death Grip gives Meng the title. He would be in the Royal Rumble a week later.

Rating: C. This got a lot better after the first five minutes or so. Meng as a total monster is a fun character. That’s probably why WWF signed him to a guaranteed deal a day or so after this while WCW was doing a pay per appearance kind of thing and thought there was nothing wrong with putting a title on him (his first actually). Meng would be in the Rumble seven days later as a surprising appearance and kind of as a big SCREW YOU to Bischoff as the Hardcore Division in WCW died with the title never being mentioned again other than I think once on Thunder.

Meng would jump to the WWF while still champion because WCW. He would start a feud with Undertaker at the Royal Rumble and face him on the January 29, 2001 episode of Raw.

Haku vs. Undertaker

Naturally they slug it out to start and a big boot takes Haku down. That and a leg drop gets two. I guess Taker is a REAL AMERICAN. Old School kind of takes Haku down. Rikishi trips him up and gets beaten down a bit for his cheating. Haku drills him on the floor and takes over somewhat.

Taker fights back and tries a backdrop but Haku messes up the counter. The Samoan hammers away in the corner and a headbutt puts Taker down for two. Big clothesline puts Haku down again as does a DDT. Rikishi’s distraction prevents the Tombstone so Rikishi and Kane get into it. Chair to Kane’s ribs takes care of him as a chokeslam ends Haku.

Rating: D+. This was pretty worthless. Did anyone want to see Samoans vs. Brothers? Really? I can’t think of anyone out there enough to want to see it and it’s not like the feud was any good. Weak match here with zero doubt that Taker would get the pin here somehow. The feud was at least short lived so that helps.

We’ll wrap it up with the tag version from Raw on March 5, 2001.

Haku/Rikishi vs. Kane/Undertaker

Heyman calls the Samoans children of the jungle. Is that like Children of the Corn? The brawl begins on the ramp and everything is a bit nuts. Finally we get down to Taker vs. Haku in the ring and we actually get a bell. To the shock of no one, this is a slugout. The Samoan hits a German on the American for two. Taker can’t hurt Haku’s head so he calls some spots instead, namely running into an elbow. Off to Rikishi as those two had been in there way too long. And never mind as Haku is back in maybe 8 seconds later. DDT puts Haku down for two. Off to Kane and everything breaks down. Chokeslam ends Haku rather quickly.

Rating: D. Match was flat out horrible as I’d almost think Kane was hurt here as he did almost nothing at all. Taker in 2001 isn’t someone you want to have fight this long on his own, especially against Haku. Rikishi would be gone very soon due to an injury so this was one of the last moments for the Samoans. Yeah Rikishi would work Smackdown the next night and then was gone for two months.

Meng would basically retire after this, save for a few matches on house shows and some indy appearances. As you can see, Meng is a great example of a guy that kept a job for so many years by being a tough and basic monster character. Monsters from the islands have been used for years in wrestling and he’s one of the better ones in history. No he never really accomplished much, but he’s not the kind of a guy that is supposed to in the first place. Given that he kept steady employment in wrestling for over twenty years, that’s not the worst result in the world.

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