Saturday, 15 September 2007

WCW/NJPW Rumble in the Rising Sun - Retro Review

This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us taking a trip to the other side of the world and back in time to 1991, as World Championship Wrestling teamed up with their New Japan Pro Wrestling counterparts to present Rumble in the Rising Sun, held before a sell-out crowd at the Tokyo Dome. Our hosts for the show are a pre-cowboy Jim Ross and a pre-diet Tony Schivane.

We start out by taking a look at what the stars of WCW got up to in Tokyo the week before the show, including the contract signing for the title v title bout between Ric Flair and Tatsumi Fujinami.

Then it’s on to our first match of the evening, six man tag action as Tom Zenk, Brian Pillman and Tim Horner take on Takayuki Iizuka, Kuniaki Kobayashi and Shiro Koshinaka. The WCW team showed some great teamwork, especially Zenk and Pillman as Iizuka took a lot of punishment, before the NJPW team fought back, and Iizuka pinned Horner with a bridging full nelson suplex.

Then it’s time for our first title bout as Jushin Liger defends his IWGP Junior Heavyweight title against Akira Nogami. A fast paced bout here, and a great example of Liger in his prime, as he overcomes Nogami’s attack on his injured ankle and takes him out with a top rope DDT to retain his title.

Back to tag-team action, as Four Horseman members Barry Windham and Arn Anderson take on Masa Chono and Masa Saito. After the Horsemen double-up on Chono for a while, Saito managed to get the tag, and it looks like he’s about to win the match for his team after a Saito-suplex on Anderson, before Windham comes into the ring and takes him down with a lariat, allowing Anderson to get the pin.

Time for a battle of the big men, as Big Cat, otherwise known as Mr. Hughes the bodyguard, takes on the enormous El Gigante. Thankfully, this bout doesn’t last that long as the bigger man dominates and pins the Cat while applying the claw to his head. It makes you realise just how bad Gigante was here.

Thankfully, normal service is resumed straight away as WCW tag champs the Steiners take on IWGP tag champs Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki in a title v title bout. An excellent bout here between two teams at the top of their games, a fine example of what tag-team wrestling should be, and an exampled of how great Scott Steiner was before he put on all that muscle mass. After tons of great action, the Steiners got the win and the IWGP titles after Rick took Sasaki down with a top rope bulldog, and Scott finished him off with the Frankensteiner.

Then it’s time for an old rivalry to be renewed as the Great Muta goes up against his old nemesis Sting, the two having had a long rivalry over in America. What you have here is a bout with great intensity between two old rivals in the prime of their career. Sting and Muta put on a hell of a show here, a great match, which ended controversially. As Sting went for a Stinger Splash in the corner, Muta sprayed him in the eyes with his green mist and got the pin moments later. An enraged Sting attacked Muta after the bell, locking in the Scorpion Deathlock.

On to our main event, the second title v title bout, as IWGP champ Tatsumi Fujinami takes on his WCW counterpart, Ric Flair. It’s important to note here that this bout is contested under WCW rules, and not New Japan rules. This was the proverbial knock down, drag out affair between two wrestlers at the height of their powers, with some great wrestling from both men, ending in very controversial circumstances. After referee Bill Alfonso got accidentally hit by Flair and went outside the ring, Fujinami threw Flair over the top rope, which was illegal in WCW at the time. As Alfonso continued to recover outside, Japanese referee Tiger Hatori made the count as Fujinami covered Flair, and the Japanese star was declared WCW World Champion, while a dazed Alfonso said he saw what had happened as he left the arena, and that Fujinami was actually disqualified.

At the press conference afterwards, as Fujinami is talking to the press, Flair stormed into the room and reclaimed the WCW title belt, leaving Fujinami as the show came to an end, and setting up the main event for WCW’s first Superbrawl pay-per-view.

In conclusion - I had waited fifteen years to see this show after reading about it in Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 1991, and apart from the Big Cat/El Gigante match, it was well worth the wait. The event built up nicely until we got to a main event that was filled with drama, intensity and controversy, and while WCW will always be remembered for the controversies and appalling business decision, fans must also remember the great shows that the company were capable of putting on. If you can get your hands on a copy of this sadly rare show, then do so. You won’t be disappointed.

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