The collection of matches and segments I am watching for this series come from a 1992 Yearbook created by Goodhelmet, a longtime poster at the Death Valley Driver Forum and other wrestling places. A cross-section of the best (and worst of wrestling within a certain year), it is a great snapshot of everything of importance. The footage is taken from August 12-14.
As has been the way for many years, G1 Climax Finals night isn’t just about the end of the tournament as NJPW stacked the card, offering something for everyone. For those who are fans of the Junior Heavyweights, Jushin Liger went up against Pegasus Kid, defending the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title in the process. The initial exchanges were great for setting the tone as some traded arm drags gave way to two shoves by Kid to establish that he could outmuscle the champion if needed. Liger’s own strength was soon highlighted following a shoulder block, made all the better for Liger using a muscle pose to mock the challenger. However, it was often Kid who bullied Liger during the match, shrugging off what had been a pretty stiff baseball slide to chuck the champion around with a press slam amongst other things.
There felt like there was a need for Liger to go above and beyond to keep Kid down, which he did when landing a rolling senton to the outside and a top rope belly to belly. Kid’s best chance seemed to have been and passed after a German and full nelson suplex had both achieved nearfalls, but he was able to once more demonstrate his power to block an attempted top rope move and turn it into a superbomb for the victory and the title. This was a good title match and a pretty comprehensive win by Kid. Liger wasn’t to be kept down though and would soon be gunning after his title once more.
A match that I expected to start at a much quicker pace was the tag contest between The Steiners and the team of Keiji Muto and Kensuke Sasaki. However, things were a bit more tentative with some early feeling out as the crowd were very excited by the eventual prospect of Rick and Sasaki in particular locking up. It took five minutes before the first ‘big moves’ to land – overhead belly to belly suplexes by the Steiners – though they were soon being mocked as Muto used a spinkick and Sasaki nailed a top rope clothesline, the natives ending up in a similar taunt to the trademark Steiner pose much to the crowd’s enjoyment.
Perhaps surprisingly, Scott was the wrestler who was isolated for the first real stretch of control, with Muto hitting his cartwheel back elbow at ringside as well as a neat looking to rope knee to his standing opponent. When the tide turned, it was primarily through an impressive stomach first dump of Sasaki into the corner by Rick. The slower start gave way to the bombs I had expected to be thrown earlier on in the contest, though initially sloppy in execution: Sasaki wasn’t the smoothest but nailed a powerslam on a Steiner, before Rick tried to turn a moonsault into a belly to belly in a spot that hurt due to him being out of position. Another weird spot followed shortly after as Scott used the middle rope rather than the turnbuckle to get up for a Doomsday Device-esque clothesline, thus not allowing him to get enough spring in his leap. Finally, an assisted top rope DDT – ouch – was enough to put Muto away. The Steiners in Japan are always fun, though they have had better outings.
I hadn’t realized when first writing about these matches that this was not only for the G1 Climax, but for the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Championship meaning Rick Rude or Masahiro Chono would go home the new champion. What has been really eye-opening for me in the road to the G-1 Climax is how much heat Rude got from the Japanese fans. I guess simple ‘I’m better looking and more in shape than you’-style spiel travels well, though Rude did decide to throw in some casual racism this time with a reference to ‘nips’. What also helps is that Rude is always happy to bump and look outmatched for stretches during his matches and that is how things by and large begin – Rude is outworked and out-thought by Chono, including a neat spot where Chono avoided a chin breaker to break his sleeper hold, slapping the move back on immediately afterward.
The crowd is all in on Chono, so when Rude does take over and grabs near falls from a top rope dropkick and a swinging neck breaker, they couldn’t be more behind their chosen champion. At points, it is difficult to tell how much of the sloppiness in some of the exchanges was selling or from legitimate tiredness, but it only served to add to the epic feel of the match. The two men traded superplexes partway through, whilst Chono came out the best of the always-impressive tombstone reversal spot. Rude always seemed one step ahead for a large chunk of the match, yet Chono had the crowd on their feet when he kicked out of a top rope knee drop and also applied his trademark STF.
Just as it looked like Chono was pushing for victory, Rude took the low road and pitched Chono to the outside. Rather than give Rude any respite, it instead set Chono up for the finish as he took Rude out with a top rope shoulder block. The crowd went ballistic – legitimately one of the biggest responses I’ve heard. Unfortunately, after this great contest, I have to eventually wade through their offering at Halloween Havoc which I’m assured by the internet is a ton worse.
From the sublime of the G1 Climax to the ridiculous of the Bungee Match…yeah, you read that right. This was a gimmick match that I often forget existed, or my mind attempted to wipe it from my memory. However, this is the first time I actually have the chance to see the match in full. Things aren’t made much better by the blandest of bland promos pre-match by Chaz, who is up against Steven Dane, a guy who won’t have any help from Alexis or Skandor Akbar in this contest. Not content with the two men being up on a crane, Alexis was actually put in a cage in order to stop her…interfering? Even Manny Fernandez on commentary questioned the method behind this madness.
Dane initially refused to get into the cage, only to be forced by a number of what appeared to be random jobbers. This was all supposed to be tense and exciting but missed the mark completely. Between the lighting and the positioning of the camera, you can barely see anything before the ‘match’ began, let alone when they were “190 feet in the air”. For a brief moment, something exciting happened as Dane was stomping on Chaz, only to get grabbed by the cord and chucked out of the cage. They try and drag some more excitement out of it by Dane pulling Chaz’s cord and sending him flying as the cage was being lowered, yet he didn’t seem unduly concerned when he began the celebrations at ground level. If anything, the promo to follow was even worse than the one before as Chaz talked about how his life flashed ‘between his eyes’, before screaming several times to try and sell the excitement. This was awful from start to finish.
Things finish with an interesting handheld (and not available online, unfortunately) snapshot of pre-PG-13 Wolfie D and JC Ice as they did battle in a promotion in Kentucky – or at least that was what I could find out. As was to be expected, the two men offered up a match that was fundamentally sound and drew on some of the local wrestling in terms of its influence: a clear face/heel dynamic, some weapon use and the eventual involvement of a manager for interference purposes. The match was pretty clearly split into two sections as JC Ice took control to begin with, only to eat a chair shot from Wolfie D as the match headed past the five-minute mark. Some classic heeling such as using the ropes for leverage followed, but a missed moonsault served as the spot that allowed Ice to mount his comeback…or so it seemed, until the aforementioned manager tripped Ice mid-suplex and stole the victory for his charge. Sloppy in places and pretty basic, but fun for the most part.
Some good to great action from Japan and an all-time case for worst gimmick match represent the peaks and troughs of 1992 this week as That Was The Year That Was.