Show Date: March 21, 1991
Airdate: April 7, 1991
Venue: Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan)
Commentators: Jim Ross & Tony Schiavone
After weeks of hearing about it in vague terms, now it’s time to see this Japan Supershow for myself. WCW held the event in conjunction with New Japan Pro Wrestling in March, but WCW waited until April to present it to American audiences. Sadly a lot of the matches are clipped and some didn’t even make the PPV. Oh well. Hopefully it’ll still be a fun watch. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a real big show to sink my teeth into, so I’m hungry for it.
NOTE: due to the clipped nature of this event, the ratings presented for most of these matches should be taken with an even bigger grain of salt than usual.
- WCW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair
- IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Tatsumi Fujinami
- IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Jushin “Thunder” Liger
- WCW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner)
- IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki
- Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, & Tim Horner vs. Takayuki Iizuka, Kuniaki Kobayashi, & Shiro Koshinaka (***)
- Jushin Liger [c] vs. Akira Nogami for the IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (***)
- Masahiro Chono & Masa Saito vs. Arn Anderson & Barry Windham (***1/2)
- El Gigante vs. The Big Cat (NR)
- The Steiner Brothers [WCW] vs. Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki [IWGP] for the WCW and IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS (****)
- Sting vs. The Great Muta (***1/2)
- Ric Flair [WCW] vs. Tatsumi Fujinami [IWGP] for the NWA AND IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIPS (***)
-Ross and Schiavone welcome the home audience, a match appearing to be going on behind them somewhere. Sting/Muta and Flair/Fujinami get most of the love in the hype. Ringside seats apparently sold for 250 bucks, which in 1991 money is 5.1 million dollars. I think. I’m not good at inflation math.
-Cut to video of Flair and Fujinami signing the contract for their title vs. title match, which will have a mix of both NJPW and WCW rules, as well as the signing for the IWGP Tag Team Title match. Afterwards everyone eats a big ol’ buffet, including Jim Herd. He is confused for his experience with food is mostly pizza-based. Cut to a shot of Arn Anderson buying a kimono, which is HILARIOUS to me for some reason.
“Flyin” Brian Pillman, “The Z-Man” Tom Zenk, & “White Lightning” Tim Horner vs. Takayuki Iizuka, Kuniaki Kobayashi, & Shiro Koshinaka
The canvas and ring skirt are calling this show “Starrcade in Tokyo Dome” which is interesting. Zenk and Kobayashi start off, the latter trapping the former in an abdominal stretch. Horner breaks it up illegally, Pillman tags in and connects with a leaping clothesline, but Iizuka breaks up the pinfall attempt. Kobayashi sweeps the leg, Koshinaka tags in and they turn him into a wishbone. Pillman fights back though and regains control, tagging out to Horner for an armbar that transitions into a sidewalk slam for a two-count. Zenk tags in and he and Pillman connect with a double dropkick on Koshinaka, shades of their successful tag team from 1990. Iizuka tags in, Pillman hits a catapult splash but his team helps break it up. Pillman seats Iizuka on the top and dropkicks him off, then follows up with a splash on the floor. NICE. Horner tags in and covers following a snap suplex but Iizuka kicks out. Belly-to-back suplex, Iizuka kicks out once again. Pillman tags in and he and Horner hit Demolition Decapitation of Iizuka for the 1…2…Iizuka barely kicks out in time. Zenk tags in and it’s a missile dropkick for the 1…Kobayashi pulls him off. Horner tags in with a spinning splash and covers, but only gets a one-count as Nick Patrick just sorta…stops counting? That was weird. Team WCW continues wearing Iizuka down with quick tags and double-team moves, Zenk drilling Iizuka with a piledriver for the 1…2…Iizuka gets his hand under the bottom rope. Iizuka hits Pillman and Horner with a double dropkick, Koshinaka pops the crowd with a butt bump, Kobayashi clears Pillman from the ring, and Iizuka pins Horner with a bridging Dragon Suplex for the win.
Takayuki Iizuka, Kuniaki Kobayashi, & Shiro Koshinaka defeated Brian Pillman, Tom Zenk, & Tim Horner when Iizuka pinned Horner with a Dragon Suplex (6:52 shown)
- Good match to start the special, props to Ross and Schiavone for explaining the “Japanese rules” all of these matches (save for the main event, remember that) will be contested under. They are doing their best to acclimate us dumb Americans into how NJPW do things and I appreciate that. Action was fast-paced, Iizuka seemed like the guy they wanted to push and he got the win for his team over Horner, the one who wouldn’t lose anything by taking the L since he’s lower on the totem pole than Pillman and Z-Man. (***)
-Ross and Schiavone talk about the next match which is for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Schiavone calls Jushin Liger “JUSH-IN THUNDER LIG-UR” which is hilarious and very white, then brings up the fact that Liger’s opponent Akira Nogami lost in his bid to win the title a year ago but hasn’t wrestled in Japan since then.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger [c] vs. Akira Nogami for the IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Nogami’s entrance attire reminds me of Oni from Saturday Night Slam Masters on the SNES. This is Liger’s debut WCW appearance, and he will factor in more in America at the year’s end. Can’t wait for that. I believe this one is heavily clipped so I’m going to review the parts we get to see. Schiavone is saying Liger’s name correctly in the commentary, I’m glad he figured it out.
Liger goes right at Nogami, sending him to the floor with a spinning heel kick followed by a top rope cannonball that has the normally quiet Tokyo crowd going WILD. Liger tries a slingshot plancha, Nogami counters him on the way down with a dropkick and both are dazed, Nogami favoring his knee. Nogami tries a victory roll, Liger counters with a roll-up for the 1…2…kickout. Quick shot of the crowd so they can clip the match, back to the match and Liger tries a Tombstone but his ankle gives out. Nogami stomps the ankle repeatedly and goes for a Figure Four, Liger counters with an inside cradle for the 1…2…Nogami kicks out. Nogami’s face paint is gone by this point. Nogami dropkicks Liger and heads to top, Liger sidesteps and Nogami goes face-first into the unforgiving canvas. Liger with a regular power bomb followed by a proper Liger Bomb for the 1…2…Nogami kicks out! Nogami escapes a piledriver but doesn’t escape a lariat. Liger seats Nogami on the top of the corner and connects with an AVALANCHE DDT for the 1…2…3.
Jushin Liger [c] defeated Akira Nogami via pinfall with an Avalanche DDT to retain the IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (4:04 shown)
- I would have loved to see this whole match, but the 4 minutes or so we got were action-packed and a nice highlight reel so I won’t complain too much. Jushin Liger is the best. (***)
Masahiro Chono & Masa Saito vs. Barry Windham & “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson
MASA MY HERO CHONO! Hell yeah. This is Arn Anderson’s first-ever match in Japan according to the commentary. That’s surprising. Windham and Anderson started off 1991 in WCW appearing to be building to a tag team run but then it hasn’t really happened despite some fun vignettes building it up. Chono was trained by the legendary Lou Thesz, and has adopted Thesz’s STF as his own finisher.
Windham with a snapmare, Chono immediately counters with a hammerlock. Chono with a series of kicks as Saito holds him in place. Saito tags in proper and grabs an armbar, rolling through an armdrag. Windham bails to his corner and tags in Anderson. Chono drops Anderson with a shoulderblock, Anderson does the same off the next Irish whip. Ross calls Saito the “Japanese Rick Steiner” but Saito started first so Steiner is really the “American Masa Saito”. Saito with a single leg takedown, Anderson kicks him off and they reset once again. Windham tags in and drops a double ax on Saito while Anderson holds him in place. Saito dodges an elbowdrop and they reset once more. Chono tags himself in and trades strikes with Windham. Windham hits a Saito Suplex (HA!) on Chono and bridges for a two-count. Chono with a headscissors, Windham kicks out of it and connects with a gnarly right followed by a DDT. Anderson tags in, Chono slams him off the top corner and takes flight himself, connecting with a flying shoulderblock. Chono goes for the STF, Windham immediately clobbers him from behind to stop it. Chono sends Windham to the floor and follows up with a tope suicida. Back in the ring Chono hooks Anderson in an abdominal stretch, Windham with another double ax to break that up, earning boos from the crowd.
Windham connects with a vertical suplex, floating over into a lateral press for the 1…2…Chono kicks out. Anderson hooks in an abdominal stretch, using Windham for extra leverage out of the ref’s view. Chono counters a backdrop with a kick and tags in Saito. Anderson kicks Saito immediately and clobbers him to the mat. Saito HULKS THE F*CK UP and lays into Anderson leading into a Saito Suplex. Windham runs in, Saito drills him with a Saito Suplex as well. Windham catches Saito with a lariat behind the ref’s back and Anderson covers for the 1…2…3!
Arn Anderson & Barry Windham defeated Masahiro Chono & Masa Saito when Anderson pinned Saito following a lariat from Windham (7:44 shown)
- Fun tag team match that makes me even more sad WCW gave up on the Anderson/Windham team. How good would they have been against The Steiners at a Clash or something? Ughhh. Windham seemed to take a lot of joy angering the Japanese crowd, getting a rise out of them when normally they stay quiet for most of the action. This PPV special is great so far. (***1/2)
-Fans at Japanese concession stands get sushi and egg rolls instead of hot dogs. IT’S ALMOST LIKE IT’S A DIFFERENT CULTURE.
El Gigante vs. The Big Cat
Cat is weeks-deep into his Mr. Hughes transformation at this point, even when they taped the match, so it’s weird to see him revert to The Big Cat for this event. Tokyo comes UNGLUED at the sight of El Gigante. We all remember him as one of the worst wrestlers in history or whatever, but the dude was legitimately over with people on sight alone. HE EVEN GETS STREAMERS DURING THE INTRODUCTION. Ross and Schiavone put over the official Bill Alfonso for his referee experience. Seeing pre-ECW Alfonso is always fun, especially since there’s no whistle involved.
Gigante brushes off all of Cat’s offense and clobbers him to his knees. Gigante gets Cat in place and POP HUGE for a goddamn vertical suplex tease (not so much for the execution). Gigante with an Irish whip and a jump kick, followed by the Iron Claw for the 1…2…3.
El Gigante defeated The Big Cat via pinfall with the Claw (2:16)
- EL GIGANTE IS OVER, BROTHER! (NR)
The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott Steiner) [WCW] vs. Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki [IWGP] for the WCW WORLD TAG TEAM & IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Steiner Brothers have already been seen on WCW TV with both sets of titles, so we all know how this one ends but I’m excited to watch it play out.
Scott and Hase do the amateur wrestling thing to start, Scott breaks it up with a suplex which Hase takes on his head. Hase ducks a Steinerline and connects with a hook kick then clotheslines Scott out to the floor. Hase gets on all fours, Rick tags in and runs around the ring barking. Hase wants none of that and Sasaki gets the tag as the crowd ERUPTS. Sasaki brings Rick to the mat with a judo throw into a side headlock. Rick tries a leapfrog, Sasaki catches him into a powerslam followed by a running bulldog and a MASSIVE lariat (a Sasakiline, if you will). DAYUM. Hase tags in, Rick grabs a front facelock and tags Scott back in who hits a pumphandle slam. Scott follows up WITH A FRIGGIN’ AVALANCHE ANGLE SLAM FROM THE MIDDLE BUCKLE and celebrates instead of covers. I would have done the same thing, that was awesome. Rick tags in and rams Hase into the corner followed by a Steinerline. Scott back in for a belly-to-belly suplex and a lateral press for a two-count. Hase strikes Scott, Scott hits back and connects with a DDT, tagging to Rick instead of making the cover. Rick sits Hase in the corner and hits a SUPER OVERHEAD RELEASE BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPLEX for the 1…2…Sasaki breaks it up. Scott tags in and belts Hase with a Steinerline off a whip from Rick. PEARL RIVER PLUNGE FROM SCOTTY STEINER for the 1…2…Sasaki breaks it up again.
Hase kicks Scott and belts both Steiner Brothers with back-to-back urinages. Sasaki gets the HOT HOT TAG, dropkicks to both bros and a powerslam on Rick for the 1…2…Scott breaks it up and pummels Sasaki extra. Sasaki with a running powerslam, Hase tags in and Sasaki superplexes Hase onto Rick, then Hase hits a bridging Northern Lights suplex for the 1…2…Rick kicks out! Rick and Hase charge and drop one another with double clotheslines. Scott tags in and connects with a tilt-a-whirl slam on Hase, Sasaki tags in and counters a backdrop with a sorta DDT. Sasaki picks Scott on his shoulders, Rick kicks Sasaki and they fall, then Rick slams Hase off the top corner. Scott picks Sasaki on his shoulders, DOOMSDAY BULLDOG. Scott pulls the straps down and connects with the Frankensteiner for the 1…2…3!
The Steiner Brothers defeated Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki to win the IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP and retain the WCW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (9:50 shown)
- Steiners in their prime vs. a tremendous Japanese tag team? OF COURSE THIS RULED. Man this might have been the best match I’ve seen from 1991 WCW so far. Great hard-hitting match that didn’t waste a second, you couldn’t ask for much more. (****)
The Steiner Brothers are presented with the IWGP Tag Team Title belts as well as various trophies. NJPW apparently has a good trophy hookup. Both teams shake hands and embrace.
Sting vs. The Great Muta
Sting and Muta had a helluva feud over the Television Title in 1989 and I believe this is the first time they’ve wrestled since Muta returned to Japan full-time. Muta is also in my top two all-time so don’t expect a lot of objective analysis whenever he shows up on Legacy of WCW. Sting is rocking his Great American Bash 1990 gear, complete with the American flag Beatles jacket. Both sides of the ring are flanked by WCW/NJPW talent.
Muta attacks Sting at the bell, going in early with the back-handspring elbow. Muta connects with the backbreaker and goes for the Moonsault. Sting moves, Muta lands on his feet and after a series of kicks sends Sting to the floor, IMMEDIATELY following up with a slingshot splash and celebrating with EVIL RED MIST. Yesssssssssssss. Back in the ring Sting shows off his strength and tosses Muta to the floor with a military press, the WCW contingent moving so he can hit nothing but mat. Sting follows up with a slingshot crossbody of his own, then rolls Muta back in for a front chancery. Muta backs Sting in the corner and escapes with a shoulder to the midsection. Muta wrenches in a standing side headlock, Sting whips him off and gets dropped with a shoulderblock. Sting responds with a monkey flip that Muta takes like a belly flop. Muta plays some dirty pool, using his taped fingers to rip at Sting’s eyes. Sting ducks a spin kick and connects with a deep one-handed faceslam. Muta rolls to the floor, Sting follows him out and drops him sternum-first across the guardrail. Muta gets to the apron, Sting rams him against the corner padding (I don’t know what to call it, it’s one solid turnbuckle). Back in the ring Sting goes for the Scorpion Death Lock but Muta gets to the rope as soon as he’s able to turn it over.
Muta with a snapmare followed by the flailing elbowdrop of doom for the 1…2…Sting kicks out and Muta settles into a chinlock. Muta releases the hold so he can drive the point of his elbow to the bridge of the nose, telling the fans to stick it via sign language. Sting dodges the handspring elbow, Muta dodges the Stinger Splash and both men are dazed. Muta with the backbreaker, Sting counters the Moonsault with a pair of knees. Sting tries a military press again, Muta falls on top for the 1…2…Sting kicks out, favoring his elbow. Muta with another backbreaker and goes to the top, Sting dropkicks him (sorta, it’s a glancing blow) and Muta gets crotched on the steel. Sting follows up with a belly-to-back suplex from the middle buckle for the 1…2…Muta barely gets the shoulder up. Muta dodges a flying elbowdrop, both men clothesline and dropkick one another. Muta’s leg lands on top of Sting but it’s not a real pinfall so the ref doesn’t make a count. Fair enough. Sting counters a hip toss with a backslide for the 1…2…Muta kicks out. Muta counters a slam with an inside cradle for the 1…2…Sting kicks out! Sting hooks in the Scorpion Death Lock but never really sits down on it and Muta gets to the ropes. Action moves to the floor, Sting rams Muta’s head into the guardrail. Back in the ring Sting takes flight for the Stinger Splash, Muta sprays him with EVIL GREEN MIST and connects with a crossbody for the 1…2…3!
The Great Muta defeated Sting via pinfall with a crossbody (11:43)
- Eyyy we got the full match here! This started off hot with both men taking high risks and trying to rip each other apart before settling into a more traditional wrestling match. It was good but the opening few minutes were so fun and intense that settling into chinlocks and sh*t felt like a downgrade. Loved seeing Muta hit his signature spots as well as the ending with the mist and crossbody. Good stuff here but I think their NWA matches were better. I could be misremembering though, I’m wont to do that. (***1/2)
Sting attacks Muta after, hitting the Stinger Splash and locking in the Scorpion Death Lock until he’s pried off by both WCW and NJPW guys.
–Ric Flair makes his entrance surrounded by American women in swimsuits, one carrying the American flag. Interestingly enough the English announcer calls him the NWA World Champion, not the WCW World Champion. Hmmmm. The U.S. and Japanese national anthems are played before the match begins. The ring mat is COVERED in blood, apparently one of the matches that didn’t make tape in the WCW special went full Starrcade ’85.
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair [c] vs. “The Dragon” Tatsumi Fujinami [c] for the WCW (NWA?) WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP and the IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Jim Ross goes over the rules: 20 count on the floor, title can’t change on countout and DQ, over the top rope rule has been waived…but then Ross says the same thing will happen in this one as it would in an American match (a DQ). Which one is it, man?
Bell rings and the crowd GOES CRAZY as the two circle one another. Fujinami backs Flair into the corner, referee Bill Alfonso gets in between to break them up. Fujinami with a shoulderblock off the Irish whip, Flair takes his time getting up. Flair with a shoulderblock of his own followed by a side headlock, but Fujinami quickly counters with a belly-to-back suplex. Fujinami locks in the Dragon Sleeper, Flair quickly gets to the ropes before he can really feel the effects. Almost over just like that. Flair and Fujinami trade chops, Fujinami with a hip toss followed by a dropkick. Flair bails to the floor and moves away from the ropes so Fujinami can’t fly at him. Smart. Fujinami counters a hip toss with one of his own and it’s back to the side headlock takeover. Flair backs Fujinami to the corner and escapes, lighting the Dragon up with another chop followed by a right hand squarely on the jaw. Fujinami reverses a corner whip and connects with a backdrop. Flair counters a headlock with a belly-to-back suplex, Fujinami dodges a back elbow and Flair dodges a clothesline (or they mucked it up and Flair covered for it, either way). Fujinami hip tosses Flair out of the corner, Flair dodges a dropkick and goes to work on his left leg. Flair goes for the kneedrop but MISSES so Ross covers for him on commentary. Ha! Fujinami trips Flair up with a drop toehold and applies a Scorpion Death Lock! I don’t know what it’s called outside of that or the Sharpshooter, forgive me.
Fujinami transitions out and applies an STO with a reverse chinlock, then transitions into a regular chinlock. Flair counters by throwing Fujinami off, Fujinami ducks an elbow and belts Flair with a clothesline for the 1…2…Flair gets the right shoulder up. Flair connects with an inverted atomic drop. Flair heads to the top. Fujinami tries to slam him but Flair slides off and drops him throat-first on the top rope. YES! I love it whenever that spot gets changed up. Flair throws Fujinami over the first guardrail, Fujinami beats the 20-count but gets stomped back to the floor. Flair pulls Fujinami in, they trade chops which the latter wins. Fujinami counters an Irish whip and sends Flair to the canvas with a backdrop. Flair drives a knee to the gut and follows up with a swinging neckbreaker for the 1…2…Fujinami kicks out. Flair successfully drops the knee across Fujinami’s nose and connects with a butterfly suplex for the 1…2…Dragon is still in it. Flair shows off some strength with a delayed vertical suplex but takes awhile to cover and Fujinami is able to kick out. Flair with a glancing blow kneedrop and Fujinami kicks out once again!
Fujinami lights Flair up with chops, Flair rakes the eyes and connects with a snapmare. Flair goes to the top, Fujinami slams him off (there it is). Oh man Fujinami’s chest is bruised to sh*t. Flair flips over the buckle and gets sent to the floor from a dropkick. Fujinami rams Flair into the guardrail and he’s BUSTED OPEN. Fujinami does the same around the ring and rolls Flair in, focusing his right hands to Flair’s open wound. Flair catches a kick, Fujinami counters with an enzuigiri for the 1…2…Flair kicks out emphatically. Flair begs for mercy, Fujinami keeps it going with a backdrop and clothesline for the 1…2…Flair barely gets his shoulder up. Flair gets caught in a tree of woe, Fujinami goes a stompin’ until Alfonso gets him unhooked. Flair drives a knee into Fujinami, Fujinami escapes a suplex and rolls him for the 1…2…Flair kicks out. Fujinami with a belly-to-back suplex for the 1…2…Flair gets his foot on the bottom rope and rolls to the floor. Fujinami follows him out and they brawl. They enter the ring, Flair accidentally bumps Alfonso. Fujinami counters a clothesline with a backslide but the only pin he has is visual. Flair charges at Fujinami who backdrops him over the top rope but the ref didn’t see it so the DQ isn’t called (okay I guess that is a thing). Fujinami rolls Flair up again for the 1…2…3!
Tatsumi Fujinami [c] defeated Ric Flair [c] via pinfall to win the NWA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP and the IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (23:07)
- A little slower than I would have liked and had some odd miscues, but otherwise it was a good main event. I do love a good Flair blade job. I’m just confused at what’s supposed to be happening here. Fujinami isn’t the WCW World Champion I think, and they announced the title as the NWA World Championship despite WCW having split from the NWA back in January so he won…something? (***)
Fujinami is given the belts and the trophies, while Schiavone keeps bringing up the fact he tossed Flair over the top and should have been disqualified. Hence the CONTROVERSY they’ve been vaguely bringing up on TV the past few weeks.
-Jim Ross is in the conference room of the Tokyo Dome. Ross brings up Fujinami tossing Flair over the top rope, then cuts to comments from a mist-covered Sting. Sting wants a rematch with Muta. We then cut back to Ross, Fujinami being interviewed inaudibly behind Ross. Bill Alfonso saw this happen and wasn’t the ref who made the count for Fujinami’s win. Speak of the devil in comes an enraged Nature Boy who yells at Fujinami while being held back by Arn Anderson and Barry Windham. Flair wants a rematch in America and steals the belt back. Well dang! Fujinami says he pinned Flair 1-2-3 and wants the championship returned to him as the show ends.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Japan Supershow I is a tremendously fun show, even with a lot of the matches being clipped or outright kept off the PPV airing in America. It was a nice change of pace from the usual stuff we’ve been seeing on WCW TV, and WCW should be commended for introducing American fans to this different style of pro wrestling. The Flair/Fujinami schmozz at the end was a little strange and felt like a reach in order to keep the Japanese fans happy without Flair having to actually lose the World Title, but I’m interested to see what they do on TV to build to the inevitable rematch. Damn shame this isn’t on the WWE Network but if you can find this elsewhere, or the uncut version from Japan, I highly recommend it. Easily the best PPV from WCW so far in 1991…though it’s only their second so that’s not really saying a ton.