All Japan Pro Wrestling held a card in Ueda which was headlined by Jumbo Tsuruta and Isao Takagi taking on Genichiro Tenryu and Toshiaki Kawada in a very good ***1/2 match. Once again, Jumbo’s team was victorious when Tenryu became overzealous. Tenryu was on the losing end of most of his matches at this point. While nothing had been announced publicly yet, we can surmise that Baba knew of his plans to leave the company and join the upstart SWS in the near future.
Jerry Lawler defied laws of physics when he found a way to be present in two places at once, appearing on the live Saturday morning USWA shows in Memphis and Dallas simultaneously. In truth, Lawler was in Dallas, but taped a segment earlier in the week with his obnoxiously oversized cell phone where he refused to come inside the building because he could not get a reception, which aired as if it was live in Memphis. Also on the Memphis show, a long-form Jeff Jarrett music video aired. Much like the 80s videos for the Rock & Roll Express and Fabulous Ones, they aimed for an actual MTV video feel here, as the beginning had Jarrett hitting the snooze on the alarm to start his day and shower while Bon Jovi’s “Born To Be My Baby” provided the soundtrack. We later saw him interviewed by a radio station disc jockey, who called him the “new sensation”, which segued to the INXS song of the same name. Back in Dallas, Lawler worked a match with Junkyard Dog that was not really good, but was probably the best match JYD was capable of having at that point of his career.
On WWF Superstars, Ted DiBiase and Virgil attempted to reclaim the Million Dollar Belt that was recently stolen by Jake Roberts and placed in the bag with his snake Damian for safe keeping. DiBiase sent Virgil to do the dirty work, but he took off running after accidental contact with the snake. Also on the show, Hulk Hogan was a guest on The Brother Love Show and teased a possible confrontation with the Ultimate Warrior at the Royal Rumble the following day.
The Four Horsemen teamed to take on Sting, Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers in a ***1/2 match in a special Sunday edition of World Championship Wrestling, which carried over into WCW Main Event. The match was taped in Perry, GA, on January 7. All the pairings delivered, but surprisingly, the Rick Steiner-Sid section of the match stood out from the pack in a positive way. Also on the show, footage from The Meadowlands aired where Ric Flair had a verbal confrontation with Scott Steiner, which set up their match at Clash of the Champions, and Paul E. Dangerously cut a hilarious promo in a gym – while not really doing anything except talking – where he said he represented the entire male species in the upcoming battle of the sexes (arm wrestling) at the Clash of the Champions.
Road Dogg had one of the best matches of his career in the USWA television studio, when he teamed with Tracy Smothers against PG-13 in a *** encounter. They took the old school path and went after JC Ice’s knee to build the heat. The match will not change your world, but it was fundamentally sound and aggressive with good psychology.
Ric Flair and Randy Savage had a split screen debate on WCW Saturday Night. In a cool line, Flair talked about his recent title win resulted in him winning “an even baker’s dozen”, which made me wish he could have been a 12-time champ a little longer if only so he could rattle off that line a few more times. Flair namedropped Miss Elizabeth for the first time in the interview, as she would be returning to pro wrestling shortly.
All Japan Women ran a show at the Ota Ward Gymnasium in Tokyo, drawing a sellout 3,850 fans. In the main event, WWWA World Champion Kyoko Inoue defeated IWA and All Pacific champion Takako Inoue to create AJW’s version of the Triple Crown, which was short-lived. Also on the card, Kaoru Ito wrestled Aja Kong to a 30-minute draw in AJW’s attempt to elevate Ito. AJW was in financial straits at the time because of their inability to create a new generation of stars.
All Japan ran a show in Osaka in front of 5,500 fans where Mitsuharu Misawa defeated Kenta Kobashi in a ***** match to win the AJPW Triple Crown for the third time. It was a masterpiece from start to finish, among the very top matches of the decade. Misawa’s title victory even received coverage on the evening news, where he was in studio to be interviewed and clips of the match were shown. Also, a strong sub-five minute match happened on the undercard when Jun Akiyama scored an upset over Akira Taue in a ***1/2 match.
WWF Monday Night RAW aired live from Beaumont, TX in front of 4,834 fans. In the highlight of the show, Bret Hart “quit” the WWF in protest of the finish at the Royal Rumble. WWF President Gorilla Monsoon responded by signing Bret Hart vs Undertaker vs Vader vs Steve Austin for the WrestleMania title at shot at the In Your House: Final Four pay-per-view if Bret would accept the invitation, which he did later in the evening. Bret showed early signs of a heel turn in this segment with his incessant whining, which is a bit of a surprise considering that he was not even approached about turning heel until two weeks before WrestleMania XIII. The show did a disappointing 2.2 rating.
WCW Monday Nitro aired live from Chicago’s United Center in front of 17,000 fans. In a tremendous angle to kick off the show, Randy Savage returned to WCW by coming out of the crowd and announcing that he had been blackballed. He sat in the middle of the ring as part of a sit-in strike until he spoke to “someone with stroke”. Sting finally descended from the rafters and confronted Savage, and the two left together after some mind games. The show drew a strong 3.7 rating, besting RAW by a full point and a half.
BattlARTS held a card in Tokyo highlighted by a ***1/2 match between Yuki Ishikawa and Alexander Otsuka. There are better BattlARTS matches, but this stood out for incorporating pro-style moves like dropkicks, vertical suplexes and even a giant swing in a shoot-style context.
In The “To Watch” Queue:
Tiger Mask & Kenta Kobashi vs British Bulldogs (AJPW 01/20/90)
Espectrito, La Parkita & Jerrito Estrada vs Mascarita Sagrada, Octagoncito & Micro Konnan (AAA 01/20/94)
Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue & Takao Omori (AJPW 01/20/95)
Eddy Guerrero vs Chris Benoit (WCW Saturday Night 01/20/96) (Part 1) (Part 2)
La Parka vs Pierroth Jr. (AAA 01/20/96)
Jushin Liger & El Samurai vs Shinjiro Otani & Koji Kanemoto (NJPW 01/20/97)