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Default August 11th, 2002: Japan Supershow

August 11th, 2002

From Nagoya Rainbow Hall in Nagoya, Japan

Attendance: 11,000 (sell-out!)

Announce Team: "The Professor" Mike Tenay and Bret "The Hitman" Hart

Official Theme Song: "Cosmopolitan Bloodloss" by Glassjaw

Manami Toyota vs. Shinobu Kandori

Both of these women are good workers, and are obviously more well-known here in Japan than back in the US, so I thought they'd be a good way to open the show and get the fans excited right away. The action wasn't bad, but unfortunately something about their styles just seemed to make this a bad matchup. I think the problem was that Shinobu's judo-based shoot style forced Toyota to work at a slower pace than she usually prefers. Manami is an elite level worker though, and she was able to lead the way and make sure the match still got the show off to a good start even if the match wasn't quite as good as I'd anticipated. She counted a Power Bomb with a Hurricanrana, then hit the Ocean Cyclone Suplex for the victory.

Grade: C+

Asking Stacy Keibler to cut a promo in front of a Japanese audience would've been a recipe for disaster, so she just stood in the ring and posed while Hayashi and Yang did the talking. They called themselves the most underrated team in wrestling and the future World Tag Team Champions, and it didn't matter what team Arn Anderson was putting them against because they were going to get their hands raised once again. Both guys did fine with their promos, but Jimmy looked nervous and didn't really come across like a big time wrestler.

The same could not be said for their opponents. Jinsei Shinzaki, formerly Hakushi in the WWF, got a nice reaction from the fans in Nagoya, but Hayabusa looked like an absolute star when you combine his music, ring gear, entrance and the pop from the old FMW faithful happy to see him back.

Grade: B
Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki vs. The Jung Dragons (w/Stacy Keibler)

This match was built around high spots, as I figured the best way to utilize these four was to let them fly around at full-speed. I thought both teams performed well in that environment, wowing the fans with numerous spectacular aerial moves and dives to the floor. There were no weak links in this match, but Hayabusa stood above the pack as one of the best performers of the entire night. If we can get him over globally, he could be a big star and top talent for us. Shinzaki and Hayabusa came away with the win after Jinsei hit the Praying Powerbomb on Yang and Hayabusa followed with the Phoenix Splash. This won't be the last of this team either, as Jinsei will be sticking around WCW (though not exclusively.)

Grade: B

American Dragon vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. AJ Styles {}

We didn't advertise it as such beforehand, but this match was under elimination rules. We didn't announce it because I went back and forth on that, but I went this way because I've never been a big fan of the idea that a champion could lose their title without actually suffering a loss. Anyway, with that setup, there wasn't the sense of urgency when it came to breaking up pinfall or submission attempts. Instead the story was built around Chavo trying to convince American Dragon that they needed to work together and eliminate AJ first, and then they could settle it between the two of them after that. Dragon went along with this to a certain extent, only for Chavo to commit a double-cross by rolling him up from behind. Dragon got a shoulder up just in time though, and in the blink of an eye he had Chavo in a Crossface Chickenwing. Chavo was too far from the ropes and couldn't find an escape, so he tapped out.

It was down to AJ and Dragon, and while Chavo did perfectly fine tonight, I have to say the match gained steam at this point. These two amazing young athletes in their early 20's showed a glimpse of how bright the future of WCW is, because they had a captivating, back-and-forth athletic exchange. AJ blended aerial moves and high-impact throws and slams, while Dragon focused mainly on submission grappling. Dragon had AJ on his stomach and was attempting to lock in his Arms Across America submission, but AJ was struggling and not letting him complete his forward bridge. Dragon improvised, using his grip on the arms to roll AJ into a modified crucifix-style pin. He got the three and won the championship to cap off a very good match. Much like the elimination setup, this result wasn't something set in stone. I considered all three guys to potentially win, but I think this was the best result for our future plans.

Grade: B+

TenKoji cut a backstage promo. It would be more accurate to say that Kojima cut a promo while Tenzan admired his shiny new G1 Climax trophy. Kojima made note of that big victory for Tenzan. Between that trophy and the IWGP tag team titles, the two of them were in the habit of collecting hardware. But there was always room for more. He made it clear that TenKoji were not underestimating the Hardys. They knew Matt and Jeff were a great team and beating them tonight would not be easy. But TenKoji was the best tag team in the world. All of the New Japan fans had known this for years, and tonight WCW fans would learn it as well.

Grade: B
Rob Van Dam vs. Mortis (w/Father Isaac)

My god, RVD is over in Japan! This crowd popped huge for every single thing he did. And a good thing too, because there were several things that hurt this match a bit. For one, Rob wasn't at his sharpest. Some of his stuff looked a little sloppy and his timing was off in spots, but he's so over that I don't think it was anything other than a minor blip. A bigger issue was the match's failure to tell an appreciable story. Instead it was more a series of moves, though with RVD's kicks and acrobatics and Kanyon's cool-looking throws, at least it was an entertaining series of moves. Maybe they could've told a better story if the match had been longer.

RVD had things going his way after hitting a step-over spinning heel kick, but just when he went to the top rope for the Five Star Frog Splash...

The Unnatural ran down and shoved Rob off the top rope for a DQ.

Grade: B+

Both members of Salvation put the boots to RVD as Isaac cheered them on. Even without Destroyer, who was busy preparing for his US title shot later in the night, the 2-on-1 attack was poised to do a number on Van Dam.

Scott Steiner, returning from his injury angle/appearance in New Japan's G1 Climax, lumbered down to the ring. Salvation retreated before Big Poppa Pump could do any damage. In a nice little twist, Steiner didn't check on RVD or pay even the slightest attention to him, because they aren't friends and he only came out to try and get his hands on The Unnatural. This was a good segment continuing off of the finish, and I think a lot of it can be attributed to the fans loving RVD and getting really heated as he was being attacked.

Grade: B+

Akira Hokuto (w/Daffney) vs. Etsuko Mita {} (w/Eric Bischoff)

Our second women's match of the night started at a built-in disadvantage because both women are heels, and it was further diminished by Mita. The champion had an off night, hurting the momentum of what was supposed to be an all-out match with a couple of key botches. Hokuto is a very strong worker though, plus this match got a bigger reaction than our women's matches can hope to get anywhere outside of Japan at this point. Thus, despite the factors working against it, this was the best women's match we've had since bringing the division back. It gives me hope for the future of our division and the show I'm hoping to launch, especially since we'll be running it exclusively in Japan to begin with.

This match was largely built around Mita attempting to hit the Death Valley Driver, with the 17-year vet Hokuto always having a counter or escape ready. Mita and Bischoff were frustrated at her inability to hit her premiere offensive move, but she showed she's not a one trick pony by surviving everything Akira could throw at her, including a Superplex and a Northern Lights Bomb. Daffney decided to swing things in her partner's favor by climbing onto the apron and spitting her poison mist while the referee argued with Bischoff, but Mita saw it coming and got out of the way--Daffney accidentally hit her own partner with the mist! With Hokuto blinded, Mita was finally able to hit the DVD and retain the title.

Grade: B

We aired a brief vignette of the Flex Express touring Japan, with Lex having Gene pull the bus over frequently so he could get out and pose in front of bewildered Japanese citizens. This was designed as brief filler, and it did what I wanted it to. This unfortunately might be the end of the road for the Flex Express (pun fully intended), but that's a story for another time.

Grade: C
Natural Born Thrillers vs. The Empire (w/Eric Bischoff)

Palumbo, as per usual, was the weak link of this match. He's not bad, but O'Haire is the star of this team, and Chuck is nowhere near the performer of either of the guys on the other team. I don't think we lost anything in subbing out Candido for TAKA, especially in Japan. Even though the action was secondary to the story in this match, I was really surprised at how much this got over. This match truly exceeded my expectations.

The Thrillers physically dominated early on, but The Empire was able to take O'Haire's legs out from under him and get some heat going. They focused on the legs and stranded him in their half of the ring, until Sean finally bought himself some time by catching TAKA out of mid-air and launching him with a Fallaway Slam. He slowly crawled to the corner and extended his hand to tag in Palumbo.

Except Palumbo had his back turned, apparently staring into the crowd for some reason. O'Haire shouted to get his attention, and he turned back around. O'Haire, now on his feet, held his hand out. Palumbo stared at him---then punched him right on the jaw! O'Haire was rocked back by the blow, and then TAKA hit a Springboard Dropkick to the back of the head that knocked him down. Palumbo entered the ring and gave O'Haire a few stomps to the weakened leg before picking him up, shooting him into the ropes and hitting a Spinning Bossman Slam. From there he simply stood and watched as TAKA made the cover. Palumbo's heel turn was very effective, maybe because most people thought the Thrillers might break up last month and weren't expecting it as much now.

Grade: B+

Bischoff entered the ring and gave Palumbo a hug before telling all three guys to "get him." Corino, TAKA and Palumbo gave the fallen and defenseless O'Haire a triple team beating. Corino was good here, doing some believable-looking damage to O'Haire's knee that made the segment more heated.

Ric Flair and Sting ran down the ramp and came to O'Haire's aid, chasing The Empire off. The Empire retreated up the aisle, but were happy with their handiwork as Corino and Bischoff each raised one of Palumbo's arms in the air.

Grade: B+
Wataru Inoue vs. "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels

Inoue's a decent worker, but he's fairly low in the NJPW pecking order. We could've gotten a better and more highly anticipated match if we'd brought in somebody like Liger or Koji Kanemoto in this spot, but this match was basically just a platform to get Daniels on the PPV and give him another win as we continue to try and heat him up. This match was about Daniels, and so was the performance as he led the way and more or less carried Inoue here. Inoue got in pockets of offense here and there, but Daniels won convincingly with the Last Rites in another match that was better than I expected.

Grade: B

TenKoji vs. The Hardys {}

Learning from the lessons of last month, I made sure to tell these four guys to pace themselves and try to build up to a dramatic climax. While I thought all four of them did pretty well at handling those instructions, the match was missing a certain something. It was great, but the story didn't fully fall into place and draw the maximum investment out of the fans the way that most truly classic matches do. Some of my aides insisted that Jeff was really off his game tonight. Maybe it's true that he messed something up here or there, but when his overall performance is still off the charts and better than anyone else on the entire show, is there really any room to complain? There was no weak link though. All four of these guys are very good, and they proved it tonight.

This was a nice change of pace from the Hardys' great matches with True Heroes, since Tenzan and Kojima work a very different style. They performed lots of strikes, slams and suplexes, showcasing their abilities as big-time puroresu heavyweight stars. The Hardys responded with their usual crowd-pleasing, fast-paced offense, filled with high-risk moves and double team combinations. It was a very even match the entire way through, as I wanted to protect our relationship with NJPW by making sure that their top tag team felt like the equals of our own champs.

We teased a title change several times, including a dramatic moment where Tenzan seemingly had Jeff beaten with a Diving Headbutt only for Matt to leap over a defending Kojima to make the save. In the end though I think most realized there wasn't much chance of a switch since Kojima and Tenzan are both full time with NJPW (maybe that hurt the drama of the match slightly?), and so it didn't come as much of a surprise when the Extreme Combination finished Kojima off.

Grade: B+

The Destroyer (w/Father Isaac) vs. Shane Douglas {}

This was the second all-heel match of the night. That's not ideal, but I didn't feel like there were any compelling face challengers set up for Douglas, at least not ones that I was prepared to put him against for this particular show. So we got this match. I thought it made for an interesting dynamic in the build, and that carried over into the match as well. Neither guy was doing much to try and get cheered; Douglas was playing the cautious and tactical champion, and even if Destroyer's power moves could get him cheered under other circumstances, his brutal tactics plus Father Isaac's sinister presence had him firmly entrenched as a heel.

Something about it just worked though. Shane and Mike seemed to know just what to do and just when to do it as far as bringing out the best in each other. I think the psychology of the match was hurt some just because both guys' styles are designed to get their opponents cheered, but I was satisfied with the end product here.

With two heels fighting over a championship, there was a good bet that the match would end under less than honorable circumstances. Sure enough, Douglas poked Destroyer in the eyehole of his mask as he was being lifted into the air for the Destruction Bomb. That was all the opening Shane needed to hit a quick DDT and pin his challenger.

Grade: B

Kensuke Sasaki vs. Booker T {}

A pre-match video was used to showcase the accomplishments of Kensuke Sasaki and build him as a legit threat to our home viewers watching outside Japan.

Grade: B+

No such build was needed for the fans in Nagoya. They know all about Sasaki, who has been amongst the upper echelon of New Japan for years. They treated him like a star very much on Booker's level, and at least in Japan, that's accurate. As a result, the fans were very into this one. The action itself was very strong too. They went well over thirty minutes of a match that was largely called in the ring. Sasaki has a reputation of being very good at putting matches together, and he lived up to it tonight. This match built perfectly and was psychologically sound. Combine the action, the story, the pacing and the hot crowd, and this was a fantastic match. Best of the night for sure, and one of the four or five best we've put on so far this year.

The build to this match was about Booker being so arrogant and dismissive of Sasaki that he rarely even mentioned him by name in his promos, so naturally we had Kensuke dominate early on to prove himself. On commentary, Mike and I sold the idea that Booker's behavior in the previous weeks had all been an act; he knew full well how good Sasaki was, and he knew that he would need to be at his best to retain his title tonight. He did a lot of mat wrestling work early on to try and avoid Kensuke's powerful slams and suplexes, and I thought he upped his game in that department with some improved technical skills. Another key component of the story here was Booker, having been on the receiving end of Sasaki's Volcanic Eruption on the go-home Nitro, was trying to avoid that particular move at all costs, even if it meant bailing out to the floor and stalling. It was all for naught though, as in a really cool moment Sasaki caught him on a Harlem Sidekick and turned it into the Volcanic Eruption! The Japanese fans counted along as Nick Patrick counted once, twice...

...but Booker got a foot on the bottom rope just before three. That was as close as Kensuke would come to the title, because a few minutes later Booker ducked a lariat and executed a backslide that Sasaki, in his exhaustion, just couldn't quite escape before the three count. (So a clean finish, but a somewhat lucky flash pin to protect Sasaki on his home turf.)

Grade: A

Show Overall Grade: A

Credit as always to the legendary K-Nection for the poster.
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