Divergent Timelines – historical watcher diaries series
Historical watcher diaries series
Among the many pleasures of TEW, one of my favourite is watching a seemingly living world grow and change before my eyes, with wrestling events being held, wrestlers developing, succeeding and failing, promotions rising and falling, history being made and interesting stories emerging left, right and centre. This project aims to share this pleasure of emergent worlds and narratives with you, dear readers, by describing the universes generated during a hands-off simulation and telling stories about them, hopefully in a way that does them justice.
For this project I will be using various historical mods by The Mod Squad aka the people from Wrestling Nexus, starting with Genadi’s “1987: The Golden Age” mod (version 4.0). While simming fictional universes and organically generated ones is also enjoyable, alternate histories are easier to tell stories about, as even simple comparisons with how events unfolded in the real world provide a lot of interesting starting points, from “I wonder what happened with Bret Hart in this timeline” to “How the hell did THEY manage to go out of business/stay in business for such a long time?” to “Wait, how does the UK have a livelier wrestling scene than Mexico now?”.
There are two ways one can go about doing a watcher diary. One of them is to do write-ups every month or year, chronicling the various events and twists of fate as they happen. The other is to sim a fixed amount of time – say, 10 years – and then write up the current state of the world and how it got to this point. They both have their pros and cons – writing up monthly/yearly lets you keep up with the storylines better, but means that less happens in each update and takes much more time and work, while a huge timeskip lets you describe longer, more interesting stories and changes, but means some detail will inevitably be lost (in TEW’s case, I find it very hard to piece together when/if a turn happened from the available history – this information is visible in the daily news, but for some reason not in the news archive). For my first diary, I chose the second option and simmed from March 1987 when The Golden Age begins to January 1st, 1997. I am not sure which method I will use for any future simulations, if and when they happen, so any feedback is appreciated.
About match ratings – I generally treat them as a metric of audience reaction generated by the match than as a metric of pure quality, taking into account how they can depend more on in-ring work or on popularity/storylines based on the company product – but for me an A* match is obviously a match great both in ring and in the overness department. It’s also important how the ratings compare to company popularity, so, a B- match in a regional company with some D+ pop is a barnstormer, while in a B+ pop National company it’s a run-of-the-mill midcard bout.
My plan is first to do a few general posts about the main divergences from our world and the themes that have developed, then proceed to write up stuff based on things like Hall of Immortals inductions, title histories, Match/Card/Wrestler of the Year awards, as well as things that jump out at me as being good story material. All kinds of feedback on my choice of topics and style/quality of write-ups (I’m not a native English speaker, so language and style critique is appreciated) is welcome, but I’d especially love to know whether you, the readers, want me to cover some specific subject, such as a particular wrestler’s career, the fate of a specific company etc.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Simulation 1: The Undisputed Kings [1987: The Golden Age by Genadi, simmed to Jan 1997]
Overview - part 1: USA & Japan
Overview - part 2: British Isles
Overview - part 3: Mexico, Europe & Canada
NWA: The Alliance of Kings
The Excellence of WAR
Last edited by Ufnal : 07-30-2018 at 05:28 AM.
1987 => 1997: THE UNDISPUTED KINGS
Overview - part 1
For decades now, the wrestling world was composed of quite distinct regions, that had their unique perspectives of what constitutes good wrestling. USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the UK and Europe – all of them had their overlap in terms of talent and broadcasting, but each of them has always had a distinct flavour. In this timeline however, all of them (except Canada) have one more thing in common – in each of them one Undisputed King, one powerful local wrestling promotion rules the land, standing head and shoulders above all their compatriot competition. This state of affairs is largely due to two huge divergences from our timeline – one that happened in the United States and other that happened in Japan.
USA – Kingdom of WWF
JCP Meltdown – not as you know it…
Perhaps the greatest difference between this timeline and ours is that WCW did not acquire the brightest Jim Crockett Promotions. Ricky Steamboat never came back from his WWF contract, and neither did Randy Savage. Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Kerry Von Erich got scooped by WWF just after JCP folded. A bunch of great workers – Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Bobby Eaton, Tully Blanchard – left Crockett in autumn 1987 and got signed by WWF in early nineties, after they had done some good work in the smaller promotions, especially in World Class Wrestling Association. Some other wrestlers – Rick Rude, Mike Rotundo, Nikita Koloff – joined them in the regional promotions in 1988, after JCP got bought out (with their contracts either discontinued or not included in the deal), and these stars also got hired by WWF in early nineties. Lex Luger was bizarrely overlooked by WWF and WCW until the former hired him in 1994. The Road Warriors stayed in Japan. Ron Garvin and Ron Simmons committed fully to the smaller regional companies. WCW got some ex-JCP people – Jim Duggan, Dick Slater, Jimmy Garvin, Harley Race (for a time), Kevin Von Erich (for a time), Manny Fernandez, Mike Graham, Ivan Koloff – but not even close to what happened in our timeline. This has led to a radically different wrestling landscape…
The Unrivalled Kings – WWF
The obvious result of the divergence is that WWF are the undisputed rulers of US and global (except from Japan and the UK, perhaps) wrestling world. They routinely get Match of the Year and Wrestler of the Year awards, with an occasional Card of the Year, too. Wrestlemania XII gathered over 93.000 people in the Pontiac Silverdome and made half a million people buy the PPV to watch Ric Flair defend the IC title (that over the years became as prestigious as the Heavyweight one) against Ricky Steamboat in a great main even; other attractions included the Dynamite Express (The Undertaker and Robert Gibson) winning the tag titles, Jackie Sato defending the Women’s title, Eddie Gilbert defeating Scott Steiner, a huge brawl by Dusty Rhodes and Roddy Piper and a wonderful skit by Hulk Hogan and Curt Hennig. The 1996 Survivor Series, which by WWF standards was merely a good show, got a million PPV buys despite the poor economy and a relatively diminished popularity of wrestling among the mainstream audiences [D- economy, D industry], probably due to a great, star-studded main event where Kerry Von Erich, Hogan, Flair and Rude defeated Dusty, Roberts, Steamboat and Macho Man. That’s 80% of WWF main event scene in one match – you’d just need to add Junkyard Dog and Piper for the complete picture. Similarly, the co-main event included almost all the upper midcard except Arn Anderson and Kevin Von Erich, as the British Bulldog, Curt Hennig, Nikita Koloff and Billy Jack Haynes managed to defeat Barry Windham, Bobby Eaton, Harley Race and Tully Blanchard.
This huge presence of great and extremely popular talent also meant that egos were kept in check better, with no single person being seen as irreplaceable – for example Hulk Hogan (who by 1997 became a heel turncoat) only had 3 PPV matches in 1996 including the Survivor Series match and the Royal Rumble, instead focusing on riling the fans up with great promos and non-wrestling segments, with most of his matches done on RAW (although limiting him to shorter TV matches and multi-man stuff may have been a way to deal with his neck problems – it got broken in 1993) – and in 1989-1990, after winning the Intercontinental title, he apparently decided “if I don’t get the Heavyweight belt, I’m gonna make this one the main belt”, having an incredible year-long run [with no matches worse than A].
Of course, there is also a dark side to this success. Most of the main event is made up of veterans over 40 years old, and while most of them are still in quite good physical condition, in a few years this might become a serious problem. This is even more worrying when considering how great talent seems to get a bit wasted in WWF. Bret Hart, The Undertaker and Lex Luger all sit in the midcard, the first two with only some tag gold and Luger without any in his WWF career. Sting is in the lower midcard (at Wrestlemania XII he lost to freakin’ Doink the Clown) and he’s generally better known in Japan where he wrestled many tours with NJPW, AJPW, WAR and FMW – although he’s currently holding the tag titles with a fellow lower midcarder and Japan star, Blue Blazer AKA Owen Hart, which is the first WWF title for both of them. Other lower midcarders include Haku and Scott Steiner. One might think a Scott Steiner & Lex Luger tag team (named Mayhem) is a wonderful thing, but in the last year they have lost 19 out of 24 matches (with 3 draws) and kept getting used as feeders for the Dynamite Express and the Midnight Express, providing high-quality matches [average B, highest B+] yet ultimately achieving nothing before Lex finally turned heel (and got something that at first seemed like a push, then transitioned into more of a jobber-to-the-stars status).
Those That The Fates Cheated – WCW
For WCW, this divergence was obviously a huge hit. They weren’t able to promote themselves as credible competition for WWF [falling to Cult], and in his frustrated drive to build a respected force in the industry Ted Turner has over the years entered an open conflict with many regional companies, from the Harts in the North, to Jerry Jarret’s CWA, to ECW, to the greatest threat WCW was in direct competition with – WCWA. What is worse, after a period with Ken Mantell at the helm in which WCW managed to put out some decent wrestling (the best event of this period was 1994’s SuperBrawl VI, headlined by the very over veteran duo of Harley Race and Larry Zbyszko defeating The Latin Connection of Hector Guerrero and Manny Fernandez, and Davey Boy Smith defending his Universal title against Mark Rocco), the book got into the hands of Moose Morowski. While he made a good decision of choosing Steve Austin as the figurehead and pushing him nicely, he didn’t commit to giving him a title belt. What is more, he doesn’t seem to gel too well with the style WCW management is currently going for – more focused on realistic wrestling and technical side of things, to differentiate themselves from the sports entertainment of WWF. The results are clear when one looks at their final PPV of 1996, Starrcade 1996 (which BTW was attended by less than 7000 people in Wicomico Civic Center in Maryland). It featured a very good bout between Steve Austin and Rick Steiner that featured both technical wrestling and fistfighting and generally was way above all the other matches on the card [B-]… and it happened in the middle of the show. Meanwhile, in the main event, the WCW Universal Title was won by Hector Guerrero. That wouldn’t have been bad (the man is still a very skilled worker), if it wasn’t for the fact that the dethroned champ was Jimmy Garvin, a man of little [~D in most of the country] popularity and about as little in-ring skill, who didn’t manage a single title defence after he relieved the very over but ageing Stan Hansen of the belt (he managed to challenge for the lesser US Heavyweight title and lose, and to get pummelled in a non-title match by Bad News Allen). As one might predict, the resulting match was met with a lukewarm [D+] reception, not helped by young Alex Wright interfering to kickstart his feud with Garvin. Even the semi-main event, where the ex-champ Hansen brawled the living hell out of similarly losing the battle with time Hercules Ayala, was met with much more positive response [C]. In such incapable hands, WCW’s survival is far from certain.
The Unexpected Pretenders – WCWA
The unlikely winner of the troubles surrounding JCP’s meltdown was World Class Wrestling Association. With their rise above regional size in 1987 [they went and stayed Cult] and a declaration of hostilities with Vince McMahon in 1988, WCWA became a natural destination for ex-Crockett workers who either didn’t want to join WWF (for example preferring a very traditional, wrestling-based product) or haven’t been offered a chance to do so. Those stars included Kevin Sullivan, Ricky Morton, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham, Bobby Eaton, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger, Mike Rotundo and Ron Garvin. WCWA was also an important stop for short-term freelance workers, who included such names as Brain Pillman, Owen Hart, Konnan, “Dr Death” Steve Williams, Terry Funk, Vader and Rick and Scott Steiner. Combined with some impressive long-term household names including Larry Zbyszko, Curt Hennig and Dynamite Kid, WCWA around 1989-1990 was one of the most exciting wrestling companies in the world. Despite gradual departures of many ex-JCP workers and other big stars towards WWF and Turner’s money in WCW, WCWA held strong, with Jim Cornette as the new booker since 1992. However, Jim Kettner became the CEO of WCWA in May 1995, when Fritz Von Erich stepped down, and Ron Fuller (brought to the promotion by Kettner) took over the book, with very bad results, including a decidedly worse product [from a dozen B- and above events in 1994 and two dozen of such events in 1995 to only three in 1996]; a noticeable fall in attendances (but not in PPV buys, curiously); ending Kevin Sullivan’s inspired main title run that lasted over two years and provided matches that WWF stars could be envious of – to then have the title change hands four more times in little over a year, with the current champ Greg Valentine disappointing in his [C to C+] defences; the prestigious Six-Man Tag Team championship left undefended and then vacant for half a year; and a scandal in late 1996 when a series of articles described the culture of extreme bullying that emerged under Fuller’s rule. Time will tell whether WCWA will weather this storm, although with Sullivan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Jim Neidhart and Ray Traylor still in the company, they do have a fighting chance.
The Local Lordships
There is also interesting stuff happening in the regional wrestling in the US, with probably the most important consequence of WWF’s oversaturation being that Jerry Lawler stayed in Continental Wrestling Association as the head booker, and while CWA is not what it was in 1990-1992 when Lawler fought Nikita Koloff, Mark Callous, Rick Rude or Bobby Eaton, but bright new prospects like Paul Wight and Jeff Hardy may prove to be the salvation for CWA – if their association with the powerful National Wrestling Alliance isn’t good enough. Other interesting stories about American regional wrestling that might indeed be told later include the relatively new hardcore movement and UWF: a promotion with a very traditional style that employs what might be the strangest roster in the regional circuit, from Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Booker T, to Kevin Sullivan and Larry Henig, to Maxx Payne and a Sting impersonator (in a world where Sting is a midcarder with a career in Japan more than in the US), to Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman as a commentary team – and the whole thing is owned by Herb Adams (in this universe, not known for cocaine-fuelled craziness, apparently) and booked by Leo Burke (an elder statesman of Canadian wrestling).
JAPAN – Kingdom of AJPW
The Year of Defeat – 1991
New Japan Pro Wrestling was crowned the Company of the Year five times in a row from 1986 to 1990. In 1991 they were able to get almost 13 million people to watch their NJPW World Pro Wrestling TV show (that’s about a million better than WWF RAW at the time) and their last big event, NJPW Giant Challenge in March 1991 filled the Sapporo Dome with 42.000 eager fans to watch Akira Maeda defeat Yoshiaki Fujiwara in the main event (both men had been considered among the top 20 wrestlers in the world in the last few years). But the costs of maintaining a huge national presence, paying all the big stars and constantly defeating the on-and-off danger of AJPW proved to be too much in a Japan where both the wrestling industry and the economy weren’t as big as they used to. In March 1991 New Japan announced its closing due to mounting financial problems, shocking the fans and the industry. The shock was only deepened when most ex-NJPW stars, including Antonio Inoki himself, joined AJPW shortly thereafter, finally healing the rift between the Big Two of Japanese wrestling.
The Year of Defeat and the Fate of Joshi
NJPW was not the only company that shocked the Japanese scene in 1991. All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) in around 1989-1991 was one of the best things that happened to Japanese wrestling, or even to wrestling in general. After Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling closed in 1988, AJW got all the best Japanese joshi wrestlers, as well as some talented foreigners such as Judy Martin, Madusa Micelli, Lola Gonzalez, Velvet McIntyre and Luna Vachon. At the height of their popularity and quality they could have two matches headlining 1990’s As Midnight Approaches (Bull Nakano v Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo v Noriyo Tateno) that any male-based promotion in the world would be proud to host [both A-rated], in 1991 six of their workers ranked among world’s top 50 wrestlers both male and female, and for their main show of 1990, Japan Grand Prix tournament, they had 25.000 people in the audience. However, AJW managed to keep up despite a worsening market and economy by cutting costs in the production department – which meant than in the periods when AJPW didn’t try to fight NJPW directly but instead focused on promoting itself as a complementary promotion [ie they went cult], it outshone AJW (who were gunning for a similar spot] pretty badly. Combined with only having TV for tour highlights, this meant that more and more people chose to use their shrinking resources to watch something else than AJW – and in August 1991 the Joshi Heaven closed. It was not the end of joshi, however. In Japan women’s wrestling has found itself hard pressed – Rumi Kazama’s Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling only lasted two years and never reached AJW’s heights, and both Michinoku Pro-Wrestling and the legendary Wrestle Association “R” that had women’s divisions closed their doors in 1995; nowadays the only reasonably sized promotion that still shows joshi matches is the hardcore bonanza known as Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. However, the brilliant alumni of AJW (and, to some extent, of JWP) have taken over women’s wrestling all over the world, from the US to Mexico to the UK, revolutionizing and revitalizing that part of the industry.
AJPW – The Ever-Troubled King
AJPW’s cadre of elite Japanese wrestlers was always almost as impressive as NJPW’s, with names such as Riki Choshu and Toshiaki Kawada (who had the surprise MOTY of 1987 at the Puroresu Chukei TV show), and All Japan used its National Wrestling Alliance connections to supplement the natives with a host of foreign stars, some only for short excursions (including such names as Rick Flair, Kerry Von Erich, Larry Zbyszko and Steve Williams), others spent the best part of their career there (as was the case with Ted DiBiase and the Road Warriors). This combination virtually guaranteed great wrestling, and indeed half the Cards of the Year in the last decade belonged to All Japan.Death of NJPW not only eliminated the only serious competition for All Japan, but also provided them with a huge influx of talent great enough that it made AJPW Company of the Year from 1990 to 1994. The strength of the NJPW presence is best exemplified by two facts. One – in spring of 1995, Riki Choshu (who in this timeline never returned to NJPW and became the AJPW figurehead and one of the best wrestlers of the world), who at the time was starting to get visibly older and less magnificent in the ring, was replaced as the figurehead and main focus of AJPW marketing machine by Akira Maeda, the controversial ex-NJPW star. Two – as of the start of 1997 two out of three main AJPW titles (that in our timeline got unified into the Triple Crown, but in this one stayed as separate titles, which was important when the roster swelled after NJPW closed down) are held by ex-NJPW workers: The Great Muta is the NWA International Heavyweight Champ and Nobuhiko Takada holds the NWA United National title, with only Toshiaki Kawada defending the “old guard’s” honour holding the PWF World Heavyweight title. The division between ex-New Japan and All Japan-only workers was clearly visible during the Champion Carnival 1996, a solid contender for Card of the Year, which finished with three phenomenal bouts between members of those two factions, with Kawada defending his PWF title against the legendary Tatsumi Fujinami (TEW 500 rated them as #6 and #7 best wrestlers of 1996, respectively), Takada beating the young, NWA-seasoned sensation Kenta Kobashi and the NJPW junior innovator turned brawler Atsushi Onita beat another AJPW-loyal, well-traveled future star Satoshi Kojima to retain the AJPW Junior Heavyweight belt. The card drew an audience of 28.000 people and proved that AJPW at its best is also world’s best.
However, given how bad Japanese economy and wrestling industry is, it’s inevitable that AJPW had to suffer through some hard times. In late 80s and early 90s the constant competition with NJPW and worsening financial situation made them constantly switch between trying to compete nationally against NJPW and trying to maintain their hold on their core audience. Their last stint as a truly All-Japan, nationally broadcast and marketed promotion, happened in 1996 and lasted for just one tour before the financial realities put an end to it. Despite being probably good enough to become a national cultural phenomenon like WWF did in the States, AJPW lacks stablility and economic ability to achieve a similar status in the long term. This instability was what cost Motoko Baba her place as the head of the company that her husband built, as in 1991 she was bought out and replaced by Shinya Koshika, who appointed Mitsuharu Misawa (aka Tiger Mask II) as the head booker. That change did not help with another big problem that AJPW has – the age of some of their main stars. Five of them are 45 or older, with some of them still going strong, but others visibly exceeding their welcome at the top. The most striking example of that problem is probably Yoshiaki Fujiwara – a veteran of both NJPW and AJPW, he was one of the top Japanese wrestlers in 1987-1991, but now time has caught up with him. When fighting against competent opponents he can deliver perfectly acceptable and reasonably exciting matches [around B level], but putting him up against another well-past-his-prime legend in Masa Saito resulted in two offensively bad outings, in which the veterans were clearly aiming for something interesting, but their failing bodies and lack of ability to deliver in-ring prevented that from happening [D+ and C-]. Paradoxically, in the last year he was used more, not less, perhaps in a bid to increase the star power and nostalgia value of AJPW’s tour shows, which – when he is used to main event them against other old guard – leads to him letting the fans down and contributing to AJPW’s reputation of unreliableness. The Unsteady Kings of AJPW will have to make a transition from veterans like Saito and Fujiwara to youngsters like Kobashi and Kojima (or even to wonderful but currently overshadowed workers like Tiger Mask II) if they wish their reign to be long and fruitful.
The Cycle of Life
Japanese wrestling scene is a harsh place, where new promotions are born to die after 2-3 years, when the demands of constant touring and low income due to economic problems drain their initial finance reserves. So far, only Shoichi Arai’s Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, with its unique combination of hardcore, comedy and impossible stunts devised by Arai and Victor Quinones (and helped by an ever-changing roster of magnificent workers from all over the world) has managed to take roots in the Chubu region, stay alive since 1989 and basically kickstart the hardcore movement in wrestling. This is probably why why the only “name” promotion other than FMW and AJPW, International Wrestling Association of Japan established by Super Delfin and (ECW-connected) Kevin Nash in 1994 is also a garbage wrestling company, albeit with less comedy and more traditional style. There are, however, many short-lived promotions that hold an important place both in fans’ hearts and in history, with the most famous being probably Giant Baba’s “side project” called Wrestle Association “R”, the Mecca and Holy Grail of tape traders and early Internet smarks, which deserves a whole story on its own.
Last edited by Ufnal : 08-02-2018 at 05:19 AM.
NJPW ever closing just provea that TEW is flawed on a grand scale. The ai should apparently adapt, make changes to stop major losses for example. But, through testing and working on various mods it's become apparent that just isn't the case. Closing inside 5 years just shows there's a major flaw in there somewhere...maybe it's wages, maybe it's the promotion not hiring enough lower level guys, who knows. Even if, we, the Mod Squad made a colossal **** of the mod and didn't pad out future workers enough or balance starting workers you'd hope the ai would adapt. Breaks between tours should offer a natural reset point for finances etc.
Anyway, interesting diary concept and I'm looking forward to seeing how the UK & Europe plays out.
Also, thanks for the comments, both of you!
*EDIT: To be fair, WCW's current booker has Booking Skills of F, so that might just be the stats at work. xD
Last edited by Ufnal : 01-03-2018 at 01:27 PM.
Overview - part 2
//I wanted to post the whole rest of the world in the part 2, but I want to introduce the regions in order of importance, and Mexico is giving me a tough time - both because I know little about it and because it's a bit of a mess - so I decided to post the UK for now. Or, to be precise, the only really interesting company in the UK and my favourite promotion in this timeline...
BRITISH ISLES – Kingdom of ASW
King ASW and the Knights of the Round Table
In our world, UK’s All Star Wrestling had a brief period of glory, when in 1987-1988 a short period of TV exposure on ITV combined with great wrestling provided by legends such as Johnny Saint, Mark Rocco, Tony St. Clair, Fit Finlay, Chic Cullen, Kendo Nagasaki and (briefly) young Flying Fuji Yamada, later known as Jyushin Thunder Liger. They would then go on to milk the boost in popularity until mid-90s, never again achieving such heights. In this timeline, however, the TV deal did not expire and Flying Fuji Yamada never left the UK, instead spending 1989 and 1990 in a terrific feud with Chic Cullen over the World Lightweight title that cemented the company’s position as a cult phenomenon in the Isles and defined the ASW style – mixing traditional wrestling with character work and a healthy dose of fast-paced, high-flying action, and putting together workers from different parts of the globe in interesting, well-paced fights where they could show what they are worth. And in the world where WCW was falling flat and the Japanese scene was struggling, such a place was a Promised Land, or maybe more thematically a Camelot, where true knights could join the Round Table and prove their valour.
Thus, from 1990 much of ASW’s history was written by people who came to England looking for a place in the world. First, when UK’s Joint Promotions [and BWF] started to crumble midway through 1990, the best British talent converged on ASW, including Tony Walsh, Greg Valentine (the nephew of famous “Big Daddy” Shirley Crabtree, not the American wrestler), Marty Jones, Johnny Angel, and above all the sensational Danny “Boy” Collins, a youngster not only imitating but surpassing the Japanese juniors with his mat wrestling, flying shenanigans and jaw-dropping athleticism, whose feud with Flying Fuji Yamada defined 1991 for ASW. Another crucial signing of that time was Madusa Micelli, a young American wrestler with US and Japanese experience, who joined the best of British female wrestlers to kickstart what would become the best women’s division in the world. Arguably the most important event of 1990, however, was the signing of two American journeymen who would help define ASW and pave a way for more US-born stars: Scot Hall and Vader. Hall at the time had successful tours with New Japan and All Japan under his belt, while Vader after leaving AWA in 1988 toured with AJPW and European Catch Wrestling Association. Both of them spent some time in WCWA, but compared to their Japanese successes, wrestling the States was a letdown for them, with differences in style and booking combined with crowds that didn’t appreciate their pedigree. Not wanting to move to Japan full-time but not seeing a place for themselves in the US, they decided to join All-Star Wrestling as a compromise – and boy, did that compromise pay off. Hall took some time to adjust to the UK before finally becoming one of their most important players. Vader had much less problems, with his televised match against Yamada from September 1990 being hailed at the time as the most exciting thing that happened in ASW, or even in all of UK’s modern wrestling. The final pieces of the glorious machine that ASW is today came together two years later, with the signing of the tremendous young talent Tony Stewart, and more importantly with Shawn Michaels and Brian Pillman, two great youngsters fed up with WCWA and ignored by WWF and WCW, arriving and conquering the place. Michaels’ feuds with Yamada and Collins defined how ASW looks today (and brought him a Wrestler of the Year award in 1994, the only one in the 90s not won by a WWF wrestler). While Pillman’s run wasn’t as impressive, his tag team with Collins, despite winning no gold, became Tag Team of the Year after their brief war against Hall & Michaels brought us the best tag wrestling of 1995. Add to that the stunning female talent both local and imported from defunct Japanese promotions (including 1992 & 1995 Female Wrestler of the Year Mayumi Ozaki and JWP veteran, 1996 Female Wrestler of the Year Nancy Kumi), National Wrestling Alliance membership that helped negotiate some fruitful talent loans (from Butch Reed and Kamala to Kenta Kobashi and Atshushi Onita), as well as some young local talent getting their spotlight thanks to the abundance of title belts (the one to watch among those is Steven Regal) and you have the answer to a stunned question repeated by many in the wrestling industry: How did a regional UK company manage to turn into 1995 & 1996 Company of the Year that goes head to head with WWF in terms of popularity (at least in the British Isles)?
Of course, All Star has its fair share of flaws. Their American and Japanese workers have recently been presented as the main eventers, which has alienated some hardcore British fans that didn’t feel too positively about the British stars being used as mostly upper midcard (although to be fair, two out of five biggest belts in the company are held by British men. Why, yes, ASW has a huge amount of titles). And just in the last year the booking team has diminished their Women’s title (which in better periods is seen as no less prestigious than any men’s title in the world) by putting it on 47-years-old, extremely physically diminished and injury-prone Mitzi Mueller (who, to be fair, is a British veteran of much renown and while not good anymore still manages a non-terrible average quality in her matches [C+]). They proceeded to vacate the title when she broke her foot, then managed to lift it to its legendary heights again via short but intense and exciting reigns of Madusa and Nancy Kumi before giving the title back to Mitzi who, despite her best efforts, again dragged it down into mediocrity. Problems like those are far from crippling, however, and ASW is still standing strong as the King of Britain and one of the best wrestling promotions in the world.
//Question for the readers: Should I use bold/underlined text to introduce new names, or would it be more confusing and cluttering than helpful?
Overview - part 3 and final
MEXICO – Kingdom of CMLL
The history of Mexican wrestling diverged significantly in 1987, when Antonio Pena, who in our timeline defected from CMLL in 1992 (along with a bunch of lighter, more fast-paced workers dissatisfied with the more traditional style of CMLL) to open Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (which resulted in the death of UWA and shook the foundations of CMLL’s domination and of lucha libre itself). Another change occured in April 1989, when Francisco Flores, the co-founder and owner of Universal Wrestling Association (the second biggest Lucha promotion after the ancient beast that is Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) died, and Pena took over instead of opening his own company. This meant that he didn’t have as much creative control as in reality, and his leaving didn’t coincide with a huge walkout from CMLL that would provide him with talent and cause an upset in the market which he could exploit (actually, CMLL, then known as EMLL, did release a whooping amount of 21 workers in the previous year as a cost-cutting measure, but their competition didn’t capitalise on that and many of those wrestlers did not find work in Mexico in the following years). Pena did manage to cause some change in the lucha world by strengthening UWA and inspiring a more modern direction in the third name promotion of Mexico, World Wrestling Association, but the changes were far from regicidal. Moreover, the Mexican wrestling industry (perhaps due to the lack of AAA changing things up, perhaps due to some other butterfly flapping its wings somewhere) has been declining for some time – the big three can bring 7 (WWA), 10 (UWA) or even close to 20 (CMLL PPVs) thousand people to their shows, but outside the hard lucha fanbase there’s little mainstream interest in the sport (so much that Mexico is the only place other than Japan where WWF does not broadcast its programming). As a result, while both the regional companies are actually not that far away from CMLL in terms of wrestling quality or star power, they are the only Mexican promotion with a TV and PPV presence, due to their long history of delivering stable product as much as to the superior quality of their wrestling. Therefore, the Old King maintains his grip on the Mexican throne to this day.
The Old King and his Four Princes – CMLL
Known until 1991 as Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL) and since then as Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, CMLL is the oldest existing pro wrestling promotion, with over 60 years of history. This has not changed from our timeline – but two other significant things did. First is the Big Layoff of 1988 that was mentioned above – in April, 21 workers were informed their contracts will not be extended and they left the company in May. The reasons for that are one of the hottest topics of speculation and scandalous gossip in the wrestling world – although financial problems, a declining industry and a conviction that a small roster with just a few main stars was more than sufficient to turn in profit were the most logical reasons, wild theories have emerged over the years, about Pena’s backstage manipulation causing a walkout or, to the contrary, EMLL executives purging the company of Pena sympathisers (throwing out his protégé Octagon seems to support this idea), as well as rumours about fights emerging backstage over the extremely limited TV time – but no substantial evidence for this kind of gossip ever emerged. What we know is that out of those 21 wrestlers 11 (most of them veterans, but some relatively promising rookies, too) never found any stable employment outside the independent circle (which, due to the amount of relatively well-known luchadores desperate for a source of income, has emerged despite the relative weakness of lucha industry). On the other hand, the list of the released includes quite a few people who later proved their worth, such as Vampiro (who had some success touring Japan before joining WWF undercard and recently teaming up with the One Man Gang), Blue Demon Jr. (who’s now doing reasonable midcard work for the other two Mexican promotions), Cachorro Mendoza (whose run in lower midcard of WAR lasted over two years and proved he’s a capable worker) and Eddie Guerrero (who is now a respected tourer and tag wrestler in Japan, especially in FMW, where his team with Manabu Nakanishi called “Breakout” has held gold five times in total). Other important or promising wrestlers have left EMLL not long after the layoff, most importantly a friend of Blue Demon Jr. Atlantis (who later combined a championship-winning career in UWA and WWA with some decent Japanese tours), and MS-1, one of the mainstays of early EMLL MS-1, who later found success in WAR. All those departments would be enough to bury a medium-sized company, even with CMLL staying in the NWA in this timeline and massively profiting from its talent trades – especially seeing as there are currently only 14 full-time in-ring workers with written contracts, 7 men and 7 women. So how did CMLL manage to stay afloat with such a decimated roster?
The common opinion among the lucha fans will have you believe that it’s all due to the four people nicknamed Four Princes or Four Walls/Corners of CMLL… and it’s mostly right. While veterans such as Kung Fu, MS-1, Mascara Ano 2000 and El Satanico (who slowly bled away from the company due to age, or in case of Mascara due to wanting to try some different challenges, with Kung Fu leaving as late as November 1996) were crucial in late 80s up to early nineties, three people were always crucial for EMLL/CMLL: the youngster turned legend El Dandy, nearly synonymous with the prestigious NWA World Middleweight title; Rayo de Jalisco Jr., a second generation star and one of the flashiest and certainly most charismatic luchador of his time; and Lizmark, a veteran now much past his prime, who still is a valuable midcard member, but in his early 90s prime he helped catapult El Dandy to stardom in the second most important feuds in company’s history, the first being Dandy’s feud with Rayo de Jalisco Jr., which started in earnest in 1991 and continues to be the main story behind CMLL to this very day. The fourth member of the Princes has changed over the years – Rayo de Jalisco Sr. was widely considered to be the Fourth Corner until his demise in 1994. Nowadays, some people point to the ugly yet very entertaining brawler veteran Emilio Charles Jr., who’s been recently helping El Dandy in his feud against Rayo and who currently holds the NWA World Light Heavyweight title, others point to Jerry Estrada, who tagged with El Dandy in the early 90s to great effect, then recently had stellar bouts against both Dandy and Rayo, and throughout the last two years has been fighting with Lizmark (each man defending a title belt) in what may be a passing-the-torch storyline. For an American audience, a product consisting of around 10 men at each time (including the undercard and occasional freelancers and NWA loans) fighting each other and nobody else for a few years would probably be deeply flawed (even when you add a good women’s division that includes an AJW legend and one time Female Wrestler of the Year Lioness Asuka, American sensation Sherri Martel and Australia-born veteran Susan Sexton). In Mexico, where the remaining lucha fans seem to be very conservative and prone to like what they already got accustomed to liking, keeping to the same formula based on a few legitimately hugely talented luchadores is good enough to ensure CMLL’s cult-like following across the country stays stable.
//Seriously though, the state of CMLL’s roster is so strange. Rayo de Jalisco Jr. is the only main eventer, El Dandy is the only Upper Midcarder, Lizmark and Estrada are midcarders, Emilio Charles is LM and there’s an Opener and an Enhancement Talent. The tag belts are currently womens’ belts, which actually makes sense, and the trios titles are vacant since 1994. Meanwhile, Paco Alonso (owner/booker) has a preferred roster size of “Very large”, CMLL has a bank of 20 MILLION DOLLARS, and… *checks some other stuff up after looking at the finances* oh damn and they have a hiring rule of “STYLE MUST BE PSYCHOPATH”. Which is present in the main database, not only in the savefile. Huh. That would explain certain things. Soooo, either my file is corrupted, or I’ve found my first bug. If it’s NOT corrupted, then I guess it was supposed to be “style must be luchador” and I’m updating my database accordingly. Explaining this away as “they prefer a small bunch of wrestlers because they are conservative/have a conservative audience” makes for a nice bit of a story, but if I ever sim the database further, it would suck to have CMLL fold due to something like that.
The Would Be King and The Prince of the North – UWA and WWA
Universal Wrestling Association and World Wrestling Association have very much in common – half of UWA’s male luchadores work for WWA, and 3/4 of WWA’s luchadores work for UWA. Those shared workers include such names as the criminally underrated Atlantis, Silver King and Blue Demon Jr., Mexican and Japanese stars Dr. Wagner Jr. and El Hijo del Santo, veteran Mando Guerrero and the greatest non-CMLL luchador star in Mexico Rey Misterio, and ex-CMLL Universo 2000. While UWA has some more stars, including Mascara Ano 2000 and a couple of seasoned veterans Lobo Rubio and Perro Aguayo, as well as a women’s division, the basic lineup stays the same. They also both benefit from insights provided by the notorious Bill Apter. Their situation, however, is a bit different, with Pena’s UWA located in Western Mexico in the home region of CMLL and dreaming of overthrowing the king, while WWA stays comfortably in Northern Mexico. UWA is also much more committed to promoting a modern, fast and aerial style of lucha, despite being the one which has two 50+ veterans among their top players. Both companies promote wrestling on a level comparable to CMLL’s, with the small difference in audience reactions being mostly a result of their workers being less famous, not less talented.
EUROPE – Kingdom of CWA
The Catch Wrestling Association isn’t the King of Continental European Wrestling due to some great achievements. It’s just that apart from Les Thatcher’s short-lived Eurostars no company promoting regular shows appeared on the European scene in the last decade. Otto Wanz’s touring traditional show is therefore the only game in town, but despite a lesser size and quality than the rulers of other areas, it still has its interesting quirks. It promotes a weird combination of old, past their prime fighters (such as Otto Wanz himself, an ex-boxer who, having turned 48, is now nowhere near as good as his multiple tournament wins and current main title reign would indicate) and young, highly talented and motivated workers (such as incredibly athletic and smoothly-worker brawler Baldwin Jeker* or the impressive Italian technician James Maritato) with a huge amount of foreign talent, touring or loaned via the NWA. Many a well-known worker has done a tour or several in CWA: Chris Benoit, Dynamite Kid, Keiichi Yamada [as Jushin “Thunder” Liger], Ken Shamrock, King Kong Bundy, Konnan, Masakatsu Funaki, Mike Rotundo, Naoki Sano, Owen Hart, Rey Misterio Jr., Rick Rude, Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, Shawn Michaels, Shinya Hashimoto, Silver King, Tony St Clair, Vader, Yokuzuna and Yuji Nagata. The list of outside stars who only came by for a match or two is also impressive – it includes Butch Reed, Chic Cullen, Johnny Saint, The Great Muta, Kendo Nagasaki, Kenta Kobashi, Masanobu Fuchi, Riki Choshu, Steve Austin, Ted DiBiase and Tony Walsh. And let’s not forget about people that started or got their big break in CWA before emigrating, such as the current WCW employees Alex Wright, Luc Poirier and Prince Zefy, as well as Satoshi Kojima who learned his craft between CWA and UWFi, or the people who are winding down their careers in CWA after succeeding elsewhere, with the most prominent example being George “The Animal” Steele.
However, diverse and largely unknown talent brought in for a short time to work a product that needs both smooth in ring action and a strong connection with the fans leads to the possibility of their matches either tanking horribly or being awesome. In 1996 we have seen examples of both. February’s Number of the Beast** was ruined by a main event NWA title defence where Chic Cullen (a great and decorated ASW veteran who still has much of his abilities, but whose body is getting frail, who has little innate charisma and is not really known in Europe) defeated Mile Zrno (a 49-year-old veteran of CWA, great person and trainer but at this point battered, frail and way past the point where he could keep up in-ring with even an aged Cullen) in a match that failed elicit much of any reaction from the crowd. By contrast, Syndicate Rules X** had its (quite good, actually) main event bout between Otto Wanz and Baldwin Jeker overshadowed by a semi-main event where the veteran yet still very capable Steve Wright (Alex’s father and one of the better European technicians) and Masakatsu Funaki (who, to be fair, despite being primarily an FMW guy, is such a regular in CWA’s ring that he hardly counts as an outside talent nowadays) stole the show in one of the better technical displays European rings have ever seen. And seeing as the best series of matches in CWA’s history is still Vader against Steve Wright from 1988-1990, it’s no wonder why they keep bringing new outsiders in.
This instability does provide some emotional rollercoasters for CWA fans, but doesn’t seem to be a problem for the company itself. With a steady timeslot for tour highlights and events on the German (but available throughout Europe) cable station RTL, CWA maintains the interest of what wrestling fans can be found in Europe, and with more than 1500 people attending the tour shows and a steady interest in their big events, the future of catch wrestling is secure.
//* Baldwin Jeker is, unfortunately, a regenerated worker, because I forgot to turn the option off… Ah well, this is as good a place as any to ask – do you prefer your historical long-term simulations to feature regeneration and/or new worker generation, representing people who in our timeline never got into wrestling but somehow did in this one? Or do you prefer them to stick closer to history?
** Those randomly generated event names are so bad and not in CWA’s style, but I’m not sure I want to try and invent new ones when those are already in the game history…
CANADA – A Kingless Land
Canada is a strange place. The overall interest in wrestling is, proportionally, possibly bigger than in any other place in the world, and WWF programming is quite popular, yet until this year there were only two relatively small promotions around, with little to no independent shows worth noticing. While the recent emergence of ECCW, a fast-paced hardcore company with the talented Adam Copeland as their figurehead that utilizes a touring schedule, the local scene has begun to shape up a little, but the promotion is too young and small to even have a shot at becoming the definite leader in the region. However, there is not much competition for that title. All-Star Wrestling (not to be confused with All Star Wrestling, the King of UK) has recently been improving since Eric Bischoff took over the booking in 1994, but it’s still quite small and not very popular even in its home British Columbia. And Stampede Wrestling Calgary…
The Could’ve Been King – Stampede Wrestling Calgary
It is probably unfair to say that SWC’s story boils down to the fact that Ross Hart isn’t a great booker. He probably couldn’t have kept the best workers he had available forever, or even for much longer, and without them SWC achieving and maintaining a country-wide following is not a realistic vision. However, booking the best part of last decade as Harts versus Singhs was decidedly not the best idea. “Hometown heroes versus dastardly foreigners” is a classic wrestling trope, but without good wrestling it can only provide some cheap heat from the traditionally-minded, not lead a promotion to new heights. Especially when the only talented heel stable member, Gama Singh, gets relegated to mainly tag wrestling. Instead of Gama, Ross Hart had the relatively mediocre Makhan Singh, aka Mike Shaw, as the heavyweight champ for two and a half friggin years before finally making his superstar-in-making brother Owen Hart win the belt (which elevated the title quite a lot – Makhan had good matches against Owen, not so much against Bruce Hart, and the occasional different challenger was even worse; Owen could do good to great matches [for a regional promotion] against all three Singhs). After a bit more than a year, he put the title on Makhan AGAIN (with mediocre results). While Owen got a second run in 1992, he soon left for greener Japanese pastures. Both his remaining brothers were tried out as replacement champions – Keith proved to be average at best, and while Bruce (the owner of the company after their father Stu finally retired) fared better, he still was not remotely close to Owen. Now there’s finally some positive change with the Singhs gone from the company, as Jonathan Sayers holds the belt with about the same acceptable but far from groundbreaking results as Bruce Hart. This may be harsh on a regional company with no big ambitions – hell, they are without doubt the best in Canada and better than many smaller promotions around the US, and with their workrate-focused style they have put out some decent wrestling. Yet, we are talking about a company that since 1987 has at various points employed Brian Pillman, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Hiroshi Hase – who had some good or very good matches for a regional gig, but never got capitalized on or pushed before they decided to look elsewhere for their place in the world (with various degrees of success). Had Stampede focused more on those talented workers instead of pushing Singhs and the less-talented Harts as the main forces in the company, we could have had a king in Canada. A glimmer of hope has recently emerged as it seems that Ross Hart has recognized the talent of Lance Storm and Artus Lapointe*, putting some gold on them (the tag and midcard straps respectively) and actually giving them a bit of a push. It remains to be seen how that will turn out, especially as Eric Bischoff also pushes them quite hard (though without any championship gold as of yet).
//* [who is a regenerated character with Stu Hart’s face apparently...]
COMMENTARY ON THE MOD
So after I’ve done the initial overview, I feel I can provide some comments:
• It’s huge, it’s full of people I’ve never heard about and it’s turning into a great living world! I really like it, especially with lots of narratives and ager pics which help feel the passage of time.
• Two problems I’ve found so far – the CMLL hiring only psychopaths and the WCW Power Plant not being set as owned by WCW. I haven’t really rummaged through the database innards too much, though.
• Importance levels in Scotland, Ireland, Europe and Australia are quite low after those 10 years. This means that even having B+ pop all over the British Isles does not make All Star Wrestling (UK) a national promotion, because they need C+ importance in 4 regions and B+ pop only gives you D+ imp in Scotland and D in England. It also means that WWE can’t really get a stable international status (they keep achieving and then losing it), as a B+ pop across Europe does not even equal Cult there (only in Central Europe their importance exceeds C+; it’s C in Scandinavia and France), in the UK they have the same problem as ASW, and B/B+ all over Australia gives them a D+ or E+ importance in ¾ of the region
• In 1996, WWF had NINE A* matches, including 7 different competitors in various combinations (Ricky Steamboat, Kerry von Erich, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, Rick Rude). The number of workers in WWF that the search engine qualifies as Excellent in-ring workers is 20 (including 3 female wrestlers), Excellent performance skills – 34. 51-year-old Dusty Rhodes has an average rating of A across 12 matches in 1996 (and is the World Heavyweight Champ, actually). All of this makes me feel that the stats of the American veterans might have gotten a bit inflated, perhaps due to good destiny/ageing rolls – although as early as 1989 there were 7 A* matches in WWF and 10 A* matches the year after, so the initial stats seem to be quite high, too. I get that a WWF with all the best old guard wrestlers that WCW got in our timeline would have been glorious, both in terms of in-ring action and popular appeal, but I do feel that might be a bit much. Especially when you compare those WWF numbers to AJPW – 4 times company of the year, 5 cards of the year, got the best talent from NJPW, zero A* matches ever. NJPW got one just one A* match before they were forced to close. CMLL also had none, as well as ASW UK (with their 15 A* events in the last 2 years and some of the best middle-aged talent in the world in addition to their own good workers – OK, their top guys are B+ pop not A*, but their product is AFAIK more performance-based).
Or maybe you meant simming it a few more years? I am considering that option, yes.
//Welcome back, dear readers! After a long hiatus, I am back with the fake history of wrestling! The break was due to both RL reasons and a burnout - I made a mistake of trying to write up a whole title history of one particular title, and it ended up a much bigger and more time-consuming project than I anticipated. However, now I have managed to finish it and I think it can actually be an interesting read despite its length. Please tell me what you think!
NWA: The Alliance of Kings
In the late 90s, National Wrestling Alliance was in a sorry state, with WWF and JCP/WCW buying out many American territories, internal strife between the promotions that wanted to become the next WWF, and with the NWA belts getting basically grabbed and held onto by whichever company got them at the time when things seemed to start falling apart, especially as JCP was crumbling and then as WCW decided not to take over JCP’s spot in NWA (despite keeping some of its belts). But it survived, and became what it is today – a common ground for the Kings of four continents and other worthy promotions, a bridge that wrestlers can cross to try themselves in new environments and strengthen the industry as a whole – thanks to two crucial factors.
Factor one was the different way in which the US territories meltdown happened. Instead of Big Two we got one King, and many smaller promotions that either couldn’t keep a wrestler on exclusive contract, or did so but didn’t offer enough money or career opportunities to get all the worthy talent all to themselves (as was the case with WCW and WCWA, although the latter did get quite a lot at one point). This resulted in many great American names finding work in Britain, Europe and Japan. At the same time, the layoffs and roster sealing in E/CMLL resulted in Mexican talent being more open to working in Japan and USA (the best example being Fuerza Guerrera, who in this timeline was laid off by EMLL in 1987 and spent his whole later career achieving decent success touring numerous Japanese promotions), ASW’s good fortunes allowed it to employ more foreign talent, and a few years later NJPW’s and AJW’s deaths resulted in a surge of Japanese workers seeking for work abroad. NWA, with its connections with AJPW, NJPW and E/CMLL proved to be a useful channel for communication and negotiation, both for promoters seeking loans and short-term deals, and for wrestlers needing help in finding work and settling in a new environment – and when 1989 and 1990 saw, respectively, Catch Wrestling Alliance and UK’s All Star Wrestling applying for membership, this role has only grew and strengthened. Some say that one of the reasons WAR was so critically successful was its NWA membership which allowed it to gather such an incredible international roster.
The second factor that saved the Alliance was the NWA Florida Heavyweight belt.
In March 1987 most NWA belts got appropriated by various companies that didn’t intend to part with them anytime soon (or anytime, ever). During that belt-grabbing frenzy, Ed Gantner, working for Jim Crockett, was convinced by AJPW to come on a tour with them and drop his NWA belt to Ashura Hara. It is theorized that the AJPW personnel behind this idea were mistaken as to which belt Gantner held. It turned out that he was the NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion, therefore holding a belt of little to no consequence for AJPW (as the Japanese crowds would care little about a championship of an American State staying and defended purely in Japan). The plan was executed anyway for Hara, the co-holder of AJPW All-Asia Tag Team Titles at the time, to add even more “worldwide” credit to his resume. When Pacific Northwest Wrestling, a now-defunct member of NWA that also employed an AJPW lower-tier wrestler Shunji Takano, asked AJPW for a loan of a Japanese opponent to showcase the puroresu style for their audience, All Japan decided to send a person with some American cred and so Ashura Hara went on to defend the Florida Heavyweight Championship in the American Northwest. The match itself was met with disinterested silence from the audience, but Hara, already a well-travelled athlete, liked an excuse to travel the world some more, and the AJPW higher-ups were keen to give Hara (who at the time was nearing 40 yet had barely 9 years of in-ring experience due to his earlier rugby career) some more opportunities to hone his craft when there was no work for him in Japan. And thus, the belt started travelling. After Hara no longer needed it, he lost the belt to the touring American Bad News Allen, who already held it once before. He in turn was allowed to go back to America with the title, but after some negotiations between NWA representatives it was decided that to make EMLL’s Gran Prix Tournament more prestigious, the belt would be won there by the local star Lizmark. At that point the Florida Heavyweight Championship had become one of the precious few things that NWA representatives could talk about without heated disagreements and that were seen as valuable and useful – too unimportant and regionally branded for any of the major players to want it for themselves exclusively, but carrying enough weight to be considered worthy of some attention. Some say that negotiations and discussions regarding the Championship, as well as personal ties forged during its travels, helped hold the Alliance together even after its American roots were nearly cut off. With NWA becoming more and more international while at the same time less and less American (as of 1997, the only US member of NWA is Jerry Jarrett’s and Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association from Memphis), the Florida-ness of the belt became more and more abstract, instead symbolizing the foreignness of the belt and the weight of history behind it.
Nowadays, the NWA Florida Heavyweight championship is something truly unique. It has travelled three continents and (after Stampede joined NWA in mid-nineties) all the major wrestling regions. It has been defended both in well over a hundred matches over the last decade, some dreadful, others glorious. It had been held by some of the most exciting talent that’s not contractually bound to the American Big Three. It has seen its prestige wax and wane, depending on the time, the place and the champion. It is the unlikely, strange, some even say absurd or stupid, yet ultimately cherished symbol of a bond that stretches the continents, of a union between wrestlers and promoters all over the world, of the dream of a global wrestling industry. It is the symbol of NWA.
Current NWA members:
Defunct NWA members:
The Title Reigns of NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship, 1987-1996Ashura Hara
Wk 1, March 1987 – Wk 1, March 1988, 19 defences
Hara’s title reign is remembered mainly due to its historic significance, not the quality of his matches as Florida Heavyweight Champion – which hardly comes as a surprise. While in 1987 and 1989 he managed to break into top 100 of TEW 500, he never reached the highest echelons of Japanese wrestling and is mainly remembered for his successful tag team career, which after 1987 consisted mainly of teaming with Super Strong Machine as “Collateral Damage”, a partnership which held the AJWP’s All-Asia Tag Team belts for two reigns with a combined length of three and a half years, and which had a famous feud with Kakuryu (the team of Genichiro Tenryu and Jumbo Tsuruta) in the late 80s.
With the title not yet famous and Hara not very well-known outside Japan, many of his matches were treated by the promoters as midcard curiosities that you could put in the lower part of the promotional poster and throw in a low-rank worker that had nothing else to do on the card. The most memorable defences of that time were held in Japan: against Yoshiaki Fujiwara in his first, short stint in AJPW in late 1987 [B-] and against the later tag wrestling superstar Samson Fuyuki, whose team Footloose with Toshiaki Kawada would many times battle against Collateral Damage over the years, in December of that year [C+]. From the historical standpoint one should also mention a quite well received [C] match against the promising youngster Eddie Guerrero during EMLL’s El Unforgiven event in June 1987.
Bad News Allen, 2nd reign
Wk 1, March 1988 to Wk 1, July 1988, 7 defences
Globetrotter, veteran, legitimate technician, brawling badass and a respectable draw all over the world, as well as a one-time NWA Florida Heavyweight Champion – Bad News Allen was a perfect candidate to take the title off Hara. He was also hot property after two tremendous tours with NJPW in 1987 that saw him produce his best work of the decade we are covering and possibly some of his best work, period – building up in powerful squashes against the lower card, he was positioned as a prime opponent against Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada in a series of wonderful matches, culminating with Maeda defending his IWGP Heavyweight Title from Allen. This catapulted him into the 25th place of the TEW 500 list for that year, and earned him a slightly less spectacular, but more strongly pushed 1988 run in AJPW. To sell his badassery to the audience, he won the Florida Heavyweight belt on his first night in All Japan, and then defended it twice in the Japanese promotion – in a wonderful all-out battle against the brilliant youngster Toshiaki Kawada in April that showcased both their mat cred and especially their hard-hitting frenzy [A], and in an entertaining powerhouse clash with Road Warrior Animal at Super Power Series in May [b]. Concurrently to his run in Japan, he also defended the title in the USA in Pacific Northwest Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Alliance, while also holding the NWA Central States Heavyweight Championship and defending it in Central States Wrestling in a series of decent territory-style brawls.
Bad News was not made to lose the title while under contract with AJWP, who might have wanted to get him for their next tour (they ultimately didn’t, as in December Allen would sign for WCW, where he’s a constant main event presence even today, as a 53-year-old, although – as it is to be expected from WCW’s booking – his only title reign there took place when he was already way past his prime). However, as during his reign the title was never defended in Mexico, as a gesture of good will towards CMLL he was asked to drop the belt at their Grand Prix Tournament in July – and did so in a match that, astonishingly when we consider how little known he was in the country and how different his style was from even the more traditional lucha, proved to deserve its high spot on the card [B-].
Wk 1, July 1988 – Wk 4, October 1988, 6 defences
For a worker considered one of the Four Corners of CMLL and an eight-time champion in the company (albeit never with the biggest belt), a short reign with a foreign title wouldn’t seem too important. However, that was before Lizmark’s ground-breaking feud with El Dandy, and while already a respected name and a two-time champion, Lizmark did benefit from his short Florida Heavyweight Champion, as he managed to put both himself and the title in the spotlight in September, when he scored an upset against the legendary Dusty Rhodes on JCP’s World Championship Wrestling TV show. The match was fuelled by shenanigans as the Awesome Twosome (Rick Rude and Manny Fernandez, whom Dusty would relieve of his NWA World Heavyweight title a few weeks later) interfered and engaged in a brawl with Dusty’s tag partner, Nikita Koloff. Still, despite being relatively unknown and uncared for in New Orleans, Lizmark worked his part well enough to help carry the bout to a surprising match of the night [B-] of an otherwise average episode. The only other truly memorable defence of Lizmark’s reign is his match [b] against young Jerry Estrada, their first (and until 1992, last) singles outing that later got referenced in the hot feud that started in 1994 and continues to this day.
Wk 4, October 1988 – Wk 4, January 1990, 26 defences
In our timeline, Masanobu Fuchi by 1997 was a five time AJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion. However, the influx of NJPW workers in this timeline, as well as the record-setting number of reigns being bestowed upon Kuniaki Kobayashi instead, meant that Fuchi had to find himself a different niche. He did so by defeating Lizmark in a good match during AJPW’s October Giant Series to win the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship. Then, continuing on a path that Allen and Lizmark started, he cemented the belt’s place as a legitimate (upper) midcard title in Japan, defended on major AJWP events against good to great opponents, such as Dynamite Kid (in his last AJWP tour), Isamu Teranishi (still in his prime), Dr. Wagner Jr. (fresh after his short AJWP Junior Heavyweight title run), Jushin “Thunder” Liger (in one of his short Japanese outings before going full-time ASW) or Dean Malenko (That last one was especially important: Malenko and Fuchi delivered a great [A] match that after a mediocre 1987 run and a 1988 spent unemployed crowned Malenko’s 1989 AJWP tour and made NJWP interested in him, which in turn resulted in a magnificent 1990 run with NJWP that catapulted him into top 50 of world’s best wrestler rankings and gave him his only, short-lived title reign, in the form of IWGP Junior Heavyweight title). While Fuchi was no international star and his US defences weren’t met with much of a reaction, he managed to build on Lizmark’s reign to deliver a series of interesting [C+/B-] matches in CMLL against Jerry Estrada and Pierroth, Jr.
The crowning achievement of this run came with the New Year Giant Series of 1990, where an unprecedented event occured. NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship was to be defended in the main event against Ultimo Dragon, after Akio Sato and Samson Fuyuki’s match for the Juniors championship (which, to be fair, the Florida Championship match easily overshadowed) and Toshiaki Kawada’s epic confrontation with Genichiro Tenryu over the PWF World Heavyweight title (which it didn’t manage to live up to, but honestly, overperforming two of the top 20 wrestlers of the world during a legendary 2+year reign by Kawada wasn’t in the cards, even if their exploits later that year would in turn overshadow that January bout). In a very enjoyable despite a slight clash of styles match between the two up-and-comers [B+] Ultimo Dragon wrestled the belt away from Fuchi to heat up an on-and-off feud that started in 1988.
Wk 4, January 1990 – Wk 3, March 1990, 1 defence
For Ultimo Dragon 1990 was a crazy year, one that contributed both to his current position as a well-known and well-respected Junior talent, and to his slowly building collection of injuries. In January of 1990 he was taking part in three tours at the same time – with New Japan, All Japan and Frontier Martial-Arts. The result? In the first week of January alone he had six matches, including going 1-2 against Tiger Mask in a stellar series, and winning FMW’s WEW Heavyweight title, his first belt at the time. In AJPW, he was put in a feud against Fuchi and was supposed to just have the championship go back and forth between them, but he insisted on using this opportunity to visit and wrestle in Mexico (which he hasn’t done in this timeline), the place he derived much of his style from. This led to his one-match EMLL excursion and a great match against Rayo de Jalisco Jr., before Dragon dropped the belt back to Fuchi in the main event of an AJPW tour show.
Masanobu Fuchi, 2nd reign
Wk 3, March 1990 – Wk 4, January 1991, 15 defences
When you watch the tapes from Fuchi’s second reign, you can’t help but wonder how could this man never have been given another title? Yes, his European and American matches weren’t too great (although if you remember how much apathy he got from the crowds, it’s still impressive how much effort he put, for example, in his [C] bout with Bam Bam Bigelow in Continental Wrestling Alliance). But his AJWP work was solid at worst and brilliant at best – as evidenced by the World’s Strongest Tag Team League of 1990, where he managed to carry a green-as-grass Tsuyoshi Kikuchi to a wonderful [A] title match. (The story of that event was undercard overshadowing the main event, as both Road Warriors and The Great Team of Sasaki & Kobayashi were spent from their previous matches and delivered an uninspired finale to the tournament that opened with a stellar Tiger Mask II versus Owen Hart match followed by the Florida Title one). Perhaps the problem was AJPW was so stacked at the time, that other wrestlers and matches were usually even more solid and exciting – yes, a Fuchi v Dr. Wagner Jr. tour show main event was very good [B+], but if next week a tour show finished with Toshiaki Kawada slugging it out against Road Warrior Hawk to defend his PWF World Heavyweight Championship [high A] and a week before The Great Team challenged Tenryu and Tsuruta for their NWA International Tag Team title [A], the NWA Florida Heavyweight matches could look mellow in comparison. Still, the second reign cemented Fuchi as an upper midcard fixture that he remains to this day, and when the AJPW higher-ups decided they didn’t have much to do with the title, Fuchi dropped the title in perhaps his first really well-received European match [C+] against Dave Boyd, starting the Florida Belt’s long and storied UK period.
Wk 4, January 1991 – Wk 1, October 1991, 16 defences
All Star Wrestling is a land of many, many titles, a testament to the more legitimate stylings of local wrestling. Which is why Dave Bond, a 19 year pro and a career midcarder of great skill, at the time of winning the NWA Florida Heavyweight title already had under his belt (pun intended, please forgive me) three European Middleweight reigns (a respectable midcard title which Bond has held a record number of times), one European Heavyweight reign (a title of variable reputation over the years, nowadays considered “the Vader Belt”, which at the time Bond won from Fit Finlay), one British Middleweight reign (less prestigious then than it is today, after the legendary reigns of Shawn Michaels and Flying Fuji Yamada) and one British Light Heavyweight reign (another solidly midcard belt that, in an example of booking justice, he lost to Fit Finlay). Therefore the Florida title was for the most part treated as yet another midcard belt, challenged for by mostly midcard opponents. Furthermore, during Bond’s reign as the NWA Florida Heavyweight champ he also won and lost his fourth European Middleweight title and repeatedly challenged for the European Heavyweight title, and his bouts over those belts against Danny “Boy” Collins and Steven Regal were the undisputable high points of Bond’s year. He wasn’t much of a travelling champion, and his only American excursion to CWA was one of the worse matches of his career against both Tarzan Goto and an aggressively apathetic crowd. On the other hand, his final defence in Japan, on AJPW’s Summer Action Series II against Hiroshi Hase, while not as well received as most of that stellar card, showcased Bond’s talent and showed ASW’s management that an internationally defended title was an opportunity both for the wrestler and for the company (as, at the very least, they could showcase clips from good foreign defences in their TV programming). To take advantage of that, it was decided that Bond would lose the title (and later get a fifth European Middleweight reign as a thank you) to a person who could benefit from showcasing his foreign work.
Wk 1, October 1991 – Wk 2, November 1991, 3 defences
After some wonderful years in Japan, as well as visits with European CWA and WCWA, Scott Hall came into ASW with an international pedigree. His first year in the UK was spent as a tag wrestler in the Sick and Twisted team with Johnny Angel. It was a good team and their rivalry against The Dogs of War (Greg Valentine [the UK one] and Kid McKoy) brought the fans much joy. However, due to the lack of tag titles in ASW and the history of Big Daddy’s showcase tag matches, while 2v2 matches were a common occurrence even in the main events, the workers who focused on tag wrestling, while respected, were somewhat less prestigious than solo champions. Therefore the ASW booking team decided they needed a little extra something for the slow build-up Hall was getting at the time. A short NWA Florida Heavyweight reign, Hall’s second title in ASW after a short stint as the European Heavyweight champ (that saw both a very rocky start and a vast improvement), wouldn’t seem to be a big deal. However, the title did have a reputation as an international belt, which gave ASW an excuse to remind the audience of Hall’s Japanese antics, especially as he finished his reign with a very well received [B+] defence at AJPW’s October Giant Series, where an audience almost 30 thousand strong saw him best the popular midcarder Shunji Takano. Clips of that match along with the best of his New and All Japan tenures would fill Hall’s promotional clips over the next few years, helping build him up into the star that he is today (as today he’s the second most popular non-WWF wrestler in Britain).
Wk 2, November 1991 – Wk 4, June 1992, 22 defences
Vader, despite all the differences, had a similar story prior to Hall when coming to ASW: Ex-AWA wrestler that went to Japan and Europe and had a brief stint in WCWA before deciding that UK is the place to be. However, Vader kept his ties with European wrestling tighter, visiting Catch Wrestling Alliance on several occasions as a loan from ASW; he also had some European cred as a winner of both CWA Summer and Winter Catch Cups. In ASW however, despite being an obviously entertaining wrestler (especially after delivering one of the best matches in ASW history at the time in the no-contest against Flying Fuji Yamada on a tour event that every British tape trader had to have watched to be considered a legit wrestling fan) and getting booked quite strong, he was still finding his feet in the British environment that at the time was keen on speed and dynamics and flying, and due to a short supply of heavyweight titles in ASW, there was a problem with finding something to help him get his big break. It was decided that a NWA Florida Heavyweight reign, along with some foreign challenges, could help him with both fan recognition and freshening up his style. This resulted in probably the first NWA Florida reign where the championship was defended in four countries and well-received by fans in all of them. Vader opened World’s Strongest Tag Team League for AJPW against John Tenta in a match far from stellar, but certainly good at warming up the crowd [B-] and helped Haru Sonoda reignite the crowd before the double main event of 1992 Excite Series after a surprisingly bad Junior Heavyweight title match between Ashura Hara and Osamu Kido threatened to deflate it; he had a pair of decent midcard matches with Continental Wrestling Association’s Bill Dundee; and he made an impression in Mexico, especially opening CMLL’s Destrucción Del Uno Mismo VI in April 1992 against the veteran Cien Caras [b]. On the home front Vader won the European Heavyweight title from Fit Finlay early in 1992, but in contrast to Dave Bong he defended both his belts with the same dedication, especially in a feud with the veteran Tony Walsh that begun the older man’s rise into a second youth and well-deserved fame. However, with Vader being prepped to hold the ASW British Heavyweight Championship, it was decided that he had to drop both the lower level titles, although in a way that would not diminish him too much.
Wk 4, June 1992 – Wk 1, September 1992, 7 defences
The right man to end Vader’s reign turned out to be Steven Regal. One of the most promising rising stars of British wrestling scene, an ex-champion in both the smaller regional UK promotions (PPUK & WWA) as well as one-time British Heavy Middleweight champ, he already had a very good feud with Dave Bond under his belt. Regal did not disappoint, putting together a series of four matches with Vader that both showcased his ability and kept the big man looking strong, culminating with a surprise underdog win on live TV [B+]. His short but intense reign took him to USA, Mexico and Japan, and while his American visits were accompanied with the usual US apathy for a relatively unknown title and a virtually unknown worker, he managed to gain some traction in Mexico with well-received matches against Americo Rocca and especially Kung Fu. However, a shattered elbow in a match with Chic Cullen took him out of action for over a year, and deprived him both of the Florida belt and of his second British Heavy Middleweight reign.
Tony St. Clair
Wk 2, September 1992 – Wk 4, June 1993, 17 defences
The injury of Steven Regal caught ASW booking team by surprise and it frankly did not have much idea what to do with the NWA title. Finally they decided to put it on Tony St. Clair, the rugged veteran on the verge of retirement, while they waited for a better idea. A three-time ASW British Heavyweight champ and one-time World Heavy-Middleweight champion, Tony was one of the top dogs in the old British breed that came from times before the total ASW domination. At the time, however, his body was already in a bad shape, which wasn’t exactly helped by him fast approaching 50. While he was still more than able to do his part against a good opponent and provide a great match, midcarders like those who would challenge for the Florida Heavyweight championship. As a results, his title defences usually elicited less crowd reaction than his unsuccessful challenges for the more respected championships. A veteran of continental European wrestling, Tony saw his championship as an opportunity to travel the world one last time, and he used it well, with a highlight of his tours being a win over Jerry Estrada at CMLL’s Eclipse Total (which once again proved that the Mexicans, in contrast to the Americans, clearly respected the belt). When in early 1993 St. Clair was informed by the ASW management that his contract would not be renewed, he finished his career there with a series of title challenges in March and April which saw the aged veteran once again climb to quite acceptable standards [mostly Bs and B-s against Scot Hall, Vader, Shawn Michaels and Brian Pillman] and end his ASW career on a high note. He then defended his title a few times in Europe and USA before ending his title reign in a surprisingly well received bout in Japan (B-). After two more outings on the independent scene, he finally hung his boots up in early 1994, earning both a well-deserved spot in ASW Hall of Fame and a job as a manager in the young British promotion pompously named World Association of Wrestling, which he helped in acquiring membership in NWA in late 1996.
Wk 4, June 1993 – Week 3, November 1993, 16 defences
All Japan Pro-Wrestling is a tough place to succeed. Especially for a person such as Kenta Kobashi – a tremendously talented wrestler, at his young age already better in every respect than some of the veteran main eventers, but (if you believe our informers) with an ego that’s as titanic as his skill, and with a physique too heavy to qualify as a junior heavyweight. After he won the Young Wrestler of the Year award in 1991 and 1992, Mitsuharu Misawa (a big proponent of Kobashi and the head booker of AJWP) managed to push for a title for him. With no tag partner and no way to fit into the juniors division, it was decided that Kenta’s best bet was the Florida Heavyweight Championship. His reign was very short, and at the same time extremely intense – at times he defended the title twice in the same week, on different continents, and most of his defences happened away from Japan (although he obviously wrestled for AJWP too, and his title defence against Ted DiBiase at October Giant Series was one of the best matches of the night and one of the higher points of the reign [B+]). Despite the gruelling schedule and his relative obscurity, Kenta gained some respect as a champion – he never managed to get popular in Mexico, but he managed a few respectable appearances in the US and Europe. He became especially popular in the UK, where he had a series of nine outings: from exciting brawls with the tough Scotsman Drew McDonald, to trying to carry a fresh-faced debutant to a moderately interesting bout, to struggling together with a career midcarder Dave Taylor to give the crowd an exciting opening, to a pair of legitimately great [B rated for a C-/D+ popular worker] fights – a surprisingly wild slugfest with Butch Reed (who back then had a short break in his WWE career and was on contract with Continental Wrestling Association, and in turn got loaned to ASW) that overshadowed most of that week’s Big Time Wrestling, and a semi-main event of an All Star National Tour event that saw Scott Hall take the belt from Kenta, marking an end to his only title reign so far (and with the phenomenal quartet of Akira Maeda, Nobuhiko Takada, The Great Muta and Toshiaki Kawada occupying all the main title belts, it seems that he might have to wait a bit longer still for his next opportunity).
Scott Hall, 2nd reign
Week 3, November 1993 – Week 1, September 1994, 22 defences
Fresh after his second European Heavyweight reign and a series of phenomenal tag matches where he and Shawn Michaels (occasionally replaced by Vader) battled Flying Fuji Yamada and Danny Collins, Scot Hall was one of the hottest workers in the UK, with his natural charisma backed by a work ethic forged in the demanding UK schedule and style, and with in-ring skills honed in competition against some of the top athletes of the planet (not honed to any extraordinary level, but honed enough for him to carry his part of every match). With the need of keeping him in the spotlight after losing the belt to Danny Collins and with Hall (a veteran known in Japan and Europe) wanting to travel the world a bit, it was decided that he would take up the Florida title. A big part of his reign was a series of defences against mid-tier ASW talent, showcasing the talents of Kid & Ben McCoy, Johnny Kidd and Tony Stewart while still presenting Hall as a first tier wrestler. The ASW side of things also included a nice trilogy with Brian Pillman, where Hall challenged for his ASW British Heavyweight title twice and lost but Pillman in turn failed to capture the NWA belt. Outside of that, Hall had a brief and not too interesting visit in Mexico, defeated Otto Wanz in the German CWA (a show of respect by the veteran company owner Wanz), fought the youngest Von Erich (Chris) in the American CWA, revisited AJPW and probably most crucially fought in the short-lived but legendary Wrestling Association “R”, where in a one-time-in-history matchup he defeated Rick Steiner. The run again cemented the Florida belt as a solid (albeit mostly midcard) title in the eyes of British audiences, brought it some recognition in the US (where Hall was somewhat known to the CWA audiences and therefore managed to actually keep their attention, a feat better foreign workers have failed to achieve) and prepared Hall for his first ASW British Heavyweight reign that started in December.
Wk 1, September 1994 – Wk 3, April 1995, 20 defences
Atsushi Onita is one of the unlucky stories of wrestling. Originally a Junior Heavyweight pioneer, he suffered a knee injury in late 80s that kept him on the shelf for a few years – after which he turned into one of the world’s best brawlers. He lightened up the last days of NJWP in his bouts against Stan Hansen and Akira Maeda (earning the 10th spot in the 1990 edition of the prestigious TEW Power 500), and then set AJPW on fire in the early 90s, but despite his obvious status as a great wrestler with huge potential he was not given any titles in Japan until 1994 (when he already turned 37 and was starting to suffer from accumulating small injuries). Some theorise that as a AJPW Dojo alumnus that went to NJPW, he was considered too mercenary to be rewarded with a title – but that is only speculation. What we do know is that when Onita was finally given an opportunity – and a big one at that, defeating a well-known star such as Scott Hall – he ran with it. Their bout in Japan was very well received start to the reign (B+), but it was just the beginning. While the US and Mexican crowds did not appreciate him that much, Onita not only proved his worth on Japanese soil (both in AJWP and in a phenomenal slugfest against Tom Tyrone on WAR), but also took the UK by storm, including great wins and draws against Brian Pillman and Vader (the wild barnstormer he had with Vader is widely considered the most successful NWA Florida Heavyweight match since Masanobu Fuchi’s reign). This British success was probably the reason behind returning the title to an ASW worker.
1st reign Wk 3, April 1995 – Wk 4, December 1995, 18 defences; 2nd reign Wk 1, January 1996 – Wk 4, November 1996, 18 defences
Chic Cullen is a strange case. On the one hand, he is a versatile worker, capable of wrestling a variety of styles and of putting together a reasonable match against anybody, a veteran of the business and a decorated athlete who got his first British Heavy Middleweight title in 1983 and is currently (at the start of 1997) in the middle of his fifth reign with that midcard championship. On the other hand, compared both to the imported ASW superstars and the young British guard such as Stevie Knight, Steven Regal, Johnny Angel and Danny Collins, he is a bit mediocre – neither especially captivating in any area of in-ring mastery, nor an outstanding storyteller (much better than many, but compared to Shawn Michaels, Flying Fuji Yamada, Tony Stewart or Tony “Banger” Welsh that is not enough to stand out), and without the star presence and charisma to truly set the crowds on fire. Therefore despite steadily improving as a wrestler since his stint in the main event in 1989-1990, by 1991 he got relegated to midcard status, as a solid and reliable hand that the audience simply didn’t consider world champion material anymore. His long reign as the NWA Florida Heavyweight champ was hindered by many problems – from having to live up to Atsushi Onita’s achievements, to some horrible booking which saw ASW bookers try to lift a young local trainee Gerald Rock [generated worker] by giving him a one-match reign at the end of 1995 (Cullen won the belt back in a rematch, in part due to a backlash from other NWA members), to Cullen’s deteriorating physical condition. When you consider all that, Cullen’s double reign was much better than it had any right to be – he consistently provided reasonably good matches for the ASW television and tours (including a quite well received [B-] series of challenges by Fit Finaly), he was reasonably successful in Mexico (and unfortunately less so in Germany and the US), he had the first Florida Heavyweight match in Canada (against Mike Stone in Stampede), and while his Japanese appearances were midcard curiosities, nobody expected much more. All in all, Cullen’s star seems to have been relit by the reign, as evidenced by his fresh fifth Heavy Middleweight championship.
Tony “Banger” Walsh
Wk 4, November 1996 – , 2 defences
Perhaps inspired by Cullen’s revitalization, ASW bookers lobbied to put the Florida belt on Tony Walsh, another veteran midcarder. Walsh’s story is an interesting one – in both this and our timeline, he was famous both for working as a constant opponent for the huge (literally) babyface “Big Daddy” Shirley Crabtree, and for exposing British wrestling as fake in 1985. In this timeline however, he found a second youth after turning 40 when he was employed by ASW. His feuds with Vader and especially Danny Collins, as well as a great tag team with Brian Pillman, helped revitalize him, highlighting his charisma, psychology and submission techniques and catapulting him to TSW Power 500’s top 50 in 1996, in a ripe age of 47. His simultaneous reigns as NWA Florida Heavyweight champ and British Light Heavyweight champ have only just begun, and despite his age Walsh can still show some great stuff.
Last edited by Ufnal : 04-03-2018 at 04:50 PM.
Great interesting read. I appreciate the effort it takes to keep watcher games written up over many years so always enjoy such a read. Thanks.
//Hello dear readers, if there are any left. I had a long break form wrestling-related stuff, but I really didn't want to leave this project as it kept calling back to me. And finally I came back to finish the write-up of my favourite thing in this timeline - Wrestle Association 'R'. Hope somebody still cares and enjoys.
The Excellence of WAR
The Cause of WAR
The 1991 Coup in All Japan Pro Wrestling is widely regarded as one of the most positive backstage disturbances in the history of pro wrestling. Buying out Motoko Baba’s share in AJPW, facilitated by the very mixed success that AJPW found in the last few years and by the tumultuous situation in Japan (that was the year NJPW and AJW closed) prevented her from increasing her influence on the product. Shinya Koshika isn’t considered a great businessman, but seeing as he appointed the phenomenal Mitsuharu Misawa (aka Tiger Mask II) as the head booker and proceeded to win four Company of the Year awards in a row, he must be doing something right. On the other hand, the split was conducted amicably and while Shohei Baba did take it as a clue to retire later that year, instantly getting introduced into the prestigious TEW Hall of Immortals, he remained as a crucial road agent and booking advisor for the company.
However, an advisory role was not enough for Baba. He envisioned a wrestling product that would introduce an even more realistic, strong style than what AJPW was showing under the new booking regime, highlighting especially the technical side of things, while at the same time having more interesting in-ring storytelling. Not being held in AJPW by an exclusive contract, in August 1992 he decided to form a new promotion, Wrestle Association ‘R’, that would champion those ideals, with the help of the legendary Kunimatsu Matsunaga, one of the Matsunaga Brothers responsible for the golden age of All-Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling and yoshi in general, as well as Hisashi Shinma, the mastermind behind some of NJPW’s best ideas (from Tiger Mask to IWGP). However, the realization of his dream would meet a major hurdle.
No plan survives contact with the wrestling business
After the 1991 fall of NJPW and the rocky fates of AJPW, the Japanese scene was in a strange place. The best workers around were all signed for exclusive deals with AJPW. There was Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, the mother promotion of hardcore movement, with its exotic, high-risk and extreme matches that served as a make-or-break (often literally) for the less popular or talented Japanese workers. There was Union of Wrestling Forces International, founded in May 1991 by Nobuhiko Takada, who after winning a few MMA fights decided AJPW was not real enough for him and founded a shoot-style promotion that emulated much of the MMA style in a worked environment (although the company did have a comfortable working agreement with AJPW that was eager to stay on Takada’s good side). In an environment such as this, with NJPW’s fall still a lingering memory and with Babas’ recent fall from power in All Japan well-remembered, it turned out few Japanese wrestlers wanted to join what they considered a strange middle ground between older AJPW and UWFi. Only seven Japanese wrestlers joined WAR’s inaugural tour. What is more, most of them were veterans no longer at the top of the business and/or ex-NJWP men who went freelance after its closure and had their best years behind them, finding one of their final great runs in WAR but leaving after only a single tour: Animal Hamaguchi, Goro Tsurumi, Kazuo Sakurada, Masunobu Kurisu and Ryuma Go. There were only two exceptions to this: Takashi Ishikawa, an ex-sumo wrestler who was nearing 50 when joining WAR and yet became the only Japanese worker who stayed with the company almost all the way, finding a second youth and enduring popularity such that he is still an active AJPW midcarder at the ripe age of 54; and Yoshiaki Yatsu, a brilliant amateur wrestler and a top 5 pro wrestler in the world in the late 80s, who stayed with WAR for but one tour before going back to successful freelance contracts with AJPW. With this lack of local talent’s interest, Baba had to turn to gaijin workers. And turn he did.
A Foreign Legion
With the E/CMLL locking its roster and not hiring new talent, and the other Big Two not being able to sustain huge rosters, there was much great talent in Mexico that remained unsigned, especially now that more Mexican-friendly NJPW went out of business. Some of those were wrestlers trained all over the world in styles different from the more theatrical lucha; others were so brilliant technically that they could easily adapt to a more realistic style. As a result, from the first to the last tour WAR relied heavily on Mexican talent. And what talent it was! Among more than a dozen luchadores there were such stars as:
And last but not least – OWEN HART
God of WAR
Until 1992, Owen Hart wasn’t a big player. He worked in his family’s Stampede Wrestling Calgary, holding the North American Heavyweight belt two times and managing to carry the company on his shoulders, but it was a small thing that not many people outside of Canada cared about. He served a few tours in AJPW as a talented jobber, and had a surprisingly decent outing to Europe in 1989-1990. He started finding is feet in a 1991-1992 run with FMW, some WCWA appearances as well as a short but sweet stint in UWFi (which was basically one long Chris Benoit feud). All of this did nothing to prepare the world for what he did at WAR.
From August 1992 to November 1994 Owen had 228 matches in WAR, winning 161 of them. From his debut against Yoshiaki Yatsu that set the Fukaya City Gymnasium on fire, he quickly became one of the best workers in the promotion, as evidenced by his 1994 TEW power rating, where he was named the 9th best wrestler in the world (between his promotion mates Blue Panther and Dos Caras). Perhaps even more importantly, after Fuerza Guerrera gave up the WAR Universal Title, Owen defeated Takashi Ishikawa for it and proceeded to defend it for two years, against (among others) Rick Steiner, Terry Gordy, Terry Funk, Negro Casas, Dos Caras, Ken Shamrock, Gran Apache and Sting. For the last year, all those matches were among the most entertaining stuff WAR produced and good enough to main event in any Japanese promotion past or present. Owen also managed to have some great rivalries, with his 1994 feud with Blue Panther being the pinnacle of WAR’s awesomeness. This experience shaped him as one of the best technicians in the world and a force to be reckoned with, as well as quite a major Japanese star for someone who never had a higher-card run with AJPW or NJPW [B- overness even in 1996].
It hurts to see how the God of WAR was reduced when in 1995 he was hired by the WWF. Although his debut as the Blue Blazer against Kerry von Erich on RAW was a thing of beauty, he has mostly served as a jobber to the stars, and to most other people. He and Sting won the tag titles recently in a feud with Undertaker and Gibson, but they did it as a fluke after being 1-5 against the former champions, and while all the matches gain quite a lot of crowd reaction [usually a B] considering how unknown most of the people involved are, it still seems that Owen is treated as a jobber more than as a potential star.
What made WAR such a hotbed of great wrestling and a Mecca of tape traders? There was a number of circumstances often pointed out as contributing to this volatile concoction. One of them is certainly the sheer talent and diversity of the roster. Another – the nature of the product, emphasising realistic-looking technical wrestling with room for realistic striking, which provided ample room for the workers to showcase and improve their talents. What’s important is that a big chunk of the roster never wrestled such a style, and had to all learn and/or invent it as they went along. They were guided in this endeavour by some of the best minds in the history of the business: Kunimatsu Matsunaga, Hisashi Shinma and Giant Baba. It was a promotion that cleverly showcased and cultivated the talents of some of the best workers of the American continent in a highly demanding Japanese style. The end result was quite unlike anything else in the business. Unfortunately, this style was not always the most commercially successful (although it did gather some audience, it failed to really sell out venues), which together with Baba’s lack of business acumen (including hiring many workers for exclusive written deals, which required them to be paid even in the non-touring months) and a bad economy in Japan, led to WAR’s unfortunate demise in early 1995. But while it lasted, and for those who could appreciate it in its uniqueness, it was the best wrestling show on Earth.
One additional titbit that you may find interesting – some of the most interesting stuff WAR provided was their trios matches. An idea brought by the Mexican part of the roster, it was never treated as a division or given a title, but 3v3 matches were relatively common as a showcase of the wrestlers’ talents and a way to signal feuds and rivalries. The matchups that ended up happening are a wonderful mishmash that couldn’t ever happen in our timeline. Try to imagine a match of Blue Panther, Terry Funk & Bret Hart v Sting, Owen Hart & Rick Steiner. Or Owen Hart, Terry Gordy & Blue Panther v Ken Shamrock, Solar & Dos Caras…
//That's all for now, but it's far from the last thing that'll happen in this thread. If you have any questions about this alternate timeline, if you want to read about a particular promotion, worker, area, or even event - please tell me!