With WWE’s Crown Jewel just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes his latest trip in the TWM Time Machine to another major show held in a “controversial” location, WCW and NJPW’s Collision In Korea.
It’s tempting to wonder just what sort of business Collision In Korea would have done if Social Media had existed in 1995. Would thousands of people have taken to the airwaves to question why WCW were performing on a show in a North Korea that co-commentator Eric Bischoff admits during the first match is government controlled and where the public have little, if any, freedoms? It’s worth noting that whilst night two of this event holds the world record for a wrestling show attendance (190,000) it’s a fair assumption to make to say that 99.9% of the crowd were there, well, not entirely through their own choice.
But, political issues aside, were the shows any good. Taped over two nights in April 1995, these were later combined into something of a “highlights” show for PPV a good few months later. As of press time this isn’t available on the WWE Network, which may be down to NJPW’s involvement/ownership of footage rather than any political reasons.
We start off with commentators Eric Bischoff, Mike Tenay and Kazuo (Sonny Onno) Ishikawa hyping the event from a studio nowhere near North Korea. When history discusses the great commentary teams of our time, this trio will not get a mention. Tenay knows his stuff but Bischoff utters nothing but generic platitudes whilst Ishikawa utters hardly anything of note at any point.
Things start with the promising sounding prospect of Too Cold Scorpio against The Pegasus Kid Chris Benoit. Sadly this isn’t a patch on what you might hope from these two (and for a really good match between the two check out their match at Superbrawl III) and whilst you couldn’t say they are phoning it in exactly, this is very much a by-the-numbers house show outing. With the added bonus of it being played out in front of a crowd who seemingly have no idea what on earth is going on.
Yuji Nagata against Tokimitsu Ishizawa is even worse. At five minutes it feels like fifty with absolutely nothing to get excited about. Masa Chono & Hiro Saito against El Samurai & Tadao Yasuda isn’t much better, but at least has the comedy value of Chono dishing out nuts shots presumably for the sheer hell of it.
Thankfully some better action is up next as the women take centre stage. Featuring the greatest women’s wrestler of all time Manami Toyota teaming up with Mariko Yoshida to take on my favourite women’s wrestler of all time Bull Nakano and the similarly fantastic Akira Hokuto this isn’t a match that could hold a candle to their Japanese classics but it is the best thing on here by a country mile. Plenty of effort, plenty of big moves and some innovative stuff thrown in too make this a very entertaining ten minutes, although the presence of weak-link Yoshida telegraphs the finish.
Perhaps the bookers had a sense of humour in sending Scott Norton out next to work a twenty minute time limit draw with Shinya Hashimoto. So little happens in it that the “action” could probably have been condensed into three minutes and the non-finish just makes what went before seem all the more pointless and useless. At least Tadao Yasuda and Road Warrior Hawk keeps itself to three minutes, although the only real thing to note in that one is that Hawk doesn’t bother selling anything before hitting a terrible clothesline off the top for the win.
At least we get some good action next in the form of The Steiner Brothers against Hiro Hase and Kensuke Sasaki. Again, you can find better examples of the Steiners clashing with New Japan’s finest over the years but it’s great fun to see Scott in murder mode (and in fact both Scott and Rick seem to be on a mission to seriously hurt Hase) and on a card full of stalling and non-action this at least offers some meat on the bone.
The main event pits Ric Flair against Antonio Inoki, which is not really something you want from a wrestling card in 1995. The whole event was Inoki’s brainchild and so obviously he main events. He does appear to be the one person on the event that the crowd have any real interest in, although how much this is down to being told to have an interest in him is open to question. Considering their combined age of about 153 at this time, this isn’t as bad of a match as I feared it might be. It’s far from great, but probably the best match outside the women’s tag and the Steiners match on the card. And for once, the running time flows by quickly.
A curious concept in both theory and execution, Collision in Korea is a show with curiosity value only.Even the better matches on the show are not up to the level that the participants show in umpteen other matches on shows more widely available than this. Throw in a surreal (non)atmosphere and a terrible commentary trio and you have a show that may be historic, but is far from essential viewing.