Being stuck in Newcastle with a giant pile of tape-traded oddities means I had the brilliant idea of sitting down and watching some of these old VHS trinkets. Luckily for me, Wrestle Joy were interested in the idea of reading my thoughts as I head into the wacky world of Super World Sports.
I’m the last thing to a Puro expert but part of the reason I wanted to write about Super World of Sports was because I’m so numb to 2020 wrestling that I fancied finding something completely new and out of my comfort zone. It’d be impossible to not mention the crazy rise and quick fall of Super World of Sports as a promotion. Here’s a summary of events leading up to SWS’ first show, with notes cribbed from Wrestling Observer Newsletters.
UWF’s November 29th 1989 Tokyo Dome show not only sells out in record time but also makes a record $3.2 million at the gate. NJPW panics because they have their own Tokyo Dome show booked for February 1990 and they can’t lose face to a much smaller company. Especially a smaller company run by one of their biggest stars that left under bad terms. They reacted by going all-out with the foreign talent and booking AWA Champion Larry Zbyszko, IWGP Champion Big Van Vader and NWA Champion Ric Flair.
Unfortunately Flair pulled out after he’d already been announced, which in Japan is considered the same level as telling your fans to go push their mothers down the stairs. So NJPW agreed to co-promote with AJPW as neither company are worried about that little UWF company. With the co-promotion, NJPW’s Super Fight In Tokyo Dome not only breaks UWF’s record and gate but also Vader’s orbital bone during his legendary match with AJPW’s Stan Hansen.
AJPW were already co-promoting a Tokyo Dome Show in April with WWF but now they get NJPW co-co-promotion to help them out. Sadly with ‘only’ 41,000 in attendance and $2.1 million at the gate, AJPW’s Wrestling Summit can’t match NJPW or UWF but it does have that sweet Hogan vs. Hansen main event.
And the reason we’re here.
A week after the Summit, Genichiro Tenryu leaves AJPW to form his own promotion with Megame-Super, one of the leading optical companies in Japan and the original sponsors of the UWF Dome Show that started this stack of dominoes. They had originally approached Akira Maeda about investing in UWF but he declined, which they probably regretted later that year. Being unable to purchase NJPW, they moved to the idea of simply starting their own promotion once they’d signed a big enough star in Tenryu. According to Big Dave, Giant Baba had suspected Tenryu would be leaving due to not being made The Ace of the company over Jumbo Tsuruta, but a month after this Tiger Mask II unmasked as Misawa so AJPW would be OK.
Tenryu announces the debut of Super World Sports in June with Megame-Super claiming they’re pumping $40 million into this new investment and prove this by signing every AJPW & NJPW mid-level talent they can get their hands on to including The Great Kabuki who Baba put the tag titles on to prevent from jumping. The press dubs the company “Money Puroresu” due to the talent raids but with Tenryu making $652,000 per annum, I’m sure he was crying to the bank.
Meanwhile Koji Kitao decides he doesn’t like the idea of losing a lot considering his Yokozuna rank made him a bigger star outside of wrestling, but he was still a rookie and absolutely should have been losing. Koji Kitao signs with SWS rather than put over fellow rookie Riki Choshu.
The talent signings created such bad blood that when Tenryu opens up the SWS Gym in July, none of the newly signed NJPW or AJPW wrestlers dare appear due to the potential for litigation, with Baba also declaring Tenryu will never appear in AJPW ever again.
That’s a hell of a way to set the scene, but what was the wrestling like?
Fukui City Gymnasium
Given that SWS has no real identity other than signing talent like there’s a extension draft coming up, the company decides to hold an Unofficial Debut Show (as it’s labelled on this DVD) filled with a heavily papered audience for a one-night tournament. WON reports that the sponsors are putting up a legit $35,000 purse for the winner. Video quality isn’t fantastic but it’s watchable, the other shows are much better quality.
Quarter Finals: Shunji Takano vs. Kendo Nagasaki
Kendo is fresh off that awesome Texas Death Match in FMW and was always good for a sweet brawl or two. Takano is a former All Asian Tag Champ whose back was described as “wrecked” which is apparently why Baba wasn’t fussed about him leaving, so it’ll be interesting to see what he’s got left in the tank.
Before the match we get clips of Shunji shrugging off a GANSO BOMB from Fumihiro Niikura in the Qualifiers to land a Lariat and a badger’s arse Spinning Heel Kick to advance. Kendo meanwhile either dodges an enziguri from Shinichi Nakano or sells it by falling on his backside, either way the crowd laughs at the awkwardness. A Jumping Piledriver quickly ends a clip that should have ended quicker.
They immediately go to the outside which is exactly where I want to see Kendo in 1990. Kendo bashes an un-folded chair across Shunji’s back until it becomes folded and then sends Shunji into the front row a few times. Kendo brings the chair into the ring to continue this destruction and the ref is unable to stop him from choking Shunji in the ropes and DQs him. Ignoring the ref Kendo piledrives Shunji before sulking off.
Winner: Shunji Takano (Wasn’t much here but what was here served it’s purpose.)
By the way, it’s worth mentioning the commentator (either Kyoya Kimura or Ichimasa Wakamatsu according to cagematch) is peppering the show with English expressions so you’ll hear things like “Is the story over now?” and “Violent, non-stop fighting!” It’s very endearing in a SNK fighting game announcer way.
Quarter Finals: Naoki Sano vs. Ricky Fuyuki
Sano was rumoured to have been hiding due to the possibility of litigation from NJPW, given that he left his Canadian excursion with the company to join SWS. Fuyuki is someone I appreciate a lot more now I’ve had the chance to watch his WAR work and know him more than just as “the dude who killed FMW.”
Fuyuki was able to defeat Great Kabuki via DQ after he misted him mid-crossbody. Sano went fifteen minutes with future WAR Six Man Tag Champ Koki Kitahara but won via Judge’s Decision because apparently they based this tournament on The Wrestling Classic.
We cut to Ricky powering out of a leg hold and getting two from a Fisherman’s Suplex. “Don’t look back! Straight And Strong! Simple Is Best!” yells the commentator, sounding like Franky from One Piece. Some roughness follows with Sano not knowing what Fuyuki’s doing but manages a two-count off a Tombstone. Sano unleashes his high kicks all over Fuyuki’s face with Fuyuki refusing to go down even after a Rolling Kick. Sano then slaps him around and flies with one last big kick to send his opponent slowly downwards like the Saddam Statue and the match ends via KO.
Winner: Naoki Sano (I thought the finish made Fuyuki looked better in defeat than Sano did in victory.)
Semi-Finals: George Takano vs. Shunji Takano
There’s a lot of heat and shoving to start off as this is the last-ever singles match between the two brothers. Shunji’s the larger of the two but George is the more successful and more importantly is wearing lime-green knee-length shorts.
As the two are going at it, the SWS team decide now is the best time to cut to George putting away Goro Tsunami in the Qualifiers by turning a top rope backdrop into a crossbody à la Michaels vs. Bulldog.
George has a Single Crab synched in so well he falls over with all the effort he’s putting into it, allowing Shunji to escape and attempt to kick George while laying on the mat. A dramatic come back by George with an angry yelling back senton but the crowd heat appears to have evaporated. George lands a bridging German Suplex but the ref takes forever to get into position for the slowest non-Lucha count I’ve ever seen and the crowd starts heckling in response. Ah I knew they’d get the crowd back. George connects with a dropkick off the top and synches in a Boston Crab for the submission victory.
Winner: George Takano (George looked impressive but the crowd wasn’t into it.)
Finals: George Takano vs. Naoki Sano
We go right to the action with Sano landing a DDT and holding on to turn it into a front facelock. “Wow it’s like two animals weaving!” yells The Best Commentator as we get shots of the crowd to prove there is one because they’re so quiet. George resurrects them with a kneeling powerbomb and a high-speed brainbuster. Sano takes George to the mat to prevent him from getting the advantage and locks in the Romero Special.
All that Rock ‘n’ Roll (man) wakes up the crowd and Sano is able to move out the way when he sees George escaping and gets a side-hold to keep him at bay. That looked great. George still gets vertical and follows with a “Super fighting is GOING ON” bridging German Suplex for two. Sano recovers and delivers a Powerbomb for a two of his own and both men are selling the fatigue of wrestling three matches in one night. Sano decides to simply kick Takano like he did with Fuyuki but goes for the pin instead of the KO, which George escapes from and takes advantage of Sano tiring himself out from all those kicks to stick him in the abdominal stretch pin from WWF Wrestlemania 2000 for the N64.
So now Sano has to escape the hold and the pinning position! Which he does easily. He follows by resting his bodyweight on Takano to keep him down but both men are melting at this point and they resort to striking one another instead, with the sweat visible even in this fourth generation tape. Sano delivers another flurry of strikes to send Takano to the canvas and hopes for the KO but George gets up with a triumphant “no!” Sano’s too sweaty to get much of a backdrop, as is George when he tries an O’Connor Roll so Sano rolls out with ease.
While George is on the floor recovering, Sano covers him with a reverse bridge of his own to the roar of the crowd but George is angry and plants Sano with a Dragon Suplex for two. Crowd’s definitely lively now, just in time to cheer as Takano lands a Tombstone and top-rope splash for the tournament and the $35,000.
Tournament Winner: George Takano (Easily the best match of the tournament with both men trying to out-strike and out-grapple one another with their diminishing strength. Some fantastic little counters and out-maneuvering here.)
Revolution (Genichiro Tenyru & Takashi Ishikawa) vs. Dojo Geki (Yoshiaki Yatsu & Isao Takagi)
Haven’t seen much of Takagi or Takashi’s work and what I have seen I wasn’t thrilled by. Doesn’t matter though, Tenryu’s here and he can put lipstick on a pig.
And we start with a BANG as Yatsu blasts an entire row of chairs over Tenryu and he’s bleeding before we even get to the ring. Takagi takes over but Tenryu’s not having that and immediately Powerbombs him to a booming reaction. It’s one of those dirty Powerbombs with the other guy’s fighting it the whole time.
“Powerbomb Rock ‘n’ Roll now!” YEAH TELL ‘EM. Tatsu prevents Tenryu from tagging out but a rough splash only gets two. Then Takagi tags in and headbutts Tenryu all the way to his own corner like a dumb-dumb so Ishikawa tags in and slaps him daft. Tatsu has to run in to prevent Ishikawa from locking in the Scorpion Deathlock. Tatsu and Takagi work Ishikawa over (with Takagi only coming in when Tatsu is sure he can’t mess anything up) before Tatsu gets cocky with a big bulldog across the ring, allowing Ishikawa to simply shove him off at the end of the move and tag in Tenryu.
Oh and he’s MAD, dropping Tatsu with a lariat and connecting with the blind elbow off the top but Takagi ruins things again by dropping him with a German Suplex to prevent further damage to the guy who cleans his cage at night. Once Tenryu recovers he quickly wipes his feet all over Takagi’s face, causing the commentator to yell “Machine gun kick, Holy Toledo!”
Tenryu gets bored of splitting Takagi’s nose open so Ishikawa comes in for more of the same as his opponent lays there bleeding. Tenryu looms over him, daring him to get up and when he does he kicks him down again. Tatsu tries to buy his partner some time by rushing the ring but it does nothing. Ishikawa rides Takagi’s face down to the mat off the top rope with that weird move that always looks naff before tagging in Tenryu for EVEN MORE face destruction.
He collapses from the pain but Tenryu keeps on kicking and kicking and if you’d just joined the match you’d think Revolution were the bad guys. It goes on for so long that Tatsu gets a big pop for bum-rushing Tenryu out the ring and slamming another row of chairs onto him. Takagi proves he’s not dead by baseball sliding Tenryu on the outside. However now he’s proven he still has a pulse, Tenryu blocks a charge with a knee and resumes removing Takagi’s brain cells with yet more head kicks. Eventually the ref has to intervene as it gets uncomfortable again and the crowd start chanting for Takagi. It doesn’t matter as Tenryu strikes him a few more times and Takagi can’t answer the count and it’s finally declared a KO.
Winners: Revolution (There’s not a lot of information out there for this show, so I’m going to assume it took a while for everyone to realize Takagi was in genuine pain from all those head kicks so they had to ad-lib a quick finish. It’s never a good sign when you’re selling by “staying completely still and motionless on the mat.” Tenryu & Tatsu were doing great until then.)
Soon as the bell rings, Tenryu & Ishikawa exit the ring as the crowd react angrily to the finish that saw the supposed good guys kick a guy to death. Perfect booking, now no-one’s talking about “Money Puroresu.”
Overall: Well it worked as an amuse-bouche and let people know who was under contract but the reports were generally negative towards the DQ/time limit finishes in the tournament and no amount of crowd-love could save that main event. Just as well it was an “unofficial” debut show unlike their first home video release we’ll be looking at next time, highlighting two nights at the Yokohoma Arena and the debuts of the American talent that everyone’s excited about! (Shame it’s Jarrett & Orton Jr. because WWF & SWS hadn’t sorted things out yet).
I’ve been STRAIGHT AND STRONG and you can follow me on twitter.
And thanks to Lord_Mo for the fabulous SWS logo remake.