Group Two: The Jerry Jarrett Bracket
Last night this shit was LIVE! at the historic Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee, temporarily restored to its former glory thanks to my buddy Alain and his fellow super physicists at CERN.
If you missed last week’s recap of Group One action and don’t feel like going back and reading the long-ass explanatory intro, here’s the gist of it: Alain and his crew over there in Switzerland discovered chronotons and tachyons and that you can use them to pluck things out of the past and bring them into the present when you smash shit together at near-light speed in the Large Hadron Collider. So they did the only two logical things they could have done in the wake of this incredible breakthrough: they scheduled a 64-man tournament featuring the greatest stars from the history of professional wrestling, and they got me to book it. Last week saw The Rock defeat “Macho Man” Randy Savage in a gutsy performance to win Group One: The Sam Muchnick Bracket. Who will emerge victorious tonight to go on to join The Rock competing for the tournament championship in the final great eight? Let’s find out.
To start things off we get a brass band playing “The Armed Forces Hymn,” to mark Veterans Day. That wasn’t my idea. Those CERN guys, man. They might be Swiss, but they think of everything.
Calling all the action from ringside are our hosts, legendary Memphis announcer Lance Russell (subbing for an ailing Jim Ross, who is suffering from an inflammation of Bell’s palsy unfortunately triggered by his recent time travel), and the great manager and color commentator, Jim Cornette. Just in case I need to mention it, Lance’s hair is wind tunnel-tested and perfect.
Enough fucking around. To the ring!
Round One Match:
Sting vs. Ed “Strangler” Lewis
Lance pegs this one a “contrast of styles.” See, it’s for those sort of keen insights that they kept him around so long. Sting is here from his platinum blonde, bouncing babyface prime, a thirteen-time World Champion in the NWA, WCW, TNA, and WWA, and a former TV, U.S., and Tag Team champ as well. Ed Lewis, on the other hand, is a ten-time World Champion from back when there was such a thing as an undisputed champion in pro wrestling, the innovator of the sleeperhold, virtually unbeatable in his day, the key figure in the Gold-Dust Trio that essentially invented modern pro wrestling, pretty much the most important wrestler who ever lived, and a man who can by no stretch of the imagination be described as either a babyface or bouncing.
Tie-up to start, Lewis grabs a front facelock after some grappling and doesn’t let go. Sting tries to power out, no dice. Sting tries to push Lewis off into the ropes, Lewis doesn’t budge. Sting lays a few shots to the gut and gets nothing. More shots from Sting, noticeably stiffer, but Lewis still isn’t letting go. Finally, Sting shoves them both into the corner and the ref forces a break. Lewis backs off, and Sting looks pissed. They circle for what seems like forever, then finally tie-up again. Lewis goes for another facelock, Sting bails and hangs out near the ropes. Something is definitely wrong between these two, and the Memphis crowd is starting to catch on.
Russell and Cornette try to cover by talking about something other than the simmering shoot transpiring in the ring.
RUSSELL: “Ed Lewis wrestled the great Joe Stecher for the World Heavyweight Championship in front of over thirty-thousand fans at Wrigley Field in Chicago in the 1930s.”
CORNETTE: “You called that one from ringside, didn’t you, Russell?”
RUSSELL: “Ha ha! Oh, come on, now . . .”
CORNETTE: “I don’t want to imply that Lance Russell’s been around awhile, but didn’t I see you in Methuselah’s kindergarten class picture, and weren’t you the teacher’s aide?”
Another tie-up, Sting bails again and ducks under the top rope. The ref backs Lewis off and starts really reading him the riot act. Gee, I wonder what they’re talking about. Lewis moves to the center of the ring and motions for Sting to come out and get it on. Slowly — sloooooowly — Sting obliges, and they do yet another incredibly tentative tie-up. Lewis grabs a side headlock, Sting throws him off into the ropes, drops flag, Lewis crosses, Sting’s up — hip-toss! Lewis back up, charges, Sting takes him down with an arm-drag and clamps on an arm-bar, as they finally seem to be cooperating.
Lewis gets to one knee, then to his feet, hip-tosses Sting to break the arm-bar. Lewis off the ropes, charges for a clothesline, Sting ducks, Lewis turns and eats a dropkick. Sting pushes Lewis into a corner, whips him across to the opposite corner, charges, leaps — Stinger Splash! Lewis falls out, Sting rolls him over, grabs both feet, steps over — Lewis grabs the foot, spins, trips Sting, and just that fast Lewis is on top and has Sting’s leg locked in a step-over toehold. Lewis wrenches the knee and Sting taps out like crazy.
(Ed Lewis over Sting, step-over toehold —> submission)
Lewis has left the ring before the timekeeper even has a chance to ring the bell. Russell and Cornette are confused, Sting is sitting there looking pissed, and I’m not such a happy motherfucker, either. The Strangler has some explaining to do behind the curtain.
Round One Match:
Riki Choshu vs. “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase (w/Virgil)
Moving right along, here’s Riki Choshu, a multi-time former IWGP Heavyweight and Tag Team Champion, and a winner of the G1 Climax tournament in New Japan, one of the most innovative and influential wrestlers of the 1980s and ‘90s in Japan and beyond. Standing across the ring, seconded by his manservant Virgil, is Ted Dibiase, holder of dozens of regional NWA championships, 3-time former WWF Tag Team Champion, the first ever WWF North American Champion, winner of the King of the Ring tournament, and as announced by Howard Finkel and evidenced by that diamond-studded gold belt around his waist as he walked to the ring, the self-proclaimed Million Dollar Champion.
RUSSELL: “And lest we forget, Jim Cornette, that Ted Dibiase is the man who once tried to buy the WWF Championship.”
CORNETTE: “He’ll buy this one, too, if he can get it. I saw him and Choshu in the back before the show having a pretty heavy conversation over a hundred dollar bill and a dollars-to-yen conversion table.”
RUSSELL: “If he’s planning on buying this championship, he’d better send Virgil back there to grease Strangler Lewis’s palm.”
CORNETTE: “Or break his legs.”
Off to a quick start, as Dibiase grabs a side headlock off the tie-up and gets shoved into the ropes. Choshu ducks, Dibiase leap-frogs, Choshu grabs him on the rebound and hits a solid belly-to-belly suplex for a quick two-count. Both men up, Dibiase reverses a whip to the ropes and drops Choshu with a back-elbow. Dibiase’s got the hair, pulls Choshu up — scoop slam — one elbow drop off the ropes — another — cover gets two.
Choshu pushed into the corner. Dibiase fires away with knife-edge chops, drawing a smattering of “Woooo”s from the crowd. Whip to the opposite corner, Dibiase in with a running clothesline. Dibiase mounts the second rope and fires away with fists to the head while the crowd counts along. He gets to nine, then Choshu walks them out of the corner and hits an inverted atomic drop, following that with a stiff lariat that floors Dibiase. Choshu whips Dibiase into the corner, barrels in screaming for a monster of a charging lariat, then absolutely murders Dibiase with chops.
Hip-toss takes Dibiase out of the corner, and he’s up on his knees begging off. Choshu comes in shaking his fists and pounds away with right hands. Dibiase’s up, Choshu throws him into the ropes and ducks for a back body-drop, Dibiase kicks him in the head and takes him over with a diving clothesline. Choshu hauled to his feet, Dibiase takes him up and over with a thunderous vertical suplex. Dibiase off the ropes and — fist-drop! Off the ropes again — another fist-drop. Cover gets two. Dibiase pulls Choshu up and takes him back down hard with a belly-to-back suplex. Dibiase’s up on the second turnbuckle — off with a diving elbow. Cover gets two and a half. Dibiase complains about the count to the ref, turns back to Choshu and scrapes his eyes with the edge of his boot. Ref warns Dibiase and backs him off.
Dibiase goes right back in, picks up Choshu and drops him over his knee for a backbreaker. Dibiase picks him back up — across the knee for another backbreaker. And let’s go through this one more time — backbreaker number three. Dibiase holds on this time, stands, pivots and comes down on the other side — powerslam! Cover, leg hooked, one, two, Choshu kicks out! Dibiase sets up for a piledriver, Choshu counters with a back body-drop. Dibiase’s right back up, charges for a clothesline. Choshu ducks. Dibiase rebounds, Choshu nails a dropkick! Dibiase gets to his feet, Choshu charges — lariat! Dibiase nearly flips completely over! Choshu covers — one, two — Dibiase gets a shoulder up before three! Choshu picks Dibiase up, goes for a whip to the ropes but Dibiase puts on the brakes. Dibiase goes for the whip, but Choshu pivots and reverses, sending Dibiase into the ropes instead. Virgil reaches out and trips him! Dibiase’s all like, “Hey, what the fuck, man?” and Virgil’s all like “Chill out, I thought you were the other guy,” and then Dibiase’s all like, “Oh, shit, I’m being German suplexed by Riki Choshu!”
From there Choshu ties on the Sasori-gatame (called the Scorpion Deathlock by Russell, corrected by Cornette, bless his mother-lovin’ heart). It ain’t long before Dibiase gives it up.
(Riki Choshu over Ted Dibiase, Sasori-gatame —> submission)
After Choshu heads to the back, Dibiase grabs the house microphone and orders Virgil into the ring. “Virgil! I don’t know if your pea-brain can have any conception of what you just cost me. I know you wouldn’t be able to understand if I tried to explain it to you in words, so I’ll give it to you in a language you can understand!” Dibiase slaps Virgil right in the mouth — I mean a good one, spit flew and everything. “Now go over there and get my Million Dollar belt, and strap it around my waist!” While Virgil climbs out to get the belt, Dibiase turns to the fans. “Because you see, it’s like this: Everybody has a price! But as you can see, not everybody knows his place. Sometimes people like Virgil just need a little reminder.” And Dibiase turns around in time for Virgil to paste him right in the face with the Million Dollar belt.
Virgil drops the belt, spits on it, and leaves Dibiase flatted in the center of the ring. The crowd at the coliseum go nuts for this, because the classics never die.
Dibiase gets helped out of the ring so we can move on to . . .
Round One Match:
Samoa Joe vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
In one corner we have Samoa Joe, one of the great stars of pro wrestling today, a former World Heavyweight Champion in TNA, and a man who once held the Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Title for twenty-one straight months. In the other corner, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, one of the great stars of the 1980s, whose legend is defined less by championships than by the fear he inspired in his opponents, and the hatred he provoked from fans. Both men utilize high-impact offense, Joe with an array of punishing suplexes and the Muscle Buster finishing maneuver, Jake with the most dreaded DDT in all of wrestling.
Bell rings and they crouch in their respective corners for a bit, eyeing each other across the ring. The ref finally gets them up and out to the middle of the ring, and they circle before finally tying up. They grapple into the ropes and Joe lands a couple forearm smashes. Whips Jake across, Jake reverses, pulls Joe into a front facelock — Joe gets the fuck outta there!
RUSSELL: “And Samoa Joe escapes the DDT by the skin of his teeth.”
CORNETTE: “Jake the Snake is a great ring psychologist. I think he knew he wouldn’t be able to hit that DDT this early, but he wanted Samoa Joe to have that reminder of just how fast that DDT can come, and now he’ll have that in the back of his mind for the rest of this match-up.”
Joe shakes it off, teases another tie-up, then unloads on Jake, forcing him back into the corner with forearm strikes and just murdering him with a flurry of forearms, elbows, and knee strikes. Jake whipped to the opposite corner, Joe follows in with a charging clothesline. Another whip to the opposite corner, Jake staggers out and Joe nails a lariat! Joe covers, hooks the leg — one, two — Jake kicks out.
Joe picks up Jake, sets up for a German suplex, Jake elbows out, goes behind, Joe reverses, Jake fights out with a few elbows of his own, turns, three left jabs and one big right-hand put Joe flat on his back. Jake off the ropes — knee drop. Off the ropes again — another knee drop, this time with Jake holding his leg over Joe’s throat. Ref gets to a four-count and Jake releases. Jake picks Joe up and executes a gutbuster. As Joe struggles to stand, holding an arm across his gut, Jake circles like a vulture, waiting for the right moment. Joe gets to his feet, still doubled over, and Jake charges in and nails a running knee-lift. He signals for the DDT! The crowd pops big for that.
Jake pulls Joe up, arm-wringer, short-arm clothesline attempted — Joe blocks, clutches — nails an exploder suplex! Joe covers — one, two, thr— Jake’s up. Joe pulls him up, goes for the German again, Jake fights out, whips Joe into the corner. Jake charges in, Joe dodges, catches Jake from behind — German suplex! Joe holds on, they’re up again — Dragon suplex! Joe’s still hanging on, they’re on their feet — X-Plex! Joe covers — one, two, thre— Jake kicks out!
Joe pulls Jake up, hooks him for the Muscle Buster, picks him up. Jake floats over hanging onto an arm. Joe turns, Jake pulls him in — short-arm clothesline! Jake signals for the DDT again. Jake hauls Joe up by the head, pulls him in — Joe counters with an inverted atomic drop! Joe rebounds off the ropes — single-leg dropkick! Joe off the ropes again — misses the senton! Jake’s on him, whips him into the corner and follows with a running knee-lift to the abdomen. Joe staggers out. Jake backpedals in front of him until they’re center of the ring, pulls Joe in and — DDT! Jake covers, ref counts one, two, three.
(Jake Roberts over Samoa Joe, DDT —> pinfall)
Round One Match:
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. Go Shiozaki
Here’s a battle of the generations for ya. Ricky Steamboat is a former WWF Intercontinental Champion, a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, holder of numerous Tag Team Championships with various partners, holder of the United States Championship on three occasions and the World Television Championship on two occasions, and has participated in some of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Go Shiozaki is one of the brightest young stars of pro wrestling in Japan today, holder of Pro Wrestling Noah’s GHC Heavyweight Championship and winner of the Global Tag League with partner Mitsuharu Misawa.
Handshake to start. They lock-up, push back and forth, Steamboat grabs a side headlock. Shiozaki pushes him off, Steamboat rebounds off the ropes. Shiozaki drops flat, Steamboat jumps over, comes off the other side, floors Shiozaki with a shoulderblock. Steamboat off the ropes, misses an elbow drop, both men back up. Tie-up again, Shiozaki pushes Steamboat into the ropes, whips him across and meets him on the rebound — hip-toss. But Steamboat hangs on, rolls through and takes Shiozaki over with an arm-drag! Both back up, Shiozaki charges, Steamboat nails another arm-drag. Shiozaki up, charges again, Steamboat nails the arm-drag and hangs on for the arm-bar. Applause from the crowd.
Shiozaki gets to his feet. Steamboat arm-drags him over and locks the arm-bar right back on. Shiozaki gets up again, pushes Steamboat into the ropes and the referee orders the break. Back to the center. Tie-up, Steamboat with an arm-wringer, single-leg takedown, back to the arm-bar. Shiozaki rolls, grabs Steamboat in a head-scissors. Steamboat twists, plants his feet, flips on top of Shiozaki for a two-count. Shiozaki bridges out, rolls over, lifts Steamboat for a powerbomb attempt! Steamboat dives over for the sunset flip attempt, but Shiozaki rolls through, grabs Steamboat again, picks him up and — powerbomb! Pin attempt gets two.
Shiozaki pulls Steamboat up, bounces him off the ropes and connects with a side-slam. Cover gets two. Shiozaki bounces off the ropes, drops an elbow. Off the ropes again, another elbow. Off the ropes again, a knee drop. Another cover, another two-count. Steamboat won’t stay down. Whip to the ropes reversed by Steamboat. Steamboat ducks, back body-drop and Shiozaki flips and lands on his feet! Steamboat turns around — superkick from Shiozaki! Go covers, ref counts one, two — Steamboat’s up! Shiozaki pulls him to his feet, sets up for a belly-to-back suplex. Steamboat flips out, waistlocks Shiozaki from behind. Shiozaki reverses, tries a German suplex. Steamboat blocks, reverses the waistlock again. By now they’re right next to the ropes, and Steamboat lifts Shiozaki and dumps him over the top! Shiozaki lands on the apron, stands and eats a dropkick from Steamboat! Shiozaki to the floor! Steamboat rebounds off the ropes, Shiozaki gets to his feet and — Steamboat with a plancha over the top rope to Shiozaki on the floor!
Steamboat picks Shiozaki up and rolls him back in the ring. Steamboat heads to the top turnbuckle, waits on Shiozaki to stand and then — diving overhead chop! Steamboat covers — two-count! Steamboat covers again — two-count! Steamboat stands and drops a chop across Shiozaki’s forehead, covers — two-count! Steamboat pulls Shiozaki up, whips him to the ropes, floors him with a double backhand chop! Steamboat comes down with another overhead chop across Shiozaki’s head, covers — two-count! Steamboat picks Shiozaki up, scoop-slams him down, and heads to the top turnbuckle. Steamboat waits, Shiozaki stands, Steamboat leaps off the top for a flying crossbody!
Shiozaki catches him and — fallaway slam! Shiozaki holds on and bridges for the pin! One! Two! Thr— Steamboat kicks out! Shiozaki pulls Steamboat to his feet, tries a vertical suplex (or possibly his Go Flasher finisher). Steamboat blocks, lifts a knee to Shiozaki’s gut and — swinging neckbreaker! Both men are down. Steamboat recovers, crawls over Shiozaki for the pin. The referee counts one, two, thr— Shiozaki rolls a shoulder up.
Both men up now. Steamboat tries an overhead chop. Shiozaki blocks, whips Steamboat into the corner. Steamboat’s back hits the turnbuckles and he falls seated into the corner. Shiozaki gets set on the opposite side and charges in, leaping in feet-first for a corner dropkick. Steamboat grabs the top rope and flips out of the way! Shiozaki dropkicks the post! Steamboat’s perched on the top turnbuckle. Shiozaki gets up, turns and — Steamboat with a sunset flip off the top! One! Two! Three! He got him!
(Ricky Steamboat over Go Shiozaki, sunset flip —> pinfall)
And they shake hands again post-match. Such class, that Steamboat.
Round Two, anyone?
Round Two Match:
Ed “Strangler” Lewis vs. Riki Choshu
Strangler Lewis hits the ring to a rolling, rumbling wave of boos from the crowd, which I believe makes him the least popular guy in front of and behind the curtain tonight. Funny how that works. Subsequently, Choshu gets the babyface pop of his life.
RUSSELL: “You know, Jim, Riki Choshu is credited with innovating the submission hold we know over here as the Scorpion Deathlock. It sure would have been something to see Choshu take on the Stinger here and settle once and for all who the master of that hold truly is.”
CORNETTE: “Why heck, Lance, just go ahead and rub it in, why don’t you?”
RUSSELL: “Now calm down, Jim. I was just making the observation that—”
CORNETTE: “‘Sorry you won’t get to see that hotly anticipated, sure-to-have-been-a-classic bout, fans, but boy howdy, it sure would’ve been great, wouldn’t it?’ I mean, for god’s sake, Russell, who taught you how to be a sportscaster? Tim McCarver?”
RUSSELL: “Let’s just focus on this action in the ring . . .”
Yes, about that action in the ring. Lewis goes for the sleeperhold early, but Choshu evades and manages to dominate by sticking and moving. He scores on the Strangler with chops and knee-strikes, and moves away before Lewis can reach out and tie him up. Lewis catches a kick attempt, and Choshu turns it into an enzuigiri that drops Lewis on his face. Choshu follows with an elbow drop to the back of the head, then rolls Lewis over for a cover and a two-count.
Lewis escapes the pin by grabbing a side headlock and throwing Choshu over to the mat. Lewis cranks on the headlock while Choshu fights to stay awake. He begins to fade away, and the ref gets down low and checks his arm. Choshu’s arm is lifted and drops once . . . twice . . . but stays up the third time. With the crowd solidly behind him, Choshu fights his way up to one knee, then to his feet, then grabs Lewis and takes him over with a ring-shaking waistlock suplex. The headlock is broken.
Choshu heads to the corner, waits for Lewis to get to his feet and then — lariat! And a stiff one, too. Lewis goes down hard. Choshu picks up Lewis, throws him into the corner and lays into him with the stiffest series of chops I’ve ever seen. Lewis is hurting. Choshu whips him to the opposite buckle. Lewis goes in chest-first, Choshu grabs him from behind coming out and — released German suplex! Choshu grabs Lewis’s ankles and locks on the Sasori-gatame. Again, Lewis looks seriously in pain. Choshu yanks on it for all he’s worth, but the Strangler doesn’t give it up. He nearly makes the ropes, but Choshu pulls him back.
Finally, Lewis does a push-up and rolls through, taking Choshu down and grabbing onto one of his leg with both arms. Nearly in the center of the ring, Lewis clamps on a cross kneelock. With nowhere to go, and a psychopath about to destroy his leg, Choshu submits.
(Ed Lewis over Riki Choshu, cross kneelock —> submission)
Post-match, Choshu walks up to Lewis and potatoes him right in the eye. The Strangler drops like a bag of rocks. Memphis cheers Choshu to the heavens as he walks up the aisle.
Round Two Match:
Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
These two have faced off before, of course, in a classic series during 1986 that included the famous Snake Pit matches. Luckily, my boys from CERN took both Jake and Ricky from points in the timeline after that series, so they should know each other pretty well here, and be able to furnish us with quite the fine article of wrestling. Not that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise . . .
Tie-up to start. Jake grabs a side headlock and hangs on when Steamboat tries to push him off. Steamboat lifts Jake for a suplex attempt, but Jake blocks and takes Steamboat over with a headlock takedown. Steamboat tries a head-scissors, but Jake evades. Steamboat gets to his feet, pushes Jake against the ropes, and the ref steps in and calls for the break. Jake feigns a clean break, then pokes Steamboat in the eye as he backs off. Ref warns Jake, but Jake acts like he doesn’t hear. Jake nails Steamboat in the head with a solid right hand, pushes him against the ropes and whips him to the other side. Jake holds onto Steamboat’s arm and follows him across, catching him on the rebound with a knee-lift. And back to the other side for the same thing. Back across one more time, and this knee-lift takes Steamboat all the way over onto his back. Jake bounces off the ropes and nails a knee-drop across the throat. Another warning from the ref on that one. Jake stands, stomps the chest a few times, scrapes his boots against Steamboat’s eyes, and walks away to an arena’s worth of boos. (He’d still be the babyface versus Lewis, though.)
Jake circles until Steamboat gets up, then moves in with a trio of left jabs. Steamboat blocks the big right, counters with an overhead chop. They go back and forth with punches from Jake and chops from Steamboat, until Jake ends it with a rake to the eyes. The ref really lets him have it over that one, backing him off of Steamboat and reading him the riot act. Jake puts up his hands and swear he’ll behave himself from now on.
Back on Steamboat now, Jake whips him into the ropes and catches him coming off with a knee-lift. Steamboat goes over but hands onto the leg, rolling Jake up from behind for a two-count. Jake’s pissed and charges for a clothesline, which Steamboat ducks. Jake stops short, turns and eats a standing dropkick. Jake’s back up. Steamboat moves in, hits a knife-edge chop to the chest, an overhead chop to the head, and another knife-edge that backs Jake into the ropes. He whips Jake across, catches him on the rebound with a double backhand chop that knocks him flat! Jake’s up, Steamboat attempts a whip, Jake reverses and pulls Steamboat in for a knee-lift. Jake bounces Steamboat off the opposite ropes, hits another knee-lift. Jake whips again, Steamboat reverses and ducks for the back body-drop. Jake stops short. Steamboat straightens up, Jake charges, Steamboat turns and takes him over with a beautiful deep arm-drag. Jake scrambles to his feet, charges again — another arm-drag! Jake pops up again, charges, hip-toss attempted by Steamboat but blocked. Jake tries his own hip-toss, but Steamboat blocks, goes behind for a backslide. Jake blocks the backslide, tries one of his own, Steamboat flips out, tries a clothesline. Jake ducks the clothesline, Steamboat turns and charges again, Jake ducks and back body-drops him over the top rope! Steamboat lands on his feet on the apron, doubles Jake over with a shoulderblock through the ropes, then slingshots over the top rope for a sunset flip attempt. Jake grabs the rope to block. Steamboat stands, hits the opposite ropes, charges back and nails a clothesline that takes them both over the top rope! Steamboat holds onto the top rope and — skins the cat back in! Steamboat climbs to the top turnbuckle, waits for Jake to get to his feet outside and — flying crossbody from the top to the outside! Steamboat’s up and back in the ring, Jake’s getting to his feet on the outside, and both men pause for a moment and soak in the standing ovation they’re both getting for that sequence. Great stuff.
Steamboat motions to bring it on, and Jake slithers back in. Tie-up, Jake grabs a side-headlock. Steamboat tries a suplex, Jake nails the headlock takedown and takes control on top. This time Steamboat grabs the head-scissors. Jake twists around, plants his feet and pulls himself free. He bounces off the ropes and charges. Steamboat takes him over with a drop toe-hold and scrambles on top for a side headlock of his own. Jake tries the head-scissors but can’t quite reach. He tries again, this time yanking Steamboat back by the hair, and grabs the head-scissors. Steamboat tries the same flip he used on Shiozaki, but Jake just pushes him right back down. Another try, same counter. Steamboat tries the flip once more, and this time Jake releases the scissors and pushes Steamboat down between his legs for a pin. That gets two. Steamboat kicks out, gets to his feet, charges and runs right into a stiff clothesline from Jake.
Jake calls for the DDT! He picks Steamboat up, pulls him in — Steamboat lifts Jake up and crotches him across the middle of the top rope! Steamboat grabs the rope and shakes it up and down, bouncing Jake around as the Mid-South Coliseum cheers him on. Steamboat bounces off the ropes, leaps and nails an overhead chop to the back of the head that brings Jake back into the ring. Steamboat covers. Ref counts one, two, th— Jake gets a foot on the bottom rope. Steamboat drags him to the center of the ring and climbs to the top turnbuckle. Jake gets up, Steamboat leaps — flying crossbody connects! But Jake rolls through! He’s got the cover! One, two, thr— Steamboat kicks out. Both men up, Jake grabs a front facelock and — Steamboat rolls him up! One! Two! Three!
(Ricky Steamboat over Jake Roberts, inside cradle —> pinfall)
At this point we take a fifteen minute intermission, which I will not recap because nothing much happens.
Group Two Final Match:
Ed “Strangler” Lewis vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
The Dragon is still looking a little tired from that match with Jake just now, but the Strangler’s got a nice little shiner off the shot he took from Choshu, so maybe that makes them even.
They tie-up. Lewis goes behind and grabs a hammerlock. Steamboat reaches between his leg and trips Lewis, dropping into a cross kneelock like the one Lewis used to beat Choshu. Lewis works an arm around Steamboat’s leg and clamps on a kneelock of his own, and there they are — flat on their backs in the center of the ring with dueling kneelocks.
RUSSELL: “Let us just remind you, fans, that in the heyday of Strangler Lewis it was a must more technically oriented, mat-based style, and it was not unusual for a match to last upwards of an hour with the combatants locked in submission holds like the ones we’re seeing.”
CORNETTE: “It’s amazing this sport ever survived, isn’t it?”
RUSSELL: “I wouldn’t say that, Jim. Ed Lewis is an extraordinary athlete who plied his trade for several decades in front of huge audiences.”
CORNETTE: “Yeah, but come on, Lance Russell. You’ve sat ringside calling matches from the 1890s up through the 1990s — it’s a lot more exciting these days, ain’t it? You can admit it!”
RUSSELL: “I was not calling wrestling matches in the 1890s.”
CORNETTE: “My mistake. I was told your career started while you were still in college . . .”
Hey, let’s get back to the ring, shall we? Steamboat has finally abandoned the submission route and made it to the ropes for a clean break. They tie it up. Lewis grabs a headlock. Steamboat shoves him off into the ropes, drops down flat. Lewis jumps over on the rebound, comes off the other side — Steamboat nails an arm-drag! Lewis is up — Steamboat nails a dropkick! Lewis up again — Steamboat nails another arm-drag and hangs on to clamp on the arm-bar.
Lewis gets up, pushes Steamboat into the ropes and whips him across. Steamboat rebounds and meets Lewis in the center of the ring with a crossbody! Ref counts one, two — Lewis throws him off. Steamboat back up as Lewis moves in. Steamboat goes for the arm-drag, but suddenly the Strangler’s feet are glued to the mat. He slaps his free arm around under Steamboat’s chin and muscles him to the mat. Standing over Steamboat with his trademark sleeperhold cinched in, and all his weight pressing down into him, it’s only a matter of a few seconds. The ref checks Steamboat, and calls for the bell. It’s over.
(Ed Lewis over Ricky Steamboat, rear chinlock —> submission)
Your winner of Group Two, advancing to the final group, is Ed “Strangler” Lewis. The ring is already filling with garbage.
Be here next Thursday for my recap of all the action from Group Three: The Salvador Lutteroth Bracket. It’ll be taking place at the legendary Arena Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico, and your hosts at ringside will be the duo of Tony Schiavone and Mike Tenay. The round one matches of this loaded group will be:
Rikidozan vs. Hulk Hogan
Toshiaki Kawada vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The Great Muta vs. Bryan Danielson
Shawn Michaels vs. Chris Benoit
See ya’ll back here next week!
As you may have guessed, Ed Lewis winning the night is not how I originally booked Group Two. The plan was for Ed to lose to Sting in round one, setting up Sting vs. Riki Choshu in round two, the battle of Scorpion Deathlocks which Lance Russell and Jim Cornette lamented missing out on. Ed Lewis had other plans. He agreed to put Sting over, then went out there and went into business for himself. The submission off that step-over toehold was legit, as was Sting’s anger over being forced to lose a match he’d been booked to win to avoid getting his leg broken. Backstage after the match, I made it clear to Lewis in no uncertain terms that what he had just done was absolutely unacceptable, and I have every right to dismiss him right then and there, ship him back to CERN and have them deposit him right back in the 1930s where they got him. However, wanting to salvage the best possible show from the mess the Strangler had made, I made him the following proposal: work with Choshu in the round two match, put on a good show, and go over to face Steamboat in the final. Then put Steamboat over.
Lewis agreed. All the same, I told Riki Choshu to go out there and make it look good. It was a very stiff match, which Lewis didn’t seem to mind, the sick fuck. The punch after the bell was Choshu’s own idea, and he didn’t tell me about it beforehand. I should have reprimanded him, I guess, but I didn’t. Lewis had it coming. And I think he knew he did, too, because he didn’t complain. I thought he was good for the final against Steamboat, and when he went over the match with Ricky and I during intermission, everything was cool.
Evidently it wasn’t. Lewis and Steamboat worked together just fine until Lewis stiffed Ricky on that arm-drag. Then it was the Strangler Lewis Show again. He choked out Steamboat — I think just to prove that fucking stranglehold actually works — and walked out of Memphis last night the winner of Group Two. He left the building without even showering or changing and was taken straight to the airport. He sat alone on the plane and as far as I know no one spoke to him on the flight back to the CERN compound, where we’re putting all the time traveling wrestlers up for the duration of the tournament.
I know I could come up with some bullshit excuse to disqualify Lewis from the tournament. I could claim a fake injury — or, shit, have Choshu or Samoa Joe make it a legit one — and pull Lewis in favor of Steamboat, but that would be cheating. I didn’t book Lewis to win, but fuck it — he won. He’s in the final group. That’s where he can stay. But a word of caution to all you out there: If the day ever comes when you can book your own tournament of time traveling wrestling legends, leave Strangler Lewis off the roster. I know it sounds like a good idea, but trust me, it’s not. The guy makes Hulk Hogan circa 1988, or Shawn Michaels circa 1996, look downright cooperative.
Speaking of which . . . see you next week! Shit.
Last Week: The Wrestling Legends Invitational: Group One