Group Five: The Jim Crockett Bracket How well I remember just a few short hours ago, when we were LIVE! at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. For those of you tuning in for the first time to check out this humble time travel assisted tournament, a brief recap (and for an answer to really excellent questions like “How?” and “Why?” please feel free to read the recap of Group One from a few weeks ago): the first four weeks have seen The Rock, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Shawn Michaels and Lou Thesz win their groups and qualify for the final group, which will compete in New York City to crown a tournament champion. Speaking of the New York group, there’s an announcement about that coming up later in this very recap. So pay attention.
Calling all the action from ringside for Group Five is the most legendary play-by-play announcer in the history of professional wrestling, Gordon Solie. To the ring!
Round One Match:
Goldberg vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart
Hey, it’s the main event of Starrcade ’99 all over again! Except, let’s hope not. Bill Goldberg is a former World Heavyweight Champion in WCW and the WWE, a two-time former WCW United States Champion, and was one of the most dominant and popular wrestlers from the final years of World Championship Wrestling. Bret Hart is a seven-time World Champion (five times in the WWF, twice in WCW), a two-time Intercontinental Champion, two-time WWF Tag Team Champion, a two-time winner of the King of the Ring tournament, and a winner of the Royal Rumble. I also seem to remember something about him being the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
They start with a tie-up, and Goldberg surprises Bret a little, tripping him and grabbing a knee bar in the opening seconds of the match. Bret makes the ropes, and the ref stands them up. Another tie-up leads to Bret grabbing a hammerlock, into a side headlock. Goldberg tries suplexing out, but Bret shifts his weight and takes him over the other way with a headlock takedown. Goldberg counters with a head-scissors. Bret rolls over, pushes out and jumps on top with another headlock. Goldberg gets to his feet, shoves Bret into the ropes and knocks him flat with a shoulder block. Bret back up, another tie-up, Bret goes behind and grabs a waistlock — Goldberg reverses — belly-to-back suplex! Bret gets up and Goldberg levels him with a running clothesline.
Goldberg picks up Bret, hooks him in a pumphandle position, lifts and — Bret slips out, goes behind and — released German suplex! Goldberg gets to his feet, Bret rebounds off the ropes and — lariat takedown! Bret covers, Goldberg’s up at one.
Bret whips Goldberg into the corner and follows in with a running clothesline. Bret works him over with shots to the head and the midsection until Goldberg has enough, grabs Bret by the throat with both hands and tosses him into the corner for a little of the same. Goldberg drags Bret out of the corner, whips him to the ropes — powerslam! Cover gets two. Goldberg yanks Bret to his feet and whips him into the corner. Bret hits the turnbuckles chest-first. Goldberg charges in after. Bret dodges at the last second, rolls Goldberg up from behind and gets a two-count. Both men up — Bret drops Goldberg with a dropkick. Both men up again — Bret nails another dropkick. Both men up again — Bret tries the dropkick again, but Goldberg steps out and swats Bret aside. Goldberg doubles Bret over with a kick to the gut, pulls him in and — underhook suplex! Goldberg covers, gets another two-count.
Goldberg hauls Bret up, whips him into the ropes, tries a superkick — Bret ducks, Goldberg turns around — Bret with an inverted atomic drop! Bret with a swinging neckbreaker! And a standing leg drop! Bret covers — one, two — Goldberg throws him off with authority.
Both men to their feet. Bret stays right on Goldberg, driving him back against the ropes with punches, then whipping him across to the opposite ropes. Bret catches him on the rebound and — pendulum backbreaker! Bret covers. Goldberg kicks out again at two. Bret pulls Goldberg up, bounces him off the ropes, tries a hip toss. Goldberg blocks, tries one of his own. Bret blocks, goes behind — tries a crucifix! Goldberg won’t go down. He pulls Bret up into a fireman’s carry, then immediately into a military press! From there Goldberg drops Bret down across his knee for a gutbuster! Goldberg pulls Bret up — arm-wringer — into a hook kick! He’s smelling blood in the water now. Goldberg paces back and forth across the ring, waiting for Bret to get up. Bret finally does and — Goldberg charges for the spear! Bret dodges! Goldberg spears himself through the ropes and clear out of the ring to the floor!
Goldberg gets back up on the apron. Bret grabs him and attempts to bring him back in with a vertical suplex. Goldberg floats over, goes behind and grabs a waistlock. Bret blocks by holding the top rope, reverses and rolls Goldberg up — Bret bridges back for extra leverage! The ref counts one, two, three! Goldberg kicks out but it’s too late! Bret got him!
(Bret Hart over Goldberg, bridging roll-up —> pinfall)
As Bret leaves the ring and makes his way back to the dressing room, we get a camera shot of the crowd at ringside, and I’ll be damned if Stu Hart — the young, hard, vigorous Stu Hart from the prime of his in-ring career — isn’t sitting there in the front row. And is that Fritz Von Erich next to him? Solie explains that Stu and Fritz are here as alternates, in case one of the performers in the group are unable to work their match for some reason. Stu looks happy following Bret’s win.
That match was a nice mixture of technique and power, I’d say. This next one, probably not so much.
Round One Match:
Vader vs. The Undertaker
Vader is one of the all-time monsters of wrestling, a legend in Japan where he is a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion in New Japan and a former Triple Crown Champion in All Japan, as well as a winner of the Champions Carnival. The Undertaker is another fellow to whom the term “monster” would apply. He’s a four-time WWF/WWE Champion, a three-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a winner of the Royal Rumble, undefeated in seventeen appearances at WrestleMania, and generally one of the most durable and enduring performers in the whole entire history of wrestling since forever.
Vader attacks at the bell, shoving Taker into the corner and letting loose with a relentless flurry of stiff forearms and fists. Vader whips him to the opposite corner, follows him in and — avalanche! Not giving Undertaker a moment to catch his breath, Vader grabs him under the arms and takes him out and over with a belly-to-belly suplex! Vader’s up, off the ropes — splash! Ref counts one, two — Taker kicks out! Vader pulls Taker to his feet — delayed vertical suplex. It’s been all Vader so far. Vader climbs to the top rope — he’s going for a moonsault! Vader leaps — Taker rolls out of the way! Vader crashes to the mat.
Taker sits up! Vader slowly gets to his feet. Taker off the ropes — running big boot! Vader struggles back up. Taker rebounds off the ropes again — flying clothesline! Taker pulls Vader up, tries to lift him but can’t! Vader nails him with a bell clap! Taker staggers back against the ropes. Vader goes for the whip — Taker reverses and — pops Vader in the face with another big boot! Vader is dazed. Taker moves in and — picks him up! Turns him into position and — Tombstone! Taker tombstones Vader! There’s the cover — one, two, three!
(The Undertaker over Vader, Tombstone —> pinfall)
I hope Taker didn’t pull something picking that big son of a bitch up just then. And now, because the draw just loves first round dream matches . . .
Round One Match:
John Cena vs. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Though introductions hardly seem necessary, I’ll point out that John Cena is a five-time WWE Champion, a two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a three-time WWE United States Champion, a winner of the Royal Rumble, and arguably the biggest star and top box office draw of the current decade. I’ll also remind you that Steve Austin is a six-time WWF Champion, a two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, a two-time WCW United States Champion, a two-time WCW Television Champion, a winner of the King of the Ring tournament, a three-time winner of the Royal Rumble, the top WWF star during the late 1990s wrestling boom, and the man whom Vince McMahon declared “the greatest WWE Superstar of all time.” Now we know who everybody is.
There’s a cool moment after the bell rings, before the action starts, where Cena and Austin are facing each other from opposite corners while the entire arena cheers them on.
SOLIE: “Wrestling fans, take just a moment and consider the grandeur, the sheer immensity of a tournament that gives you this match-up in the opening round.”
Now the cheers resolve into a thunderous chant of “AUSTIN! AUSTIN! AUSTIN!” Cena and Austin look at each other, shrug and — they’re charging! They meet in the center of the ring and — Austin with a double-leg takedown and he’s on top, pounding away on Cena! Cena reverses, rolling on top and pummeling Austin with lefts and rights. Austin throws him off. Both men get to their feet. Austin shoves Cena back against the ropes, whips him across — Cena ducks a clothesline, rebounds off the other side — Thesz Press on Austin! Cena rains down lefts and rights again while Austin tries his best to defend himself. Austin finally throws Cena off, but Cena keeps on him, stomping and kicking until Austin rolls out under the bottom rope.
Austin reaches in and drags Cena out to the floor by the foot! Austin with a right hand! And another! Whips Cena into the ring post! Cena’s dazed and — Austin levels him with a charging clothesline! Austin picks him up, rams him head-first into the ringside railing! More punches, then Austin whips Cena against the ring apron, charges and — Cena comes out with a clothesline! Austin is down. Cena rolls in to stop the ten count, then comes back out, pulls Austin up and shoves him into the ring. Cena climbs to the top turnbuckle — Austin stands — Cena jumps — missile dropkick! Damn, John’s really going for it. Cena covers — Austin kicks out at two.
Cena stays on his man, throwing Austin into the corner, mounting the second turnbuckle and pounding him in the head as the crowd counts along. He gets to “NINE!” when Austin grabs him, walks out of the corner and hits an inverted atomic drop. Austin throws Cena into the corner and goes nuts with fists and feet, driving Cena down to the mat and stomping a mudhole in him. Austin shows Cena both his middle fingers, gives him one more stomp to grow on, then yanks him to his feet. Austin takes Cena out of the corner with a vertical suplex, then grabs his ankles and catapults him back into the corner, where Cena collides head-first with the ring post! Cena falls out of the corner onto his back. Austin rebounds off the ropes and connects with a knee drop. He covers and gets two before Cena kicks out. Austin drags Cena to the side and drapes him over the middle rope. Austin bounces off the opposite ropes and — Cena moves out of the way! Austin misses the guillotine and hangs himself up in the ropes! Cena crawls in behind with a roll-up! One, two — Austin kicks out. Austin goes right after Cena, driving him back against the ropes with a series of punches. Austin tries a whip, but Cena reverses. Austin comes off the ropes, ducks a clothesline, rebounds off the other side and — Austin with the Thesz Press on Cena! Austin hits a flurry of punches — gets up, hits the ropes and comes back with — the diving elbow! He covers — Cena kicks out at two!
Austin’s furious. He gets up and drops another three elbows into Cena’s face, then mounts and starts throwing punches. Austin climbs to the second turnbuckle and — nails another diving elbow! He covers — Cena’s up at two! Not wasting a moment, Austin heads to the top turnbuckle. He waits on Cena to stand, then leaps for a flying double axe-handle — and Cena side steps and nails Austin with a shot to the gut! Austin’s doubled-over — Cena rebounds off the ropes behind him, jumps — Throwback! Cena gets to his feet, feeling his second wind now. He whips Austin into the ropes, catches him in the middle and — belly-to-belly suplex! Cena gets up, bends over Austin’s head and — let’s all say it together — “YOU CAN’T SEE ME!” Cena off the ropes — Five Knuckle Shuffle connects! Cena covers — referee counts one! Two! Austin kicks out. Cena picks up Austin, doubles him over with a knee-lift, goes behind and — Killswitch! Cena covers — one! Two! Austin kicks out! Cena pulls Austin to his feet — lifts him into a fireman’s carry! He’s going for the F-U! (Or is it the Attitude Adjustment?) But no! Austin escapes, drops down in front of Cena and — kick to the gut — Stunner! Austin stuns Cena! He covers — one, two, thr— Cena kicks out of the Stunner!
Austin is — can I say “stunned”? He complains to the referee about the count, then turns back to Cena, who is slowly trying to make it to his feet. Austin hovers behind him, arms outstretched. Cena stands up — and Austin moves in and slaps on the cobra clutch! With Cena still dazed from the Stunner, it doesn’t take long for him to fall down to one knee. Cena collapses flat on the mat and Austin climbs on top for extra leverage. The referee checks Cena’s arm, but he’s still got some fight left in him. With Austin on his back, Cena gets back to one knee, then to his feet. Cena charges backwards into the corner, driving Austin against the turnbuckles. Once doesn’t do it, so Cena walks out and drives Austin back into the corner again. A third time finally breaks the cobra clutch. Cena puts Austin on the top turnbuckle and climbs up for a superplex, but Austin fights him off and knocks him back down to the mat. Austin stands on the second rope and leaps off for another flying axe-handle attempt. Cena catches him! Cena lifts him up into a fireman’s carry and — Cena hits the F-U! He covers — one! Two! Thr— Austin kicks out of the F-U!
Now it’s Cena’s turn to be shocked. He picks Austin up and immediately goes for another F-U, but Austin drops down behind, pushes Cena into the ropes, picks him up on the rebound, pivots and — Stun Gun! Cena’s throat bounces off the top rope and he falls backwards into the ring. Austin camps out behind him, waits for Cena to get up and turn around then — kick to the gut — Stunner! But Austin’s not done! He pulls Cena back up! Another kick — another Stunner! Austin gives Cena the fingers — covers and hooks the leg — one! Two! Three!
(Steve Austin over John Cena, Stone Cold Stunner —> pinfall)
Austin downs a couple of beers after the match to celebrate, and graciously gives one to Cena. They drink a beer, Austin raises Cena’s hand — and then gives him another Stunner before leaving the ring! It’s what the people paid to see.
Round One Match:
Dynamite Kid vs. Mitsuharu Misawa
Dynamite is someone you’d call an international superstar — he was born in England, cut his teeth in Canada in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, had some of the greatest matches ever in Japan, then attained his greatest stardom as one half of the British Bulldogs here in the U.S. He’s been a tag team champion in the WWF, Stampede, and All Japan, and held the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship in New Japan, where he feuded with the original Tiger Mask and had some of the best wrestling matches anyone ever saw. Mitsuharu Misawa is one of the most decorated and revered performers in the history of pro wrestling in Japan. He is a five-time All Japan Triple Crown Champion, a six-time Unified World Tag Team Champion, a two-time All-Asia Tag Team Champion, a two-time winner of the Champions Carnival, a four-time winner of the World’s Strongest Tag Team League (once with Toshiaki Kawada, three times with Kenta Kobashi), and the founder of Pro Wrestling Noah, where he is a three-time GHC Heavyweight Champion and a two-time GHC Tag Team Champion. He was also the second Tiger Mask, succeeding Satoru Sayama when All Japan acquired the rights to the gimmick.
They circle to start. Tie-up goes nowhere, neither man able to gain an advantage, so they break and try again. This time Misawa catches Dynamite with a kick to the leg, then knocks him on his ass with a stiff elbow strike. Dynamite gets up, fakes another tie-up, goes behind and catches Misawa turning around with a pair of forearms that push him back against the ropes. Dynamite backs up a step and — sends Misawa over the top to the floor with a lariat! Rather than follow him out, Dynamite waits for Misawa to get back in on his own. Dynamite grabs Misawa stepping through the ropes, snap mares him over, rebounds off the ropes and — front dropkick! Dynamite off the ropes again — knee drop! Dynamite stands — falling headbutt connects! It’s all Dynamite Kid! He covers, but Misawa kicks out at two.
Pressing his advantage, Dynamite bounces off the ropes and drops a snap elbow. Another cover, another two-count. He pulls Misawa to his feet and sets up for a vertical suplex. Misawa won’t go over. Dynamite tries again — Misawa hits a forearm to the midsection, then floors Dynamite with another stiff elbow to the head! Dynamite scrambles to his feet against the ropes. Misawa charges — Roaring Elbow! Dynamite goes over the top to the floor! Misawa follows him out. Dynamite gets up — Misawa charges — Roaring Elbow on the floor! He rolls Dynamite back into the ring and covers him! One! Two! Dynamite kicks out!
Misawa picks up Dynamite, goes behind — released German suplex! Misawa waits on Dynamite to stand, charges — lariat! Misawa pulls Dynamite up, goes behind, grabs a full nelson — Tiger suplex! Referee counts one! Two! Th— Dynamite kicks out of the Tiger suplex! Misawa picks Dynamite up over his shoulder — he’s going for the Emerald Flowsion! Dynamite reverses — hooks Misawa for the cradle tombstone piledriver and — Misawa escapes, drops behind. Dynamite turns — Misawa kicks him in the gut, grabs a double underhook and — Tiger Driver! One! Two! Thr— Dynamite kicks out! Misawa pulls Dynamite up, lifts him for a vertical suplex — but then drops him over his shoulder for another try at the Emerald Flowsion! Dynamite escapes, goes behind. Misawa turns — Dynamite scoops him up, hooks the leg and — cradle tombstone piledriver! Dynamite covers him! One! Two! Th— Misawa gets a shoulder up!
With Misawa still down and looking out of it, Dynamite heads to the top rope. As he climbs, Misawa gets to his feet and charges the corner. He crotches Dynamite on the top rope, climbs up to the second turnbuckle, pulls Dynamite down over his shoulder — and leaps! Emerald Flowsion from the second rope! Misawa covers for the one, two, three!
(Mitsuharu Misawa over Dynamite Kid, Emerald Flowsion from the second rope —> pinfall)
Goddamn, talk about going for broke . . . Nothing low-impact about that one. They spent the entire match trying to kill each other. Misawa wins this one, but how much good will he be against Steve Austin in round two?
Speaking of which . . .
Round Two Match:
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. The Undertaker
As longtime WWF mainstays, these two know each other very well. Bret ducks out of a tie-up attempt and shoots Taker’s leg, tripping him and going for the Sharpshooter right away. Taker grabs his foot, trips Bret and climbs on top, nailing him with fists and forearms until Bret is finally able to roll over and crawl to the ropes, forcing the ref to back Taker off.
Both men standing. Taker moves in with his dukes up, lands a punch to the head, then another one to the ribs, then forces Bret into the corner with a flurry of rights and lefts. Ref backs Taker off again, but Taker goes right back in with a knee lift to the midsection. He whips Bret to the opposite corner and follows him in with a charging clothesline. Taker whips Bret back to the opposite corner. Bret hits the turnbuckles chest-first at full speed and falls out flat on his back. Taker off the ropes — leg drop! He covers — one, two — Bret kicks out.
Taker pulls Bret up, whips him — Bret reverses, ducks for a back body-drop. Taker stops short, waits for Bret to straight up and tries a clothesline. Bret ducks the clothesline — Taker rebounds — Bret puts him on his face with a drop toehold! Bret’s up and stomping away! He rolls Taker over, grabs his legs by the ankles and — make a wish — kneeling headbutt to the midsection! Bret’s back up — standing leg drop across the throat! He covers, but Taker’s up easily at two. Bret whips Taker into the corner, follows in and throws him out with a monkey flip. Taker to his feet — Bret charges — Taker kills him with a big boot! Taker picks Bret up, pushes him into the corner, hits another volley of strikes to the head and ribs. Taker scoops Bret up, holds him over his shoulder and comes out of the corner with a running powerslam. He covers — Bret kicks out at two.
Both men up. Taker with an arm-wringer, pulls Bret to the ropes and climbs to the top. A little old school Undertaker action looks forthcoming, but Bret kicks the top rope, crotching Taker, then rebounds off the far ropes and connects with a running shoulderblock that sends Taker flying out onto the floor! Bret waits for Taker to get up, then slingshots over the top for a pescado! Taker catches him! Taker puts Bret on his shoulder and charges for the ring post. Bret escapes, dropping behind and shoving Taker shoulder-first into the post! Bret capitalizes, grabbing Taker’s wrist and wrapping it hard around the post again — and again. Bret holds onto the injured arm and rolls back into the ring, pulling Taker in after him. He cranks two arm-wringers, jerking on the arm, trying to yank it out of the socket. Bret pulls Taker down low, steps over and takes him down on his back, slapping on a cross armbreaker.
Taker won’t submit. With his legs and his good arm, he crawls to the bottom rope. The ref starts the five count, but Bret won’t break. Taker slides all the way out to the floor, and since Bret won’t let go, he pulls Bret out with him! Bret falls that onto the floor and lets Taker go. Taker gives him a few stomps, then picks him up and body slams him on the floor! Taker rolls Bret back into the ring, pulls his head out underneath the bottom rope, hops up on the ring apron and — guillotine leg drop! Bret falls back outside, hitting the floor hard yet again. Taker picks up Bret — he’s going for a Tombstone on the outside! Bret escapes, slips behind and shoves Taker toward the ringside barricade. Taker stops short, turns, charges and — Bret takes him over with a hip-toss on Taker’s bad shoulder! Taker gets to his feet — Bret moves in and — single-arm DDT! Bret rolls in under the bottom rope to stop the count, then goes back out after the Undertaker. Bret rolls him back in and climbs to the top. Taker gets to his feet, turns toward Bret — Bret tries a flying crossbody — Taker catches him! He’s going for the Tombstone again! Bret escapes again, goes behind, hooks Taker’s bad arm and — Bret rolls him up with a crucifix! Taker’s having trouble getting free with the injured arm! Ref counts one, two, three!
(Bret Hart over The Undertaker, crucifix —> pinfall)
Brains over brawn, you might say. And check out that young turk Stu Hart in the front row. He looks pleased as can be with how the kid is doing.
Round Two Match:
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Mitsuharu Misawa
Austin wastes no time, charging Misawa at the bell, pushing him back into a corner and pummeling him with a series of haymakers that knocks him to the mat. Austin starts the mudhole-stomping, but Misawa catches his foot and throws him off his feet! Austin gets up, Misawa charges out of the corner and — takes him down with a lariat! Regrouping by the ropes for a moment, Misawa sees Austin back up, charges again and — Roaring Elbow attempt, but Austin ducks. Misawa turns — Austin kicks — goes for the Stunner! Misawa throws him off into the ropes. Austin rebounds — Misawa hits the Roaring Elbow! He covers! One! Two! Austin kicks out!
Misawa throws Austin chest-first into the corner and grabs him coming out for a released German suplex! Solie speculates that Misawa, still suffering from his match with Dynamite Kid, is trying to end this one early. Sure does look that way, Gordon. Misawa pulls Austin up and — sit-out gutwrench powerbomb! There’s the pin — one, two — Austin kicks out! Misawa picks Austin up. Misawa throws a forearm — Austin blocks, comes back with right hands, forces Misawa against the ropes — whips him across — Misawa rebounds — Austin charges and levels him with a running clothesline! Misawa’s up — Austin nails another clothesline! Misawa’s up again. Austin charges for another clothesline. Misawa ducks, turns — Austin rebounds off the ropes — Thesz Press! Austin pummels Misawa with punches to the head. Austin’s up — off the ropes — drops the diving elbow, flipping Misawa the middle fingers all the way down! Austin covers — Misawa’s up at two.
Austin pulls Misawa to his feet, pushes him into the corner, lands a few more punches to the head, and whips him across to the opposite corner. Austin charges in after with a diving shoulderblock to the midsection! Austin grabs Misawa in a headlock and bulldogs him out of the corner! Rolls him over for the pin! One, two — Misawa kicks out. Austin pulls Misawa up, throws a knee-lift into his gut, and leads him over to the ropes. Austin whips Misawa, tries a clothesline — Misawa ducks, rebounds off the other side, tries a clothesline of his own — Austin ducks — Misawa turns around — Austin kicks him in the gut and — Stunner! Austin hits the Stunner and — Misawa’s up! And he levels Austin with a lariat! Misawa collapses, having summoned every last bit of strength for that lariat following the Stunner. Both men are down!
The referee has no choice but to start a ten count. Neither man even moves until five, when Austin finally stirs. At six, Misawa rolls over and crawls toward the ropes. At nine both men are up and the ref stops the count. They stagger toward each other and meet in the middle of the ring, trading punches and elbow strikes. Misawa lands two in a row, knocking Austin back a step, but then Austin blocks the next one, kicks Misawa in the gut and goes for the Stunner again! Misawa throws Austin off into the ropes and catches him coming back with a lariat!
Austin gets up, charges — another lariat from Misawa! Austin gets up again, throws a right hand — Misawa blocks, lands one elbow strike, another, spins around and — discus lariat! He falls on top for the pin! One! Two! Three!
(Mitsuharu Misawa over Steve Austin, discus lariat —> pinfall)
So it’s Bret vs. Misawa for the Group Five Final. Before we get there, though, we actually have a few announcements to make, which means no skipping intermission this time. Now that the tournament is over halfway complete, we can start talking about the final group, to compete in New York City for the tournament championship. That group, consisting of the winners of these first eight brackets, will be named the Vince McMahon Group, and they will compete — first big announcement forthcoming — over two consecutive nights in Madison Square Garden, the week following Group Eight. Night One will feature first round matches, Night Two will feature the second round and final matches. And to supplement the tournament matches, there will also be thirteen special attraction bouts — six on Night One, seven on Night Two, to make two back-to-back ten-match supercards to close out the tournament.
At this point, given the results of the tournament so far, we can announce the first two of these special attractions. First, on Night One in New York, Hulk Hogan will compete in a one-on-one bout with the man who just wrestled Mitsuharu Misawa in Round Two tournament action, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin! And if that dream match isn’t enough for you, try this one: on Night Two, “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino will face off against another legend of wrestling we just saw in action tonight, Goldberg! Hogan vs. Austin on Night One, Sammartino vs. Goldberg on Night Two. And watch for more announcements regarding the special attraction matches coming next week. For now, back to the ring for the last match of the evening.
Group Five Final Match:
Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Mitsuharu Misawa
Though not exactly old friends, these two have faced each other before — Bret Hart wrestled Tiger Mask II to a time-limit draw on a WWF/All Japan Tokyo Dome show in 1990. Let’s hope they don’t go to a draw here — that could get complicated.
Tie-up to start. Misawa goes behind into a hammerlock. Bret reverses to one of his own. Misawa bends over to try a trip, but Bret keeps his feet out of the way. Misawa leans forward and takes Bret over with a shoulder throw. Bret reaches back with both feet and kicks Misawa away, stands, and they tie-up again. Misawa pushes Bret toward the ropes, but he reverses at the last second and pushes Misawa into the ropes. They struggle for an advantage while the ref starts a count for a break. When the count reaches four, Bret scores with a knee-lift, then whips Misawa off to the opposite side. Bret catches Misawa with a knee-lift off the rebound, but Misawa hangs on all the way over and pulls Bret down into a roll-up. That gets two. Bret kicks out, and both men are back up.
Misawa feigns another tie-up and nails Bret in the mouth with an elbow strike. He does well with those, don’t he? A shot to the gut and a few more elbows drive Bret back into the corner. Misawa whips Bret across to the opposite side. Bret hits the turnbuckles chest-first and Misawa charges in from behind — and nearly beheads him with a lariat! Misawa rolls him over and covers — one, two, Bret kicks out!
Misawa takes over. Vertical suplex. Elbow drop. Pin attempt gets two. Whips Bret into the ropes — powerslam on the rebound! That gets two. Whips Bret to the corner, charges in for a lariat! Whips Bret to the opposite corner, charges in — Roaring Elbow misses! Bret rolls Misawa up — two-count! Both men to their feet — Bret hits a dropkick! Both men up — another dropkick from Bret! Misawa up — Bret rebounds off the ropes — lariat takedown!
Bret pulls Misawa up — Russian legsweep! Bret to the second turnbuckle — diving elbow drop! Bret covers — two-count! Bret with a standing leg drop! Another two-count. Bret hauls Misawa to his feet, grabs a headlock — tries a bulldog, but Misawa puts on the brakes, grabs a waistlock and — backdrop suplex! Misawa covers — one, two, th— Bret kicks out! Misawa picks Bret up, scoops him — Emerald Flowsion coming up — Bret escapes! Drops down behind! Misawa turns, throws an elbow. Bret ducks, goes behind — dropkick to the knee! Misawa goes down! Bret grabs the leg — elbow drop on the knee! Bret drags Misawa to the ropes, props the leg up on the bottom rope — seated senton on the knee! Another! Another! Bret pulls Misawa to the center of the ring, slaps on a spinning toe-hold — Misawa reaches up and rolls him into a small package! One! Two! Bret kicks out!
Both men up, and Bret goes right back to the leg, kicking it out from under Misawa. Bret holds down the bad leg and drives his knee into it once, twice, three times — rolls Misawa over into a single-leg crab.
Misawa’s not quitting. He pushes up, rolls forward, takes Bret down — kicks him in the face! And again! Bret lets go of the leg. Misawa gets up and limps to the ropes in a hurry. Bret moves in, but Misawa floors him with an elbow strike as soon as he gets close. Misawa backs up, waits for Bret to stand, then — practically on one leg — moves in and finally connects with the Roaring Elbow! Cover gets one, two, th— Bret kicks out! Misawa picks up Bret, doubles him over, grabs a double underhook — lifts and — his knee gives out! He was going for a Tiger Driver, but his knee gave out! Bret immediately capitalizes, rolling Misawa up in a small package — one, two — Misawa’s up! Misawa lands an elbow strike, but Bret ducks a discus clothesline, grabs Misawa from behind and — German suplex! Bret bridges for the pin — one, two — Misawa kicks out! Bret picks up Misawa — drops him across his knee for a backbreaker! Bret takes hold of Misawa’s feet, steps over — and locks Misawa into the Sharpshooter! They’re far from the ropes, Misawa has nowhere to go!
But he’s not submitting! Misawa hangs on, gutting it out through the pain. He plants his palms on the canvas beneath him, pushes up, twists his body, forcing Bret to step back over in order to remain standing. Misawa kicks and pushes, throwing Bret off. Bret moves back in — and Misawa trips him with a drop toe-hold! Misawa crawls to the ropes and pulls himself up. Bret comes in — elbow strike from Misawa! Bret’s staggered! Misawa takes a step forward — another elbow strike! Bret shakes it off — charges — another Roaring Elbow from Misawa! Bret’s down, Misawa’s on top for the pin! One! Two! Three!
(Mitsuharu Misawa over Bret Hart, Roaring Elbow —> pinfall)
People sure did hit each other a lot this time. Your winner of Group Five, joining The Rock, Ed “Strangler” Lewis, Shawn Michaels and Lou Thesz in the final bracket, Mitsuharu Misawa. Of note: Bret seems to be looking for his dad in the crowd on the way out, but that seat next to Fritz Von Erich is empty, and Stu Hart is nowhere to be found.
Next week we go to cold-as-fuck St. Paul Minnesota, specifically the old home base of the AWA, the St. Paul Civic Center, for Group Six: The Wally Karbo Bracket. Calling all the action from ringside will be your hosts, the duo of Rod Trongard and Larry Zbyszko. Round One matches are:
Ric Flair vs. Owen Hart
Verne Gagne vs. Genichiro Tenryu
Eddie Guerrero vs. Antonio Inoki
“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. Bob Backlund
Ought to be a humdinger, oughtn’t it? See you next week!
Last Week: Group Four: The Shohei Baba Bracket
November 20: Group Three: The Salvador Lutteroth Bracket
November 12: Group Two: The Jerry Jarrett Bracket
November 5: Group One: The Sam Muchnick Bracket