Thursday, September 3, 2015

The 1992 NWA Tag Team Title Tournament: The Weirdest Thing Ever

The Start Of Something Weird
We've all been watching wrestling for a while now, and because that's true, we sort of have some basic ideas of how it is that big shows are supposed to work. It is also true that some of those ideas aren't necessarily a good thing. But they are structures for a reason. And one of them is that when you have a tournament, and said tournament is for a title that is not necessarily yours to control, it's probably a good idea to make sure that your fingerprints aren't CLEARLY all over the thing. All of these lessons, of course, were NOT obeyed during the 1992 NWA World Tag Team Title Tournament.

Firstly, the interesting part was that the Steiner Brothers, who were the franchise tag team of WCW at the moment, were in the tournament despite being the WCW World Tag Team Champions. It's a bit like if the New Day entered the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic just to say they could do it. And (as we will come to understand) they were expected to win the whole thing. Meanwhile, the rest of the tournament was a mish-mash of "international teams" (Dean and Joe Malenko represented Europe, Hiroshi Hase and Akira Nogami represented Japan, and Silver King and El Texano represented Mexico) and clearly put-together units who were just there to lose in the opening round (Tom Zenk and Marcus Alexander Bagwell everyone.)

But the tournament isn't remembered for that. It's remembered for one team - Steve Williams and Terry Gordy. The second they were announced, it was kind of.... well, odd is the right kind of word. Both of them had become famous working for Bill Watts in Mid-South, so it felt funny that they were teaming up together in the company he was running.

But before we go any further, a quick word about the company Bill Watts was running. It was, before he got there, something really interesting. It had a working relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling, which means American fans got to see Jushin "Thunder" Liger while he was still in his prime. We saw the Great Muta too, and his U.S. excursions helped to make him a star. Add that to Sting, Brian Pillman, and the Steiners (just to name a few) and it was much more of a loaded roster than the WWE had at the time.

But when Watts got there, what happened? His first act was not to try and figure out how to build on what had been left for him. No, his first act was to ban any and all maneuvers from off the top rope. No, really. He did this, in 1992, with perhaps the best high-flyer of his generation (sometimes) under his booking control, he did that. It's like if WWE had Rey Misterio circa 1996 and demanded he never do anything more aerial than a dropkick.

But back to the tournament. That top-rope rule meant that Brian Pillman and Jushin Liger, who were teamed together as kind of a dream pairing, were nerfed. Everything was seemingly building to Williams\Gordy vs Steiners in the finals right? Like, if you had a team who were that good, you would want them to make it to the finals right? Except.... they didn't. Williams and Gordy beat them clean-ish in the second round. Williams and Gordy won the tournament in a cakewalk, never appearing particularly challenged even though they were heels.

So tonight, when you watch the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, remember that WWE, for all its faults, would never do something like that.... right?