Friday, July 20, 2018

The Abysmal WWF Run of "Dr. Death" Steve Williams

When I was a kid I was big fan of "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.  Admittedly it was initially probably his moniker that made me pay attention to him.  Ultimately it was his in ring work that made me a fan.

I first saw him in Jim Crockett Promotions as a member of the Varsity Club and he was such a monster I just couldn't get enough.  When he returned in 1992 with Terry Gordy as the Miracle Violence Connection dominating the tag team division eventually becoming the NWA/WCW Unified Tag Team Champions.  Their 30 minute time limit draw with the Steiner Brothers at Beach Blast 1992 was tremendous!

Today wrestling from around the world is a lot more accessible than in the 1980's & 90's, so when Williams had that tremendous run in All Japan I was relegated to reading about it in the magazines and through the occasional tape I was able to get my hands on.

When it was announced that he had signed with the WWE I couldn't have been more excited.  He had a dark match in April of 1998 but his in ring debuted didn't until July and it wasn't in a wrestling match but in infamous Brawl for All where in the second round he was knock out by Bart Gunn and in the progress tore his hamstring and other injuries that kept him out of action for months. 

He returned in January 1999 defeated Bob Holly in a dark match.  We next saw him on television dressed in kabuki outfit with a mask.  It was Raw that aired February 22, 1999, taped on the 16th, when during a hardcore match between Bart Gunn and Bob Holly when Kabuki ran out throwing Gunn off the stage through a table.  

Jim Ross suffered a Bells Palsy attack that took him off air.  When he returned he was a disgruntled heel that was bitter about losing his spot and he began acting as a manger for Doctor Death upon his return from injury.

On the March 14th episode of Sunday Night Heat Tiger Ali Singh brought a fan into the ring to do an imitation of Ross.  Ross and Williams came down the ring and Williams and suplex the fan on the back of his head.  

Ironically the fan was WWE writer Ed Ferrara who would go onto the WCW later in 1999 and play a character named Oklahoma that spoofed Jim Ross and acted the manger of Williams during his abysmal WCW run in 1999.

Williams with Ferrara as Oklahoma
Williams would wrestle in only three matches in March of 1999 before being released in mid April.  In his year in the WWE Williams wrestled five matches and competed in two Brawl for All bouts.  He was involved in a couple minor feuds with Tiger Ali Singh, Bob Holly and Al Snow but he made no impact at all in the WWE.  

As a fan I was disappointed and I have to imagine that Dr. Death was as well.  He would return to the WWE in late May 2003 wrestling two house shows against Lance Storm in Louisiana.

April 28, 1998 Dark Match Richmond, Virginia
Williams pinned Too Cold Scorpio with a back drop driver

July 14, 1998 RAW Birmingham, New York
Brawl 4 All: Williams defeated Pierre Carl Ouellet by decision in three rounds

July 27, 1998 RAW Anaheim, California
Brawl 4 All: Bart Gunn knocked out Williams in the third round

Janury 12, 1999 Dark Match Beaumont, Texas
Williams defeated Bob Holly

March 15, 1999 Sunday Night Heat San Jose, California
Williams defeated Matt & Jeff Hardy in a handicapped match with an Oklahoma Stampede on Matt

March 29, 1999 RAW East Rutherford, New Jersey
Hardcore Holly defeated Williams after Al Snow interfered to retain his Hardcore Championship

March 30, 1999 Sunday Night Heat Nassau Coliseum
Williams defeated Tiger Ali Singh

May 23, 2003 House Show Bossier City, Louisiana
Williams defeats Lance Storm

May 24, 2003 House Show Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Lance Storm defeated Williams

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment, read my other posts, and like my blogs Facebook page and while you're at it check out my weekly podcast Podcast of 1,000 Holds on the Nerdy Legion Podcast Network. 

Later Readers!

Monday, July 16, 2018

WWE Smackdown Live Report 7/9/2018

Monday night July 9th my son, cousin, and I attended the WWE Smackdown Live house show in Augusta, Maine.  The reason for the lateness of this report was that the following morning we headed out of town for the rest of the week camping and I'm just now getting some internet to write this.

The Augusta Civic Center was not sold out but there was a few thousand people in attendance.  My wrestling friends Roy, Cheryl, Phil, and Alex also went to the show, I'm sure there were a bunch of other people that I know from wrestling that were also there.

Let's get to the matches:

Triple Threat Match
United States Champion: Jeff Hardy defeated Samoa Joe & The Miz

The Miz did his beast Rick Rude impersonation calling us Augusta sweathogs and asking us to keep the noise down while he took off his robe.  Solid opening match that saw Hardy get the pin after a twist of fate and a standing splash on Miz.

Andrade "Cien" Almas with Zelina Vega pinned Sin Cara

Photo credit Philster
This match was great!  They gave us a good lucha style match with fast paced action and Sin Cara displaying some impressive aerial offense with a few dives to the floor.  This was probably the best match of the night!  I haven't thought much of Sin Cara but if he was given to chance to have longer matches like this many people would think differently of him.  Almas got the pin with his DDT finisher.

Photo credit Philster
Nikki Cross & Becky Lynch defeated The IIconics: Billy Kaye & Peyton Royce

Photo credit Philster
Cross was a surprise as she hasn't officially been called up yet to the main roster from NXT.  The IIconics came out and insulted us all before making their way to the ring.  Decent match where Nikki took the majority of the heat before making the hot tag to Becky.  Finish came when Becky submitted Peyton with the disarmer

Rusev with Aiden English submitted Tye Dillinger

Dillinger was a surprise and had he not been facing Rusev I think he would have been tremendously over.  He was getting some good "10" chants until Rusev came out.  Short solid match with Rusev winning with the Accolade.

Photo credit Philster
Six Man Tag
New Day: Big E, Xavier Woods, & Kofi Kingston defeated Sanity: Eric Young, Killian Dain, & Alexander Wolfe

I was excited to see this as a six man.  It was a good match, with expected New Day antics and comedy spots.  Canaan wanted to see a Trouble in Paradise badly, and he got one post match.

Tag Team Champions: Bludgeon Brothers: Haper & Rowan defeated The Club: Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

This was the first match after intermission and it was bad.  Rowan worked most of the match for his team and he's just not that good.  Anderson took the fall for his team.

Women's Champion: Carmella pinned Naomi

Just terrible

Photo credit Philster
No Disqualification
WWE Champion: AJ Styles pinned Shinsuke Nakamura

This was a great match and I'm so happy that I got to see these two wrestle each other live.  It was no five star classic but they worked hard and it was extremely entertaining.  This was also the match I finally found the right setting to get okay pictures on my phone.

They used the standard house show weapons, table, chairs, and kendo stick.  Styles got the pin after a phenomenal forearm.

All in all this was a decent show with the top two matches being Almas vs. Sin Cara and AJ vs. Nakamura and the worst matches being the Tag Team and Women's title matches.  One thing that bothers me the most about house show title defenses is that I know I'm not going to see one so the finish of the match becomes a non-factor.

In the case of the AJ vs. Nakamura match it was exceptionally annoying, being a No Disqualification match the only possible outcome is AJ defeating Nakamura by pinfall or submission.

One of the coolest things for me was there were several wrestlers I had never seen wrestle in person before.

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment, read my other posts, and like my blogs Facebook page and while you're at it check out my weekly podcast Podcast of 1,000 Holds on the Nerdy Legion Podcast Network. 

Later Readers!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Oddjob Was a Wrestler

In 1964, Sean Connery returned to iconic role as James Bond for the third time in what many consider his best Bond film. The series learned from the seriousness of Dr. No and the slow build of From Russia With Love and it seemed as if the producers had finally found a formula to keep the action tight and the story memorable. One of the ways they accomplished this was by introducing villains for Bond to face off against that were his equal or better. In Goldfinger, Bond’s primary adversary was Auric Goldfinger, but it was his henchmen Oddjob who Bond truly feared. The stoic muscle of Goldfinger was an intimidating presence that physically was more powerful than 007. What I didn’t know until recently is that Oddjob, who was portrayed by Harold Sakata (born: Toshiyuki Sakata) was also known by his professional wrestling name Tosh Togo. 

Harold Sakata was born on July 1st, 1920 in Holualo, Hawaii to Japanese-Americans who operated a Hawaiian coffee farm. At the age of eighteen he was a meager 5’8” and weighed 113 lbs. Harold was upset that he was so much smaller than the other boys his age, and decided to take up weight lifting in order to increase his build. He was a natural and became so good at lifting that after his time in the Army, during World War II, Harold continued training and managed to win the Light-heavyweight silver medal in the 1948 Olympics for the United States.

Following his Olympic medal win, Mr. Sakata began professional wrestling in 1949. He was trained by Tetsuro "Rubberman" Higami and Ben Sherman. He was given the name Tosh Togo and was billed as the brother of the Great Togo (Kazuo Okamura). Other members of the Togo family included Mas Togo (Masutatsu Oyama) and Ko Togo (Kokichi Endo).

Between 1950 and 1964, Sakata wrestled for the Tri-State Sports, Pacific Northwest, Japan Wrestling Alliance, Mid-Pacific, and various NWA affiliates such as NWA Los Angeles, NWA Montreal, NWA Texas, and others. He held several championships during this time including:

-NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team with Tojo Yamamoto (1952-1953) x2

-NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team with Glen Detton (1953)

-NWA Canadian Open Tag Team Champion with Great Togo (1954)

-WWA World Tag Team Champion with The Great Togo (1955)

-NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Champion (1956)

-NWA World Tag Team Champion with The Great Sasaki (1957) x2

-NAWA International Television Tag Team Champion with Red Berry (1958) x2

-NWA Los Angeles World Tag Team Champion with Red Berry (1958)

-NWA Texas Heavyweight Champion (1958)

-NWA Gulf Coast Southern Tag Team Champion with John Smith (1959)

-NWA Mid-America Southern Tag Team Champion with John Smith (1959)

-NWA Mid-Atlantic Southern Tag Team Champion with Ike Eakins (1960)

-NWA Hawaii Tag Team Champion with Curtis Iaukea (1963)

Sakata was part of the traveling wrestling troupe that helped bring professional wrestling to Japan. He was so dedicated to helping solidify the sport in Japan that he moved to Japan in the late 1950’s, where he raised his family. He trained the man known as “The Father of Puroresu” Rikidozan who went on to become one of the most influential men in professional wrestling history. 

(Note: In 2004, a South-Korean Japanese film that focused on the life of Rikiodzan and professional wrestling in Japan in the 1950’s was released. Harold Sakata was portrayed by none other than “The Great Muta” Keiji Mutoh.)

After he and his wife divorced, Sakata began traveling again and ended up in Britain where he was ultimately cast as the menacing man we all know. Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli noticed Harold because of his heavy build. The scrawny 5’8” 113 lbs. eighteen year old was now forty years old and 5’10” and 284 lbs. His intimidating gaze really sold the producers on casting Sakata despite having no prior acting experience.

There was a little controversy before the casting though. Indian actor/wrestler Milton Reid (The Mighty Chang) also auditioned for the role of Oddjob and he challenged Sakata to a wrestling match with the winner receiving the role. However, Reid had previously been cast in Dr. No and his character was killed off, so Sakata got the role and the wrestling match never took place. However, Reid would find himself in another Bond film in 1977 when he faced off against Roger Moore in the roof top fight scene in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Following the success of Goldfinger, Harold occasionally used the name Oddjob and was even billed in several movies as Harold “Oddjob” Sakata. He also appeared as the Oddjob character in a series of Vicks cough syrup commercials in the 1970s and even had a famous spot parodying the commercials on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

In 1974, Harold portrayed Oddjob in Verne Gagne’s film The Wrestler.

(Note: if you haven’t seen The Wrestler, it’s worth tracking down just to see all the great stars in this film. Sadly, the plot and the movie itself is quite horrible and a slog to get through. It's one of the worst movies I've ever seen.)

Sakata continued wrestling following his Goldfinger success, and found himself in Portland, Big Time Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, Stampede, AWA, and even New Japan Pro Wrestling. Sometimes he wrestled as Tosh Togo, other times Oddjob, and then sometimes he went by Harold Sakata.

I found an article from 1965, where Sakata made an appearance as Oddjob at the Loughborough Town Hall in England. He appearance complete in costume and his bowler hat was hung from the ring post. During the second round of the match, there was a scuffle over the hat and his opponent cut his hand on the razor sharp brim of the hat which got Oddjob disqualified. I have a feeling this sort of thing played out quite a bit throughout different promotions.

Sakata won his final title eleven years after his role in Goldfinger in 1975 when he captured the WWC Puerto Rican Championship. Three years later, Sakata would wrestle his final match which he lost via count out to Rocky Tomayo during a Big Time Wrestling event in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Oddjob truly was an influential person in the history of professional wrestling. He was a decorated champion who was a legit Olympic medalist. He helped develop professional wrestling in Japan and ended up training the man who became a national hero put pro wrestling on the map in the country.

Harold Sakata passed away on July 29th, 1982.