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WWF Unreleased: Kuwait Tour 1996
by Scrooge McSuck
- No, this is not an official release from either the WWE Network or DVD department, otherwise I'd have a reason to get excited for the "Hidden Gems" section that was left to die because of reasons. In the past, WWE has released a little bit of footage from this tour on various home releases, like World Tour '96 (a coliseum video I completely forgot I did a recap of forever and a day ago) and more modern "Unreleased" DVDs. In recent weeks, a channel on a popular streaming service uploaded content that, to my best knowledge, was only featured on local television (with one odd exception). To make a long story short, I've taken all the new content from that tour, and put it together for a brand new compilation. Yes, I'm bored, and yes, I'm a glutton for obscurity and punishment.
Marty Jannetty vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin:
Taped on May 8th from Al Arabi Stadium (An outdoor venue with temperatures in the neighborhood of 90+ degrees) and an Opening Round Match of the legendary Kuwait Cup Tournament
. In United States WWF canon, both men are heels, but if you look at some of the lineups of this tour, face and heel alignment wasn't strictly followed. I don't know when this was televised, but Jim Ross notes Austin was formerly managed by Ted Dibiase as he raises the Million Dollar Belt. Dibiase's final appearance for the company was a few weeks after this tour when they re-did the Beware of Dog PPV due to uncontrollable circumstances. Lockup into the corner and Jannetty gives a clean break. Austin goes for the leg but Marty counters with a front face-lock. Break in the ropes and Austin decks Marty with a right hand. Lockup into the ropes and Jannetty returns fire. Looks like he's playing babyface for the crowd. Austin with a handful of hair, taking Marty to the canvas with a hammer-lock. Jannetty counters with a wrist-lock and stretches the arm. They go back-and-forth until Austin nails Marty with an elbow. The advantage is short-lived, as Marty brings Austin to the canvas with a drop toe hold and goes back to the arm. Whip to the ropes and Marty with a shoulder tackle, followed by a hip toss and an arm drag into the arm bar. Whip and Austin side-steps Marty, throwing him through the ropes. Marty fights back from the apron but sets too early for a back body-drop and pays for it. Austin punishes the back and whips Jannetty hard into the turnbuckle for two. Snap mare and Austin with a stomp across the abdomen. He turns Jannetty over with a modified Boston Crab (Austin's more vertical, not sitting down with the hold). He lets go of the hold and comes off the second rope with an elbow for two. Austin with a lengthy chin-lock. Jannetty escapes with elbows to the midsection but runs into a knee lift. Austin misses a splash across the ropes, opening the door for a comeback. Marty with right hands and a diving elbow. He backs Austin up and unloads with mounted rights. Whip across the ring, Austin gets a boot up, and the Million Dollar Dream (a.k.a. the Cobra Clutch) finishes at 13:20. Austin faces the winner of Ahmed Johnson vs. Aldo Montoya (Spoilers: Ahmed wins that one) in the Quarter-Finals. Basic stuff here with a long rest spot. I can't blame them with the location and circumstances. *1/2
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. Leif Cassidy:
Another match from the May 8th card, and yes, another match from the 1st Round of the Kuwait Cup Tournament. If you thought Jannetty's chances were slim against Austin, what do you give Cassidy's chances against Bret? Though Bret was absent from TV between WrestleMania XII and the October 21st episode of Raw, he did work tours of Germany, Kuwait (obviously), and South Africa in April, May, and September, respectively. Lockup into the ropes and Bret gives a clean break. Dok Hendrix says Bret might've been the greatest WWF Champion OF ALL TIME. That's some high praise. Lockup to the corner and another clean break, though Cassidy complains of a hair pull. Bret with an arm drag and more complaints of a phantom hair pull. Knowing Bret, he'll do it just to prove a point. Bret grabs a top wrist-lock and Cassidy pulls the hair to escape. Bret with an arm drag into the arm bar. He drives a knee into the shoulder and transitions to a wrist-lock. Cassidy rakes the eyes to escape but leaps into an arm drag and finds himself back in the arm bar. Cassidy escapes, pounding away with rights. Bret blocks being sent to the turnbuckle and rocks Leif with a headbutt. Cassidy rakes the eyes to avoid a back breaker and puts the boots to Bret in the corner. Bret tries to escape a chin-lock, but Cassidy grabs the hair to keep the hold applied. Lots of hair pulling and eye rakes from Leif Cassidy in this match. Bret finally escapes, only to run into an elbow. Cassidy cuts off another comeback, taking Bret over with a snap mare into another chin-lock. Whip across the ring, Bret gets a boot up and comes off the second rope with a clothesline. Bret with an inverted atomic drop, clothesline, back breaker and elbow drop. Sharpshooter finishes at 10:46. Not that we'll see it, but Bret moves on to face the winner of Owen Hart and Yokozuna. This was even more basic than the last match. *
Savio Vega vs. Mr. Bob Backlund:
From the May 9th show held at Al Arabi Stadium, and another Opening Round Match. I've seen enough of Backlund from 1995-96 that I know we're going to see nothing here worth a damn. Backlund stalls outside the ring, as I expected him to do. The referee (who we probably know better as their long-time timekeeper) chases after Backlund in the aisle to get him back to ringside. Backlund rolls in to avoid being counted-out and rolls back to the floor. He stops another count and hides in the corner. Savio plays the "Cheer me, boo him" game with the crowd as we wait for the first contact of the match. Backlund offers a handshake but Savio isn't falling for it. Backlund comes from behind for a Chicken-Wing, but Savio avoids it. Roll-up attempt is blocked, with Savio playing possum on the canvas. Backlund goes for a slam and Savio cradles him for three at 5:08. There's doing a match and there's wasting time. This was wasting time. -**
- Bushwhacker Butch vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley:
From May 9th, Tournament Match, and I'M DEAD F'N SERIOUS, HUNTER HEARST HELMSLEY VS A BUSHWHACKER. My life as a wrestling fan has peaked, I might as well just shut down right now and wait for my death, nothing is topping this discovery. Butch comes out with a boomerang. I know the common geographical location associated with them is Australia, but lord knows I'm not familiar with New Zealand and Australian cultures. Did you know the Bushwhackers had a restaurant in Tampa, FL (in 1996)? Helmsley stalls on the floor because what else can you do with Butch? Helmsley has words for Butch, so Butch bites him on his posterior, sending Helmsley out of the ring. Hunter tries an ambush, but he trips and falls on his face. Butch grabs him by the hair and drags him into the ring with a side headlock, dropping Helmsley on his face again. Butch with another headlock and hooks the nose to prevent an escape. Helmsley goes for the hair, unfortunately there's none to grab. Fortunately for Butch, there's plenty of nose to grab. Whip to the ropes and Butch stomps on Hunter's face to counter a monkey flip. Another whip and this time the leapfrog backfires for Hunter. One more whip and Hunter lands an elbow. Oh my God, is that his first offense of the match?! J.R. suggests Butch is in his mid-40's (51 to be exact) and talks about the Bushwhackers' family history of Sheepherders (rim shot). Hunter stomps Butch into a New Zealand jelly in the corner. Butch ducks under an elbow and pounds away. Whip to the corner and Helmsley gets the boot up. Butch escapes a sleeper with a jaw breaker. They get into a slugfest, with Butch winning the battle. Whip to the corner, flipping Hunter upside down. Butch with a clothesline for two. Whip to the ropes and Butch with an elbow. Hunter counters a whip with a knee to the abdomen and finishes with the Pedigree at 11:49. I was expecting a dumpster fire. While the match wasn't good, Helmsley did his best to work Butch's style and did do some comical stuff that made the first few minutes entertaining. The rest was just another basic match, one with a man in his 50's that can barely bump (but took one heck of a Pedigree). *1/4
Yokozuna vs. Isaac Yankem D.D.S.:
From the May 11th show taped at (you guessed it) Al Arabi Stadium. We're getting some really random matches on these shows, and I'm loving it. I'm sure Yankem was off T.V. at this point (his last match being squashed by a returning Ultimate Warrior), but we need to pad the tour, dammit! Gorilla Monsoon (calling the match with Ross) claims the horseshoe that belongs to Hillbilly Jim once belonged to Haystacks Calhoun. Lockup and Yankem grabs a side headlock. Whip and Yoko sends Yankem out of the ring with a shoulder tackle. Back inside, Yankem grabs another headlock and nails Yoko with a pair of clotheslines. Yokozuna fires back with his own, sending Yankem into the corner. Lockup to the corner and Yankem throws a cheap shot on the break. He knocks Yoko to the canvas and stomps away in the corner. Yoko takes a bump to sell the right hands from Yankem but kicks out at two with force. Yoko fights to his feet to escape a nerve hold but gets laid out with a clothesline for another two-count. Yoko escapes another nerve hold and connects with a uranage. Massive leg drop finishes at 7:49. This wasn't good. DUD
Bret "Hitman" Hart vs. The British Bulldog:
From May 11th, and I'm not sure what to expect, based on all the matches we've sat through so far. I haven't bothered to mention it in the other matches, but a lot of Jim Ross' commentary has followed an introductory style to the product, as if the target audience was unfamiliar with not just the WWF, but pro wrestling in general. Lockup and Bulldog rakes the eyes. He sends Bret into the turnbuckle and pounds away with rights. Whip across the ring, Bret gets the boot up and comes off the second rope with a right hand. They take it to the floor, with Bret getting a few more blows in before Bulldog somehow finds even more room to wander. Back inside, Bret with an arm drag into the arm bar. Bulldog rolls through with a counter and yanks the hair to bring Hart to the canvas. What was the game plan against Bret, excessive eye rakes and hair pulls? Jesus. Bret regains control, going back to the arm. Whip and Bret with a crucifix cradle for two. Bret with a hip toss and elbow drop for two. Whip to the ropes and Bret with a shoulder tackle. Crisscross and Bulldog with a knee to the midsection. Bulldog with a series of forearm uppercuts for two. Bret claws his way out of a chin-lock and goes for another crucifix but the Bulldog counters with a Samoan drop and comes off the ropes with a leg drop for two. Bulldog with an inside cradle for two. Hard whip to the corner and Bulldog with a boot across the throat. Jim Ross tries to pass this as part of a Trilogy of matches lumped with the SummerSlam '92 and In Your House matches. Since this is for the foreign market, kudos for trying to make this feel more important than it is. Bulldog makes a trip to the top rope and gets nailed on the way down. Bret with a Russian leg sweep, inverted atomic drop and clothesline for two. DDT for another two-count. Back breaker and second rope elbow drop, and he signals for the Sharpshooter. Owen comes to ringside for the distraction, but Bulldog and Owen have a miscommunication, allowing Bret to roll the Bulldog up for three at 13:00. Post-match, Owen and Bulldog work Bret over to likely set up another match for the next night. Good match, despite the obvious limitations. ***
The Undertaker (w/ Paul Bearer) vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley:
From May 11th, and a Semi-Finals Match from the Kuwait Cup Tournament. This one is recorded without the television presentation and may or may not still be on the WWE Network, but I haven't checked. Believe it or not, but Helmsley hides on the floor. Watching Paul Bearer cheerlead the crowd, CUPPING HIS EAR LIKE HULK HOGAN, is worth the price of admission alone. Helmsley makes a move for Mr. Bearer, but Taker chases him into the ring. Helmsley quickly attacks with the advantage of position, but Taker no-sells a boot and lays Hunter out with a clothesline. He pulls Helmsley off the canvas with a double choke-lift and slam. Taker doesn't waste time doing the rope-walk clothesline. Taker scares the referee out of the ring, and in another great bit, Bearer catches him rolling out and drops him on the floor (it's the timekeeper turned referee, by the way). Back in the ring, Hunter has somehow started to mount a bit of offense. Whip to the ropes and Hunter with a clothesline for two. Another clothesline for two. Taker fights from his knees, landing a series of rights and lefts to the body. Whip across the ring, Taker meets a boot charging in. Helmsley uses a distraction from Bearer to nail Taker with something he pulled out of his gear. It's almost as if the handheld at ringside is ONLY worried about capturing the antics of the two non-wrestlers. Whip is reversed and the referee gets sandwiched in the corner. Good, that's what he gets for missing so many obvious calls. Hunter whacks Taker again with the foreign object and does some ground and pound with it for good measure. Taker does the sit up mid-curtsy and Hunter freaks out. Taker blocks a right hand and fights the weapon away, nailing Helmsley as the referee comes to, and it's an ultra-cheap Disqualification at 8:30, sending Helmsley to the finals. Post-match, Taker gives him a Tombstone Piledriver to make the fans happy. Match wasn't much, but Paul Bearer earned his payday. *1/2
WWF Championship Match:
Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Marty Jannetty:
From May 11th, and one of the last times we'll see Shawn vs. Marty in action. They would have one more match on Raw a few months later, but by this point, the gap in their push is so huge there's no drama in the result. We're Joined in Progress. Lockup into the corner, Shawn avoids a cheap shot and takes Jannetty over with a hip toss. Shawn comes off the ropes and takes Jannetty down with a flying head-scissors. Jannetty rolls through into a cover, but Shawn bridges out. Marty flips through a back-slide attempt but misses a pair of clotheslines, resetting back to a neutral position. Jannetty does the old Looney Tunes "drawing a game plan on the canvas" routine. Ross and Monsoon subtly bury Jannetty for his fading star. DUDE. Lockup into the corner and Marty with rights and lefts. Whip across the ring, Shawn avoids a charge and takes Marty over with a pair of Japanese arm drags before hooking an arm bar. We come back from commercial with Jannetty hitting a flying fist drop for a two-count. Snap mare and Jannetty meets a boot coming off the ropes for another fist drop. Michaels with a series of right hands. Whip to the corner and Michaels bounces off the ropes with a diving forearm. Whip and Michaels with a dropkick for two. Jannetty ducks a clothesline but gets caught with a powerslam. Michaels with the trip to the top rope. Jannetty rolls away from a fist drop, but Michaels lands on his feet and hits a DDT For two. I loved that JANNETTY used that spot as a babyface, and now Michaels is doing it. Whip and Jannetty with a sunset flip. Michaels sits down but Jannetty finishes the move for a two count. Michaels with a slingshot and roll-up for two. Whip to the ropes, Jannetty slides between the legs and slams Michaels face-first to the canvas. Jannetty hits the flying fist drop for two. Rocker Dropper connects, but Jannetty goes to the top again. Michaels avoids the fist drop, and Sweet Chin Music finishes at 7:05 (shown). Wow, this was so much better than everything else on the tour, I wish I had the full match. ***1/2 Based on what was here, but it felt like the match would've been 4-stars.
Savio Vega & Yokozuna vs. Mr. Bob Backlund & Isaac Yankem D.D.S.:
From May 12th, the final day of the tour. This show had a lot of footage released elsewhere, including Undertaker/Bret vs. Owen/Bulldog, Shawn vs. Austin for the WWF Title, and Ahmed vs. Hunter in the Kuwait Cup Finals, so yes, THIS is our closing match of the set. Enjoy. For whatever reasons, Ross and Monsoon downplay Haystacks Calhoun's announced weight of 601 pounds, basically calling him a liar. WHAT IS WITH THIS COMMENTARY? Backlund stalls, no surprise. Yankem tags in to start, but Backlund is still doing his shtick at ringside. Vega with a side headlock but a shoulder tackle goes in Yankem's favor. Crisscross and Savio with a hip toss, followed by a pair of dropkicks. Backlund runs in and gets hit with a dropkick too. It's automatically better than Savio and Backlund's singles match from earlier in the tour. Back inside, Yankem fights out of a wrist-lock with right hands. Backlund in and he gets caught in an arm bar. Yoko tags in and catches Backlund off the ropes with a slam. Backlund bails but Savio rolls him back in. Repeat. Savio and Yoko (BSK!) with a double headbutt. Yankem with a cheap shot from the apron, putting Savio in trouble. Yankem with knees to the midsection and clubbing forearms. Backlund with a front face-lock. Did you know Mr. Backlund went to South Dakota State? Backlund with a suplex that sends Savio into his own corner, but he has to stand around like an idiot so Yankem can cut him off. Savio nails Yankem with the spinning heel kick and tags in Yoko to clean house (and plates). Yoko does the bare minimum with striking. Whip and he catches Yankem with a Samoan Drop. He drags Yankem to the corner and finishes with the Banzai Drop at 9:39. Not the worst match on the compilation. For whatever reason, Monsoon and Backlund spent most of the match pooping on Backlund. ½*
Final Thoughts: As I always say, "Hidden Gem" type footage, and taped house shows in general, only have as much mileage as your level of interest in the content. There's not much when it comes to great wrestling, with most of the matches following basic formulas and some half-assed efforts. I do enjoy finding rare content and whacky matches we don't normally see, so I'm always looking forward to watching this stuff. Will I watch it again? Probably not. The best match isn't complete, otherwise that might be the only one worth revisiting. Oh, and then there's Triple H vs. Butch of the Bushwhackers. That's a must-see for any generation of wrestling fans.
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