by Kevin Wilson
In honor of Kevin Nash being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, here is a look back at his career in Japan. Over a 20 year period, Nash had nine matches in Japan as during the bulk of his wrestling career he was under contract with the WWF or WCW. Like other WCW wrestlers, Nash had several matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling while under contract with the promotion. Once Nash left WWE in 2004, he had three more matches in Japan, including matches in HUSTLE and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Here are the matches I will be reviewing:
- October 17th, 1991 in New Japan: The Great Oz and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Hiro Saito and Scott Norton
- October 18th, 1991 in New Japan: The Great Oz and Akira Nogami vs. Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow and Norio Honaga
May 17th, 1992 in New Japan: The Great Oz vs. Shinya Hashimoto
- May 5th, 1997 in New Japan:
Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Masahiro Chono vs. Keiji Mutoh and The Steiner Brothers
- May 8th, 2004 in HUSTLE:
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall vs. Naoya Ogawa and Shinya Hashimoto
- January 4th, 2009 in New Japan:
Kevin Nash, Angle, Chono, and Choshu vs. Giant Bernard, Karl Anderson, Iizuka, and Ishii
- September 23rd, 2012 in All Japan: Kevin Nash and Keiji Mutoh vs. Seiya Sanada and Taiyo Kea
That is an odd assortment of matches. Kevin Nash first traveled to Japan in 1991 and 1992, when under contract with WCW. This was before Kevin Nash was a star, in fact he was far from it. Strapped to a silly gimmick of "The Great Oz," Nash came down to the ring with a mask of an old person on and had his hair white. Needless to say this did not really fit into what New Japan was doing at the time, but Nash did have the chance to wrestle against some of the top stars in the promotion as he teamed with or faced off against Liger, Saito, and Hashimoto during his run. Three of his matches were recorded, which I will discuss below.
The Great Oz and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Hiro Saito and Scott Norton
This match took place on October 17th, 1991 in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Liger and Saito begin the match for their teams, Liger wins the mat work battle and he knocks Saito out of the ring before doing a fake dive. Crowd really loves Liger. Saito clubs Liger back and he tags in Norton. Norton throws Liger into the corner because he wants Oz, so Oz tags in. Oz scoop slams Norton and he hits an elbow drop. Oz and Norton trade punches, Irish whip by Oz but Norton hits a jumping shoulderblock. Norton throws Saito at Oz but Oz elbows Saito in the head and chokes him. Oz slams Saito to the mat but picks him up instead of pinning him. Oz tags in Liger and Liger throws Saito in the corner so Norton can tag in. Not a smart move, Liger. Liger goes off the ropes but Norton knocks him over with a shoulderblock. He tries again with the same success. Liger slaps at Norton then runs away, Norton chases him in and out of the ring and Norton hits a press slam. Norton drops Liger to the mat a few times, Irish whip, and Norton hits a powerslam for two. Norton tags in Saito and Saito hits a slam. Scoop slam by Saito but Liger avoids the senton and tags in Oz. Irish whip by Oz and he hits a big boot to Saito and Norton. Liger runs over to dropkick Norton out of the ring while Oz picks up Saito and puts him in a backbreaker, and Saito quickly gives up. This match was good because Liger is awesome, although it was still too short. Oz had a limited impact which was for the best but that finish was still lame, it looked like Step 1 of the Emerald City Twister but he kept it on as a backbreaker. Not a long match but inoffensive and Liger is so much fun. Score: 5.5
The Great Oz and Akira Nogami vs. Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow and Norio Honaga
This match took place on October 18th, 1991 in New Japan Pro Wrestling. It is also clipped.
Bigelow and Oz start off, Bigelow tries to knock him over but he can't. Headbutt by Bigelow and he tags in Honaga. Honaga slides away from Oz but Oz hits a scoop slam followed by an elbow drop. Oz chokes Honaga and throws him in the corner before tagging in Nogami. Nogami puts Honaga up top but Honaga knocks him back and hits a scoop slam. Honaga goes up but Nogami throws him to the mat. Now Nogami goes up and he hits a diving crossbody for two. Bigelow headbutts Honaga by accident and Nogami tags in Oz. Oz hits a big boot on Bigelow and then hits one on Honaga. Oz picks up Honaga and gets him in a crucifix position, and Honaga submits. What? It is like Oz had him ready for the Emerald City Twister but Honaga gave up before he tosses him. Weird. Not a lot was shown, I wouldn't have minded more Bigelow vs. Oz as that could have been fun but that ending was stupid enough that I am obligated to give this a low score even though it was inoffensive. Score: 3.0
Even though Kevin Nash stopped wrestling as Great Oz in 1991, when he returned to New Japan in 1992 he reprised his old gimmick instead of being Vinnie Vegas like he was in WCW. Maybe since he wrestled in New Japan previously as Great Oz they did not want to have to start over with a new gimmick. Either way for one last tour, Nash wrestled as Great Oz, silly mask and all.
The Great Oz vs. Shinya Hashimoto
This match took place on May 17th, 1992 in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Now we are talking, let's see what Hashimoto can do with Oz.
Hashimoto goes for shoulderblocks to start, which doesn't work, and Hashimoto hits a big boot. Lariat by Oz in the corner and he kicks Hashimoto in the head. Hashimoto rolls out of the ring to re-group while Oz poses in the ring, Hashimoto returns after a moment and he hits a side headlock takedown. Armbar by Hashimoto and he hits a an armdrag before applying a cross armbreaker. Oz gets to the ropes to break it up, kicks by Hashimoto in the corner and he hits a scoop slam. Elbow drop by Hashimoto and he covers for two. Punches by Oz and he hits a lariat. Oz slaps on a reverse chinlock, he punches Hashimoto and hits a face crusher for a two count. Elbow drop by Oz, but again the covers gets two. Backbreaker by Oz, he picks up Hashimoto and he applies a full nelson. Punches by Oz and he elbows Hashimoto in the back. Hashimoto pushes Oz into the corner and he slaps him before backing off. Irish whip by Oz but Hashimoto hits a jumping heel kick for a two count. Kick by Hashimoto and he hits another spinning heel kick. Irish whip by Hashimoto but Oz reverses it. Oz goes for a back bodydrop but Hashimoto catches him with a DDT for two. Jumping DDT by Hashimoto, and he picks up the three count pinfall. This was a pretty basic match, it had some good parts but they were limited more by Oz's height than anything else. Hashimoto couldn't really make his heel kicks look good against such a tall opponent and the offense in general didn't look very snug. It wasn't bad, just thoroughly average. Score: 5.0
That would be the last of Nash wrestling in puroresu promotions until five years later. A lot changed in those five years as Nash went from mid-carder in WCW to main eventer in WWF and finally back to WCW as a leader in one of the most successful wrestling stables in history. New Japan and WCW had a good relationship and they frequently shared wrestlers, but since Nash was pretty high up the card he wasn't usually the one making the trip to Japan. There was one exception to that however, as Nash would join his nWo brothers Hall and Chono for one match in New Japan in May of 1997.
Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Masahiro Chono vs. Keiji Mutoh and The Steiner Brothers
This match took place on May 5th, 1997 in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Mutoh and Chono start off and they tie-up but Chono hits a quick Yakuza Kick. Chono throws Mutoh out on the ramp and he hits a vertical suplex. Back kick by Mutoh and he hits a face crusher. Mutoh runs up the ramp and then runs back as he hits a lariat. All the Americans are just standing on the apron watching, if you were curious. Mutoh returns to the ring as Chono follows and he tags in Hall. Scott is tagged in as well and Hall throws his toothpick at Scott. Chokeslam by Hall and he applies an abdominal stretch. Scott gets out of it and he hits a pump handle slam. Irish whip by Scott and he hits an atomic drop. Another one by Scott and he hits a belly to belly suplex. Scott tags in Rick and Rick hits a belly to belly suplex as well. Rick goes up to the second turnbuckle but Hall catches him and hit a fallaway slam. Irish whip by Hall but Rick hits a powerslam. He then fights back Chono and Nash, Scott comes in too and they all pose in the ring. Hall returns to the ring and he applies an armbar. Hall tags in Nash and Nash knees Rick in the corner. Nash jumps down on Rick while he is against the ropes and then hits the Snake Eyes. Nash tags in Chono and Chono kicks Rick in the head. Rick drives Chono back and he tags in Mutoh, snapmare by Mutoh and he hits the Flashing Elbow. Chono comes back with a Yakuza Kick and he tags in Hall. Mutoh tags in Scott, Scott gets Hall to the mat but Hall drives him back and tags in Nash. Scott is stomped by everyone and Nash lariats Scott in the corner. Nash tags in Chono, Yakuza Kick by Chono but Scott hits a double underhook powerbomb.
Scott puts Chono on the top turnbuckle but Nash grabs him and snaps Scott's head over the ropes. Chono tags in Hall, Hall slaps at Scott and tags in Nash. Sidewalk slam by Nash, cover, but Rick breaks it up. Nash tags in Chono and Chono applies the STF, but Rick quickly breaks it up. Scott fights back, Irish whip by Hall and both wrestlers lariat each other. Scott makes the hot tag to Rick and Rick hits a pair of lariats on Hall followed by an elbow drop for two. Rick tags in Scott, Scott puts Hall on his shoulders and they hit the avalanche bulldog. Rick suplexes Chono in the ring, Rick goes up top but Nash grabs him from the floor which gives Hall time to recover. Hall grabs Rick and hits the Outsiders Edge, but Mutoh immediately breaks it up. Chono obliterates Rick with a Yakuza Kick, sending his wrestler head gear flying across the ring, and then Nash drops Rick with a Jackknife Powerbomb. Hall covers Rick, and he picks up the three count. After the match Norton comes down to help handle Mutoh but Chono tells him to let Mutoh go. There was a lot going on here storyline-wise, obviously this was an nWo thing but during this time period the Great Muta was about to join the nWo and both Saito and Tenzan joined on this event. So this was basically a recruitment match by the nWo. It was a bit too punch/kick, oddly even Scott Steiner and Hall had some miscommunications and even though it was a 15 minute match not a lot happened. No one looked bad, they just didn't do anything special even though the match took place at the Osaka Dome. A decent match but with the level of the wrestlers (in regards to storyline) I was expecting more, even though Chono was definitely laying it in those kicks. Score: 6.0
That was the last time that Nash had a match in Japan for a long stretch as he continued his career in WCW and later went back to the WWE after WCW closed down. By 2004 he was out of WWE and was in semi-retirement, as he only had a handful of matches in 2004 and 2005 before having sporadic matches in TNA. One of those matches was in HUSTLE, a new entertainment-oriented promotion owned by DSE that had a lot of money and used it to get big stars. For the main event of HUSTLE 3 they decided to have an Outsiders reunion as Hall and Nash went up against Ogawa and Nash's old nemesis Shinya Hashimoto.
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall vs. Naoya Ogawa and Shinya Hashimoto
This match took place on May 8th, 2004 in HUSTLE.
Nash and Ogawa begin the match and they lock knuckles, elbows by Nash in the corner and he hits a lariat. Scoop slam by Nash and he attacks Ogawa from behind while he argues with the referee. Ogawa hits a hip toss on Nash and then Hall, Hashimoto comes in and has a stare-down with Oz. Nash seems to remember him and they trade shots to the chest, Irish whip by Nash and Hall hits Hashimoto from the apron. Hashimoto knocks Hall off the apron but Nash hits Hashimoto with a big boot. Cover, but it gets two. Nash tags in Hall, Irish whip by Hall and Hall hits a modified chokeslam for two. Hall tags in Nash and he hits a sidewalk slam for two. Irish whip by Hall and he applies a sleeper to Hashimoto but Hashimoto Irish whips out of it and hits a DDT. Ogawa and Nash are tagged in and Ogawa flips both his opponents to the mat. Ogawa goes for the STO on Nash but Hall breaks it up. Hall and Nash hit a double backdrop suplex on Ogawa and take turns clubbing on him, Hashimoto has seen enough and kicks over the referee. Hashimoto attacks Nash and Hall, they manage to give him a double Irish whip but Hashimoto chops them both in the face. Hashimoto grabs Nash but Hall hits him from behind. Hall goes for the Outsiders Edge but Hashimoto backdrops out of it. Hashimoto kicks down Hall, Ogawa comes in and they hit the Karyudo on Nash. Hashimoto grabs Hall, they hit a weak Oregotokare and they find the referee to count to three. This was a pretty flat match, especially for a main event. The crowd cared more about Hashimoto attacking the referee than anything else, and Hall didn't appear to be in very good condition. Just a nothing match all the way around, although the effort was there and Hashimoto was on point. Score: 3.5
Fast forward five more years and Kevin Nash appears in Japan again. This time he went back to New Japan Pro Wrestling when he was a member of TNA. For their big Tokyo Dome show, New Japan generally likes to have some special attraction type matches and this one certainly fit the bill. But his appearance was just a one-off for the Tokyo Dome.
Riki Choshu, Chono, Kurt Angle, and Kevin Nash vs. Giant Bernard, Iizuka, Ishii, and Karl Anderson
This match took place on January 4th, 2009 in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Nash and Bernard start things off. Bernard and Nash face off and exchange strikes. Eye rake by Bernard and he goes off the ropes for a shoulderblock, but it doesn't knock Nash down. Bernard goes off the ropes again but again Nash stays on his feet. Knees by Nash and he elbows Bernard in the corner. Nash chokes Bernard with his boot but Bernard gets the advantage and delivers a running splash in the corner. Bernard tags in Iizuka but Nash kicks Iizuka in the stomach and tags in Chono. Side slam by Nash on Iizuka and he sits up Iizuka so that Chono could deliver a Shining Yakuza Kick. Chono goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving shoulderblock for a two count. Kick to the back by Chono but Ishii kicks him from the apron. Iizuka stomps on Chono and chokes him in the corner. Iizuka tags in Ishii but Chono grabs him and tags in Choshu. Kicks to the stomach by Choshu and he snapmares Ishii to the mat. Headlock by Choshu but Ishii manages to tag in Anderson. Anderson throws Choshu in the corner but Choshu grabs his leg and pushes him to the mat. Choshu tries to find someone to tag him, but only Chono takes him up on the offer. Atomic drop by Chono onto Anderson, cover, but it gets a two count. Chono tags in Angle, double Irish whip to Anderson and they shoulderblock him to the mat. Vertical suplex by Angle, cover, but it gets a two count. Angle picks up Anderson but Anderson grabs the ropes to force a break.
Anderson tries to fight back but Angle punches him down to the mat. Stomps by Angle, he picks up Anderson and tags in Choshu. Anderson drives Choshu back to his corner and tags in Bernard, and Bernard hits a series of shoulder tackles in the corner. Bernard picks up Choshu, he slams him in front of the corner and delivers the reverse splash for a two count. Bernard tags in Iizuka, who punches Choshu in the corner. All the members of GBH get in the ring and they hit running strikes on Choshu in the corner, but Choshu kicks Anderson back when Anderson goes for his. Choshu goes off the ropes and nails the lariat onto Anderson, cover, but Bernard breaks it up. Nash runs (!) across the ring to take out Bernard, and they brawl outside the ring. Back in the ring Angle is tagged in, and he knocks down Anderson before hitting German suplexes onto Iizuka and Ishii. Angle applies the ankle lock with a grapevine to Anderson, and Anderson taps out! This is a staple of the Tokyo Dome, always has been, so no real point in complaining about it too loudly. Yes, seven minutes is not enough time for an eight man tag match, but for what it was the match was fine. While I did chuckle at Nash shaking his head when Choshu asked for the tag, he did wrestle the first section of the match so he wasn't refusing to work. It just wasn't his turn. Anderson seemed the most out of place at the time so naturally he got pinned, and overall it was pointless but watchable which is more than I was expecting. Score: 4.5
Nash's final appearance in Japan was perhaps his most random appearance of all. For All Japan's 40th Anniversary Tour, Nash was brought in to team with Keiji Mutoh in the semi-main event of their biggest card of the tour. I'm sure there was a fun behind-the-scenes story that I am not privy to but basically it came down to Mutoh inviting his 'old friend' Nash as his chosen tag team partner for the big event.
Kevin Nash and Keiji Mutoh vs. Seiya Sanada and Taiyo Kea
This match took place on September 23rd, 2012 in All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Before the match started, Nash got a mic and said that someone was missing, Masahiro Chono! So Chono came down to ringside as well to watch the show. This was Chono's first appearance in All Japan in several years, and all three posed together. Finally the match starts with Mutoh against Sanada. They trade holds to start until Sanada hits a shoulderblock and tags in Kea. Mutoh tags in Nash and Kea unsuccessfully tries to knock Nash over. They go into a test of strength and Nash pushes Kea to the mat. Nash tags in Mutoh, Irish whip by Mutoh to Kea but Kea shoulderblocks him down. Sanada comes in and they both elbow Mutoh, snapmare by Mutoh to Sanada and he hits the Flashing Elbow. Irish whip by Mutoh but Sanada hits a pair of dropkicks. Mutoh falls out of the ring but Sanada does a fake dive. Mutoh gets on the apron, Sanada goes for a kick but Mutoh grabs his leg and hits a dragon screw in the ropes. STF by Mutoh (naturally they show Chono in the crowd) but Sanada gets to the ropes. Wristlock by Mutoh and he tags in Nash, Irish whip by Nash and he hits a sidewalk slam on Sanada for two. Chokeslam by Nash, cover, but it gets a two count. Nash tags in Mutoh and Mutoh kicks Sanada in the ribs. Irish whip by Mutoh to the corner and he hits a Shining Wizard.
Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh and he dropkicks Sanada in the knee. Sanada comes back with a hurricanrana and he tags in Kea. Jumping elbow by Kea in the corner and he hits Mutoh with a lariat. Kea picks up Mutoh but Mutoh knees him in the head, Irish whip by Mutoh but Kea hits a jumping DDT. Irish whip by Kea but Mutoh avoids the lariat and dropkicks him. Mutoh tags in Nash, knees by Nash in the corner and he hits a few elbows. Nash throws Kea in the corner but Kea avoids his charge and punches Nash. Jumping kick by Kea and a thrust kick finally gets Nash off his feet. Kea tags in Sanada, Sanada grabs Nash and he dropkicks him in the knee. Kea comes in and he hits a side Russian leg sweep, roll-up by Sanada but it gets two. Nash punches Sanada and Kea back but Sanada hits a swandive dropkick for a two count. Sanada hits a cutter on Nash, cover, but Nash kicks out. Sanada puts Nash in a Dragon Sleeper but Mutoh breaks it up with a Shining Wizard. He then hits one on Kea as well, and Nash plants Sanada with a big boot. Nash picks up Sanada and he drops him with the Jackknife Powerbomb, picking up the three count pinfall. This one started slow but once it got going it was fine. Unfortunately that was about ten minutes into a fifteen minute match, but at least it eventually picked up. Nash took a fair amount of offense here so he didn't just come in, hit a few moves, and go home a victor. So I'll give him credit for that. It worked as a special attraction but obviously not designed to be a classic in the ring even if it did have its fun parts. Score: 5.5
And that was the end of Nash's run in Japan, assuming he doesn't make any more trips for one-off matches. To say that Nash's role in Japan was minimal would be an understatement as he had no real impact, but he did wrestle on some big cards. He also wrestled with and against some of the best, including Mutoh, Chono, Liger, and Hashimoto so his face will probably be seen in quick highlight clips for years to come. Even though Nash did not have a lot of success in Japan he is still well-respected there as his post-career appearances showed, and he is just one of many major American stars that from time to time went to Japan for some extra money and a bit of fun.
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