By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Great Muta © vs Barry Windham
NWA World Heavyweight Title Match
It isn’t hard to argue that Barry Windham is one of the most natural wrestlers to have ever stepped foot in the ring. Mixing both size and speed with ease, it was politics, injuries and Windham’s own proclivities outside the ring that meant he didn’t stay on top of a promotion for as long as his talent perhaps deserved. Though not a stranger to a title – especially tag team gold – there would only be one time where Windham won a recognised World belt.
By this point in time, the NWA World Heavyweight Title had begun its descent into historical significance but modern mediocrity. Ever since WCW decided to create their own Heavyweight title to run concurrently with the NWA gold and Ric Flair subsequently left for the WWF, the gold had been either vacant or being contested for in Japan primarily. Masahiro Chono had won the belt by defeating Rick Rude in the final of the G-1 Glimax, before losing it to The Great Muta on a January 4th joint supershow between New Japan and WCW.
Though the belt had lost some of its prestige, the opportunity to have your name alongside some of the greats of the grapple game can’t be underestimated. At Superbrawl, Muta would end up defending the belt against Windham, with the commentary team of Schiavone, Ventura and Flair espousing the athleticism and toughness of Windham from the early going. Windham’s abilities were encapsulated in a sequence a little over a minute into the match; Muta would be outmuscled in a test of strength to highlight Windham’s power, before also getting dumped with a modified suplex out of the hold to show Windham was technically astute as well.
Windham is fast, but Muta is faster, and a spinkick grounded the challenger after a competitive start. A side headlock wore down his bigger opponent, with various attempts to break free failing due to Muta’s use of leverage to return Windham to the mat. When Windham finally managed to break by getting to the ropes – punching Muta in the mouth in the process – a quick sequence that saw Muta nail a dropkick at the end left Windham grounded once again. This time, a back suplex seemed to be enough to break the side headlock, but Muta showed his own strength by holding on and torqueing Windham’s neck hard.
Muta’s reliance on the side headlock – another one slapped on after a power drive elbowdrop – has killed the momentum but also somewhat killed the crowd at this point. The fans seem to want to get behind Windham even though he is ostensibly the heel, but with the majority of the opening ten minutes seeing Windham laying in a side headlock, their reaction is muted at best. A few isolated cheers follow a missed Muta dropkick; the reaction to a Windham DDT receives a few more. A back suplex at ringside feels like a big spot, but gets very little reaction for a spot that deserved more. Ironically, a sleeper hold from Windham received the best pop of the match so far, even after the proliferance of head and neck based offense so far. Leverage from feet on the bottom rope signposted Windham’s desire to finally win a World title.
The champ’s feet on the ropes eventually forced the referee to break the hold, but Windham’s momentum would not be stopped initially. A side salto suplex punctuated several blows with elbows and knees, and an eye gouge grounded the champion as it seemed some chops were threatening to allow him back into the match. These short cuts kept Windham one step ahead of Muta; a sunset flip stopped with a solid right to the face with no nonsense whatsoever. However, Muta was beginning to threaten, as a crossbody for a two count almost stunned the big Texan.
Muta managed to block a superplex attempt, but this was just false hope. The handspring elbow landed, but two badly judged moonsaults sealed his fate. The first missed; the second, moments later, was blocked by the knees of Windham. One implant-style DDT later, Barry Windham had won his first ever World title.
As with many things during this time in NWA/WCW, it wouldn’t be long before the belt was around the waist of Ric Flair once again. Windham would lose the belt to the Nature Boy at Beach Blast, and never regain a World title ever again.