By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Sting vs Kensuke Sasaki 12/27/95
When talking recently about the numerous ways in which WCW messed around with their most important pay-per-view of the year, I forgot to mention the World Cup of Wrestling. Perhaps this is because it was probably the one that offered the best in ring action and didn’t set out to waste time or book someone so inefficiently that any push they had, singles or as a tag team, was crippled. Instead, it was WCW doing what it always did better than WWF: using their contacts to bring in exciting and different wrestlers in an attempt to offer a different product than what American wrestling fans were used to.
The World Cup of Wrestling was a best out of seven contest played out across Starrcade 1995. In it, seven names from WCW would take on seven names from New Japan to see who the very best in world wrestling was. With the cup being held on WCW’s turf, it wasn’t that surprising that WCW would eventually win the whole thing, but it did allow fans a chance to see a raft of wrestlers that they hadn’t necessarily seen before.
After the first two contests, New Japan were 2-0 up after Jushin Liger and Koji Kanemoto defeated Chris Benoit and Alex Wright respectively. The lead was short lived as Lex Luger beat Masahiro Chono and Johnny B. Badd went over Masa Saito by disqualification to square everything up. Arguably the best match on the show was next as Shinjiro Otani put New Japan in the lead once again with a victory over Eddy Guerrero, only for Randy Savage to even it up for a second time by defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan.
Outside of the novelty of a Sting versus Kensuke Sasaki match, another unique piece of booking followed as Sting would be also going on to wrestle in a triple thread match with Ric Flair and Luger to see who would challenge Randy Savage later on in the evening for the WCW World Heavyweight Title. Potentially, Sting or Luger may have been in competition three times before the night was through. Stranger still, the technical main event (the one that finished the show) was the aforementioned Sasaki taking on the One Man Gang in defense of his United States Heavyweight Title, meaning he would also have to pull double duty.
As cheap heat goes, bringing an American flag down to the ring is about as simple as it gets, but Sting was always going to get fans cheering him as he was one of the most over babyfaces in the company. They’d be quietened quickly by Sasaki, who attacked Sting as soon as the bell rang, pummelling him with strikes and sending him into multiple turnbuckles. A slam would lead to the first pinfall of the match, though Sting kicked out before the referee even got down for a one count. The native favourite fought his way out a very early chinlock to land a Stinger Splash, yet Sasaki avoided a second attempt and planted Sting into the canvas with a bulldog.
The offense of Sasaki was met with complete silence, a world away from the raucous cheers as a dropkick and a clothesline put Sting back in control. Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, Sting would charge straight into a trademark Sasaki powerslam, who followed it up with a vicious brainbuster which deserved more from the crowd. In a brilliant piece of heeling, Sasaki slapped on a Scorpion Deathlock, but Sting was able to fight his way out of it, eventually landing a jumping kick to the side of the head to halt Sasaki’s offensive momentum.
The finish was all over a bit too quickly, in what looked like a concession to the need for both men to fight later on. Slipping out the back of a powerslam attempt, Sting landed a clothesline, a facebuster and the Scorpion Deathlock within seconds of each other. Sasaki fought against quitting in the hold for longer than you might have expected a wrestler at this time to do, but the referee would wave off the contest and award the win to Sting with the cup going to WCW in the process.
Things wouldn’t get much better for either man, with One Man Gang taking the United States Heavyweight Title (though different finishes were recorded for different audiences, with one showcasing Sasaki retaining), whilst it would be Flair rather than Sting who would end up taking the gold from Savage. Sting would have to wait two years and one day for his next title reign, one that began in infamy.