TAKA Michinoku and Scott Taylor vs. Tajiri and Brian Christopher (1/11/97)
I think it’s unlikely that you’ll find a more fundamentally weird tag team match that aired on WWF television during the Attitude era than this. First, there’s Tajiri (I love how Jim Ross pronounces it). He’s two years away from making his ECW debut, working the Japanese independent scene (he was a regular for Big Japan Pro Wrestling at the time). Here, he teams with Brian Christopher, who, at this time, was using the most annoying gimmick in wrestling history–”not” being Jerry “The King” Lawler’s son. The gulf between Tajiri’s Japanese style and Christopher’s Memphis leanings was immense, only matched by the clash between TAKA Michinoku–the designated leader of the WWF’s new Light Heavyweight Division–and Scott Taylor who, though you wouldn’t know it from his rockin’ mullet, would one day look like this:
The thing about Scott Taylor is that he’s actually a pretty good worker. He and Christopher would eventually form a long-running tag team, first as the Memphis heel duo Too Much, then as the kid friendly dance crew Too Cool (featuring Rikishi), where he’d see his greatest success (and, incidentally, take part in one of the best matches in Monday Night Raw history), but when Christopher and Rikishi were eventually cut, Taylor hung on and did some good work in WWE’s retooled Cruiserweight division. A shame about the Worm, though–of all the lame taunt/attacks in wrestling, the Worm is the worst.
I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if you weren’t at all interested in the exploits of Too Cool, and were to watch this video just for Tajiri and (if you were smart) TAKA. The WWF Light Heavyweight Division could have been really interesting, but for some reason it failed to pick up steam. True, WCW had the market cornered on Mexican lucha libre, and their homegrown cruiserweights, like Chris Jericho (not technically homegrown) and Billy Kidman, were way more interesting/better than Christopher, Taylor, or an early Christian (oh, frilly-shirted Christian), but the division’s importance was undermined by circumstance. Consider this: The WWF didn’t even know that they HAD a pre-existing Light Heavyweight title until they started putting together the division. It was part of the J-Crown, a mad amalgam of belts that could take your ordinary, run of the mill Ultimo Dragon and make him look like this:
Dragon, if you may recall, was a WCW wrestler, and he actually defended the J-Crown in WCW, most notably against Rey Mysterio Jr. Had the WWF not found out about their title being overseas, had they not demanded its swift return, a WWF Title would have been defended on a WCW Pay Per View. Granted, I highly doubt anybody important in WCW would have noticed to make a point of it and, granted, it would have been a title that technically had never been an official WWF title, but it still probably would have been a little embarrassing.
The other thing about the Light Heavyweight division that went awry is that the Great Sasuke was supposed to be involved. Sasuke was actually supposed to win the tournament crowning the first “official” champion, but he went on Japanese TV and said that 1)he’d only defend the title in Japan and 2)he’d refuse to lose the title on WWF TV. So the WWF fired Sasuke and pushed TAKA as the face of the division. What sucked about that is that (I presume) Vince Russo was booking things on Raw, and if there’s one thing Vince Russo doesn’t understand about wrestling (and there are hundreds of things Vince Russo doesn’t understand about wrestling), it’s how to book guys who don’t speak a lot of English.
So Michinoku, instead of having a series of great matches (like, say, against any given guy on WCW’s cruiserweight roster) was paired with Bradshaw for awhile, feuding with Kaientai. Kaientai–which included the incredible Dick Togo and the silky-smooth Funaki–were just as criminally wasted as TAKA, who eventually joined Kaientai in their effort to chop off Val Venis’ big American penis (I know Val’s Canadian, but still). TAKA stuck around for awhile, as did Funaki, and the two became a pretty popular midcard tag team with the gimmick that their promos were poorly dubbed in English. That gimmick was pretty entertaining, but a waste. Unsurprisingly, when Russo went to WCW, he tried the exact same thing with La Parka. It didn’t work, and Parka, like Michinoku, left the United States for his home country and did well for himself.
So really what I’m trying to say is to enjoy this match, which represents an incredibly odd glimpse of how brilliant WWF’s Light Heavyweight division had the potential to be, if only the WWF knew and knew how to capitalize on said potential brilliance. It’s matches like this that show just how weird wrestling really was during the Monday Night War. Anything to get an advantage over the other guy, right?
Paul Arrand Rodgers
Paul Arrand Rodgers has this blog, and that's about it.