Oh You Didn’t Know? A Texas Rattlesnake In Japan

The wild wrestling world is full of oddities and surprises. In this “Oh You Didn’t Know” series, I highlight little-known intricacies of wrestling history, providing you with interesting trivia! Wrestlers competing in promotions you didn’t know they had or against opponents you never knew they faced.

Stone Cold Steve Austin Competes in New Japan Pro Wrestling

Before he was the Texas Rattlesnake, chugging beers and flipping the bird, Stone Cold Steve Austin was an impressive in-ring technician. As awful as The Ringmaster gimmick was, it had semblances of truth. In 1992, Austin was well into his WCW career (already a two time WCW World Television Champion), and in June of that same year, he entered NJPW’s famous G1 Climax. Where better to prove your mettle as a wrestler than among the greats of Japan?

At the time, the G1 Climax was a single elimination tournament. 16 men entered the field in 1992, and a staggering 10 of those were foreigners (including finalist Rick Rude). In the first round, Austin found himself against his Dangerous Alliance teammate, Arn Anderson. Before the bell rings, the referee makes hand gestures to the two competitors that leaves brief, comical bemusement across Austin’s face, clearly having no idea what the referee is trying to say. It’s a basic confrontation, large parts of the sub-9 minute match dedicated to mat wrestling and submissions, the highlight being the ingenuity of Austin holding on to the ropes to stop a DDT attempt, one of the few moments the crowd comes alive.

Having bested his WCW stable-mate, Austin was met by the immortal Keiji Muto in the second round. Austin makes his entrance to veritable silence compared to the eruption of joy when Muto’s music hits. (those with a keen eye will notice Dusty Rhodes sat ringside too). Every time Muto gets going, Austin is right there to stop him, much to the disappointment of the crowd who are desperately behind Muto. The match is a showcase of two young, savvy stars putting on a simple match that feels like far more. Already beloved by the crowd, Austin does everything perfectly to further put the fans deeper into Muto’s corner. Inevitably, the night ended with Austin staring up at the lights of the iconic Ryogoku Kokugikan. If you want to see one match that shows you how good Austin was during his short time in Japan, make it this one.

A little over a month later, Austin was back in Japan, this time challenging Masahiro Chono for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Unfortunately, the match ends prematurely. As the final act looks set to being, Austin hits a sit-out piledriver that severely injured Chono’s neck. Horrific irony, as it was this same move that Owen Hart broke Austin’s neck with five years later.

3 years later, Austin returned for a three week tour. Matches saw him teaming with fellow Americans Arn Anderson and Ron Simmons to take on a variety of opponents including Shinya Hashimoto, Manabu Nakanishi, Kensuke Sasaki, Riki Choshu and Masa Saito. The tour saw him compete in the hallowed Korakuen Hall and Nippon Budokan.

On the third night of the tour, Austin tore his right tricep, but he still marched on, wrestling the remaining two and a half weeks with the injury. Time off due to previous injuries coupled with the recovery time needed for this latest injury were the catalyst (or perhaps excuse) for Eric Bischoff to fire Austin from WCW, and Austin was never heard from again… Actually, this led to Paul Heyman using Steve Austin in ECW to deliver promos whilst he healed, and Austin then joining WWE and becoming one of the biggest wrestlers of all time. Who’d have thought?