Less Than Zero: Masato Tanaka vs Doug Furnas (Living Dangerously 1998, 1/3/98)

Posted on February 27, 2012 by

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Part of our regular series on Playing Ricky Morton in which we take a look at the 205 matches to have been given a negative star rating during the history of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

As much as we’ve tried, man cannot live by shitty WCW matches alone. So this is the first entry in “Less Than Zero” to hail from outside Atlanta. We actually fancied looking at Tommy Dreamer/The Sandman versus The Dudley Boys (Wrestlepalooza ’98, -*), but we couldn’t find it in the 15 seconds we dedicated to Googling it, so Tanaka versus Furnas it is.

For a 15-year-old boy around this time, the ECW main event scene was as intoxicating as discovering The Offspring’s back catalogue. Lots of chairs being thrown about and tables being put through for no real apparent reason. Tanaka and Mike Awesome were the two alphas of this artform, and while the latter went on to sell real estate for three weeks before hanging himself, Masato Tanaka is still with us, so fair play to him.

I though Doug Furnas was dead, but I think I was thinking of Biff Wellington. Furnas must be one of a select group of wrestlers to manage both a five-star match in the Wrestling Observer and a negative rating as well. However, more importantly for us he was also a former powerlifter so the “similar videos” for this match are entitled things like “WARLORD DOMINATES JIMMY SNUKA: LONG” by “HUGEWRESTLERS”.

There’s a nice promo before this match where Paul Heyman growls about how great WING Kanemura is over some 1996-style techno beats. It sounds like the kind of adverts you used to get on local radio: “LADIES NIGHT AT FLANNEGAN’S, ALL DRINKS ONE POUND, THREE FLOORS OF HAPPY HARDCORE, TRANCE AND THE LATEST POP ANTHEMS. NO TRAINERS.”

Wait, there’s some guy walking to the ring with Doug Furnas called Mr Wright. Is that Alex Wright? I’ve completely forgotten this gimmick, some dude with a haircut like hackers had in mid-90s movies rocking a turtleneck and doing the “hey, I’m from WWF and I’m here to ruin your product” angle that was only done in ECW 326 times.

Anyway, so the match was Kanemura versus Tanaka but it’s been changed to Tanaka versus Furnas because… Vince McMahon has a vested interest in injuring Masato Tanaka in his debut match in ECW. For some reason. Furnas has a bunch of ying-yang symbols on his ring gear, which doesn’t really help hammer home the establishment heel  look.

Joey Styles shouts out The Wrestling Lariat and hasn’t screeched for the first four minutes of this match, which is a lot better than I remember him. Tanaka comes out waving a Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling beach towel. The referee’s shirt is far too tight.

Tanaka blows a kick about three seconds in. This is gonna be good. Late 90s brawl opener, few shoulder blocks before Tanaka takes over with a takedown and a kick to the shoulder blades, Furnas comes back with a powerslam out of the corner. Furnas looks like halfway between Rob van Dam and Jake Roberts, which I believe is known in drugtaking circles as a “coco puff”.

Furnas is an OK worker in a kind of “this is what workrate looked like in the mid-90s” kinda way. Tanaka is a really unthreatening looking individual. People in the crowd are “woo”ing at a figure-four leglock. Was it only solidified solely for chops in the early 2000s? This figure-four is taking forever. Tanaka is working as a heel for some reason, Furnas isn’t working… at all.

There was a point where nothing was more exciting than swinging top-rope DVDs, but then FWA came around and ruined them forever. Tanaka really, really fucks one up here, Furnas effectively has to bounce on his own head to make the move look like something related to wrestling. I think this is meant to be a showcase for ECW’s new talent, as he runs through all his moves, it’s just weird to a) have him wrestle a fly-in “name” to do it and b) put it on PPV.

Tanaka blows two moves in short order, the first one I can’t even tell what it was meant to be, the second a kickout from a tombstone. The finish involves Furnas hitting Tanaka with a bunch of what could feasibly be finishers at the time (frankensteiner, release German suplex), only for Mr Wright to demand that he hit a more devastating finisher. He blows one, Tanaka comes back with some of the weakest punches ever and… was that meant to be a elbow smash? Because it looked more like he was scratching his shoulder. 1, 2, 3. That was terrible. Crowd sound about as enthused as if someone told them that sweatpants aren’t acceptable going out attire. Tanaka just stares into the middle distance in lieu of celebrating.

Wright comes and does the “angry heel manager” routine afterwards, mentions a bunch of SHOOT names of WWF guys… and Furnas claps him. Fantastic. Everyone’s a winner here.

IS THIS MATCH SHIT: Oh, yes, terribly so. I mean these are two guys who, theoretically, can go. One of them gets no offence in until the home straight. The other fails to make his dominance look… dominating at any point. Then the heel is made to look more powerful than the face (who is debuting), the face fucks up his finish, and then the heel gets his heat back that he hadn’t actually lost at any point. And they put the title on Tanaka about six months later. Good ol’ Paul E.

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Posted in: Less Than Zero