This week, on Dark Side of the Ring, viewers took a deep dive into Collision in Korea. Held on April 28 and 29, 1995, Collision in Korea was a two-day professional wrestling event co-produced by New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. The event in question was held in Pyongyang, North Korea. Featuring names such as Yuji Nagata, Bull Nakano, Manami Toyota, Ric Flair, Antonio Inoki, and others, it’s the behind-the-scenes information that has proven to be the most intriguing for wrestling fans. Here’s what viewers learned about this NJPW/WCW joint venture on Dark Side of the Ring.
One of his first duties, as WCW executive, was to re-establish the company’s relationship with NJPW.
This led to WCW bringing top Japanese stars over to the United States. Conversely, WCW stars were given exposure to Japan when they wrestled there. Stars such as Jushin “Thunder” Liger benefited from this exchange. Antonio Inoki, the founder of NJPW, reached out to Bischoff about bringing the entire WCW roster to compete for a peace festival. This led to Collision in Korea.
In addition to being a professional wrestler, Antonio Inoki was a well-known political figure with an expansive reach.
Inoki would frequently meet with officials in North Korea. He met with them to organize a wrestling show, where officials brought up big names like Michael Jackson. Inoki also asked Bischoff to set up a meeting with Muhammad Ali, who responded positively.
Certain stars were difficult to book for Collision in Korea.
Bischoff reached out to Hulk Hogan, who was the biggest wrestling star at the time. “Can’t make that one, brother,” said Hogan, according to Bischoff. Inoki referred to Hogan as a “careful man.” When Hogan turned down the offer for Collision in Korea, Bischoff’s “plan B” was Ric Flair. Inoki would face Flair in one of the marquee matches. Scott Norton was informed of the trip to North Korea, to which the Japanese stars in the locker room responded with hesitance. During this time, the relationship between North Korea and Japan was strained. 2 Cold Scorpio was initially receptive to traveling to North Korea, as it was new to him.
Muhammad Ali was incredibly popular in North Korea.
The reporters that were initially set on the wrestlers shifted their sights to Ali. With such huge names as Inoki and Ali, there was a sense of optimism centered on the event.
Trepidation regarding Collision in Korea began with transport.
It was an uncomfortable ride; according to Norton, the airplane felt like it was built in the 1940s. Even Flair made a comment regarding travel. This is where the aforementioned optimism seemed to waver. Out from the windows, passengers saw tanks beneath them. Upon arrival, the wrestlers had their passports and other belongings confiscated by officials. Bischoff’s attaché, or escort, told him that he was the seventh visitor not to be shot down or captured. They were also forced to lay flowers in front of a statue of North Korea’s dear leader, reporters on site all the while. These events were leveraged for propaganda purposes.
North Korean officials kept a close watch on the visitors.
Even when they were in hotel rooms, the officials in question would be standing outside the door. In the hotel rooms, only 3 government-focused channels were available on the TV. Norton, Road Warrior Hawk, and a few others went to play pool, which was a request that required two hours to be cleared. When one of the pool balls dropped, it offended officials. This almost led to an altercation involving them and Norton.
One morning, Bischoff went for a run without informing his attaché.
During the run, Bischoff was stared at by North Korean civilians, including children, “terrified” of his presence. This made a big impression on Bischoff in regard to propaganda. When he returned to the hotel, his attaché was livid.
In the days leading to Collision in Korea, Cold Scorpio and Hawk butted heads on multiple occasions.
Scorpio, according to him, had heat following his departure from WCW, especially with Ric Flair. Hawk was riding with Flair around this time. Hawk came on the bus, which led to a verbal altercation between him and Scorpio. Soon, said altercation grew physical while other passengers attempted to break it up. This wouldn’t be their final altercation.
Scott Norton called his wife while in North Korea.
She believed he was partying with the guys. However, as he tried to explain, the line went dead. Later, he received visitors in the form of North Korean officials outside his door. They led him to a room, where he was informed he couldn’t say anything negative about North Korea.
The visitors were brought to a secret tomb.
During this event, Muhammad Ali jogged up the steps, making it to the top where he shadowboxed. The others were mesmerized by this sight.
On their way to Collision in Korea, two lanes of people marched to the arena.
According to the driver, they were required to attend. The event had a massive turnout – Day One drew 165,000 and Day Two drew 190,000 for a total of 355,000 – but viewers in attendance watched as if they didn’t know how to respond. Despite the sizable audience, the crowd reaction was minimal until the main event pitting Antonio Inoki against Ric Flair. Inoki was revered by North Korea, largely due to his association with Rikidōzan, who died at the hands of the yakuza in 1963. Ric Flair wasn’t received as well at Collision in Korea. On this night, Flair’s job was to put Inoki over. When Inoki won, the crowd came unglued.
Hours before their trip back to the United States, 2 Cold Scorpio encountered Hawk one more time.
During this, Scorpio had a weapon on him. After a brief discussion, they resolved their dispute.
The aftermath of Collision in Korea yielded different results for different people.
Once he stepped off the plane, Flair got down on his hands and knees to kiss the ground. However, the event did little for Inoki’s political career, as he stepped away from politics for nearly two decades. Scorpio took pride in competing in front of as many people as he did during the two nights of the event. Bischoff believed Vince McMahon was livid that a wrestling event drew a bigger crowd than WrestleMania.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Catch Dark Side of the Ring on VICE, with new episodes airing each Thursday at 9 PM EST.
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