Rick Rude vs. Hiroshi Hase
Lost Classic #10

Promotion: New Japan Pro Wrestling
Date: March 16th, 1994
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Significance: Hase challenges for Rude's WCW International Heavyweight Championship


If you don't know what the WCW International (World) Heavyweight Championship is, don't feel bad, as the title was in existence for less then a year from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994. The cause for it to be created is a complicated one, but I will try to summarize it in a way that makes sense. In 1991, Ric Flair left WCW when he was the champion, taking with him the "Big Gold Belt." WCW needed to make a new champion, but had no belt, so a new champion was crowned the WCW Heavyweight Champion and a new belt was used. In late 1991 Flair returned the belt (after getting some money), and the title became known as the NWA World Heavyweight Championship again (the whole WCW/NWA split is confusing, so I won't even get into that). The title was defended in both Japan and the US, but it was not the main title in WCW as the WCW World Heavyweight Championship was the top belt. In 1993, WCW officially pulled out of the NWA and when they did the belt they had been calling the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was renamed the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (the NWA then went to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion to use in NWA promotions, leading to the famous Shane Douglas incident). The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship was used for another year until on June 23rd, 1994 the WCW Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair defeated the WCW International World Heavyweight Champion Sting to unify the titles. In that year four different wrestlers held the title: Ric Flair, Rick Rude, Sting, and Hiroshi Hase with Rude having the title the longest.

Before the title was unified with the WCW Heavyweight Championship, however, it was given a good deal of respect as it was defended against and held by upper mid-card and main event wrestlers in WCW and New Japan. Rick Rude won the title from Ric Flair on September 19th, 1993 and he still had the title in March when he traveled to Japan. Rude stayed for the tour, with a title match on March 16th against Hiroshi Hase. At this point in his career, Hase had never won a singles heavyweight title before as the only titles he had won were the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Hase was a solid upper mid-carder and great in tag matches, with Keiji Mutoh being his primary tag team partner, and he had seen some singles success as in 1993 Hase reached the finals of the G1 Climax (defeating Masahiro Chono in the semi-finals) before losing to Fujinami. But he had yet to have a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and perhaps winning the WCW International Heavyweight Championship from Rude would help set him up for a chance at New Japan's top title. The stage is set.

Rick Rude came to the ring first, sporting perhaps the most awesome wrestling attire the world has ever seen. Hase didn't have the flash, but he did have the crowd support as the place erupted when he was announced. They circle each other to start, tie-up, and Rude pushes Hase into the corner and does his pose. Hase looks impressed. Or angry, one or the other. They tie-up again but Rude kicks Hase in the stomach and delivers a forearm shot. Rude punches Hase against the ropes, Irish whip, reversed, and Hase delivers a back bodydrop. Hase kicks Rude in the back before dropping an elbow onto Rude as he tries to get up. Hase picks up Rude and begins working on the back again. Shoulder to the back by Hase, he drags Rude to his feet and delivers a backbreaker. Hase stretches Rude over his knee before letting him go and stomping on his stomach. More stomps to the back by Hase and he goes for the Scorpion Deathlock, but Rude kicks out of it. Rude picks up Hase and goes for a slam, but Hase goes down his back and rams Rude into the corner. Stomps and elbows to the back by Hase and he delivers a series of chops.

Irish whip by Hase, reversed, and Rude knees Hase in the stomach. Rude picks up Hase and drops him with a rib breaker. He then applies the CLAW to Hase's ribs (really?) and tells Hase that he is going to "rip his guts out." That is hardcore. Knees to the ribs by Rude, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving fist to a standing Hase before knocking him down with a lariat. Cover by Rude but it gets a two count. Rude goes up to the top turnbuckle again and hits a second one, followed by another lariat for a one count cover. Rude goes up top for the third time but Hase has caught on and moves out of the way. DDT by Hase, he picks up Rude and scoop slams him in front of the corner. Hase goes for a reverse splash by Rude gets his knees up. Rude picks up Hase and throws him out of the ring before going outside himself and dropping Hase ribs-first onto the guard rail. Rude gets back in the ring with Hase slowly following, but Rude punches Hase in the ribs as he rolls in.

Chop by Rude but Hase returns fire and the two trade blows. Hase chops Rude against the ropes, Irish whip, reversed, and Rude delivers a flap jack. Camel clutch by Rude, he picks up Hase and punches him hard to the mat. Hase slowly returns to his feet but Rude punches him again and clubs Hase in the back. Rude picks up Hase, Irish whip, but Hase rolls him up for a quick two count. Small package by Hase but that gets two as well, he tries a backslide but he still can't get the three count. Lariat by Rude, Hase gets up but he eats a second one. Rude goes for a third, but Hase catches him and drops him with a uranage! The crowd comes to life a bit as Hase grabs Rude and gives him the Giant Swing before doing a hip swivel of his own (directed at Rude's valet). Jumping neckdrop by Hase, cover, but it gets a two count. Hase picks up Rude, scoop slam, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits the diving elbow drop. Cover, but Rude kicks out at two. Hase picks up Rude and delivers a German suplex hold, but Rude gets a shoulder up. He goes for another uranage but Rude elbows out of it and hits a swinging neckbreaker. Cover, but it gets a two count.

Rude picks up Hase and kicks him in the stomach before nailing a piledriver. Cover, but it gets another two count. Rude drags Hase to his feet, scoop slam, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and obliterates Hase with a diving forearm drop. Cover, but Hase won't stay down for the three. Rude goes up to the top turnbuckle again and this time goes for a diving knee drop, but Hase rolls out of the way at the last moment. Hase charges Rude but Rude kicks him back. DDT by Rude, cover, but it gets a two count. Rude picks up Hase and hits a side Russian leg sweep. He then stands over Hase to do his poise again before flicking his sweat onto Hase's face. Rude begins climbing the top turnbuckle but Hase is up and grabs him from behind, delivering a uranage down to the mat! Cover, but Rude somehow kicks out. Quickly Hase hits another uranage, another cover, but still the champion gets a shoulder up. Irish whip by Hase but Rude reverses it and slaps on the sleeper hold! He is too weak to get it locked in however, and Hase hits a jawbreaker to get out of it. Northern Lights Suplex Hold by Hase, and he gets the three count! Your winner and new champion: Hiroshi Hase

Judging from the crowd's reaction, this was an upset as they were mostly just respectfully applauding until Hase hit that avalanche uranage. That made them believe their wrestler had a chance and they began feverishly cheering for Hase to pick up the win. And with a few more moves, Hase won his first major singles heavyweight championship. Both wrestlers had sound strategies, but Rude posed just a little too much and went to the top turnbuckle one too many times, and Hase was able to capitalize on Rude's injured back which he had been working over for much of the match. If Rude had managed to cinch in the sleeper hold it might have been a different story, but after being dropped from the top turnbuckle with an uranage he just didn't have the strength and a new WCW International Heavyweight Champion was crowned.

Hase's title reign didn't last long however, as a week later on March 24th he would lose the title back to Rick Rude. But it was still an exciting week for Hase and the crowd enjoyed seeing Rude get what he had coming to him. The sadder post match note is this would be one of Rude's last matches, as about a month and a half after this match Rude would injury his back in a match against Sting and never wrestle again. Wrestling lost one of its greatest heel wrestlers when Rude announced his retirement, but at least he gave us many years of quality wrestling before he was forced to leave the sport. As for Hase, he never would win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (and only had one challenge of the belt in his career later in 1994), but he remained a crowd favorite and solid upper mid-carder until his decision to go into politics cut into his wrestling time until his retirement in 2006. Sadly, Rick Rude died on April 20th, 1999 after suffering a heart attack.

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review completed on 7/11/09