James Dixon: All of the matches on this tape are from a series of shows the WWF ran in Kuwait in May 1996. The tour is famous outside of the ring for the actions of Vader. He appeared on the TV show Good Morning Kuwait, and reacted badly to host Bassam Al-Othman asking if wrestling was fake. He ended up flipping a table, swearing and attacking Al-Othman. After being stuck in the country for a few days, he was eventually fined $164. It seems almost pointless! In the ring, the shows hosted the Kuwait Cup tournament, won by Ahmed Johnson. They held it again the following year and the abysmal Tiger Ali Singh was given the win, going over Al “Leif Cassidy” Snow, Billy Gunn, Mankind and Owen Hart. What crazy Kuwait dope were they smoking when they booked that one!?
Yokozuna & Ahmed Johnson vs. The New Rockers
Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon are on commentary, which is a little unusual for 1996, especially as Gorilla was the on-screen WWF president. This is joined in progress and the crowd is hot. The New Rockers play heel, which just doesn’t work. Neither do their strange singlets which are really short. Yoko dominates with his fatness and Ahmed with his ridiculously shiny muscles. Johnson takes the most pitiful heat you are likely to see, before making the hot tag after no-selling a double chop. Yoko cleans house in slow motion and Ahmed hits a dangerous looking Pearl River Plunge on Cassidy, before Yoko squashes him with the Banzai Drop. This might as well have been a squash, but it was short and watchable. I have to mention what a right goon Cassidy/Snow looks without facial hair. What a dumb name that was. Leif! Who the hell would be scared of a man called Leif? No wonder Yoko puts the exclamation point on things and tries to crush him to death with a Banzai Drop. It is for his own good!
Final Rating: *¼
Vince McMahon gets all patriotic in a voice over on a video about Ahmed Johnson being loved by Kuwait, then gives the game away by telling us how Johnson won the Kuwait Cup, even though it features on this tape. SPOILER ALERT PAL! Ok I know I said he won it at the start of this review, but at least this is 15-years later!
Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin
Hello! Now we are cooking. This is not a tournament match, though at this stage of the cup both guys are still in it, with Hart having beaten the hairless Leif, and Austin, strangely enough, his partner Marty Jannetty. This match is interesting if you consider when it took place. In May 1996 Bret was off TV having lost the WWF title to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania, and didn’t return until November, when he took on Austin at Survivor Series. Hart actually worked the international tours during his time off, working in Europe prior to this Kuwait tour, and then South Africa in September. Still, this is the first ever televised match between the two, so it is something of a collector’s item. It is just before Austin was catapulted into the stratosphere with his King of the Ring win and victory speech, but it is clear that he was thought of very highly to be in there with Bret. Austin was far more of a mechanic prior to his neck injury in 1997, but he could still brawl before that, and he is happy to stomp mudholes and club away. The style of the match they assemble here (methodical but solid), combined with the lighting of the ring and Gorilla’s voice on commentary, makes this seem like an MSG match from the 80s. It seems a world away from everything else the WWF was doing at the time. As you might expect, this is technically sound, but they rather go through the motions and feel each other out as opponents for much bigger and better matches down the line. They of course went onto have two all-time classics, one a tremendous brawl at WrestleMania 13 and the other, a superior technical wrestling masterpiece at Survivor Series ‘96. Bret goes over here, clean, with the Sharpshooter. So much for Austin never giving up! Nothing special as a match, but if you are a fan of either guy or the feud they had with each other, then it is must see for its rarity and uniqueness alone.
Final Rating: **¼
Kuwait Cup First Round
The British Bulldog vs. Duke Droese
Aww, come on, how can you go from Austin-Hart to this? What a bizarre pairing! Droese, for those unfamiliar, is a garbage man. Yes, we are still mired in the bizarre WWF obsession of wrestlers having day jobs. He also looks like a strange hybrid of the Big Bossman and Jim Neidhart, only with a fraction of the charisma. The best part of the match is Bulldog getting distracted by a pesky fly while applying a chinlock, and the blatant spot calling between the two during every rest hold. I know it is a two-bit house show in front of a crowd that will pop for anything, but at least TRY and make it seem like you give a sh*t. Droese hits a messed up looking Trash Compacter (subtle, aren’t they?) and then randomly goes up top, but misses whatever the hell he was going for and gets caught with the Running Powerslam for the inevitable Bulldog win. I am distracted during all of this by a militant security guard wandering around ringside looking ominous. Yes, I was so bored I was watching the crowd.
Final Rating: *
Kuwait Cup Semi Final
Owen Hart vs. Ahmed Johnson
Match number two for Ahmed. He gets a lot of love on these Goodtimes tapes. There are an awful lot of empty seats facing the hard cam, though the reported crowd was around 20,000 and they sound large. A rare snafu from the WWF to get something like that wrong. After Ahmed tries to exchange holds with Owen, he gives up and they end up turning it into a panto, with Owen grimacing and pointing before running away. They actually don’t do much at all, as has been the theme of this tape. Owen works a very basic heat, partly due to indifference and partly due to Ahmed’s inability to grasp the concept of the simplest wrestling move. Ahmed catches the Pearl River Plunge out of no-where when Owen puts his head down, and wins the match cleanly. The finish was somewhat out of the blue and the match is as house show as they come.
Final Rating: ¾*
Kuwait Cup Final
Ahmed Johnson vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
A third Ahmed Johnson match out of the five on offer! Blow me down. Joined in progress again, like every match has been, with the future Triple H in control, hurling Ahmed into the ring steps. Trips defeated Bushwhacker Butch, Savio Vega and the Undertaker to reach the final, and he looks very small physically compared to Johnson. Gorilla feigns interest, but resorts to cloying clichés, using the line “that will give you a negative attitude” for the second match running. Lots of rest holds here, but what else can you realistically do to Ahmed? He is sure over with the Kuwait crowd though. Maybe he is just over because of his name; after all, Ahmed is a pretty common name in the Middle East. Johnson looks like a kid having a tantrum and he spazzes his way out of an interminable chinlock, but he gets taken back down as the endless heat continues with nothing happening still. Cut the stalling and rest holds off this tape and you are left with 8 minutes or so of action. If you have never seen this match, in summary it is 98% Helmsley and his sh*tty pre-Triple H offense, and then a kick or two from Ahmed. After what may well have been years, Ahmed catches Triple H with the Pearl River Plunge, in the exact same finish to the Ahmed-Owen bout. So Ahmed wins the cup, and we are forced to sit through his long-winded victory ceremony. I tell you what, they sure didn’t know who their stars were, that’s for sure. Ahmed went over Steve Austin and Triple H to win this, two guys who would go onto have legendary careers with the company. Ahmed on the other hand, a sure fire can’t miss prospect, ended up fat and embarrassing in WCW before disappearing from view. I still love him though.
Final Rating: ½*
Summary: Three Ahmed Johnson matches is just too much for anyone, and when you consider some of the bouts they could have used (Michaels-Owen, Bret-Owen, Michaels-Austin, Undertaker-HHH), the surplus becomes all the more galling. While the action is all standard house show fare and doesn’t rise above mediocre, this is still mildly recommended for collectors and completists alike, due to the exclusive nature of the bouts, and the chance to glimpse an Austin-Bret match some months before they began to tear it up on Raw and PPV. Avoid the wrestling, watch for the intrigue.